Costa Rica International Academy - Serving Diverse International Community

Costa Rica International Academy was founded as a private, English-language, co-educational, non-sectarian school. The purposes and standards of the school are comparable to selective U.S. independent and college-preparatory schools.

The School was founded in 2000 in a small facility near Flamingo Beach. In 2002, the School moved to a property with a near-finished building on the road between Huacas and Brasilito, near Reserva Conchal and the current Westin Resort. The building was remodeled, and a covered gym, pool, athletic field, staff housing and a cafeteria were built. 

In 2004, a new high school building with classrooms, science lab, library, computer lab and administrative offices were built. By August of 2007, the school completed a new elementary and early childhood building of 16 classrooms, administrative offices, and a new multifunctional cafeteria/auditorium. Since its founding, CRIA has grown from 40 students to 200+ in 2020.

CRIA is recognized throughout Costa Rica and by international university admissions officers for the academic excellence demanded of its students, its college preparatory program, the depth and range of its academic and co-curricular programs, and the quality and dedication of its faculty. Classes are small, averaging 18 students in the primary and 22 students in the secondary. An experienced faculty drawn from the United States, Costa Rica and other countries is guided by a teaching philosophy that challenges and supports students to be independent learners and thoughtful citizens.

CRIA is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA) and by the Costa Rican Ministry of Education (MEP). The school offers a U.S. high school diploma and a range of Advanced Placement (AP) courses. CRIA has an excellent track record of preparing students for top Costa Rican universities. In partnership with the Grand Canyon University dual enrollment program, CRIA juniors and seniors have the opportunity to earn college credit while still in the CRIA HS program.

CRIA respects all creeds, religions, and points of view. The school does not undertake religious instruction nor blend secular and sectarian education. At the same time, moral values and spiritual issues have a place in the educational process. Values such as fairness, justice, compassion, honesty, and the Golden Rule are taught without a religious label. Faculty and staff conduct reflect these values and serve as models for the students.

CRIA is proud to offer a specifically designed Early Years Program that utilizes the best researched-based practices.  The program is guided by internationally recognized organizations such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children and is in line with recognized standards of both international and American schools worldwide.

Our early years’ children are immersed in a dual language environment where all of the teachers give instruction and feedback in both English and Spanish.

The Early Years Program at CRIA supports children in developmentally appropriate groups:


2 years old by September 15 of the academic year enrolled. The Toddlers program is a multi-age class for two and three-year-olds.


4 years old by September 15


5 years old by September 15

Young children learn best through direct sensory encounters with the world, rather than through abstract and formal academic procedures. The program is supported by qualified, committed adults who guide young children in their acquisition of knowledge and their development of content, skills, and attitudes.

Toddler Program

Through years of experience, we know that play is a powerful tool for learning. Experiences with sand, water, building blocks, dramatic play, table toys, art materials, music, outdoor play, and games are integral to a child’s development. Play activities encourage exploration and experimentation, spark curiosity and imagination, and build children’s abilities to solve problems. In addition, play also provides children with opportunities to experiment with language and work cooperatively with others. Children enter school at various stages of social, emotional, physical, and academic development. Because of our holistic educational approach, our teachers strive to meet each child’s individual needs and learning styles within those four domains. Our teachers and teaching assistants (TAs) build safe and happy environments where the students have time for individual play and begin to work cooperatively in small groups to learn to listen to and respect others. The teachers and TAs structure activities and experiences based not only on developmental readiness but also on student interests.  Our ultimate goal is to create enthusiastic, lifelong learners.

Students enjoy specialist classes in art, music, physical education, and library.

Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K)

The Pre-K child’s world is rapidly expanding. While the children are very much focused on themselves and their families, they also are excited to learn about the world around them. Children at this age are developing both their independence and social skills. Children in Pre-K have a lot of energy and curiosity and our Pre-K classrooms offer innovative and hands-on experiences to support their enthusiasm for learning. Play continues to be the vehicle through which children learn in Pre-K. Language, emergent literacy, math, collaboration, and cooperation continue to help the children build the strong foundational skills to succeed in school and life.

