If there’s one thing that can enhance your time in Costa Rica, it’s knowing the language. You’ll be able to get by with only a basic understanding or a few words of Spanish, and many of the locals and people who work in tourism speak some English.
But I’m talking about learning some real, authentic Tico (Costa Rican) sayings. Dropping a few of these charming (and sometimes hilarious) phrases, sayings and slang will quickly endear you to the locals and open up a whole new amazing experience.
Here are some popular Costa Rican sayings:
Mae usually is used like “dude” between friends in the U.S., a word you’ll hear peppered in young peoples’ speech.
Pura vida means “pure life,” a national philosophy that embraces chilling, good vibes, and sunny dispositions.
Tico / Tica
Costa Rican citizens are called Ticos because of their affinity for adding –ico on the end of some words. Women are called Ticas.
Estar de goma
I am hungover or I have a hangover.
A surfer slang expression that roughly means, “cool,” it’s a Spanish adaptation from the phrase “too nice.”
Bored or boring.
Work or job.
Little thing or similar to the English saying “Thingamajig.”
Another way of saying “the thing.”
How’s it going with you this morning?
Dolor de jupa
Estar de chicha
To be angry.
Usually a foreigner that is a blond female.
This literally translates to “[with] much pleasure,” but Costa Ricans use it to express gratitude at meeting someone, to say you’re welcome, or goodbye.
No joda!/no jodás!
A strong saying that means, “Don’t bother me” or “Leave me alone.”
Pinches mean something totally different in Mexican Spanish, but means “stingy” in Costa Rica.
One of the small corner stores that are in every big city and small village in the country.
Bullshit or crap.
What’s up, or what do you have to tell me?
Que mala nota!
What a bad person!
What a downer or drag!
So unlucky or too bad.
The small, usually family-run typical eateries in Costa Rica, sort of like a local lunch counter or diner.
Una teja refers to 100 of anything, but usually denotes 100 colones, or 100 meters if someone is giving you directions.
Thousand Colón note.
Two thousand Colón note.
Five thousand Colón note.
Si Dios quiere
Only if it’s God’s will.
What’s the matter?
What a problem.
Me cayo la pelota
I finally get it or I understand.
What a pity!
If you only knew!
Andar de tanda.
Bar hopping or crawling.
Compliments or cat calls.
Gossip or rumors.
This list is just a start, and I share a TON more endearing Costa Rica sayings in the Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook! Check it out!
Costa Rica has been considered one of the best places in the world to surf for decades, attracting millions of visitors to the country’s 40 mapped surf beaches. In fact, with year-round warm water temperatures and consistent waves, Costa Rica is every surfer’s dream.
So, if you want to get away to catch some rays and waves, whether for a long weekend or to ride out the whole winter, here are some of the top surf destinations in Costa Rica (in no particular order):
Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica
While Jacó is Costa Rica’s hotspot for holidays and sunbathers, it also offers great surfing, as it hosted the 2016 International World Surf Championship last August. Just a few kilometers south you’ll find some great waves in Playa Hermosa, home of the 2009 Surf Championship.
Pavones, Costa Rica
Good news travels fast among surfers, and Pavones, located on a small peninsula near the Panamanian border, is now a must-surf destination when you visit Costa Rica, with one of the best left point breaks on the entire planet.
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Don’t forget about Costa Rica’s Caribbean side, with amazing surf from December until May in this charming coastal town, including the heaviest waves around.
Ollie’s Point, Costa Rica
Head north along the western Costa Rican coastline and you’ll find Ollie’s Point near the Nicaraguan border, named after the disgraced U.S. military figure Ollie North. You can only get to this epic right point break that runs about 300 yards by boat, but the waves can still get crowded since it’s on every surfer’s Bucket List.
Malpaís & Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Malpaís & Santa Teresa in the southwestern corner of Península de Nicoya are great options to catch some amazing waves alongside some of the best natural beauty in Costa Rica.
Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Tamarindo (or “TamaGringo” because of the hordes of North Americans that vacation and live there) is Costa Rica’s most popular surf destination. It’s managed to hold on to its beachy village vibe (just barely), even as modern resorts, luxury condos, and high-end restaurants pop up. But the long expanse of beach – and great surfing near the estuary and other spots – has never ceased.
There’s plenty of room and smaller waves for beginners to improve their chops, but also a handful of great surf beaches not far out of town like Playa Grande and Playa Langosta that will be virtually empty.
Playa Avellanas, Costa Rica
Speaking of Tamarindo, when you’re there, go check out nearby Playa Avellanas, known as “Little Hawaii,” where the big, hollow, and fast waves create some dream tubes near the river mouth.
Witch’s Rock, Costa Rica
Or take a day trip to the legendary Witch’s Rock, made famous in the iconic surf movie, Endless Summer II, where you can enjoy perfect lefts and rights on either side of the offshore rock formation.
Dominical, Costa Rica
This tiny little beach town south of Manuel Antonio and just north of Playa Uvita is growing in leaps and bounds thanks to its reputation as one of the most consistent spots to catch some big waves in all of Costa Rica.
