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Your Insider’ Guide to Costa Rica Culture – Meet the Friendliest People on Earth 

Costa Rica cultureYour Costa Rica adventure vacation will be even more enjoyable if you delve into the many fascinating aspects of the local Costa Rica culture. Read on to learn more about the friendliest (and happiest) people on earth and find out how you can enjoy amazing cultural experiences on your next visit

A Costa Rica adventure vacation may well be mostly about wilderness and wildlife yet it’s the local culture that will ultimately steal your heart. Despite being named ‘best in travel’ in countless lists year after year, the country’s local culture has remained authentic to its core. Outside of the most touristed beach towns, which have become somewhat international, you’ll find the local culture untarnished by outside influence.

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Still largely agricultural, this is a hardworking people whose connection to the land transcends modern-day life. The Tico’s reluctance to fully embrace the fast-pace of the 21st century means that even in the largest city, San Jose, you get a most noticeable village feel. Fresh produce markets, small shops, friendly neighbours, leisurely meals and kids playing football in the street are all things more developed nations have unfortunately left behind in their bid to modernize. Not so in Costa Rica and this is one of the most rewarding aspects of vacationing here.

Of course, it’s easy to be laid-back, friendly and happy when you live in paradise, right? The balmy year-round temps, sensational nature and abundance of wildlife do a marvellous job of starving off stress. Costa Rican culture is about hard work, family, good food and enjoyment and they say this is the key to a long and happy life.

They certainly seem to be onto something!

Home to one of the planet’s Blue Zones – exceptional regions whose inhabitants boast the impressive longevity – Costa Rica is the kind of place that can show you, and teach you, just how wonderful the simple life can be.

The Pura Vida Ideal

‘Pura Vida!’ is the one local exclamation you’ll hear constantly in Costa Rica. Despite it technically translating to ‘pure (or simple) life’, it’s a lot more than just a simple saying. In Costa Rica, Pura Vida is a philosophy and a way of life; one that centres around fun and enjoyment. Ticos are party animals but not in the way you may imagine. Every meal taken with family and friends is a celebration to be enjoyed. Slow food is enjoyed leisurely, outdoors in the glorious sunshine, and there’s always music, dancing and laughing. This is what Pura Vida means in Costa Rica. Find a way to always enjoy life’s little moments and you’ll never feel like you’re just waiting for the big ones to give your life meaning.

This wonderful part of the local culture is amazing and, by its very nature, is always shared. That’s why tourists and expats alike love it here so much: because Ticos enjoy living so much, you do too. It’s contagious and, for expats at least, highly addictive.

And that’s why everyone wants to move here!

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Farm life – hard work is an essential part of ‘the good life’

Costa Rica farmingRanching and farming are still at the heart of Costa Rican culture.  Although the gaucho image is mostly associated with countries like Argentina and Paraguay, it’s very much part of Tican culture too. No cultural festival is ever complete here without horses, horsemen, carts and rodeo. For locals, horsemanship is as inherent as dancing and singing.

Those who’ve never visited before but heard about the fun, easy-going nature of Costa Rica’s locals, may think that people don’t do much else other than eating and partying. Not so. Hard, honest work is at the core of life here and this is actually one of the main characteristics all inhabitants of those famed Blue Zones share. They all work the land until they are able to, well into old age, sharing the load with the rest of the family. Having this sense of duty gifts the elderly a sense of being needed and of contributing – not just to their family’s needs but to the country’s as a whole. This, in turn, gives them purpose and satisfaction and that’s credited with being a major contributor to a long, happy and healthy life.

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Respect for Mother Earth

It’s no surprise that the Costa Rican government essentially traded in a military force for environmental protection. Love of the land, and all its precious creatures, is an inherent part of local culture and this is the prime reason Costa Rica is considered the birthplace of eco-tourism.

Beaches of Costa RicaIn this marvelous, nature-infused country, you can stay in eco-lodges nestled in primary rain forests and enjoy outdoor thrills in some of the most pristine wilderness left on earth. You can also soak up the spectacle of magnificent wildlife, including sloths, coatis, toucans and an insane array of other exotic birds; several species of monkeys and no less than 7 species of big cat, including puma and jaguar. And that’s just on land! In the crystal-clear seas framing Costa Rica, you’ve got half a dozen species of sea turtles, dolphins and whales galore.

Tico’s inherent passion for wilderness and wildlife means you too can enjoy the spoils of this incredibly enriched country.

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The Spanish influence is palpable but it’s not the be-all and end-all…

Costa Rica may well be Spanish in so many ways but it’s definitely not Spain.

The country’s indigenous culture shines through at every turn: from the customs to the cuisine, the religious rituals, the dialects, clothes, arts (especially music) and even the religion and spirituality. All these things have been heavily influenced by Spanish colonizers, of course, but they have all evolved their own unique characteristics, most of which are not found anywhere else in Latin America.

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How to tap into the best cultural experiences in Costa Rica

As a visitor, you’ll be privy to some truly amazing hospitality when you head to Costa Rica.

Want to make the most of your adventure vacation?

Here’s what you can do to enjoy an authentic, culture-infused vacation in Costa Rica:

Less flying, more driving – A Costa Rican toad-trip is about the best (and most convenient) way to bag a few highlights all in one. When you swap your domestic flight for a road transfer, you’ll be taking on a travel adventure that you’ll never forget. When you slow it all down, it means you get to discover off-the-beaten-path treasures, can stop whenever and wherever you like, and really experience the true Costa Rica.

Some people with just a week-long vacation think this isn’t enough time for an overlanding journey but that’s not true. The country is compact and easy to navigate, especially with guide and driver. Plus, the only compromise you’ll have to make is distance: choose fewer spots and spend more time there, rather than be constantly on the move, and you’ll have a magnificent and very authentic experience here. Here’s our guide to Costa Rica’s Most Memorable Road-Trips. (check out those day options!)

Costa Rica food hospitalityEat & stay local – Skip the all-inclusive, Western-owned resorts and choose to stay and eat in local, family-owned businesses. The food is simple yet wholesome, the stays are rustic but beautiful and this is about the best way to soak up that famed Tico hospitality. Have a whole day free? Take a local cooking class and learn all about the Costa Rican love of food!

Enjoy a sustainable farm experience – Visiting one of Costa Rica’s many sustainable farms is a wonderful way to learn about the country’s farm-to-table process. The great thing is that a farm visit is never just about the farm. Usually, you’ll get to enjoy the protected estate, spot wildlife, sample delicious food and spend time in an area of the country you’d otherwise never discover. In Costa Rica, you can mix cheese-making classes with horseback riding, chocolate-making with authentic homestays, learn all about the process of making coffee whilst enjoying the best cuppa in the world and even indulge in 5* luxury, activities and comforts in the country’s best hacienda farm resorts.

Stay longer and take Spanish lessons – Costa Rica offers 90-day visa-free stays to North Americans and Europeans and that means that if you can stretch your vacation, you can enjoy perhaps the most comprehensive cultural experience of all. A wonderful destination for digital nomads from all over the world, Costa Rica offers inexpensive living for long-term visitors. In-between Zoom meetings and excursions, you’ll also have time to take Spanish classes, something that will greatly enhance your stay.

At Costa Rica Rios, we’re all about adrenaline-packed adventures in nature. But we’re also all about showcasing the wonderful local culture – something that’s now become a wholesome part of our lives. When you come adventure with us, you’ll be joining a comprehensive tour that’ll serve up some of the most authentic and unforgettable experiences the country has to offer.

Contact us to know more

US & Canada: 888 434-0776 | UK: 0800 612 8718 | International: +1 920 434-7485




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