What Are the Most Popular Sports in Costa Rica?

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Costa Rica, a tropical paradise located between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, is renowned for its breathtaking scenery, abundant biodiversity, and vibrant culture. Costa Ricans are not just enthusiastic sports fans; they also take great pride in participating in and appreciating a wide range of sports. In this article, we’ll examine the most popular sports in Costa Rica and their cultural relevance, historical significance, and the fervor they inspire.


Soccer (Fútbol)

With more than 3.5 billion fans around the world, soccer is one of the most popular sports. In Costa Rica, this is not an exception, since soccer is not only the official sport but also a way of life. Locally referred to as “fútbol,” soccer is deeply ingrained in the fabric of this country’s culture. Costa Rica’s national team, known by ticos as “La Sele”, is a source of immense national pride.

The passion for soccer in Costa Rica is palpable during major tournaments like the FIFA World Cup, where entire communities gather to watch the games and celebrate victories while wearing jerseys in the team’s colors. The iconic national stadium situated in San Jose downtown is the beating heart of Costa Rican soccer, hosting thrilling matches and witnessing the fervor of fans clad in red, white, and blue.

A team of soccer players in white jerseys celebrating on the field in Costa Rica.
Soccer is arguably the most popular professional sport in Costa Rica.

Soccer in Costa Rica has a long history and many significant moments that have shaped the country. The team’s incredible journey to the quarter-finals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil was a historic achievement that brought the country together and showcased its soccer talent on the world stage. The growth of local players and youth academies maintains the fervor for soccer and guarantees a promising future for the game in Costa Rica.



The increasing popularity of surfing in Costa Rica can be attributed to a perfect blend of natural elements and the sport’s distinctive appeal. Costa Rica’s Pacific beaches, as well as some on the Caribbean side, offer the ideal conditions for surfers of all skill levels to enjoy this popular sport. Having an extensive coastline with a variety of beach breaks, point breaks, reef breaks, consistent waves, warm water temperatures, and tropical weather creates an inviting environment for surfers year-round.

A woman in a pink wetsuit holding a surfboard and walking out of the ocean after a surfing competition in Costa Rica.
With so many incredible beaches and surf breaks, surfing is a popular sport in Costa Rica for professionals, locals, and tourists to enjoy.

Thanks to the growing acceptance of surfing in Costa Rica, there has been a growth in the establishment of surfing camps and schools for both locals and visitors to learn more about this thrilling sport.

Whether they are worldwide or only local competitions, Costa Rica has a respectable number of surf contests each year. Not only do local and international surfers participate in these competitions, but also spectators from across the nation and numerous sponsors, including Reef, Rip Curl, Roxy, and others.


Cycling/Mountain Biking

Cycling enthusiasts of all skill levels have the luxury of enjoying the gorgeous scenery of Costa Rica while getting all the fun and health benefits that this outdoor sport offers. Costa Rica offers a variety of cycling experiences, from challenging mountain trails with dirt roads and roaring streams through lush forests to picturesque seaside rides along the Nicoya Peninsula. Indulging in the splendor of nature, enthusiasts can pedal through verdant rainforests, beautiful villages, and charming towns.

A man in Costa Rica biking on a paved road through a jungle wearing a navy blue biking uniform and an orange helmet and sunglasses.
There are many challenging mountain biking courses through Costa Rica’s mountainous terrain and single-track trails perfect for beginners.

The yearly “Ruta de los Conquistadores” mountain bike race, one of the most challenging in the world, shows Costa Rica’s mountainous terrain and challenges the greatest riders. It lasts four days and is held during the rainy season. This event draws participants from all over the world, enhancing the country’s reputation as a haven for cyclists.

Cycling has become so popular in Costa Rica, that you can spot people everywhere, even in main cities downtown, pedaling either on weekdays or increasingly so during the weekends.



Basketball has been progressively gaining popularity over the years, even though soccer still commands the majority of attention in Costa Rica. Basketball has carved a niche for itself in the sporting landscape with the creation of the Costa Rican National Basketball League (LNB) in 2005.

