Happy New Year and cheers to 12 new months filled with opportunities to travel and participate in cultural festivities that will leave you eager to learn more! To commemorate the new year, we’re bringing you the top events in our favorite Latin American destinations, starting with Costa Rica.
Whether you’re traveling to immerse yourself in the culture and learn Spanish, or you’re engaging in an International Internship to commit to your new year resolutions, use this list as a reference to determine which event you’re most interested in attending and book your trip accordingly.
As the most biologically diverse and environmentally conscious country on the planet, Costa Rica, at its core, has something to satisfy every soul. You might prefer the peacefulness of the rainforests, the serenity of the mountain tops, the live and let live vibes of the beaches, or the hustle and bustle of busy cities, but no matter your preference, you can be sure that Costa Rica is a great destination for all. Here are the top events happening every month so all you need to do is decide when you’re going and who you’re bringing along!
Costa Rica starts the year off with a bang as Las Fiestas Palmares takes place from the second Thursday of the month and includes two weeks of fireworks, concerts, sports, and the traditional horse parade better known as “Tope”. Food and beer galore, dancing all night, and concert tents make this the most popular festival in the country.
Saints Day of Santa Cruz
The City of Santa Cruz honors its patron saint, Santo Cristo de Esquipulas, with dances, parties, and local dishes. As “The National Folklore City”, Santa Cruz maintains its commitment to keeping its traditions and customs alive making it the perfect event to experience the culture of Costa Rica.
Carnival of Puntarenas
The Carnival of Puntarenas hosts events much like those of The Festival of Palmares with parades, concerts, fireworks and more. Unique to this event is the competition for “Queen of Carnival” where a beautiful lady is chosen as the face of the event. Oh, and did we mention a beach volleyball tournament? Yeah, Puntarenas is on the beach.
One of the largest music festivals in the world takes place in the heart of the jungle and the beautiful beaches. A-list performers grace the extravagantly lit, one of a kind stages alongside incredible circus performers and psychedelic art installations. Funky, fun fashions similar to the likes of those at coachella distinguish themselves through the pura vida vibes of Costa Rica through yoga classes and restorative workshops.
Día de los Boyeros
Every second Sunday of March you can find the Oxcarts Parade at San Antonio de Escazu. This parade honors the drivers of the oxcarts who in the past were needed to distribute coffee beans throughout the country. As history has it, the beautifully painted patterns on the carts were first started by a driver’s wife who ornamented her husband’s cart so it was distinguished. The trend took hold and artists of all kinds soon began using the carts as a canvas to display their work.
Today, hundreds of carts arrive from all over the country to boasts their vibrant displays of intricate patterns and colors bringing great pride to the people of Costa Rica. This event is alcohol free and perfect for all age groups, families, and art lovers.
National Orchid Exhibit
The National Orchid Exhibit–the largest exhibit in Costa Rica–brings over 300 species of this flower to the capital city of San Jose for a 2 day event. Conservation laws enforce the protection of these species so you can witness an astonishing variety of colors, scents, and shapes. The cultivator who can awe visitors with the best flower receives an award for “best orchid in show” Though you can’t pick them, make sure to keep your camera close for some up close shots of these beauties.
International Festival of Arts
Every year, the Sabana Metropolitan Park in San Jose hosts the Internal Festival of Arts where over 2,000 artists gather to display their work within the two week span. Local and international artists of all kinds present their displays of work, theatrical performances, concerts, circus acts, dancers, story telling, puppet shows, poetry, clowns and much more.
The week leading up to Easter brings almost all countries in Latin America to celebrate Semana Santa. With religious processions taking place in cities and towns throughout the country, and dramatizations and masses depicting the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it’s a time where you can witness the country’s devotion to its religion.
Like in the U.S, Labor Day is celebrated at the beach in Costa Rica. Families and friends flock to the coasts for some fun in the sun. If it lands as past of an extended weekend, you can be sure to see several fire pits and tents set up with parties lasting all night right on the sand.
Feria de Chocolate
For a weekend in June, visitors from all over the world gather to indulge in the variety of chocolate cultivated throughout the country. Distributors bring in their finest chocolate to promote during the fair, further establishing the importance of chocolate to the Costa Rican culture.
Dia de La Virgen del Mar
Hosted in Puntarenas, this festival always lands on the second or third Saturday in July (closest to July 16), to celebrate the festival of the virgin of the sea. Fishing boats and yachts sail off into the sea decorated with flags and lights seeking protection from storms for another year. At this event you’ll find sailing, racing, and of course, music, dance, food and drinks.
Annexation of Guanacaste
Celebrated on July 25th, The annexation of Guanacaste commemorates the day the province was annexed to Costa Rica from Nicaragua in 1824. At the time, Nicaragua was involved in many civil wars therefore the residents of Guanacaste requested to be annexed to Costa Rica birthing their famous slogan “de la patria por nuestra voluntad”, or “of this country by choice”.
Typical celebrations by Costa Rican standards include parades, dances, music, and more. In addition you’ll find the children parading to the center of town wearing colorful masks, and there are even workshops for you to create your own!
The day of the Blessed Virgin of Los Angeles
One of the top three most most religious events is celebrated on August 2nd in Cartago where visitors make a pilgrimage to Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles to pay their respects. As story has it, on August 2nd, 1635 a native girl discovered a statue of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus; miraculously, the statue always found its way to its origin where it was eventually declared a sacred place for the construction of the church. The sculpture was carved into black rock and La Negrita was announced as the official patron of Costa Rica.
On September 15 1821, Costa Rica and the rest of Central America gained their independence from Spain. In celebration, street parties are had throughout each city and town with the biggest event being the arrival of The Freedom Torch brought to Cartago by relay racers from NIcaragua; at that point, the entire country gathers to sing the national anthem in unity. The celebrations end with the children carrying small lanterns throughout their town.
The Carnival of Limon
During the week of October 12th, you can witness carnival on the Caribbean Coast featuring typical Afro-Caribbean music and dancing and popular caribbean style dishes containing lots of coconut and caribbean spices. Also known as Dia Negro, The Carnival of Limon seeks to represent the large population of Afro-Caribbean Costa Ricans who reside in the region.
Dia de Los Muertos
On November 2nd, Costa Rican families across the country take the time to honor the memory of the deceased with flowers and trips to the graveyards. Many attend special masses on this date.
El Desfile de Carretas
Much like Dia de Los Boyeros in March, this event is a second chance to catch the beautiful parade of Oxcarts and honor the drivers during the last week of November in the city of San Jose.
Festival de La Luz
During the second week of December, the Festival of Lights kicks off the Christmas and New Year celebrations. Lights of all shapes, sizes, and colors adorn immaculate floats. Masquerade shows, street dancers, marching bands, fireworks, and over 1,500 musicians participate in the festival which brings over a million spectators each year.
Fiestas de Zapote
Following the Festival of Lights from the 25th of December until New Year, Fiesta de Zapote begins with the largest horse parade, carnival rides, bull fights, and a variety of snacks and stalls. No better way to start the New Year than a fiesta in Costa Rica!