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Finding the True Meaning of “Pura Vida”

Lauren Blacker

My feelings won't be hurt if you'd like to skip ahead to Ryan's latest fishing report, but I think you'll enjoy my Costa Rica travel update below...

Where we are in Costa Rica, there are no beach chairs. When I asked some people where I could rent a chair, they simply replied, "Find some driftwood to lean on!"

To be honest though that's all I needed, and to make it even more luxurious, I used a boogie board propped up behind me for extra comfort.


Around here, you start to imagine a simpler view of the world.  You are so far from everything comfortable and known in your life, that you just start to melt into this place.  

You live by the weather, the tides and whatever you choose to put in front of you: nothing more, nothing less.  

Everyone in Costa Rica is just so darn happy!

This week we went fishing with one of the best Tico fisherman in the community. If this photo doesn't make you smile, then I don't know what will!

Down here there is no real silence.  

The waves, the animals, the birds and the motorbikes on the dirt road cause quite a ruckus at times, and yet this place is absolutely peaceful and quiet.  

You start to really notice your surroundings and take in the simple pleasures of this place.   

When we first arrived, I was way out of my comfort zone.  I had some song from up north stuck in my head and I just couldn't relax.  

Now, for the life of me I can't even remember what song was in my head, and when a previously stressful thought comes to mind, I can easily let it drift on by.  I just focus on the sound of those waves.

This I think, is true Pura Vida.

Pura Vida simply means, Pure Life.  

To spend your days hanging out with monkeys, fishing for giants in the Pacific, reading a whole book every week, riding horses along the beach, meeting the greatest people on the planet and drinking rum punches.

To eat oysters for the first time off a Tico boat with lime juice and tobasco, and actually liking it.

This is my life down here and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Oysters plucked from the ocean and served minutes later, this was hard not to love

Life in CR

​Costa Rica does not disappoint. The weather, the animals, the people…it’s never a dull moment.

Let me take you through a typical day here.

​It generally starts out with the usual 5am wake up call from the howler monkeys, and as I open my eyes to look out the window, I am always transfixed with the sunlight beaming through the canopy to the ground.

The humidity makes the sunbeams look almost heavenly, and mixed with the sounds of birds, geckos and whatever else is out there, it feels like a dream come true.

The monkeys stop by every so often to say hello next to our house - these are capuchins and they are not always the friendliest, but still cute nonetheless

We sit on our porch overlooking the ocean, listening to the constant sound of crashing waves, drinking our local Costa Rican coffee and enjoying the day ahead of us.

Iggy the iguana usually gets up around the same time as us, and hangs out in his tree before descending for the day.  Sometimes we feed him our leftover fruit from breakfast, as you can see below.

Iggy loves fruit and comes to the porch frequently asking for more

On Thursdays and Sundays, we wait for Emilio, who delivers fresh fruits and vegetables to the little town.

He comes right up to our driveway where we are able to purchase pineapples, mangoes, avocado, papaya, bananas, limes, oranges, jalapeños, peppers, onions, potatoes, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, garlic and cilantro.  

I have never had a better tasting avocado in my life and the pineapple is so juicy and sweet I could probably eat it for the rest of my life - well, pineapple and ceviche.

Ceviche, I need more than anything.

​If you haven't had ceviche yet, you haven't really lived.  It's basically fish and shrimp cooked with the acids of lime rather than heat.

Then jalapeño, onion, pepper, and whatever else are all thrown in.  The fish soaks in the lime juice, the lime juice is strained out and then replaced with new lime juice to be served.

Typically ceviche is served with tortilla chips or (my absolute favorite way) with fried plantains to use as the tortillas.

The Food

​The food here is simple.

Rice, beans, fruits, veggies, fish....cocktails and beer of course.

Everything I cook is seasoned simply with lime juice, tobasco sauce, salt, pepper, oregano, cilantro and/or cumin.

For breakfast, I mash up a banana, mix in some oats and cook it in a little butter on the stovetop for some banana pancakes.  I serve that with the coffee and a fresh fruit juice of avocado, pineapple, papaya, mango and/or whatever else we have.  

