A Welcoming Land of Fiestas, Festivals and Rodeos
Beaches and the sunshine lure millions to Costa Rica each year. But there is also ample reason to venture beyond the resorts to discover a country rich in history, handicrafts and unique cultural traditions. In local villages, visitors can join in the singing, dancing and feasting during the numerous fiestas, festivals and rodeos that are an integral part of the national culture. Equally memorable are the elaborate street processions that honor painted icons, commemorate civic and religious events or unleash hordes of capering costumed devils. During quieter times, these same villages are home to artisanal craftsmen who create unique works of both art and utility from clay, wood and fabrics.
- Best for: All travellers from budget to luxury with a love of nature and adventure
- Best season to visit: Year Round, drier November - May
- Weather: There is minimal seasonal variation in air temperatures, with highs reaching near 90 and lows touching 70 at night. The wet season runs from May through November, drier months from December to April bring lower humidity
Costa Rica Information
Cultural Activities in Costa Rica Overview
One of the most culturally diverse regions of Costa Rica is Guanacaste Province. Though best known for its cowboy culture and ranching heritage, this area is also home to a number of indigenous peoples that blend pre-Colombian heritage with elements of Spanish culture. The villages and historic cities of Guanacaste are a favorite destination not only for international visitors but also Costa Rican nationals, who come to enjoy lively festival traditions.
Cultural Activities in Costa Rica Tips
Visits to smaller towns and villages provide an ideal opportunity to sample authentic regional dishes. Signature Guanacaste favorites include tamal de elote, atol de maiz, rosquillas and tortillas revueltas. Vino de coyol is a popular and mildly alcoholic local drink made from fermented juice extracted from palm trees.
Best Places for Cultural Activities in Costa Rica
In the village of Guaitil, descendants of the indigenous Chorotegas people create prized ceramic works using traditional methods dating back nearly 1,000 years. Santa Cruz honors its patron saint, Santo Cristo de Esquipulas, with dances, parties and local delicacies. Guanacaste province celebrates their cowboy heritage with horse parades, bull riding contests and rural fiestas. Known as the White City for its whitewashed walls, Liberia is home to the Sabaneros Museum and well-preserved Colonial-era buildings.
What to Pack for Cultural Activities in Costa Rica
Bring your ATM card, and use it to get the best rate on the local currency (colones), which is the best way to pay at smaller restaurants and street vendors. Mix tropical-weight clothing for the coast with something a bit more substantial for visits to mountain areas, which can be as much as 20 degrees cooler.
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Passport and/or Visa Requirements
A valid passport is required for entry that must be valid for length of stay. No visa is required for stays less than 90 days. The passport must have at least one blank page for the Costa Rica entry stamp. There is a departure tax of approximately $29 U.S. which should be included in your international ticket. Check the entry/exit requirements here.
There are no immunizations required for entry into Costa Rica, although you should check with your doctor and with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for other recommendations.
Culture and Customs
Costa Rica is known as the safest and most prosperous country in Central America. It is home to a large community of North American ex-pats, but also retains its distinctly Latin culture, which includes a relaxed attitude to schedules that is known as “Tico time.” Laid back is not the same as uncaring, however, and Costa Ricans are known for taking pride in their appearances and their work. A well-developed road system connects major destinations, but much of the country's central highlands remain wild and protected within national parks. Within a day's drive of beach resorts at Guanacaste lie the slopes of Arenal Volcano, the Monteverde Cloud Forest and Palo Verde National Park. Costa Rica is the eco-adventure capital of the Caribbean. Surfers come from around the world to ride famous breaks from Witch's Rock to Pavones. Coastal lodges are filled with fishermen seeking light tackle challenges with roosterfish or tug of war with a marlin. Forests draw birders, hikers and naturalists, and there are more than a dozen rivers offering whitewater rafting thrills. More relaxing experiences await at hot springs, where spa treatments and soaks in mineral-rich volcanic water provide a soothing end to an active day.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
The standard in Costa Rica is the same as in the United States: 110 volts AC (60 cycles). Some electric outlets only have 2 prong sockets, so an adapter may be needed for 3 prong plugs.
Costa Rica has an excellent phone system, and the country code for dialing is 506. Check with your cell phone provider for international data and voice plans and costs.
Many resorts and restaurants offer WiFi.
Although the water in Costa Rica is generally safe to drink, water quality varies in some cities. It would be best to use bottled water and avoid ice.
Language & Currency
Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica, but English is widely spoken. The Costa Rican currency is called the “colon”. Check the current exchange rate here. Many businesses will accept U.S. Dollars and major credit cards are widely accepted.
Costa Rica is on Central Standard Time, 6 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-6 GMT). Costa Rica does not use daylight saving time, so the time difference is an additional hour April through October.
Location, Size and Population
Costa Rica is located in Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua (to the north) and Panama (to the south). Costa Rica encompasses a total of 19,700 square miles (51,100 square kilometers).
The population of Costa Rica is 4.9 Million (2015) with approximately 350,000 living in the province of Guanacaste.