Spanning a couple weeks, in the month of January, this open air celebration, which is expected to attract more than a million festival-goers, is the second largest festival in Costa Rica following the Zapote Festival which is celebrated during Christmas and New Year. Fiestas Palmares offers a complete package for all ages to participate in the fun of the moment including large attractions, the famous Horse Parade, bullfights known as Corridas de Torro and a variety of concerts, a huge fun fair, several sporting events, a vehicle road show, delectable native cuisine, street artists and performers and a grand firework display held throughout Fiestas Palmares. For the safety of visitors, the festival will be controlled by 250 private security personnel and police officers including security cameras which are located at strategic points throughout the grounds. Traffic officers are present in large numbers to help the smooth flow of traffic. Palmares is festival celebrated with bull parades, food, carnivals, concerts, firework displays, rodeos, and horse shows. Some of the attractions are only for those aged 18 years and older, as they are usually sponsored by liquor, cigarette, or party planning companies. It takes place over two weeks in mid-January in Palmares, Alajuela.
Continuing in the spirit of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, Zapote festival follows the Festival of Lights from the 25th of December till the New Year’s Eve. For those who like a more ostentatious and celebratory festival, Las Fiesta de Zapote, the festival of Zapote is a holiday that is celebrated with all the pomp and festivities in typical Costa Rica Pura Vida style. The pine trees of the entire city are decorated along with the Cyprus trees featuring glittering adornments and the gorgeous Christmas portals. These portals depict the birth of Jesus Christ and are artfully hanging from the trees or embellishing the charming houses of the locals. This one’s for everyone who loves to live life in true Pura Vida style with all the festivities.
The fairground covers a large area and is filled with rides and a range of snack stalls for the visitors. Some of the thrilling rides here include the pirate ship, bumper cars, roller coasters and a spine chilling attraction known as the Tagada. Pupusas and churros are the favorite food of the visitors here. Pupusas are delectable corn pouches of meat filled with coleslaw and cheese melted on top, trying them is sure to become the highlight of the festival for any visitor . Churros is another delicacy that everyone will make a run for. The deep fried pastry rolled in sugar and cream tastes scrumptious and a great way to conclude the eating fiesta. The bars that turn up the sound of groovy Latino music will create the perfect atmosphere for the festival. They act as great meeting up points for striking a conversation with fellow travelers and swapping travel notes.
Other fascinating attractions include the snake shows where shows are put up with the help of snakes like corals, pythons, anacondas and vipers. Also party animals can go clubbing and dancing into the night.
Día de la Virgen de los Ángeles
Virgen de los Angeles Day takes place on the August 2nd, when the entire country celebrates the life of Costa Rica’s patron saint, also known as ‘la Negrita’. The statue of the Black Virgin, said to be the native symbol of Virgin Mary that was found in the early 17th Century in Cartago, Costa Rica’s former capital. As per local myth, the statue kept magically appearing at the same site where it was found the first time, so the natives decided to erect a shrine on the same spot, and it stood still there until the current day. The Virgin is displayed at the main altar of the Nuestra Señora de los Angeles Basilica in Cartago, and almost a couple of million Costa Ricans walk 13.6 miles from downtown San Jose to the Cathedral every year to honor the Virgin Mary legend. Prior to the celebration visitors can see thousands of pilgrims walking from all corners of the nation to reach Cartago.
The Independence Day
The Independence Day is celebrated on the September 15th. Unlike other nations in the world at large where the nation’s armies perform elaborate state ceremonies, Costa Rica celebrates its declaration of independence from the Spanish by putting together a student’s parade. School kids dress up in national costumes and go out to the main streets with colorful homemade faroles that are brightly lit up by the flame of the torch brought from Guatemala. The flame represents the voice of the independence brought from Guatemala in 1821, and people congregate on the streets, singing the national anthem with the students and other songs of independence.
Semanta Santa or Easter
Semana Santa or the Easter celebration lasts for the whole week, with main events starting on Thursday and concluding on Sunday. The processions are held in each city, but the procession in San José city is the main attraction since the cast of the National Theatre Company participates in it, which has a big production team featuring various bands and professional musicians. Tourists are advised to plan ahead if they’re coming during this week to Costa Rica as it’s the busiest season since the majority of locals head to the beaches. The others simply join the religious festivities and processions that happen on the streets and in churches.
Festival de la Luz
‘Festival de la Luz’ was initiated in 1996 when the municipality of San Jose launched the first parade of the theme based floats and best bands in the country, taking place on the main streets of downtown streets in San Jose in December. The steady rise in the quality of the national Festival of Light made this parade an integral celebration of the holiday season. The protagonists of the festival are the glisteningly decorated floats and school bands that churn out Christmas carols, followed by a stunning show of fireworks.
Festival de las Artes
The main art event in Costa Rica is the FIA+FNA: ‘Festival de las Artes’ or Festival of Arts, a two-week celebration, annually fluctuating between its international and national edition. It’s filled with art shows, dance and acting performances along with a series of concerts. The festival was hosted in San Jose since it was founded, but recently the Ministry of Culture decided to take it a notch higher, and they started travelling to different regions around Costa Rica. This festival usually takes place at the end of the dry season, in the month of March or April.
San Jose Horse Parade and Carnival of Desamparados
These two fairs are celebrated every year on the December 26th and 27th. For the age-old parade, the proud horse riders wear their traditional costumes and embellish their horses. The carnival of Desambarados (27th of December) comprises of several vibrant state coaches and by the participants attire who say to the beats of the bands.
Fiesta of the Diablitos
Held in late February in the Indian Village of Rey Curre, this annual festival witnesses locals recreating the battles fought between the country’s native tribes and the Spanish. Costa Rican’s dress up in wooden masks and vivid costumes and enjoy dance and an elaborate display of fireworks.
Virgin of the Sea
Held in Puntatenas region of Costa Rica, this festival pays tribute to the city’s guardian soul, the Virgin of Mt Carmel. In the water, yachts from the Gulf of Nicoya collect to take part in a vibrant regatta while the land activities during this festival comprise mass services, visually spectacular parades, dancing, competitive sporting events and a stunning display of fireworks.
Festivities kick off mid month as enterprises set up scenes from the native land in a bid to win the award for being the best within the area. Carol singers collect on the streets in the countdown to Christmas and are greeted into the local homes. On the 24th of the month, churches celebrate the Mass of the Rooster or Misa de Gallo as it is known here.
The Festival Imperial is the tiara on Costa Rica’s musical crown and has been successfully transformed into one the most looked forward to, and well organized and music carnival that is hosted by Costa Rica. The god of all music festivals, this event is organized by the Cerveceria, Costa Rica and sponsored by the well known beer company, Imperial since 2006. The first of the three festivals that took place in April 2006 where the regular bar of music festivity was taken to an entirely different standard by bringing superstars like Sting, Jamiroquai, Diego Torres and The Rasmus to Costa Rica. The festival again went a few notches higher in April 2008, when Festival Imperial hosted performers such as Duran Duran, Incubus and Smashing Pumpkins.
Orotina Fruit Festival
Orotina held in mid to late March (normally around the third week of March) is a large open air market and conventional Costa Rican style festival that features a fruit-inspired theme, seasonal tropical fruits, local music and visually captivating horse parades.
All Souls Day
This isn’t similar to Mexico’s All Souls Day but Costa Ricans also remember their dead with floral offerings and trips to the cemeteries. In the Cemeterio Central of San Jose in the middle of the town, mourners conduct vigils and deck up grave sites to honor their ancestors.