Top 10 Ways to Live “la Pura Vida” while Studying Abroad in Costa Rica

Justin Maniar is a Senior Site Specialist for Latin America. Justin works with students studying abroad in Costa Rica.

Photo by ISA student Rebecca Schmidt rafting down the Pacuare River, Costa Rica

Costa Ricans or Ticos as they’re colloquially known, have been described as some of the happiest people on the planet.  Friendly and environmentally conscious, Ticos know how to enjoy life in the beautiful country they call home. In Costa Rica, this attitude is summed up in one phrase,  “pura vida,” literally translated as “pure life.”

Here are ten ways you can experience “la pura vida” during your semester studying (or interning!) in Costa Rica:

1) Ziplining– Soar through the dense rainforest canopy with breathtaking views at Arenal National Park.

2) Night Hiking– Trek through the dense Monteverde Cloud Forest, turn a corner and see a two-toed sloth staring back at you! You can also see and pet sloths at one of the many sloth sanctuaries in Costa Rica.

3) Mingle– Converse with your host family about Tico culture and share stories of your experiences as you sit down for a typical Costa Rican dinner.

4) Study with locals– Take courses with locals and improve your Spanish while studying at one of Costa Rica’s most respected universities. ISA offers programs at three universities in Costa Rica: Universidad Veritas, Universidad Latina-San Pedro and Universidad Latina-Heredia.

5) Surf– Ride world class breaks at Costa Rica’s incredible beaches. Some of the best beaches for surfing include: Jacó, Santa Teresa, Tamarindo (an ISA excursion!), Malpaís, Nosara, Manuel Antonio and Dominical.

Photo by ISA student Vanessa Renkel in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

6) Casado– Sample a traditional (and delicious) casado during your lunch break or in-between classes. Casados are what keep working Costa Ricans going through the afternoon and are traditionally composed of chicken or fish, rice, beans, a plantain, an egg and a salad.

7) Coffee– Taste some of the world’s best coffee, grown and grinded at the Café Britt Coffee Plantation. You can tour the fields, sample the coffee before it is roasted, and relax with a sweet sip of one of the best cups of coffee you’ve ever had.

8) Friends– Make local, life-long Tico friends. Be friendly, chat with them on campus, go to ISA-coordinated Intercambios and make some friends who will give you a reason to return to Costa Rica after your study abroad program.  If the beaches, rainforest and volcanoes aren’t enough incentive…

9) Tortuguero National Park – Surrounded by primitive rainforest, large populations of protected turtles use beaches at the National Park to lay their eggs. You may even see a baby turtle being born and making its way into the ocean for the first time.

10) San Jose– Explore the bustling streets of downtown San José and experience the unique mix of cosmopolitan city life and the love of nature that make Josefinos so unique. Visit amazing museums, see a show at the striking neo-classical National Theater, or just sit, watch and soak up Costa Rica’s pura vida lifestyle.

Whether backpacking through the pristine rainforest where civilization seems like a delightfully distant memory, surfing, laying out at one of Costa Rica’s many gorgeous beaches, or simply enjoying a casado with your new Tico friends, ISA study abroad Costa Rica is truly a journey you’ll remember for the rest of your life.


Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.