Villas del Rio


5 Costa Rican idioms you may want to know

Every country has idioms and phrases everybody use and can mean different things abroad. To avoid mixups in communication it comes in handy to know them before landing, so here are some you might need to study if coming to Costa Rica.

To start you need to learn how to use the most frequent of them all:

Pura Vida

This common used phrase, works as a greeting as well as to agree with someone.  You’ll hear it very often in the streets or closing deals. It means “good vibes” translated but it’s more like "cool + all good"

This is a great way to detect ticos around the world, since they’re the only ones using it on a regular basis.



A more “street” expression to agree with someone. It comes from times when William Walker was invading Central America, armies used to encrypt their messages and one of the most common technique was to interchange letters from the alphabet. This way “tuanis” was “buenos” the good guys and “pelis” was “malos” the bad guys



This is costa rican word that could easily be translated as “dude”, it is quite informal, but most young people use it to refer to others.

Mae is usually applied amongst men who are familiar to each other, women don’t use it. This word isn’t exclusive to Costa Rica, similar words are used in Nicaragua and Honduras referring to a man and sounding very alike “maje”



Similar meaning to “tuanis” it is an expression used when something is really cool or neat. You could hear it from really young people and from older ones.

Comparable words are used in Latin America such as “Chido” in Mexico.



This is a word without an actual translation, it is usually used to express disbelief or astonishment. It is a multipurpose interjection and can mean “Well” o “What?”

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