Pura Vida, or ‘Pure Life’ in Spanish, is a phrase which can be loosely translated to mean a variety of things. It’s a greeting, a salutation; it’s a response when someone asks “how are you?“; it’s a positive expression; it’s a way to say “this is life” or “enjoy life!” Pura Vida has a much deeper and more profound meaning to Costa Ricans; it’s not just a phrase, but an attitude, an outlook, and more than anything else, it’s a way of life.
The Pura Vida lifestyle was especially apparent when I arrived in Samara. The locals seemed to live simple, yet plentiful lives and I could see the happiness radiating from their warm smiles. Walking around the small town, I felt like I was beginning to understand the essence of Pura Vida.
Tall palms swaying in the gentle breeze lined the wide beach, and small waves crashed along the shoreline. Friendly locals offered freshly chopped coconuts, and horses grazed peacefully in a nearby field. The beauty and laid back vibe of Samara made me instantly appreciative of my surroundings and of my life at that moment, and ‘living the good life’ was the only thought that crossed my mind.
Located on the Pacific Coast along The Nicoya Peninsula, Samara is a little quieter and less developed than some of the country’s other well-known beaches, and these were a few of the main reasons I chose to visit. But when I arrived, it almost felt like I had the beach to myself, and I was a bit nervous that I’d made the wrong decision- should I have chosen a more lively beach like Puerto Viejo instead?
But as I sat at one of the small beachfront restaurants and watched the sky turn pink and orange- the colours reflecting off the calm ocean with the silhouette of palms in the distance- I knew I’d made the right choice coming to Samara.
After spending a few days in San Jose, where there was nightmarish traffic and an onslaught of western-style chain restaurants, Samara felt like a breath of fresh air. My hotel was located on an unpaved road which led to the main street where the bulk of small restaurants and shops are located. There are a few beachfront restaurants, hotels, and guesthouses nestled amongst the palm trees, but most are well hidden and the beach never looked busy- regardless of the amount of people around.
It was busier and a little more lively on the weekend, but I still felt there was a noticeable lack of raging nightlife. The beachfront restaurants filled up on Saturday and Sunday evening, but the music played quietly, and the mellow vibe remained.
The water was surprisingly warm, and the relatively calm waves made it perfect for swimming, surf lessons, and stand up paddle boarding. I had fully intended on taking a surfing lesson, but alas, basking in the sunshine, dipping into the ocean, and sipping on tequila-based cocktails distracted me.
Samara is a place that has an indescribable allure about it. When I think of it, not only do I think of sound of the waves gently lapping the shoreline and the beautiful sunsets, but of how I felt when I was there- content, happy, and grateful- and that’s why I believe it’s one of the many places in this beautiful country where the spirit of Pura Vida will reveal itself to anyone lucky enough to visit.