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New Year’s Eve in Costa Rica

 In Costa Rica
Happy New Year on Beach

Image © Sara Ford

As with most holidays and special occasions, New Year’s Eve for Costa Ricans is celebrated with family. The North American tradition of the younger generation going out to clubs and parties, although more common in the beach and tourists areas, is not the tradition here. Nevertheless, Costa Rica has a little bit of something for everybody to bring in the Año Nuevo (New Year).

Traditionally, Costa Rican families will spend New Year’s Eve at home with generations cooking, drinking, listening to music, dancing, and watching the countdown on television. So San Jose clubs won’t fill up until late – after the older generation has headed to bed! Costa Ricans like to celebrate, but not on an empty stomach. A bountiful table full of delicious food will take center stage. Dinner will start at a late hour, maybe 10pm, as the family gathers for a typical meal of roasted pork leg, pasta or potato salad, corn on the cob, and green salad. For desert, a cinnamon spiced, rice pudding or tres leches (three milk cake) satisfies the palate.

Some worldwide traditions are enacted in Costa Rica such as watching the midnight fireworks light the night sky in a glorious display of colors. Depending where you are celebrating, people head to rooftops or the beach to take in the “bombetas“. Others are more unique, like this Spanish tradition of eating twelve grapes for good luck – one for every month in the coming year. Besides eating grapes, wearing yellow undergarments can also do the trick. Red ones will bring you love and green brings money. Craving some adventurous travels? Try walking around the block with a suitcase then thrown some water over your shoulder to “wash” away last year’s troubles and make a fresh start.

Although many head to the beaches to celebrate, there are also exciting activities in the capital. Just 10 minutes from downtown San Jose is the usually quiet neighborhood of Zapote. From Christmas through New Year’s Eve, the town is transformed into a huge party called “Las Fiestas de Zapote“. The streets are lined with stalls selling local food like “chicharrones” which are fried pork skins and “churros” which are fried dough straws filled with caramel with carnival rides and games for kids. Horses prance and dance under the guide of Costa Rican cowboys in the parade known as El Tope, but the main event is the bullfights.

Costa Rican bullfighting is quite popular in the country, but has developed into its own style. The bullfighting or “Los Corridos del Toro” is literally translated into bull running. Improvisandos (rodeo clowns) dress in silly costumes and enter the ring to be chased (and hopefully not trampled) by the bulls. Unlike traditional Spanish bullfighting, the bulls are never attacked, wounded or killed. Cattle ranchers bring their most prized bulls from all around the country and some have established reputations from past rodeos. Since anyone can enter the ring, it is not uncommon for injuries to occur to those who are not well prepared for the tenacity of the bulls. These modern day gladiators are awarded prizes for best performance and who can win over the crowd.

If the city is not for you, why not head to the beach as many Costa Ricans do? Just be sure book your accommodations in advance since many of the most popular beach locations are packed full of New Year’s Eve revelers. Where you go depends on what type of party you are looking for. If you want large crowds with a mix of locals and tourists, then head to Tamarindo or Playas del Coco in Guanacaste, or closer to San Jose, Jaco Beach, as always, will be hopping.

Playas del Coco is a small, former fishing village that has boomed in recent years due to its close proximity to the international airport in Liberia. For New Year’s Eve, the town receives thousands of visitors who fill the streets all the way to the beach for the festivities and the fireworks at midnight.  There is no shortage of bars or restaurants here to entertain before the big event.

Tamarindo, in the Northern Pacific Coast, is by far the bigger celebration with the whole party actually on the beach with DJ music thumping and the libations flowing. The spectacular display of fireworks at midnight don’t signal the end of the evening. This party is just getting started!

In Jaco Beach, you might want to opt for an all-inclusive hotel such as Croc’s Resort & Casino. Right on the beach, there will be a special event for New Year’s Eve (as always), plus the drinks and entertainment are included! Whether it’s live music or dancing till dawn to deep house beats, Jaco has got a little bit of something for everyone and it’s close enough to Juan Santamaria International Airport to make it a convenient long-weekend-away kind of New Year’s celebration.


If you are looking for a quieter celebration you can try Santa Teresa / Malpais on the Nicoya Peninsula. Expect a hippie vibe with surfing and yoga being the draw. Head to Playa del Carmen for the fireworks display! In the Caribbean towns of Puerto Viejo and Cahuita, the locals and visiting Ticos from San Jose might outnumber tourists, but all come for the relaxed reggae vibe and beach party. The fireworks displays here will not be as big, but the good cheer will be bountiful. In Cahuita, the pre-fireworks parties are at Ricky’s Bar and Coco’s in the center or for the beachfront party head to Reggae Bar in Playa Negra with a mix of DJ and live music. In Puerto Viejo, head to Maritzas for some Salsa music and dancing; Koki Beach for cocktails and people watching or Tex-Mex on the corner by the beach for live music.

No matter how you choose to bring in the New Year, we wish you all the best in 2018. Feliz Año Nuevo!


Recommended Car Category:

Bego Intermediate SUV

Intermediate SUV :: IFMR – IFAR

For New Year’s celebrations, party goers in the capital can rent a Sedan as a practical and economical option. Beach parties, especially in the less accessible Nicoya Peninsula, will require an Intermediate or Standard SUV for the higher clearance these cars offer. Our experienced staff will be happy to discuss which vehicle is most suitable for your end of year itinerary.

Reserve Yours Today!

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