Expat families are finding ways to earn move to our beautiful little country – while either working remotely online with their current business or employer; or starting a new business from their Costa Rica home or studio space. They may not be earning as much money as before (although some do); but their everyday lives have become more like an extended family holiday, surrounded by wildlife, beaches and tropical weather.
Children learn very many valuable skills, such as how to make new friends, learning a second language, and very importantly – how to cope with change! All such very important skills to have as successful children, teens and eventually as adults!
Every year, many parents of young children are finding that it’s far easier to learn how to live a simpler life, than they imagined! Their kids still go to school in English, but they have the opportunity to learn another language, and have the impactful experience of being immersed in another culture and environment.
Most expat parents want their children to graduate with a US or International diploma. In order to do so, they need to attend a USA or Internationally Accredited school. Most of the English language and Bilingual schools in the area are also working on having their “MEP accreditation” – “Ministerio de Educación Pública Accreditation” for Costa Rica.
Children who have graduated from secondary schools locally, have gone on to study around the world, with success.
There are four private schools on the Ballena Coast, where Spanish and French are taught as a second languages. There are also many “Costa Rican” public schools.
Escuela Verde / Escuela Costa Ballena – aims to prepare children to be resourceful and independent while inspiring them to give back to their community and the natural environment. The school, created by parents, teachers and children working together, recognizes that the people in a community must be supported to realize their own potential for growth.
Escuela Verde not only fosters an attitude of strong personal responsibility, but responsibility as a member of a multi-cultural community. Children are encouraged to understand their role as a learner and to respond accordingly. The students help to create a classroom climate that enhances academic and social learning. Parents are helped to educate their child. The continuity of values results in home and school environments that are effective in educating and shaping the whole child. Escuela Verde expands the foundation of each student to unlock their personal potential and to develop critical thinking as they journey to envision the future.
Uvita Christian Academy – students will graduate with a US diploma that is internationally accredited. The school supplements their regular teachers with graduates from Greenhead College in the UK, who come for one term exchange programs. They take the classroom outdoors, for fun and educational field trips.
Kabe International Academy – is a private, non-profit, preK – grade 5 school located in rural Costa Rica. Kabe aims to provide their students with a world-class education that empowers them to follow their passions and change the world. Kabe’s education centers on dual language and project-based learning.
Life Project Education – based in Ojochal, their unique inter-disciplinary student projects and family retreats emphasize holistic learning values such as understanding our place and potential within the universe, physical health and nutrition, energetic health and mindfulness, and connection to the natural world and dynamic communities. Empowering children (and families!) to develop their authentic passions, purpose, and life path requires a new approach to teaching and learning. We believe the role of the teacher should move far beyond that of mere transmission and transaction.
Local, Public schools – Ojochal, Uvita, Cortez public schools are less frequently chosen by expat families. Those who do choose to put their children in the local public-school system are richly rewarded with learning to speak and write fluently in Spanish. These children end up integrating more easily into the local community, so families in for the long-haul in Costa Rica, often choose this option.
A number of organized after-school activities and programs exist for kids in the Costa Ballena. Children can learn skills, engage their talents, and explore the wonders of the region in safe care. Below are a few examples of what types of organized activities are available and popular with families in the Costa Ballena:
Team sports – pick-up games can be found on any beach or field, but playing on a competitive level is available, too. Team sports are a great way for kids to learn Spanish in a fun environment while also learning team etiquette and getting exercise. Places like the Eden Community Center in Uvita have a calendar of events open to the public.
Junior Lifeguard Program – The Costa Ballena Lifeguards occasionally provide a Junior Lifeguard Program for the youth in the Costa Ballena region. Their aim is to teach the youth to respect the ocean and the dangerous currents and big waves. They also teach their “junior lifeguards” about treating common injuries and practice a bit of endurance training, swimming, and other exercises.
Dance classes – Happy Feet Ballet Academy and Starlight Productions are two dance schools in the Costa Ballena that have world-renown instructors and producers putting on local productions of exemplary quality and skill.
