Observe Local Laws and Customs
When traveling to a new place, it is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the local laws and holidays. Costa Rica is casual and welcoming but, as visitors, we need to be aware that US law differs from Costa Rican and it is our responsibility to follow their statutes.
One example of an important local law you may not know about is the Costa Rica's Wildlife Conservation Law 7317 which states the following:
“Do not remove or disrupt any plant life. Do not attempt to engage or remove any animal from their habitat. Do not feed the animals because it will change their eating habits and create an unhealthy dependence on humans. Unfortunately, there are some examples of what happens when these practices are not followed. Along some roads in the country, animals are attracted to cars in hopes of being fed because people have stopped and fed them in the past. These animals have changed their habits and are always on the edge of the road, just waiting for someone to stop and feed them. Tragically it is also common to see animals that have been accidentally killed on the roads; often they appear suddenly in the middle of the road, because they have grown accustomed to cars and the food they bring.”
Feeding the birds or picking a flower may seem harmless but it goes against one of Costa Rica’s core values; preserving and protecting its ecology and disregarding this could cost you a hefty fine.
It is imperative that you research the country you are traveling to, its values and laws, and how you should behave within it. This research will have been well worth your time and effort.
Religious Values and Holidays
Costa Rica is primarily a Catholic country, where religious values are culturally respected, if not always observed. Topics such as premarital sex, abortion, and gay marriage are generally avoided. Catholic Holidays are observed, and you should be aware of the calendar. During Semana Santa, or Easter Holy Week, for instance, it is illegal to sell alcohol on certain days and many businesses shut down in observance.
Typically, small towns and rural areas are more conservative than big cities, especially those in the Central Valley. Beach towns, which are frequented by tourists and expats, are generally more liberal than other parts of Costa Rica. The best tactic is always to err on the side of caution, at least until you have discovered what behavior is acceptable in your town. We have compiled a list of the locally observed holidays.
Holidays in Costa Rica
Here is a listing of the most important official holidays that are celebrated in Costa Rica
January 1st– New Year’s Day
March 19th–St Joseph’s Day, patron saint of San Jose and San Jose province
March or April–Easter/Semana Santa. Most businesses (except the tourist industry) shut down Thursday and Good Friday and don’t resume as usual until the Saturday before Easter Sunday. In some areas, you cannot buy alcohol on Thursday or Friday during this week.
April 11th–Juan Santamaria Day celebrating the national hero who fought against the American invader, William Walker, in 1856
May 1st– Labor Day (Dia de los Trabajadores)
June– Father’s Day is on the third Sunday of June each year
July 25th–Guanacaste Day which celebrates the annexation of Guanacaste from Nicaragua in 1824.
August 2nd– Virgen de los Angeles Day. Patron saint of Costa Rica.
August 15th– Mother’s Day
September 15th– Independence Day, celebrating Costa Rica’s independence from Spain in 1821
October 12th– Columbus Day - Dia de la Raza
November 2nd–All Souls Day
December 8th–Day of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary
December 25th– Christmas