Thinking of moving to Tamarindo with kids? Then we know you’re also thinking about international schools in Costa Rica: What are your options? What kinds of academic and extracurricular programs do they offer? And what do they cost?

We’ll cut to the chase: There’s a lot to consider. And, even in a town as small as Tamarindo, you’ll have many options. As you begin your investigations, here are a few things you’ll want to keep your eye on:

  • Location: All six schools on our list are within a short drive of downtown Tamarindo. That said, it never hurts to consider where you call home, when it comes to your kids’ (and your) daily commute. Busy mornings and/or afternoons? Don’t worry, most international schools in Costa Rica offer private bus transportation.
  • Grades/Levels: While 5 out of 6 schools on our list run through high school, note that only 4 include grade 12. (Costa Rican high school ends after 11th.)
  • School Year: This is one of those major lifestyle factors. Most private schools run on either a Costa Rican (February-December) or U.S. (September-June) schedule. Choose wisely!
  • Accreditation: If there’s a chance that you might move back “home” before your kids graduate, then you’ll appreciate international accreditation, which makes the process easier. Ditto if your kids plan to go to college abroad: It can be easier with a U.S. or other international degree. But, if you’re here for the long-haul, you’ll also want to choose a school that’s locally accredited through the Ministry of Education (MEP), to set your children up for Costa Rican high education.
  • International Baccalaureate (IB): Speaking of international degrees, one of the most prestigious is the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which offers an internationally recognized diploma that opens doors to universities around the world.
  • Tuition: There’s no way around it: Private education comes at a price. Luckily, some international schools in Costa Rica are quite affordable!

And now, in alphabetical order:

Costa Rica International Academy (CRIA)

CRIA international schools of Costa RicaLocation: Brasilito, 500 Meters South of Reserva Conchal
Grades/Levels: PreK-12
School Year: September-June (U.S. Calendar)
Accreditation: Costa Rica (MEP) + U.S. (Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools – MSA)
International Baccalaureate (IB): No
Tuition: $6,975-$8,775/year plus fees

Formerly known as Country Day Guanacaste, CRIA – both an acronym for Costa Rica International Academy and the Spanish word for grow (criar) – offers a strong academic focus and college preparatory program for pre-K through 12th grade students from 22+ countries. Their full-time, certified teachers represent 10+ nationalities.

CRIA’s focus is firmly on inspiring student interests and passions, paired with rigorous academics. Their English-language program offers a strong Spanish component, with dual enrollment, advanced placement, and a suite of co-curricular activities that invite students to explore everything from swimming and surfing, drama and chess to Model United Nations and community service, filmmaking and SCUBA diving.

CRIA reinforces its whole-student approach via an average class size of 18 and an enviable 10:1 teacher ratio, plus challenging programs that prepare students for life after school. And with a 100% graduation and college acceptance rate, at that: As one of the top international schools in Costa Rica, CRIA’s students have been accepted at universities across the globe, including most recently to Brown University, UC Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, Seton Hall, and other distinguished programs.

Educarte Bilingual High School

Educarte private school in TamarindoLocation: Huacas, 9 kms NE of Tamarindo
Grades/Levels: PreK-12
School Year: September-June (U.S. Calendar)
Accreditation: Costa Rica (MEP)
International Baccalaureate (IB): No
Tuition: $3,900-$5,217/year plus fees

Educarte, simultaneously known as the Centro de Aprendizaje (Center for Learning), focuses on innovative teaching methods that emphasize fundamental values, paired with academic excellence, global citizenship, and diversity, through means of a bilingual education.

The result is a unique academic environment that supports diverse backgrounds, cultures, languages, and interests. Educarte follows the Costa Rican MEP (Ministry of Education) curriculum, offering preschool-11th grade with a maximum class size of 22. In addition to core competencies, their primary and high school curriculums extend to a strong English program (literature, reading, conversation, and writing), project-based learning, French language and literature, and Spanish as a second language, among others.

Educarte also places a strong focus on enthusiasm and love of learning, both from its teachers and from its families. As a result, students are taught not just academics, but a philosophy: the opportunity to learn and find their place in this world – an invitation to shape and define their future contributions. The ultimate goal: Create meaningful student learning opportunities and make a difference in the lives of children.

Guanacaste Waldorf School

Guanacaste Waldorf SchoolLocation: Between Playa Tamarindo and Playa Avellanas, 6.5 kms Southeast of Villarreal, 400 mts from Sabanero Lodge (about 13 kms SE of Tamarindo)
Grades/Levels: Preschool-5th
School Year: September-June (U.S. Calendar)
Accreditation: Costa Rica (MEP)
International Baccalaureate (IB): No
Tuition: Contact

As its name suggests, the Guanacaste Waldorf School (GWS) ascribes to the Waldorf philosophy / Steiner Education model, which integrates intellectual, artistic, and practical skills into its holistic academic approach. Today, GWS is the largest Waldorf school in Costa Rica and neighboring countries.

