The Complete Guide to Semana Santa – Easter Week in Costa Rica

Tamarindo surfer during Easter Week in Costa Rica

Visiting for Easter Week in Costa Rica? Here’s what you need to know. And trust us – there’s a lot you should know. (For example, make your reservations NOW. Really.)

So, you’re in Tamarindo for Easter Week, known locally as Semana Santa, or Holy Week. Otherwise known as, one of the most popular times to travel. The weather is great, the sun is warm, the landscapes are greening up, and the beaches are packed. Welcome to Easter Week in Costa Rica.

You’ve heard a lot about Costa Rica. You’ve spent months (or even years) dreaming about your trip. And now, it’s on – you’re headed to Costa Rica for Holy Week! Maybe it’s because your kids are on Spring Break. Perhaps you’re interested in Latin American Easter traditions (more on that, later). Or, it could simply be that this is one of the most beautiful (and festive) times of year.

Whatever the reason, you’re going to have a great trip. And, this guide will help. Because, while Easter Week in Costa Rica is special, it’s also one of the busiest times of year. With a little bit of planning (and very advanced reservations – trust us!), you’ll enjoy a much better, more relaxing getaway. And with that, off we go!

Easter Week in Costa Rica: The When, Where & What

Langosta Beach Club

The “greater Tamarindo” area – Playa Langosta, Hacienda Pinilla, and even Playa Flamingo – is one of the most popular destinations for Easter Week in Costa Rica

Let’s start with the basics:

When: The dates of Easter Week, aka Semana Santa or Holy Week, change each year. (Short explanation: Easter Sunday is dependent on the Jewish Passover, which changes every year, thus Easter Sunday’s date also changing.) Holy Week is defined as the week leading up to Easter Sunday, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, inclusive.

Easter Week typically falls mid-March through mid-April – from the height of, to the tail end of Costa Rica’s dry season. And in Tamarindo, that means an average 75-95º F (23-35º C) and gets a consistent 12-13 hours of sunlight; the sun rises around 5:30 a.m.and sets around 6 p.m. (If you’d like to know more, check out our guide to Costa Rican weather.)

Where: Tamarindo is located on Costa Rica’s north-Pacific coast, about 75 minutes southwest of the Liberia International Airport (LIR). For you GPS junkies out there, we’re talking 10.2993° N, 85.8371° W. Well, for Tamarindo specifically. Because, you should know – “Tamarindo” is often used as a catch-all phrase for the greater area, which usually includes Playa Langosta, Playa Grande, Hacienda Pinilla, Playa Avellanas and, sometimes, extends to Playa Flamingo.

What: Easter Week in Costa Rica, obviously! We’re talking special pastries and dramatic parades, a countrywide holiday and a mass exodus (no pun intended) to Costa Rica’s beaches. And, if that beach includes Tamarindo (or greater Tamarindo), we’re talking about a mile of coastline – the Playa Grande-to-Playa Langosta curve that hugs the Pacific and some of Costa Rica’s best surf.

Tamarindo is a melee of ocean mangroves and dry forestdesert-like savannah and wet forest, rolling hills and soft sands – a swath of sights and diverse ecosystems, home to a riot of tropical plant and animal life. Tamarindo is also a dedicated beach town, enamored of its ocean and protective of its beaches. There’s a reason we live by a de facto motto of “surf, eat, and have fun” – we’re 100% committed to all three!

So, when we say “fun,” what do we mean? Well, beyond the surfing and the eating – both greatfun, we assure you! – we’re talking surfing, SUP, canopy zip-liningyoga, catamaran sailing, turtle nesting, snorkeling & scuba diving, wildlife & nature tours, sports fishing, swimming, golf, and much more. But more on that, in a moment.

First, let’s talk Easter.

What to Expect: Easter Week in Costa Rica

purple draped cross-Easter week in Costa Rica

Look around during Easter Week in Costa Rica, and you’ll likely see crosses draped in purple. (They’ll later change to black and then white, on Easter Sunday.)

It’s important to kick this off by saying that Easter Week, first and foremost, is Costa Rica’s most important religious holiday. And, in a Catholic country, that’s saying something.

