Katie McDowell, Latest News, Life & Leisure

Costa Rica offers lessons in living

Katie McDowell

If you’ve been to Costa Rica, you know they have a particular national slogan.

The two words are everywhere — on menus, on signs, on the lips of nearly everyone you meet.

Costa Ricans use the phrase constantly, to mean anything from “thank you,” to “hello,” to “no worries,” to “you’re welcome,” to “goodbye” at the end of a phone call — or one of those ubiquitous WhatsApp voice messages they love to send.

The words grace T-shirts and tank tops and hand-painted doodads of all sizes, shapes and purpose — perhaps to remind shopping tourists what it is that attracted them to the country from the start.

Pura vida.

Pure life.

A fitting motto if ever there was one, for a place so full of it.

From the upper elevations to the beaches along the coast, the country literally teems with life — animals, people, plants, trees, insects, art, music, laughter, conversation — and a palpable appreciation for it all.

As you may have guessed by the absence of this column for the past two Sundays — sorry, folks, I simply couldn’t bring myself to work on this vacation — I just returned from experiencing this region for myself.

Though I was only there for a week — a visit far too brief — I became completely enchanted with the places, the people, and the beauty of, well, pretty much everything.

Like the amazing fruit I ate often, and voraciously, I wanted to squeeze every last drop of opportunity from this trip.

I started off in the mountains, in the cloud forest of Monteverde, waking to the sun rising right outside my bedroom balcony. Walked around Santa Elena. Drank numerous smoothies. Bought artisan-made jewelry.

I traipsed the suspension bridges at Selvatura — hung high above the tree tops. Did a night hike, complete with sleeping toucans, florescent scorpions and a tarantula the size of a large man’s hand.

Climbed up the hollow trunk of a 300-year-old Ficus tree, emerging from the inside at the top, 133 feet in the air.

I went to a sloth sanctuary, toured a butterfly garden and sipped coffee grown, harvested and roasted right next door to my chalet.

And, man, I loved it.

From there, I went down to the beach town of Jacó, where I sat on the sand, wandered the streets, relaxed, ate beans and rice and plantains, and hiked to the remains of an old, abandoned mansion called El Miro. I peered over a bridge at a dozen sunbathing crocodiles. Scaled waterfalls on ropes (admittedly chickening out on the tallest one) and swam in the pools beneath them.

Each day, I joined the locals on the shore to watch the sun go down. The prettiest sunsets I’ve seen.

And I loved that, too.

I spent a single night — not enough — in Quepos, where I did a 6 a.m. hike to the top of a piece of property, the views from which I can’t describe. I saw sloths, monkeys and more colorful birds than I could count.

And, oh, how I loved it all.


Pure life.

Surrounding me, but inside me, too.

Excitement. Restfulness. Healing energy and natural wonder.

And such a deep, deep appreciation for it all.

It’s a feeling you want to hold on to. A motto you can’t help but adopt.

This may have been my first time in Costa Rica.

Let me tell you, it will not be my last.

Pura vida.

Indeed it is.

Katie Long McDowell is the managing editor and lifestyles columnist for The Dominion Post. Email kmcdowell@dominionpost.com.