“Pura vida,” the older couple shouts over their shoulder at us as they walk away. We are starting to catch on that this comment is the popular tag line of Costa Rica and the white tourists are eating it up. Everyone ends and starts their conversations here by cheerfully spouting off the words like a secret password of the Costa Rican culture. We don’t get it!
What we do get is the appeal drawing tourism here to its beautiful beaches and monkey dominated national parks. Unfortunately, as backpackers, Costa Rica does not offer a cheap visit. It’s designed for the hardworking Americans and Europeans to come spend their hard earned money for a week. Finding affordable hostel dorm beds or food is out of the question in Manuel Antonio. There may be cheaper destinations in Costa Rica, but this one provides the best of both worlds for the quick passersby: beach and a national park with wildlife. So here we are spending far past our budget, trying to soak up some of that Pura vida vibe before hightailing it north to cheaper territory in Nicaragua.
We managed to squeeze three nice days out of our budget here to enjoy a day on the public beach for only $8 to rent two chairs and an umbrella and a day at the Manuel Antonio Park for $16/each to enter and enjoy the rambunctious capuchin monkeys, sleepy sloths, and pristine beaches. The third day we are spending relaxing and watching the Super Bowl (Go Eagles!) The level of service here definitely surpasses the rest of South America that we witnessed thus far. It’s a country designed for tourism. They cater to the retirees and families willing to spend on American prices for a nice vacation. The streets are clean of litter due to a local service tax and the food is top notch in all of the restaurants.
If we had the money to fully immerse ourselves in the Pura vida culture, we would probably be less reluctant to make it our personal tagline too. We feel slightly shut out of this secret society of tourists throwing their hard earned money at parasailing, catamaran tours, and $8 cocktails. It just reminds us where we are at in life, currently we are backpackers on a budget, not honeymooners on vacation.
This doesn’t mean that this isn’t one of the most beautiful places on earth with its white sand beaches, blue ocean, and cheeky monkeys stealing bananas from tourists. It’s cheerful, clean, safe, and here to serve your tourism needs. Just be ready to drop a pretty penny for the full experience! Pura Vida!