Festivals are a vital part of any culture, and provide insight to the country you are visiting as few other activities will. This guide to Costa Rica festivals will guide you if you wish to plan your visit around festivals in Costa Rica or if you wish to know if there’s a festival going on while you’re here. From the Fiestas de Palmares in Costa Rica to the Limon Carnival and many Costa Rica fiestas in between, take advantage and view the cultural festivities of Costa Rica throughout the year. Festivals comprise a wide range of activities that fall under that one name. From religious celebrations for Catholic Saints, carnivals, topes and fiestas to artistic and musical international events, there’s plenty to be excited about.
January is the month for the Palmares fiestas for the first two weeks of the year. Dancing, concerts, carnival, tope (horse parade), music and tico style bull-fighting. Tico style bull fighting doesn’t injure the animal: what it consists of is a bunch of daredevil ticos attempting to touch the bull as it runs around the ring, armed with nothing but the clothes on their back and a bandanna. The Fiestas de Alajuelita are also in January, the week of January 15th. An ox-cart parade to honor the “Santo Cristo de Esquipulas”, a turno (food, arcade games and music) with a religious procession to the top of the mountain, where the big metallic Alajuelita cross shines above San Jose. This patron saint is also honored in Santa Cruz of Guanacaste with bull fights, dances and marimba music. The Copa del Café is an international tennis tournament for players under 18 years of age, and takes place for a week of this month.
February is known for the Fiesta de los Diablitos in the indigenous village of Boruca in Rey Curre. This festival revolves around a dance dating back to the conquest of Spaniards to America, and you’ll be able to participate in this tribal dance which reconstructs the struggle between the indigenous tribes (the diablitos, or devils) and the Spaniards, represented by a bull. San Isidro del General also hosts its festivities with cattle shows, bullfights and flower expositions. The last week is for the Puntarenas Carnivals: music, dances, games, food and more under the sunny Puntarenas sky.
March and April are varied as well. March is for the Oxcart parade. The second Sunday in March in San Antonio de Escazu you’ll see colorful handpainted oxcarts roll out on the street. This artistic world patrimony is honored with blessings by the parish priests over the competitions, the oxcarts and the produce they help carry. San Jose is also celebrated on March 19th, and in smaller locations with the same name. Orchid expositions and the Ujarras procession to the oldest church in Costa Rica are also highlights of this month. Easter or Holy week takes place in either of these months, and most Ticos will flock to the beaches and parks, celebrating the holidays. Processions throughout the country and most of the businesses and stores close on Thursday and Friday. Juan Santamaría day is on April 11th. He is a national hero used to showcase the power of the humble Costa Rican peasant against the imperialist power, represented by a young boy who dared to burn down the house where Filibuster William Walker was hiding. Parades throughout the city with student bands and music.
May June and July have calmer celebrations such as the Día del Trabajo or work day on May 1st. If you are in Limón, cricket games, domino and dances will entertain you. On May 15th San Isidro Labrador is celebrated with blessings over fields, animals and harvests. The San Juan race takes place on May 17th, a 22.5 Km marathon. July heats up with the celebration for the Virgin of the Ocean, (Virgen del Mar) on the Saturday closest to the 16th. Decorated boats and dingies flock the gulf of Nicoya in this colorful celebration. July 25th is for the Anexion de Nicoya day, when Nicoya, an independent land, decided to join itself to Costa Rica. In Alajuela, enjoy the delicious Mango at the mango festival.
August is the month for Santo Domingo de Heredia, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Costa Rica, dating back to the colony. August 2nd is the day of the Patron Saint of Costa Rica with a religious pilgrimage to the Cartago Basilica. San Ramon day takes place on August 30th with parades from many different towns towards San Ramon, where images of 30 different saints from different locations will meet. September is the Independence day for Costa Rica and several other countries in Central America. A torch is brought running from Nicaragua by school children in relays, arriving at 6 pm, time when all ticos stop and sing the National Anthem, representing the arrival of the news of Independence. The night before there is a light parade by schoolchildren holding lanterns and singing songs.
October and November, is when Costa Rica is at its rainiest, but the Caribbean Coast has its mini dry season, so the Limon Carnivals take place on October 12th. Corn festivals in Upala and Tres Rios de la Union also take place on this auspicious date. November 2nd is all saints day, mandatory visit to cementeries all around the country, and the International Arts Festival starts in San Jose with street theatre, dance, music and many cultural activities for all ages. December is the Fiesta de los Negritos on the week of December 8th. In the indigenous village of Boruca, an ancient ritual is combined with honors to the virgin of the Immaculate Conception with music, inspiring costumes and dances. On December 25th, the Zapote fiestas begin and mark the end of the year with amusement park rides, food, drinks and Costa Rican bullfights, as well as the Tope, the Carnival and much more. Enjoy Costa Rica through its festivals, and learn about culture in a fun and entertaining way.