Pura Vida: The Nicoyan Secret to Long Life 

When people talk about the Nicoya peninsula, something that always gets mentioned is the longevity of its residents. Not only does Nicoya have many people who live past one hundred years of age, but they also have many active octo and nona genarians who behave as if they are much younger!

One factor that contributes to long life is an attitude that is summed up in the Costa Rican Spanish phrase, pura vida. Pura vida is a greeting that can mean: hello, goodbye, thank you, great, good luck. Translated strictly it means “Pure Life.”

My new friend Esteban, Harmony’s reservations manager, shared with me a bit more about pura vida. He said that the expression has its etymology from a village in Mexico that uses this expression, and was brought down to Costa Rica by Spanish conquistadors. But pura vida is more than two words put together. It is a way of life.

Esteban shared with me the story of his grandfather Gabriel, who spent his life residing on a mountainside, in the small town of Hojancha. Gabriel would rise every single morning at 4:30 am, in the dark, to grind corn. After grinding corn, he would drink coffee while watching the sunrise, every single day. All of his friends would do the same.

Imagine a magical world, where people of all ages rise before dawn and watch the sun rise with a cup of coffee in their hands. It exists, that is the pura vida. To practice a daily renewal of gratitude, awe, divinity and grace. 

Esteban continued to frame and expand upon his explanation. He thought that sunsets were for people who were a bit lazy and depressive, but that watching a sunrise would create a higher percentage of good feelings in the body. (I’m going to go out on a limb here and dare to guess that Esteban does not have a Netflix account.)

A couple of days after my conversation with Esteban, I found myself stirring in the early hours of the morning. Just like Esteban’s grandfather Gabriel had done every morning on the mountainside, I quietly made a cup of coffee in my room while the world outside still slept.

Just before dawn I slipped out the door, coffee in hand, for the 2 minute and 40 second walk from Harmony to Guiones beach. A nearly full moon lit my path, and I took a seat on the beach.

As light broke through the clouds; a higher percentage of good feelings filled my cells. The beach was now alit, but the moon was still visible in the sky. Esteban’s hypothesis was sublimely correct.

I was convinced, and meeting Esteban inspired me to check out Hojancha for myself, to understand more about this beautiful way of life. I was about to learn that a 90 minute car ride away can also be worlds away …..

Pura vida,


Karen Henson Jones is the author of Heart of Miracles, a spiritual travelogue. She is also a Philip Stein Global Filipino Hero and speaker for Women in Leadership’s Economic Forum. www.karenhensonjones.com

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