Philippe Brown reports in from his Costa Rican hideout:
The expression Pura Vida casually punctuates most Costa Rican conversation. Apparently the title of a '50s Mexican film, it literally means "pure life." Well, I must admit I initially found this "pure life" thing rather goofy. But after hearing the phrase constantly from so many people, I decided there had to be something to it.
Pura Vida can actually mean a number of things, depending on the context. But essentially it sums up the aspirations of a people who celebrate quality of life and the unspoiled beauty of their country. You take luxuriant rainforests, pristine beaches and incredible biodiversity – add a spirit of hospitality that's both wonderfully warm and perfectly chilled – and you've got, well, Pura Vida.
Ecotourism was born in Central America, and Costa Rica was in the vanguard. Whether you're a family hoping to get closer to nature or a group of adrenaline junkies seeking coast-to-coast biking, hiking, surfing, horseback riding and white-water rafting, no Central American country is better suited for tailor-made adventure.
From the Rio Reventazón, with its world-class rafting and mountain biking, you can head north into the jungle around La Fortuna. On the excellent trails, the air is humid and heavy with exotic scents. And all those weird creaks, croaks, squawks and howls that at first seem so odd soon become – thanks to your expert guides – completely decipherable and all part of the magic.
There's great walking and biking around Arenal Volcano. You can also fly over the smoldering giant by helicopter, or hike up for a look by night. Then retire to a private hot spring to ponder, cocktail in hand, how things would play out if the thing actually erupted. Would it matter? Pura Vida.
Next, maybe a zip-line flight through the canopy in Monteverde Cloud Forest, cheered on by toucans. Then head west to where the Pacific surf's up and discover (or rediscover) the joys of riding a board with a pro. Pura Vida, dude. Alternatively, fly south to hike river and rainforest trails in Corcovado National Park, keeping an eye out for tapirs, jaguars and scarlet macaws.
To crown your eco-experience, hit the Caribbean coast and Tortuguero National Park. Relaxing in your luxurious Crusoe-style beach house, with a few leatherback turtles lounging nearby, you can refine your definition of Pura Vida – and figure out how to bottle it for those long winter days back home.