Costa Rican Culture | Characteristics, customs and traditions

Welcome to a new article from The Happy Traveler! Today we are going directly to discover the culture of Costa Rica, a diverse country where Many adventures and surprises await you.. This small country in Central America is known to be a true paradise for nature lovers. But also the Costa Rican culture is something amazing, as is the hospitality that its citizens will offer you.

Its friendly people, its art and gastronomy, its traditions and customs, are just some of the aspects that make Costa Rica a special place in the world. Are you ready to experience all the culture of the country of pura vida? Join us to immerse ourselves in the culture of Costa Rica and discover what makes it unique!

Characteristics of the culture of Costa Rica

Typical dances of Costa Rica

One of the traditional dances of Costa Rica is the Guanacaste Point or Dance or are loose, is a couple dance that is characterized by its fast and energetic movements. Their traditional music is played with a guitar and maracas. It is very popular at local parties and celebrations. This dance has some similarities with the Panamanian point, quite typical of the culture of Panama.

In addition, the Dance of the Little Devils, represents very well the indigenous cultures of Costa Rica. It takes place between December 30 and January 2 of each year, in the community of Boruca, and the first weekend of February, in the canton of Buenos Aires de Puntarenas.

The Dance of the Little Devils is a ritual dance that is performed to celebrate the winter solstice. The dancers, dressed in masks and typical costumes, represent the spirits of the ancestors. In 2017 it was declared as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Costa Rica.

Also, we should mention the maroon dance. It is not only a group of percussion musical instruments, but a type of folk dance. The cimarrona dance is an important part of celebrations and parties in Afro-Costa Rican communities, and is also danced on special occasions such as the Day for the Abolition of Slavery in Costa Rica.

Another typical Costa Rican dance is the Creole swing. It is a fusion of musical rhythms that was born in the second half of the 20th century. It is popular among people of all ages and is celebrated both inside and outside the country. It is performed in a group and the movements depend on the improvisation of the dancers.

Costa Rican Gastronomy

How is the food in Costa Rica? A delight for the senses! It has a wide variety of traditional dishes that combine sweet and salty flavors. Between the following regions: Western and Eastern Central Valley, Guanacaste and North Zone, there is usually a great variety of flavors.

But, in general, meat is an important ingredient in Costa Rican gastronomy, with chicken and pork being the most popular. A lot of fish and shellfish are also consumed, especially in coastal areas.

A typical dish is the casado, a complete meal that usually includes rice, beans, fried plantains, and meat or fish. There is also a wide variety of tropical fruits and vegetables available at all times of the year. Another typical meal is gallo pinto, a mix of rice and beans with a hint of cilantro and onion.

For you: Typical Costa Rican food | 10 Dishes you must try

How are the people in Costa Rica?

Costa Rican culture is characterized by its hospitality, its love of life, and its emphasis on family and friends. The people of Costa Rica are known for her relaxed and positive mindset, which is reflected in his traditional greeting de pura vida, which means good life or pure life. It is an expression that is used in all situations, from a simple greeting to a way of expressing gratitude.

In the same way, its people are very committed to their loved ones and are usually very supportive among them. Too Mutual aid between neighbors is common and community members. Contact with nature is highly appreciated and valued.

Art and literature

Art and literature are essential aspects of the Costa Rican cultural heritage. In this sense, Costa Rica received the printing press in 1830, which allowed the development of great writers, whose works were framed in the customary and realistic movements, mainly.

However, we also find great poets and essayists. Costa Rican literature has developed over the centuries, with prominent authors such as Carmen Lyra, Joaquín García Monge and José León Sánchez. In recent decades, the themes of Costa Rican literature have diversified. We can find works of science fiction, crime novels and epic fantasy.

As for art, it can be said that it has a own pictorial style It emerged in the 1930s. Likewise, in antiquity, stone spheres, stone sculptures, jade and pre-Columbian ceramics have been found, which have inspired art up to the present day. Examples of this are the works carried out by the sculptors Juan Rafael Chacón, Juan Manuel Sánchez and Juan Portuguez Fucigna.

But, like many other aspects, the art is a sample of a mixture of cultural influences and traditions that reflect the richness and cultural diversity in Costa Rica. Other recognized artists of this country are Federico Herrero and Adrian Fernandez.


Spanish is the official language in Costa Rica, and is spoken by the vast majority of the population. However, there are also some indigenous communities that speak indigenous languages. This allowed Costa Rica to be officially recognized as a multiethnic and multicultural republic in 2015. Some of the indigenous languages ​​still spoken in Costa Rica are Bocotá, Malecu, Guaimí, Cabécar and Bribi.

