One of the most colorful and dramatic Costa Rican celebrations is the Festival of the Little Devils in February. The Boruca put on masks representing devils and do stylized battle with the invading Spanish.
Banks, public offices, and most stores and businesses are closed on Costa Rican national holidays (días feriados). Additionally public buses run on special reduced schedules around Christmas and Easter. Those are the two most popular holidays for Ticos to travel filling all the hotels and resorts on the beach and in the rainforests.
To help you choose the best time to visit Costa Rica each month is linked to detailed description of the pros and cons of traveling then, weather, costs, crowds plus a calendar showing natural events (sea turtle nesting, humpback whale calving and quetzal breeding), moon phase, rise and set, sun rise and set, and tides.
New Year’s Day—Revelers who were partying in the clubs the night before gather in San José’s Parque Central and Buenos Aires, and Puntarenas to continue the festivities at dances.
Fiesta Palmares —Traditional (no bloodshed) bullfights, live music, folk dancing, carnival with rides and games take place the first two week of the year in Palmares. Check their facebook page for the latest schedule and musical guests
Fiesta Santa Cruz—The fiesta in Santa Cruz on the Nicoya peninsula takes place the second week in January and has a western flair with bullfights and a parade followed by a party with food, concerts and fireworks.
Día de Santo Cristo de Esquipulas—Popular religious festival celebrated with fiestas and dancing in Alajuelita, Dulce Nombre and Santa Cruz. Alajuelita also includes an ox-cart parade and procession to the iron cross on the mountain above the village where a blessing is given.
Fiesta de los Diablitos—The festival of the little devils takes place in the second half of February. An indigenous celebration wrapped around a re-enactment of a battle between the toro (Spanish troops) and the diablitos (Boruca Indians). Striking hand carved masks and traditional costumes decorate participants and food and fireworks complete the scene in Rey Curre south of San Isidro de El General.
Nicoya Rodeo & Fiesta Patronal—One of the best on the peninsula or anywhere in Guanacaste. Rodeo, tope, toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed), street fairs, traditional food booths, fireworks and music. Usually the beginning of February but check their facebook page for updates.
Carnival and Festival del Mar—A week of local celebrations in Puntarenas and Quepos including street fairs and fiestas, dancing, a beauty contest, live music and sporting events. Check their facebook page for the latest on schedule and who’s appearing at the concerts
Día de los Boyeros—Oxcart driver’s day takes place on the second Sunday in March. A parade of beautifully handmade and painted oxcarts and driving competitions are surrounded by traditional costumes, food and dancing in San Antonio de Escazú. One of the most colorful celebrations and a real photo opportunity.
Día de San José—Saint Joseph is the patron saint of the capital city San José, and the day is recognized nationwide by Catholics with special masses (especially in the many other towns and communities named San José). It is an official business, bank and school holiday in the capital.
Semana Santa—Holy week is observed with religious processions and masses. The official holiday falls on the Thursday and Friday before Easter Sunday. Public transportation does not run on these two days and is extremely crowded the whole week. All alcohol sales are prohibited Thurs.- Sun. Many businesses extend the holiday to the entire week.
Fiesta San Vincente de Moravia—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Easter—Family and religious observations
Día de Juan Santamaría—National holiday honoring a young fighter from Alajuela who defended his country to the death against William Walkers forces at the battle of Rivas in 1856. Parades, marching bands, dances and other celebrations extend through the week concentrated in Alajuela.
Fiesta San Rafael de Sata Ana—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Fiesta Tarrazu—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Día de los Trabajadores—Labor Day. Parades, marches and the Presidential “state of the union” address to Congress and the people. Cricket matches are a highlight in Puerto Limón.
Fiesta Pattronale Desamparados—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Día de San Isidro Labrador—Escazú and San Isidros all over Costa Rica hold street fairs and parades with music, dancing, traditional food, honoring the patron saint of farmers with blessings of animals and crops.