I also make a killer eggs and toast combo, all locally sourced in the town.  The bread is baked fresh every morning and can be bought for 800 colones (about $1.60)!  The eggs are local as well and are so fresh.

For lunch, I like to make a salad of chopped tomato, chopped avocado, fresh cilantro, lime juice and salt, with a side of beans of course drizzled with tabasco.

For dinner, it's usually some sort of fish.  

The other day Ryan went out fishing and caught a few little snappers, too small to filet.  I cut slits into the fish and shoved chopped garlic in there, then pan seared the fish in some butter.  

We just picked the meat off the fish together at the table and it was beautiful.

Last night I baked the fish with lime juice, cumin, salt, pepper, oregano, and a little butter.   Baked with the fish was some chopped carrot, pepper, onion and garlic.  We ate that in tortillas with a side of rice and beans.

Oh yeah, beans.  Have I mentioned that already?  The worlds easiest thing to make and perfect to serve with just about any meal.

​The first time I tried to make a pot of beans, I underestimated just how much time goes into the process!  I knew that the beans had to soak for about 12 hours, but I didn't realize it would then boil for almost 2 hours more!  

But anyways, now I've made a few pots of beans, and this is how I do it:

  • Take a big pot and put the rinsed dry beans in and fill it with water, filling about 6 more inches of water over the top of the beans
  • Let the beans soak for about 12 hours, then drain that water and rinse the beans again
  • Fill the pot with water, covering the beans again with 6 inches of water, just like before
  • Put the beans on the stovetop and set the pot to boil
  • Once the water has been boiling for at least 30 minutes, add in a chopped onion, chopped green pepper, 1 whole head of garlic that has been chopped and a seeded and chopped jalapeño 
  • Add about 1/4 cup of cumin along with salt and pepper (add as much seasoning as you want really - beans can be boring without the flavor)
  • Let all that boil for another hour to two hours, depending on how soft the beans are
  • Turn off the heat and allow the beans to sit
  • Add in lime juice and/or tobasco to taste as well as more seasoning if needed

At this point most of the water has either evaporated or seeped into the beans, and voila!  You have beans.

Our other favorite meal down here is peppers stuffed with rice, beans and cheese, then baked in the oven.  I mix in some hot sauce and salsa to the bottom of the pan, then place the peppers on top.  

I then top the beans with more of the rice mixture and bake it until the cheese melts, making the top layer just a little crispy.  It's so good!​

Getting Around Town

Costa Rica is not known for its terrific roads. There's also no AAA to call if you car breaks down. Getting around can be a real challenge.

For the most part we have been walking and utilizing local boats to get from place to place. ​

Boat taxis are often the best way of getting from place to place. A typical trip can cost anywhere from $5 to $125 depending on how far you need to go.

Motorbikes, regular bikes and 4 wheel drive trucks are the most commonly used vehicles for navigating the roads. We don't have a car of our own down here but fortunately for us some of our new friends do.

Recently our friend Noah and his young family invited us to go exploring. We headed out around 10am in his old Toyota Land Ranger.  

I’ve seen Toyotas on the roads up north, but never thought twice about what they were capable of.

This thing was a machine!

You best be prepared for anything and everything when driving on Costa Rica's roadways!

The roads down in this part of Costa Rica are known for being some of the worst.  Huge potholes pave the way, so only a knowledgable driver of the area should be doing it.

Our journey began with a drive through cow and horse farms, past little shacks and stucco and wood houses.  

We paralleled a narrow river for a short time, and learned that the river was teeming with snakes. The locals who live across from the river had to abandon the idea of owning chickens, because for a while, chickens were all the snakes ate.

Life is pretty simple out there. Every house we passed had people milling about in the yard, waving as we drove by.  Some just lounging in hammocks watching the day passed by.

A little ways down to the road, we passed a small barn with what looked like a small calf on the ground next to his mother.  We stopped, learning very quickly that he must have been born just minutes before, so we watched him take his first steps, then figure out where the milk was.

