Searching for Pura Vida in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula

Like many of you, I was aware of Costa Rica’s unofficial motto long before my toes ever touched Pacific sand…

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Sounds like a pretty notion, this thought of “pure life.” According to my diligent and thorough Internet research, the “real meaning is closer to ‘plenty of life,’ ‘full of life,’ or ‘real living.'” PURA VIDA can be used as a greeting or farewell, or as a casual answer to “How’s it going?” or even as a Costa Rican namaste, acknowledging a grateful heart. Sounds so pleasant and zen, doesn’t it?

But is PURA VIDA just good marketing? My background in PR/advertising makes me inherently skeptical of any slogan that makes its way into the mainstream. I’ve met a thousand wanderers in my travels with PURA VIDA ankle / chest / neck tattoos. Did they all really experience some sort of sweaty Costa Rican jungle enlightenment that lead them to get that swirly font permanently drawn on… or is it perhaps just a trendy phrase that happy hippies like to adopt? I see it on bumper stickers back home, and frankly a lot of those PURA VIDA proponents still really suck at driving. How pura is their vida if they continue to cut me off in traffic?!

Is PURA VIDA a clever tourism pitch or perhaps something you really can find in Costa Rica?

I hopped on a wee plane (about the size of the Ford Transit Connect we toured the West in) in San Jose bound for Puerto Jimenez to find out.

Getting there is no simple feat. Hope you like roller coasters!

Getting to the Osa Peninsula is not necessarily a simple feat. Hope you like roller coasters!

So happy we made it! Photo credit: The Legendary Adventures of Anna

So happy we made it! Photo credit: The Legendary Adventures of Anna

One of a zillion squawking macaws

One of a zillion squawking macaws

What did I find once I landed at the tiny airstrip in Puerto Jimenez? A tree full of sassy scarlet macaws, a colorful seaside town and one gravelly, rutted road to follow to my home for the week: the Blue Osa Yoga Retreat and Spa.

Home sweet home for the week - Blue Osa!

Home sweet home for the week – Blue Osa!

Upon arriving at my destination, I realized I might’ve stacked the deck just a bit in favor of finding PURA VIDA.

After all, I was scheduled to spend my first ever trip to Costa Rica at a yoga retreat and spa on a lush little slice of property on the Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf), where silence is observed until 7:30 a.m. every day. Farm-to-table meals are cooked by an adorable French lady and her team of Costa Rican fellas. Cocktails are hand-crafted and served before dinner, a buffet-style smorgasbord with a hearty explanation of ingredients before the meal from the staff. Most items are some mix of dairy-free, gluten-free, organic and vegetarian/vegan. Now considering I’m an omnivore, and I like to eat ALL THE FOOD (except olives – blech), it’s pretty insane that I found every dish to be really, really delicious.

Even if I’d discovered the PURA VIDA lifestyle to be nothing more than a marketing gimmick, at Blue Osa, the concept of pure eating is 100% real.

The salads at Blue Osa are always photogenic.

The fresh salads at Blue Osa are always photogenic.

A little of this, a little of that. I never went hungry.

A little of this, a little of that. I never went hungry. Beans, deviled eggs, veggie salsa and a gluten free mini pizza. All this variety in the jungle!

Meals are served buffet style at Blue Osa.

Meals are served buffet style at Blue Osa.

Tasty breakfast at Blue Osa.

Tasty breakfast. Granola, fresh fruit, gluten-free muffins. Nomnomnom.

Nightly cocktails with Michael - oh so delicious!

Nightly cocktails with Michael – oh so delicious!

The Osa Peninsula is known for being pristine and nearly untouched by traditional tourism. You won’t find a strip of chain hotels or restaurants around these parts, just the occasional eco-lodge along the long, bouncy road. There are endless stretches of black sand beaches without a soul to be seen and a whole host of exciting critters lurking about, from curious bugs and jungle cats to humpback whales and chocolate labs. (OK, the chocolate labs aren’t native to the region. But Pete and Steve, who live at Blue Osa, are some of the coolest creatures on the peninsula.)

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The best beach-walking partner a girl could ask for.

The best beach-walking partner a girl could ask for.

If you've ever wanted a tropical paradise all to yourself, this is a great place to look.

