From saint’s days to fruit seasons, Ticos find occasions to celebrate throughout the year. Fiestas may include turnos (small fairs), food fairs, animal shows, arts and crafts and carnivals. Below is a listing of some of the country’s most important festivals; check The Tico Times and other local papers for exact dates and locations.
JANUARY Mule Festival, cultural events, sports, contests, food and more in Parrita, central Pacific coast; Palmares Fiestas, first two weeks of month, food, carnival, rides, bingo, horse parades, concerts in Palmares, northwest of San José; Alajuelita Fiestas, week of Jan. 15, honors Black Christ of Esquipulas, patron saint of Alajuelita, south of San José, with oxcart parade, pilgrimage to huge iron cross on mountain; Santa Cruz Fiestas, week of Jan. 15, honors Black Christ of Esquipulas in northwestern province of Guanacaste, with folk dancing, marimbas, other events; Guanacaste String Festival, late January, eclectic mix of musical styles in Tamarindo, northern Pacific coast; Jorge Debravo Day (Poetry Day), Jan. 31, celebrates poetry and the country’s most famous poet, with conferences in different cultural centers and libraries.
FEBRUARY Puntarenas Carnival, first two weeks of month, large, two-week festival in central Pacific port city of Puntarenas; Open-Air Festival, last week of month, National Cultural Center offers free theater, concerts, dance shows in San José, Av. 3, Ca. 11; Monteverde Music Festival, February-March, Costa Rican musicians and artists perform Saturdays in Monteverde Amphitheater, north-central Costa Rica.
MARCH International/National Arts Festival, international/national rotates each year, theater, dance, concerts, art exhibits; Southern Caribbean Music Festival, weekends, March-April, Playa Chiquita, southern Caribbean coast; Canine Festival, first week of month, honors mixed-breed dogs, with contests, raffles, prizes, costumes, flea market, in Plaza Roosevelt, San Pedro de Montes de Oca, east of San José; Liberia Fiestas, first week of month, folk traditions, rides, concerts, in Liberia, capital of northwestern province of Guanacaste; Chiverre Fair, second and third week of month, honors chiverre (a large squash), with sporting and cultural events, dances, in Alfaro Ruiz, Zarcero, Alajuela, northwest of San José; Fruit Festival, second half of month, exhibit and sale of fruits and vegetables, lectures, rides, concerts, food, in Orotina, west of San José on the road to Jacó.
APRIL Juan Santamaría Day, April 11. Commemorates the national hero who died in battle against William Walker’s troops in 1856, with weeklong celebrations, parades, concerts, dances, especially in Alajuela, northwest of San José; Luz de Luna Festival, third week of month, cultural events, folk traditions, dance, concerts, plays, organized by Municipal School of Integrated Arts, in Santa Ana, southwest of San José.
JULY Virgin of the Sea Festival, Saturday nearest the 16th, celebrates Puntarenas’ patron saint, with colorful regatta of decorated fishing boats and yachts in Gulf of Nicoya, masses, parades, dances, sporting events, fireworks, in Puntarenas; Annexation of Guanacaste, July 25, celebrates Guanacaste’s decision to be part of Costa Rica instead of Nicaragua in 1824, with fiestas in Liberia, folk dances, parades, cattle shows, bullfights, concerts, tourist fair.
AUGUST International Music Festival, dates vary, featuring musicians of different genres; National Adventure Tourism Festival, latter part of month, competitions, demonstrations, food sales, in Turrialba and Cartago, east of San José; Afro-Costa Rican Culture Week, Celebration of black culture, leading up to parade in Caribbean port city of Limón on Black Culture Day, Aug. 31.
SEPTEMBER Independence Day, Sept. 14, relay race across entire Central American isthmus, student runners carry Freedom Torch from Guatemala to Costa Rica, torch arrives at Parque Central in evening, national anthem is sung nationwide, relay ends in Cartago. Homemade-lantern parades, drum beating, school parades across country.
OCTOBER Carnaval in Limón, Mardi Gras to a Caribbean beat, weeklong street dances, parades, concerts; International Guitar Festival, date varies; San Isidro de El General Festival, Oct. 10, celebrates founding of this crossroads town in Southern Zone; National Baroque Festival, second week of month, Santa Ana Church; Fiesta del Maíz, mid-October, celebrates corn, with parade, costumes made of corn husks, grains and silks, in Upala, near the northern border.
NOVEMBER Oxcart Driver Parade in San José, last Sunday of month. Oxcart drivers camp in La Sabana Park and hold Campesino Song Festival, firecrackers, parade along Paseo Colón, Av. 2, finishing at Plaza Víquez.
DECEMBER Christmas Choir Festival, first week of month, choirs from around country perform at National Theater in San José; Dance Festival, first two weeks of month, national and international dancers, seminars; Festival of Light, second week of month, parade of floats adorned with lights, concert, fireworks, in San José; Fiesta de los Negritos, week of Dec. 8, ancient rituals combine with Catholicism to honor Virgin of Immaculate Conception, with costumes, music, dance, in indigenous village of Boruca, Southern Zone; Fiesta de la Yegüita
(Little Mare), week of Dec. 12, blends ancient indigenous rituals to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe, with processions, concerts, fireworks, special foods, in Nicoya, Guanacaste; Festejos Populares (Yearend Festivals), end of-year celebration, in southern San José fairgrounds at Zapote, amusement park with rides, food, music, fireworks; Tope, Dec. 26, the horse parade to end all horse parades, downtown San José; Carnival, Dec. 27, huge parade with colorful floats, music, downtown San José; Fiesta de los Diablitos (Little Devils), Dec. 31-Jan. 2, indigenous people of Boruca enact a dance between the little devils (the indigenous) and the bull (the Spaniards), with handmade masks, flute and drum music, in Boruca, Southern Zone.