Fiesta de Palmares
In the city of Palmares, near Alajuela, the first two weeks of the year are celebrated with concerts, music, tope (horse parades), fireworks displays and rodeos. These rodeos include “tico-style” bullfighting. Here, there is no matador and the only risk of injury comes to the crowd of volunteers that run into the ring and try to touch the angry bull.
Fiesta Patronal de Santo Cristo or Fiestas de Alajuelita
The week of January 15th, Saint Cristo de Esquipulas is honored in San José and Santa Cruz. In San José, an ox-cart parade with a religious procession travel to the top of the mountain where the Alajuelita cross looks down on the city. In Santa Cruz, there is also a parade of ox-carts. In addition, rodeos, folk dancing and street festivities are held for two days.
Festival de las Mulas
What started as hobby for bored locals is now a national festival. For two weekends in late January mule races are held in the small Pacific coastal town of Parrita. The races are held on the beach, along with Costa Rican bullfights, tope (horse parades), music and a crafts fair.
Fiesta de los Diablitos
This festival is a remembrance of the Spanish Conquest over the native tribes (the “little devils”) of Costa Rica. It is held in the indigenous village of Boruca in Rey Curre, where there is tribal dancing in which the Spaniards are represented by a bull.
Expo Perez Zeledón
This festival is held in San Isidro del General. There is Costa Rican bullfighting, cattle and horse displays, rodeos, orchid and agricultural displays and beauty contests.
Good Neighbors Jazz Festival
This unique jazz festival is held in mid February in Manual Antonio, with live performances.
Carnaval de Puntarenas
This Festival is held in the last week of February in along the sunny coast of Puntarenas, with parades, street fairs, music, dances, games and more.
Fiesta Cívica de Liberia
From late February to early March, festivities are held in Liberia that include Costa Rican bullfighting, tope (horse parades), music and “Bombetas” (fireworks that trade visual brilliance for a bigger bang).
Día del Boyero
In the city of Escazú, the second Sunday of March is celebrated with a parade of colorfully hand-painted ox-carts. The ox-carts are filled with produce which is judged in a competition that is blessed by the local priests.
International Festival of the Arts
Also on the second Sunday of March, this festival is held in San José. People crowd into the theaters to watch live theatre, music and dance performances.
Southern Caribbean Music Festival
Officially held in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and Cahuita, calypso and reggae performances are just part of this music festival. This festival was started in 1999 to encourage the cultural pride and growth among the diverse, predominately Afro-Caribbean communities of the Limón province.
“Holy Week” (Easter week) is considered by many residents to be the most important holiday of the year. It is celebrated with processions all across Costa Rica and reenactments of the Crucifixion.
Día de Juan Santamaría
April 11th is Día de Juan Santamaria in Alajuela. Juan Santamaria was a young boy who became a national hero during the 1856 war when he burned down the house where Filibuster William Walker was hiding. To the people of Costa Rica, his brave action represents the power of the lowly Costa Rican peasant against corruption and injustice of the state. This day is celebrated with student marching bands, parades and a beauty pageant.
Feria del Ganado
Ciudad Quesada (San Carlos) is home to one of the country’s largest cattle fairs. In mid April, this cattle fair and auction is accompanied by a tope (horse parade) and various carnivals and street festivities.
Romería Virgen de la Candaleria
In 1666, the Virgin Mary was believed to have performed a miracle to save the town of Ujarrás from pirates. Now, on the third Sunday of April, there is usually a pilgrimage from Paraiso to Ujarrás with games and celebrations.
On the last week of April, the University of Costa Rica in San José holds outdoor art shows and concerts.
Día de los Trabajadores
To celebrate Labor Day, on May 1st, trade unions organize marches to honor the workers of Costa Rica. In Limón, cricket games, dances and domino tournaments are held.
Fiesta Cívica de Cañas
In early May, festivities are held in Cañas that include cowboy traditions such as Costa Rican bullfighting, tope (horse parades) and street fairs.
The San Juan Race
On May 17th, a 22.5 kilometer marathon is held in San Juan.
Held on May 29th in Pacayas and Cartago, Corpus Christi involves religious parades and church services.
Día de San pedro y San Pablo
On June 29th both in San Jose as well as in towns carrying their names the Day of St. Peter and St. Paul is celebrated. Festivities usually include a religious procession.
Compañía de Lírica Nacional
From mid June to mid August the National Lyric Opera Company holds performances in the Melico Salazar Theatre in San José.
