There is no better way to describe the meaning of the common Costa Rican phrase, Pura Vida, than to say that it’s simply a way of life. Its literal translation is “pure life”, but this term is also frequently used as a greeting, a farewell, a way of giving thanks, or as a common expression of how things are going. Think of it as the local way of saying “cheers”, but way better.

The term Pura Vida is really an expression of happiness and optimism, a belief that no matter what seemingly bad situation you might be in, there are many others out there who are even worse off. It’s an expression of hope, of better things to come, and of the laid back lifestyle that Costa Rica is known for.

I read up on the meaning of Pura Vida before I left for Costa Rica, but it wasn’t until I heard the locals use it in day to day life that I truly grasped the significance of the phrase. And I have to admit, their genuine belief in the phrase and everything that it stands for is inspiring…

It’s a beautiful way of looking at life and it definitely is one of my favourite things about Costa Rica.

PURA VIDA, my friends!

Cultural Close-up: What does Pura Vida mean?

Feeling the Pura Vida spirit on Playa Lagartillo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica


Cultural Close-ups is a series of photographs and stories from around the world that go beyond the pretty sights and famous attractions. If you’d like to contribute a photo and a short story to Cultural Close-Ups, please email your submission to [email protected]

Do you believe in Pura Vida?

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When in Costa Rica, do as the Costa Ricans say...Pura Vida!