A small Central American country with soil so rich that wooden fence posts sprout branches, Costa Rica has a prominent place on every globetrotter’s map. The country’s laidback pura vida lifestyle enhances the miles of picture-perfect beaches on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, rainforests teaming with wildlife and world-famous eco-resorts. With the combined size of Vermont and New Hampshire, the country also produces some of the best coffee in the world. After a trip to the corner of paradise, it’s simple to see why Costa Rica is considered one of the most progressive, prosperous and stable countries in Latin America. When you fly to Costa Rica in your private jet, you no longer have to land at Juan Santamaría Airport in San José. With just over a dozen options throughout the country, it’s easier than ever to get busy relaxing after you land.
What Does Pura Vida Mean?
Literally translated, pura vida means “pure life.” For ticos, what Costa Ricans call themselves, it’s a way of life. They often use the expression to proclaim that life is good. For example, if someone asks, “¿Como estas?” (How are you?), the response might be, “¡Pura vida!”
Ticos also use the expression to communicate that something is good or great. If someone were to ask you about your trip to Costa Rica, you might respond, “Pura vida.”
Adventures in Costa Rica
Explore Manuel Antonio National Park
One of the most popular ecological attractions in the country, Manuel Antonio National Park is in the province of Puntarenas, just south of Quepos. Listed by Forbes as one of the most beautiful national parks on Earth, it gives you access to easy hiking trails among lush foliage, a backdrop of mountains, and coves of beautiful beaches.
While you can venture along the trails on your own, it’s a good idea to book a private tour with one of the park’s guides. Despite being the smallest national park in the country, it’s packed with an abundance of wildlife that can be simple to miss if you don’t know where to look. Because of their intimate familiarity with the park, guides will show you all the wildlife hotspots, such as lounging sloths, perched toucans and teams of monkeys, some of which are friendlier than others. If you’re lucky, you might see a flock of macaw parrots paint the trees with their bright plumage, pods of dolphins or the occasional migrating whale.
When taking a dip in the warm ocean waters, take the warnings about thieving white-faced capuchin monkeys seriously. They will get into your belongings without permission if you leave them unattended, leaving you to discover that your lunch, wallet or favorite pair of sunglasses was stolen.
When visiting the public beaches, if you have a sweet tooth, don’t pass on a granizado (snow cone) with dos leches (two milks, powdered and condensed). Vendors often walk along the beaches with small carts filled with blocks of ice that they scrape and top with the syrup of your choice. The most popular syrup among ticos is kolita, the red syrup. The vendors fill a cup halfway with shaved ice and syrup, spoon powdered milk into the middle, add another layer of shaved ice and syrup, and top the treat with condensed milk.
Arenal Volcano National Park
An active andesitic stratovolcano in the San Carlos, Alajuela, Arenal Volcano National Park gets you close to one of the country’s seven active volcanoes. With a distinctive shape, Arenal is a relatively young volcano (just over 7,000 years old) that erupted unexpectedly in 1968. It later drew crowds who wanted to watch glowing lava spill from its crater at night, making it an area of interest to volcanologists around the world. Dormant since 2010, Arenal still has several vents, or fumaroles, that fill the sky with steam.
Tourists continue to flock to the national park to see the wildlife—including jaguars, monkeys and beautiful birds—and bask in the hot springs. Those who are thrill-seekers get a bird’s-eye view by zip lining through the forest, an activity that residents call canopy tours. If flying through the sky while tethered to a cable seems more harrowing than fun, you can get a similar view with a sky tram tour in a gondola that takes you to an observational platform. The concierge at your resort can point you to the area’s best zip line or sky tram operators.