Traditions and Fiestas in Nicoya

Guanacaste is rich in traditions and numerous cultural events are held in Nicoya throughout the year. Most celebrations have a religious background while others are testimony of national pride and folklore. No matter how solemn the event is, every celebration is a welcome opportunity for a party with native food, drinks and dancing to live music.

Procession in Nicoya
Procession in Nicoya

Marimba is the most popular traditional music, usually played by three or four elderly men on a wooden xylaphone. The folkloric dance of Guanacaste is called Punto Guanacasteco and has become the national dance of Costa Rica.

Visitors and tourists who wish to steep themselves in the local way of life are always welcome to join the party – it is a colorful and enchanting way to get to know an authentic Costa Rica.

Calendar of Events in Nicoya:

Jan 14 – 25 (dates can vary):

Fiestas Civicas. It is evident that Guanacaste is the land of the "sabaneros" – the cowboys of Costa Rica who take pride in their horses and their cattle. The fiestas always start with the "tope", an equestrian parade with sabaneros, riding on richly decorated horses to the fairground with colorful booths and a children’s circus. Typical arts and crafts such as pottery from Guiaitil can be purchased. From late afternoon until the evening a rodeo takes place with cowboys riding on huge bulls without holding a rope – an exciting and buoyant event.
When the rodeo is finished everyone gathers at the "baile" in the community hall where the dancing lasts until late in the night.

Jan 30 – Feb 4:

The patron saint of the old church of Nicoya, San Blas, is honored with music and folkloric dances on the Plaza Central of Nicoya.

July 20 – 25:

Celebration of the Annexation of Guanacaste. In 1824 the inhabitants of Guanacaste decided by vote to secede from Nicaragua and become part of Costa Rica. Since then Guanacastecos have been celebrating this event as one of the major holidays of the year.

Aug 2:

A religious celebration for Costa Rica’s patron saint, the Virgin of Los Angeles. The venerated, original holy figure of the Virgin, "La Negrita" is in the Basilica of Cartago. The residents of Nicoya hold their ceremony in the Barrio de Los Angeles.

Sept 15:

This day is the National holiday in Costa Rica which commemorates their independence from Spain, obtained in 1821. In Nicoya it is celebrated with processions, music, folkloric dancing and typical foods on the Plaza Central.

Nov 12:

The fiesta of wood cutting. Pica de Leña is one of the most colorful ceremonies of the Nicoya fiestas. Hundreds of carretas, traditional oxcarts loaded with firewood, are dragged through the streets to the House of the Virgin where the oxcart drivers are rewarded with food and chirrete, the traditional Indian maize brew, strong on alcohol. This celebration is a true Fiesta del Pueblo with marimba concerts, typical food and dancing to live music.

Dec 12:

The wood donated from the Pica de Leña is used for the communal cooking during the celebration of the Yegüita. This tradition combines Indian legends with the Catholic veneration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The holy image of the dark Madonna is ceremoniously carried through the streets of Nicoya and then brought back to the catholic church where a mass is held. Then, in the House of the Virgin traditional food and drinks are dispensed to the participants.