Actors in Semana Santa procession
Actors in Semana Santa procession

Topping the list of my favorite holidays, Semana Santa is a celebration during the last week of Lent leading up to Easter. Parades, processions, the best food and mini-festivals fill the streets, and for Costa Ricans, Catholic traditions run deep. Without a doubt, Semana Santa, literally meaning "Holy Week," is one of the most important holidays of the year. Ticos embrace a week off of work, spending downtime with family and friends.

Since many Ticos have the week off, you'll find them flocking to the beaches to enjoy some sun and sand. More than one million Costa Ricans visit the beach this week. That means it might be difficult to find a free spot in the sand.

Even if you're not religious, you can have a lot of fun during this week! I know I do! Semana Senta is one of the best times to experience the rich culture of the area, especially since each province puts their own twist on tradition.

Iglesia de la Merced, San Jose
Iglesia de la Merced, San Jose

1. Parades and processions:

For the big street festivities, I try to get a prime viewing spot on the shoulder of one of my giant human friends (I think Isaac Newton said something about that). Watch the authorities from the church, donned in white and red attire, march down the block as people behind them carry floats and ornate - and often gory - decorations of Jesus crucified on the cross.

San Jose band in procession
San Jose band in procession

The parades are almost as colorful as I am! One of the most dramatic processions takes place in Tres Rios in Cartago, where Ticos dressed as Romans perform flagellation amid the representation of every person present at the scene of Christ's death. Another popular one is in San Joaquin de Flories in Heredia. Many residents and visitors line the streets to watch, while in the smaller towns you can join the procession - not to mention pick up snacks along the way from vendors.

2. Bull fights:

Going to see bull fights is another big draw during Semana Santa. Unlike Spanish bull fights, we do not injure the bulls so there is no bloodshed - a tradition I am thankful for. Towns across Costa Rica will be hosting this rambunctious activity. If you're a fan of heart-pounding shows, this is definitely one to watch. Along with the festivities comes rodeos, dancing and fireworks - a sight to behold!

Jumping bull in Guanacaste
Jumping bull in Guanacaste

3. Beach week:

Humans and frogs alike can't resist basking in the Costa Rica sun during our week off! With a perfect harbor for sports fishing and activities, Tamarindo makes for an ideal destination. You'll find the shores covered in visitors suntanning and running to the Pacific to cool off.

Beach at Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Beach at Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Weather is generally delightful during this time, so be sure to bring your bathing suit if you come! Mal Pais, Manuel Antonio and Puerto Viejo are other appealing coastal towns that offer a good mix of rest and relaxation and celebrations for the holidays. Because most residents swarm to the coast, the entire capital city of San Jose is usually a ghost town during Holy Week.

Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio

Alcohol is as gross as snake venom to me, but many of human friends take pleasure in a good drink or two. However, take note of "Ley Seca", the "dry law." If you're heading to Costa Rica during Semana Santa, it's helpful to know that in most of the country no alcohol is sold from Ash Wednesday until midnight on Good Friday. Around this window, visitors enjoy trying chicha, drink made from agua dulce, ginger and cinnamon.