School of the World Costa Rica

Costa Rica: Central Puntarenas Province

Want to add more strings to your surfing bow? Master a new skill or pursue your passion at School of the World camp in laid back Costa Rica.


School of the World - Playa Jaco, Costa Rica

The School of the World is a special place for travelers that want to pursue a passion or learn a new skill while on vacation. It is located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, in the town of Playa Jaco. By combining elements of a boutique hotel, surf camp, language school, yoga retreat, and photography workshop under one roof, we have built our reputation as one of the most original and innovative options available for travelers today.


Surf School for Beginners

Learn to surf in the warm tropical waters of Costa Rica with the help of our friendly and experienced staff. You will learn the basics of paddling, standing, and turning, as well as wave selection and other fundamental skills. Our instructors are some of the best and most experienced in the country. They have completed rigorous international surf instructor and ocean lifesaver training certifications. Our instructors will help you feel comfortable and safe in the water while introducing you to what we think is the most addictive sport in the world!


Surf Camps and Training for Intermediate/ Advanced Surfers

Great surf is a recipe of a lot of elements coming together perfectly - swell direction, tide, wind, time of day, and season are all factors. Local knowledge is key to scoring great waves on vacation. Our experienced guides will not only show you the best waves around, they will also help you take your surfing to the next level. School of the World offers surf intensive programs and even special balance training workshops for our experienced and returning surfers. We are also planning some surprises for 2012 such as a special surfboard shaping workshop.



Surfing is a sport that is determined by ocean and weather conditions. The School of the World reserves the right to determine if a class will be cancelled due to scheduling conflicts, dangerous wave heights, or bad weather conditions (i.e. lightning). We aim to take students surfing every day possible, but safety is our primary concern.

Our Family

In 1997 artist and traveler Zach McDuffie had a dream about the ocean that inspired him to move to Costa Rica. His goal was simple - live a healthy life, make art, learn to surf, and learn Spanish. Realizing that a lot of other travelers were seeking the same, he came up with the concept for the School of the World. Back then there were surf camps and language schools, but the surf camps were expensive and the language schools were almost all located in San Jose, the capital city. School of the World was the first learning vacation school in the world to offer combined Spanish and Surfing courses, and continues to set trends for cool, creative, and affordable learning vacations to travelers of all ages. The school's innovative programs have been featured in guidebooks, magazines, and newspapers from the U.S.A. to Hong Kong.

Great learning vacation programs are just the beginning. What really makes time here a special experience is the staff. Our staff functions like a family; most have been working here for more than five years and all are passionate about their work.


Zach and Natazha

Creative Directors, Photographers, Writers, Artists, Dreamers

Zach first visited Costa Rica shortly after receiving his bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Georgia in 1996. He fell in love with the healthy lifestyle, endless summers, and consistent surf conditions he found and moved to Costa Rica permanently in 1997. With just $3000 and a dream, he started School of the World. As the school grew, so did the dream. After completing the design and construction of the new School of the World facility, Zach started traveling again, pursuing photography and taking learning vacations. His award winning photography has been featured in magazines, books, and newspapers around the world. You can check out his work at:

Natazha and Zach met while working on a pilot for a TV show about learning vacations. Natazha is an international model and spokesperson, and together the two maintain a popular blog about their project and different learning vacations around the world. School of the World is home base for this traveling duo, and they are in charge of the creative direction of the school- adding photos, blogs, art, planning special workshops, events and more.

Zach is the founder of the Learning Vacation Network, a community that connects passionate travelers with the best vacation schools, workshops, retreats, and fantasy camps on the planet. Find out more at




Brian and Zach have been good friends since their days at the University of Georgia. He came to Costa Rica with Zach in 1996, but returned to UGA and continued on to earn a masters degree in forest management, before moving to Costa Rica permanently in 2001. Brian is in charge of the day-to-day operations at the school. He speaks English and Spanish and enjoys spending time with his family, surfing, woodworking, and fishing.



