“I stuck my head out the window this morning and spring kissed me bang in the face.” – Langston Hughes
“Pura Vida“, she smiled as she handed me a cup of savory rich Costa Rican coffee. “Gracias” I replied playfully, letting my rusty Spanish bounce off of my tongue. We had just arrived at our hotel in Manuel Antonio, and would be spending an entire week in Costa Rica for our family Spring vacation. When the waitress left, my twelve-year-old son who had just started learning Spanish at school asked me what “pura vida” meant. I told him that it was not exactly easy to translate. Instead, it was something that would have to be experienced in order to fully comprehend its meaning. He shrugged his shoulders at my response, looking a little bit miffed. Over the course of the next nine days he would certainly learn, I assured him. He would just have to be patient.
We would see nature like never before – such as sloths, monkeys, rainbow-colored grasshoppers, venomous snakes, and lots of beautiful birds. We would play in the waves of the ocean at sunset, walk high above the jungle on suspension bridges, zip-line above the trees, canyon down waterfalls, ride inner tubes down the rapids of a river, and horseback ride below a volcano. We would stay way up at the top of a mountain at a typical Costa Rican farm where we would be served hot rice and beans with friend plantains. We would constantly have to pinch ourselves that we were in a place so utterly beautiful and serene. Yes, we would experience Costa Rica’s pura vida in a little over a week.
If there are two words that sum up Costa Rica, it is “Pura Vida”. Literally translated as “Pure Life”, Pura Vida means much more than its basic definition. The saying can be used as simply as “you’re welcome” or “hello”. Or even as a statement or a response to “how are you”. Yet in my opinion, Pura Vida symbolizes an entire way of life that Ticos (the nickname for Costa Ricans) enjoy. A life filled with appreciation, love and gratitude for the beauty of their amazing surroundings and nature. An energy and joy of simply being alive.
Gifted with some of the greatest biodiversity of flora and fauna on earth, there is no better place to experience pura vida than in Costa Rica. In her canopies of rainforest filled with life and her mystical volcanoes peeking out of the clouds. In her majestic sunrises and sunsets painting the sky in hues of pink, purple, orange and red. In her endless species of flowers delighting the eyes, the roar of the howler monkeys at the first sign of dawn or a pair of scarlet macaws flying directly overhead. There is no place on earth where one feels more of the pure beauty of life than in Costa Rica.
Here is my window into the meaning of pura vida….
“In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous” – Aristotle
“Nature seems to have implanted gratitude in all living creatures”. – Samuel Johnson
By the end of the trip, my son looked at me with his happy-go-lucky, adolescent face and told me he finally understood what pura vida meant. It meant to enjoy the beauty of life and all it has to offer. To be thankful, happy and live in the moment of each and every day. I certainly hope we were able to bring a little pura vida back with us to Minnesota.