When you hear the term “Pura Vida”, what do you automatically associate it with? For me, it was Costa Rica, even though I didn’t really know entirely what “pura vida” meant, except that it translates to “pure life”, and that they use the phrase a lot there.
Well, after being in Nosara, Costa Rica for a week, I can clearly see why. There is definitely a reason why so many people love Costa Rica, why so many people move there, and why so many people recommend going there. That reason, is pura vida, and you’ll feel it as soon as you arrive.
I’ve been to plenty of tropical countries before; Cuba, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, even Roatan Bay in Honduras and the Galapagos Islands, but for some reason, as soon as I landed in Costa Rica, I just felt the pura vida that so many people speak of. For instance, I thought I was going to miss my connecting flight to Nosara, but in my head I was like, “Nah, pura vida, I’ll figure it out”, as I watched my clock tick closer and closer to take off time while waiting in the insanely slow immigration line.
I thought I wasn’t going to hear when they called for my flight but again, nah, pura vida, a local heading in the same direction made sure I got on the right shuttle to the connecting flight, and even offered me a meal at their little restaurant in a nearby fisherman’s town.
Costa Rica might be known for being a beautiful, tropical, vacation destination, but from what I experienced, all I can say, is that it is literally the pure life. Especially where I stayed, in the small, untouched town of Nosara, where I spent a week doing something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid; learn how to surf. Here’s a little run down of the experiences that led me to fall in love with the pura vida in Nosara, Costa Rica:
Every day I would wake up early at the Olas Verdes hotel, go downstairs and eat my breakfast in my bathing suit and surf rash guard, maybe dive into the pool afterwards, then head off to surf lessons with one of the surf instructors from Safari Surf School that’s also located on the premises. Even though I’m a stickler for being on time, there’s a good chance I’ll end up late, but it doesn’t matter in Nosara, because the beach isn’t going anywhere. The instructors are all local Costa Ricans with some of the most insane surfing skills you’ll ever see, and they hang around anyway while they casually chat or wax down your board to get it ready for lessons.
Surf lessons are supposed to only be an hour and a half, but every time I was out there, they would always keep signaling to try for one more wave before heading in to shore. To find out when the afternoon lesson was, the surf school manager would either just tell me a time when I got back to the hotel, or would tell the front desk lady who would casually inform me as I passed by. There were no reservations for lunch or dinner, just again, a time and place to meet if I planned on joining. A “no worries” schedule means a low anxiety level, which is definitely something that contributes to the pura vida.
In Nosara, the primary mode of transportation is either a truck of some sort with four wheel drive, an ATV, a motorbike if you’re daring enough, or for me…a bicycle. I don’t even know how long it’s been since I actually rode a bicycle from place to place as a mode of transportation, but I do know that I freaking loved it! The freedom, the ease, the accessibility, it was all so amazing, even though I thought I was going to fall and further injure myself the first day since I hadn’t ridden one in a while (and also because I got hit by a car on a motorcycle a week before).
But after my first day of riding around the dirt roads in the small town of Nosara, avoiding water puddles and other motorists, mostly whom had surfboards attached to their motorbikes, I regained a confidence I haven’t had since I was young, and was riding my bike around like I had been there for weeks. When I wanted to stop somewhere, I’d simply use the bicycle lock they gave me at the hotel. I probably looked like a struggling baby monkey the first few times I attempted it, but I acted like I knew what I was doing, and made it happen.
At night, when it was too dark to ride my bike, I would either take the taxi that my hotel had, or literally make friends with people who had a car and could pick me up and drop me off…after verifying their identification and letting various people know where I was going, of course. It was refreshing to have to actually try to get transportation instead of just pushing a button on my iPhone, and definitely added to the pura vida adventure.
Even though I pre-scheduled my typical international data plan for the week, and didn’t even need it since Olas Verdes and most places “in town” had wifi, I still felt no need to tap out of airplane mode. For once, I didn’t spend the majority of my day on my laptop, writing or emailing away as I stressed out about the next business deal I was going to make, or when I needed to do a social media post. At most I checked my phone for messages, but for some reason, the pura vida made me feel like I didn’t even want to look at that as well.
Since I was in the ocean surfing for almost 4 hours each day, with only a few hours between sessions, I didn’t really feel the need to sign onto the internet or social media during my down time. Instead I wanted to go explore more of the beautiful place I was visiting, and put my anxiety about real-life, and real-time responsibilities in the back of my mind. I can’t even remember the last time I left my phone somewhere voluntarily before I did it all week during surf lessons.
“It’s like everyone is surf and yoga stoned.” Those were the first spot-on descriptive words that I ever heard about Nosara, Costa Rica. Abuelito, as he told me the surf trainers call him, had picked me up from the tiny airstrip in Nosara where I had my connecting flight from San Jose. I didn’t even need to see a picture of him, or a person holding a sign with my name on it, because his excited expression was enough to let me know that he was waiting for me to arrive.
“We’re all so excited for you to come to Nosara!” He said, with the most genuine smile and tone that I’ve ever seen before in my life. I was so happy to feel immediately at home and at the onset of an awesome adventure. He told me the story of how Nosara came to be, along with his own story of how he came to love the enchanted area, which was honestly my first dose of real pura vida. The passion and love that he had for this country and area was unbelievable, and it made me all that more excited to experience it for myself.
I could write an entire article about how amazing and friendly everyone else was during my stay at Olas Verdes, and Safari Surf School, but to summarize the “happy people” vibe, I’d say what stuck out most is that whenever you past someone they say “hello” or “pura vida” and that everyone kept saying, “So when you come back to Costa Rica…” as if they knew that I was going to fall in love with the place.
