ura Vida in direct translation means ‘pure life’, however the expression is used in many forms in Costa Rica; as a greeting, as a noun, verb and adjective. It is also the primary philosophy of the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo resort where I had the privilege of staying in mid November.
Pura vida is everywhere; it’s in the breeze in the open ocean-facing lobby, scrolled into the sand on the secluded beaches, lingering in the air as guests greet each other from golf carts, scattered across the starry night sky.
A short drive from Liberia airport, the resort is surprisingly easy to get to, considering how other-worldly it feels. The property sprawls across miles of canopied hills and beaches, iconic for its arching wooden architecture, winding paths and multiple curved infinity pools. The buildings dip in and out of the surrounding nature so as to disturb it as little as possible – made evident by the frequent visits from howler and white-faced monkeys, swinging by your terrace.
The first night, after settling into my beautiful room, I attended a mixologist class. Loosening up on Mojitos and something called Coco-Macato, which is essentially coconut milk, rum and red wine, might just be the best way of breaking the ice with a group of complete strangers. Dinner is also served here at Chao Pescao, which feels like being at a local Costa Rican bar, designed for kicking back and sampling the chef’s seasonal creations.
Breakfasts at Rio Bhongo, the central open-air restaurant, were healthy and delicious. Looking out onto the infinity pools and the ocean beyond, you can relax while slurping fresh watermelon juice and eating your body weight in corncake. Warning: keep your camera close as there is the chance that your meal might be interrupted by a monkey, or even (as it did for me) by a close relation of the raccoon only found in Costa Rica – the pizote.
The third restaurant on the property is Ostra, the signature restaurant focusing on the freshest local seafood. Ostra is an elegant, discreet and romantic venue that has a do-it-yourself ceviche station, which I was obsessed with until my acid reflex made me stop.
There are so many activities available within the resort itself that they have a weekly newsletter to keep you updated. From Ceviche classes to kayak tours, yoga, and Spanish lessons, you are guaranteed to find something you want to do whether it’s to relax, explore or learn. Snorkeling equipment, kayaks and paddle boards are supplied complimentary on the Sombrero Oscuro beach. Golf carts zip around the property regularly and you can jump in one at any time to get to your next destination if you don’t feel like walking. The last stop was the Onda Spa. Elevated into the trees, you gaze over the water as you pat yourself down with an icy cold towel.
The meditative experience of Onda aligns your physiology with the quiet pace of Papagayo, I was told that the massage and tea would help me on my way to Pura Vida, but I still wasn’t sure what that meant exactly.
True to the Andaz ethos, they encourage guests to explore all that Costa Rica has to offer, so the next day we went to the Buena Vista adventure park, nestled into a volcano (there are five active volcanoes and 120 volcanic structures in Costa Rica – no wonder they filmed scenes of the 1993 Jurassic Park here).
Activities included zip-lining, Central America’s longest waterslide, horseback riding and the infamous volcanic hot springs.
Sitting on the Jet Blue flight back to New York, I tried to answer the question I had set myself at the start of the trip: what is Pura Vida?
You could greet someone and say it, laugh and say it, shrug your shoulder and say it – pretty much use it in any and all scenarios. I decided that it essentially means chill out, relax and enjoy everything life has to offer. It’s a lifestyle that I, as a chronically anxious city girl, found hard to understand but have finally embraced.
Written by Tijana Tamburic
Photography by Justin Livingston
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