Program Coordinator

Galit first joined the school as a student in January 2011 and had only planned on staying a month, but ended up falling in love with the practice of yoga and the laid back Costa Rican lifestyle. Galit returned to her home state of NY to complete her yoga teacher certification and deepen her practice. Galit returned to the school in March of 2012 and began working here in April 2012.  She handles email inquiries, makes schedules, helps students with any arrangements or questions they have during their stay, and documents their classroom achievements. In her free time she enjoys practicing yoga, writing, going to the beach and hanging out with friends.



Assistant Program Coordinator

Hannah first joined the School of the World family as a student in February of 2005. Originally from Boston, Mass., she wanted a change of pace from the States and decided to move to Costa Rica in October 2005. She returned to the school to continue learning Spanish, which helped with the transition of living in Costa Rica. Hannah is now fluent in Spanish, and in her free time enjoys photography, art, surfing, and going to the beach. Hannah started working at the school in December '07. She handles email inquiries, makes schedules, and helps students with any arrangements or questions they have during their stay. She is married to Ricardo, our head surf instructor, and they are the proud parents of Kalani (sure to be a future surf instructor!).



Head Spanish Instructor

Lu grew up in San Jose, Costa Rica and is the newest member of the family at the School of the World.  She enjoys all sports, especially mountain biking, ballet, and salsa.  She is currently learning to surf and volunteers at the local chapter of the Christian Surfers in the evenings.



Spanish Instructor

Laura is also Costa Rican and is one of our Spanish instructors. She speaks Spanish and English fluently, and loves to teach. In addition to working at the school she also performs ballet and owns her own dance and arts studio where she teaches dance, guitar, drums, ballet, and taekwondo to kids. Laura is in charge of our Salsa dancing workshops.



Head Surf Instructor

Ricardo is originally from Venezuela but is now a Costa Rican resident. He has been working at the School since July 2005. He is an I.S.A. certified surf instructor and also certified in ocean safety and rescue, as well as CPR. He has surfed and taught surfing in Bali, Nicaragua, Mexico, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica. Ricardo lives and breathes surf, and is a well informed and patient teacher. When he is not surfing (which seems to be most of the day!) he enjoys skateboarding, mountain biking, fishing, and graphic design. Ricardo is in charge of the Surf Balance Training and Stand Up Paddleboarding workshops.

"Surfing has had a positive impact on my life and I love to share that with others. It takes practice and hard work to improve, but the rewards are life changing." - Ricardo Centeno

"Stand up paddle is a great workout and an excellent compliment to surfing." - Ricardo Centeno



Photography and Surf Instructor

Carlos is an accomplished Costa Rican artist, photographer, and surfer. He started working at the School of the World in January of 2006. He is certified in ocean safety and rescue, as well as CPR. He has exhibited his art in San Jose, Miami, and New York. In his spare time he enjoys surfing, skating, photography, painting, and fishing. Carlos also teaches some of the specialty photography and editing workshops, and assists Zach and Natazha with video projects.



Surf Instructor

Alonso was born and raised in Jaco, Costa Rica and started teaching surf when he was only 14 years old, before even he knew how to surf. Alonso is an accomplished competitive surfer, having won 4th place in the boys division of Costa Rica. He began working at the school in February of 2011 and is certified in ocean safety and rescue, as well as CPR. In his spare time he likes to surf, train for surfing, and eat chocolate.



Surf Instructor

Ivan was born in Nicaragua and grew up in San Jose, Costa Rica. City life wasn't what Ivan was looking for so he came out to Jaco about 4 years ago and taught himself to surf.  In his spare time Ivan enjoys skateboarding, surfing, and creating art.



Yoga Instructor

Alejandra is from San Jose, Costa Rica. She began practicing yoga at an early age and realized she wanted to dedicate her life to this discipline. Her foundations are Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and Anusara Yoga.  Her goal is to teach a challenging and fun class, while helping each student connect with their inner self.



