How to experience “pura vida” in Costa Rica

Heading to Costa Rica? I’ll teach you about the term “pura vida” so you can enjoy your time like a true local.

Pura vida, Costa Rica

Whether you stumbled upon the word “pura vida” during your trip planning or someone in Costa Rica greeted you with this phrase when you stepped off the plane, you’re probably wondering what it means. Pura vida has several meanings depending on the situation, but it carries more weight than a mere dictionary definition; pura vida is a lifestyle.

I’ll help you sort through what pura vida means and show you how to make the most of its philosophy during your time in Costa Rica.

What does pura vida mean?

As a literal translation, pura vida means “pure life.” It’s a term that ticos (a quicker and beloved way to say Costa Ricans) use to express living a positive, happy life. When a tico asks another tico how they are, you’ll often hear them respond with “pura vida” instead of “good.” Similarly, instead of saying “goodbye,” a tico usually says “pura vida.”


The pura vida meaning goes beyond a way for someone to greet a person, though. For example, should you miss a flight and arrive in Costa Rica later than expected or get stung by a bee during your rainforest tour, ticos will respond to you by saying “pura vida.” In other words, all is okay, or all will be well.

Nailing the pronunciation 

Costa Ricans will appreciate you trying to pronounce pura vida even if you trip over your tongue in the process. However, to avoid chuckles and a sympathetic pat on the back, practice saying it like this: POO-rah VEE-duh.

As you can see, the accent falls on the first syllable of both words.

How to enjoy the pura vida lifestyle 

Did you know that Costa Rica is the happiest country in Latin America? It even comes in at an impressive 16th place globally. There’s no doubt about it—the pura vida mindset helps Costa Ricans outrank nearly every country in the world when it comes to happiness.

The good news is that you can partake in the pura vida lifestyle while you’re in Costa Rica. Ready to learn how? I’ve compiled some tips for you here.

Forget about the “s” word

The word “stress” is barely in Costa Rican vocabulary—language is powerful, and ticos have trained their brain to react to stress with a “pura vida” mindset. That isn’t to say that Costa Ricans never get stressed. Instead, having a laid-back attitude helps them sort through their stress in a calmer way.

©Ben Ramirez/Flickr

Helping to fuel their calmness is the fact that they’re surrounded by people who reinforce their feelings of “pura vida.” 

The bottom line? Stress fuels stress, and pura vida fuels pura vida

Greet strangers

From La Fortuna to Tamarindo and Manuel Antonio to Puerto Viejo, there will be ticos ready to greet you with smiles and hugs. So, why not embrace the pura vida philosophy and be the first to do so?

There’s no need to be shy; even in large cities like San Jose, ticos respect the importance of acknowledging strangers on the street. If you want to sound like a local, don’t forget to respond with “pura vida” when they ask you how you are.

Eat meals together

It’s hard not to love all of the pura vida philosophies, but this is one of my favorites—a part of the pura vida lifestyle is taking the time to eat meals with friends and family. The idea is that it offers the time to catch up with those you love and to appreciate the food that mother nature and your cook prepared.


To enjoy a local meal, I recommend eating at sodas, which are small, typically family-owned restaurants. Make sure to try gallo pinto; a trip to Costa Rica isn’t complete without eating this rice and bean dish.

Choose relaxing settings

As a newbie to the pura vida lifestyle, no one expects you to arrive in the bustling capital of San Jose and feel an overwhelming sense of inner peace. Luckily, Costa Rica is packed with mountain and seaside destinations that will help kickstart your pura vida mindset. 

Even better, transportation throughout the country is a breeze. Below are some of the destinations you can consider as you plan your trip.

RouteTransportation methodsStarting Price
San Jose to TamarindoBus, minivan, private car, flightUS $13
San Jose to Santa TeresaBus + ferry, minivan, private carUS $50
La Fortuna to MonteverdeBus, minivan, private carUS $51

Have a cerveza 

What is pura vida without a beer? Imperial is the most popular beer in Costa Rica, and ticos are proud of it. They have every reason to be—Imperial is the only beer brand in the world that is water positive. That means they give more water to communities in need than they consume.


To be clear, ticos don’t need beer to enjoy a pura vida lifestyle. However, relaxing on the beach with a beer in hand certainly doesn’t harm their laid-back ways, especially after a long travel day, such as going from La Fortuna to Santa Teresa.

Know the capital is easy to access

Going along with the no-stress theme, Costa Rica is small, allowing you to visit many destinations in a short amount of time. San Jose is the capital and home to one of two international airports in the country. Since there aren’t a ton of touristy things to do in San Jose, you can easily drive there from many destinations the day of your flight departure, allowing you to bask in the pura vida lifestyle a bit longer.

To help you plan your travels, I put together a chart of some of the most popular tourist routes to San Jose. 

RouteTravel TimeStarting Price
Monteverde to San Jose2 hoursUS $44
Jaco to San Jose2 hoursUS $42
La Fortuna to San Jose3 hoursUS $51
Manuel Antonio to San Jose3 hoursUS $44
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca to San Jose5 hoursUS $51

Finally, the pura vida philosophy doesn’t have to stay within Costa Rica’s border. Once you arrive home, serve the tico spirit by sharing the pura vida lifestyle with your friends and family. 

Posted June 22, 2021
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Laura Olds
Laura Olds of A Piece of Travel is a digital nomad who adds twice as many destinations to her bucket list with each one she checks off. She's a full-time writer and part-time street dog whisperer. In her free time, she enjoys running, yoga, and taste-testing her way through the world.
image of blog writer Laura