Last Updated: August 17, 2022
Moving to Costa Rica with kids can be an exciting adventure. From the hidden beaches to exotic wildlife, Costa Rica definitely has a lot to offer families. We have been living in Costa Rica since 2013 and have a family of our own now. We can attest that Costa Rica is a wonderful place to raise children. But living here is not without its challenges. In this post, we’ll share some of the most important considerations about moving to Costa Rica with kids. We will cover basics like schools and where to live, and also some practical issues about medical care, vaccines, and shopping.
Background on Us
First Years in Costa Rica
When we moved to Costa Rica in 2013, it was just the two of us. We traveled all around the country house sitting and were able to pack up and go to another town whenever we wanted. We would spend two months on the beach in Guanacaste then cross the country to spend another month on the lush Caribbean coast. We lived with almost complete freedom and didn’t have to put much thought and planning into our decisions.
Now, with two kids, life taken us in a slightly different, albeit still awesome, direction. We’ve had to change some key things about our lifestyle. A big one is where we live.
After we finished traveling the country, we settled on a part of Costa Rica that we love, the rainforest-covered Southern Zone. We lived there for almost four years, about three of those with kids. We loved that time and did a ton of hiking and exploration.
Over time, though, we realized that we were making life a little too hard for ourselves. This area is more remote and somewhat far from conveniences, which we really started to realize once we had kids.
The nearest big town, Uvita, is still fairly small so we would often drive 45 minutes or more to get to a bigger grocery store and for specialty items. We also found ourselves making the four-hour drive to San Jose for shopping and medical appointments. Another big factor was that we really needed better internet for work.
Moving to a More Developed Area
To be closer to San Jose and amenities, we found a great spot on the central Pacific coast near Jaco. We never would have pictured ourselves living near this more developed beach town before, but it has been perfect for us.
We’ve made other big changes over the last few years too, for schools, housing, and medical care. Below, we’ll touch on some of those so that you can keep them in mind as you plan your own move.
One of the biggest considerations for anyone moving to Costa Rica with kids is how to support your family. Costa Rica isn’t cheap, especially with children, so you should have a solid plan in place. So how can you make a living while living abroad in Costa Rica?
Many expats work online for companies in the United States or elsewhere. Some even just keep their remote jobs and continue on from here. You can find good cable or fiber optic Internet in many communities in Costa Rica so working online is a great option if you can do it.
Important Update: As of July 2022, Costa Rica has a digital nomad visa. This is a special visa category that lets you stay in the country for a year with the chance to renew for an additional year. Read our post, Costa Rica’s Digital Nomad Visa, for more information.
Starting a Business
For others, like us, they quit their old jobs and start something new. If you do this, it’s always a good idea to have some savings so that you have something to fall back on in case your plans don’t work out.
Many foreigners open businesses in Costa Rica. Probably the most common are those in the tourism industry. Hotels, restaurants, and tour companies are often owned by expats.
But the big catch with owning a business is that unless you have citizenship or permanent residency, which takes several years to obtain, your role is limited. Although you can own the company, you have to hire locals to perform the actual work.
Working for a Costa Rican Company
You also can’t work for a company in Costa Rica without residency. The government does this to protect jobs for locals. There are exceptions if the employer can get you a work visa (we’ve seen this with teachers), but this is rare.
So most people will need to work online or start a business once they arrive. Some businesses succeed, but we have seen many others fail. Having a business in Costa Rica can be a lot of work due to bureaucratic and other practical challenges. So be sure to do your research before investing all your time and money into a new venture.
For more information about starting a business in Costa Rica, read our separate post.
Where to Live
For people moving to Costa Rica with kids, one of the biggest considerations in deciding where to live is most likely schools.
You will find public schools in almost every town in Costa Rica, even one-room schoolhouses in far-off villages. Some expats choose to send their kids to public school for the cultural experience and to learn Spanish. We have friends who sent their young daughter to a public school in a small beach town for a few months before they ended up moving back to the United States, and they thought it was great for her.
For our family, we have our sons in a private school and plan to continue with them there. We did this because we wanted them to have more time in the classroom and a more robust education. Public school schedules are typically for only a half day, so classroom hours are somewhat limited. Since we’ve been living in Costa Rica, we have also seen large gaps during countrywide strikes, where the kids were out of public school for months. These missed days were never made up.
Where Are They Located?
Private schools can be found all around the country, but are concentrated in the Central Valley near San Jose. There, you will find fully accredited, bilingual schools that have been around for decades. You can find good private schools elsewhere as well, but they are more spread out so you will need to do some research.
The Dominical/Uvita area has a few different options for good private schools, and many expat families live in this area. Manuel Antonio/Quepos has one option that we know of for private school. Jaco has two private schools and also a private religious school. Guanacaste has a couple of well-known private schools situated between some of the popular beach towns.
What to Expect?
Some private schools have a mix of Costa Rican and expat kids, which we prefer so that our kids have friends that “stick around.” Since foreigners often move back after a year or two, expat kids can come and go.
Schools differ on whether they teach primarily in Spanish or English. Private school teachers are a mix of local Ticos and North Americans or Europeans, so sometimes a class is predominately taught in English but there is a Spanish teacher. The reverse can be true as well.
