5 Best Festivals in Costa Rica

Costa Rica may officially be a Catholic country, but its people absolutely know how to party. Here, the top five Costa Rican festivals to attend this year.

Top Festivals in Costa Rica
Photo: Eugene Cambronero/Courtesy of Fiestas Palmares

Costa Rica may officially 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. Fiestas de Zapote, which happens in the eponymous neighborhood in San José, is the biggest of these festivals and features roller coasters, concerts, and the largest bullfights of the year. Fiestas Palmares — Costa Rica's equivalent of Oktoberfest (in terms of how much beer is poured) — is the longest party of the year. And down on the southern Pacific coast, the traditions of the area's Brunca people are honored during the Juego de los Diablitos.

Should you tire of tradition, there's the Envision Festival, a mini tropical Burning Man that happens in Uvita every February. Don't forget the Advil.

Fiestas de Zapote, San José

During this annual festival at the end of December, the fiercest bulls from all over Costa Rica descend on the country's capital to compete in the biggest rodeo of the year. Outside the ring, amusement-park rides elicit squeals of delight, couples young and old dance to live cumbia and la ranchera, and the sweet aroma of pinchos de carne wafts through the warm air.

Carnaval de Limón

Picture Brazil's Carnaval, transport it to the Caribbean port city of Limón during the second full week of October, subtract a few thousand people, and you'll have Costa Rica's Carnaval. Every year, the costumes and floats that parade through the town seem to grow more elaborate, showcasing Limón Province's Afro-Caribbean culture.

Envision Festival, Uvita

If you're looking to indulge in healing ceremonies, sunset celebrations on the beach, and jungle dance parties, this weeklong gathering of artists, spiritual seekers, and music enthusiasts from around the world might be just the festival for you. Held every February in the Pacific Coast town of Uvita, it features themed campsites, eclectic merch booths, lectures, yoga workshops, a diverse lineup of musicians performing on five stages, and plenty of crunchy food and sacred movement (natch).

Fiestas de Palmares

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 (there are claims it's second only to Oktoberfest in the amount of beer that is served), this festival attracts about 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.

Juego de los Diablitos, Boruca and Rey Curré

Known as the Game of the Little Devils, this commemoration of the Brunca people's resistance against Spanish conquest takes place in two Indigenous communities, Boruca and Rey Curré, in December and in January, respectively. Brunca men don elaborate homemade masks and costumes representing their ancestors, or “the devils”. The Spaniards are portrayed by another Brunca man wearing a bull costume. Over the course of four days, the devils and the bull travel throughout each town to engage in semi-choreographed “battles”. At a huge party on the last day, locals and visitors celebrate the devils’ ultimate victory by drinking chicha, a fermented corn beverage, out of hollow gourds.

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