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If dreaming of a “White Christmas” sounds better with white sand instead of white snow, you’ll love celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Costa Rica.
December, specifically the holiday season, is one of the most popular times to visit Costa Rica—but for a good reason. Costa Rica’s beautiful weather, festive atmosphere, and vibrant culture will help you and your family enjoy a memorable Christmas you’ll never forget.
Christmas Season in Costa Rica
During December, Costa Ricans celebrate Christmas with street parties, dance festivals, bull runs, parades, and other fun events. These festivities begin with “Festival de la Luz,” a vibrant, eclectic parade with colorful lights and upbeat music that starts in Paseo Colon and ends in El Parque de la Democracia in Downtown San Jose.
Costa Ricans also decorate their homes, shops, and towns beautifully for Christmas. You’ll likely see wreaths made with cypress branches and red coffee berries, gorgeous tropical flowers, sparkling lights, and colorful ribbons while visiting Costa Rica in December.
Christmas Eve in Costa Rica
On Christmas Eve, most Costa Ricans celebrate with a traditional family feast that includes roast pork, chicken and pork tamales cooked in plantain leaves, eggnog and rum punch, and tres leches cake for dessert.
After dinner, many Costa Ricans decorate their homes with a nativity scene featuring traditional figures from the Christmas story, like Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men. Niño Dios (“Child God,” meaning Jesus) or Colacho (St. Nicholas) leave gifts, fruit, and other goodies for the children in front of the nativity scene—just like how Santa Claus leaves gifts for the children under the Christmas tree in the United States.
Most families in Costa Rica are Roman Catholic, so after dinner and leaving Niño Dios (Baby Jesus) in the manager, they will dress up in their best clothes and spend the night at Midnight Mass. In Costa Rica, Midnight Mass is called Misa de Gallo (Rooster Mass) and lasts for two hours, ending at 2 AM.
Christmas Day in Costa Rica
Feliz Navidad! Costa Ricans often spend Christmas Day relaxing with family, and children play with the gifts they received from Santa Claus or Baby Jesus.
However, that doesn’t mean Christmas in Costa Rica is over yet! The entire country celebrates with the Tope Nacional de Caballos horseback parade in the country’s capital on December 26th, a parade complete with hand-painted carts, horse-drawn carriages, marching bands, and more!
Weather for Christmas in Costa Rica
December is Costa Rica’s dry season, so visiting Costa Rica during Christmas is a great way to enjoy clean, sunny skies and warm weather!
In San Jose, average high temperatures hover around 73°F and rarely exceed 80°F. Along the Pacific Coast, temperatures usually stay around 85°F and occasionally surpass 90°F.
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What You Should Know Before Spending Christmas in Costa Rica
Here’s everything you should know about enjoying Christmas in the beautiful country of Costa Rica:
It’s expensive to travel to Costa Rica during the Christmas season.
Christmas and New Year’s Day are the most expensive times to visit Costa Rica. You should plan on paying double what you typically would for flights, hotels, and tours during your trip. If you’re traveling on a budget, it may be better to schedule your trip around the festive season, but if you’re willing to splurge, you won’t regret celebrating a Costa Rica Christmas!
Book travel to Costa Rica at least six months in advance.
December is the most expensive time to travel to Costa Rica because it’s also the busiest time to visit the country. Many hotels, vacation rentals, and tours in popular cities, like the beach towns in Guanacaste, book out six months, if not an entire year in advance.
To secure the best rates, it’s wise to begin booking your vacation accommodations, flights, transportation, and activities at least six months in advance. This will ensure your family can have the authentic Costa Rica experience, even during the busy Christmas season.
Check cancellation policies before you book anything.
Costa Rica’s busiest month is December, so many tour companies have stricter cancellation policies than average. If you suspect you’ll need the flexibility to cancel, contact the tour company directly to ask what their policies are for Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Arrive early at national parks.
If you’re planning to visit a national park during your trip to Costa Rica in mid-December or early January, it’s crucial to arrive early enough (typically an hour or so before the park opens) to purchase your tickets.
The most famous national parks, like Manuel Antonio and Poas Volcano, require visitors to reserve a timeslot online before visiting the park. However, most national parks (and even popular destinations like Arenal Volcano or Rincon de la Vieja) don’t allow you to purchase tickets on the website. If you arrive after the park has reached capacity, you may miss your opportunity to visit these popular parks while enjoying Christmas in Costa Rica.
Expect beach towns to be crowded.
Many tourists love to spend Christmas in Costa Rica to enjoy the great weather, fun activities, and gorgeous beaches. However, many families in Costa Rica also spend the holidays at the beach. You should expect many towns along the Pacific Coast, like Jaco Beach, Tamarindo Beach, and Manuel Antonio, to be packed with both tourists and locals.
Book Your Christmas Vacation with Special Places of Costa Rica
If you think a family vacation to a tropical paradise sounds like the perfect way to enjoy the holidays this year, look no further than Costa Rica!
Special Places of Costa Rica offers luxury homes, beachfront villas, affordable condos, and other short-term rentals in Playa Flamingo and Playas del Cocos to help you enjoy your incredible vacation to Costa Rica this Christmas. Browse our rentals to see what we have available during the upcoming holiday season!