Costa Rica is rich in religious culture and history. Most of the population in Costa Rica is Catholic, and the churches throughout the country are known around the world for their beauty and historical significance. I like to hop around the country to visit some of the churches during pilgrimages and festivals. Since I am a frog, I’m able to get to places that others can’t! I’m able to hop all the way up to the top towers of the churches so that I can look around with the best view of my beautiful country. While you can’t really get the same view as me, you can still visit these churches on your trip. I promise they are just as beautiful from the ground! Here are five churches in Costa Rica that top my list, since they are both stunning and culturally important.

Beautiful neo-Gothics style church during Independence Day celebrations
Beautiful neo-Gothics style church during Independence Day celebrations

1. Coronado Church

San Isidro of Coronado Church, or as I call it, just The Church of Coronado, is located on the city of Coronado, San Jose in Costa Rica. This is a beautiful neo­Gothic structure that has a history that dates back to the 1880s; it was built when San Vicente divided. This church features a tower clock, as well as bells. Now a landmark for the area, this metal­built structure was once affected by a 1920 earthquake and suffered significant damage to the clock tower and roof. The tower was rebuilt,and still stands today, and the roof was repaired with wood, to help strengthen the structure against earthquakes in the future. There are times during the year, like during the May festivities, when you can climb to the tower and get the view of the central valley, and San Jose, that I am able to see any time. It’s worth a look!

Red Metal Church
Red Metal Church

2. Iglesia de la Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes

Iglesia de la Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes is located in Grecia, on the Alajuela province. This unique church is well known in Grecia, mostly because it is red. The entire church is made of prefabricated steel plates, and those plates have been painted red. It sure is a sight to see! Many urban legends surround the church. Some say that it was accidentally shipped to Grecia instead of Greece. Others say that its final destination was to be Chile, but it was left at a port in Puntarenas instead, and then ended up in Grecia. These legends are fun, but there are records of the church’s construction in Grecia’s history. Grecia is a great place to add to your trip itinerary, as it is close to the Juan Santamaria International Airport and to San Jose. You can use San Jose as your port, and visit many of the other surrounding areas.

First Catholic church in Costa Rica, Orosi
First Catholic church in Costa Rica, Orosi

3. Iglesia de San Jose de Orosi

Iglesia de San Jose de Orosi is the main attraction of Orosi, on the province of Cartago. This church was originally built in 1743, and has been restored. It is Costa Rica’s oldest church that is still holding services, and I like to join a service whenever I can. Built in the colonial era, it is one of the very few buildings that survived that period. There are so many areas to explore on the church grounds, including a garden and a museum. The mountain side setting makes this place of worship seem even more serene. The church features a bell tower, and inside the church are a wooden alter and ancient religious paintings. As this church remains an historical landmark, there is a modern church being built close by. Don’t worry though, it will be spaced out enough that Iglesia de San Jose de Orosi will keep its serene atmosphere.

Beautiful church view in Zarcero, Alajuela
Beautiful church view in Zarcero, Alajuela

4. Iglesia de San Rafael

Iglesia de San Rafael is a recently renovated church located in Zarcero, on the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica. The original construction of the church was in 1895, and features stunning stained glass windows. What I love most about this church is how unique it is; it is not what it seems! The construction of the building appears to have been completed with brick siding and interior marble columns. However, the church was constructed of steel, and the columns are not marble. The interior and exterior were just deceivingly painted, giving this church a lot of character. Also, the church is known as the blue and pink church, since those are the main colors of the inside paintings and stencil work. This church is definitely breathtaking, even to a frog that has seen most of Costa Rica’s beauty, and it is absolutely worth a visit.

Basilica de Los Angeles Church
Basilica de Los Angeles Church

5. Basilica de Los Angeles

Basilica de Los Angeles is located in Cartago, Costa Rica. This Roman Catholic church was originally constructed in 1639, and suffered major damage in an earthquake. The church was restored, though, and has since become a pretty big deal to Costa Rica, Ticos, and people all over the world. Each year in August, there is a pilgrimage to the church so that patrons can honor the Virgin Mary. The church was constructed to honor a small statue of the Virgin Mary that was said to have been found in a nearby stream by a young lady. I’ve done it myself, and it is a truly wonderful experience. The church itself is a unique mix of styles, including colonial and 19th century Byzantine style. I hope that you have time to visit some of these, and other, beautiful churches during your visit to Costa Rica. Let me know which churches are your favorites!