The Land of ‘Pure Life’
Wherever we may travel, one of our primary objectives is to find ‘la pura vida’ – the pure life.
Costa Rica’s pervasive mantra, pura vida is precisely what you will find in this nation where the jungle meets the ocean. With verdant rainforests, extraordinary and omnipresent wildlife, pristine ocean, immaculate white-sand beaches and an endless summer (albeit punctuated by an enthusiastic rainy season), Costa Rica embodies its motto tenfold.
But what exactly is la pura vida, where might you find it, and how is it wonderfully unique to each and every person that visits? Quite simply, it is whatever you want it to be; spiritual connection and nourishing yoga classes, jungle explorations and wildlife viewing, the thrill of ziplining through clouded forest canopies, indulgently luxurious accommodation, warm-water waves and abundant marine life, or pure escapism from the frenetic distractions of the modern world. Costa Rica has it all in profusion, and so much more.
Your own pura vida in this bountious land may be multi-facted, an experience of chapters, from adventure to relaxation, indulgence to excitement. And it’s easy to find, if only you know where to look.
So before plunging into the jungles and oceans of Costa Rica, join us on a journey up dormant volcanoes, along deserted beaches, through winding forest paths and to some of the country’s premier accommodations.
The Pura Vida of the Jungle
Life is everywhere in Costa Rica. No matter where your accommodation is located, the likelihood of you crossing paths with Costa Rica’s ubiquitous wildlife is inevitable. Fortunately, it will invariably be fascinating, if not wonderfully endearing, rather than pesky or even alarming.
The most prevalent and resplendent of creatures are found in the air. Hummingbirds levitate at the mouths of blooms, toucans soar gracefully from treetop to towering treetop, and macaws chatter and squawk in a cacophony of conversation. Ornithologist or not, any visitor will find endearing wonder and charm in the skies, jungles, forests and towns of Costa Rica.
Escaping to the wild, life proliferates, reptiles, mammals and sealife finding sanctuary in the untouched havens of the country’s parks and reserves. Howler monkeys issue haunting gutural bellows that carry for up to three miles (5km), iguana cling to the moss-covered limbs of the forest, and dolphins and humpback whales break surface for gasping breath in the serene ocean.
Pura Vida is everywhere in the animal kingdom of Costa Rica, and with a little luck and a good guide, you may even chance to observe margays, jaguars and giant anteaters prowling the undergrowth in search of prey large and small.
Tasting the Pura Vida
Costa Rica isn’t renowned for its cuisine, but while the nation’s Mexican-inspired dishes may not have gained international recognition, the freshness and diversity of ingredients is exceptional, with the vibrancy of life in every mouthful.
Healthy yet abundantly flavourful, it is worth being adventurous with your tastebuds and exploring the predominantly plant-based menu. Those with a meat-free diet will find numerous options available, rice and black beans being a staple, along with plantains, avocado, cassava and a wealth of fruit also frequently used.
For the more carnivorous diner, traditionally, meats include deer and turkey, though western restaurants and accommodations will provide a variety of options, including beef and pork. Seafood is prolific, with fresh fish, octopus, prawns and shellfish frequently offered.
Classic dishes, such as ceviche and casada are recommended to sample. Ceviche includes raw, lightly citrus-marinaded fish mixed with fresh herbs, spices and vegetables, while casada (literally translate as ‘married man’) was traditionally cooked by wives and wrapped in a banana leaf for their husbands to take to work with them. Rice, black beans and salad are accompanied by some meat (commonly beef, chicken or fish), and this makes a superb and nourishing lunchtime meal.
La Pura Vida Loca
For the more adventurous, Costa Rica is a country where exhilaration and adventure abound.
A globally-renowned surfing destination, the waves are clear, warm and excellent for any level of surfer, and if you’ve never set foot on a board, Costa Rica is the perfect place to give it a try.
Stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking also take advantage of Costa Rica’s untouched coastal regions, and snorkelling and diving take you beneath the surface on oceanic explorations.
Away from the waves, the adventure continues. Ziplining, mountain biking and motorised explorations are highly popular and a thrilling way to entertain the young and young-at-heart alike. Highly professional, these activities are suitable for everyone, adding a touch of excitement to your jungle adventures.
For those searching for a more sedate way to experience the great outdoors, networks of treetop bridges will elevate you into the lofty rainforests where much of Costa Rica’s nature resides. This bird’s-eye view will offer you the chance to spot fruit bats, reptiles, birdlife and possibly a sloth or two, sleepily languishing in their upside-down perch. Coffee plantations, too, offer a sedate amble through nature, and observing the process is almost as good as sampling its result.
The nation has become a mainstay of the global yoga community, and whether you can tie yourself in knots or struggle to reach your toes, this is a wonderfully awakening way to welcome the dawn and begin your day. Many properties have resident teachers or can easily arrange your very own private class.
Pura Vida, Everywhere
The forested coastal regions attract the majority of travellers, but Costa Rica’s interior is equally as splendid. Dormant since 2010, Arenal volcano and its surrounding national park provide incredible hiking trails, some even following the long-since cooled lava flows, As it is across the country, wildlife is also abundant here, and several species of snake, deer and monkeys, including the familiar capuchin, take up residence in the area. Though frustratingly elusive, jaguar also prowl the undergrowth and forested slopes of the volcano.
The topography is utterly breathtaking, and not solely for the lofty ascent up the volcano’s slopes. Here you will find cascading waterfalls, pristine lakes and panoramic views that no image can encapsulate.
The aptly named Monteverde (‘green mountain’) cloud forest is teeming with life, and though more remote than other reserves, brings with it absolute escapism. Treetop walks unveil life in the canopies, elevating you into the clouds and into a world that exists far beyond the reach of the ground-dwelling predators. Reptiles, bats, frogs and myriad feathered residents share the intertwining branches, while on the ground, deer, ocelots, porcupines and the occasional puma can be found.
Pura Vida, Your Way
From ocean vistas to jungle immersion, whatever you wish beyond the windows of your luxury accommodation there is a venue to suit.
Boutique properties allow you the tented camp atmosphere, but with a touch of Tarzan, ecologically established above the ground to give you remarkable views and a continual sense of being in nature. Kasiiya Papagayo lies on the Papgayo peninsula, a thin finger of land on Costa Rica’s northwest Pacific coast. The peninsula is renowned as a place of incredible natural beauty, and Kasiiya provides a complete sensory escape from the developed world, though within its walls, every contemporary convenience and luxury is delivered in style. The venue’s spa will untangle the knots of daily life and drift you away into the blissfully tranquil surroundings.
Four Seasons has also established itself on the Papayago, the property offering the same faultless quality as can be expected of the brand, in an untouched coastal setting.
Villa Palacio takes advantage of the inland landscapes, nestled in the Arenal River Valley. A luxury five-bedroom private property, it comfortably accommodates a larger family or small group. The villa situates you in an ideal location from which to explore Arenal National Park and volcano, but is a private residence within The Springs Resort and Spa, awarded the number one relaxation spa and hotel in South and Central America. All facilities are available to guests of Villa Palacio, giving you the perfect combination of luxury private accommodation and a complete portfolio of activities, services and amenities expected of a premium resort.
Costa Rica’s towns and cities – primarily Liberia and San José – give you the opportunity for a more cultural connection, and combine the contemporary and the traditional for a wealth of interest and enjoyment. But it is in the wilds of Costa Rica that its true charm and appeal lie. The nation is all about the natural world, your exploration of it and the sheer peace and tranquility it offers.
Costa Rica is a nation of pure escapism, pure adventure, pure relaxation, and pura vida. Discuss the possibilities of a Costa Rican escape with your travel designer.