Tico Time Zone: One of my favorite things about Costa Rica is how culturally diverse it has become over the past 25 years, Costa Rica is changing. When I first arrived here and paddled out in Jacó almost that long ago, only a handful of gringos were living in the area. Most were surfers or expats with a lame cover story to hide the fact they were running from something. Costa Rica was a weird mix of eclectic journeymen who all seemed to relish the state of living in total anonymity.

As for my own crew, we were a bunch of surf-starved Rhode Island boyz who only wanted to surf, eat, rinse and repeat. The local surfers were a bunch of guys our age wanting to share their culture with anyone willing to live the pure life in Costa Rica. It was like no place I’d ever seen. Everyone was open and laid back. No one had an agenda. Get barreled and assimilate with the local fauna was all that I cared about. As they say, “Surfing is life; the rest is details.” I figured that somebody had to live here so it might as well be us.

We have that mix of
cultural flavor in abundance.

Back then, Jacó was a completely different animal. There were no condos or high-rises. Just a few mom and pop tiendas, two surf shops and one disco called “La Central.” The only thing taller than two stories were the waves at Roca Loca. A former tourism campaign slogan about Costa Rica really fit back then: “No artificial ingredients.”

After the honeymoon was over, I left Jacó and headed up to Playa Grande to live. It was an area experiencing new growth. Besides the consistently empty surf and offshore spots, one other thing stood out — culturally diverse transplantations were starting to bloom here as they were all over the Gold Coast. Walking down the streets, we would notice a French restaurant that wasn’t there before or a Spanish café. Next time it might be an Italian pizza place or a Canadian sports bar … perhaps an Asian fusion place and, of course, a German bakery. Ultimately, I figured I would open an American — specifically, Rhode Island — supermarket and deli. Hell, I thought … it couldn’t be that hard given the lack of local competition. Laugh if you will, but there was a time when we had to go all the way to Santa Cruz every week for a full shopping and supply run!

So that’s how I started “Super Pura Vida and Cabinas” in 1998. The diversity of the area was evident right away. All types of people came into the store. We all had a part in building a new community together in Playa Grande, so we all had our own stories to share about the mutual daily grind in paradise.

There’s a saying here, “poco a poco.” It means you have to learn to take things slow and never forget “they” let us live here. We did take it slow over the years, while sharing our cultural stories, our foods and our idiosyncrasies. By morphing them with the notions of “Tico time” and “pura vida” we emerged as an amazingly diverse and courageous type of new age explorer. It takes all kinds of ingredients to make a great soup, and we have that mix of cultural flavor in abundance here.

I am the proud father of a Costa Rican daughter, and sometimes can’t believe I was granted a cédula and allowed to live here. I thank God every day for all the blessings bestowed on me. I’ve never stopped being amazed at all the cool people, places and things that make Costa Rica a multicultural wonder of the world. I hope and pray this international blue zone will forever keep evolving as the place I like to call Puravidaville!

The Howler Magazine