Pura Vida in Costa Rica: What does it actually mean?
Last Updated: 29 May 2020
If you plan on visiting Costa Rica there’s a term that you need to get acquainted with before you arrive – Pura Vida.
Simply put, Pura Vida roughly translates to “pure life” and it refers to anything that is good or positive. Defining it beyond this, however, is a little tricky. Many people call it the motto of Costa Rica and a much-loved form of national expression. When you finally begin your surf trip here though, you’ll quickly learn that Pura Vida is more than just a slogan for the country… it’s a way of life.
In this article, we’re going to dig a little deeper into the meaning of Pura Vida and its importance in Costa Rican culture so as to better prepare you for your stay in this beautiful country in Central America. We hope that after reading it, you’ll have a better understanding of the culture of Costa Rica. Who knows? You may even end up taking the phrase back to your own country and using it on a daily basis!
The definition of Pura Vida
While Pura Vida does translate literally as “pure life”, its meaning is harder to convey in English, German, or any other language. In fact, it’s commonly accepted that Pura Vida can’t really be defined at all, but rather it is something that is experienced. In this sense, Pura Vida can also be interpreted as an attitude, a feeling, or an emotion.
It’s, therefore, no stretch of the imagination to assume Pura Vida has a role to play Costa Rica’s status as one of the happiest countries in the world. With this tiny nation of nearly 5 million people consistently finding itself within the top 20 on The World Happiness Report (released by the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network). A ranking that evaluates 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.
Pura Vida and living a good life
On the whole, the phrase Pura Vida is attached to living a good life. This doesn’t necessarily mean having the most expensive things or living in a mansion. Pura Vida is much more grounded than that. Instead, Pura Vida is a reminder to appreciate the little things and let go of events or situations beyond your control.
As a result of Pura Vida, you’ll find that Costa Ricans are incredibly mellow people. Laughing, smiling and generally radiating positive vibes wherever they go. To say they’ve got this crazy thing we call life all figured out might be a bold statement to make, but if anyone can claim it, it’s those proud, positive and gregarious Costa Ricans.
How is Pura Vida used in everyday life?
Pura Vida is used in just about all situations and by Costa Ricans of all walks of life. It can mean hello or goodbye or it can be as a substitute for saying everything is going well and that life is great in general. It can also be used at any time throughout the day in a variety of different contexts.
In this sense, the meaning of Pura Vida is both indefinable and specific, which is just one of the reasons why it’s so hard to describe. That being said, below are a few examples of how Pura Vida is used in a sentence. Try them out at our surf camp near Tamarindo and get into the rhythm of living Costa Rica style.
Everyday examples of Pura Vida
As a greeting:
“Hello, Pura Vida” or simply “Pura Vida”
As a question:
“How are you? Pura Vida?”
As a goodbye:
“Pura Vida, bye”
As a response:
“Everything is Pura Vida, thanks” or simply “Pura Vida” for yes or no
As an adjective:
“That sunset was Pura Vida”
As a stand-alone exclamation:
Where did Pura Vida originate?
That’s a great question! The origin of Pura Vida is contested within our surf camp near Tamarindo and throughout the nation. The reason for this is that many people do not actually know where the phrase originated or when it became popular. One of the leading theories about its genesis is that it came from a Mexican movie called ¡Pura vida!, released in 1956.
In ¡Pura vida!, a man by the name of Melquiades Ledezma is kicked out of his home town for being bad luck. Then, after a series of unfortunate events, his luck changes and he finds a winning lottery ticket worth a million pesos. Pura Vida is actually the phrase that Melquiades uses throughout the movie in the face of adversity. He is therefore framed as being positive and optimistic in the face of bad circumstances.
These words began gaining popularity throughout Mexico and Central America some years after ¡Pura vida! was released on film. However, the philosophy behind it resonated most strongly within Costa Rica. So that by 1970, the phrase Pura Vida was being used nationwide by Costa Ricans young and old.
Our surf camp and Pura Vida
Here at the Rapture surf camp near Tamarindo, our crew understands Pura Vida to be an all-encompassing philosophy steeped in good vibes. To live a life in the spirit of Pura Vida is to live with a positive mindset. Free from worry and stress with an emphasis on enjoying the simple things. As such, it is something we try to instill in our guests. So that from the moment you arrive right up until you leave, you’ll feel like you’ve had the authentic Costa Rican experience.
It’s also the reason we’ve made sure our surf camp near Tamarindo is relaxing, comfortable and fully equipped with everything you need to enjoy yourself. This includes a beautiful freshwater pool, a fully-stocked bar and plenty of hammocks that you can lounge around in on a lazy afternoon. You could even say that our camp encapsulates the very best part of Pura Vida, which is living a simple life.
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