Holidays in Costa Rica are great—where else can you spend Christmas surfing perfect waves or lounging along a white-sand beach? There are serious perks to spending holidays in Costa Rica, but there are also some drawbacks. Holidays are the peak season for international travelers and locals alike. More people head to the country’s Top Destinations, most notably the Pacific coast beaches. That means you’ll have more competition for towel space at the most popular beaches. Roads can also become congested during holidays (especially smaller 2-lane roads), which makes overland travel slower than usual.
Since more people vacation in Costa Rica during the holidays, it’s recommended to book hotels well over three months in advance. This ensures you with the best choices for rooms and lodging. Hotels are, however, more expensive during the holiday season. Major holidays occur during Costa Rica's high season (December through April), when hotels are pricier than other times of the year; but during the holiday season, prices go up even further.
What can you expect when you visit during this time of year? Christmas is family time for locals and most celebrations are private affairs. Restaurants and bars, however, stay open but may close a few hours earlier than usual. Things can get rowdier during New Year’s, especially in touristy areas. Bars, restaurants and hotels often throw New Year’s parties replete with music, drinks, and dancing. These can be a lot of fun.
Semana Santa takes place the week before Easter. It’s a big, long holiday in Costa Rica; schools go on vacation and some businesses close. During this week, certain municipalities restrict the sale of alcohol in restaurants and grocery stores. In the past, there was a countrywide ban on alcohol from Wednesday morning until midnight on Friday. That’s changing now, especially in places where tourism is important. In small towns like Naranjo, or in more traditional places like San Ramón, alcohol will likely be unavailable. However, in more touristy areas like Arenal and Tamarindo, alcohol can be purchased throughout the week. If you do end up staying in a small town during Semana Santa and want alcohol, stock up a few days in advance.
Holidays can be a ton of fun in Costa Rica. The atmosphere is festive and the climate is perfect. Swimming in crystal-clear water on Christmas day, or staying up dancing until 2 AM on New Year’s Eve, make for wonderful memories. If you do want to visit Costa Rica during the holidays, plan ahead and book your hotel several months in advance. You’ll be glad you did.