Posted on 12/12/2019

7 Costa Rican Christmas Traditions for your Holidays in Tamarindo

Look out your window. If you see anything but sunbeams, palm trees, and blue skies – okay, maybe there's a wispy cumulus cloud in there, somewhere! – then we're guessing you're not in Costa Rica. You're not spending the holidays in Tamarindo. At least, not this year. But, there's always the promise of 2020! Because, here's the truth: the holidays in Tamarindo – Christmas in Costa Rica, generally – are a festive time of year. A special time of year. A twinkling, joyous, and inclusive time of year. There are the lights and trees and carols, and then there are the only-in-Costa-Rica holiday traditions – all the making-some-memoriesnever-forget-your-trip details that transform December into such a fun month to travel abroad. You're going to love it. And so, with fun and festivities in mind – and in the spirit of inclusion, all sans creed or doctrine – we present seven of our favorite Christmas traditions. So, no matter what you celebrate (or don't) back home, you can join in the joy during your holidays in Tamarindo.

7 (of our favorite) Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in Tamarindo:

  1. Unwrap a Tamal

In our opinion, the fastest route to joy is via the stomach. Amiright?! If you're on the same page (or plate, so to speak), then you're going to love Costa Rica's tastiest holiday tradition: tamales! Wrapped up as a present, Costa Rica's take on the famous tamal involves seasoned corn flour, a sprinkling of veggies, and a good pinch of pulled pork – all, wrapped in plantain leaves and tied with a bow! This time of year, you can find them almosteverywhere but, if you speak some Spanish, we recommend asking a local, "¿dónde se encuentra el mejor tamal?" (where can I find the best tamal?)
  1. Watch el Festival de la Luz (the Festival of Lights)

It happens but once a year so, you have to hit it right, but it doesn't feel completely like the holidays until el Festival de la Luz, or the Festival of Lights. Costa Rica's huge holiday parade happens a few weeks before the holidays (this year: December 14, 2019!) and involves extremely elaborate costumes, themed floats, and millions (and milllllllions) of twinkling lights. If you're spending the holidays in Tamarindo, you won't be able to see the parade in person (it saunters down San José streets) but you can catch it on local broadcast TV!
  1. Drink a Glass of Rompope (Eggnog)

What goes better with you tamal than a tall glass of rompope, Costa Rica's beloved version of eggnog? A little bit thinner, a little bit lighter, and a little bit less eggy than U.S. eggnog, rompope is just a delicious – and packs a majorly spiked punch, with at least 4% alcohol (and more, if you pick up a homemade version). You can grab a Tetrabrick (shelf-stable) box in any supermarket or, if you're a more adventurous holiday drinker, grab one of the artisan bottles available at local vendors.
  1. Enjoy a Costa Rican Christmas Dinner

Yes, food – again! But, as in most countries, food is a big part of the joy during Christmas in Costa Rica. And Christmas dinner is a big one, usually centered around a large hunk of pierna de cerdo asada: roasted pork, finished to absolute melt-in-your-mouth perfection. Feeling like a homemade meal? You can roast your own in your rental home's kitchen or, if you're more of the don't-make-me-cook traveler, pierna de cerdo is available in many typical restaurants, this time of year.
  1. Ride a Ride – Any Ride!

When it comes to Christmas in Costa Rica, the "big rides" you read about are in Zapote, an area of San José. Their fiestas are epic but, thankfully, not the only ones in town. As you drive around, keep your eyes peeled for town parks done up with roving rides, aka Christmas turnos (fairs). You know the ones: pack 'em up, move 'em somewhere new. You don't have to trust the big ones to have fun, either: jump aboard the bumper cars, let your kids bounce in the bouncy house, or just buy some churros and stroll around.
  1. Enjoy the Lights

If you're here early in the month, you'll probably witness a Christmas tree lighting in Tamarindo, Flamingo, or other area town. Costa Ricans love to gather round huge public trees for just this purpose, and will often celebrate with fireworks, to boot. If you're celebrating the later holidays in Tamarindo, just take a walk around. Depending on what area of town you're staying in, you're likely to spot homes, hotels, and businesses aglow with holiday lights. It puts a definite sparkle on the pleasure of a tropical Christmas.
  1. Buy a Lotto Ticket

Lucky seven, right? Costa Rica's big annual jackpot, aka el Gordo, is drawn just before Christmas (this year: December 15, 2019). It's said that buying a Gordoticket will bring luck (if not money) in the new year and, hey, if you don't win, you'll be happy to know that Costa Rica's lottery system directly funds social programs throughout the year. Win-win. Happy holidays, from our Stay in Tamarindo family to yours!
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