Fiestas Pattronales San Marcos de Tarrazu, and Coronado—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Fiestas Pattronales Trinidad de Moravia, San Pedro de Montes de Oca, Leon Cortes, and San Jeronimo—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Día de los Padres—Father’s day
Fiesta San Juan de Tibas—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Día de San Pedro y San Pablo—Saint Peter and Saint Paul’s day marked by processions and masses.
Fiesta de La Virgen del Mar—The Fiesta of the Virgin of the Sea on the Saturday closest to the 16th is marked in Puntarenas by a procession of decorated fishing boats carrying a statue of La Virgen del Monte Carmelo (the city’s patron saint) and a special mass. The secular celebrations include a week of parades, dances, regattas, parades and fireworks. Playas del Coco also celebrates the Virgin of the Sea.
Día de Guanacaste—Guanacaste Day celebrates the annexation of Guancaste from Nicaragua in 1824. Street fiestas, folk dancing, topes (horse show/parade), traditional bullfights, rodeos and cattle shows are particularly colorful and exuberant in the eponymous northwest region of Guanacaste and the Nicoya peninsula.
Virgen de Los Angeles—National holiday celebrating the patron saint of Costa Rica, La Negrita. Special masses and a religious procession from San José to La Basilica de Cartago. Pilgrims come from all over the country, many on foot to celebrate the mass at Cartago.
Fiesta Ciudad Colon (San Carlos)—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Día de la Madre, Feast of the Assumption—Mother’s day is a national bank, school and business holiday in Costa Rica
Fiesta Pattronale Aserri—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
National Parks Day—Special events in the major National Parks around Costa Rica
Independence Day—Costa Rica gained independence from Spain on the same day as the rest of Central America in 1821. The nationwide celebration starts with parades, traditional dancers, and street parties and culminates with the arrival of the Freedom Torch in Cartago (delivered from Nicaragua by relay runners) when everyone in the country stops and simultaneously sings the national anthem. Children later enjoy faroles parades where they carry small lanterns through their towns.
Fiesta Patronale San Francisco de Dos Ríos—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Founding Day—A week of local celebrations in San Isidro de El General including street fairs and fiestas, dancing and sporting events culminates in the fiesta marking the founding of the town.
Carnival—Shades of Río on the streets of Límon, this celebration of Columbus’ arrival in the new world culminates on the twelfth (Columbus day)
Día de la Raza—Columbus day commemorates the arrival of Columbus in the new world and caps off several days of Carnival on the Caribbean coast.
Fiesta Pattronale Escazú—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Halloween—Relatively new to Costa Rica but gaining popularity rapidly as the youngsters pick up on the concept of trick-or-treat
Día de los Muertos—All Soul’s Day is observed across Costa Rica with Catholic masses and pilgrimages to graveyards.
Coffee Picking Contests—Local communities throughout the Meseta Central and mountains sponsor coffee picking contests in November.
El Desfile de Carretas—One of the largest parades of ox-carts (the other is the Día de los Boyeros the second week in March) takes place in San José the last week in November.
Festival de la Luz—San José’s week long festival of lights is marked by lighting displays and concerts and fireworks after dark in the park.
Fiesta Pattronale Pavas—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Immaculate conception, Fiesta de los Negritos—Formerly a national holiday now celebrated with religious processions, masses, and costumed dancing
Fiesta de la Yeguita—Bullfights and a parade followed by a party in the parque central of Nicoya with food, concerts and fireworks.
Misa de Gallo—Christmas eve midnight mass. (Literally, Mass of the Rooster.)
Christmas Week—Although not an official holiday the week preceding Christmas is so commonly observed that it might as well be. A very popular time for Ticos to head to the beach.
Christmas Day—Family gatherings and Christmas mass
Fiesta de Zapote — starting Christmas day Los Festejos Populares de Zapote (eastern San José suburb) with carnival rides, street vendors and corridas de toros a la tica (Costa Rican style bullfights) more info on wikipedia
Tope Caballos—A horse parade on the 26th of December through downtown San José proudly displays the equine traditions and unique Criollo breed.