The LNB serves as the top-tier professional basketball competition in Costa Rica and features teams from various cities across the country. It has played a significant role in promoting and developing basketball in Costa Rica and has contributed to the sport’s popularity and growth. The quick-paced action and accessibility of the sport have appealed to Costa Ricans, particularly the younger population.

Two basketball teams are playing a game of basketball on a court with green and yellow bleachers in the background.
Basketball is gaining more popularity in Costa Rica, though soccer is still the “reigning sport.”

Basketball is becoming more popular as seen by rising participation rates and the creation of challenging local leagues. The sport serves as a useful venue for promoting camaraderie and sportsmanship because of its universality and emphasis on teamwork. As basketball widens its audience, it adds to the rich tapestry of sports that capture Costa Ricans’ attention.

Sports through which Costa Rica has achieved international success

Costa Rica has succeeded in various international sporting events, including the Olympic Games, the Pan American Games, the Central American and Caribbean Games, the World Cup, and other relevant competitions. Some of these sports are.

  • Swimming: Four Olympic medals were obtained by sisters Sylvia and Claudia Poll in 200 meters and 400 meters freestyle in the Olympics of 1988, 1996, and 2000.
A woman pointing with her pointer finger in an Olympic swimming pool, wearing a white cap and black googles.
Costa Rica has won four Olympic medals in women’s swimming events.
  • Athletics: The sprinter Nery Brenes has achieved success in the 400 meters and 200 meters events, winning medals in various Central American and Caribbean Games and Pan American Games.
A man running across the finish line of a race in a black tank top with a look of distress on his face. He is wearing a white running bib that reads "Brenes"
Nery Brenes is a famous sprinter from Costa Rica who has won several events in Central America.
  • Boxing: Costa Rica’s goal of having a boxing world champion came from the hand of a female fighter, Hanna Gabriels, who won the title belt in 2009 in the welterweight division, she then moved up in weight, won the World Female Super Welterweight title, which she defended successfully several times. Hanna is today the World Female Super Welterweight Champion recognized as such by the WBO (World Boxing Organization) and the WBA (World Boxing Association).
Two women are standing on a podium and smiling. Both are wearing leopard print shirts and holding their outer hand in a fist. The one on the left is wearing a backward black hat.
Hanna Gabriels is a Costa Rican who has put Costa Rica on the map as a boxing champion.
  • Taekwondo and Judo: Costa Rica has had success in judo, with athletes winning medals in Pan American Games and regional competitions. In particular, Diana Brenes and Andrea Gutierrez have achieved notable results in women’s judo. The Costa Rican team finished the Taekwondo World Cup 2023 (held in Mazatlán, Mexico) with a total of seven medals: one gold, two silver, and four bronze.
Someone standing in a white uniform wearing a black cap and black belt, about to perform Taekwondo or Judo.
Taekwondo and Judo are two sports for which Costa Rica has collected medals.
  • Cycling: Costa Rican racer Andrey Amador competed in the Giro D’Italia, the second-most prestigious cycling competition in the world, in 2015, placing fourth.
  • Soccer: The Costa Rica men’s national soccer team has participated in multiple FIFA World Cup tournaments and managed to reach the quarterfinals at the 2014 World Cup.

Costa Rica’s sports culture is diverse and passionate. Although soccer is the most popular sport by far, bringing communities together and instilling national pride, other sports like the ones listed above have been gaining more and more followers each year.

Costa Rican athletes have left their comfort zone embodying discipline and showing their commitment to putting the country on top. Through their great achievements, they have motivated the rest of the youth to follow in their footsteps, thus promoting a culture of sport in Costa Rica.

Try the Most Popular Sports in Costa Rica with Special Places of Costa Rica

If you plan a trip to Costa Rica, we hope you’ll take some time to experience the best sports in Costa Rica — whether that be while watching a soccer game or while participating in a sport like mountain biking or surfing. Browse our vacation rentals to find the perfect place to stay during your vacation!

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