You can’t call yourself fluent in Costa Rican Spanish unless you understand its slang. Here, I have a few slangs you must learn before coming to Costa Rica.
Un Aguila: Literally means “an eagle” but it’s used to refer to the Imperial beer that has an eagle on its label. If you ask for an “águila” you will be served an Imperial.
Choza: Means a shack but refers to someone’s home or casa. For example, vamos a jalar a la choza (let’s go home). Chante is also slang for home.
Chunche: This is an all-purpose word that can refer to almost anything or an object.
Cuidado pierde: This is a popular expression nowadays and means “you can’t go wrong,” “can’t miss,” or “you can’t lose.”
Mae: Means “guy,” “man,” “buddy,” or “dude.” Some women also refer to each other by this term, una mae. Hacerse el mae means “to play dumb” or “to turn a blind eye.” Mae or maje can also mean stupid or dumb, so be careful how you use this word.
Mejenga: It’s an informal or “pick up” game of soccer (fútbol) among friends.
Pura vida: This is the de-facto national motto that reflects the country’s incredible lifestyle.
Solo bueno: Means “only good” and also reflects life in Costa Rica.
Tico/a: This is another name for a person from Costa Rica or a Costa Rican (costarricense). Since Costa Ricans frequently use the diminutives tico/tica to the end of words as suffixes, the term tico evolved to refer to the locals.
Tuanis: Means “good” or “cool” and is used at times like the expression, “pura vida.” It is not derived from the English phrase “too nice,” as many believe.
Una teja: Is slang for 100 colones (the official currency). It is also synonymous with the distance of one block, or 100 meters. Finally, there is a daily newspaper called La Teja. Originally it cost 100 colones, giving it its name. As of May 2019, the newspaper costs 250 colones (two tejas and a half).
Vara: Is a “thing” and similar in meaning to chunche. It may also be used in many other ways such as “Qué es la vara?’” which means “What’s up?” or “What’s the deal?” The word can also be used to indicate a joke: Son varas, mae means “just kidding, man.”
Enjoy your trip to Costa Rica!