At our son’s school, one grade is in Spanish, with an English teacher who comes every day to do an English lesson. Another grade at the same school is mostly in English with some Spanish. A lot of times it just depends on the teacher’s first language.
Schools vary in terms of the qualifications of teachers, so be sure to inquire. Also, facilities vary a lot. Some private schools are simple with just a couple of extras like a soccer field and playground, while others have a pool for swim lessons, robotics lab, computer lab, etc.
The cost for private schools range from around $300 up to $1,000 per month at the most prestigious institutions. Usually, there’s an annual matriculation fee, monthly fee, and additional costs for uniforms and books. Almost all schools, both private and public, require a uniform.
For more information on private school options in Costa Rica, we recommend joining the Facebook group called Families with Children in the Central Valley. This is focused on the San Jose area but has lots of members living in other locations.
Home schooling is technically illegal in Costa Rica, but many expats do homeschool their kids.
Costa Rican law requires all Costa Rican children to be enrolled in either public or private school from preschool (starting at age 4) through primary school (6th grade; usually age 11-12). To the best of our knowledge, children who have residency in Costa Rica also are required to attend school, though in reality, this is not always the case.
Secondary school (high school) is optional but offered to any Costa Rican child/legal resident for free through the public system.
As a family moving to Costa Rica, your children obviously will not be Costa Rican citizens or considered residents until you file for residency and get approved. Therefore, you are not obligated to send them to a physical school in Costa Rica. Many expats live in Costa Rica on a tourist visa for many years (renewing it every 90 days) so this option works for them.
Proximity to Amenities
Although many people want to move to Costa Rica to simplify their life, which is great, we also recommend being practical. Being close to some amenities that will make life easier goes a long way, especially when transitioning into your new life.
Clothing and Toys
Outside San Jose, finding a good pair of kid’s sneakers, a nice toy, and even decent quality clothes can be tough. Many people (us included) stock up when they travel or have family visit. We bring back full suitcases when we visit the States because it’s significantly cheaper and the quality is better.
We recommend bringing quite a few toys with you. Toys in Costa Rica are a lot more expensive. A 20-piece Lego set (brand name) can be upwards of $40-50, for example. Most small towns have stores that sell some items, but often they aren’t well made and still pricey. There are big toy stores in San Jose, though, and they do have sales if you get the timing right.
In rural areas, you may have to drive 30 or more minutes to get to a larger grocery store. And then it still might not have everything you’re looking for.
Where we live near Jaco, we have several large grocery stores, including a good one that is Walmart-owned and has a lot of variety. We didn’t like Walmart when we lived in the States, but it’s a good option for grocery shopping in Costa Rica. There’s also an Automercado nearby, which is a high-end grocery store that has a lot of North American/European products. It’s harder to find nicer grocery stores like these in more rural towns.
For big box stores, you have to go to the Central Valley (around San Jose) or Liberia. PriceSmart is similar to Costco in the States. It has lots of bulk items that foreigners are typically looking for like good olive oil, cheese, cleaning products, etc. They also have a lot of kid items like granola bars and cereal. PriceSmart has several locations in the Central Valley and is opening a new store in Liberia as well.
A great thing for families moving to Costa Rica is the ample variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Most communities have a vibrant farmers market where you can stock up on everything you need for a very reasonable price. Organic is getting a lot easier to find too.
Doctors and Dentists
Most towns have private clinics with English-speaking doctors, but if you want a pediatrician, you will probably have to go to San Jose. This is one big reason that we moved closer to the city, especially with the birth of our second child. We have been using an office in Escazu with excellent English-speaking pediatricians and pediatric specialists for several years now. The office is very professional and we have been happy with the care.
For emergencies, you can find private clinics or general practitioners who speak English in most areas. In larger towns like Quepos (near Manuel Antonio), Jaco, Tamarindo, Nosara, La Fortuna, and Monteverde, the clinics will be larger and offer more services.
The clinic near us in Jaco has some excellent English-speaking general family practitioners, and they bring in specialists for things like X-rays, ultrasounds, and dermatology on a regular basis. We have taken care of minor medical issues and even emergencies at our clinic a few times, and it has been a great local resource.
For more serious emergencies, public hospitals are located throughout the country. Here, you will find mostly Spanish-speaking doctors and nurses, though some do speak English. Public hospitals in Costa Rica are very simple with a lot of shared spaces among patients, which can be a shock to North Americans. The care is generally good, though it varies a lot by hospital.
Private hospitals in San Jose are a great option for any planned procedures. These are modern facilities with many more English-speaking doctors. Some of the most well-known are Hospital CIMA, Clinica Biblica, Hospital La Catolica, and Hospital Metropolitano. We have used CIMA several times, including for childbirth, and have had good experiences.
For pediatric dentists, there are many options around San Jose.
Outside the city, a local clinic may have a pediatric dentist come from San Jose once or twice a month so it’s possible to be treated locally.
Compared to where you will be coming from, things to do with kids will be less in some ways.
Although you will have more opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, surfing, and the beach, actual kids’ play areas are harder to find. Some big towns have a playground, but usually there is only one. Indoor activity centers don’t really exist outside San Jose. Sometimes you’ll find a play area in a local restaurant, though, so ask around once you move.
