As an ex-pat moving to Costa Rica from Texas, it was my first Independence Day, July 4th, not in my own country. Because I realized, “Wait, a celebration of July 4th is just any other day in Costa Rica.”
While there are a lot of ex-pats where I live in Samara, Costa Rica, it is not celebrated as we did in Texas and the Midwest, where I grew up.
I started researching the history of Costa Rica because I wanted to learn more about the country that I have been living in for almost a year and realized, “Yes, Costa Rica has their independence day.”
Grab that Costa Rican coffee and learn about Costa Rica’s Independence Day.
History of Costa Rica’s Independence Day
On September 15th, 1821, Costa Rica and Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua were given their Independence from Spain after the Mexican War of Independence defeat.
There was technically no fight like there was in America, but Spain recognized that Central America was becoming a burden to them, so they were granted their Independence.
Then in 1838, Costa Rica gained Independence from other parts of Central America.
When is Costa Rica’s Independence Day?
Costa Rica’s Independence Day is being celebrated on September 14th and 15th.
September 15th is a national holiday, and many businesses are closed to celebrate this day. For example, many companies, banks, and government offices are closed, but you want to make sure you call first to find out if some restaurants and Soda Shops are open.
What are Traditions?
Here are a couple of traditions that may be seen throughout Costa Rica.
The Torch Run
Think about how the Olympic torch is run every two years for the winter and summer Olympics. The Torch Run is the same in Costa Rica but every year for Independence Day.
Starting on September 9th, in Guatemala, people will walk/run the torch through Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua ending in a town outside of San Jose called Cartago and usually arriving by September 14th.
Night Time Lantern Parade
On September 14th, TV stations will broadcast the national anthem of Costa Rica, and the country will sing together.
After the national anthem, mostly every town around Costa Rica will begin the Desfile de Forles or the Night Time Lantern Parade. Kids will carry lanterns in the shape of houses and other objects to represent the journey of Costa Rica and Costa Rica’s freedom.
Here is a little fun fact for you. Unfortunately, Costa Rica officially received their information on October 13th, a month later since the news was received by horseback.
What are Celebrations Like?
There will be different options for each town if there is a town center. Since Independence Day is in the middle of the school year, many kids and schools will prepare for traditions on September 15th.
Usually, there are parades with marching bands from the school, color guards, and folk dancers. It is also fun to see the types of clothing at the parades. You will see the boys in white shirts, blue pants, and a handkerchief tied around the neck. The girls will wear a beautiful flowy skirt with a white top and usually their hair is up in a bun.
You may even see horseback rides and activities for younger kids. Another popular tradition with Independence Day is street vendors, which can consist of traditional Costa Rica food. For example, you can enjoy arroz con pollo (rice and chicken), Costa Rican coffee, of course, tamales, fried plantains( it is a must), and coconut flan (another must!)
Many Independence Day activities are free to the public, and seeing the community come together is lovely.
Where to Go?
There are many places to go to in Costa Rica to celebrate Independence Day, but it depends on what you are looking to do.
What to Avoid?
If Independence Day lands on a Friday or a Monday, you can expect that the beaches will be bustling on the Pacific Coast and the Caribbean Coast because many Costa Rican will head to the beach for a long weekend.
I have noticed that living in a beach town, many local people from the beach town will leave during the hectic times of Independence Day and Samana Santa (Easter Week) (https://www.creescapes.com/easter-in-costa-rica/).
What is Costa Rica like during the US Independence Day (July 4th)?
What if you want to come to Costa Rica during the US Independence Day on July 4th?
We encourage it! It is beautiful during this time.
During this time, you can not beat the weather, where it is sunny and gorgeous during the day, and then there is the possibility of rain in the evening after sunset. However, what I love about July is how green everything is when you are driving around in Costa Rica.
While you may not see the typical US Holiday traditions of parades, you may see fireworks, along with a big ex-pat community, getting together and celebrating the US Holiday on July 4th.
Living in Samara for my first year, I went to the beach in the evening. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of fireworks on the beach during the 4th of July.
Suppose you come to Costa Rica during Costa Rican Independence Day. In that case, you will be pleasantly surprised by learning about the culture of Costa Rica with the community, the traditions, and the food. And we want to encourage you to do so, as it is a great way to learn about Costa Rica.
If you want to come down to the beach during this time, make sure it doesn’t fall on the weekend, as it will be pretty busy. But if that doesn’t bother you, and you want to immerse yourself in the culture, it will be a pleasant surprise.
We will love to have you if you want to come down during the US holiday. Contact us below, and we can help you with whatever Independence Holiday you want to choose to celebrate.
Jen Rulon is an avid traveler and writer for Costa Rica Escapes. She is also a triathlon coach and author. You can find her knowledge as an author and speaker ranging from Triathlete Magazine, Runners World, on the TEDx Stage, the Health and Wellness Expo in San Antonio, TX, Men’s Journal Online New York Times.
As she has retired from the triathlon space, Jen’s love of Costa Rica began. She realized that she loves the beaches, and the coffee of Costa Rica and now wants to share through the eyes of what she sees with Costa Rica Escapes. Read Jen’s stories and advice for travelers who wish to see the authentic side of Costa Rica on their vacation.