Students enjoy specialist classes in art, music, physical education, and library.

Kindergarten (KG)

The KG child learns new concepts through experimentation and discovery. Children solve problems and make predictions by observing objects and people in the world around them and by making connections to what they already know. Children at this age are able to think in more complex ways.

KG is both thematic and interdisciplinary. We incorporate social studies, art, mathematics, and science into all aspects of the curriculum. We study thematic units based on the interests of the children in the classroom. Units might include life cycles, teamwork, and other topics in science and/or mathematics. 

Students enjoy specialist classes in art, music, physical education, and library.

The Primary Program is a balanced, standards-based curriculum adapted from the Virginia State Standards of Learning (SoL).  The intent is to make transitions into our school and back to the U.S., to other American international schools, and from other elementary schools in Costa Rica, as smooth as possible.

Our student body represents the diverse community found in this area of Costa Rica. Primary classrooms are self-contained and foster a safe learning environment.

In the 2020-21 school year, the school day consists of seven 45-minute periods and two breaks, one mid-morning and one mid-day for lunch. The day begins at 8:00am and ends at 3:00pm, followed by after school activities.

The weekly schedule includes a variety of special classes. Every class visits the library at least once a week, which is located in the primary building. The library has a wide selection of children’s literature and general research materials that support the primary curriculum. Other specials including Visual Arts, STEM Lab (for grades 3-5), Music, P.E., Health, Swimming, and Costa Rica Social Studies are taught weekly. Primary teachers also schedule times to use the computer lab and tablets within their classroom, integrating technology into the curriculum.

Teachers are required to plan curricular field trips to enhance the learning experience and take advantage of the rich, natural environment of Costa Rica.

Math, Science, Social Studies, Language Arts, and Spanish are taught daily. There are leveled Spanish classes taught by native speakers. In grades 1-2, children are immersed in a dual language environment where all of the teachers give instruction and feedback in both English and Spanish. Primary subjects build a solid foundation of skills and abilities including cognitive, affective, and social skills.

Character development is an important part of primary education. Teachers work together to support student growth. Due to the nature of a small school, students receive guidance not only from the School Counselor, but also form their homeroom teacher the entire primary faculty.

The Secondary Program (Grades 6-12) is a standards-based curriculum culminating in a college preparatory Advanced Placement (AP) program and options for dual enrollment university courses while still a CRIA HS student. Academic subjects in the middle years provide a pre-AP foundation that prepares students to be successful in high school AP and dual enrollment courses. The curriculum foundation is adapted from the Virginia State Standards of Learning (SoL).  The intent is to make transitions into our school and back to the U.S. or transfers from other schools in Guanacaste and San Jose Costa Rica as smooth as possible.

Beginning in the 2020-21 school year, the school day consists of seven 45-minute periods and two breaks, one in mid-morning and one at mid-day for lunch. The day begins at 8:00am with homeroom by grade levels and ends at 3:00pm, followed by after school sports and activities. 

Off-campus field trips are an integral part of the Secondary Program. Generally these are planned to extend the curriculum to take advantage of our natural setting in Costa Rica. Community service is a regular feature of the program at every grade level.

The entire campus is a WiFi zone for wireless Internet. The Secondary Program utilizes a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program. The Secondary science program is supported by fully equipped labs for biology, chemistry, and physics. The school library includes general research materials and books and periodicals for leisure reading.

Electives are offered by each academic area and include Visual Arts and P.E. The Advanced Placement (AP) courses are offered each year, dependent upon demand. These may include English Language and Composition, Calculus, World History, US History, Biology, Computer Science, Spanish Language and Culture, Human Geography, Macroeconomics, Statistics and others.

Other activities include yearbook, newspaper, drama groups, student government, the U.S. National Honor Society, The Model United Nations and various social service and ecological groups. The school is a center of social and cultural events for our community, and visiting performers, artists, and speakers are featured each year. 

The Secondary Program has a very strong Spanish component, with 1/3 of the classes each day in Spanish including 4 levels of language instruction from beginners to native speakers.