Why Are Costa Rican’s Always So Darn Happy?

Most people have heard the Costa Ricans are among the happiest if not the happiest people on the planet. Here, we examine why.

Costa Rica People1.jpegMost people are familiar with the “happiest country” index performed by various statistical and societal reporting agencies annually. And it’s common knowledge that Costa Rica consistently ranks very high, if not the highest. Why is that? Is there something in the water?

Speaking as a 30 year resident, I can tell you that I know why, but it took me time for it to sink in. Pura Vida is the motto of this culture and it means Pure Life and is used in casual conversation consistently. It has several meanings and uses… it can mean hello, good bye, your welcome, no problem, thank goodness… but it always means Pura Vida (Pure Life as in Live your Life Purely / to the fullest) and this attitude is woven Into the fabric of this society and it’s what I believe is at the heart of why Costa Ricans are always so darn happy. But as far as tangible reasons, these are the most cited reasons I’ve found in my research.


1) No Army No Cry

In the middle of Central America which in other places used to be well known for civil unrest, Costa Rica made the bold move of abolishing its army in 1949. So instead of investing into war and death, Costa Rica invested into education and health care. It seems logical to me that educated, healthy, not-killed-in-a-war people are far more likely to be happy people!

2) A Genuine Love Of The Land

Costa Rica is a leader in ecological sustainability and are fiercely protective of their most valuable resource… the land, the beaches, the ocean and the ecology. So in 2016, Costa Rica announced aggressive plans to be the first developing country in the world to be carbon neutral by 2021. Some believe this to be a lofty goal, but from where I sit, even if it is, I’m glad they’re aiming high. I’m not even a resident and this makes me happy.

3) Ticos Don’t Dwell On It

A common Tico trait is the philosophy that no argument or fight should last more than 3 days. Tico and mental health professionals agree that holding grudges, refusing to give in and unwillingness to forgive can seriously hamper a person’s ability to be happy greatly. Don’t worry… be

Costa Rica People2.jpeg4) Blue Zone Fever

Costa Rica as a country enjoys a higher than normal life expectancy, and there is an area in Nicoya that has been designated a Blue Zone, which recognizes it as one of the few places on earth with the highest life expectancy. The exact reasons are really a mystery, but many boil it down to a combination of an excellent and affordable health care system, a typically laid back lifestyle and most importantly, the very strong inter-generational relationships within large and strong families. I would also point to #3 above and the next point in #5.

5) You Are What You Eat

Costa Ricans as a whole, eat healthy, fresh foods with few preservatives. Meals usually consists of beans and rice and lots of fresh tropical fruits, vegetables or both. When it comes to dairy, red meat, refined sugar and processed foods, Costa Rica’s consume a fraction of what North Americans do, and there’s a distinct lack of fast food restaurants here, a most welcome perk from where I sit. (Eventhough Fast Food Chains are entering Costa Rica at an alarming rate recently due to the economic boom and relatively large middle class with an ever increasing spending power)

6) Pura Vida Baby!

Costa Ricans insist on a slower pace of life. Consequently, if you are in a hurry, you will be immediately out of place here. Rushing, horn honking, dangerous driving… all considered unsavory traits to ticos. Imagine the loss of stress over the course of a lifetime if you could just notch it back a little. In Costa Rica, it’s easier to do because everyone else is operating at the same pace. So remember, you don’t need to remind your waitress that you’re arroz con pollo is taking a bit too long… just relax, pop open a cerveza and repeat after me… “Pura Vida”.

Costa Rica People3.jpeg7) “What a Beautiful Day”…

Can be said virtually 95% of every day of every year. The temperature varies from just perfect all the time, to cooler in the mountain areas, to hot and humid in the beach areas. But it’s never Miami-hot, and it’s never Canada-cold. My first experience with this was when I moved here from Miami and literally panicked when I saw there was not A/C in my bedroom. By the 3rd night, I was sleeping in my jammies with the window open and 1 light sheet over me, as comfortable as could be. If you’re cold, put on a sweater, if you’re hot, jump in the ocean. Simple!

8) Ticos Love To Please & Be Helpful

I have a rule when asking directions in Costa Rica. Keep asking until 2 directives match. The problem is that they REALLY want to be helpful, and will often give directions to places they’re not sure where it is themselves. This was a source of irritation for me until I realized the source of it. You notice this in all walks of life here, everyone says hello, give a pleasant smile and are courteous and polite. And this is something that DOES rub off on you. So there’s hope for you grumpy curmudgeons out there.