If you’re considering moving to Northern Guanacaste with kids, then you’re probably also thinking about private schools in Playas del Coco: What are the options? Will the kids adjust well? What kind of extracurriculars are available? And, just how much will it all cost?

You’ve come to the right place (and the right people). We have kids and we live in the area, so we care about these things, too. That said, there is no one answer: Playas del Coco has a decent selection of private schools, and which one you choose will depend on a number of factors:

  • Location: All six schools on our list cater to the Playas del Coco area, but only one is located in Playas del Coco. The rest are located east of town, scattered between Comunidad and Liberia. Note that Liberia is a 45-minute one-way drive, although many families find the commute worth it.
  • Grades/Levels: While 5 out of 6 schools on our list run through high school, only one includes grade 12. (Costa Rican high schools run through Grade 11.)
  • School Year: All but one school on our list follows the Costa Rican school calendar, which runs from February through November (and sometimes, into the first week or so of December).
  • Accreditation: All schools on our list are locally accredited through the Costa Rican Ministry of Education (MEP). Only one is integrated with the WIDA International School Consortium. We’ll update if this information changes.
  • International Baccalaureate (IB): If there’s a chance that your kids might go to college abroad, then you may already be looking toward their academic futures (even if they’re in preschool; they grow fast!). With regard to private schools in Playas del Coco, that means an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma; no schools on our list currently offer a U.S. diploma or other international accreditation.
  • Tuition: The tuition for private schools in Playas del Coco is fairly affordable, as private school tuitions go, but there’s still no way around it: Private education costs add up.

By the way, if you’re looking for options further south, check out our comprehensive list of private schools near Tamarindobilingual optionsmethodologiesdegree programs (foreign diplomas, IB degrees, and more), school calendars (Costa Rican or U.S. school year?), and more.

And now, in alphabetical order:

6 Private Schools in Playas del Coco (ok, technically, near)

Academia Teocali

Academia Teocali IB school near Playas del Coco GuanacasteLocation: Liberia, 2.5 kms north of the Toyota
Grades/Levels: PreK-11
School Year: February-November (Costa Rican Calendar)
Accreditation: Costa Rica (MEP) + Accredited IB World School
International Baccalaureate (IB): Yes
Tuition: Contact (servicioalcliente@teocali.org)

Sourced from the Nahuatl word “Teocali,” meaning “House of Wisdom,” Academia Teocali has delivered four decades of competitive, bilingual education to Northern Guanacaste families.

One of the school’s core values is true bilingualism: No matter a child’s first language, Teocali works to graduate students who have equally mastered English and Spanish. They pair their language efforts and excellent academics with strong extracurriculars and extensive grounds, which include sports fields and a semi-Olympic swimming pool.

In 2014, the school upped their educational ante with International Baccalaureate certification and the IB diploma program – one of the first IB options in our immediate region. (The only other IB option is La Paz, below.) Additionally, students benefit from the University of Costa Rica’s MATEM 125 program and preparatory courses for TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), should they wish to pursue English-language, post-secondary educational offerings.

Note that Teocali is located in Liberia, about 45 minutes (one way) from Playas del Coco.

Colegio Bilingüe Ciudad Blanca

CBCD private school in Liberia Guanacaste Costa RicaLocation: 350 meters south of Plaza Liberia, Liberia
Grades/Levels: PreK-11
School Year: February-November (Costa Rican Calendar)
Accreditation: MEP
International Baccalaureate (IB): No
Tuition: Contact (info@cbcb.ed.cr)

CBCB’s dual emphasis is on Christian values and strong, bilingual academics, with a focus on English and Spanish, creative writing, science, math, and social studies/civics/history. In addition to these core subjects, the school works to foster critical organizational skills through oral and written reports, and to explore the great outdoors – the “natural science laboratory” that the campus so generously affords.

CBCB also offers a robust extracurricular program, which offers everything from guitar and computer lab to art and after-school sports. Furthermore, the school is strong on character – “God, justice, truth, and honesty” – paired with spiritual growth and generosity of spirit, which they promote through various programs, including an annual Christmas toy drive and volunteering at a Nicaraguan orphanage.

Note that CBCB is located in Liberia, about 45 minutes (one way) from Playas del Coco.

Dolphin’s Academy School

Dolphins Academy among private schools in Playas del CocoLocation: Barrio Los Canales y Barrio Monteseco, Playas del Coco
Grades/Levels: PreK-11
School Year: February-November (Costa Rican Calendar)
Accreditation: MEP
International Baccalaureate (IB): No
Tuition: $210-$390/month plus fees

With a promise to nurture tomorrow’s world citizens, Dolphins Academy is a preschool through high school choice located right in Playas del Coco.

With a firm emphasis on diversity in both education and life, Dolphins embraces its student body’s differences and similarities – and teaches children to do the same. Their approach is multi-faceted, emphasizing everything from volunteer beach clean-ups and wilderness camps to charity drives and the school’s famed Wealthy Kids Course, designed to teach financial literacy from an early age.

In addition to good academics and TOEFL testing (to certify students’ English proficiency), Dolphins values its community. Students and their families are encouraged to participate in dozens of annual events, including holidays, regular movie nights, and global observations days for peace, Earth Day, and more. They also run one of Coco’s only summer camps – a huge draw, come December and January!

La Paz School (Tempisque Campus)

La Paz Community SchoolLocation: Comunidad, behind the DoIT Center
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

La Paz School’s newest location, the renowned school’s Tempisque campus brings La Paz’s signature focus on academics and IB Program to Playas del Coco (via la Comunidad, about 15 minutes east of downtown).

