Thursday 2 February 2023

Local Vacation Periods in Costa Rica

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1 February 2023 - At The Banks - BCCR

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Javi the Frog on a boogie board at Flamingo Beach, Guanacaste
Javi the Frog on a boogie board at Flamingo Beach, Guanacaste

QCOSTARICA TRAVEL – Whether you are traveling to Costa Rica for the first time ever (congrats!) or heading back, or maybe even just researching your first trip, it helps to know when the local vacation periods are for the country.

Costa Rica is not on the same calendar as the United States for all major vacation periods, so you need to compare your local vacation periods with those of Costa Rica before you plan your trip.

Doing this in advance can help you make sure that you plan the best trip possible, and it can help you avoid unnecessary travel stresses. I want you to have the best possible time you can in Costa Rica, and I don’t want something silly like scheduling conflicts to ruin it for you.

1. How Vacation Periods Affect You

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Similar to the United States, my country gets busier during vacation periods. This change can wreak havoc on the unsuspecting traveler, and might cause them to have to rethink their itinerary. Here are some of the main ways that you could be affected by a vacation period in Costa Rica:

Car rental popular in Costa Rica
Car rental popular in Costa Rica
  • People will be traveling locally. This means that airports, transportation, flights, and hotels will be more crowded and booked than usual. If you haven’t planned everything in advance, you might end up getting told that there is no room or no available rental car. I always try to plan ahead and get to my destination ahead of vacation periods.
  • There will be more people around. Since more people will be off of work and school, it will be more crowded everywhere. If you are thinking about taking an adventure, like a canopy tour or a white water rafting tour, you might have more competition since more of my local friends will probably have the same idea. I guess that is the trouble with living in paradise; you have to deal with not just the other tourists, but also the locals!
  • This includes the beaches. One of Costa Rica’s shining features is its coastline, and you better believe that the beaches are a favorite of the locals. Think of it in terms of the beach on the 4th of July in the United States. That is how crowded the beaches will be on what seems like a normal day to you, but is a vacation period for the locals.
  • Everything will be more expensive. Wondering why flights and hotel rooms seem to get more expensive for what seems like no reason? Well, it probably means that it is a period of vacation for the locals in Costa Rica. Not only will basic accommodations cost more, but your transportation and adventure tours will likely cost more too. If you are visiting Costa Rica during one of these periods, you’ll need to increase your budget or decrease your itinerary.
  • Some places might be closed. While you should be ok with the basics, like hotels and restaurants, some other great places, like museums, might be closed completely to visitors. If it is a holy holiday or vacation period, even your adventure tour operators might close down.
Hotels are the best option during Holidays
Hotels are the best option during Holidays

2. On the Calendar: Costa Rica

There are many celebrations in Costa Rica throughout the year, and I love to try to go to as many as I can. There are some that are regional, and some that are recognized throughout the country. The ones that impact tourists the most are the ones that are celebrated country­wide, and there are three main periods to keep in mind.

3. Christmas

Costa Rica is a highly religious country, and the Catholic population celebrates Christmas just like you do in the United States; on December 25. This holiday does actually coincide with the same time as the United States, so you might be more prone to scheduling a visit to Costa Rica during this time since you’ll likely have some time off already. The locals in Costa Rica are also enjoying some end­of­the­year time off, and they will be celebrating by sending some time on the sunny beaches. In December, the weather will be include sunshine and wind, so it is perfect for relaxing in the sand and taking a board out to the surf.

For the actual holiday, you’ll find that Costa Ricans know how to celebrate! There are traditions, like fireworks on the beach and family dinners on Christmas Eve. In Costa Rica, though, the Christmas holiday is celebrated all through the end of December, into January, and there are huge dinners and parties on the 31st. The holiday season brings many other traditions, like tree lightings and Mass. The locals do decorate their homes and businesses, just like Americans do. Tree lighting ceremonies take place in the major metropolitan areas, and holiday bonuses stimulate additional shopping. There are also traditional holiday festivals that the locals look forward to each year. The Festival de La Luz begins during the second week of December, on Saturday, and centers on a parade and festival of lights. The lighted floats and marching bands in the parade draw a crowd of thousands, and you could be there! The parade is free and open to the local and visiting public. If you can’t be there in person, you can watch it on one of the local Costa Rican television stations.Costa Rica also celebrates the holiday season with more food, live music, carnivals, music, and bullfights.

Procession in San Jose for Holy Week
Procession in San Jose for Holy Week

4. Holy Week

Holy Week in Costa Rica is a time for religious traditions, but it is also similar to Spring Break in the United States, in terms of timing as well as spirit. There is time off of work and school, and everyone is happy and ready to celebrate. Holy Week in Costa Rica starts on Palm Sunday. The preceding Thursday and Friday are often considered official holidays, which means that you can bet on banks being closed. Some businesses will also be closed. If you are a traveler, it is important to keep this in mind. You may also find that there are some limitations with transportation, most notably with public transportation. Many colorful processions are held in Costa Rica during Holy Week, as a way to celebrate the local population’s faith. These processions are held all throughout the week, all throughout the country, in towns and cities, including San Jose, on every province. The processions include one that chronicles the journey of Jesus. The processions commonly include well­known figures from religion, including Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Angels, and apostles.

If you are visiting Costa Rica during Holy Week and find yourself relaxing in your hotel room channel surfing, you might yourself watching some classic films based on religion. The beaches are often crowded during the observed Holy Week. There are probably close to a million or so locals that have some or all of the week off, and you better believe that they are taking advantage of living in paradise and heading straight to the sand and surf. The weather during Holy Week is warm, so it is the perfect time to visit the beach.

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One of my favorite parts of Holy Week, of course, involves food. Chiverre is a popular fruit that is used in so many delicious recipes. Chiverre is about the size of a watermelon, and it produces a type of honey. It is in season during Holy Week, and there are so many specially prepared dishes that include it as an ingredient. If you are visiting Costa Rica during Holy Week, you have to add tasting chiverre to your vacation bucket list. Try Chiverre Empanadas!

5. Mid­Year Vacations

In July, millions of school­aged children in Costa Rica get a two­week break. As you can imagine, this means that many parents and public sector teachers will also take time off during this break, so that they can relax with their families. For many, that of course means taking advantage of the natural resources…the beach! The days of the mid­year break see a rise in beach-goers, so it would be best to plan to arrive early if you want any prime sand real estate. These mid­year vacations also mean that it might be more crowded everywhere you go; and it means there will be more children running around. I am sure to watch where I hop during these time periods!

Ruins, culture in Costa Rica
Ruins, culture in Costa Rica

6. Visiting Costa Rica during Vacation Periods

Don’t let the Costa Rica vacation period dissuade you from traveling as you want – just be sure to do your research so you can plan better and be prepared. Times of rest for the locals can prove to be times of excitement for visitors – especially during religious holidays. While you may find that some museums and botanical gardens might be closed to the public, you won’t end up losing anything when it comes to experiences. Heading to a local celebration will give you such a rich culture experience – far beyond anything you’ll see in a museum. Indulge in the local culture and despite the crowds and raised prices, you’ll gain memories that will last you a lifetime.

Source: Javi’s Blog at

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Q24N is an aggregator of news for Latin America. Reports from Mexico to the tip of Chile and Caribbean are sourced for our readers to find all their Latin America news in one place.

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