Centro Educativo School Break Activities – Electronic Music and The Art of Printing were two courses offered in 2019 to keep kids learning and entertained during school break. Activities are catered to different age groups.
Reserva Tortuga – in Ojochal, has an annual “Summer Camp” in January, where children from ages 8-14 get to play “biologist for a week!
Rancho Merced – outside of Uvita, has children’s horseback riding session, and other activities catering to the younger crowd
The thing about living in the Costa Ballena is that typical “vacation-type” activities can become the everyday norm! Here are a few that families can partake in without a huge financial investment: surfing, boogie boarding, playing in waterfalls, hiking/exploration, horseback riding, visiting National Parks and animal sanctuaries, snorkeling, river/ mangrove exploring, ziplining, night animal tours, and quite a few more that are free or inexpensive.
Live Music – Because kids love dining out and live music, places like the Jolly Roger in Dominical and the Bamboo Room in Ojochal offer earlier live music (also popular with the retired expat!) for the whole family to enjoy. Most restaurants have kid-friendly menus and the indoor-outdoor environments that are typical of Costa Rica, mean that kids have room to play, while waiting for food.
Museums – San Jose has a few options to offer, including the Children’s Museum, National Theatre, and Jade Museum. But, a bit closer is Finca 6, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can learn about the mysterious Diquis Spheres.
Animal sanctuaries and nature reserves – there are many volunteer organized shelters, sanctuaries and reserves that have a number of programs that help educate kids and adults in the local community about protecting species and their environment; as well as community outreach and taking steps to help species under the care and guidance of experts. Volunteering at any of these is an important experience for children. Playing with the kitties at Refugio, helping to clean cages, etc. at Alturas Animal Sanctuary are only a couple of the opportunities!
Shared events – Things like community movie nights are becoming more regularly scheduled events, at the Escuela Verde, with doors opening at 5pm and a small entrance fee, with all are welcome to attend and lots of families with young kids as regulars.
Shopping and Services
Because many families move to Costa Rica to lead a more natural lifestyle complete with healthy, organic foods, there are a growing number of farmers’ markets in the Costa Ballena. The Eco Farmers Market in Dominical is open on Fridays from 8am to 1pm at Patrons Restaurant for organic produce and hand-crafted goods. Mama Toucans in Dominical offers daily shopping of over 5000 items, all certified organic. Sur Organico is a daily vendor of organic produce in Uvita and there is a large market held on Wednesdays, in the center of Bahia Uvita.
English-speaking pediatricians are available in the Costa Ballena. Dr. Maria Gustavo works out of her office in Uvita and at the Cortes Hospital, and she speaks English (2743-8743); and Dr. Jaime at the pharmacy provides cards and vaccinations.
Uvita Daycare charges $250 a month for 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, and can communicate in German, English, French and Spanish. Uvita also has the Centro Educativo, which is the Daycare/After-School Care part of Escuela Verde.
In Ojochal, there is the Beit-El Guarderia that has reasonable prices and the daycare director has a degree in education. Here your little ones will learn Spanish, and have good care, and learning experiences!
For many years, there has been a youth program in Uvita called “Forjando Alas.” They have an after-school program that provides a safe place for at risk youth in the Costa Ballena community. They rely on donations and volunteers from the community who share skills, activities, English, and self-confidence with kids.
Many expat-organized activities and program welcome all participation, regardless of financial circumstances (operating on sliding scales). There is a strong community desire for creating recreational and professional opportunities for children, through sponsorship programs or teaching for free.
Families also get involved in beach clean-ups, fundraisers, and events that are meant to bring anyone and everyone together from the community, to help create a safe and cooperative future for all to enjoy.
The Costa Ballena is full of opportunities for families of all ages and backgrounds to share in the enjoyment of the natural environment and it’s all thanks to our close-knit communities. Come and share in the growth of a better future for all in Costa Rica.