La Pura Vida -- Costa Rica


While I was in Costa Rica, CNN broadcast a story about the Happy Planet Index. Costa Rica ranked #1; the United States #114. This index is based on its subjective life satisfaction -- essentially how happy are the people themselves with their lives? I’d rank the country high as well; I loved Costa Rica.

I would not rent a car; traffic in San Jose is a nightmare -- fast, right on the bumper, starting and stopping. Buses were regular and easy to understand though I preferred to take the official red taxis while I was there (CheTica business card has a map on the back to show drivers where home is).

I would ride into San Jose with patients who were heading to a doctor’s appointment and spend the morning at the Museo Oro Precolombino (gold), Museo del Jade (jade), Museo Nacional with a wonderful butterfly garden, the National Theater, or one of the beautiful cathedrals. Spend some time wandering downtown streets, with parks and coffee shops everywhere, or just hang out in one of the malls, or at one of the markets. The walk will be good for you physically, but you’ll also get to know the country and its people a little.

You can get suggestions from Ruben, Lorena, or anyone else at CheTica -- Costa Ricans are proud of their country and want you to see it at its best. Other more ambitious outings for which tours can be arranged include coffee farms, canopy tours, butterfly and frog exhibits, volcano trips, and a wide choice of beaches on either coast.

At CheTica, Juan Carlos and Eric (brothers to owner Lorena) are experienced drivers and great conversationalists. They will stop with you at a supermarket or grocery store and help you shop if you have special wants. We had a discussion about North American women not letting men open doors when I first jumped out. I was handed in and out and up the steps like a princess.


I’m not a very religious person, but I find a quiet hour spent in a church comforting and calming, no matter what your faith. Every town has a small chapel and San Jose has several lovely cathedrals.




San Jose sights and attractions.

Market & Souvenirs

Souvenirs can take many forms. Costa Rica is famous for its woods and you can find wind chimes, ornamental wall sculptures, boxes, even jewelry. I took back business card holders that were a big success.

I stuffed coffee beans in every nook and cranny of my luggage and still wish I had managed more.

My favorite purchase is a handcrafted ocarina I bought from a street vendor outside the history museum for $5. An ocarina is a flute-like wind instrument, played by using finger holes and blowing into a mouth tube. The lovely one I bought turns into five different animals depending on how you hold it.

Pura vida literally means “pure life,” but the meaning is closer to “full of life” or “this is living!” Used as a greeting, as a word of farewell, or to express satisfaction, this highly flexible statement expresses a philosophy of strong community, perseverance, resilience in overcoming difficulties with good spirits, enjoying life slowly, and celebrating good fortune of magnitudes small and large alike.  -- Wikipedia

Useful commercial sites.