Yoga Instructor

Catalina is from San Jose, Costa Rica and has lived in Playa Jaco since 2003.  Her foundation is in Vinyasa flow with an inspiration in anusada alignment.  In her free time she likes to read and spend time with her two kids.




Maria is Costa Rican and has been with the School of the World since the beginning, back in 1997. Her daughter Josebeth has practically grown up with the School, and we proudly sponsor her to study in the local private school where she is an honor student. Maria has seen the business grow from humble beginnings and takes a lot of pride in her work environment.




Victoria was born and raised nearby in Herradura and prior to working at the school she had been doing housekeeping in Escondita. She is the proud mother of three grown children and in her spare time enjoys listening to music and dancing salsa and merengue.




Pedro is originally from Nicaragua but has lived in Costa Rica for fifteen years. He enjoys playing chess and going to the discoteca in his free time.



Night Watchman

Alberto's job is to watch over the school while everyone is sleeping and to receive late night arrivals. He enjoys spending time with his two children, as well as riding his bike, working on his house and sleeping in when he gets the chance.


Our Students

The School of the World brings together travelers from all walks of life, nationalities, and ages. To date we have hosted guests from all across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, England, Holland, Iceland, Finland, Peru, French West Indies, Italy, South Africa, Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Sweden, Scotland, Denmark, Tunisia, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Poland, Sri Lanka, Bahamas, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Romania, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Argentina, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia. Staying with us is like staying with friends, and you are sure to meet some great fellow travelers from all over the world.



We are celebrating our fifteenth year here at the School of the World. We want to give a big thanks to all of the great people that have attended, and also to those that have worked at the school over the years. Thanks for making the school the amazing place that it is today!





-"Since I had such a wonderful experience at School of the World in November, I have decided to come back to Costa Rica. I should be in around the first week of February, and I was wondering if it would be alright if I stopped by to say hello, and thank you. I am so motivated to not only speak Spanish, but also to explore a new life. During my 4wk stay at the school I have never felt better about myself, and I can't wait to get back into that life."- Nadya


-"Thank you ALL for another great vacation of surfing. The entire staff made me feel so relaxed and welcome. It is exactly what I need during vacation time. The surfing instructors were very friendly. Each of them had different tips that combined were very helpful to my surfing. Hope to see you all next year. Pura Vida, Ro "


-"To the entire staff at School of the World, I just wanted to extend my thanks and gratitude for all of your hospitality during my recent two week stay with you. The entire trip from the first day to last was amazing. Everything from the planned events like the kayaking and hiking trips, to sunset surfing, even to the arrangement of our schedules was perfect. Im sitting here freezing in New York wondering why I ever left. Thanks again for an amazing experience. Everyone appreciates all of your hard work and efforts to make our stay memorable. Sincerely, Tracy McCarthy"


-"Just wanted to say thanks for a great four weeks at the school, really enjoyed my time there, managed well the past two weeks of travelling in Nicaragua and Panama with my Spanish. Hoping to continue with evening classes in Australia when I move out there next week. Wish I could do it all over again! Will be telling all my friends about the school. Thanks again, Joan Ricketts"


-"My experience with School of the World was outstanding. Living with Ines was the perfect option for me; I need to feel loved and a part of a with Ines was the perfect arrangement. She was always asking if I was hungry and always buying me sweets. Little Gabriel had Ines buy me ice cream on the last night I was there because he knew I loved sweets... They bent over backwards to accomodate me. I was completely spoiled by that family with love and affection. And Ines said that I could come back anytime. She is a jewel and I'm so grateful to have had the chance to meet her and stay with her. You guys did a wonderful job of picking her as a host mom. Also, I've been showing off all my classmates my huge arm muscles and telling them about how I was able to catch my own waves because I had such great surf instructor (GEUDY!!). I've been telling them about how I gained so much from the vacation because it was structured, filled with purpose, and SO MUCH FUN. Oh, how I miss all the people I met there. I've cried at least five different times already (two times before I even left the country). Highlights of the trip would definitely be 1) riding in the van listening to African by Peter Tosh and Sexy & I Know It by LMFAO and laughing with all my friends, 2) Salsa dancing in the kitchen after dinner 3) Cooking dinner with my friends at the house, 4) Relaxing out front and hearing multiple languages being spoken at the same time (Swiss-German, Spanish, French, English etc), 5) getting to know amazing people 6) CATCHING MY OWN WAVES!!!!  EEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!  I know all good things must come to an end, but this one is going to take a while to get over. I'm hoping they keep me busy here to keep me distracted. Please send my love, greetings, and appreciation to EVERY SINGLE person at the school. I'm going to miss you guys so much and will always hold a fond place for every one of you in my heart." -Lindsay Allen


