Underrated Festivals and Celebrations in Costa Rica

Call for celebration © Corporacion de deportes/Flickr
Call for celebration © Corporacion de deportes/Flickr
Photo of Jenn Parker
25 August 2017

Throughout the year, there are all sorts of festivals and celebrations taking place in Costa Rica. While festivals such as Jungle Jams or Envision Festival are advertised outside of Costa Rica and popular amongst international travelers, the more traditional and culturally rich festivities are often overlooked by visitors simply because they are unaware of them. Here are some lesser-known festivals in Costa Rica that you won’t want to miss.

Las Fiestas de Zapote

Las Fiesta de Zapote, located in the town of Zapote, is the biggest rodeo of the year in Costa Rica. This is the fiesta of all fiestas. This iconic celebration takes place from the 25th of December through New Year’s Eve; the Costa Rican’s really know how to wrap up their year with a bang. Over a million people will attend Las Fiestas de Zapote. During this week, there will be a huge tope (a horse parade), traditional bull fights (very different from bull fighting in Spain), carnival rides and games, plenty of food stalls serving up fiesta favorites (pupusas, churros, and chicharrones), live music, and lots of late night dancing.

Run! | © esbie/Flickr

Fiestas Palmares

This is one of Costa Rica’s “rowdiest” fiestas and host to the biggest tope in the country. Between January 15th and the 26th a fifth of Costa Rica’s population will attend this booze-heavy party. Imperial sponsors this event, so you can rest assure there will be no shortage of beer! This giant fiesta brings in international acts for entertainment along with carnival rides, games, bull fights, and all the traditional fiesta foods. The sleepy coffee town of Palmares is transformed into party central every year for this famous festival.

Día Nacional del Boyero

Each year on the second Sunday of March a beautiful parade takes place in San Antonio de Escazu to celebrate the tradition of oxcart drivers, the oxen, and the vibrant oxcart art. During the festival, hundreds of oxcarts, drivers, and oxen pairs show up from all over Costa Rica. This tradition is a rich part of Costa Rica’s history and culture and there is a lot of pride taken in the creation and display of the oxcarts. The parade is complete with music and the day ends with a firework display.

A colorful tradition | © Bob Betzen/Flickr

International Festival of Arts

During the summer, typically the end of June through the beginning of July, the Sabana Metropolitan Park in San Jose transforms into a festival site in honor of the arts. There are multiple main stages set up throughout the park where theatrical performances from the National Theatre and Melico Sabzar Theatre take place, as well as concerts and circus-like acts. Around 2,000 artists from 28 countries attend the festival to share their art. There are around 320 different art shows at the festival. This is a spectacular cultural and art event that the entire family will enjoy. There are plenty of kid-friendly activities and performances here too.

El Porton Rojo by Teodorico Quiros | ©Micah MacAllen/Flickr

Fiestas de los Diablitos

The Festival of the Little Devils takes place in two indigenous villages (Boruca and Rey Curre) at two different times at the beginning of the year. This festival celebrates the Boruca tribes’s victory over the Spanish conquistadores. The men of the village dress up as diablitos or ancestral spirits and one person dresses up as the bull, which represents the Spanish conquistadores. The Boruca tribe is famous for their exquisite handmade and painted masks, which are used during the various performances that take place over the three-day celebration.

Hand carved and painted | © Razvan Orendovici/Flickr

Orotina Fruit Festival

Every year during the third week of March, one of the main agricultural zones of Costa Rica, Orotina, puts on a fruit festival to celebrate its heritage, culture, and agricultural traditions. Farmers are carefully selected to display and sell their fruit based on the quality of their fruit and their dedication to environmentally friendly farming practices. There is a huge open-air market, workshops that are aimed at teaching farmers and attendees environmental awareness, a Miss International Fruit beauty pageant, a tope (horse parade), music, food and drinks, and carnival rides and games. This is a great place to experience all of the amazing exotic fruits of Costa Rica.

Everyone's celebrating fruit | © jg world/Flickr

Limon Carnival

Every October for 10 days a massive party and celebration takes place on the Caribbean coast in the city of Limon. The Limon Carnival is a celebration of the Afro-Caribbean culture and those who originally came to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica to work for the banana plantations and railroads. This lively event is Limon’s version of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. There are incredible food vendors, tons of music and dancing, live performances, parades, and a lot of drinking. This is a party you don’t want to miss!

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