Culture of Costa Rica

In general, Costa Ricans or Ticos as they are known, are outgoing, have a ready sense of humor, are predominantly Catholic, independent, and friendly but also reserved as their lives are largely centered around their extended families—and local soccer matches!


Throughout the year Costa Ricans have many traditional activities and celebrations. Some of the activities include small country fairs with colorful oxcart processions, horse parades, bull fights (it is illegal to kill bulls in Costa Rica; the bulls are ridden and chased by participants at the event), food sales, rides for small children, traditional “giants” accompanied by a noisy cimarona band, soccer matches, and children’s games.

On August 1st every year, hundreds of thousands of Costa Ricans make an annual pilgrimage to the large Basilica in the eastern city of Cartago as an act of faith. On September 14th, the eve of Independence Day, young children walk with their parents at dusk (6 PM) carrying faroles, or paper lanterns lit with flashlight light bulbs or candles. This is followed the next day with parades of school children carrying flags, banners, and in marching bands.

At special events, one might hear a group of musicians playing a marimba in the background, or at an important party hosts might hire a mariachi band, complete with fancy uniforms and oversized Mexican sombreros! In recent years, high school graduation parties or girl’s 15th birthday parties are celebrated with a vivacious group of samba musicians. In October, in a nod to the community’s strong African roots, the eastern seaport city of Limon has a Carnival celebration that lasts several days. In December, the dark nights are illuminated with colorful strings of street lights and chinamos(temporary stalls), that sell tinsel, lights, decorations, and ornaments for the Christmas holiday. At the stroke of midnight, the New Year is celebrated with parties and lots of fireworks!


Costa Rica is a nation of peaceful politics: the army was abolished in 1949 in an effort to better finance causes such as health care, education and later, conservation of natural resources. Every four years national elections are held for the president, two vice presidents, and members of congress. There are several parties that present candidates however the majority of votes usually are cast for the two most popular parties.


The Costa Rican diet revolves around a base of rice and beans, fresh fruits and vegetables, and protein sources of beef, chicken, fish, and pork. A very popular breakfast dish is called gallo pinto and is a mixture of rice and beans usually spiced with salt, garlic, peppers, onions, and cilantro. On the east coast, this very popular dish is flavored with coconut milk. This is a reflection of the cooking preferences of its inhabitants of Jamaican heritage and the regional abundance of coconuts. Visitors should make a point of trying the various tropical fruits available in Costa Rica. Near the source, and of different varieties, these fruits are generally vastly superior to most tropical fruits found in northern supermarkets—tropical fruits shipped north are picked green and may spend two weeks or more in transit. Costa Rica produces mangoes, papayas, passion fruits, small flavorful datil bananas, tangy soursop, and very sweet pineapples, among others.

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