Thursday, November 1, 2012

10 Words You Must Learn Before Visiting Costa Rica

Costa Rica has, for years, been a top vacation destination for honeymooners, families, backpackers and those who just need a break. There's a special vibration that resonates throughout this Central American country that most can attribute to the Pura Vida or “pure life” attitude that the locals infuse into just about everything they do. Not only to fit in, but to make a trip to this country a special and easy going time away, this is the first phrase one needs to commit to memory.

Maybe your trip is meant to be a relaxing get away, perhaps spending your time enjoying the gorgeous views of the volcano at Lake Arenal. Maybe it's the miles of gorgeous coastline that you're craving. Whatever the case, it will be next to impossible to ignore the local fare. Costa Rica is famed for a couple of traditional dishes that are simple, hardy and when prepared with love and a hand that has been making these plates for years are, in no other words, delicious. The first you must come to learn is Gallo Pinto. This is technically just rice and beans, mixed together and served for every meal. If it's not already mixed in, salsa Lizano will almost certainly be on the table. This sweet and tangy sauce could be called the flavor of the country and goes great on salads, rice or just about anything.

Another crucial dish is the typical Costa Rican casado. This literally translates to married and is a large plate, served for lunch or dinner that has everything, meat, rice, beans, salad, fried plantains... Enjoy this as a filling lunch or dinner and accompany it with the crisp, clean taste of an Imperial, the national beer of this lush landscape. Just remember there is only a one letter difference between the word for married, casado, and the word for tired, cansado. The locals never get bored of this simple slip of the tongue which can turn into quite the joke.

While many say that Costa Rican Spanish is some of the most formal and well spoken in the Latin countries there remain some words that are strictly Tico (a contraction of the words Costa Rica that's used to describe all native peoples). Mae is used to refer to a person, male or female, and translates to “dude, man, or guy” as in “what's up mae?” Expect to hear this phrase from the national parks to the high rises in Jaco. Another of these words is mop and means essentially the same thing although it is used with less frequency.

Finally there is a phrase that most visitors would use to elaborate on their entire trip, al chile. This means with all the spice or with all the “chile pepper” and is spoken by those in the know to describe something completely crazy and amazing. In a country that has, at minimum, ten months of gorgeous sunshine, worries seem to melt away. A traveler truly has to try not to enjoy the “pura vida” of Costa Rica.

Jared is a international writer and traveler. For more information on All Inclusive vacations in Costa Rica please visit

Image Courtesy of Bee Collins.