If there’s one thing Costa Ricans value above all else, it’s community. Pura vida is more than a friendly motto written on hats or T-shirts for tourists to buy at souvenir shops. Directly translated as “pure life,” it is closer to American ideas of the “simple life.” And in Costa Rica, the concept is part of their heritage and runs deep in the soil. The phrase is a reminder to not sweat the small stuff and instead focus on things that matter: friends, family, and most importantly, love.
In a country that’s home to five million people and nearly a thousand species of birds—including two of my favorites, the keelbilled toucan and the scarlet macaw — pura vida permeates through every experience you have. Whether you’re staying at a fancy resort or hiking on a crowded trail, you’ll find pura vida is a shared human language that transcends differences and unites those who embrace it.
For many LGBTQ people living in Costa Rica, social norms have noticeably shifted in recent years, thanks to wider visibility in smaller communities. While the country is widely known for its environmental efforts (embracing eco-tourism early) and lack of an army (the nation instead chooses to invest its money in agriculture) and Catholic traditions, citizens are still hungry for social progress.