Why Should You Consider Teaching English on Costa Rica’s Rich Coast?

Did you know? The term “Costa Rica” translates to “Rich Coast” in English. It originated from Christopher Columbus’s arrival in 1502 when he noted the richness of the land, including its biodiversity and the indigenous gold ornaments he encountered. This description led to the name “Costa Rica.” 

Are you seeking a career change while exploring foreign lands? Are you an English language teacher looking for fresh horizons? Whatever your motivation, making teaching English in Costa Rica your next career move could be what you have been waiting for.

“Pura vida” – the ethos of Costa Rica

Embracing the present moment, savouring the nuances of each day, and embracing a laid-back, unhurried lifestyle – these are at the essence of Costa Ricans’ “pura vida”. This genuine way of life reflects how Costa Ricans, known as Ticos, approach life: with simplicity and ease.

Stunning natural environment

Costa Rica boasts impressive beaches, majestic volcanoes, and rich biodiversity, making it a truly nature-lovers’ paradise. Most importantly, the locals are really proud of their land and are dedicated to its preservation, with a quarter of the country designated as protected areas.

If you wish to unwind, a day spent on Costa Rica’s beaches offers the perfect opportunity for relaxation, surfing, and whale watching.

If you are seeking adventure, Costa Rica is home to the Poas volcano, with one of the world’s largest craters and remaining active. Alternatively, you can visit the Irazu volcano, the country’s highest peak with its five craters, and take in the breathtaking panoramic views.

To immerse yourself in nature, explore one of Costa Rica’s numerous national parks. Thanks to its diverse geography, the country hosts a range of climates, from rainforests to beaches and coral reefs, as you will see at the Manuel Antonio National Park.

Teaching English in Costa Rica

Despite a period of stability in Costa Rica’s economy and some growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the nation continues to grapple with a notably high unemployment rate, particularly among older demographics. 

In their quest for improved living standards, Costa Ricans have been prioritising the enhancement of their English language proficiency. This is because in industries like technology, finance, tourism, and business, English serves as the primary language for international communication.

How to find a teaching job in Costa Rica

To work as an English teacher in Costa Rica, you must possess a near-native level of proficiency in the language and hold a TEFL certification. Typically, in Central America, you need to be already in the country to attend an interview in person. Online and remote interviews aren’t very popular there. Do your research beforehand and note down the institutions that interest you. Make sure you contact them as soon as you arrive to apply and arrange an interview.

The majority of teaching opportunities are concentrated in major urban centres such as Cartago, Heredia, and the capital city, San Jose. For those interested in teaching children, the optimal time to seek employment is between October and December when many teaching contracts end. If you prefer to teach adults, opportunities are available throughout the year.

Teaching options in Costa Rica

As an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teacher, there are different options that you can consider:

  • Private language schools stand out as the primary teaching option in Costa Rica. These institutions typically have established curricula for you to follow and  coursebooks are available.
  • Business English courses, often provided by private language schools, offer early mornings or late evenings classes outside regular office hours. This is to meet the needs of working professionals.
  • University teaching positions are highly competitive. To apply for a post at a university, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree (often a master’s is required), prior teaching experience, and a TEFL certificate.
  • Private tutoring offers an opportunity to supplement income, usually with one-on-one sessions that allow for higher hourly rates. While it provides flexibility, finding clients independently can be difficult.
  • Volunteer teaching programs enable participation in teaching English at primary and secondary schools, community centres, and orphanages. Volunteers typically work Monday to Friday for up to six hours a day, delivering their lessons and assisting local teachers. These programs allow you to experience the true essence of living in Costa Rica while building teaching experience.

Cultural and practical tips

Work Attire

While certain institutions may enforce stricter guidelines, many language schools afford teachers the autonomy to establish classroom rules. Despite their generally laid-back approach, Costa Ricans, or “Ticos,” place considerable importance on their appearance, opting for smart/casual attire for both work and school. As a teacher, wearing a tie daily isn’t necessary, but t-shirts and jeans in the classroom are generally not acceptable.


Due to Costa Rica’s relaxed administrative processes, paperwork tends to undergo lengthy processing times, a factor to consider when applying for a work visa. Obtaining a work visa requires sponsorship from your employer, which can be costly. Employers may hesitate to hire you if you intend to stay less than a year due to the cost of the red tape procedure.

Work visas are initially valid for six months from the date of issuance but are renewable, subject to approval from both the immigration and labour departments. To apply, you must provide a statement from your prospective employer along with various documents, including copies of your birth certificate, passport, and qualifications.

Additionally, a police clearance certificate attesting to your good conduct and a background check conducted by the Ministry of Security of Costa Rica are necessary. Furthermore, the Social Security office will verify your financial standing to ensure no outstanding debts or obligations exist.

Speaking Spanish

On a day-to-day basis, most Costa Ricans will be able to have conversations with you in English. However, you really should push yourself and learn Spanish. This is because learning the local language will enhance your experience and deepen your understanding of the local culture and of your students. 

From a professional point of view, putting yourself in their shoes has the additional advantage of helping you understand your students’ struggles in learning a new language. Learning to pronounce each student’s name accurately, including mastering the rolling of the R’s, with a bit of practice, can make a significant difference and will help you build a stronger bond with your students.

From a practical point of view, it’s really important that you master the correct pronunciation of Costa Rican locations and other proper nouns. This can reduce confusion and misunderstanding while you travel around. 

Teach in Costa Rica!

Costa Rica is a country of incredible beauty and charm that will definitely steal your heart. The nature, the culture, and the people are this country’s richness: live and work where you can enrich your life as well as that of others.

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Anthony Middleton

A former loser who took a risk. I now live in Chiang Mai, Thailand after visiting over 100 countries. Stay tuned for the next challenge against that clock!
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Hi, I'm Anthony!

In November of 2010, I took on a mammoth challenge against the clock in a quest to upgrade my miserable life. I went out of my comfort zone and turned it all around. Ten years later, I’m completely location independent…

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