Pura Vida: What It Means to Be ‘Full of Life’ in Costa Rica

Justin Maniar is a Senior Site Specialist for Latin America. Justin works with students studying abroad in Costa Rica and Brazil.

Pura Vida. In Costa Rica, the people seem to live by this simple phrase. Literally translating to mean “pure life,” ISA students in San José and Heredia and ticos (another name for “Costa Rican”) alike know it means so much more.

But what is Pura Vida exactly?

1. Pura Vida is the Costa Rican phrase. Ticos seem to use it for almost everything. For example, in Costa Rica when someone asks you, “¿Cómo estás?” you can respond “Pura vida!”  Or even, “How is the food?” Answer: “Pura vida.” It’s used as a greeting, a farewell and a thousand other things. Yes, it literally translates as “pure life,” but in Costa Rica it is used to means something close to “full of life.”

2. Pura vida is the laid-back Costa Rican attitude of simply enjoying life and going with the flow. There is so much natural beauty this lush country that Costa Ricans and visitors alike, sometimes stop in awe and just marvel at the scenery and the “pure life” that surrounds them.

3.  Or maybe pura vida is simply better experienced than described. The feeling that washes over you while laying on the pristine shores of Playa Tamarindo, zip-lining through a jungle canopy in Arenal, or whale watching in Dominical. Pura vida is the sensation of perfecting your Spanish while speaking with the locals, dancing salsa at one of San José’s famous discotecas, or enjoying a fresh cup of Costa Rican coffee (the best coffee in the world!).

During the Spanish Language, Liberal Arts & Environmental Studies programs (Spring 2A and 2B), you can take Spanish Language courses, electives in Spanish and electives in English offered in a wide variety of subjects. Spring 2A includes an intensive month of Spanish beforehand. Apply now to study in Costa Rica this Spring! Deadlines are January 1st.