Adapting to New Life
Moving to a new country is a lot to handle for adults and can be for kids too, especially older ones. Culturally, everything will be different, from the food in restaurants to what you can find in the grocery store. Hopefully you will have taken some trips to Costa Rica already as a family to begin the acclimation process.
From home, there’s also a lot you can do to get the kids thinking about their new life. We have a Virtual Field Trip series aimed to get them excited about Costa Rica so be sure to check that out. We talk about sea-turtle nesting, volcanoes, how bananas and pineapples grow, and share books that they might be interested in as well as exploring other cool stuff.
This can be an important point if you’re moving to Costa Rica with older kids. In most towns, you’ll find soccer, of course, but other team sports are harder to come by. We don’t know of anywhere that has teams for baseball, basketball, American football, lacrosse, volleyball, etc.
However, you can find things like karate, music lessons, swimming, and ballet/dance. Near Jaco, we have karate, painting class, and church youth groups. You also can periodically find robotics and theater/puppets, and sometimes local restaurants have family-friendly events.
We’ve seen families have to move back because their kids missed sports so much, so keep this in mind if you have a sports lover in your family.
Ease of Living
This one is for the moms and dads. It’s more work in many ways to live in Costa Rica because many things take more time. This is especially so when you are first moving and need to figure everything out. Paying a bill or doing a simple transaction at the bank can unexpectedly take a half day.
Also, there’s no Amazon Prime so things are not just a click away. As we talked about above, you may have to drive an hour and stop at three stores to find just what you’re looking for.
The good news, though, is that it’s a lot more affordable to have people help you. House cleaners and childcare is a fraction of the price compared to North America and most of Europe, so be sure to take advantage!
Coping with Missing Back Home
With these big changes, your kids are likely to miss their old life back home. This will probably happen in general and especially during large events like holidays and birthdays. They’ll miss their old friends and family.
Our experience with this is different since our kids were born in Costa Rica, but we still go through it to some extent. One of the best ways to handle it is to plan visits to see these grandparents, cousins, and old friends.
For us, we fly Matt’s parents down every year and try to get back to the States once a year too, so that we see them every six months or so. If we can time the visit for one of the kids’ birthdays, even better.
Seeing family through video calls helps, but it’s no substitute. Make sure to also bring lots of photos so that you can fill in the gaps and relive some of those old memories.
Miscellaneous Practical Considerations
Visa Options and Border Runs
A practical consideration of moving to Costa Rica with kids is what to do about your visas.
The digital nomad visa we mention above is a great option for a short term stay if you work online.
Residency is another option, but since many expats move back in a year or two for one of many different reasons, we usually recommend that people wait a bit to apply. This is because residency is somewhat costly and a lot of work.
If you choose not to apply for the digital nomad visa or residency, you will enter the country on a regular tourist visa. Typically, tourist visas are 90 days, but it depends on your entry stamp. That means that every member of your family will need to leave the country every 90 or so days when their visa expires.
You can go to the border in Panama or Nicaragua or to any other country by plane to renew your tourist visa. If you just do a “border run,” that is go to the nearest land border for the purpose of being stamped in and out, there’s always a risk that you won’t get a 90-day visa.
Panama has been getting stricter with people who have been doing border runs. We’ve heard many stories recently of people who were given a lot less than 90 days.
So just keep in mind the visa-renewal process and how you would have to do it at least every 90 days.
Here are links to two of our posts on border crossings to give you an idea of what to expect:
Paso Canoas: Crossing Costa Rica and Panama’s Biggest Border
Crossing the Rio Sereno Border Between Costa Rica and Panama
One issue that sometimes comes up for people moving to Costa Rica with kids is vaccines. Costa Rica is very strict with its vaccine requirements. By law, all children must have them and there are no exceptions. You will need to show a vaccination record when you enroll your children in public or private school.
If you plan to have a baby here, vaccinations will be required shortly after birth as well. The schedule is similar to the United States with the addition of a couple of things. For example, they still do the tuberculosis vaccine. Vaccines are free for all children born in Costa Rica.
We hope this post gives you some insight into moving to Costa Rica with kids. A move abroad is a big undertaking for anyone and getting a whole family here can be even more challenging. But some careful thought and planning goes a long way towards making it a successful adjustment. Costa Rica is a definitely a wonderful place with kids so it’s every bit worth the effort to make it happen.
Video Chat Service
If you have questions about moving to Costa Rica with kids, we have a video chat service. We can help with basic questions as well as anything specific to your family. You can find more information and get in touch through our Video Chat Service page.
Last Updated: August 17, 2022
Have a question about moving to Costa Rica with kids? Ask us below.
Looking for more information on your move to Costa Rica? Check out these posts:
FAQs About Moving to Costa Rica: Learn more about the cost of living, house sitting, Internet reliability, buying a car, and how to get your stuff here.
Buying a Car in Costa Rica: Details our three car-buying experiences. One through a private sale, another from a rental car company, and the most recent purchase of a new car from a dealership.
Having a Baby in Costa Rica: Our four-part series on having a baby. Includes prenatal care, delivery, and how to get baby’s first passport and other documents.
Life in Costa Rica: Check out our whole Life in CR section for our periodic updates about living in Costa Rica and related articles.
