If there is any place in Costa Rica to visit for an awesome cultural experience, it is the province of Guanacaste. There is an undeniable sense of national pride present in the diverse culture that you’ll find in the province’s cities.
You don’t even have to do anything special to get a personal, up close look at the culture in Guanacaste either...simply go outside and spend some time doing one of the favorite pastimes in America: people watching. Head to any town’s central park location, or just go to one of the many markets. At any of these places, you’ll find happy and active Ticos up and about, taking care of business. You’ll get a sense of how they live, and when you learn more about the country’s history, you’ll see its influence on their lives.
While observing the locals is a great start to your Guanacaste cultural experience, it certainly isn’t the only way. There is culture everywhere in Guanacaste! Here are a few ways that you can maximize your experience.
Learn to Speak Spanish
Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica, and all of the other activities that are listed later in this article can be enhanced if you know at least a little Spanish. Book an extra day or two for your trip, and use those days to take Spanish lessons in Guanacaste. The language schools in Tamarindo, Nicoya, Playa Flamingo and Samara
offer an ideal situation – you get to learn from experts, learn any special words and phrases that are local, and do it all against the gorgeous landscapes of Costa Rica. If you are doing a homestay, you can learn Spanish from one of the intensive language schools, and then practice what you learn at home with your temporary Tico family.
Once you have the basics of Spanish under your belt, you can plan to head to one of the many local celebrations put on by the people of Guanacaste each year. These festive events take place all year long, with something to celebrate in each season. In mid-January, Ticos indulge in a week of celebrations that include dancing, music, and bullfighting to honor the patron saint of Santa Cruz. Guanacaste has a rich history in folklore and in traditions, and in February in Liberia
, those are celebrated. What other way would true Ticos celebrate than with music concerts, a carnival, and obviously delicious food.
Green season brings the celebration of the Annexation of Guanacaste to Costa Rica. In late July, each region of the province has their own way of celebrating this day. The biggest custom is that the schools perform a ceremony, and then it all comes down to food and crafts, a common theme in Costa Rica. Liberia holds an expo trade fair, and Nicoya and Santa Cruz stay true to their roots and celebration with a more down-to-Earth, folk event.
At the end of the year, before the holidays, the locals in Nicoya celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe. The most famous part of this celebration is a dance called Yeguita, but all the regular themes of a Costa Rican festival – food, music, dancing, and bullfighting – are present as well.
Gimme a Beat
You’ve probably noticed that many of the cultural events in Guanacaste are centered around, or highly involve, music. You’ll hear music everywhere in Costa Rica – from the celebrations to the clubs – and hopefully you are able to learn some of the language so that you can get the full experience of those beats. You’ll be treated to tambito rhythms and distinctive genres, like punto. Though much of the music in Guanacaste has a Mayan or Afro-Caribbean influence, the lyrics are still in Spanish.
Choose a City in Guanacaste Region
There is no lack of churches in Costa Rica, as religion is a huge part of the country’s culture. Two churches that you can visit in Guanacaste are the Church of La Ermita La Agonia, in Liberia
, and the Church of San Blas, in Nicoya
. The Church of La Ermita La Agonia is the oldest church in Liberia, and while you can view it, it is closed to the public since it is in a decrepit state. The Church of San Blas is a landmark that signifies the final remaining colonial building, and though reconstructed after earthquake damage, many of the original beauty remains.
There isn’t a much better place to learn about the culture of a place than to visit its museums. Some of the treasures in Guanacaste lie in the Museum of the Sabanero, the Cowboy Museum, and the Religious Art Museum. All three have weekday hours that are open to the public.