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Costa Rica’s Pura Vida

Nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean in Central America, Costa Rica is a medley of biodiversity, history and culture. Home to more than 5% of the world’s species, the country and its rainforests, volcanoes and coastal ecosystems are an eco-tourist’s dream. 

Pre-Columbian tribes were already thriving in what would become Costa Rica by 5000 BC, a presence that can still be felt in the indigenous Boruca masks and gold artifacts found in the country’s museums. By the 1500s, the Spanish had established their first colony in Costa Rica —remnants of the Spanish colonial imprint are evident in the baroque and renaissance architecture of the larger cities.

For today’s visitors, the vibrant Tico culture, a blend of indigenous, Spanish and Afro-Caribbean influences, is what truly captures the heart. The national philosophy of pura vida, translated as “pure life,” isn’t just a saying — in Costa Rica, it’s a way of life and a testament to locals’ unwavering warmth. 

Can’t Miss Destinations

San José 

In Costa Rica’s bustling capital of San Jose, traditional charm and contemporary elegance meet. From humble beginnings in the late 18th century, the capital has become a busy hub with a rich cultural tapestry. Its many museums — the Gold Museum, the Museum of Costa Rican Art and the Jade Museum for a start — provide a glimpse into the city’s past with artifacts and stories of ancient civilizations. Mornings can be spent strolling Avenida Central to experience the city’s lively marketplace; evenings should be filled with live music or a visit to the National Theater.


At the heart of Costa Rica’s northern lowlands sits Arenal, a region best known as home to the majestic Arenal Volcano. Here, travelers can unwind in the therapeutic hot springs, hike the trails of Arenal Volcano National Park or zip-line through the lush jungle. The crystalline waters of Lake Arenal, at the foot of the volcano, offer chances to windsurf, kayak and go boating. Nature lovers can follow the Arenal Hanging Bridges, a series of suspension bridges through the heart of the rainforest, and come face-to-face with yellow-throated toucans and Capuchin monkeys.

Manuel Antonio 

Imagine a place where lush green rainforests meet cotton-white beaches. That’s Manuel Antonio National Park. This conservation area and beloved beach destination on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is a wildlife enthusiast’s paradise, home to sloths and myriad of bird species. Coral reefs draw snorkelers and divers, while sun-worshippers bask on pristine beaches. Well-marked trails allow for self-guided adventures, but guided group tours, led by knowledgeable locals, offer the advantage of helping visitors fully appreciate the park’s rich biodiversity.

Signature Experience

Travelers can get a taste of Costa Rica’s renowned coffee culture on an immersive coffee tour. As one of the world’s top coffee exporters, Costa Rica boasts numerous “cafetales,” or coffee farms, and many offer a behind-the-scenes look at their coffee-growing techniques and flavor profiles. Starbucks sources some of its coffee from Hacienda Alsacia, a coffee farm on the slopes of the Poás Volcano. The gourmet Café Britt farm, minutes from the San José airport, also welcomes tours.

Unforgettable Flavor

Gallo Pinto, Costa Rica’s national dish, is the ultimate savory campesino (rural farmer) comfort food. Simmered black beans served with soft white rice and rich, fragrant spices, Gallo Pinto is a popular morning feast, often served alongside fried or scrambled eggs. Enjoy it in a bustling city restaurant, a beachside shack or a rural “soda” (a mom-and-pop open-air restaurant).

Hidden Treasure

A hidden jewel in the bustling heart of San José, the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum is a treasury of the country’s rich past. This often-overlooked gem houses an extensive collection of over 1,600 hand-carved gold artifacts dating back to AD 500, including animal figurines, amulets, earrings and the famous “El Guerrero” (The Warrior), a life-sized gold warrior figure adorned with gold ornaments. The museum offers a unique window into the sophisticated craftsmanship and cultural practices of Costa Rica’s pre-Columbian societies.

Favorite Souvenir

The brightly colored, hand-painted wooden oxcart, or “carreta,” is a keepsake that embodies the spirit of Pura Vida in every brushstroke. Oxcarts were once the primary vehicle for transporting coffee beans, and through these carved, miniature replicas, carretas live on as symbols of the country’s rural heritage and national pride.