In Waldorf tradition, GWS surrounds its students with healthy food and a campus ripe for outdoor exploration. In addition to hands-on learning, plenty of extracurriculars, and instruction in French and German, GWS offers a 100% bilingual education in English and Spanish.

Their elementary curriculum – note: GWS does not offer high school – focuses on thinking, feeling, and will – on a child’s being as much as academics, which take a hands-on approach to core subjects, including math, reading, writing, geography, nature studies, music, and art. Their goal: To present a creative and developmentally appropriate curriculum that fosters a lifelong love of learning.

Journey School of Costa Rica

Journey School of Costa RicaLocation: On the road to Huacas from Tamarindo, just after The Oaks
Grades/Levels: PreK-12
School Year: September-June (U.S. Calendar)
Accreditation: U.S. (Cognia); currently pursuing Costa Rica (MEP) Accreditation
International Baccalaureate (IB): No
Tuition: $6,585/year plus fees

One of the newest entrants to international schools in Costa Rica, and especially to Tamarindo, Journey School of Costa Rica (founded 2018) is, well… all about the journey. Their project-based curriculum offers hands-on learning, customized class schedules, and a personalized approach, with an emphasis on building community and self.

Journey delivers a dual-language setting and a strong, student-focused curriculum designed around each student’s individualized developmental and academic needs. They also place a strong focus on social and emotional skills, including breathing and self-reflection, to teach the whole child.

They also guarantee small class sizes (in a strict 10:1 ratio), in order to foster deep interpersonal relationships, as well as a full menu of electives from veterinary science and the culinary arts to entrepreneurship and skateboarding. Additionally, Journey offers a rigorous high school program, with honors, AP, and college-level classes and a U.S. diploma through its online accreditation.

La Paz Community School

La Paz Community SchoolLocation: Flamingo/Brasilito, 400 meters east of Mar Vista
Grades/Levels: PreK-12
School Year: September-June (U.S. Calendar)
Accreditation: Costa Rica (MEP) + Accredited IB World School
International Baccalaureate (IB): Yes
Tuition: $5,895-$10,270/year plus fees

The only IB program on our list, La Paz doubles down both on academics and student life. It’s immediately obvious upon your first visit: The school day begins with silent meditation during the morning meeting – and it can be pretty impressive to witness the entire student body gathered (public health, permitting) in collective silence.

La Paz’s philosophy revolves around life-long learning, peace, and stepping outside one’s comfort zone, based on a synthesis of community and the world, family and self. Throughout, they offer a strong academic program from early childhood through high school, as well as a focus on the arts: everything from painting and ceramics to textiles and an (IB) International Baccalaureate Visual Arts. (Learn more about their full IB program.)

The La Paz methodology revolves around a Two Way Dual Immersion (TWDI) program – a long-term biliteracy program that approximately divides the curriculum into 50/50 English/Spanish – and thematic learning, a theme-driven program that equates current subject matter to the big picture. (By way of example, the 2020-2021 year’s themes are Peace Ambassadors, Sustainability, Origins, Land and Sea, Wellness, Energy, Creative Expression, and Gratitude.)

TIDE Academy

Tide Academy of Guanacaste Costa RicaLocation: Tamarindo, across from the AutoMercado
Grades/Levels: K-12
School Year: September-June (U.S. Calendar)
Accreditation: Costa Rica (MEP) + Partnership (high school) with Global Village School (WASC accreditation) or Northern Atlantic Regional High School (MSA CESS accreditation)
International Baccalaureate (IB): No
Tuition: $4,500-$5,500/year plus fees

Tide Academy is well known for its unique and alternative academic offering: With a maximum class size of 6 (you read right!) and a concise Monday-Thursday, 8:00-12:00 schedule (again, you read right!), Tide places a clear emphasis on solid academics paired with plenty of free time to pursue extracurricular interests. The school also offers one of Costa Rica’s most flexible schedules, making it an excellent choice for families who travel often and students who have outside commitments.

Built for individualized learning and non-traditional students, Tide balances student life with real life – with balance and satisfaction, for the whole person. As such, they develop a personalized curriculum for each student, offering families optional testing and other non-traditional approaches to learning.

Students are encouraged to participate in afternoon electives (12:30-2:30 p.m.), which include group learning, coding, wilderness adventures, mindfulness, and other options. Additionally, Tide offers a Dance Academy and Surf Academy, allowing students to pursue their interests.

Questions about International Schools in Costa Rica & Tamarindo? 

Please get in touch. We’re not only local experts; we’re parents, too! We’ve been there, done that – and we’ve helped many families do it, too.