As a company that puts together travel itineraries to visit Costa Rica, we always say it is an excellent time to visit Costa Rica. Still, there are some holidays that we need you to be aware of that will be much more crowded or a bit more expensive as well.
We have already talked to you about Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year, but in this article, we want to talk to you about Holy Week, which is Easter Week.
Suppose you love learning about the Easter traditions in Costa Rica and want to surround yourself with the locals. In that case, this is the article to grab a cup of your favorite Costa Rican coffee and learn how you can enjoy Semana Santa.
What is Easter Week or Semana Santa?
First, let’s explain that Semana Santa is a significant week for Latin America, as the culture is a vast Christian-based nation. And that is no different in Costa Rica.
The locals will step away from life, such as school and business, to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There will be celebrations all over the country from Holy Wednesday and Thursday to Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Let’s discuss what is celebrated, how, when, and where you should stay in Costa Rica during Easter week.
When is Easter Week in Costa Rica?
Easter week varies in Costa Rica, just like in the United States, but traditionally, it will start on Palm Sunday and end on Easter Sunday.
Holy Week in 2023 is from Sunday, April 2nd, to Sunday, April 9th.
How does Costa Rica celebrate Easter Week?
There would be plenty of events to do, incredible food to eat, and connections with the local families if you chose to come down to celebrate Easter Week with us. Let’s discuss this.
Customs & Traditions
This week is significant for the country as it is about family and community.
It is about coming together, taking a break from everyday life, and recognizing the importance of life.
Thursday and Friday, Costa Rica will shut businesses down, so make sure you find out what is open and closed. Instead, families will reconnect, celebrate, eat and enjoy time together.
Holy Week / Religious Events
As Semana Santa begins on Palm Sunday, many places in bigger cities, such as San Jose, will celebrate with two palm leaves in their hands and march between churches.
As the week continues, there is a celebration on Holy Thursday, the night Jesus Christ had his last supper. In addition, many churches will hold a special event for Holy Thursday.
Good Friday is one of the most popular celebrations, from processions of Jesus Christ and his final hours (see below) to many Ticos meditating, praying, and repenting during this day.
Easter Sunday is the end of Semana Santa week, as this is one of the most critical days of Jesus Christ was the resurrection. Therefore, you will hear many church bells ringing all across Costa Rica.
Dishes & Food
For the most part, many Ticos will not consume pork or beef during Semana Santa, so you may see a lot of fresh fish, ceviche, fried fish, and chiverre, which is a dessert and a very popular dish during Semana Santa.
Some Ticos will also take a break from alcohol; let’s emphasize that again, some. But there is a “Dry Law” enforced in Costa Rica, which means “starting at midnight on Wednesday, all liquor stores and bars are closed, and we know that people will also stock up on liquor.”
The larger parades during Semana Santa are the processions of Jesus Christ, but there are parades around Costa Rica that will not have the procession and celebrate the holy week with floats, food, and vendors on the route.
Where should you stay in Costa Rica for Easter Week?
Well, it depends on what you want to do. Do you enjoy beaches (see below), volcanos, rainforests, bigger cities, and the Tico traditions?
Anywhere you go in Costa Rica, the country will celebrate Semana Santa, but some places will have different traditions.
For example, a well-known traditional spot is San Jose, specifically Cartago, southeast of San Jose. If you are interested in seeing the processional of Jesus Christ, this is an event that should not be missed. It can be prolonged and gruesome sometimes, so it may not be the faintest of hearts for kids, but those interested in this procession may be on your bucket list.
If you head to the beaches, the Guanacaste side is packed, and the Caribbean side is not as crowded but can get busy.
All-Inclusive Resorts vs. Authentic Lodging
Over the last couple of years, we recognized that the all-inclusive resorts keep the tradition of Semana Santa, just like authentic lodging does. It depends on what you are genuinely looking to do during this time.
The all-inclusive resorts have realized the importance of carrying the holiday tradition; even if not many locals come to the alternatives, many still work at these resorts that celebrate Semana Santa.
If you want more traditional and authentic lodging, you will not be disappointed in choosing this. However, you can always find out what the accommodation is doing during this time, and they may have options in the town nearby to see traditional parades, fiestas, and Holy Services.
Where to avoid Easter Week?
The beaches. Yes, we said it. Unless you know where to go.
The beaches are packed with the local community of Costa Ricans. This is because so many locals will pack up their family and extended families from the cities, such as San Jose and other areas of San Jose, and head to the beaches on the Guanacaste, Pacific, or Caribbean. An experienced travel agency can help you find beaches that will be less-crowded over Easter in Costa Rica.
Should you drive/rent a car over Easter Week in Costa Rica?
As much as we would like to tell you yes, we are going to say “No,” to renting a car and driving over Easter Week.
First, this week’s prices for renting a car or an SUV are insanely high. You will have to grab additional insurance, which is required for car rentals in Costa Rica, and prices tend to be a tad higher even on insurance per day.
Second of all, the roads can be hectic. For example, let’s say you jumped on your app to see what point A to point B of traveling time would be. We would suggest you add another 30 minutes to an hour. Driving here isn’t like jumping on I-10 and going 80 mph; there is so much more to driving in Costa Rica.
Let us take care of the stress for you. We promise you won’t regret someone else taking care of the driving.
Planning a Trip to Costa Rica for Easter Week
Planning a trip to Costa Rica for Easter Week is an effortless task, especially if you are working with us!
We will have a great conversation with you about what you are looking to do when you want to come and if you are looking to partake in any of the above traditions of Costa Rica during Holy Week.
Don’t get nervous about the “busyness” of Holy Week. If this is the only time you can make it, let’s make it happen.
Remember, we are all about the Pura Vida life, and we want you to experience how we enjoy it.
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.