Las Fiestas de Palmares, January
Día de Juan Santamaría, April
Día de Guanacaste, July
Costa Rican Independence Day, September
Día de los Muertos, November
Fiesta de los Diablitos, December
Every year opens with a rush, as North American and domestic tourists flood beach towns to celebrate. January sees dry days and occasional afternoon showers.
Fiesta de la Santa Cruz
Held in Santa Cruz in the second week of January, this festival centers on a rodeo and bullfights. It also includes the requisite religious procession, music, dances and a beauty pageant.
Calling all Deadheads: the biggest musical event to hit Jacó, Jungle Jam stretches over several days and venues outside of the main event, which is set in the jungle just outside of town. Held in mid-January.
Las Fiestas de Palmares
Ten days of boozing, horse shows and other carnival events take over the tiny town of Palmares in the second half of the month. There’s also a running of the bulls – um, opt out.
February is the perfect month, with ideal weather and no holiday surcharges. The skies above Nicoya are particularly clear, and it’s peak season for some species of nesting turtle to do their thing.
Held in Uvita in late February, this is a festival with a consciousness-raising, transformational bent, bringing together fire dancers and performance artists of all stripes, yoga, music and spiritual workshops. Also takes place during the first week of March in Dominical.
Fiesta Cívica de Liberia
A beauty pageant and a carnival atmosphere complete with horseback riding and traditional food enliven Liberia at the end of February.
Festival of the Little Devils
Replete with colorful masks, this festival re-enacts an epic battle between Spaniards (the toro, or bull) and indigenous Boru people (the diablitos, or 'little devils'). Guess who wins? Held in Rey Curré, south of San Isidro de El General. Boruca holds the same celebration in December.
Excellent weather continues through the early part of March, though prices shoot up during Semana Santa, the week leading up to Easter and North American spring break (aka Holy Week and Unholy Week).
Feria de la Mascarada
During the Feria de la Mascarada, begun in 2002, people don massive colorful masks (weighing up to 20kg) to dance and parade around the town square of Barva. Usually held during the last week of March.
Día del Boyero
A colorful parade, held in Escazú on the second Sunday in March, features colorfully painted carretas (oxcarts, the national symbol) and includes a blessing of the animals. Plaid shirt and cowboy hat optional.
Easter and Semana Santa can fall early in April, which means beaches fill and prices spike. Nicoya and Guanacaste are dry and hot, with little rain.
Día de Juan Santamaría
Commemorating Costa Rica’s national hero (the main airport is named for him), who died in battle against American colonist William Walker’s troops in 1856, this day of celebration on April 11 includes parades, concerts and dances.
Attention, budget travelers: wetter weather begins to sweep across the country in May, heralding the country’s low season. So, although conditions are pleasant, prices drop.
Día de San Isidro Labrador
Visitors can taste the bounty of San Isidro and neighboring villages during the nation’s largest agricultural fairs, in honor of the growers' patron saint, on May 15. A chance to see soccer-playing priests? Don't miss it.
The Pacific Coast gets fairly wet during June, though this makes for good surfing. The beginning of the 'green season,' this time of year has lots of discounted rates.
Festival de las Artes (FIA)
This multidisciplinary, multiday festival featuring international artists takes flight all across San José and has recently been moved to June-July.
Día de San Pedro & San Pablo
Celebrations with religious processions are held in villages of the same name on June 29. They honor the martyrdom of Catholic saints Peter and Paul.
July is mostly wet, particularly on the Caribbean coast, but the month also occasionally enjoys a brief dry period that Ticos call veranillo (summer). Expect rain, particularly late in the day.
Fiesta de La Virgen del Mar
Held in Puntarenas and Playa del Coco on the Saturday closest to July 16, the Festival of the Virgin of the Sea involves colorful, brightly lit regattas and boat parades.
Día de Guanacaste
Celebrates the 1824 annexation of Guanacaste from Nicaragua. There are rodeos, bullfights, cattle shows and general bovine madness. It takes place on July 25.
The middle of the rainy season doesn’t mean that mornings aren’t bright and sunny. Travelers who don’t mind some rain will find great hotel and tour deals.
La Virgen de los Ángeles
The patron saint of Costa Rica, the Black Virgin or Black Madonna, is celebrated with an important religious procession from San José to Cartago on August 2.
The Península de Osa gets utterly soaked during September, which is the heart of the rainy season and what Ticos refer to as the temporales del Pacífico. It’s the cheapest time to visit the Pacific.
Costa Rican Independence Day
The center of the Independence Day action is the relay race that passes a ‘Freedom Torch’ from Guatemala to Costa Rica. The torch arrives at Cartago on the evening of the 14th, when the nation breaks into the national anthem.
Many roads become impassable as rivers swell and rain continues to fall in one of the wettest months in Costa Rica. Lodges and tour operators are sometimes closed until November.
Día de la Raza
Columbus’ historic landing on Isla Uvita has traditionally inspired a small carnival in Puerto Limón on October 12, with street parades, live music and dancing.
The weather can go either way in November. Access to Parque Nacional Corcovado is difficult after several months of rain, though the skies clear by month’s end.
Día de los Muertos
Families visit graveyards and have religious parades in honor of the dead in this lovely and picturesque festival on November 2.
Although the beginning of the month is a great time to visit – with clearer skies and relatively uncrowded attractions – things ramp up toward Christmas and reservations become crucial.
Las Fiestas de Zapote
In San José between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, this weeklong celebration of all things Costa Rican (rodeos, cowboys, carnival rides, fried food and booze) draws tens of thousands of Ticos to the bullring in the suburb of Zapote every day.
Fiesta de los Diablitos
Festival de la Luz (Festival of Light)
San José comes to life as it marks the beginning of the Christmas season on the second Saturday of the month, with marching bands, spectacular floats, and various colorful light displays and artworks throughout downtown (www.festivaldelaluz.cr).