10 customs and traditions of Costa Rica


For many tourists, hearing about menudo can be confusing. But what is it? It is a way of calling low denomination banknotes and coins. For example, the bills of 1,000 and 2,000 colones are considered menudo. And, in general, they are used to pay for tickets on public transport or to give back after a purchase.

2. Bull riding

Bull riding is part of Costa Rican traditions. It is a sample of the colonial heritage in this country. For the participants and spectators, it has a great meaning, because represents a form of courage, strength, consciousness and security. Something curious about bull riding is that it can be done in any instance, from improvised rounds, even in the pampa itself. Even children practice this activity with calves!

3. The herdsman and the carts

Boyeo and carts are one of the most wonderful aspects of Costa Rican culture. It consists of painting and decorating the oxen carts. This custom started at the beginning of the 20th century, when flowers, faces and miniature landscapes began to appear next to the motifs that represented pointed stars. Over the years, contests were organized to choose the best carts.

It is one of the most emotional traditions, because it recalls the time when oxcarts were used to transport coffee beans from the central valley of Costa Rica. A trip that lasted up to 15 days! Obviously, other means of transport eliminated the use of carts. But in the country it continues transmitting knowledge from generation to generation.

Today you can find a large number of craftsmen who master the technique to make and decorate them! In 2008, it entered the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

4. Day of culture in Costa Rica

The day of culture in Costa Rica is one of the most important celebrations. It takes place on October 12 and commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus to America. It is a day that promotes tolerance, respect, ethnic diversity, Spanish heritage and the legacy of indigenous people.

Throughout the country there are activities to commemorate this day. However, in Puerto Limón, it is where there is a greater number of things to see and do, which attracts tourists from all over the world. For example, a gastronomic fair is organized, where you can eat traditional food and other exotic mixtures. Likewise, there is a crafts fair and a culture parade, which stands out for the integration of the different indigenous ethnic groups of Costa Rica.

5. Day of the traditional Costa Rican Masquerade

In Costa Rican culture, Halloween is not celebrated on October 31 of each year, but the traditional Costa Rican Masquerade Day. It is a long-awaited party! In all the streets, you can see thousands of people dressed as typical characters from popular folklore. You can also see representations of giants, witches, politicians, policemen, skulls, among others. Here the talent and creativity of Costa Rican artisans is on display!

6. Festival of Light

In San José, the Festival of Light is held annually during the month of December. It marks the beginning of Christmas! As the name implies, many lights can be seen everywhere in all styles. You can also participate in floats, masquerades, live music and fireworks. If you are visiting, you cannot miss out on participating in this event, which also offers the opportunity to listen to classic Christmas carols performed by cheerleading groups and bands from Costa Rica.

7. Celebration of the Child’s prayer

It takes place from December 26 to February 2! It is a religious tradition that unites all people and, especially, Catholics, since It is done in honor of the child God. It is an event that originated thanks to the Franciscan missionaries, influenced by their patron Saint Francis of Assisi.

What does it consist of? In which a host family opens the doors of their home for people to visit. Then, a rosary is prayed. There are also songs and dances. It is a very nice activity that highlights the faith of Costa Ricans!

8 The Lizard

In Ortega de Bolsón Guanacaste the Lagarteada is held every Good Friday. Have a history that already exceeds 150 years and consists of the capture of crocodiles. A process that can take up to six hours! Once they catch the animal, they tie it up and take it to the center of town. Those who manage to do this are greeted with cheers!

These crocodiles are used as a way of commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Previously, they were killed, but because it is an endangered animal, the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment demands that it be returned to its cave days after it was captured.

9. The pilgrimage

During the month of July, in the culture of Costa Rica, the a walk from all parts of the country to the Basilica de los Ángeles, a Catholic church, located in downtown Cartago. Thousands of devotees are united to thank the Patroness of Costa Rica for the favors received. This walk begins from different parts of the country and what is sought is to travel the almost 22 kilometers before August 2, to arrive on time for the mass officiated by the archbishop.

10. Lantern Parade

This is a party that takes place every September 14 in Costa Rica. It is a tradition that began in 1949. It is an opportunity for children to show the lanterns they have made in their schools in the streets. Too takes a tour with the Torch, symbol of the fire of freedom. It is a show worth seeing!

Costa Rica is a country with a unique cultural and heritage richness and its cultural diversity is one of the reasons why it is so attractive to visitors and tourists. It is a country that takes pride in its cultural heritage and works to preserve it and share it with the world. What do you think about the traditions and customs of Costa Rica? Leave us a comment!

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