Costa Rican Culture

The green pitches and goals in every village are evidence of Costa Rica’s national pastime – football – but the Costa Rican culture is about much more than kicking a ball around. Thanks to its Latin routes, the area offers a rich music and dance scene, while its fertile lands produce some of the best coffee in the world. If that wasn’t enough, the old traditions of the indigenous people – Chorotega – also leave their mark to this day.

Food and market life

Costa Rican cuisine essentially revolves around rice and beans. Leftovers are often served for breakfast, mixed with onions and peppers to create what locals call a spotted rooster, referring to the speckled colours.

This is then served with scrambled eggs, fresh cheese and fried plantains – all locally sourced, of course.

Utilising seasonal vegetables from the markets is a pleasurable experience and is where locals meet and socialise. As such, tourists can experience a real sense of Costa Rican culture here. The largest and most famous of the lot is the enclosed Central Market in Costa Rica’s bustling capital San Jose, which stretches across back streets and boasts around 200 stalls. These markets are also a great place to buy local produce, such as coffee beans or typical jungle-seed jewellery.

Wherever you’re based, you’re also sure to have the opportunity to experience the vibrancy of a farmers’ market. Known as feria, they are held in most neighbourhoods on a weekly basis and can often be found on the local football field.

Coffee and arts and crafts

Costa Rica is notorious across the world for its good quality Arabica coffee. It’s something they have been cultivating on the hillsides of the breathtaking Central Valley for 200 years now, and is an important part of Costa Rican culture. As such, it’s heavily represented in their arts and crafts.

In the middle of the 19th century, when coffee was first being grown in the countryside, they used ox-carts or carretas to transport the beans across the fields to the coastal areas. The carretas were decorated in colourful patterns, versions of which can still be spotted throughout Costa Rica – especially in the artistic village of Sarchi in the Central Valley. You can even buy miniature versions as souvenirs to take home and share with family and friends.

A Latin love for music and dance

You can’t think about Latin American without envisaging its vibrant music and dance scene, but many people haven’t heard of Costa Rica’s very own style of dance. Cumbia, or Swing Criollo as it’s known locally, is an energetic dance created in 17th century Colombia.

San Jose is home to many locally-famous Cumbia bands and, with hundreds of dance clubs to play in, it’s a great place to be. Costa Rican’s also love to dance salsa, bolero and merengue, which are all multi-generational, meaning it’s perfectly normal to see young and old dancing together.

If you’re in the mood to swing or salsa, many clubs are open until the early hours and they aren’t hard to find. The popular coastal region of Playa Tamarindo boasts Aqua Discotheque, where the live music attracts locals and tourists to give them a real feel for Costa Rican culture.

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