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Photo from Livingincostarica.com

QCOSTARICA – Semana Santa in Costa Rica is a time for family and religious celebrations, or vacation at the beach or mountains.

For many Costa Ricans, Semana Santa is a time to gt together with family and friends. The Catholic Church organizes traditional masses and processions taking place between Wednesday and Easter Sunday.

Unlike in the past, the Central Valley, in particular downtown San José is no longer a ghost town. Today more and more businesses are open, many preferring to stay closer to home, finding the beaches packed at this time of year.

While Thursday and Friday are the legal holiday days, many businesses close starting Wednesday, some all week. However, most retailers close only Friday, while major shopping centers are open (though some of the stores in the mall may be closed.

All banks and government offices and agencies are closed Thursday and Friday. Banks that normally open Saturdays and Sundays will do so, others re-open for business on Monday.

Emergency services such as police and ambulances operate normally, however, some like hospital clinics may operate on a skeleton staff.

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The beach is a favorite Semana Santa destination for many in Costa Rica

Buses, save for those heading to the beaches, operate on a Sunday schedule – that is fewer buses and less frequency. Allow extra time if travelling by bus.

While more than half of the communities allow the sale of liquor, wine and beer, keep in mind that many still don’t. That is you won’t be able to buy at a supermarket or corner store, or enjoy a drink with a meal at a restaurant. Here’s a list of municipalities that allow and those that don’t.

“Burning of Judas” / Quema de Judas
For visitors, the Quema de Judas (“Burning of Judas”), where an effigy of Judas is made and hung on Good Friday, the on Saturday night the effigy is lit on fire and burned, can be an interesting cultural event to witness.
Be extremely careful in choosing the right – if one does exist – “burning” event, a number have become a reason for hooligans to demonstrate their violent side, police having to be called in to control the situation, which can turn nasty sometimes if alcohol is involved.
Ruta 27
The Ruta 27 (San José – Caldera) is the main route to and from the Pacific coast. On Sunday, April 4, the road is turned into a one-way from Orotina to Cuidad Colon, between 1:00pm and 8:00pm. Travel to the coast during those hours is either by way of the old road to Jaco (the Aguacate), the Interamericana or by way of Pursical from Cuidad Colon. Remember to allow extra time for you travels on Sunday and your car in good mechanical condition and tank full of gas.