Thank you so much for the post and everything on your blog- super helpful. My family and I are going to be moving to CR from California next year with our 2 kids. We are debating between Playa Hermosa (Guanacaste) or Nosara – Currently these are our top 2 choices based on the houses that we have found and the schools we are looking at for our kids (aged 4 and 5). Obviously every place has its pros and cons and I we have investigated those extensively – we have also been to the country traveling several times so we have experience of those and other areas- but as you guys seem to be quite similar to us in terms of values and life perspective, I would still love to hear your thoughts, do you prefer Nosara or Hermosa? Looking forward to hearing your response 🙂
Hi Romi, That’s exciting about your family’s upcoming move! Personally, we would choose Playa Hermosa (Guanacaste) over Nosara. We just prefer the feel of it, and also like that it is less remote. Hermosa is very close to Liberia Airport and also amenities there. Many expat families live in Nosara, though, and love it. It has more of a jungle feel, which can be fun in the early years of life in Costa Rica. It is farther to things but the small city of Nicoya is fairly close. Nicoya is a little city with mostly Ticos where you can get errands done. I’m not sure what the scene in Playa Hermosa is like as far as the expat community. It’s a bit smaller. You could join some of the local groups on Facebook for each place to get a better sense of what it’s like. Those groups can be really useful. Hope that helps and best of luck with your move!
Hello. This is a new consideration for me, as of today after encountering a post online on a Cdns Businesses Against Vx Mandates/Pass page.
I have 2 adult children, 1 teen and 1 11 year old who has Down syndrome. Can you tell me anything about life in CR with a dependant child with a disability? (I do not rely on govt. for support in any way—-but do rely on medical system more frequently)
We are up to date on all v’s EXCLUDING Hpv and Covid….how might that play out in regards to possible relocation out of (Communist) Canada?
Hi Tina, Costa Rica requires vaccines for children to enroll in school. HPV and Covid are on the list of mandatory vaccines. Costa Rica may not be the best country for your family.
The medical system is very good, but keep in mind that most private hospitals are located only in San José. There are some more limited options near Liberia in Guanacaste.
Are vaccines required to enter the country? Considering moving our family of 5 there. Our 3 kids 7, 4, and 2 are not vaccinated.
Hi Megan, No, vaccines are not required to enter the country except in the limited situation where someone is traveling from certain countries in South America. Then a yellow fever certificate is required.
The standard vaccines are required for children to enroll in schools in Costa Rica, though. It’s a very pro-vaccine country in general.
My son holds a medical exemption from the US for vaccines, he is allergic to the perservatives in them. Do you know how that would transfer?
Hi Holly, We think so but are not sure. We would recommend asking a lawyer in Costa Rica for their thoughts. Please let us know if you’d like a recommendation and we can send you the contact information for who we use by email.
Hey There Jenn and Matt-
This is a great resource so as many others have said, thank you! We’re from Colorado and moving to Dominical/Uvita with 3 kids (and a dog) in January and planning to stay to June. It looks like getting a vehicle and keeping our visa current is going to be quite an adventure. I can see that the land borders are currently closed for us. Assuming we can find a way to travel via air, is this a common/efficient way to renew? Thanks!
Hi Brad, No one has had to renew by air yet really because visas were automatically extended until March 2 if you arrived in Costa Rica by November 30. Starting in December, though, you have to leave based on the number of days you get on your visa stamp, so people are going to have to start doing that. You could fly to any country so even Panama would work. There is a chance land borders will be open by the time you need to do your first renewal, though. People were speculating that it would happen in December. Nothing yet, but maybe during the early part of 2021. Best of luck with your family’s move!
Hi there Jann and Matt, your blog is pretty helpful. Thank you so much. I have a little one 4 years old and we are planning to spend a couple of month in Costa Rica. Which town do you live close to Jaco? I know Jaco from 15 years ago but I would prefer to live somewhere outside of this big city but still close enough for school, medical…,….Looking forward to hear from you. Linda 🙂
Hi Linda, We prefer not to say publically exactly where we live. We’re between Jaco and Parrita. There are several smaller towns in that stretch, Playa Hermosa, Quebrada Amarilla, Esterillos, Playa Bejuco, etc. It’s a good, quieter location but still close to amenities. Hope that gives you an idea! If you’d like to talk in more detail about your plan to spend some time here, you may be interested in our Video Chat Service. We could talk in more detail about the different options for towns.
thank you so much for your thoughtful and detailed posts – they are really helpful. I am aiming to move with my daughter in 2022 once she has passed GCSE’s. I have done extensive research on moving but of course that is always subject to opinions…. As such I would love your insight / steering please?
I will try to keep this brief and concise: I have a sustainability consultancy that I will run online and draw income from UK. Our main drive for the move is my admiration of Costa Rica’s pioneering environmental and societal protection.
My daughter will likely home school A levels and come back to UK to sit them. She would like to volunteer at rescue centres which I think is OK without residency.
I would also like to support local sustainability for corporations where possible but will contact local gov to see how I my skills may be of use. In addition my PHD proposal is in Indigenous knowledge and I am hoping to be invited to the BriBri.
All that said, I am 50 my daughter will be 16. We do not want an American lifestyle / community particularly… we would like to integrate where possible with Tico lifestyle.
