Costa Rican Phrases You Should Know Before You Go

If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica or any other Spanish-speaking country, brushing up on the local vocabulary is a good idea. This includes Costa Rican-specific phrases you’ll likely hear during your stay. In this article, we’ll look at some of the most important and commonly used Costa Rican words you should know.

¡Pura Vida! – The Meaning Behind Costa Rica’s Most Famous Phrase

One phrase you’ll hear everywhere in Costa Rica is “¡Pura Vida!” which translates to “Pure Life” in English. You’ll find it plastered on signs, menus, clothing, and almost any souvenir within the country. It is a positive phrase about seizing the moment and enjoying life.

You’ll hear it being used as a greeting, in the middle of a conversation, or after someone has said or heard something exciting. It’s a phrase with a “one-size-fits-all” usage and is the most common of all the Costa Rican words.

Addressing People in Costa Rica

When addressing someone in Costa Rica, knowing the appropriate words to use is essential. Unlike many other Spanish-speaking countries, “usted” is the preferred term of address for everyone, even if you’re close to the person. “Tú” is rarely used. Instead, Costa Ricans use “vos.”

The word “mae” is also commonly used as slang for “dude,” but it’s reserved for use between close friends only. If you’re not intimate with someone, it’s best to use their proper name or “usted.”

Tuanis – A Phrase That Means “Cool”

Another famous phrase in Costa Rica is “tuanis.” This word means “good” or “cool” and can be used to express excitement about anything. If someone says something interesting, cool, or exciting, you can respond with “¡Tuanis!”

Estar de goma – Slang for “Hangover.”

If you happen to overindulge in the local beverages, you might find yourself experiencing a hangover. In Costa Rica, they have a phrase for this: “estar de goma.” If you were to drink too many beers the night before, you could say: “Hoy, yo estoy de goma.”

Suave – The Phrase That Means “Calm Down”

If you’re arguing with someone, and things start to get heated, you might hear the phrase “suave” being used. It’s a common phrase to tell someone to “calm down.” If you and a friend get into a heated exchange, you can say: “¡Suave, mae!” which means “Take it easy!”

Al chile – Slang for “Are You Serious?”

If someone tells you something hard to believe, you might hear the phrase “Al chile” being used in response. It expresses surprise or shock in response to what someone says. It translates to “Really?” or “Are you serious?”


These are just a few of the many Costa Rican phrases you will hear during your stay. Spend enough time in the country, and you’ll learn much more! Learning a few words can help you better connect with the locals and understand their culture. So, before you go to Costa Rica, brush up on these essential phrases to help you have a more enjoyable and memorable experience.

-Written by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).

[email protected]


Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it essential to learn Costa Rican phrases before visiting the country?

Learning the local vocabulary is essential to understanding the culture and communicating effectively with locals. It can also make your trip more enjoyable and help you avoid misunderstandings.

What does “Pura Vida” mean?

“Pura Vida” translates to “Pure Life” and is a typical Costa Rican phrase representing a positive attitude and embracing the moment.

When should “tú” be used instead of “usted” in Costa Rica?

“Tú” is rarely used in Costa Rica, and it’s better to use “usted” when addressing someone, even if you’re close with them. “Vos” is a more commonly used informal pronoun.

What does “Tuanis” mean?

“Tuanis” is a Costa Rican slang term that means “good” or “cool” and can express excitement about anything.

Can anyone use the term “mae” in Costa Rica? A: The term “mae” is reserved for use between close friends and shouldn’t be used to address someone you just met.

What is the meaning of “Estar de goma”?

“Estar de goma” means to have a hangover and can be used to describe the feeling after drinking too much.

When is it appropriate to use “suave”?

“Suave,” tells someone to calm down during an argument or heated exchange.

What does “Al chile” mean?

“Al chile” expresses surprise or shock in response to something someone says and can be translated to “Really?” or “Are you serious?”



Fill out the form below to determine your residency category. Or click here!

  • First Step
  • Final Step

Select all options that apply to you

Pensionado (Pension/Disability) Category

Rentista (Fixed Income) Category

Inversionista (Investor) Category

Family ties with a Costa Rican Resident/Citizen Category

My residency company let me down

I am not sure.

Personal Information


Looking for a Loan? – Click HERE.
Looking for Real Estate? – Click HERE.
Looking for Profitable Investments? – Click HERE.

Add Your Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.