1. Pura Vida
“Pura Vida”, Spanish for “Pure Life” is more than just a motto in Costa Rica. The phrase, used as a greeting or a farewell, as an expression of gratitude, and whenever else it feels right, sums up the whole culture of the country. While its meaning doesn’t need much of an explanation, it’s important to understand how important the “pura vida” way of life really is for the locals. They express their love of life with contagious passion, and it is incredible to be in a place surrounded by people who radiate so much joy. Even those locals who live in poverty give off a happy glow in this place. It’s a different set of values than we’re used to; a love of nature, fruit, laughter, family, animals, ocean, warmth beneath one’s feet. Pura Vida is enough for Costa Ricans, and it’s more than enough for me.
2. Rocking J’s
Rocking J’s Hostel is something of a legend in the backpackers world. I suppose like anything else that becomes popular enough, one could argue that it’s overrated, but it is not. Rocking J’s is a place where you can just as easily stay up all night partying on the bar side with other travellers as you can sit peacefully by the fire playing guitars and drums and breathing in the ocean air. The entire place has been decorated by its visitors and is colourful and unpretentious and filled with other people’s memories. There is a secret little swimming hole in the ocean where somehow, it’s always quiet. Although you can pitch a tent for $6 or stay in a dorm for $11, I highly recommend sleeping in a hammock for $7/night. Frankly, I’m not sure that I’ve ever slept better in my life than I did in my hammock at J’s.
Puerto Viejo is a hippie/backpacker’s town, and as such, it’s easy to find surfing lessons for beginners. We booked one surfing lesson through our hostel and paid about $60 for it, but the instructor was a wicked guy and invited us to go back and surf with him the following day for free. If you look around enough, you should be able to find somebody who is willing to do the same for you, whether it’s a local or another traveller (unless you are already a pro yourself, in which case, ignore me! You already know!). I wish I could remember the name of the incredibly cool dude who showed my friends and I the ropes of surfing. This guy lived in the jungle with no phone reception (as many do in this part of Costa Rica). He was a free spirit. While we were in the ocean, he ran off the beach for a minute, came back with an entire pineapple that he’d found, and sliced it up on the sand. He is pictured below:
If you’re lucky, you might be able to see a sloth in a tree while you’re wandering through the streets of Puerto Viejo. You can also visit the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. It’s worth supporting this sanctuary, run by a family who fell in love with these creatures after one orphaned young one, Buttercup, was brought to them back in 1992. Buttercup still lives at the sanctuary today, and the family has rescued over 500 other sloths, rehabilitating and releasing the ones who they can, and caring from those who can’t yet go back into the wild. Just look at one of these little guys at the sanctuary:
5. Guaro sours
Guaro is Costa Rica’s traditional liqueur. Guaro, sugar, and lime mix together for a Guaro Sour, one of the most refreshing drinks I’ve ever tried. Go for the Guaro.