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Where to spend Christmas in Costa Rica | Insight Guides Blog

Where to spend Christmas in Costa Rica

Spend Christmas in Costa Rica where it's celebrated everywhere and the country comes alive with twinkling lights and trimmed trees. Take a look at our guide to the best places to spend the holiday in Costa Rica, whether you want lively cities, volcanoes or rainforest for Christmas.
Colourful sunset and Christmas tree in Matapalo, Costa Rica
Christmas in Costa Rica

Spend Christmas in Costa Rica where it's celebrated everywhere and the country comes alive with twinkling lights and trimmed trees. Take a look at our guide to the best places to mark the holiday in Costa Rica, whether you want lively cities, volcanoes or rainforest for Christmas. 

1. San José lights up Christmas in Costa Rica

San José can sometimes seem like a jumble of new and old buildings crammed together, yet it still has plenty of Tico charm, especially at Christmas when the whole city lights up. You'll find vast trees in squares, and a wide range of festive events including parades, horse shows and nativities, but if you want to see the best illuminations, take guided tour of San José at night. 

Tamales are one of the most popular Costa Rican Christmas snacks. Made with corn dough, they're filled, then wrapped in banana leaves before steaming. Aztec in origin, tamales are a staple across Central America, each country has its own version, so in Costa Rica, they're  filled with pork, rice, vegetables and often, dried plums. 

2. Tortuguero National Park 

Visit Tortuguero National Park and spend Christmas day in a canoe, drifting through waterways and floating under vine-draped trees. The park's north of Limón and often likened to the Amazon: it's certainly one of the world's more lyrical and uplifting experiences.  

Keep your eyes peeled for caimans on the shore, iguana sunning themselves and watchful monkeys peering out from trees. Breath in the scented air and you'll catch notes of white ginger blossom, lavender water hyacinth and Ylang-Ylang as you drift along - there's a good chance you may even forget it's Christmas altogether.

Prefer to leave planning and booking to experts? Have a look at some Costa Rica itineraries. All Tailor Made Trips can be modified together with your local expert then booked for a stress-free holiday. Click  'Modify this itinerary' to contact a local Costa Rica expert.

Tortuguero National Park.Spend Christmas in Costa Rica exploring Tortuguero National Park. Photo: Shutterstock

 

3. Manuel Antonio National Park beaches 

Head to Manuel Antonio National Park and spend Christmas sunning yourself on white sand beaches edged in dense jungle. There are three beaches to choose from in the park, each is wide, pristine and peaceful, and in places where primary forest meets the sea, you can even swim in shade, which feels blissful. 

Not sure which beach to choose? Book a Manual Antonio guided tour which is perfect for a local perspective on beaches and some wildlife spotting. If this area sounds tempting, stay at Millenium Manuel Antonio in Puntarenas. 

4. Arenal Volcano and hot springs 

The Arenal volcano is one of Costa Rica's many iconic sights and it may be externally dormant, but its internal geo-thermal activity is lively enough to power the hot springs that are even more famous here than hanging bridges walking tours.

Think about a Christmas vacation at Tabacón Thermal Resort in the Arenal. Its hot springs have sensational views of the volcano, so the resort's a popular day trip, but it's peaceful in the evening, and guests can enjoy the pools under huge and star filled night skies.

Arenal Volcano at sunrise.The Arenal Volcano at sunset, Costa Rica Photo: Shutterstock


5. Ostinal Wildlife Refuge for Christmas miracles

Visit Ostinal Wildlife Refuge to see Olive Ridley sea turtles and the legendary, nocturnal arribada, or mass arrival, which takes place at regular intervals between April and December.  Catch one at Christmas with your kids and the bar on festive events will be set impossibly high forever. 

Like a lot of Costa Rica, Ostinal Wildlife Refuge is heavily protected, so you can only witness an arribada with local guides. But don't be too disappointed if you miss the miracle, the area's still beautiful and Nosara Tree House on Guiones Beach is a lovely, laid-back place to stay, only 20 minutes south of Ostinal. 


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