If you’ve ever dreamed of having a tropical paradise all to yourself, this is a great place to visit.

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Bright orange crabs on the beach

Bright orange crabs on the beach

A monkey! One of four kinds found in the Osa Peninsula.

A monkey! One of four kinds found in the Osa Peninsula.

On day one, I found myself sinking into the whole PURA VIDA vibe. Due to the jungle’s particular brand of peace and quiet, I found myself waking up around 5 a.m. … and strangely, I loved it. Especially because humans are expected to stay quiet until 7:30 a.m. on property. The whole place remains hushed, aside from crashing waves and jungle creatures.

My bed, complete with reading light and most necessary fan.

My bed, complete with reading light and most necessary fan.

Ah, those jungle creatures! Howler monkeys scared me half to death my first night, where I awoke to what I thought was the sound of a pack of rabid Dobermans descending on the place. Alas, it was a harmless group of Howlers making their way through the forest.

By the time I left a week later, I was just as accustomed to the monkeys’ morning vocalizations as I was to the sound of chatty parrots fighting over fruit.

Prepping for a yoga class with Aaron.

Prepping for a yoga class with Aaron.

Practicing yoga upstairs.

Practicing yoga upstairs.

Yoga classes were either in the morning after breakfast or in the late afternoon before dinner, and they lasted anywhere from 60-90 minutes. The 2nd floor open-air yoga studio is the centerpiece of the Blue Osa property, and it’s absolutely the perfect place to practice.

It feels like you’re doing downward-facing dog in the tree tops along with the parrots and monkeys. The waves crash on the beach just across the green lawn, and if you’re lucky enough to have a class when a tropical rainstorm rolls through, it’s the best shavasana ever.

Blue Osa Yoga
The view from the yoga studio

The view from the yoga studio

Unlike some of the other yoga retreats I’ve been on, yoga and fitness weren’t the only focus of the week and the majority of our days were free to fill as we saw fit. That could mean a day spent kayaking offsite in the mangroves, or hiking through the jungle in search of sloths, or surfing down the road at Playa Pandulce or … just blissfully wandering the black sand all alone for hours and hours.

Taking selfies on the beach, so PURA VIDA

Taking selfies on the beach, so PURA VIDA

Blue Osa Costa Rica

When I wasn’t wandering the beach, surfing or releasing baby turtles into the sea, I meandered around Blue Osa, from cozy chair to comfy hammock to spa suite to poolside lounger and back to the cozy chair. I had ample time to write in my journal, read, chat with lots of new friends and just soak it all in.

Pool reflections.

Pool reflections.

Beach or pool? Both. All day, every day.

Beach or pool? Both. All day, every day.

As someone who lives life on the clock, it was so refreshing to be freed from my (mostly self-imposed) deadlines and timetables. As the week wore on, I cared less about keeping in touch online, or writing posts, or responding to emails, or doing anything to attempt to tame my humidity-despising hair.

Angie Away

Whether or not PURA VIDA is something every visitor experiences – I really can’t say. All I know is I got what I came for, and I’ll certainly be back.

A little post-yoga hammock time

A little post-yoga hammock time

PURA VIDA! I found it!

So, how’s it going? PURA VIDA.

Special thanks to Blue Osa for hosting me during press week. All opinions are my own, as always.

COME AWAY WITH ME!
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  • Avatar
    August 31, 2014

    Okay, my wanderlust is seriously, seriously out of control right now! I think your trip literally combines every single one of my passions! A visit to Blue Osa must be in my future!

    Gorgeous photos!

  • Avatar
    September 01, 2014

    mm i might go just for the food! Looks great . Pura Vida!
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..HAMPI: a mix of Jurassic Park and the FlintstonesMy Profile

  • Avatar
    September 02, 2014

    I was so tempted to go on this trip and now I’m really regretting it. Ah well, maybe next time? Thanks for vetting the experience for me =)
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..Montenegro: Climbing the Walls of KotorMy Profile

  • Avatar
    May 09, 2017
    Sandy

    I’m with Rachel I’d go just for the food it all looks so delicious, who knew gluten free pizza could look so good and those cocktails…well I wouldn’t say no to them. This place sounds like the perfect trip for a reboot.

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