It was wonderful.

Soon the road turned from open grassy pastures to dense rainforest.

Through hairpin turns, across narrow bridges and through rivers and streams, we made our way along.  We stopped every once in a while to take oranges or coconuts off the trees, and once trying to grab some limes that were just too high.

The exotic flowers bloomed in every direction, and everything was a lush green, just like you would expect in a rainforest.

After one harrowing turn across a very high, very narrow bridge, Noah turned off the road, down the river bank, into the river, down the river, up the river bank, through the rainforest and out to the beach where a few little shacks were.

There we met some very interesting locals who literally lived "off the beaten path."

We first stopped to see a Tico who makes sculptures out of a type of clay found here, a tradition that dates back thousands of years. Sitting next to his space was a surfboard, and I instantly knew this guy had it figured out.  

Make some art sculptures and go surfing - pura vida!

Right next to him was another Tico living in a small shack, just big enough for his bed, a tv on the wall, a sink, stove and counter.  Cocoa shavings littered the floor and the heat was almost unbearable.

That was it.  It sounds terrible to some, but if you walked in and smelled the aroma that I smelled, you’d think you walked through heaven.


Fresh homemade chocolate in the making

Chocolate is all this man makes.

With leche (milk) or just as dark cocoa with almonds, whatever he decides for the day. The process is demanding, and his prices certainly don’t match the labor.

For 1000 colones (about $2.00), we each got a huge piece of chocolate that came right out of the rainforest.  I hadn't realized until then that we were surrounded by cocoa trees growing everywhere!

So after purchasing our chocolate, we headed back down the river and onto the road again.  It was Saturday, so many people were out enjoying the day as well.

We parked our car near a tidal river and headed down to take a dip in the cool clear water. I looked across the river and to my surprise, found wild horses taking a nap in the shade of an almond tree next to the beach!

I couldn’t believe my eyes; it was a scene I have always hoped to see. I quickly grabbed my camera and headed over, snapping pictures and taking it all in.

The wild horses here are descendants from a northerner who settled in in the area many years ago, who purchased horses for his daughter.  

What is now forest was once cleared land used for farming.  All that is left now are the descendants of those horses, which I was lucky enough to meet.

It was a black sand beach, with turquoise water and stunning views.  Huge rocks lined the beach, some with palms growing right out of the tops of them, and surfers and backpackers roaming freely.

We ate at an Italian restaurant of all places, having some very good pizza with a spicy, peppery sauce similar to a pesto.  It was a little Italian and a little Costa Rican all in one - perfectly fit together.  

By the end of the trip I was exhausted. So much to see and do in Costa Rica, and not enough energy in the world to see every bit of it. 

But speaking of really cool experiences...

The Roosterfish Extravaganza

Ryan will get into the real specifics of the fishing in his report, but thank the Gods above, he finally caught a huge Roosterfish! 

I couldn't believe it.  Just look how gorgeous these fish really are.

After Ryan wrestled the fish out of the water, we stood in awe of this beast from the waves, and then took some photos, as you can see.​  

It was amazing!

Ryan said the Rooster fought much harder than any striped bass he has ever hooked from shore. 

If you missed the video, you can see for yourself by pressing play below.​

But big Roosterfish is not all Ryan's been catching.

As usual he's been fishing like a maniac, and 2 nights ago he hooked up with and lost what he thinks was the largest fish he has ever hooked from shore.

Now his goal is to wrangle a huge Snook, Corbina or 60+ pound Roosterfish from the beach.

Click below for Ryan's full fishing update.​

  1. Awesome report, like your observation for EVERYTHING else other than fishing. Great notice about local food, and bean is one of my favorite veggies. Usually I’m making bean soup, will follow up with recipe, I promise.
    Happy New Year

  2. Lauren,
    You’re inspiring us to eat more healthy, something we have always wanted to do. This morning Betsy made an omelet with leftover grilled salmon, carmelized onions that I made last night, sharp chedder, and leftover pesto from a previous dinner at Sweet Basil. Served with Ezikial toast, accompanied by slices of mango and banana. Delicious! Right now I have a pot of beans cooking on the stove. Smells great!
    Ryan take care of that finger. You don’t want an infection in the jungle. Betsy says almonds and avocados have lots of omega 3 that promotes healing.

