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Halloween Celebrations in Costa Rica

If your Costa Rica vacation happens to coincide with Halloween, you may be wondering what festivities are planned for the holiday. Over the last several years, many businesses have adopted popular North American Halloween traditions when it comes to lighthearted fun and wild costume celebrations. With an ever-growing “expat” presence and tourism hotspots catering to gringos, you can find plenty of hotels, casinos and bars that are featuring all-night events – especially around the Jaco, Tamarindo and Central Valley areas. But first, let’s take a look at how Halloween is celebrated Tico style!

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National Day of the Costa Rican Masquerade
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National Day of the Costa Rican Masquerade

Since Costa Rica is predominantly Roman Catholic and Halloween is rooted in pagan tradition, October 31 has never meant an evening of trick-or-treating and costume parties for Ticos. Instead, the date is celebrated as the National Day of the Costa Rican Masquerade – a holiday that was inaugurated in 1996.

El Dia de la Mascarada Tradicional Costarricense is marked by colorful parades, in which giant masked figures march through the streets. These “mascaradas” honor the art and craftsmanship that goes into the creation of these life-sized masks.  The masks, which are like large helmets, represent a host of characters – some of them imaginary and other famous people, including political figures or national heroes.

During the parades, masked characters prance down the street, usually dancing with clowns and bystanders while local musicians play a steady beat using cymbals, trumpets and drums. It’s truly a spectator’s event, and can be enjoyed throughout the entire country. To see some of the most elaborate masks and crowd-pleasing parades in San Jose, head to the towns of Barva de Heredia, Cartago and Escazu – all places where masquerade artisans are heavily concentrated.

Costa Rica Halloween Costume party American Style
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Halloween parties, costume competitions and more!

If you’re more interested in typical American-style Halloween fare for an evening of fun, plenty of nightclubs and bars host themed parties, costume competitions and other events. Most of the action can be found in the San Jose metro area, especially in the suburb of San Pedro, where the Mansion of Horror haunted house provides plenty of screams for guests of all ages. One of the biggest bashes is held in San Jose’s Club Vertigo, though Escazu, Santa Ana and Heredia also have tons of venues that are holding Halloween parties.

If you’re staying at the beach, the party towns of Jaco and Tamarindo both get into the Halloween spirit with extravagant costume balls, contests and all-night parties. And if you happen to be in San Jose on October 26, the annual Zombie Parade will kick off at 6 p.m. in Parque Morazon. Join in on the fun, or just enjoy watching hundreds of people dressed up in their spookiest zombie attire!