Living the Pura Vida in Costa Rica

From Lake Arenal to Monteverde Cloud Forest, this Central American country knows how to relax.

Located just more than 2,000 miles due south of Columbus, Ohio, lies the Republic of Costa Rica, a land with untouched nature, amazing food and breathtaking scenery. With all that and plenty of hotels and flights available, it is no wonder that Costa Rica continues to rank among the most popular foreign countries for U.S. travelers.

Costa Rica sits on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, offering the best of both worlds with the incredible surf of the Pacific and the blue waters of the Caribbean. Your adventure will start in the country’s capital of San Jose, which is almost exactly in the center of the country and toward the northern end of the large Central Valley.

Making up nearly 4,400 square miles, the Central Valley is where more than 70% of Costa Ricans live, especially since the annual temperature ranges from 59 to 86. This makes it perfect for agriculture and farming as well. The export of coffee, as well as bananas, had been Costa Rica’s main revenue generator for nearly two centuries until tourism took over. Coffee is still popular, as are the tours of a local plantation where you can see how coffee beans are grown, harvested and turned into the liquid that fuels many of our lives. And because of the popularity of coffee, residents have found other uses for the beverage, including producing their brand of coffee liqueur.

What helps make the Central Valley is the mountain ranges and volcanos. Yes, volcanos. There are 14 known volcanos in Costa Rica, with six of them active in the last century. One of those volcanos, Arenal Volcano, last erupted in 2010 and rises above Lake Arenal, the largest lake in Costa Rica at 33 square miles. Because of its size, the lake is known for its kite surfing and windsurfing, but you also can take part in kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding or wakeboarding. Or just relax and sightsee around the lake as it is home to plenty of flora and fauna, including quetzal, tapir and jaguar.

About 30 miles up the hill from the lake, you do not want to miss the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. This 26,000-acre reserve of cloud forest was established in 1972 and, so far, has identified at least 425 species of birds, 120 species of mammals and 658 species of butterflies. It also has more than 3,200 species of plants, including more than 700 species of trees and 500 species of orchids, 34 of which were discovered there. Tours are offered daily, and if you go to Costa Rica this is one thing you do not want to miss.

To make sure you don’t miss anything, consider booking through AAA Escorted Tours. It has a 10-day tour planned for April 22-May 1, 2022, which includes airfare from Columbus. Call 888-AAA-OHIO (888-222-6446), click AAA.com/EscortedTours or visit a AAA Ohio office today.

What is Pura Vida?
My wife and I met a server on a cruise ship who was from Costa Rica and he quickly became our favorite. We had him as our server for five cruises for a total of 36 nights. He introduced us to the phrase, “Pura Vida.” The literal translation is “pure life,” but it can mean so much more. It can be used in response to a question such as, “How are you?” and, depending on how the answer is conveyed, it could be as simple as “I’m fine” or as celebratory as “Awesome!” It also could be asked as a question, such as inquiring if someone is doing well. “Pura vida?” “Si, pura vida.”

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