Hacker Paradise

A 12-week programming retreat in Costa Rica.

September - November, 2014.


(or scroll down for more info)


Learn through building things. Focus on projects outside of your comfort zone to push your limits as a programmer and add interesting work to your portfolio.


There are no teachers or curriculum at Hacker Paradise. You decide what you want to work on - build that passion project or learn that framework that you never have time for.

Community Learning

Have a question? Run it by the person sitting next to you. We're big on peer-learning, and we have morning check-ins at the beginning of each day to help each other out and add mutual accountability.

Come hack with us in paradise?

Hacker Paradise is a programming retreat in the beautiful country of Costa Rica, inspired by Hacker School. Our HQ is El Sueno Tropical, a boutique hotel located on the edge of the jungle in the coastal town of Playa Carrillo. Students come from all over to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and spend 12 weeks writing code and building things with other passionate individuals.

We provide social accountability and a supportive environment in which to learn. While here, you can work on any project you like: learn a new language, write a compiler, contribute to an open source project, or better yet, start your own. Over the course of the retreat, you will improve significantly as a programmer, and get deeply in touch with the joy of building things.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.

Helen Keller


Pair Up

Pair Programming is a great way to improve your skills and deepen your knowledge regardless of your skill level. We encourage students to pair as much as possible during their time here.


Students spend the first part of their day learning, and then are free to work on whatever they like in the afternoon. This could include more learning, freelance work, or other side projects.


Looking for a job after Hacker Paradise? We'll help connect you with recruiters and work towards finding you a stellar job opportunity.


Hacker Paradise is located near Samara in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. On weekends, you can surf, kayak, or explore all that this Central American paradise has to offer.

The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.



Alexey Komissarouk

Alexey will be a facilitator for the retreat. He is currently a software consultant, and has worked on projects for companies like Pebble, Dropbox, Facebook, and Baydin (the makers of Boomerang). He is also an author and maintainer of Houston, a Django-like admin interface for Meteor apps, and his writings have been featured on sites such as ProgrammableWeb and Techcrunch.

Curtis Fonger

Curtis will be coming down for a period as a mentor during the retreat. He is a software developer at Google, and was previously the CTO of Appetas, which recently exited to Google. Curtis has a strong background in UI development, previously having worked at Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and Amazon. He attended MIT for his bachelor's and master's degrees.

Gregory Koberger

Gregory will be coming down for a period as a mentor during the retreat. He is a developer and designer who is currently living in San Francisco. He founded Phileas & Fogg, a globetrotting startup incubator that built ReadMe.io in Costa Rica last fall. In the past he's worked with Mozilla, Greylock, Watsi, General Assembly, GigaOM and various startups.

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.

Augustine of Hippo


What can I learn / work on?
You are free to choose any project you like, ideally something you think will help you improve as a programmer. Students spend the first part of each day learning, and then are free to work on whatever they like in the afternoon. This could include more learning, remote/freelance work, or a startup/side project. We encourage students to spend as much time as possible pair programming and writing open source code.

How much structure is there?
Hacker Paradise runs from 10:30am - 6:30pm, Monday - Thursday.
Every morning, we come together as a group for a quick standup meeting, during which we discuss what we did yesterday, any obstacles we faced, and what we're planning to do today. We will also have weekly events where people can showcase what they've been learning and building!

Who will be at Hacker Paradise?
The main requirement is that students show that they enjoy programming, as they will be spending a lot of time writing code during the retreat. As a result, we accept students with a wide range of experience, from those who have only been programming for several months, to experienced programmers who have been working in technology for many years.

Where is the retreat?
Hacker Paradise is held in Playa Carrillo, a small town on the northwest coast of Costa Rica. We are working with El Sueno Tropical, a boutique hotel in the area, where students will stay and where the actual programming will take place.

Why Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is a beautiful country, and if you're going to spend several months writing code and working on open source projects, you might as well do it in paradise. The low cost of living in Costa Rica also means that the school is actually cheaper than most other options in the US (including airfare), and thus more accessible.
It should be noted that this is NOT A VACATION. Students are expected to work hard during "school hours," Monday - Thursday. You will learn a lot, and you will often end the day with your brain exhausted from the intense growth. However, on weekends, students are free to relax or explore the country.

When is it?
The retreat will be held from September 2 - November 26.

What about visas?
Americans can enter Costa Rica on a 90 day tourist visa without any special documentation (besides a valid passport). The retreat will run for 88 days. If you would like to stay longer in Costa Rica, you may rewnew your visa by traveling to Panama, Nicaragua or another neighboring country for a few days.

How much does it cost? What is included?
Tuition for the program is free; students need to cover their own housing, food, and recreation costs.

How much does housing cost?
We have negotiated a special deal with the hotel, and can offer single rooms for $680 and shared rooms for $400 a month. This is a >75% discount off their list price and is cheaper than most condos and rentals in the area.

How much does food cost?
Monthly food costs in Costa Rica can range from $450 - $900, depending on what you buy and how often you eat out. There are supermarkets nearby, and there is a restaurant at the hotel.

How much is airfare?
At the time of this writing, roundtrip airfare to Costa Rica from the US is between $350 and $800, depending on the departure airport.

How much should I budget altogether?
All included, we think students could live frugally and get by on $3,500 for the three month period. However, a student would have more flexibility with a budget of $4,000 - $5,000.

This will cover airfare and all living expenses for 3 months, and is probably slightly less than one would spend living in a U.S. metropolitan area for the period.

Education is not preparation for life; it is life itself.

John Dewey


Hacker Paradise is located in the beautiful country of Costa Rica, just far enough off the beaten path that we won't be bothered. Students can take time on weekends to explore the misty rainforests, majestic volcanoes, and stunning beaches that make this country a Central American paradise.


Wisdom is not the product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.

Albert Einstein


Get busy living or get busy dying.

Our next application deadline is Sunday, July 27th.

You should receive a confirmation email shortly after you apply, and we will review your application within two weeks.


Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.

Anthony J. D'Angelo


Want information on future batches and other locations? Subscribe to our mailing list:

Created by Hacker Paradise - Copyright 2014