Costa Rican happinessWe just returned from a trip to Costa Rica. We had planned to post a blog while we were away but due to our own technical limitations we were not able to figure out how to do much more than answer a couple of emails. Oh well.  Not being able to post didn’t seem to push us over the edge.

But back to the point. When we travel around the world, we like to check out the emotional well being of people in other cultures and countries. Our tour guide (Franklin Sanchez) informed us that many Costa Ricans consider themselves as the happiest people in the world.

We wondered how and why that could be the case.

When we returned from our trip (we highly recommend Costa Rica by the way), we looked into some of the literature on happiness. We discovered that happiness has a very limited relationship to income (as long as one is not in total impoverishment). And researchers have looked at many different contributors to happiness.

Across many studies, Costa Ricans tend to rate themselves at the very top of the scale when it comes to happiness. They have a very common expression down there called, “Pura Vida” which roughly translates into “Pure life,” but has a deeper meaning for Costa Ricans who use the phrase to indicate satisfaction, express a philosophy of a strong community, good spirits, and overall sense of well being. They tend to emphasize social and family connections more than financial status. We can honestly say that we’ve never come across a more consistently friendly group of people.

Perhaps it’s the beauty and the incredible climate. Or maybe Costa Ricans appreciate the wondrous environment and wildlife that surrounds them. Costa Ricans are among the most literate populations on the planet. The vast majority of them vote. They have had no standing army since 1948 and chose instead to invest their defense budget into education, healthcare, and the maintenance of the environment.

Perhaps we could all learn something from the Costa Ricans. Pura Vida!

Photo by “ardyiii,” available under a Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial license.



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    Last reviewed: 13 Dec 2010

APA Reference
Elliott, C. (2010). Costa Rican Happiness. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 28, 2015, from


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