-"I just wanted to send you a great big Thank You for such an awesome time in Costa Rica. I had so much fun and I can't wait to come back and visit you all again soon. Good luck with the next group!" - Megan Ernst




Q: Do I need a passport? Do I need a visa?

A: Travelers will all need a passport valid for at least 60 days after your arrival in Costa Rica.

Visas are not currently required for citizens of the following countries (for stays up to 90 days): United States, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Romania, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom.

Travelers from Australia, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, South Africa, and Venezuela do not need a visa for stays under 30 days. Visitors from other nationalities should check with the Costa Rican Embassy for visa information. Entry requirements are subject to change without notice.


Q: Do I need shots?

A: For the most up to date medical information for travelers check with the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga. U.S.A. Malaria medication and other tropical disease preventatives are usually only recommended if you plan to travel to the remote regions of the rainforest.


Q: How can I get money while in Costa Rica?

A: Bring traveler's checks, or cash. The traveler's checks can be exchanged at one of our four banks in town. Also, ATM cards with the PLUS system, and CIRRUS system can be used as well (look at the back of your card). Visa is accepted in most places. MasterCard and American Express are only accepted in a few places. We also have a Western Union office for wire transfers.


Q: How can my family reach me while I am at the school?

A: The student phone number here at the school is +506 2643-1064. There are also several Internet cafes in town where the students can send and receive e-mail. Students with a laptop computer (with wireless network capability) can access the Internet via free Wi-Fi at the school.


Q: Are surfboards provided for the surf sessions?

A: Yes, boards are provided while students are surfing with the instructor. If students wish to surf on the weekends there are many surf shops near the school that have boards for sale and for rent. Most of our boards are sizes and shapes ideal for beginners and intermediate surfers, because advanced surfers usually bring their own.


Q: How far is the school from the beach?

A: We are approximately 5 minutes (walking) to the beach.


Q: What day should we arrive and what day should we plan to leave?

A: Check-in is anytime after 12 noon on Sunday one day prior to the beginning date and check-out is before noon on Saturday the day after the last day of class for all programs. Extra night stays can be arranged, email us if you want to stay extra nights before or after your program.


Q: How long do we surf?

A: We generally have a 2-3 hour window around the high tide which is when the surf is the best here in Jaco. For more experienced surfers there are breaks that are good at low and mid tides. Also, it depends on individual endurance. Two hours of surfing is a good workout. Advanced surfers can go to the other spots in the area that break better on different tides.


Q: Do we get to surf as much if we take Spanish?

A: We generally try to schedule classes around the high tide for students taking combination sessions. There might be a day when you have to surf a little earlier than normal or a little later, but in general it is not a problem.


Q: Can I get college credit?

A: Yes, college credit is currently available for Spanish. Please email for more details.


Q: Can I drink the water?

A: The water is in the Jaco area is treated by the municipality and is safe to drink. At the school we go one step further by having our own well and modern filtration system, including a drinking water station with triple filtered reverse osmosis water that is even healthier than bottled water.


Q: How many students are there in a class?

A: Spanish classes generally contain five or less students per instructor.


Q: What are the ages of most of the students?

