We all know that we are living in a complicated world to be raising kids, but families are increasingly choosing Costa Rica in order to simplify. These parents are finding that they get to spend far more time with their families while getting back to the natural basics on a daily basis together.
In Costa Rica, expat parents are finding new ways to earn income–either working remotely online with their current business or employer, or starting a new business from their Costa Rica home or studio space. The may not be earning as much vacation 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 find a way to cope with the change, too. Many children find that it’s not that hard to enjoy a stunning natural setting and a friendly, welcoming community–even if they don’t speak the same language.
Every year, more parents of young kids are finding that it’s far easier to return to the simple life than they imagined! Their kids still go to school in English but they get to learn another language and have the impactful experience of being immersed in another culture.
But where do parents with young children move to in the Costa Ballena? The easy answer is: anywhere! You will find more and more young expat couples with small kids in the communities of Dominical, Uvita and Ojochal. And if you’re looking for more detailed information about what the Costa Ballena has to offer families, please read on.
Most expat parents want their children to graduate with a US or International diploma. In order to do so, they need to begin attending a US accredited school in secondary school. Most of the English language and Bilingual schools in the area are working on their MEP accreditation due to the increase in demand from parents moving to this region. There are MEP accredited school around Costa Rica and it won’t be long before our local schools are granted these tools.
Even still, many parents find that schools here are not limiting. Children who have graduated from secondary schools locally have gone on to study around the world with success.
There are three English language private schools in which Spanish is taught as a second language. There are also a number of Costa Rican public schools.
Escuela Verde – Learning beyond classroom studies, students are exposed to experts from a variety of fields who teach them hands-on experience in topics like botany and permaculture.
Uvita Christian Academy – students will graduate with a US diploma that is internationally accredited (still working on MEP accreditation). 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 – Newly open in September 2018, the school’s mission is to passionately educates for the future in order to contribute positively to our community and world.
All of the above schools are recommended for their good curriculums, avenues for social & lingual (with UCA also spiritual) development, and instructors who have a passion for teaching children.
Local schools – Uvita public school and Cortez 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 2018 to keep kids learning and entertained during school break. Activities are catered to different age groups.
The thing about living in the Costa Ballena is that typical vacation-type activities can be an 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 at nearby Manuel Antonio National Park, river cruising, ziplining, night animal tours, and quite a few more that are free or cheap.
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, too) 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 to here 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.
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 over over 5000 items, all certified organic. Sur Organico is a daily vendor of organic produce in Uvita and there is a Wednesday mercado 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 is said to have reasonable prices and the daycare director has a degree in education.
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.
This region has been blessed with expats and locals who have seen needs and sought to fill them. One example is Juan Carlos, the owner of the two Jucaloa supermercados in Ojochal, who organizes a Christmas party for children in and around Ojochal. Shoppers donate presents beforehand to be distributed at the party.
Along the same lines is a Christmas party for the children and parents in Boruca–a nearby indigenous community. Organized by a group of expats from Ojochal, they distrubute toys and supplying lunch, soft drinks, and ice cream. The event has grown over 18 years and depends on donations.
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.
Dozens of groups exist for networking in our Costa Ballena region–all it takes is a simple search to find them. For those who want to meet in the physical world, parents throw parties and sleepovers for their little ones after connecting over time through daily encounters on the local family circuit. Whether your kids go to school together, take surf lessons together, share yoga classes, or just bump into each other at the feria, it’s easy to feel a sense of community in the Costa Ballena between young families of any background.
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.