Holidays & Festivals
Last Updated: Dec 26, 2013
Costa Rica's love for a good party is contagious. Taste the food, make some friends, learn the traditions and get in the spirit with any number of fiestas, horse parade, and carnivals celebrated throughout the country.
- New Year's Day Celebration: Fireworks light up the country on this national holiday while street parties lure locals with music, dancing and food. In San Jose, festivities are centered around downtown and in the Zapote district. Country-wide. January 1.
- Palmares Fiestas: Two weeks of concerts, bullfighting, folklore dancing and general debauchery. First week of January.
- Coffee Cup: A much-anticipated, week-long junior tennis tournament hosted at the Costa Rica Country Club in San Jose. First week of January.
- Alajuelita Fiestas: An oxcart parade and party to honor the Black Christ of Esquipulas, Alajuela. First week of January.
- Santa Cruz Fiestas: Typical music, folkloric dancing and bullfighting to honor the Black Christ of Esquipulas in Santa Cruz, Guanacaste. Week of January 15.
- San Isidro del General Fiestas: An agricultural fair with flower shows, bullfighting and traditional livestock competitions complete with prizes; held in San Isidro del General, San Jose. First week of February.
- Mardi Gras in Esterillos: A carnival with parades, street foods, music, children's games and dancing. Mid-February.
- CENAC Summer Festival: Free storytelling, theater, movies and other entertainment at the National Cultural Center in San Jose. February 13-16.
- Los Diablitos Games: A re-creation of the fight between the Boruca tribe and the Spanish held in Rey Curre, Boruca. Fireworks, masks and traditional dancing help to set the scene. The indigenous tribe is represented by the diablitos, or little devils, and the Spanish by a bull. Late February.
- Puntarenas Carnaval: A lively, seven-day celebration with food, music and beer in Puntarenas. Last week of February.
- Sun Festival: An annual celebration of the Mayan New Year on February 25 that culminates in a fire ceremony and a gathering to promote solar power. Last week of February.
- Liberia Fiestas: Guanacaste folklore and traditions are celebrated with music, rides and concerts throughout Liberia. Last week of February.
- Bonanza Cattle Show: Bullfights, horse races, rodeos and other events geared toward the nation’s cowboys; held in San Jose. First week of March.
- Dia de los Boyeros: Otherwise known as the day of the oxcart driver, this colorful celebration features traditional parades and exquisitely painted oxcarts on display in Escazu, San Jose. The second Sunday in March.
- International Arts Festival: A central exhibition of first-class art performance theater and dance held in San Jose and surrounding areas. March 15-25 on even-numbered years.
- Fruit Festival: This festival honors the country’s myriad of fruits and their accompanying recipes in Orotina, Alajuela. Taste many unique recipes. Mid-March.
- National Orchid Show: More than 300 species of orchids are on display every year in San Jose; the best win a coveted first place ribbon. Mid-March.
- San Jose Day: Fairs, Catholic masses, bullfights and plenty of street food mark the feast of Saint Joseph; celebrated throughout Costa Rica. March 19.
- International Food Fair: A food fair held in Coronado, San Jose featuring a generous spread of national and international dishes whose proceeds benefits social causes. Third weekend of March.
- Holy Week: Costa Ricans take their Holy Week seriously, but not always religiously – travel peaks during this week and even the most humble hotels can fill up months in advance. The country’s more traditional residents celebrate with religious parades through the streets and wide-scale worship. The week preceding Easter.
- Easter: Celebrations throughout the country.
- Juan Santamaria Day: Parades, music and dancing to honor the nation’s hero, Juan Santamaria, who helped Costa Rica defeat William Walker and the invading Filibusters. Celebrations are held throughout the country. April 11.
- University Week: Exhibits, parades, live music and more held at the University of Costa Rica in San Jose. The last week of April.
- Labor Day: Country-wide processions accompany a day off from work for most of the country and a presidential speech honoring the day. May 1.
- San Isidro Labor Day: Celebrated throughout the country in towns named San Isidro, this day honors the patron saint of farmers and farm animal with blessing of future crops and livestock. Fiestas and parades are common. May 15.
- San Juan Day: A 14-mile marathon from Cartago to San Jose. May 17.
- Corpus Christi Day: A religious festival that warrants a day off from work held country-wide. May 29.
- Saints Peter and Paul Day: Religious celebrations to honor the Catholic saints Paul and Peter held throughout the country. June 29.
- Virgin of the Sea Fiestas: Religious activities, food, music and parades mark the celebration of the patron saint in Puntarenas. The Saturday closest to July 16.
