Easter in Costa Rica – Helpful Tips for Easter Week

Easter in Costa Rica is much longer than in the US

Cathedral Spire - San Jose, Costa Rica
Events for Easter Week are Planned
in the Capital’s Beautiful Cathedral

Costa Ricans see Easter in one of two ways: the most important religious celebration of the year, or as an opportunity to hit the beach!

Either way, it’s a family occasion and as a consequence, expect to share your Easter with hoards of happy Costa Ricans — who like nothing better than big gatherings of extended family!

Unlike North America, where the celebrated day of Easter is Sunday (March 31st for 2013) with Monday being back to work as usual, here in Costa Rica, schools and governmental institutions are closed for the entire week.   Many families take this period for their annual vacations away from home.

Driving to the coast?  Predictions for beach hotel occupancy are for 80% or more during this week, peaking at the weekend and beginning with the Thursday just prior to Easter.  Make sure your accommodations are booked in advance if you want an ocean view!

The roads are a living hell on the Wednesday prior and Sunday of this week — with long lines of traffic filled with overheating cars and overflowing with their overheated passengers — combined with horns blaring and impatient drivers taking ill-advised risks.   If you can, extend your beach trip to avoid the busiest days and travel stress-free instead.  It could make the entire difference between a happy get-away and a miserable one.


Alcohol-Free ::

Police in San Jose, Costa Rica
San Jose Plans to have Police Officers Ensuring Security During the Easter Events

Alcohol sales are prohibited on the holy days – Thursday and Friday.  Stores and restaurants selling liquor will have their fridges taped shut and bar doors receive the same treatment.  While these laws are bent by some; don’t depend on finding a dishonest vendor!  Fines are steep for breaking these laws!   Instead, stock up in advance for those cold poolside beers and sunset cocktails.  Certainly, the drinking of alcohol isn’t frowned upon, in fact, it is almost a compulsory part of the holiday for those at the beach!   Restaurants may allow you to bring in an alcoholic drink to accompany your meal, but in a plastic cup and not its original bottle or can.


Holy Week in the Capital ::

If you plan to stay in the city over the Holy Week; you’ll find a lot of religious activity, but as San Jose’s Mayor Johnny Araya is keen to stress, “This is an event essentially religious, but it has cultural content and so the municipality has supported the development of the processions as cultural events too.”   In other words, you don’t have to be a strict Catholic to enjoy the costumes, ceremonies and scent of incense that pervade the capital this week.  Nearly 100 actors will be participating in the week’s events to bring the Easter story to life. 

The main events in San Jose for 2013 are as follows:

  • Sunday, 24 March: 9:30 a.m. Palm Sunday blessing and procession from the Our Lady of Solitude Church (Parroquia Nuestra Señora de la Soledad) along to Avenue 4 to the Metropolitan Cathedral where Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m.
  • Monday, 25 March: 7:00 p.m. The traditional Stations of the Cross Procession will leave from La Merced Park to the Metropolitan Cathedral as above.
  • Tuesday, 26 March: 6:00 p.m. San Jose Concert Band at the Metropolitan Cathedral.
  • Thursday, 28 March: 8:15 a.m. The prayer of the third hour will be held.  6:00 p.m. Mass and a theatrical presentation will be performed, followed by the Procession of Silence at 7:30 p.m. with Jesus carried to accompany the parade.  The Holy hour will begin with the Holy Adoration Eucharist at 9:00 p.m.
  • Friday, 29 March: 10:00 a.m. The unmissable event is the Holy Friday Procession with Jesus of Nazareth carrying the Cross, on the road to Calvary.  5:00 p.m.  Procession of the Holy Burial.
  • Saturday, 30 March: 7:00 p.m. Easter Vigil.
  • Sunday, 31 March: 10:00 a.m. The Joyful Procession of the Resurrected Christ to the gardens of the La Merced Church for Mass at 10:30 a.m.

Side of Cathedral in San Jose, Costa Rica

San Joaquin de Las Flores ::

This small town in Heredia is now famed for its Easter processions where many inhabitants are costumed to play parts in the Easter story. Well worth a visit with your camera!

Don’t make plans to visit museums or galleries this week, for like everywhere else, they’ll be closed.  🙁

For more background information, check out this older post here.


Reporting by Sara Ford
• Freelance writer for Vamos Rent-A-Car

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