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Unmissable Costa Rica Festivals 2019


Not only does Costa Rica boast an abundance of unique wildlife, landscapes and climates, but it also hosts an exciting range of events and festivals throughout the year.

The year 2019 will see new editions of the ecotourism forum Planet, People, Peace (P3), sporting competitions including ‘La Ruta’ and music events such as the Costa Rica Blues Festival. There are also plenty of local festivities in the calendar, including Easter celebrations and the Fiesta de los Diablitos, without forgetting the unmissable Puerto Limón Carnival.

Some of the key events and festivals that will take place in Costa Rica in 2019 include:

Costa Rica Blues Festival, 16 February 2019

The Costa Rica Blues Festival brings the traditional summer blues festivals from the USA to Costa Rica every February. The eight edition of the festival will feature an amazing line-up of both Costa Rican and international bands and artists, including blues-rocker Walter Trout, The Craig Thatcher Band, Gray Gregson and local group The Midnights, amongst many others. The charitable event will take place in Potrero Beach, in the sunny region of Guanacaste, and all its takings will go to Abriendo Mentes, a local NGO that empowers individuals from rural communities to develop the skills they need to seize educational and economic opportunities. Adult tickets: $40 (approximately £31).

Ultra Trail Costa Rica, 6 and 7 April 2019

Not only is Arenal one of Costa Rica’s most visited destinations, but it is also host to the country’s most popular mountain race. Ultra Trail Costa Rica is an event intended for nature and adventure lovers. It features five different race distances – 80k, 45k, 21k, 10k and 5k – making the event accessible to everyone. One of the key highlights of the race is the stunning landscape the runners will go through, including rainforests, tropical forests and the spectacular Arenal Lake; without forgetting the iconic Arenal Volcano in the background. Prices start from $45 (approximately £34).

Juan Santamaría Day, 11th April 2019

This festival commemorates young soldier Juan Santamaría, Costa Rica’s national hero, who died in a battle against American colonist William Walker’s troops in 1856. The week-long celebrations can be found all over the country, although the city of Alajuela – Santamaría’s birthplace, 20km from San José – hosts the most popular ones. In the days leading up to the bank holiday on 11th April, Alajuela plays host to a variety of parades, marching bands, concerts and dances. Those who are not able to join the April celebrations can pay a visit to the Historical Museum of Juan Santamaría in Alajuela, dedicated to the young soldier who gave his life for Costa Rica.

Read Mike East’s From Parks to Surfing: 5 Costa Rica Travel Tips.

Easter, 14 – 21 April 2019

Easter is one of the most popular religious festivals in Costa Rica and a fascinating time to visit the country – even for non-believers. During the “Holy Week”, as “ticos” call Easter, a number of artistic religious floats are paraded through the streets of most towns, where visitors can also witness re-enactments of the last days of Jesus’ life.  There are processions from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday in many towns, although those in San José, Heredia, Cartago and San Joaquín de Flores are the ones that attract the biggest crowds. Food plays a big part of the Easter holiday. Dried cod soup, chiverre (traditional pastry), pan casero (sweet flat bread) and rice pudding are some of the favourites for this time of the year.

International Conference: Planet, People, Peace (P3), 4 – 6 September 2019

Costa Rica Travel Tips
Costa Rica’s great rainforests

The International Conference: Planet, People, Peace (P3) is Costa Rica’s only international event on ecotourism and sustainable tourism. Its name represents the focus of reconfirming the country’s commitment “to redirect the essence of its People back to the Planet, sharing our experience as a country of Peace.” The 2019 edition of the P3 will have four main pillars – water, land, air and fire – and will be aimed at stimulating the exchange of knowledge and experiences of sustainable tourism from an international perspective. Over 350 are expected to take part in this year’s conference. The past six editions brought together over 1,450 participants and more than 125 experts from all over the globe.

Puerto Limón Carnival, 12 October 2019

Costa Rica’s biggest street party (see cover photo) takes place in the Caribbean port city of Limón every October, coinciding with the Caribbean dry season. During the week-long carnival, the coastal town plays host to a variety of lively parades, colourful fireworks and music performances for visitors of all ages. Puerto Limón Carnival, celebrated since 1949, pays tribute to Christopher Columbus, who landed in Uvita (an island opposite Puerto Limón) in 1502 during his exploration of the new world. It also honours all of the immigrants who later came to Costa Rica from all over the world. This festivity is one of the best times to experience Costa Rica’s Caribbean heritage, a unique part of the country’s culture – Limón has a large and vibrant Afro-Caribbean community. For this reason, visitors can expect reggae and calypso sounds filling the air together with Caribbean street food. Free event.

La Ruta de los Conquistadores, 31 October – 2 November 2019

La Ruta de los Conquistadores, known as simply “La Ruta”, is Costa Rica’s premier mountain bike race – and considered by many as the toughest in the world. It might have to do with the fact that participants need to cycle from the Pacific Coast to the Caribbean Coast in just three days, which the Spanish Conquistadors took 20 years to complete… Although its route slightly varies on each edition, La Ruta covers approximately 400 kilometres from start to finish and it attracts hundreds of the very best mountain bikers from all over the world every year. Tickets from $900 (approximately £869).

Fiesta de los Diablitos, 30 December 2019 – 2 January 2020

This festival takes place every December in the south-western town of Boruca – held by the Boruca indigenous community – and is Costa Rica’s most famous indigenous celebration. The multi-day festival tells an alternate history of Spanish conquest: men don wooden devil masks and elaborate costumes to re-enact the battle between the “diablitos” (indigenous) and the “bull” (Spanish troops) via dancing. On the final day of the festivities, the “diablitos” win over the bull, which is lit on fire, followed by all-night celebrations. Worth noting the elaborate Boruca masks, which are carved from lightweight balsa wood and painted in vibrant colours.

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Mark Bibby Jackson

Mark Bibby Jackson

Before setting up Travel Begins at 40, Mark was the publisher of AsiaLIFE Cambodia and a freelance travel writer. When he is not packing and unpacking his travelling bag, Mark writes novels, including To Cook A Spider and Peppered Justice. He loves walking, eating, tasting beer, isolation and arthouse movies, as well as talking to strangers on planes, buses and trains whenever possible. Most at home when not at home.

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