- Annexation of Guanacaste Day: Costa Ricans celebrate the day that the Guanacaste province chose their nation over neighboring Nicaragua in 1824. The biggest celebrations – bullfighting, parades and plenty of drinking – are centered in Liberia, Guanacaste’s capital city, though you'll find celebrations throughout the county. July 25.
- Mango Fiestas: Alajuela is called the City of Mangoes and every July the town celebrates its heritage with crafts, parades, music and plenty of mango refreshments. Late July.
- Virgin of Los Angeles Day: Costa Rica’s largest religious holiday – pilgrims march on foot or on their knees toward Cartago’s Los Angeles Basilica to pay honor to La Negrita and ask for a wish to be granted for them, Costa Rica’s black Virgin. August 2.
- San Ramon Day Parades: Dancing and music help celebrate the arrival of 30 patron saints from nearby towns to honor San Ramon’s own patron saint in San Ramon, Alajuela. August 30.
- Independence Day: Parties and festivals are held throughout the country celebrating Costa Rica's independence from Spain. Traveling south from Guatemala, the flame of independence arrives in Cartago on this day. September 15.
- International Beach Clean-Up Day: A modern celebration, this day joins locals and visitors together to keep Costa Rica's beaches clean and pristine. The third week of September.
- San Isidro Anniversary: A celebration to commemorate the agricultural town of San Isidro, San Jose. October 9.
- Puerto Viejo Carnaval: Seven days of Caribbean parties complete with dancers, parades and live music held in Puerto Viejo. The first two weeks of October in Puerto Viejo.
- Limon Carnaval: A popular festival with Mardi Gras-style decadence celebrated with parades, loud Caribbean rhythms, rum and dancing. Limon. Weekend of October 12.
- Dia de la Raza: A celebration of Columbus’ discovery of the New World and the many cultural influences that helped form modern-day Latin America; held throughout the country. October 12.
- Virgin of Pilar Day: A day of costumes and dancing to honor the patron saint of Tres Rios, Cartago. October 12.
- Corn Fiesta: Traditional parties honoring the corn crop held in Upala, Alajuela that include a Corn Queen crowning and a corn-product costume parade. October 12.
- Dia de los Inocentes: Costa Rica’s version of Mexico’s famous Day of the Dead has people paying their respects to lost loved ones. November 2.
- Coffee Picking Contest: Music and dancing accompany this contest held throughout the Central Valley. Mid-November.
- Oxcart Parade: Similar to March’s Oxcart Driver Day, this celebration honors Costa Rica’s oxcart and agricultural traditions; held in San Jose. Late November.
- Festival de las Luces: Fireworks displays and live concerts start this month-long Christmas celebration of lights, lights and even more lights; held in San Jose. First week of December.
- Christmas Celebrations: Decorations have been up for months, but Costa Ricans really begin to celebrate in early December. This is the best time to begin making tamales – each family has its own recipe. The long preparation process produces one-of-a-kind treats that are distributed as gifts to friends and neighbors. Early December.
- Los Negritos Fiestas: A festive combination of traditional indigenous celebrations and Catholic rituals, this day honors the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception held in Boruca. Week of December 8.
- Fireworks Day: Fireworks help to honor the Lady of the Immaculate Conception in San Antonio de Belen, Heredia. December 8.
- La Yeguita Fiesta: A parade to celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe accompanied by dancing, food and fireworks. Nicoya (Guanacaste). December 12.
- Beginning of caroling season: Christmas carolers begin to sing door-to-door; often to raise money for local charities held throughout the country. December 15.
- Christmas Eve: Traditionally, families attend a large mass on Christmas Eve and open their gifts at midnight. December 24.
- El Tope Nacional: An annual national horse parade that strolls through the center of San Jose where the well-trained animals perform amazing footwork. December 26.
- San Jose Carnival: A huge carnival with large floats, live music and a very happy atmosphere in San Jose. December 27.
- Zapote Fiestas: The Zapote fairgrounds in San Jose transform from tranquil farmers' market to a free-for-all party, offering amusement park rides, fair and street food, inflatable megabars, bullfighting and plenty of libations. December 25 - January 6.
- Los Diablitos Festival: Fireside reenactment of Spanish-indigenous battles, using mood music and traditional masks; held in Boruca. December 30-January 2.
Official Costa Rica Holidays:
- January 1st: New Year's Day
- March/April: Easter Week
- April 11: Juan Santamaria Day
- May 1st: Labor Day
- July 25: Annexation of Guanacaste Day
- Aug 2: Patron Saint Day
- Aug. 15: Mother's Day
- Sept. 15: Independence Day
- Nov. 2: All Soul's Day
- Dec. 25: Christmas Day
- Aug. 30 San Ramon Patron Saint Day
- Sep. 15 Costa Rica Independence Day
- Sep. 20 International Beach Clean-Up Day