Festival de la Virgen del Mar
The Festival de la Virgen del Mar is held in Puntarenas in mid July and is also known as the "Sea Festival". On the Saturday closest to the 16th of July, this festival honors Carmen, Virgin of the Sea with religious processions, fireworks and a colorful boating regatta along the Gulf of Nicoya.
Día de la Anexión de Nicoya
Celebrated on July 25th is the anniversary of the annexation of Nicoya by Costa Rica in 1824. In Alajuela, there is a mango festival to mark the occasion.
International Festival of Music
From July to August, international musicians perform classical music across the country. These performances are held every year in the Teatro Nacional in San José. There are also performances in various other sites across Costa Rica, usually in the presence of some magnificent natural wonder, such as the Cloud Forest of Monteverde.
Día de la Virgen de los Ãngeles
August 2nd is the day of the Virgin de los Ãngeles, the patron saint of Costa Rica (also known as La Negrita). This day is celebrated with a religious pilgrimage to Cartago Basilica.
Liberia Blanca Culture Week
In early August, in Liberia, real life cowboys come to town and parade their prize horses for the local citizens. This festival is full of great honor and tradition for both the local citizens and the cowboys.
Día de San Ramón
August 30th is the day of San Ramón. This day is celebrated by a pilgrimage in which 30 patron saints are carried in a procession to San Ramón, near Alajuela, to meet amidst marimba music, tope (horse parades), and local cuisine.
In August or September Afro-Costa Rican culture is celebrated in San José and Limón with art shows and musical performances.
Correo de la Candela de Independencia
Starting on September 14th, a relay of schoolchildren carry a torch from town to town all the way from Nicaragua to represent the traveling news of independence for several Central and South American countries, including Costa Rica. The “Freedom Torch” arrives in Cartago at 6 pm, at which point all Costa Ricans stop what they are doing to sing the national anthem. The Costa Rican Independence Day or Día de la Independecia is on the following day, September 15th, celebrating the country’s independence from Spain in 1821.
On October 12th, Puerto Limón hosts a kind of Caribbean Mardi Gras to celebrate Columbus Day. There is a parade with floats, street fairs and live reggae and calypso music.
Fiesta del Maíz
The Corn Festivals are also held on held October 12th in Upala and Tres Rios de la Union to celebrate corn production. Clothes are made out of corn husks and corn-based foods are served.
Días de Todos Santos
November 2nd is All Saints' Day and is celebrated across the country with religious processions.
La Ruta de los Conquistadores
Considered one of the world's most challenging mountain bike races, La Ruta de los Conquistadores is held in mid November in Costa Rica. Cyclists begin their journey in Jacó Beach, on the Pacific coast, and race all the way to Bonita Beach on the Caribbean Coast. The quite literal cross-country race retraces the route of the Spanish Conquistador and explorer Juan de Cavallón. The cyclists will travel, in just a few days, the route that took Juan de Cavallón 20 years to traverse. There is a week-long festival held in Atenas, near Alajuela, to celebrate the race.
In mid November, the Universidad de Técnica in Atenas hosts this festival to celebrate agriculture in Costa Rica with log-felling contests, tractor tours, horseback rides and an orchid display.
Costa Rica International Film Festival
The CRIFF is held every year in November to showcase the best independent films in the world. Events are held in Manuel Antonio and Montezuma with film screenings, filmmaker discussions, live music, art, and plenty of outdoor activities and late night parties.
Fiesta de los Negritos
This festival is held in the village of Boruca on December 8th. On this day, the indigenous Boruca peoples celebrate their traditions and culture with costumed dance and music, mainly comprised of flutes and drums.
Fiesta de la Yeguita
The fiesta of the “little mare” is held on December 12th by the Nicoya. It is a mixture of a famous indigenous Chorotega legend and the Roman Catholicism tradition of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Tope Nacional de Caballos & Fiesta de la Luz
This tope (horse parade) is held on the 26th of December. In San José, the most talented horsemen in Costa Rica perform a display along the Paseo Colon with more than 3,000 horses. Also held on the 26th of December, the Fiesta of “The Light” is a parade of Christmas trees in the capital city of San José. At night this event is topped off with a fireworks display.
This national festival is held on December 27th. In San José, there is a decorative float parade. People dress up in costumes and dance in the streets, accompanied by live music.
Fiesta de Zapote
On December 25th, end-of-the-year festivities begin in the suburb of Zapote. Here, there is a fairground with rides, fireworks, rodeo performances and more.
Fiesta de los Diablitos
From December 31st to January 2nd, the Boruca reenact their battles with the Spanish by dressing up as devils and running through the villages.