In case you haven’t already heard, Costa Rica is one of the most eco-friendly, sustainable, Earth-conscious places ever, and also the first country ever to ban hunting. I like this, because I am a vegetarian, but I am also a vegetarian solely because I love animals. Costa Rica as a whole strives to be as eco-friendly as possible, which is why I was excited to stay at one of the top eco-friendly hotels, and also the first LEED certified surf hotel that there is in Nosara.
I’ve never stayed at a hotel that was so proud and excited about their eco-friendly efforts as Olas Verdes was, and I even learned that the entire place was built on the goal of meeting the highest standards of sustainability possible!
From automatic light and fan timers in the room to a complimentary re-usable water bottle, everything I experienced at Olas Verdes just made me feel so natural and one with the Earth. That’s because a big part of Costa Rica, and especially pura vida, is taking care of the Earth, and helping to preserve and protect it as much as possible. The area around Nosara is also a nature reserve, which means it’s plants and animals are protected so you have a great opportunity to experience Costa Rica in its untouched form!
While I was waiting for the good waves to surf on, also known as “green waves” (or “olas verdes” in Spanish), I couldn’t help but become mesmerized by the beautiful oncoming barrel waves that curled so perfectly under the blue sky or setting sun. This is going to sound super hippie of me, but with each wave that washed over me and and my board with warm sea water, I silently thanked the ocean for letting me learn and play in its waters, and for keeping me safe despite its potential powers.
I also don’t normally gush about sunsets, but watching the ones at Playa Guiones in Nosara from my surfboard or from the idyllic shore was nothing short of incredible, and definitely a mental photo that is worth over a thousand words. The pink and purple shades of the sky from the vibrant orange setting sun was mirrored in the gentle rolling waves, and reflected on the smooth shore. Both the ocean and shore were always flecked with other onlookers, either admiring the view from their boards or from the sand, and feeling the love all the same.
When the majority of the people in a town are there because they love it so much, you won’t find very many problems. In Nosara, there’s a mix of local Costa Ricans, or “Ticas” as they say, and a ton of expats from the U.S. and around the world, all there because they fell in love with the pura vida. Of course, in life, there are little hiccups and inconveniences, but whatI learned in Nosara is to just shrug them off and say, “Pura vida”, and everything will be Ok.
For example, I ate at a cafe near my hotel, and when I went to pay, I realized that they only accept cash, and I didn’t have any cash. Normally I would freak out and have a panic attack about how I was going to pay, but the lady at the register simply said, “It’s Ok, come back later, pura vida!” and just had me leave my ID while I went to find cash. Of course, I didn’t find an ATM that took my card until much later when the place was closed, and had to leave for my flight super early before it opened, so they still have my LA driver’s license, but for some reason I’m still pura vida-ed out, and I feel like it’ll work itself out and not be something to stress over.
Someone once pointed out to me that I tend to be barefoot in the majority of my photos. It’s true, I don’t like to wear shoes, unless I’m going through security at the airport. In Nosara, you really don’t need shoes, and you don’t have to wear them either. You don’t even have to wear a shirt if you don’t want to, because the majority of people are all coming from the beach or a surfing session and only wearing a bathing suit anyway.
Usually I make sure to cover up while traveling in an effort to not attract unwanted attention, but in Nosara, I spent the majority of my time in a bathing suit and surf rash guard, which was acceptable attire pretty much anywhere I went.
All throughout the town you’ll see people in or on vehicles or walking around in minimal clothing and footwear, because the pura vida lifestyle consists of only wearing what’s necessary, and that usually means swim suits and flip flops.
When I went on one of the Tica Tours with the local tour company in Nosara, I was intrigued and refreshed by how real and abundant all of the nature was. As I mentioned before, Nosara is mostly a nature preservation area, so there’s minimal building and destruction of the natural habitat.
We took ATV’s up a mountain on a dirt path to go see a waterfall in a town where there are only five houses that are literally in the middle of the jungle. The man who owns the land, also owns the waterfall, and he sells beer and soda to visitors as a living.
On the way to the relatively untouched waterfall, I not only got to see the plush green rainforest on the mountains afar, but tons of monkeys, butterflies, and other wildlife that was as interested in us as we were in them. At night at Olas Verdes, I could hear howler monkeys, and even made friends with a curious little red squirrel who was probably confused about what type of animal I was.
I also got a particularly special experience while I was in Nosara because it was around the time that baby sea turtles were hatching. I didn’t have a car, or know where they were, but luckily the hotel and surf school managers were nice enough to take me and another woman in the surf program to go see them at 5:00AM. We missed most of the nests hatching, but as we were leaving, one last nest hatched close to the parking lot, where birds were already flocking to because they eat the baby turtles.
But the Tica man who takes care of the beach and turtles had us help bring them closer to the shore (without touching them with our hands) to give them a better chance at surviving than they would have had against the birds and sun. I appreciated not only the small gesture he allowed us to make to help save a few baby sea turtles, but also the gesture that the hotel and surf school managers made to let us experience such an amazing moment.
In Nosara, you feel gracious, and even lucky for everything you do. I felt myself in a constant state of thinking “thank you” to everyone and everything that I encountered in the hidden gem of a town. Nosara made me feel at peace, at ease, and happy, and to me, that’s everything you need to live the pura vida.
Nothing makes me happier or prouder than to hear that my travels, mishaps, and blog posts have inspired someone to go travel, so thank you to @aliciax0x for inspiring me to keep doing what I’m doing! Like me, Alicia never thought that learning how to surf would be a possibility, but she went to Costa Rica, learned, and now loves surfing!!!