As such we are not looking at Tamarindo or the cities… I am currently thinking of acclimatising in Samara area and exploring future location/s …. I would love your thoughts on the above… and if in any way possible I would be hugely appreciative of a conversation with someone that has a European / US teenager in Costa Rica…
massive thanks in advance x.
Hello Illana, That is exciting about you and your daughter’s plans. Samara may be a good fit for you, though there is not a wildlife escue center in the immediate area for your daughter. The nearest would be in Nosara. You may also like the southern Caribbean coast. There are a lot of Europeans in Cahuita and Puerto Viejo.
I’m sure the country would benefits from your expertise. Do you speak Spanish?
One thing to keep in mind is visa requirements. You may already know this, but you will need to leave the country every 90 days to renew your visas unless you apply for residency. Currently, land borders are closed to tourists so you need to fly, though they may reopen soon.
As for talking to another family who is living in Costa Rica with a teenage, we would recommend joining some of the Facebook group for expats. We give links to some of the popular ones in our post, FAQs About Moving to Costa Rica.
We also have a Video Chat Service, which can be hlpful for people moving to Costa Rica in case you are interested.
Best of luck with your plans!
Hey there, thanks for this awesome blog post. I’m a Dutch Citizen and am planning to move to Costa Rica with my South African partner and our daughter. Would the best way be to come for a 3-month holiday on a tourist visa and try to get a residency permit from there? And maybe do a few border runs in between until things get sorted?
Hi Henok, Glad our site has been helpful! We would recommend reading our post FAQs About Moving to Costa Rica: https://www.twoweeksincostarica.com/faqs-moving-to-costa-rica/ That discusses living here on a tourist visa and getting residency. You can stay for 90 days as a tourist. During that time, you could apply for residency. That will make it so you don’t need to leave the country to renew your visa, but you will still need to do border runs if you want to drive. Your foreign driver’s license renews with your visa stamp. Right now, land borders are still closed to tourists entering the country so you would need to fly. But they may reopen soon. Hope that helps!
Hello! Thank you for all of your helpful onsite. We are planning on moving from Colorado to the dominical area with our 2 and 4 year old. We have traveled to this area often but considering moving brings new elements to mind in regards to emergency medical care. Is there any thing you recommend keeping at your home for your children in case of emergency here that would be different from in the states. Any sort of medicines or anti venom type of items that would be necessary to have on hand with small children… if that is even a thing? Any advise on the medical aspect with young children is appreciated
Hi Jena, Hospitals all have the two types of antivenoms so go straight there in that instance. For general medical stuff, it’s pretty normal for what you will need. We go through a lot of bandaids. Bring Children’s Tylenol because it’s more expensive here and my kids think it doesn’t taste as good. We try to prevent as many injuries as we can. For beaches and waterfalls, water shoes can be key for walking on rocks and not getting cuts. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a link to our post on Moving with Kids that you may find helpful: https://www.twoweeksincostarica.com/moving-costa-rica-kids/
Pharmacies will be able to help with anything random that happens like ant bites, etc.
Best of luck with your family’s plans!
New to your blog and find it very helpful–thank you! I’m curious what COVID precautions look like in Costa Rica. How serious is it taken across the country/your area?
Hi Kim, Glad you are finding our site helpful!
We have a whole series of articles about traveling in Costa Rica right now and what it’s like. You can check them out in our Covid Travel section: https://www.twoweeksincostarica.com/covid-travel/
Hi! Thank you for all the help! We are looking into moving our family of 7. I am wondering how safe it is for kids and where the safest spots are for families. I’ve heard mixed reviews about it being a safe place for families, and I’m sure it has much to do with where you are.
Hi Kelli, Costa Rica is fairly safe but house break-ins do occur (usually when no one is home). Location can matter but the most important thing is having a secure house that closes up well. We have never had any problems ourselves in our almost 9 years of living here, but we have precautions that we follow.
From what we can tell, the areas with the most crime seem to be Tamarindo and its surrounds, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, and the Uvita area. But it’s not a huge problem in any of these places. Mostly isolated incidents. It gets worse during certain times of year.
We are going to be visiting Costa Rica, the Potrero area, next summer. We have 2 daughters ages 11 and 15, who we have raised to be pretty independent. They enjoy being able to walk to get ice cream, shop, etc…when we travel. What is your opinion in regards to their safety in that area if they were to take a walk to to that? We will be staying about a 10 minute walk from town.
Hi Danielle, It would probably be fine for them during the daytime to go out for ice cream by themselves or something like that. I would just keep it to short trips with a defined destination and make sure they are keeping an eye on their surroundings.
Hello! So glad I found your blog! I wondered if you have any resources or feedback in regards to the homeschooling idea. If you could drop a link or two for me to get me in the right direction, that would be a great help! Thanks in advance!
Hi Jen, Homeschooling isn’t legal in Costa Rica but many people still do it. We’ve heard there are groups on Facebook so you could check that out. Best of luck!
Hey guys! Your blog is GOLD! Amazing job. My wife and I are looking at spending a year in CR with the family for a sabbatical. I just got back from a due diligence trip. The changes as a result of living in a Covid world make the prospect of a year in CR as a “PR tourist”….interesting and quite challenging. I’m now navigating all the options of how to make it work. I’ve found a great place in Playa Hermosa (Puntarenas) that we are in love with. Found the vehicle to purchase. All things have lined up beautifully with exception to the old “border run” solution. Hoping to find the solutions to make it work. Thank you for all of your fantastic info. You guys have done an amazing job!
