Costa Rican culture has been nurtured from many different sources. The main ones: Indigenous heritage, Hispanic colonial influence, Afro-Caribbean culture and other immigrant cultures.
The official language is Spanish, but some indigenous dialects are also used such as Bribri and Creole Mekatelyu.
The Ticos (the short name given to the Costa Ricans) are relaxed, friendly, and peaceful.
Religion plays an important role in Costa Rican culture, with around 53% of Costa Ricans identifying themselves as Catholics. Other beliefs are traditionnaly tolerated as 23% are Protestant, 18% are Atheist, 4% are devided between other religions and the remaining 2% are unknown.
The indigenous communities in Costa Rica represent both Mesoamerican and South American cultures. These communities currently comprise, however, less than 1% of the country’s total population. The Borucas, Bribris, Cabecares, Chorotegas, Guatusos / Malekus, Guyamies, Huetares, and Terrabas live in natural reserves located in the different regions of the country. The natives make their living from agriculture, food gathering, hunting, fishing, handicrafts, and tourism. We highly recommend that you visit at least one of these communities during your trip to Costa Rica.
Your curiosity will take you on a timeless adventure. The pleasure you will discover in such a beautiful encounter will lighten the heart of the native, and the soul of the forest will not be forgotten.
Maleku Tribe at San Rafael of Guatuso :
The Maleku indigenous tribe is the smallest in Costa Rica with only around 650 people remaining! The Maleku are proud to have kept their traditions, culture, and language alive. What matters most to the Maleku is the FOREST which represents LIFE for them! The Maleku believe that birds are our sisters and mammals are our brothers. They reforest so that jaguars and hawks can return to live near their reserve. They accept volunteers and donations to help them reforest.
The Traditional Tour: Hear a brief history of the Maleku people; walk through the reforestation project and the gardens of medicinal plants , enjoy a traditional lunch, participate in a painting workshop to create your own Maleku artwork; and be the guest of a traditional ceremony.
From 9h / Duration between 3h and 4h / Reservation Required / $ 65 per person
An evening visit: Discover the surroundings of a Maleku village at night. It is home to a large population of red-eyed frogs, and you never know what other animals can appear.
From 5 p.m. / Lasts around two hours / $ 45 per person
Wearing their brightly colored ceremonial masks, the Borucas celebrate the Fiesta de los Diablitos from December 30 to January 2. The Fiesta tells the story of the Borucas resisting the invason of Spanish conquistadors.
The Legend of Poas Volcano
Legend has it that in pre-Hispanic times, an indigenous tribe lived near the volcano. In this tribe there was a beautiful orphan girl who lived all by herself. One day she found lying on the ground a little bird with a magnificent song, who was himself an orphan as well. She cared for it and protected it. Suddenly one morning, the volcano woke up and threatened to destroy the entire village. The tribal leaders believed that the god who lived in the volcano wanted a virgin to be sacrificed, so they decided to sacrifice the beautiful orphan. She was brought to the edge of the crater, and when she was about to be thrown into it, the bird offered to the volcano its most beautiful song and thus spared her life. The compassionate volcano died out until only the lagoon (which is still there) was left in its crater. The bird could no longer sing, but in return, it acquired a beautiful plumage, golden from the heat of the volcano. From time to time the volcano remembers the bird’s song, whistling it through fumes of hot steam.
* The bird in this story is none other than the Chlorophonia Callophrys.
Immerse yourself completely in the life of the country by setting off to meet the Afro-Caribbean community located along the Caribbean coast. You will be seduced by their warmth, the flavor of their dishes, their musical culture, and the simplicity of their way of life.
Afro-Caribbean culture in Costa Rica is concentrated in the Limon region, and in its port city a carnival lasting more than a week is normally celebrated around October 12. In 2019, however, as has unfortunately been the case for several years, the festival did not take place. Cultural associations are now doing everything they can to ensure that in 2020 and therafter the carnival will once again be held.
You can also attend the Festival of the African Diaspora which takes place every year in August. Organized by the Fundación Arte Cultura para el Desarrollo, the Festival promotes African culture in the Americas through performances and educational events. Organized both in the capital San José and in Limon, the Festival offers concerts of gospel, jazz, soul, hip-hop, reggae, calypso and soca.
Another celebration highlighting how African traditions have influenced Costa Rican music is the Festival of Music and Arts of the Southern Caribbean, which is held annually in March and April in the coastal city of Puerto Viejo.
To enjoy these Afro-Caribbean cultural activities, which take place openly in the streets at no charge, simply book accommodations nearby and just go there.