A: The majority of our students are between the ages of 18 - 45, but we have hosted students as old as 82, so all are welcome (as long as you are 18 or older).


Q: How much do plane tickets cost from the city I live in to Costa Rica?

A: Prices of plane tickets from the city you live in varies depending on the time of year you wish to come. A good place to look for prices on the Internet is,, or You will want to fly into Juan Santamaria Airport in San Jose (use airport code SJO) which is the closest airport to Playa Jaco.


Q: What is the minimum age that students can be to attend?

A: 18.


Q: Will I have time during the session to travel on my own? 

A: Yes, the weekends are free for independent travel. We also provide travel info for students.


Q: Can I get packages sent to me, and if so what is the school's address?

A: It is not advised to have packages sent to you while you are here because the mail system is very slow and unreliable. Also, many packages get stuck in customs and require a trip to the customs office (2 hours away) to be picked up. If you do find it necessary to have a package sent, UPS and DHL now have offices in Jaco. The following is the post office box if you need to receive a letter and the second is the physical address to find the school: 1. School of the World/ Escuela del Mundo, APTD 239-4023, Playa Jaco, Costa Rica, Central America 2. 350 meters east of Pops, 50 meters north


Q: What type of outlets (electricity) does Costa Rica have and do I need an adaptor?

A: The outlets (electricity) are the same as in the United States (110v). If you are coming from a European country, or Australia, you may need an adaptor.


Q: Do I need to bring sheets?

A: No, sheets are provided by the school, although you do need to bring your own towels (for the beach, surfing, yoga, and to shower).


Q: Is there Internet access at the school?

A: Students with a laptop computer or (other device with Internet capabilities) can access the Internet via Wi-Fi (and it's free to use).




About Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a relatively small country with a variety of landscapes. Volcanic mountain ranges divide the country from north to south, creating fertile valleys and lush forests. Less than a day's journey from the cloud forest are the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean on the west coast and the Caribbean Sea on the east coast.

Costa Rica is a participatory democracy and is completely demilitarized. The peaceful people of Costa Rica are dedicated to social welfare, ecological conservation, and education. With thirty-four national parks and reserves it is not hard to see why it is widely regarded as a nature-minded tourist's paradise.


Surfing in Costa Rica

"Surfing equates to living in the very moment of 'now'. When you ride a wave you leave behind all things important and unimportant; the purity of the moment is upon you."

- Bill Hamilton (surfer/shaper)

Costa Rica is home to some of the best surf in the world. The Playa Jacó / Hermosa area is widely regarded as the most consistent surf in the country. There are a wide variety of breaks nearby and plenty of un-crowded waves for everyone. The School of the World has designed special surf programs for all skill levels, from first time beginners to hard core advanced surfers. You can start a surf program any week of the year, and combine it with any other program. The school's entire schedule is written each week with the tides in mind to assure that everyone (students and staff alike!) can take advantage of the surf lifestyle.



The town of Jaco is located on the Central Pacific coast, approximately an hour and 15 minutes from Juan Santamaria international airport. Jacó's close proximity to the airport and the central valley (where the capital city is located and most of the population live) has made it a popular beach destination for Costa Rican and international tourists.

Jaco's central location makes it an ideal home base for travelers that want to explore up and down the Pacific coast. It has a wide variety of restaurants, shops, banks, hotels, internet cafes, and grocery stores. The main tourist season for here is from mid December to April, which coincides with Costa Rica's holidays and "summer" vacation months. There is a secondary smaller tourist season during the months of June through August.

The population of (year-round) residents in Jaco is between ten and twelve thousand people, although the number of people in town can swell to over twenty thousand during peak months of the year. This area is popular with surfers due to the fact that it is home to a wide variety of breaks, the most consistent surf in the country, and warm water all year round.

Jaco has grown considerably in size since the School of the World first opened, but has managed to maintain the "sleepy beach town" appeal despite it's growing popularity among Costa Ricans and tourists alike.

PP/Night from US$ 75