Hi Erik, It sounds like your plans are coming together nicely! We actually live near Playa Hermosa (Jaco); it’s a great spot with kids. Lots of young families here. If you have any questions as your plans shape up, feel free to reach out through our Video Chat Service. We’ve been talking to a lot of people lately who are doing something similar to you (i.e., a CR sabbatical). The border run situation is tough. They are close to passing a digital nomad visa we’ve heard, though. If that will work for you. Best of luck with your plans!
First time on your blog. Fantastic! Do you see Costa Rica considering making its residents and citizens requiring the COVID 19 vaccine. This would be a deal breaker for me…
Hi Fred, They haven´t said anything yet but Costa Rica has a law that allows the government to require vaccines for its citizens. Just today the government announced that the Covid vaccine would be required for all public employees. In general, vaccines are required for kids for school too. They do take them very seriously. Here´s a link to our post about Costa Rica´s Covid Vaccination Rates. It gives data but a section towards the bottom also talks about if the Covid vaccine will be required, with a link to another article to read from a local law firm.
Hi Jenn and Matt! Great blog. We are considering a move with our daughters (8 and 11) this summer. Do you have any experience with Country Day School near San Jose? What about Santa Ana as a place to live with kids in the CV?
Hi Liz, We don’t have any personal experience with the Country Day School, but have heard wonderful things about it. I think it’s one of the best schools in the country. Last I heard it was around $1,000/month.
Santa Ana is a super cute town. There are busier, more commercial areas, but more residential parts too. It has a really nice playground in the old part of town. Lots of young families there as well. Best of luck with your family’s plans!
Hi guys! Thanks for this article, I’ve always fantasized about relocating with my family and now feel close to fulfilling the dream? So exciting! and a bit nerve-racking :S I’ve been recommended a school called Costa Rica International School do you know anything about it? Thank you!
Hi Felicitas, We don’t have personal experience with CRIA but have heard great things. It is affiliated with the Country Day School in San Jose, which has a very good reputation and has been around for years. It’s an international school so the credits would be easily transferable if needed. You could join the group on Facebook, Families with Children in Guanacaste, for more info. People are often taking about schools. Good luck with your plans!
Thank you very much for your answer and suggestion.
Hi Jenn & Matt, my soon-to-be-five-year-old and I have spent the last three months getting to know various parts of CR. I’ve been home-schooling during this time. He reads small words, he spells, he draws things that resemble what he says he’s drawing (lol), he counts above 100 and can perform some basic addition and subtraction, and – most importantly – he’s a great friend to his playmates. So I feel like, ok, so far so good, but I need him to explore his social independence and I want his Spanish to improve (I’m a native speaker, he’s still learning). We’re still sorting through the best locale for us in terms of a balance between access to nature and access to amenities. In the meantime, I’m wondering how/if it is possible to enroll him in school without residency documents/while doing the recurring 90-day border hops?
Hi Lyn, You don’t have to be a resident to enroll your child in school in Costa Rica. They should only need your passports. Education is a Constitutional right here, like health care, so it is provided for all. Good luck!
Hello Jenn and Matt, have just heard from a fellow expat who very calmly and rationally explained her experience sending her 10yo son to a public school in the Southern Zone. She tried to be positive about it, but the truth is that he was ostracized and basically bullied for close to 3 years until he was finally accepted. It was apparently very difficult to overcome the “outsider” status.
In your experience, is this common in the public school system? I want to send our kids to public school for the full immersion, and so they can fully learn Spanish. But not if it’s going to be an experience like that! Thoughts?
Hi Billy, Most of the expats we know send their kids to private schools so we don’t know much about the public school experience. We do know people who have their kids in public school but they have been in Costa Rica since the kids were little. It is probably different for older kids, especially if they don’t speak Spanish. It can be harder for older kids to adjust in general since it is very different here, especially if they are into sports or other extracurricular activities (there are few sports here other than soccer). We would recommend talking to some more parents who have done it.
Thank you for your information. Very welcome.
Currently we are looking for a school for our kid of 7 years in the area of Quepos.
It is hard finding information about all the educational initiatives.
You refer to a private school in Quepos and also in Dominical/Uvita area. Could you share the names of the schools you guys found, so we can do further research in this area…
Hi Sebastiaan, A private school near Quepos that we’ve heard good things about is Los Delfines.
In Uvita, the two main schools are Uvita Christian Academy and Centro Educativo Costa Ballena. Hope that helps!
Hi guys 🙂 how are you? I didn’t understand if your kids were born in Costa Rica or after that time you spent living in the country you two alone in 2013 you went back home, had your children and then decided to go back? Thank you for the post it is quite enlightening 🙂
Hi Daiana, We have been in Costa Rica full-time since 2013 so our kids were both born here.
