Whether you’re interested in vacationing to Costa Rica, moving here, or if you simply know someone who recently visited, chances are you’ve heard the expression “Pura Vida.” It translates to “pure life” or, more contextually, “full of life.” However, it truly takes an adventure to Costa Rica to understand the meaning of the phrase. It is the way Costa Ricans approach life; it is a philosophy on how to live, yet it can also be used as an expression of agreement, enthusiasm, or as a salutation.

Pura Vida

A serene Costa Rican sunset on the beach.

Genuinely understanding Pura Vida may settle in the first time one sees the sun setting over the ocean, the pink, orange, and blue hues reflecting off the glistening water, set amidst lush, green mountain tops; material items, petty stresses, and unwanted senses of urgency seem to drift away. Something about Costa Rica really accentuates the appreciation for the natural environment that is all encompassing here. It feels like the earth is breathing, alive with birds, monkeys, and, yes, bugs!

To many, the Pura Vida life may consist of relaxing on the beach, having an ice cold drink, and taking in the sun. Or it might be sitting out in the dense jungle, slowly taking in the constant flow of life. But it is important to know that the expression was created by the ticos – many of whom are relatively poor and work laborious jobs. To people who live in more developed nations, the idea of working long, rigorous hours and making little money would not exactly lead to an ideal, peaceful life. Yet Costa Ricans are generally regarded as some of the happiest people living! Despite any hardships one faces here, the positive outlook always supersedes the negative.

There’s a little anecdote about a first time visitor to Costa Rica who came across a young girl playing the mud, kicking around a beat up old soccer ball. When the visitor said hello, the little girl, with an overpowering grin, said “Pura Vida!” before she continued playing.  The innocence and appreciation shown by the young tica set an example for what can be expected in Costa Rica.

Ticos working

A local fruit stand in Costa Rica.

One important thing to note about undertaking the Pura Vida life is that expatriates have much better experiences when engaging the ticos and ticas. It is a faux pas to move this beautiful country and not pay them the respect they deserve, as they are extremely helpful, friendly, and sincere! You will find that speaking to locals in your best Spanish (even if it’s not yet good) will go a long way, and in return you will receive a fruitful relationship with everyone and everything in Costa Rica.

Whether you’re a tourist, resident, or someone looking to become one or the other, a big slice of Pura Vida is waiting for you in Costa Rica!

Related Articles

Download the Introduction to Costa Rica Ebook...FREE!

A book written by Don Halbert, this incredible resource boasts 58-pages of useful information about living, working and playing in Costa Rica. Get your copy now.