For many, Easter preparations begin well in advance, beginning on Ash Wednesday and throughout Lent. You may notice purple-draped crosses in many front yards – purple represents royalty, as in Jesus, the King of the Jews and the King of Kings – that switch to black drapes on Good Friday and white drapes on Easter Sunday.

Costa Ricans also enjoy the foodie side of Holy Week, which often centers around chiverre squash, a gargantuan cousin of spaghetti squash: Preparation can take a few days, but the result – candied squash, to deploy throughout baked Easter goods – is always worth the effort. You’ll see a lot of seafood on the menu, as well, since practicing Catholics do not eat meat during Lent. And, regional food traditions are also popular; for example, here in Guanacaste, families have long foraged for wild mango, to turn into delicious baked goods.

Finally, Costa Ricans hit the beach for Holy Week: schoolchildren and public employees have the full week off, while most private-sector workers have off at least Wednesday through Sunday. As we said, a mass exodus to the beach, from the country’s densely populated Central Valley.

The major takeaway: Accommodations book up quickly and often 9-12+ months in advance; reservations are an absolute MUST during Easter Week in Costa Rica.

Things to Do in Tamarindo

Hacienda Guachipelin adventure

One of our favorites, this zipline promises one of the most varied and scenic canopy tours in the country

So, you’ve made your reservations for the Tamarindo vacation rental of your choice. (You got the home of your dreams, since you booked a year in advance.) You’re waiting on your flights to open up. And now, you’re in full planning mode.

We love that you’re excited! Because, Tamarindo is one of Costa Rica’s best and most popular destinations. The draw is clear: In addition to our epic surf and beautiful beaches, Tamarindo is also the epicenter of many iconic and must-do activities. We’re talking everything from adrenaline-pumping ziplines to world-class sport fishing, tranquil nature-watching to turtle nesting – to almost any bucket-list thrill you can dream up.

HUGE WARNING: Again, do not underestimate the fact that Easter Week in Costa Rica is our busiest season. Make your activity & tour reservations well in advance! Otherwise, you run the risk of tours filling up and your missing out on the things you came to Costa Rica to experience.

With that out of the way, here are a few of the most popular activities and things to do in Tamarindo:

Surfing: If we had to pick just one Tamarindo activity to recommend, it would be surfing. That’s because Tamarindo’s surf is world-renowned and yet, many of the best spots are appropriate for beginner and intermediate surfers. (Advanced surfers, don’t worry – there are plenty of breaks, barrels, and other waves just for you.) We can point you in the right direction, arrange for board rentals, and even hook you up with the best surf lessons in the area.

Catamaran Sailing: If we got to pick one additional must-do activity, it would be this! Tamarindo sunsets are pretty special, and even more so when paired with an afternoon at sea, snorkeling hidden coves and sunbathing on quiet beaches. Add in a spread of food and tropical drinks, and you have a recipe for an unforgettable day in Costa Rica.

Sport Fishing: Avid anglers know that Costa Rica’s north Pacific is the place to go for great fishing, but what you may not know is that we can also hook you up with the BEST boat and the BEST crew ever! We also offer the typical Costa Rican panga fishing boat, for the authentic Costa Rican fishing experience.

Turtle Nesting: If you’re lucky enough to be in town for turtle nesting, do yourself a favor and book a night tour to Ostional Wildlife Refuge, an internationally renowned (and incredibly important) nesting site for olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea), a threatened species, as well as for leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) and Pacific green turtles (Chelonia mydas agassizii).

Canopy / Zipline Tours: Okay, if you’re looking for a little heart-pumping action in your vacation, this is it! You’ll jump off sky-high platforms, swing through the canopy, navigate a swimming hole, and even scale down a thrilling rappel. It’s high-octane and all fun!

Snorkeling or Scuba Diving: Whether you’re looking to spot manta rays, or reef sharks, or wily octopuses, or – well, fill in your own blank! – our great captains will know just where to take you, whether it’s to a tiny and secluded inlet or a major destination like the Catalina Islands.