Matapalo, Costa Rica
Just south of Drake’s Bay in the Osa Peninsula you’ll find Matapalo, a crazy right-hander worth taming.
Nosara, Costa Rica
Beautiful white sand beach with good waves!
Cabo Matapalo, Costa Rica
Far less touristy surf spots on the tip of the Osa Peninsula.
Playa Bejuco, Costa Rica
Good waves just north of Manuel Antonio, but with far less tourists.
Playa Negra, Costa Rica
Amazing black sand beach with great right-hand barrels.
Boca Barranca, Costa Rica
Great break in summer and less crowded but not as much natural beauty around.
Maybe you’re heading to Nicaragua or Panama to get your tourist visa renewed, or you just want to expand your surf vacation to Costa Rica’s neighbors?
San Juan del Sur and Popoyo, Nicaragua
Nicaragua is no longer a best-kept secret, with thousands of North American surfers hitting the white sand and thick jungle of Popoyo every winter, usually passing through charming San Juan del Sur its surrounding beaches. You’ll find everything from gentle swells for beginners to a dozen huge breaks a short boat ride away.
According to Johnny G., owner of SanJuanSurf.com, “With friendly locals, offshore 300 days a year, and uncrowded spots all along the coast, your chance of scoring here is much higher than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere.”
Santa Catalina, Panama
Thirty years ago, an intrepid surfer hacked his way through the jungle in search of this pristine and untouched surf beach (or so the legend goes). These days, Santa Catalina is still one of the best places to surf in all of Central America, with consistent right and left breaks for more than 200 yards over lava reef – and it’s a lot easier to get there.
Bocas Del Toro, Panama
This cluster of islands off of Panama’s Caribbean coast includes some of the best reef breaks and hidden beaches in Central America, all accessible by water taxis. “The Mouth of the Bull” is truly a unique and beautiful place for those that make the trek, and when the surf is on, it’s on!
Your friend (and NOT a good surfer),
PS Wanna surf the internet with all of the info you need to make the move to Costa Rica (I know: a terrible segue!)? Download the Moving to Costa Rica Handbook!
Still thinking about moving to Costa Rica?
Why the hell not, as it's one of the most beautiful and enjoyable nations on earth, serving as a perfect place for your retirement, long-term move, or just surf trip through the winter.
To help encourage you to make the leap (it will be the best decision you ever made!) I wanted to offer these 10 fun and useful facts about moving to Costa Rica, with many more to come!
1. One of the best benefits about Costa Rica is its close proximity to the United States and Canada. San José is only a 2-hour flight from Miami and 3 1⁄2 hours from New York, and there are more and more nonstop, cheap, and direct flights all the time.
2. Costa Rica has a modern and highly rated healthcare system, even more highly ranked than the United States. Costa Rican citizens enjoy universal healthcare insurance and have a life expectancy of 77 years, one of the highest in the world.
3. They don’t have summers and winter seasons like in the U.S., but a dry season (high season) that runs December-April and a rainy season (low season) that runs May through November. It’s far more crowded with tourists during the high season, and costs for hotels, apartments, etc. also skyrocket for a few months.
4. The #1 Google search term about moving to Costa Rica is “Where is the best place to visit in Costa Rica?” There are so many wonderful places to visit in Costa Rica, that’s impossible to answer! Some of the top destinations and points of interest include San José, the capital, Jacó Beach, Santa Teresa, Malpais, Montezuma, Arenal Volcano, Monteverde and Santa Elena, Tamarindo and Guanacaste, Manuel Antonio, Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side of the country, and the many incredible national parks that dot the country.
5. Costa Rica has not one but two gorgeous coastlines, with more than 800 miles of shoreline and tropical beaches between the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the country.
6. It also has the most diverse wildlife on the planet. There are over 130 species of fish, 220 of reptiles, 1,000 butterflies, 9,000 plants, 20,000 species of spiders and 34,000 species of insects in Costa Rica. That represents 5% of the world’s biodiversity even though it is just about .03% of the earth’s total landmass.
7. These days, U.S. dollars are widely accepted in almost all areas that foster tourism in Costa Rica, including hotels, restaurants, airports, etc. ATMs usually give you the option to take out U.S. dollars, which you can then spend and receive local colones as change.
8. The government makes it easy for foreigners to do business in Costa Rica, in part because they want more jobs created for Ticos. You don’t even have to be a resident of the country – you can start a business on a tourist visa.
9. A standard 90-day tourist visa allows you to buy an existing business, like a hotel or B&B, or to build your own.But, the vast majority of expats that live in Costa Rica and work in-country find jobs in these fields:
• Teaching English
• Booking for tourism
• Blogging, books, websites, and other online content
• Selling real estate
• Working for a U.S. or international company in Costa Rica
10. Work visa can be a little difficult to qualify for. You must first prove that you are filling a position that a Costa Rican is not qualified for or incapable of doing, and an employer must sponsor you.
Do you want to read all 50 fun and useful facts about moving to Costa Rica? You can download it here.
Or, if you're serious about moving to Costa Rica and living the expat lifestyle, check out the #1 resource in the world.
-Pura vida, The Official Expat,
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