Oh wow! Ok, that’s great 🙂 Thank you, you inspire courage in us and the idea that it is possible. Thank you
Thank you for so much excellent information! I’m just beginning to research a short term (6-12 month) move to CR with my husband and two toddlers. Do any locations pop into your mind for a family looking for a small town feel that’s close to the ocean and if possible jungle too? We want to be very deliberate in our attempt to learn the language and experience the local culture by building friendships. I prefer a smaller town so we can get to know the people in the market, the families at the beach, etc. The less car traffic and the more foot traffic in the area the better! If we could live in an area without a daily (or weekly) need to drive a car that would be ideal as we love to walk or bike ride everywhere. I’ll definitely need to schedule a video call once we make a little more progress with our plans. Thanks!
Hi Kaylin, Finding a truly walkable beach town in Costa Rica is a little tough. One good option with a smaller feel is Samara. Here’s a link to our post about it. Another option is Jaco. It’s busier but there are a lot of young families there and if you stay near town it’s easy to get around by bike or on foot. Happy to help more if you decide to do a video call. A lot of this is very person-specific so it’s hard to make generalizations about what will work for your family.
We are in the process of making plans to move to Costa Rica within the next few months. I WAS aware of the vaccine mandates – but that is only IF children will be enrolled in school, correct? If we plan on homeschooling, there should be no issue? We will have a religious exemption, as well. Not sure if that carries over, but I would certainly hope so? Thank you, your post was a wealth of information! Also, have you run into any mosquito-borne illnesses while over there? If so how did you handle? Thanks so much!
Hi Violet, You should join the Facebook group on homeschooling in Costa Rica. We don’t homeschool our kids so aren’t sure. But the vaccine requirement applies to residents as far as we know. Not sure if you are planning on residency. They are strict about vaccines here.
There is dengue and a few other mosquito-borne illnesses to be aware of. They are not that common. Here’s a link to our Mosquitoes post with more information.
Thank you for the brilliant information.
I have a question about the location. We have a child who is 18 months old. We are currently thinking of a place between 500 and 800 meters above sea level. with 20-30min drive to the beach and a larger city.
That’s why we are currently looking for the area between San Isidro del General and Dominical or between Atenas and Jaco.
We want to do without air conditioning. We want to create a small food forest and build a house.
The last time I was Jaco was many years ago. I didn’t like it at all at the time.
Important for us:
playground nearby, opportunity to connect with other children (community)
Hospital, school, shopping, various activities not too far away.
The cost of the property does not play a role in the decision.
What are your thoughts on these regions – which ones would you prefer?
Do you have other ideas?
Thank you and Pura Vida
Hi Martin, Atenas is about about an hour to the beach, if that is important to you. You could take a look at a small town called San Mateo. It’s near Orotina so a bit closer. There are a lot of families moving there because of some new permaculture communities.
Between San Isidro and Dominical is a good option too. The closer you are to San Isidro, the easier it is for shopping, medical care, and amenities. There are young families all along the stretch from San Isidro to Dominical.
We’d recommend coming to look at both areas before committing to anything.
Hope that helps!
Hi thank you so much for all the great info. My husband and I have been back and forth to Costa Rica since 2003 and recently spent a year living their with our 3 children. We returned to the UK but considering selling up and moving over. Unfortunately our eldest (10 years) is not quite on board with it as he’s very settled here. Our main concern is how things will unfold for them as they get into higher education and the workforce. I’m not sure if my children would be able to study at university level in Spanish if they wanted to go to university. The school they attended was a private billinguel school which offered either the IB or MEP. I’m not sure if I want to put my children through the IB but I’m also not sure if they can achieve the MEP as Spanish as a second language. I worry about job opportunities but then I don’t know if I’m over thinking it all really! Most of the families I know there are either local costa Ricans or expats that have quite alot of assets behind them and could easily return to home country if needed. I’m interested to know if you’ve met many expats that have older children and how they have found the teenage years there and what the kids have gone on to do studying/ career wise. I don’t want to place big career aspirations on any of my children but just want to make sure I’m not holding them back. We were living on the NICOYA peninsula around santa teresa /Montezuma area. It’s a surfers paradise for us but also quite cut off.
Anyway I’m interested to hear any thoughts or experiences. Thanks
Hi Jess, That is a tough one. We don’t have experience with this yet as our children are still young but are already thinking about many of the same things. Many expats do put their kids in IB schools so that they can go on to do university wherever they want. Our kids are at an MEP school right now and we plan to keep them there through high school as of now. But that could change. If your son isn’t excited about the move, it could be hard to get him into learning Spanish so that he could do an MEP school. He may be more comfortable with an IB school in English primarily. Did he go to Futuro Verde? That school looks wonderful. Sorry we don’t have more advice to give. Maybe others will be able to chime in. Best of luck with your family’s plans!
We are considering the move there from Canada. Our plan is to purchase a home that also has a second unit of sorts to have some rental income. Running an Airbnb as a business is their any options for paying into the country’s pension plan? So that when you reach retirement age you have income coming from the government every month that you paid into?
Hi Natalie, The only way you can pay into Costa Rica’s pension system so you can collect money during retirement is to become a legal residency. You may be able to do this through the property purchase (investor residency) but the residency process isn’t easy and takes time so it’s best to be sure you know you want to stay long term before applying. We would recommend figuring other sources of retirement income in general anyway, as we don’t think the pension program pays out very much.
Hi! We have one high schooler and we think we’d like to move to the west coast (maybe the east coast) of Costa Rica. Questions:
1) good high schools that have both ticos and expats? and also perhaps a stable with horseback riding lessons?
