Beach chairs on a beautiful day at Jaco
Beach chairs on a beautiful day at Jaco

When you live in paradise, you have beauty surrounding you every day. Even so, vacations are still in order for the holidays, especially in December. The last month of the year is one of my favorite months to hop around Costa Rica; the mood is festive, the food is delicious, the music is amazing. In December, the people of Costa Rica do travel, but a lot of that travel is domestic.

With so many natural and wondrous spots in their own country, it’s no surprise that they choose to stay local. Here is an overview of some of the Costa Rican traditions you can look forward to if you visit in December, as well as a list of where the locals head to for their “stay”­cations.

Christmas and New Year’s Traditions

December is a very special time in Costa Rica. Much of the population is Catholic, so of course they come out to celebrate the birth of Jesus. There are tree lighting ceremonies, manger displays in homes, shopping downtown, and of course, A LOT of cooking and eating. Most families have a big get together on Christmas Eve with tamales and eggnog flowing. This is the time that they hand out presents to their friends and family. Afterward, it’s off to midnight mass!

I’ve been lucky enough throughout the years to have been invited to many Christmas Eve dinners, and they are truly something special and cherished. Christmas day finds most residents with the day off to spend time with friends and family. It is common for people to celebrate Christmas with an afternoon feast. There are also special Christmas day services at churches all around the country, that feature joyous singing and other sounds of worship. New Year’s Eve brings to mind one thing: fireworks! My own tradition is to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks on the beach, and I’m not alone in that; the beaches can be crowded. New Year’s Eve is more of a party holiday than Christmas, so if you are around for the end of the year, you can expect to see happy Tico’s out and about, enjoying each other’s company and their wonderful country. For those Ticos that leave the comfort of their home for a stay­cation in Costa Rica, they have their choice of amazing places to pick from. Here are a few of the most popular spots for Ticos in December.

View of Playas del Coco
View of Playas del Coco

1. El Coco

While many Ticos may live near water already, it isn’t that easy to incorporate fun on the beach with their everyday lives. El Coco is a great place for those that want to have the beach but not feel like they are at home. This location is popular with Ticos because they can use the beach to its fullest: partying, water sports, scuba diving, fishing, and more. This area is easy to access, so it is often crowded with locals and tourists. It isn’t a place that Ticos go for serenity; it is a place that Ticos go to have the time of their lives. There are plenty of shops to do some holiday shopping, and plenty of restaurants to do some cheating on your diet. Ticos also flock here to visit the casinos, explore the national parks, and do some horseback riding.

Tamarindo beach chairs waiting for you
Tamarindo beach chairs waiting for you

2. Tamarindo

Tamarindo is paradise’s paradise. It is littered with unbelievably beautiful beaches, and it has enough modern comforts that it is a breeze to visit. Ticos like to visit this spot on their end­of-the­year vacation because they have a long list of activities to choose from; it can be tough to decide between being on beach or being on the water. Popular, but not overcrowded, this tropical getaway spot somehow manages to balance adventure and serenity with ease. Ticos, from newlyweds to families, are often headed to this spot to relax and explore. Ticos also know that this is a great location for golfing during the day, and dancing at night!

Beautiful Jaco coastline aerial view
Beautiful Jaco coastline aerial view

3. Jaco

Ticos that live in San Jose have it pretty easy: Jaco is a close­by beach that can give them that vacation feel without the stress of traveling. It is also budget­friendly! Even for those that don’t live in San Jose, though, Jaco is a hot­spot for local vacationers. With its beach atmosphere and bustling little town, it’s hard to visit Jaco and not catch a case of a laid­back attitude. In general, year­round, Jaco is one of Costa Rica’s most popular destinations, so you can bet that you’ll find the best dining and nightlife here. This spot is a great place for Ticos to unwind after a long year, and talk about the year to come. The beaches are clean, the activities are a­plenty, and the surfing is out of this world.

Cows on a pasture near Monteverde
Cows on a pasture near Monteverde

4. Monteverde

Monteverde is a spot that Ticos love to visit because it has so much of the core of Costa Rica: untouched forest, small communities, historical significance, and cloud forest reserves. Though small, this community has adapted to being commercial enough to support its local and international tourism. The forest however, is the opposite. Ticos love to come here to get back to nature and reflect upon the year that is ending, and the year that is coming up. While this spot can be peaceful, it can also be adventurous; it all just depends on how you plan to spend your time! You can relax and explore the forest on foot, or you can get your adrenaline flowing with a zip lining tour.

Playa Grande Beach Break Surf
Playa Grande Beach Break Surf

5. Puerto Viejo

Ticos head to this spot on the Caribbean Sea when they want to be surrounded by Costa Rican nature: water, flora, and fauna. This is a great spot for those locals that love to surf, but don’t get enough of it in their day­to­day life. The typical crowd in this area is younger and trendier, but there is room for everyone to come here to relax and have some end of the year fun. There are plenty of spots where the Ticos gather at night for good food, good alcohol, and good music.

Relaxing at Playa Hermosa Guanacaste
Relaxing at Playa Hermosa Guanacaste

6. Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste

Ticos love to head to Playa Hermosa because the grey sand beaches are pristine. It’s super family friendly, too, so it’s a great stop for a December vacation in Costa Rica. The beach is never too crowded, and offers year­round warm waters, so Ticos can splash around and forget all their worries from the year behind them. No one can keep their stress levels high when they are scuba diving or snorkeling in crystal clear blue waters.

So, what about you? Where are you planning to spend the last days of this 2015?