Costa Rica’s Hidden Gems: Big Hearts And A Black Beach

A few months ago, my husband and I decided to take on the adventure of a lifetime by packing up our lives, our two-year-old daughter Amira, and moving to the small beach town of Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

We knew there would be obstacles to deal with, and hurdles to overcome. We also knew that this magical little Latin-Caribbean town held in its palm a few precious gems that we couldn’t wait to uncover. And we haven’t been disappointed.

The Beauty Of A Black Beach

Dreams of a Caribbean beach conjure up pictures of soft white sand and Turquoise water meeting the blue sky in the horizon. And for the most part, that is what we have here. But there is one beach on this coast that was not what we expected – in the most beautiful way.

“Playa Negra” translates as “Black Beach”, and that’s what we found just across the bridge to the north of our small town. The blue-sky arcs down to meet beautiful blue water, which dances and rolls and crashes in waves onto a beach of pure black sand. It is unlike anything I’ve ever seen! The sapphire of the water, the onyx of the sand and the emerald of the lush rainforest rimming the beach create a breathtaking scene.

A quick Internet search tells me that while white sand beaches are the result of coral deposits, black sand beaches are the result of lava deposits. This makes sense, given that Costa Rica is home to five currently active volcanoes and over two hundred volcano formations.

Unlike so many other beautiful places in the Caribbean, Playa Negra remains undeveloped. Homes and hotels can be found a short walk across the street, but no manmade structures sully the view of the beach. A couple of miles long, the beach is a great place for a jog, to relax in the sun, or for the more adventurous to try surfing! The rock reef bottom and consistent right-breaking barrel waves make wonderful surfing conditions for surfers of all skill levels.

Black sand is not what I hand in mind when we moved to the Caribbean, but after my first walk along the shoreline of Playa Negra, I couldn’t deny the beauty and majesty of the black beach. It’s dark tranquility and surprising softness drew me in closer and closer, and now Playa Negra is my most favourite beach of all.

A short walk from Playa Negra, we found another precious gem in this town. And this one is most important for our daughter, Amira.



A Little School With Big Heart

A few months ago, my husband and I started looking into opportunities for Amira to expand her community and her education. After being home with me for her first two years, we knew Amira was ready for more, and we wanted her to explore the world through others’ eyes, not just ours. We worried that the educational and community options would be limited in Puerto Viejo, but we were determined to find the right fit for Amira. Shortly after we arrived, we started asking around and quickly heard about Sea Heart School.

Sea Heart is a Waldorf school (sometimes called a Steiner school after its founder Rudolf Steiner), which has found a home in this little beach town. Started here six years ago by a woman named Ansel Mitchell, the school focuses on children ages 2-6. In keeping with the spirit of Waldorf schools around the world, children at Sea Heart are provided with a culturally diverse, holistic, imaginative beginning to their education. There is a focus on community, nature, and self-confidence through hands-on activities and lots of play.


The school is located in a beautiful setting surround by grass, trees as well as a little community garden that is fed by, and subsequently feeds, the children of the school. Sea Heart is situated approximately 200 meters inland from Playa Negra, and when the sun is shining on Fridays, you’ll catch the little ones from the school holding hands and making their way down to the beach. The little class of 10 students guided by one teacher and two teaching assistants learn about the shells, birds, sand and sea.

With the focus on community building, self-confidence, respect and love for nature, it is exactly the kind of environment I wanted Amira to explore at this stage in her life. There will be lots of time later for her to learn math and literature, but for now, I believe that a grounding in community, the environment and perseverance are so vitally important to her foundation. A Waldorf education provides all that and more. The fact that instruction in the school is in both English and Spanish seals the deal. Amira is learning exactly the things I want her to learn, from loving and attentive teachers, with children in her age range, all while learning a second language. She just couldn’t be happier.