Some Famous Authors
Alfonso Chacón Rodríguez is a contemporary writer, doctor of electronic engineering, and professor. His book El luto de la libélula won him the National Novel Prize Aquileo J. Echeverría in 2011. The book’s opening is overwhelming. From the very first line: “In the bed there is a man lying on his back”, the approach to the situation in which the character lives is brutal, polyhedral like the eyes of the fly which “always on the ceiling” looks from above.
Alberto Cañas (1920 – 2014) was a politician, writer, intellectual, academic, senior government official, and journalist. His first novel, published in 1965, Una Casa en el Barrio del Carmen is the most popular and also the winner of the 1st Aquileo Echeverría Prize of the same year.
This short novel by Alberto Cañas is characterized by its fast pace and mounting tension. The descriptions of spaces and situations, as well as the stories of the individual characters, are a delight of spirit and humor. This novel is pure accelerated action, giving the impression of being told in a hurry. The ending is surprising and bittersweet.
Carlos Luis Fallas (1909 – 1966) was a writer and political activist.
Fallas is one of Costa Rica’s most widely read authors. He received the Magón Prize, the nation’s highest cultural distinction, shortly before his death. Congress named him “Benefactor of the Fatherland” posthumously in 1977.
His most well-known work, Mamita Yunai, denounces the harsh working conditions suffered by workers of the United Fruit Company. It is a comic and compelling novel largely inspired by his own life as a Costa Rican boy coming of age in the early twentieth century.
Victoria Garron (1920 – 2005) was a political figure, writer, intellectual, academic, and public servant. She was the first woman in the history of both Central and North America to formally assume the office of vice-president.
Garron wrote La Canción de la Vida, an important historical account of the immigration from France to the center and north of the American continent from the end of the 19th century. She also wrote poems in French published in her collection Bouquet de Violettes.
Joaquín Gutiérrez Mangel (1918-2000) was a journalist, war chronicler, novelist, storyteller, poet, translator, publisher, university professor, and politician. His stories are a testimony to his travel, daily life, chronicles and memories.
His book La Hoja de Aire fictionalizes several of his own journeys, linking each of them to a different stage in the life of Alfonso, the main character. Gutiérrez Mangel integrates the social dimensions of local conflicts into his descriptions of the new environments. Such travel accounts also represent the adventure of individual initiation, the inner journey in search of oneself.
Max Jiménez(1900 – 1947) was an avant-garde painter, plastic artist and writer.
His novel El Domador de Pulgas tells the meta-narrative of a flea-tamer who decides to give his blood for his flea circus so that a society can be built on his body. Using caricature and irony, Jiménez satirizes civilization by comparing it with the life of parasitic insects. He creates a story based on incongruency. The style of his illustrations lie between expressionism and surrealism, questioning the image of the mythical peasant of the Costa Rican social imagination. With this rhetoric of deconstruction, Jiménez broke up the literary models of the time, placing himself as a singular figure in the literary avant-garde of Costa Rica.
Eugenio Rodríguez Vega (1925 – 2008) was an intellectual, writer, and politician.
Over the years he undertook extensive research on the history of Costa Rica and also left several accounts of his own time.
The Biography of Costa Rica is a history book written expressly for the ordinary reader. Drawing on authors from different historical periods, the work aspires not to overwhelm readers with an excessive bibliographical references. At the end of each chapter, however, the main sources consulted are listed.
Library of the University of Costa Rica
Online shop and some books are free.
National Literary Awards
The National Theater of Costa Rica is a symbol of the golden age of coffee and the “Belle Époque” in Costa Rica. Declared a National Monument in 1965, this Theater is one of the jewels of the national heritage and one of the symbols of the importance shown attached to culture by past generations.
Costa Ricans crowd into the Theater District, and its magnificent neo-classical architecture makes it a tourist attraction as well. The Theater organizes hourly visits on weekends. It also has a small café and a gift shop.
The Theater takes care to present a prestigious cultural agend. Here is where National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica also performs its concert season.
COSTA RICAN CINEMA
Centro de Cine
Although it continues to be attached to the Ministry of Culture and Youth, the Costa Rica Film Production Center (Centro de Cine) conducts its activities as an independent entity. It aims to protect and encourage audiovisual and cinematographic production in Costa Rica. The Centro offers a varied agenda with screenings of films by Costa Rican or foreign directors in the Préambulo screening room.
Direction : Esquina de la avenida 9 y calle 11, San José
(+506) 2542 5200 firstname.lastname@example.org
Costa Rican Film Festival
The CRFIC is an independent film festival with an inclusive and humanist footprint that is respectful of all artistic or individual expression. It sees in cinematographic art an easily accessible route to both spiritual nourishment and entertainment.
