Cultural festivals :
Catholicism is the main religious denomination in Costa Rica and it reflects in the celebrations. Typical « fiestas » take place country-wide all year long. Whether celebrating a Patron Saint’s day or a national holiday, these fiestas generally feature lots of good food, music, rides, « topes » (horse parades), and Tico-style bullfights (the bull is teased, but not harmed).
Palmares Civic Fiestas – first two weeks of January
Folk dances, carnival, music, rides, and bullfighting.
Alajuelita Fiestas – week of January 15
Honors the Black Christ of Esquipulas, Alajuelita’s Patron Saint, with ox-cart parade, procession to huge iron cross on the mountain and more.
Santa Cruz Fiestas – week of January 15
Folk dancing, marimbas and bullfighting.
Copa del Café – Middle of January
Week-long tennis tournament held at the Costa Rican Country Club (San Jose) – international participants are under age 18.
San Isidro del General Fiestas – First week of February
Cattle Exhibit, agricultural and industrial fairs, bullfights and flower exhibition.
2nd Annual Mardi Gras Esterillos Oeste – Schedule for Feb. 13th.
Parade at Noon, and party all day, food, music, children’s games. Fun for ALL!!!.
Fiesta of the Diablitos – late February.
South of San Isidro del General in Boruca Indian Village of Rey Curre, it’s a recreation of the fight between Indians (diablitos) and the Spanish (a bull), where colorful wooden masks and costumes create the scene, dances, fireworks. Sale of crafts and the Fair of National and Imported Products.
Puntarenas Carnival – Last week of February
Week-long fun in the sun.
San José –
Cattle Show with bullfights, rodeo and horse races.
Escazu – Dia de los Boyeros (Oxcart Driver’s Day) – Second Sunday of March
In San Antonio de Escazu, don’t miss the colorful parade of oxcarts, competitions and the blessing of the animals and crops by local priests.
Bring your camera.
National Orchid Show – Mid-March.
over 500 local and foreign species and hybrids are on display.
Saint Joseph’s (San José) Day – March 19
Religious celebration in all the neighborhoods with that name, with fairs and special Masses.
Ujarras – Middle of march
A religious procession from Cartago to ruins of first church in Costa Rica.
Holy Week – March or April
Huge processions in all parts of country during Easter week. San Jose virtually shuts down Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday.
Juan Santamaría Day – April 11
Commemorates Costa Rica’s national hero, the barefoot soldier who gave his life in the battle against William Walker’s troops in 1856. Week-long celebrations with marching bands, parades, concerts, and dances.
Labor Day – May 1
marches, President gives annual « state of the union » address to Congress, election of Congressmen.
Puerto Limon – May 1
picnics, dances, crickets matches and dominoes.
Escazu – San Isidro Labrador’s Day – May 15
In San Isidro all over the country, celebrations honor the Patron Saint of farmers and farm animals with blessings of animals and crops, parades and fairs.
Carrera de San Juan – May 17
San Juan Day, the biggest marathon of year, with runners covering tough 22.5 km. course.
Corpus Christi Day – May 29
Saints Peter & Paul Day – June 29
Puntarenas – Virgin of The Sea – Saturday closest to July 16
Celebrations include colorful regatta of decorated fishing boats and yachts in the Nicoya golf, carrying Puntarenas’ Patron Saint, La Virgen del Monte Carmelo. Special Masses, parades, concerts dances, sports events, fireworks.
Guanacaste Day – July 25
Celebrates the annexation of the « Partido de Nicoya » in 1824, known today as the province of Guanacaste, with fiestas, folk dances, topes, cattle shows, bullfights, and concerts.
Alajuela – Los Mangos Festival, parades, music, craft fairs.
Cartago – Virgin of Los Angeles – August 2
Honors Costa Rica’s Patron Saint , « La Negrita » with nationwide pilgrimage and religious processions to the Basilica in Cartago.
San Ramon – San Ramon Day – August 30
A religious procession of 30 Saints from neighboring towns come to visit the Patron Saint, who lives in the town of the same name – San Ramon goes dancing through the streets, and locals love the parades and fun.
Costa Rica’s Independence Day – Sept. 15
The Freedom Torch is brought from Nicaragua by student relay runners the day before, arriving in Cartago with Costa Rican relay teams at 6 p.m. on the 15th,
when everyone country-wide stops what they’re doing and sings the National Anthem. Kids in every town have « lantern parades » where they carry their home-made « faroles ». Parades, marching bands, parties, and celebrations.
San Isidro del General – October 9
Celebrates anniversary of San Isidro’s founding.
Puerto Limon – Limon Carnival – October 12
Columbus Day is celebrated in style in the port city with week-long street dances, parades, concerts – it’s « Mardi Gras » to a Caribbean beat.
Upala Corn Festival,
Corn Queen contest.
Virgen del Pilar’s Day – Oct. 12
Fair in Tres Rios celebrating their Patron Saint with parade and costumes made entirely of corn husks, grain, and silks.
All Souls day – Nov 2
Day of the dead is observed with family visits to cemeteries to put flowers on loved ones’ graves.
Coffee picking contest, music and dancing
International Arts Festival, plays, street theater and other entertainment.
Fiesta de los Negritos – week of Dec. 8
Held in the Indian village of Boruca, and ancient Indian ritual is combined with honoring the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception – extravagant costumes, music of drum and flute, dance.
Immaculate Conception – Dec 8
Religious celebration – Fireworks
Fiesta de la Yeguita (Little Mare)- Dec 12
Processions, bullfights, fireworks, concerts.
Zapote (San Jose)
Festejos Populares (Year-end Festivals) – Dec 25-31
The fairground is transformed into amusement park with tons of rides and food, bullfights, fireworks.
Tope – Dec. 26
The horse parade to end all horse parades is held downtown San Jose.
Carnival – Dec 27
Once again, downtown San Jose is the scene of a huge wonderful parade with incredible floats and music.
Nationwide Christmas Celebrations – Begin early in December
With homes and businesses putting up « Portales » (Nativity Scenes) which are always unique. Competition for best Portal runs through Dec. 22. Season’s foods include coconut « melcochas » (candy), « chicha » (heady brew from corn), tamales, « rompope » (egg-nog), imported apples and grapes. Las Posadas begin December 15 – carolers go from house to house and are treated to refreshments. At midnight Dec 24, Catholic Churches celebrate the Misa de Gallo (literally, Mass of the Rooster).