  3. Lauren,awesome job.not only are the stories your sharing with us are nice to read.Its so nice to see two people share love,and enjoy each other as it seems you and Ryan two love birds were meant to be together.if and when you guys get married.dont like your man Ryan do the STRIPER SHUFFLE .lol.if you haven’t seen it.please ask him.???

    1. Haha no I haven’t seen this so called Striper Shuffle! I’ll certainly ask him later to show me, maybe after some cerveca’s!

    2. Your journal continues to imrrove and is quite enjoyable to read. It seems that you are almost ready to go native. Your pictures are still great.

      Maybe you and Ryan can be a speaker at our (Pine Hills) during one of our meetings this coming season.

  4. Lauren
    Thanks for the wonderful insights about the trip and all the things you are experiencing. It is a joy to read them and to see how much fun you are having there in CR.

    1. Thanks Richard! Every day here is wonderful. Today we hiked through the jungle to see a waterfall, tomorrow we are going to watch the parade that comes through town, followed by a big fiesta afterwards. So much to enjoy here!

  5. Ryan I’m glad your having a good time my cousin lives there and has been trying to get me to come visit. After all your photos and videos I might just have to go.

    1. Absolutely Harlee, I think it will be well worth the effort.

      CR is a great country with some fantastic fishing!

  6. Lauren

    It was nice to see you on a horse. He didnt look to happy but I know you were. Hi to Ryan

    1. Haha well no he wasn’t happy in that picture because I made him stand away from his other herd mates so I could get a photo of just me. He followed his friends everywhere and would get so mad if I wanted to stop and look at something! Horses are so funny, they all have a personality 🙂

  7. Hey Lauren:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your journal of adventures. It makes me want to be a bit younger and adventurous. I too, will be trying to make the beans. Its great that they deliver your fresh food to you, even in the jungle. This is a wonderful way to have a vacation, living as the native people do. Enjoy,,,you both deserve it.. Keep the stories coming.Jean

    1. Thanks so much Jean! Let me know how the beans turn out, it’s now become a staple of our diet down here. I may not eat beans for quite a long time after we get home though!

  8. Fantastic review – I’ve been there once, from a little cabana in Montezume where I caught my first rooster from the beach around 30lbs, and 3 big snook, to arenal for the volcano, and quepos for sailfish. Love the Ticos and the Ticas – you really describe it beautifully, and make me log to return!

    1. Thanks James! I’d like to see Montezuma at some point, along with a few other places in Costa Rica! I’ve heard it’s beautiful there.

  9. Here I am on Cape Cod and going to have to wait a while for the fish to show up next spring. Really enjoying your wonderful coverage of your adventure’ Keep it coming

    1. Thanks Bill – more to come shortly!

  10. Well,Well, Well Lauren.

    My how far you have come in just a short time from your first post arriving at the jungle home to now. You both need to do some serious soul about what is truly important in your lives, and about continuing to live the stress filled, all about me, keeping up with the Jone’s life that most Americans are stuck in.

    You and Ryan have gotten out of your comfort zone box by taking this trip to Costa Rica. Now let’s see if you both have the inner strength to just make this your life. My wife Pat, and I, both had corporate jobs that we hated. We both, under very different circumstances, left our comfort zone jobs, and moved to the Tropics.

    Initially, this took Pat to the island of St Croix, while I went to St John. Both are in the USVI. When we met, got married, we moved back to the States only to realize that we had been gone too long. The call of the Tropics was way too strong. Too much hustle, bustle, stress, you name it.

    We moved to the Dominican Republic over 4 years ago. I lost over 50 pounds just by changing my diet to eating fresh local produce, eggs, meat, and cutting out all the processed crap that Stateside folks poison their bodies with on a daily basis.