One of the Festival’s main objectives is to provide an international platform for presenting the most recent movies produced in Central America and the Caribbean.
A new edition of the Festival is held every year on different dates and in a selection of partner movie theaters throughout the country.
Museo Nacional de Costa Rica
The National Museum was created to provide the country with a public institution to store, classify, and study natural and artistic products. Since 1950 the National Museum has been located in the premises of the former Bellavista barracks.
In its enclosure the museum shelters a greenhouse with butterflies. The neighboring buildings, las Casas de los Comandantes, are also open to the public and showcase the architectural heritage of San José with their mix of architectural styles, decor, and accessories dating from the 19th century.
From room to room, the permanent and temporary exhibitions cover a wide range of themes ranging from the country’s history to contemporary art.
Price: $ 11 and free for children under 12.
Open: Tuesday to Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Closed on January 1, April 9 and 10, May 1, July 25, August 15, September 15 and December 25.
Address : Norte de la Avenida 9 calle 4 San José
Telephone : (+506) 2211 5700 email@example.com
El Museo del Jade
The Jade Museum exhibits archaeological treasures from the pre-Columbian era.
It houses the largest collection of pre-Columbian jade in America. The collection includes ceremonial masks, decorative items, volcanic millstones, ceramics, pottery, and gold ornaments.
Jade comes from Guatemala and transited through Costa Rica when Mesoamerican civilizations traded with those in the Andes.
Price: $ 16 and free for children under 5.
Open: Monday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Address : Avenida Central calle 13 à San José.
Telephone. : (+506) 2521 6610 firstname.lastname@example.org
Museo de Arte Costarricense
The Costa Rican Art Museum presents a collection of paintings and sculptures by contemporary national artists. It is located in the old Sabana Airport building, a colonial-style architectural work.
Open: Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Address : Parque La Sabana
Telephone. : (+506) 2256 1281
Museo del Oro
Located below the Plaza de la Cultura, this museum contains one of the most beautiful collections of indigenous artifacts made of gold. More than 2,000 gold objects are exhibited. This valuable artistic and archaeological treasure shows the great formal and symbolic wealth created by the indigenous people of Costa Rica.
Open: Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Address : Bajo la Plaza de la Cultura, San José
Telephone : (+506) 2243 4202
Museo Histórico Cultural Juan Santamaría
This museum safeguards and displays a collection of artifacts, documents, and works of art related to the heroic deeds of the National Hero, Juan Santamaría. It is located in the city of Alajuela.
Open: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Address : Costado norte del Parque Central de la Ciudad de Alajuela.
Telephone : (+506) 2441 4775
Email : email@example.com
Museo de los Niños
Occupying the building of the old Penitentiary, this exceptional cultural institution is designed according to the modern concept of “Interactive Museum” and dedicated mainly to the interests of children. The objects displayed reveal both technological advances and educational discoveries related to the progress of science and research. In this place children and adults learn by playing. The museum is the first of its kind in Central America and has 32 interactive exhibits. It offers a wide range of educational-cultural, recreational, artistic, and scientific activities.
Open: Tuesday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Address : Antigua Penitenciaría, San José
Telephone : (+506) 2258 4929
Museo de Ciencias Naturales La Salle
Located in the old Colegio La Salle, this museum shows a collection of stuffed animals (taxidermy) set in recreated natural environments in addition to archaeological pieces and mineralogical specimens.
Open: Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays or holidays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Address : Sabana sur, dentro de las instalaciones del Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería (MAG)
Telephone : (+506) 2232 1306
Museo de Insectos
This museum contains an immense and especially interesting collection of approximately one million insects from Costa Rica and the rest of the world. It is located in the basement of the School of Musical Arts of the University of Costa Rica and is accessible by wheelchair.
Open: Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Address : En el sótano del Edificio de Música, en el Campus Universitario Rodrigo Facio en San Pedro de Montes de Oca, San José
Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo
Offered here are a range of educational services related to contemporary art and design. The museum houses a video library with more than 150 videos on contemporary art and design. Guided tours through exhibitions are available, and workshops, seminars, and conferences as well take place throughout the year.
Open: Tuesday to Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Monday only for guided tours and workshops by appointment)
Address : Calle 15-17, Avenida 3 edificio del MADC
Telephone : (+506) 2257 7202
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Museo Regional de San Ramón
This museum aims to rescue and preserve the cultural heritage of the San Ramon region with an emphasis on four major areas: cultural heritage, natural history, the plastic arts and literature. The building and collections belong to the University of Costa Rica.
Open: Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. and 1:45 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Address : Costado norte del parque municipal de San Ramón, Alajuela.
Telephone : (+506) 2447 7137
Email : email@example.com