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Traditional Costa Rican costumes | © Robert Ciavarro/Flickr
Traditional Costa Rican costumes | © Robert Ciavarro/Flickr
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An Introduction to Costa Rica's National Dress

Picture of Jenn Parker
Updated: 13 March 2017
Costa Rica may be small in size, but there’s nothing diminutive about its culture or traditions. Costa Ricans love to celebrate, throughout the year there are various national and regional festivals, holidays, and celebrations. Whether religious, historical, or region-specific these occasions typically include parades, music, dancing, food, and traditional costumes.

Women

The traditional Costa Rican costume for women is quite beautiful. Women wear long vividly colored skirts (golas), white flounced or ruffled blouses with trimming in different color combinations, and leather sandals. The finishing touch is typically braided hair adorned with a flower. Some women wear an apron that matches their blouse trimming too.

Simple, yet beautiful | © Oscar Carvajal/Flickr
Simple, yet beautiful | © Oscar Carvajal/Flickr

Men

The traditional dress for men is simple, classic and masculine. Men wear a white brimmed hat, a neckerchief with the knot tied in front, a white or light colored shirt, a bright red belt, long pants, and leather sandals (caite). Some men even carry a machete.

Vibrant celebrations call for vibrant accents | © Oscar Carvajal/Flickr
Vibrant celebrations call for vibrant accents | © Oscar Carvajal/Flickr

Regional Differences

Costa Rica is made up of seven different provinces: San Jose, Cartago, Alajuela, Heredia, Guanacaste, Puntarenas, and Limon. Each province has its own unique variation of the traditional costumes for men and women.

For example, in Alejuela, the women often wear a black ribbon around their neck with a gold cross or other type of medallion hanging from it. They also either go barefoot or wear patent leather boots. Men typically wear a red handkerchief with a knot in the front tied around their necks. They also wear blue jeans instead of light colored pants.

Whereas in Limon, the traditional dress for women is a white cotton blouse with colorful trim and a patterned skirt. They also wear African turbans. During celebrations, the women tend to wear carnival-style dresses.

Handmade and bursting with color | © Kate Hooper
Handmade and bursting with color | © Kate Hooper

Now that it is the 21st century, most Costa Ricans dress similarly to Europeans and Americans on a daily basis. However, when it’s time to celebrate, they still take great pride in wearing their traditional national dress.