Mangrove Tours: There are tons of nature tours available, but none quite so Tamarindo as a mangrove tour, which will take you through the canals in search of photo ops and nature sightings, including crocodiles, iguanas, monkeys, and dozens of bird species.

Of course, there are many, many more things to do in and around Tamarindo, including  tubing/raftinghorseback ridingATV toursocean kayakingluxury spa days, and even day trips to Palo Verde National Park (wetlands and wildlife-watching) and Rincón de la Vieja National Park (hot springs, hiking, horseback riding and more!).

EASY BUTTON!! Don’t want to miss out on that must-do-it-or-regret-it-forever activity? Our in-house concierge, Cris, will take care of everything before you arrive, so you don’t spend your vacation… well, planning your vacation. Just send her an emailand Cris will recommend the activities, tours, and day trips that perfectly suit you travel style – and book them on your behalf, absolutely free! (Not a typo. Not too good to be true. We’ll prove it.)

Things to See in Tamarindo

manta ray underwater

Costa Rica’s Catalinas Islands are one of the world’s top sights to spot giant manta rays

If you think we’re finished, we’ve only just begun! Costa Rica and the Tamarindo area offer so much to see and do, especially during the heights of Easter Week. We won’t go into every detail – we don’t want to turn this guide into an epic novel to rival Moby Dick– but we are happy to share a few of our top picks:

BeachesTamarindo’s beaches are some of the best in the world, some of the most beautiful in Costa Rica, and some of the most varied, in terms of what you can see and do there. From killer surf to you-have-to-see-them-to-believe-them crushed-shell sands, our beaches could fill your every day and still leave you wanting more.

Las Baulas National Marine Park: Even if the leatherbacks aren’t nesting (or hatching), our neighboring Las Baulas Marine Park still offers miles of pristine beaches, great surf, and other must-see sights.

Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge: Animal lovers, this one’s for you! Set amidst the Tamarindo Estuary, this wildlife-rich saltwater jungle stretches from sea to mangroves, covering wetland habitats home to monkeys and coatis, herons and caimans.

Catalina Islands: Known for their scuba diving, these iconic islands also offer superb scenery – above and under the water. On your way there, keep your eyes open for manta rays, dolphins, sea turtles, and whales breaching near the boat!

Nightlife: While many areas of Costa Rica are still subject to “dry laws” during Holy Week, Tamarindo permits the sale of alcohol throughout the week. And so, we can’t fail to mention the Tamarindo nightlife! From dancing and dining, hosted events to live music, beachfront fire dancers and after-hours drinks, our sandy beach town sure knows how to have fun.

Getting to/from Tamarindo

Tamarindo Airport Transfer

Travel tip: Save the headache and grab an airport shuttle to Tamarindo

Whether you’re a chauffeur-me-around or a where-are-the-keys-thanks-I’ll-drive kind of traveler, one of the most practical questions about your visit will be, “how to get to Tamarindo?” Here’s a brief rundown of your options:

Option 1: Private Airport Shuttle

Hands down, this is our favorite way to get to Tamarindo. After a long flight, there’s nothing better than finding your name on a sign, climbing into an air-conditioned vehicle, and letting your driver handle your bags, the driving, and all the other details.

Option 2: Drive

You’ll probably want a rental car while you’re in town – don’t worry, if you shuttle from the airport, we can have your rental car dropped off at the house! – so if you pick one up at the airport, be sure to use Waze, a free GPS app, to navigate to Tamarindo. Otherwise, from the airport, take Route 21 south to Route 155 southwest, and then follow signs on Avenida las Palmas west to Tamarindo downtown.

You have three additional options, as well – but we don’t recommend them. The first is flying into SJO (San José International Airport) and taking a puddle-jumper to Tamarindo; the second is taking a shared shuttle from Liberia, which can be scheduled at inconvenient-to-you times and has luggage limitations; and the third is to take the public bus, which we recommend only more the most adventurous travelers.

What else would you like to know?

And that, travelers, wraps up this our primer to Easter Week in Costa Rica. If there’s anything, in particular, you’d like to know, please post a comment or get in touch! We’re always happy to help.

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