When considering moving to Costa Rica, one of the most pressing concerns for families is education. With the exception of the capital, San José, the Tamarindo and Flamingo areas offer the largest selection of high-quality, diverse education options from pre-k to high school. Families can choose from many different private, semi-private, and public schools. We’ve picked some of our favorites to share.
Costa Rica International Academy (CRIA)
A meandering drive through the Costa Rica International Academy (CRIA) campus by Reserva Conchal will impress you with the multiple buildings, swimming pool, covered gymnasium, a library, all tucked away on a large swath of land. Offering bilingual education from preschool (2+ years) until second grade, Spanish is then taught multiple times a week in upper grades. With extensive afterschool programs including a variety of offerings such as soccer, ACT/SAT prep, and yearbook, the school is serious about providing a well-rounded education.
CRIA prides itself on being the only US accredited school in Guanacaste with accreditation by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA) of the United States and the Ministerio de Educación Pública (MEP) of Costa Rica. With a strong vision to create community and world leaders, high school students are required to do forty hours of volunteering and 90% of students attend university after graduation. CRIA’s students find support all around them with a strong parent association and teachers from around the globe.
Educarte by St. Joseph
Bright colored buildings and playful children are probably the first thing you notice about Educarte by St. Joseph. Started in 2007, Educarte offers a bilingual education program from pre-maternal (18 months) to eleventh grade to 302 students. Music, art, swimming, computer, PE, and their special taller program is part of the weekly curriculum. With the addition of French in upper grades and very strong programs in ESL (English Second Language) and SSL (Spanish Second Language), the school offers a variety of opportunities for students to flourish there. The student body is a large mix of Ticos and foreigners coming from all reaches of the world. As one parent said,
“It is the most Tico-feeling school, inside and out.”
Educarte believes in allowing children to “become the active agent in the process of teaching and learning. The teacher acts as the facilitator, offering different strategies, and learning situations, which are meaningful to the student.” Certified by MEP, Educarte also brings in English studies through standardized math and reading programs from the United States. The school offers an onsite pool, three campuses in one location, computer lab, and is adding on additional facilities in the near future.
Journey School of Costa Rica
The new kid on the block, Journey School of Costa Rica, is thriving, just like their students. Breaking down their dual education program into four sections, Journey services 115 students, birth through twelfth grade. Reggio inspired and offering Project based Learning, this school really focuses on a child being a child and learning through their own abilities. This approach meanders throughout the grades with trilingual education in their preschool (Foundations program), mixed-age classrooms in elementary school (Elements program), more classroom flexibility and electives in middle school (Bridge program), and flexible class schedules for high schoolers (Pathway program).
The school prides itself on communication between students, faculty, and parents and offer a variety of ways parents can become involved in their child’s education. Providing electives like ninja warrior, coding, film and special effects, and drama, the school supports creativity and activity. Currently at a location between Villareal and Huacus, the school plans to build an additional campus in Playa Grande in the future and is working on accreditation with MEP and AdvancEd.
La Paz Community School
La Paz Community School, located near Flamingo, is “cultivat[ing] informed, mindful citizens of the world.” Offering bilingual, place-based education from preschool to high school, everything is about community and cooperation on this thriving campus. Parents are asked to volunteer at least eighteen hours a year and students participate in daily morning meetings to kick-start their days. With a focus on developing the whole child, La Paz offers group sports, cooking classes, and Wildlife and Technology Club.
With a rigorous and authentic approach to education, the school is accredited by the International Baccalaureate Programme and MEP. A strong focus on community and inclusion leads the students and parents to fundraise and volunteer throughout the year for student scholarships and local community organizations. The campus is a living learning laboratory and houses a newly built pool, a chicken coop, large spaces for the morning meetings, library, and skate ramp.
Though small, TIDE Academy is mighty. Capping at 64 students from preschool to twelfth grade, personalized education is their niche. This also translates into shortened school days and students study the core subjects, including Spanish, in four days a week. The Tamarindo campus is also in one location, but the students can often be seen walking to the beach for additional educational experiences. The primary language is English, but the students do take civics, social studies, Costa Rican history and culture in Spanish depending on the grade.
TIDE Academy follows the Common Core Curriculum and the New York Standards of Education and due to the high number of short-term students, they are focused on meeting standards in multiple states and countries so the students can return without any hiccups in their education. In high school, students and families are given the ability to focus on the best educational needs for the student, whether they prefer a lighter or heavier class load. The goal is always to prepare them to succeed in life first knowing their limits.
Children at Guanacaste Waldor School are like woodland fairies living their best lives in the thick of the Costa Rican forest. Following Waldorf Education and Rudolf Steiner education methods, the school hosts over 100 students in pre-kinder to eight grade taught by thirty teachers. Just outside of Hacienda Pinilla, the campus is filled with wooden cabin classrooms, chickens, zipline, and outdoor classrooms, all waiting for children to explore and learn. Classrooms are combined to allow for growth of the child emotionally and educationally as they develop.
The school focuses on developing the child to become aware of themselves and the world. Students focus on typical core classroom work in Spanish and English with the addition of Waldorf-inspired woodworking, handwork, flute, and PE. Other classes offered during and after school include French, animal care, swimming, jewelry making, and aerial silks. The school celebrates the world around them through different festivals throughout the year like their open-to-the-public Holiday Festival, Advent Spiral, and Martinmas (Saint Martin’s Day).