Tips for Vacation Rentals in Tamarindo, pt. 8

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Tips For Getting The Best Tamarindo Costa Rica Vacation Rentals Pt. 8: Spanish 101 for Renters

So far in our blog series “Tips for Tamarindo Vacation Rentals” we have given advice on the best ways to find your perfect propertychoosing a location, what you might get in each price range, as well as covered what to expecthow to prepare, and what to do. In the last installment we gave tips for the best ways to get around Tamarindo.  In this installment we will give you a crash course in Spanish including local colloquialisms to help you fit right in.

The Basics

Okay, if you are reading this blog we will assume that English is your first language, and maybe your Spanish is in need of some tuning up.  Costa Rica, like any other Spanish speaking country around the world has its own unique approach to the Spanish language with many colloquialisms, sayings, and slang. That said, the Spanish you might use in Spain or Mexico for example, may not translate or sound the same to you here in Tamarindo. While we can’t even scratch the surface when it comes to vocabulary, we’ll give you some tips on how to get by on the basics and give you a few insights into the local dialect.

First off we recommend picking up a Costa Rica Spanish phrasebook like the one the folks at Lonely Planet publish.  Let’s assume that you know no Spanish and are coming here to immerse yourself in the local culture and language. Well, we have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that you will have no problem communicating with the majority of people you come in contact with. The bad news is that because of Tamarindo’s international appeal, the majority of locals here speak English to some degree or another, hence your Spanish immersion may be more like a shallow wade if you are not committed to speaking only Spanish during your visit.

This works the other way as well: if you have no inclination or aptitude in the Spanish language you should have relatively few issues communicating, especially if you pick up some of the basics we will provide for you here. For renters we’ll give you some specific terms for speaking with staff and such.

Lets start with the obvious,  Hello = Hola (the H in hola is silent), House = Casa, Car = Carro, Bathroom = Baño, Keys = Llaves, (pronounced <yah-veys>),  “Do you speak English?” = “Habla usted Ingles?” (remember the “H” is silent). Of course we could go on and on here, but these are the very basics, and at the risk of being obvious we think these are the most useful phrases to those who have zero Spanish.  A few more specific words and phrases for renters are: Office = Oficina, Telephone number = numero de teléfono, “Where is the beach?” = “Donde está la playa?”.  If you really want to start speaking better Spanish there are several Spanish schools in Tamarindo that offer classes for visitors. We recommend you ask your Tamarindo vacation rental agent and they can provide you with the contacts for lessons during your stay if you are so inclined.


As you may already know, Costa Ricans affectionately refer to themselves as “Ticos”, and one of the traits of the amicable Tico is to speak in a very informal and upbeat dialect of Spanish that uses many forms of slang or “pachuquísmo”.  This can make the formally educated Spanish student’s head spin since many common words are shortened or pronounced in odd ways.  It takes a bit of time to pick up but we will give you a couple of the most common phrases used day to day. “Pura Vida”:  In a previous post we described the Pura Vida lifestyle and attitude of Ticos.  The phrase literally translated means “pure life”, but it encompasses much more. It can be a greeting, a response to a greeting, a sarcastic retort, and even an exclamation of joy.  If a Tico asks “como estas?” reply “PURA VIDA!” and you will be sure to get a warm response! It is the unofficial Costa Rican national phrase.

“Tuanis”:  This term is a true Spanglish mash up and is particular to Costa Rica.  Although the roots of the word are a bit ambiguous, the common explanation is that it came from the English phrase “too nice”.  The Tico usage is to denote something that is greatly appreciated, cool, or excellent.  It’s not uncommon to hear the phrase “Mae, que tuanis!” when someone is happy with someone or something.

“Mae”:  Mae (pronounced <my>) is informal slang for “man”, or “dude” or even “chick”.  When listening to Ticos speak amongst themselves informally the speech will be peppered with “mae…” , “mae?”, “mae!”.   It is a common phrase of youth culture and although specifically masculine, it’s not uncommon to hear young women refer to one another as “mae”.  Mae, oh my!

“Chorizo”:  While Spanish students will recognize the word chorizo as referring to sausages, the Tico twist refers to bribes, payoffs, or favors.  You might offer a “chorizo” to a traffic officer in exchange for lenience, although we don’t recommend it! When it comes to Ticoisms, the list goes on and on, and the definitions and usages can be confusing, but keep an open ear and mind and you might learn to speak like a true Tico for better or worse! Get yourself a Spanish to English dictionary specific to Costa Rica, maybe take some classes, and have fun trying out your Spanish during your time in Tamarindo.

Horizon Pacific Management & Rentals logoHPV Costa Rica House Rentals is located in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Horizon Pacific offers vacation rentals, property management, long-term rentals, as well as a complete concierge service. Providing you with a local contact during your stay, Horizon Pacific is a company you can trust, with the experience you need.

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