2) are there any ‘cooler temp’ beaches that would have the above?
Hi Tricia, We have a whole post on school options in Costa Rica.
All the beaches are very hot. The hottest region, though, is Guanacaste on the northern Pacific coast so you may want to avoid that. It’s much cooler in the mountains. The Dominical/Uvita area is a good option too because there are communities up in the mountains where it’s a little cooler but you’re still only 15-20 min. to the beach. Hope that helps!
Thank you for your informative page, I’ve learnt a bit more today which is great!
We are renting for a year in 3 locations to establish which area it is we want to hopefully settle in.
We are trying to work out storage for a year then shipping afterwards from the UK vs just starting from scratch over there.
Do you have any suggestions on shops we could look into for pricing.
mattresses, beds, sofas, lamps etc.
We can build shelves etc if the cost of wood works out cheaper?
What do most people seem to do?
Will the public schools take 3 kids for just a 3-4 month period or
should we just “home-school” until we know for sure our area?
The registration costs are a lot also.
Do you have any school recommendations perhaps?
We are not bothered about grades so we are more interested in interacting, socialising, learning Spanish, life skills, critical thinking. So if its a forest or Waldorf setting even better.
Many thanks in advance,
Hi Vanessa, I think most people who are just planning on coming for a year or so just rent furnished houses for simplicity. It’s a lot of work to ship things down and furnishing a house isn’t easy either. If you’re just wanting to look into how much things cost for the future, you could look at the places on our list in our post, Home Decor And Furniture Stores In San Jose, Costa Rica.
The public school will take kids for any length of time. Education is a right here and it’s free. If you’d rather do private schools, here’s a detailed list of options on our site. Most of those won’t do short term but a few will.
Good luck with your family’s plans!
Hi there! Thanks for providing so much wonderful information! Has anything changed with the vaccine requirements for school? We want to make the transition to Costa Rica but our 1 year old doesn’t have any vaccines and we don’t have plans to change that. Can you help give guidance on what our options would be? Thank you!!
Hi Stephanie, Costa Rica’s vaccine requirements for kids have been in place for many years. The country is very pro-vaccine (we’re talking about vaccines in general, not just for Covid). The public health clinics even go to schools (public and private) to do vaccine clinics to make sure all the kids are up to date. Not sure what your options are. They don’t do a religious exemption here as far as we know. Your best bet would probably be to contact some of the schools/centers you’re looking at and see what they say. Good luck!
Thanks so much for your reply and the information! We will be there in September and meeting with a gentleman to discuss moving, so maybe he will have some insight. I appreciate you guys!
We are looking to move to Costa Rica for three months between June and August of 2024, and I am wondering if it would be possible to enroll our 10 year old son in school for that time. I have reached out to one nanny agency that I found too. It would be awesome to find him a short term nanny or Manny to spend his days with. My husband and I will be working remotely (I own a nanny agency in the US so we might also bring someone with us but that would not be my first choice). We are flexible eon location depending on where we can find the best rentals, childcare, and access to either airport for my husband’s work travel. Let me know if this would be best answered in a video chat.
Hi Danielle, There are lots of options for where to go. We would probably start there, then try to figure out specific accommodations. Usually people find a local nanny through their Airbnb/rental host. I do think this is a huge topic that’s hard to answer in a comment. Let us know if you’d like to schedule a video call and we’d be happy to help more.
Also, not sure if it would work, but we do know of a wonderful property in Samara that has a nanny option. It’s expensive, but the owner is somewhat flexible for long-term stays like you’re planning. Let me know if you’d like more info about that. We have friends who stayed there for about two months. They had a 5 year old who they put in school there too.
Hello and thank you for all the wonderful information you provide! We have 2 small kids (4 years old and a 4 month baby) we are hoping to spend all of June in a rental somewhere. After reading a lot of your posts I think the central south coast looks amazing. We want our oldest to see lots of wildlife and we would be spending our days at the beach and hiking. Hoping the beach and amenities are accessible by foot, would you recommend Uvita for this? We will do La fortuna for a few days before our month long rental. Any advice on where we should go would be helpful! Thanks!
Hi Alanna, Uvita is good for wildlife viewing, hiking, and beaches, and for families with young children in general. It is more spread out, though, so you’ll often need to drive to restaurant and amenities. There are places to stay that are closer to things. Look at the area called Bahia, which is at sea level near Playa Uvita and the Whale Tail. This area has some restaurants and basic shops. Otherwise, most rentals are located in the mountains and hills outside town. If you do find a place outside, just make sure it’s not too far up the mountain so that you’re reasonably close to things.
Thank you so much for your reply.
Travelling with 2 kids makes the planning more important to us more than it did as travellers before them!
We are hoping to spend all of June in CR. For sure La Fortuna and then likely Uvita area.
Somewhere we can call home for at least 2+ weeks for relaxing, beach and little day trips. Our kids are 4 years and baby is 4 months (currently) so would like to avoid long frequent car rides.
The other place we were considering was Samara. How does that compare to south coast?
Appreciate your insight!
Hi Allana, Samara is more walkable with more rentals close to town. The beach is nice and has calmer water for kids. The main area of town is just one area so it’s not spread out like Uvita. Here’s a link to our Samara post with more info.