Visiting Costa Rica for the first time can be a bit confusing, even if you speak Spanish. You’ll hear the words “pura vida” everywhere — as a greeting from a friend, in appreciation of a meal, as a thank you, and even as a reaction to one of its spectacular sunsets.
The term, which translates directly to “pure life,” beautifully sums up the soul of Costa Rica — a culture that values the small things and a simple way of living. More of a philosophy than a colloquialism, pura vida can be felt while exploring the country’s diverse rainforests and taking in the jaw-dropping waterfall views.
The beautiful thing about pura vida is that you don’t need to be a Costa Rica native to live out this philosophy. Here are the five simple practices of pura vida to incorporate into your daily routine for an enhanced state of wellbeing.
1. Take care of your environment.
While Costa Rica’s general attitude is one of bliss and the lack of pressure, the Central American nation is draconian when it comes to upholding its environmental protection rules. As the country is home to five percent of the planet’s biodiversity, locals do their best to support the land. Costa Rica is relentless in its efforts toward sustainability, banning single-use plastics and reusing and recycling materials. For example, it’s rare to see plastic cups, plates, utensils, or straws even when you order takeout. Due to a major push by the Costa Rican Tourism Board, plastic has been replaced with reusable alternatives, often made of bamboo.
2. Fuel your body with nutritious food.
Pura vida radiates from within. If you want to be the human embodiment of zen, you need to fuel yourself properly. Costa Rica believes in a farm-to-table mentality, growing various fruit, vegetables, and crops in its fertile volcanic soil.
The staples you’re most likely to find in a local’s fridge are seasonal produce such as mango, papaya, corn, beans, and tortillas. A Costa Rican pantry is always stocked with at least one type of coffee, which is a big part of the local diet as the country is the home to hundreds of coffee bean farms.
Costa Rica has a different approach to “fast food.” A popular dish you’ll see everywhere is the casado — a tasty plate of vegetables, black beans, white rice, and meat. A serving goes for about $4 at a local roadside restaurant.
3. Keep in touch with family and friends.
A healthy lifestyle doesn’t just come down to food. As one of the world’s five Blue Zones, Costa Rica is the home to many centenarians. The locals prioritize spending time with one another, ideally in person or via video chat, crediting this as one of the key elements for a long life. That mindset extends beyond immediate family, spilling over to the local community where it’s common practice for neighbors to drop by each other’s house after work to chat and crack open a cold beer.
4. Get your vitamin D in as often as possible.
We all know that the sun is a major mood booster, yet, vitamin D never seems to make it to the top of our priority list. One of pura vida’s pillars is making an active effort to get lots of sunshine often. Of course, soaking up rays is easy if you live on the lush Osa Peninsula surrounded by beaches and access to ample hiking routes. But regardless of the location, pura vida advocates for choosing activities like walking, canyoning, swimming, and surfing over indoor pastimes, such as watching Netflix.
5. Meditate and do your affirmations.
Of course, it’s not sustainable to be positive 24/7, but the pura vida philosophy makes a point to focus on the good as often as possible by practicing gratitude and affirmations. The process is simple: take out a sheet of paper; write everything you’re grateful for that day, which can be as small as a poppyseed bagel; then, lay out your positive affirmations — the aspects you most love about yourself and your life. Fitting in daily meditation to acknowledge how you feel is a plus. Pura vida is not only a celebration of the good in life. The philosophy encapsulates all aspects of human existence and the need to recognize and honor our low points as we do our triumphs.
Edward Sanchez, a Costa Rica local and tour guide with decades of experience sums it up for Matador Network, “When you open your eyes every morning, you’re alive, so you have a chance to change things. Even when I have problems I’d say pura vida because it’s a new day and the best way to live is authentic.”