    Waking to the sounds of tropical birds, the ocean, is so good for the soul.

    I wish you and Ryan nothing but the very best. Take the chance, make the move. Both of you have “jobs” that can be done over even the limited internet you have available in Costa Rica. As the American Express ads say..The Costa Rican Experience……Priceless.

    Go for it you two.

    Doug Yankauer

    1. That’s wonderful Doug! I’ve heard a lot of great things about the DR, and I agree that living down here, if done correctly, can be so much healthier! I’ve never felt better down here. Thanks for reading!

  11. Lauren, You definitely have that gift of expressing your feelings and happenings through writing. Reading your article just about puts the reader there in person. It sounds like this vacation for you and Ryan is meeting all of your expectations and probably many more. The fishing is great for Ryan, but to combine that with your interest in the land, animals, cooking and living conditions makes your trip even more special I’m sure. Keep going with the writings about your trip, and keep the recorder on when Ryan hooks into a nice fish- that is only a matter of time with Ryan. Enjoy the rest of your trip and stay safe !!! As nice of an experience you are both having in CR , I bet you are looking forward to driving over the “bridge” to come home to Cape Cod – unfortunately all good things come to an end. Don B

    1. Yes I’m starting to miss home a little, and being back will be nice, but I’m really going to miss this place. I am loving taking photos of the fish for Ryan – they are so beautiful and the colors on them make it so fun to photograph. Luckily Ryan and I have found a good balance :). Thank you so much for reading and I’m so happy you are enjoying it! I will have something new up shortly!

  12. Hey Lauren,
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story. I’ve read about Ceviche but never tried making it. Now I will have to try. That and the home made beans as well. The food all looks so wonderfully simple and tasty.
    I am amazed by how you can go out into the wilderness and find delicious fruit to pick off the tree and eat. We all need to find a way to bring a bit of “Pura Vida” into our own lives!

    1. Ceviche!!! I dream about it every day, it’s so good. You just need about 30 limes to make the darn dish though! I have a pot of beans cooking right now which should get us through the week, but you’re right, everything is cooked with simple ingredients that bring out the real freshness of the foods. It’s very refreshing. Let me know if you end up cooking any of it and I’ll try to put up some other recipes shortly. Thanks for reading Dex!

  13. How many times, and I’m willing to bet on this, have you said F America already? Paradise on earth. Those GD howler monkeys make quite a noise for such a little animal. You think King Kong is on his way when you hear them….enjoy yourselves, and excellent blogs about CR.

    1. Haha no no! We still have our reasons to love home!! The howlers are quite loud though – there is also a type of hawk that screeches like he is dying, it’s awful. That happens right after the monkeys finish their howls in the morning. Thanks though for reading I really appreciate it!

  14. Hi Lauren, I am having an awesome time reading this, you just got me back to those days when everything we had was pure organic food like the food you guys get, until this day I still cook black beans and make ceviche all the time, so when you guys get back feel free to ask for some and we will make it lol, that’s the life people have there, they don’t have a fortune ($$$$) but they have something even better than money and it’s the joy, happiness and peace a paradise like that one can give them, many people here they think if they don’t have thousands in the bank account they can’t even sleep… there that’s not the case…, I totally agree about the fruits and avocado, the best avocado and mango salad with cilantro, black beans and lime juice…. mmm so yummy make me hungry lol.

    Love the calf, thats something I still remember. In our farm we just to take care the calf right after it was born until milking the cows… so pretty… by the way I like the ride in the horse… many memories came alive…
    I hope to meet you in person and talk about it some day…
    Great post.

    1. Thanks Mario!

      We are leaving in a few minutes to spend some time kayaking in a lake near our house and maybe find some fish – we will see! I just hope I don’t see any boa’s, croc’s or who knows what else is in there.

      This place is wonderful and every day is a new adventure. I’ll be posting again soon and I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

      1. I enjoy your posts on your experience in C.R. I’ve had a few trips, like yours, only in the northern side of the continent. Those trips, I treasure in my memories, as I m sure this trip will be in one of yours


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