Like its sister school in the Tamarindo area, La Paz Tempisque places a strong emphasis on student life and academics. It begins with the morning meditation – an impressive sight, when you see an entire school, collectively silent for its morning meeting – and fans out into almost every aspect of a student’s education: La Paz is built around a philosophy of life-long learning, facing challenges, and building peace, achieved through pushing boundaries and fostering community, both locally and around the world.

Were building honest, kind global citizens not enough, La Paz also offers one of the area’s strongest academic offerings, focusing on core subjects, the arts, and its Two Way Dual Immersion (TWDI) program: a long-term, biliteracy program that employs thematic learning and a 50/50 English/Spanish split to map academic subject matter to its greater place in the world. (By way of example, the 2020-2021 year’s themes were Peace Ambassadors, Sustainability, Origins, Land and Sea, Wellness, Energy, Creative Expression, and Gratitude.)

Lakeside International School

Lakeside International School private schools in GuanacasteLocation: Comunidad, about 15 minutes from Playas del Coco
Grades/Levels: PreK-11
School Year: February-November (Costa Rican Calendar)
Accreditation: Costa Rica (MEP) + WIDA International School Consortium
International Baccalaureate (IB): No
Tuition: $2,700-$5,520/year plus fees

Home to one of Guanacaste’s most scenic campuses – it’s set against the backdrop of a 200-acre aquaculture farm that raises fish and shrimp – Lakeside International School’s landscapes teem with monkeys, lizards, and 260+ bird species. It’s a natural wonderland and an outdoor education – quite literally, when you’re in the outdoor classroom!

Not one to rest on its laurels, Lakeside rounds out its beauty with a diverse student body, strong academics, and holistic learning, which caters to the whole student and helps Lakeside Learners not only succeed academically but also personally. This approach, paired with an international bilingual curriculum, helps Lakeside consistently rank as one of the top private schools in Playas del Coco and Guanacaste.

What many Lakeside families love most is the school’s approach to personal development. Through its values and teaching, the school helps its students develop leadership, perseverance, confidence, social consciousness, critical thinking, creativity, independence, problem-solving skills, and confident self-expression.

Sea Wonders Academy

Sea Wonders Academy private schools in Playas del CocoLocation: Sardinal, about 15 minutes from Playas del Coco
Grades/Levels: PreK-6 (Plans underway to open a high school)
School Year: February-November (Costa Rican Calendar)
Accreditation: MEP
International Baccalaureate (IB): Planned (future high school)
Tuition: Contact (contabilidad@seawonders.ed.cr)

Sea Wonders Academy is a primary school (with immediate future plans to expand into high school) and family educational community that offers bilingual education through educational innovation and lifelong values.

Here, the emphasis is on both academics and holistic development, which relies on diverse experiences to build academic excellence, develop critical thinking, foster creativity, and build the skills necessary to successfully face the challenges of today. The method: Build an environment of love and trust, to promote self-reflection and allow students to discover themselves, conquer their own identities, and develop their skills through active and project-based learning, in healthy coexistence with others and with the environment.

Note that, in addition to academics, Sea Wonders actively teaches religion: The school holds a form of Catholic mass on Fridays and emphasizes Christian values. One of its goals is, “to form people who become autonomous and free in the conduct of their lives, according to what God wants of them.”

More than Just Schools: Moving to Costa Rica with Kids

families at the beach Guanacaste Costa Rica

(Photo courtesy of Tamarindo Family Photos)

Parents, we know: Moving abroad, especially a country that speaks a language other than our kids’ native tongue, is about a lot more than finding the just-right home or selecting from among the available private schools in Playas del Coco.

It’s about comfort. Assuaging concerns. And finding your sense of belonging.

This is a big step and a monumental decision – and maybe, your best one yet? Because there are so many incredible benefits to living abroad, from building self-confidence and instilling problem-solving skills to expanding your kids’ worldviews and helping them become fluent in a second language.

So, here are a few tips, as far as your kids are concerned:

Consider an “Expat Community”

We know, we know – you’re not moving abroad, just to surround yourself with the same! The truth is, though, that Costa Rica’s best “expat communities” are only partially populated by expats, foreigners, and immigrants; you’ll have many, many Tico (Costa Rican) neighbors, too!

That said, choosing a community with other expat children can also be key to your kids’ successful transition: Living around other kids who have been there, done that – who have faced the same life and cultural challenges – can be of great benefit to your children. Their peers will be in similar situations and will understand your kids’ bi-cultural experience – all the ups and the downs, come what may. And that resulting empathy, compassion, and advice can make all the difference.

Choose a Bilingual School

If your kids don’t already speak strong Spanish, resist the urge to throw them immediately into full immersion. (Unless that’s something they’d enjoy. In that case, let your language adventurer loose!)

While it’s true that children acquire languages faster than adults, it’s not an immediate process. An all-Spanish school, be it private or public, can be fairly intimidating and even alienating, for some kids. For the first school year, at least, we recommend enrolling them in a bilingual school with a Spanish-as-a-second-language program.

Do What You Love, Make Lots of Friends

Costa Rica is a really get-out-and-do-it kind of place. So, if your kids love to surf, take them surfing (daily!). If they enjoy playing soccer, there’s almost always a pickup game at the town soccer field. Play an instrument? Look into the closest music school. Can’t wait to lace up your hiking boots? Join summer camps and hiking clubs.

In Costa Rica, there’s so much choice in hobbies and activities. (And several private schools in Playas del Coco also run extracurriculars, after-school sports and clubs, summer camps, outdoor camps, and more.) So, encourage them! Indulge. Live a little. Or a lot. Soon, they’ll come home talking about all the new friends they’ve met (and speaking Spanish, to boot).

(Found this helpful? Learn more about what it’s like to raise your kids in Costa Rica.)

Questions about Private Schools in Playas del Coco & Surrounds? 

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.

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