Costa Rica may be a Catholic country, but its people absolutely know how to party. Oftentimes they even use religious holidays as an excuse to do so.
Small festivals take place throughout the country all year round, but the celebrations ramp up during the holiday season, and involve everything from bullfighting and carnival rides to fireworks, marimba music, feasts, and jubilant dancing. Zapote, which happens in the eponymous neighborhood in San José, is the biggest of these festivals and features elaborate rollercoasters and the largest bullfights of the year. Palmares—Costa Rica’s equivalent of Octoberfest—is the longest party of the year. And down on the Southern Pacific coast, the traditions of the area’s indigenous people are honored during the Fiestas de Los Diablitos.
Should you tire of tradition, there’s the Envision Festival, a mini tropical Burning Man that happens in Uvita every February, or the Límon Carnival, a raging parade and boozefest on the country’s Caribbean’s side. Don’t forget the Advil.
During this annual festival in January, the fiercest bulls from all over Costa Rica descend on the city’s capital to compete in the biggest rodeo of the year. Additionally, entire blocks are closed off, booths and fair rides are constructed, and the sweet aroma of meat-on-a-stick wafts in the warm air.
Picture Brazil’s Carnival, transport it to the Caribbean port city of Límon, subtract a few thousand people, and there you’ll have Costa Rica’s Carnival. Every year, the costumes and floats that parade through the town seem to grow more elaborate, showcasing the country’s Caribbean culture, fun-loving vibe, and festive people.
Do you like to cover yourself in glitter and dance with abandon? Have you used the word “manifest” as a verb? If you responded yes and yes, this gathering of the world’s trustafarians and psychedelia enthusiasts might be just the festival for you. A campsite and a bunch of stages and booths comprise the four-day hippie extravaganza, which involves art, yoga, music, crunchy food and sacred movement, whatever that is.
This is Costa Rica’s biggest cowboy party, and it lasts two whole weeks. With horse parades, rodeos, musical performances, carnival rides, and a seemingly infinite supply of beer, this festival attracts close to a million people from all over the country. Take the trip, but be sure to keep your wallet in a safe place; Palmares is a pickpocket’s dream.
Fiestas de los Diablitos
Translated to mean Festival of the Little Devils, this event takes place in two indigenous communities, Boruca and Rey Curre, in December and in February, respectively. The villagers don masks and costumes representing ancestral spirits, and then reenact a victory over the Spanish conquistadors via dancing. They also drink chicha, a fermented corn beverage, out of hollow gourds.