There are a number of festivals, holidays and other events celebrated in San José each year. The main ones are listed below.January 1: New Year's Day (National and local)
The first day of the year is a time of festivities in Costa Rica. In San José the ‘Toros a la Tica' or ‘Zapote Bullfights' are held. In the middle of the traditional arena, the bravest young men of the city engage in a spectacular race of the bulls. Animal lovers can rest assured: the bulls are neither injured nor killed!April 11: Feast of Juan Santamaria (national)
On this holiday, Costa Rica commemorates its national hero, Juan Santamaria, killed at the Second Battle of Rivas during a national campaign (1856-1857) that pitted the Costa Rican militia against an army of American filibusters. On this day many parades and festivals are held, but there are also celebrations between neighbours, dances in the public squares, and outdoor concerts.April 9 to 16: Holy Week (National)
From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, Costa Rica, a traditionally Catholic country, joins in the celebration of Holy Week. Shops are closed from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday. The festivities usually take place within the family, but they also occur between believers during processions and masses. Note: the sale of alcohol is prohibited on Holy Thursday and Friday.May 1: Labour Day (National)
On this holiday, the President of the Republic of Costa Rica gives a speech. It is also an opportunity for workers to organize marches and demonstrations.July 25: Annexation of Guanacaste (National)
This holiday commemorates the annexation of Guanacaste by Costa Rica in 1824. The majority of the country's cities organise horse shows, folkloric parades, bullfights, or marimba concerts.August 2: Feast of the Black Madonna (National)
This holiday is dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels, patron saint of Costa Rica. On the night of August 1-2, a pilgrimage walk from San José to Cartago takes place. It attracts devotees from all over Central America. On August 2nd, a mass is given in the square of the Basilica of Cartago, followed by a procession to the church of Carmel.August 15: Assumption of the Virgin / Mother's Day (National)
On this day, Costa Ricans honour their mothers during the feast of the Assumption. Though the Virgin Mary is particularly celebrated during processions and celebrations, mums are also the objects of attention from relatives and receive flowers and gifts.September 15: Independence Day (National)
Costa Rica celebrates its independence from Spain (1821). On this occasion, a flame of freedom leaves Guatemala and, over several days, crosses all the Central American countries formerly dominated by Spain. On 14 September, the evening before the official independence day, at 6:00 p.m. sharp, the flame is welcomed in San José in a large torchlight procession. At the same time, the whole country stops to sing the national anthem.October 12: Festival of Cultures (National)
This day, celebrated throughout Latin America, commemorates the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus as well as the ethnic and cultural diversity of Costa Rica. In San José, in the Isabella the Catholic Park, school children lay wreaths at the feet of the former Queen of Spain.October 31: Noche de las brujas (national)
In this ‘Night of Witches', the Costa Rican equivalent of the Anglo-Saxon Halloween, children (and adults too) go from house to house, dressed up in scary costumes, to collect candy.December 25: Christmas (national)
Christmas Eve is a time dear to the hearts of Costa Ricans. Families gather to enjoy traditional dishes tamales and pata de chancho (pork leg). Then they go to the misa del gallo (rooster Mass) between 8 and 9:00 p.m. Gifts brought, it is said, by the baby Jesus in person, are arranged around the children's beds. But no celebratory pine tree in Costa Rica: the Christmas tree is a cypress!
|Month||Min. Average Temperature (°C/F°)||Max. Average Temperature (°C/F°)||Average Rains (MM)||Best Time to Travel|
|January||15||25||14||Good period to go|
|February||15||25||5||Good period to go|
|March||16||27||19||Good period to go|
|April||18||27||45||Good period to go|
|May||18||28||228||Not the best period to go|
|June||18||27||240||Not the best period to go|
|July||18||26||210||Not the best period to go|
|August||17||27||240||Not the best period to go|
|September||17||27||304||Not the best period to go|
|October||17||26||299||Not the best period to go|
|November||17||26||144||Not the best period to go|
|December||15||25||40||Good period to go|
The airport is located about 17 kilometres from the centre of San José.
Getting around by car in San José requires patience and caution. To visit the city centre, nothing beats walking!
Signalling defects, poorly maintained pavement in some neighbourhoods, and chaotic traffic in peak hours can make driving difficult in San José. The car parks are numerous, but can cost up to CRC 1,000 an hour in some neighbourhoods.
There are several bus lines through the city of San José, but they are difficult to identify because they bear the name of their final destination. They circulate in the city between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., and their rates depend on the length of the line used (count between CRC 150 and 450 on average). Urban buses are especially handy for access to the nearby towns of San José, such as Alajuela, Cartago, and Heredia.
In San José as in other large and touristic cities in Costa Rica, it is very easy to rent a city or mountain bike. Count between CRC 6,000 and CRC 12,000 per day. A small number of agencies also organises tours across the region, and even throughout the country.
Taxis are everywhere, even in the remotest corners of the capital. The fare is set on the counter: make sure it is on when you board. Count an initial charge of CRC 650 and about CRC 650 per kilometre.
Once you arrive in San José, don't hesitate to get in touch with tourism professionals for information and help in organising your stay.Instituto costarricense de turismo
See your doctor before you travel. It is also recommended to take out insurance covering medical expenses and repatriation before your trip. San José counts several hospitals and medical institutions, as well as quality medical practitioners and health specialists.Vaccinations
It is recommended to see your doctor before you travel. No vaccinations are required to travel to Costa Rica, but vaccines against tetanus, diphtheria, and hepatitis A are recommended.
Cases of Zika virus have been signalled in Costa Rica. The virus is mainly transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, as well as unprotected sexual intercourse. Although generally producing mild effects, it may cause severe complications in infants born to mothers infected during their pregnancy. If you are pregnant, it is recommended not to travel to Costa Rica. If you plan to get pregnant, it is recommended to postpone until after your return from Costa Rica, or to delay your trip. For more information, contact the Air France Vaccination Centre:
Food safety recommendations
Good food hygiene practices are recommended to ensure a healthy diet (well-cooked food, well-washed fruits and vegetables before consumption).Water
Tap water is not safe to drink. Favour bottled mineral water instead.
Nationals of many countries such as the USA, Canada, Japan or the countries of the European Union are not required to present a visa to enter the territory of Costa Rica. For more information, visit the website of the Embassy of Costa Rica: www.costarica-embassy.org/index.php?q=node/21
To enjoy peace of mind during your stay in San José, visit the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of your country.
Here are a few useful phrases in Spanish for your stay in San José:
Service is not always included in the price: if it isn't, this must be indicated on the menu. So count an extra 10% for service. Tipping is left to your discretion.