Arturo Sotillo
Matt Harris

5 Common Costa Rican Phrases

5 Common Costa Rican Phrases

Apr 16, 2019|CulturalWhere we travel| by Jordyn Kalman

Costa Rica is known for its abundant wildlife, powerful volcanoes, gorgeous beaches, and majestic rainforests. But what really make Costa Rica so great are the people who inhabit it. Understanding their distinct culture is vital before visiting this wonderful country, and the best place to start is by learning the local language. Here are a couple essential and widely used phrases and slang terms to know before traveling to Costa Rica so you can interact with the locals, even if your Spanish is a little rusty.

Pura Vida

This is the quintessential Costa Rican phrase that is used by everyone and has many different meanings, all of which are friendly. The literal meaning translates to “Pure Life”, but it can be used as “great”, “fantastic”, “hello”, “nice to meet you”, “thank you”, or “you’re welcome”.  Pura Vida embodies the positive lifestyle many Costa Ricans live by and using it will make you truly feel like you are living the pure life too.

“How’s it going?” “Pura Vida!” 


Tico or Tica is a colloquial term for the native people of Costa Rica. A female Costa Rican is a Tica while a male Costa Rican is a Tico. You will often hear Costa Ricans using it to refer to themselves and others within the country

Gallo Pinto 

While this phrase literally translates to spotted rooster, it refers to a traditional Costa Rican dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It has a base of rice and beans and can be found at almost every restaurant in Costa Rica. The name originated from the speckled color pattern that appears after cooking the rice and beans together.

“Can I have the Gallo pinto please?”

     Gallo Pinto



This slang term means cool, nice or awesome. There are many theories on the origin of this slang term and one of them is that it was derived from English phrase ‘too nice’.

“That girl is tuanis.”


This word is used very casually, especially among men, to call their friends “dude”. It is a friendly and relaxed term to show friendship and one that you will hear frequently in the streets or marketplaces when passing by a group of young men.

“Mae, that mae has no idea what he’s talking about.”

       San Jose streets