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HomeTopicsArts and CultureAll about Semana Santa (Easter Week) in Costa Rica

All about Semana Santa (Easter Week) in Costa Rica

Easter week in Costa Rica is characterized by a whole gamut of activities that tourists current and future retired expats should know about as part of the cultural experience of living here.

Costa Ricans who can afford to, spend time the beach. As a result, the Central Valley resemble one huge “ghost town.” It is really easy to get around since there are fewer vehicles on the road. In fact, there are no driving restrictions in San José, so cars with any number license plates can circulate (during most of the year the last number of your car’s license plate determines which weekdays you may drive in the city).

Sarcastically, some Costa Ricans think that Easter Week has lost its true meaning and refer to it as “La Semana de Parranda” (party or celebration week) since many people use this time of year to engage in binge drinking and boisterous partying at the beach.

Sadly, Easter Week is also referred to as La Semana de Matanza (The Week of Slaughter), due to the many drownings and deadly traffic accidents here and in the rest of Latin America.

One downside to Easter week is that government offices are closed, so it is well-nigh impossible to get anything accomplished. Fortunately, banks are open the first couple days of the week and hospitals provide emergency service.

In the days leading up to Easter, most often on Thursday or Good Friday, the streets of San José, Heredia and other cities and large towns, is where traditional religious processions take place.

Costa Ricans consume a lot of tuna and other canned fish like sardines at this time of year. These products widely displayed and sold in large quantities at supermarkets. Unfortunately, fish and other Easter foods tend to be more expensive during different holidays.

Miel de Chiverri is a type of honey made from a variety of winter squash. Empanadas or turnovers are filled with chiverri honey and are widely consumed at this time of year. A recipe can be found here.

Another pastime during Easter week is watching a whole slew of old religious movie classics such as: The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, John the Baptist, to name a few. Local television stations show these movies repeatedly, both day and night.

About the Author

Christopher Howard is a Costa Rican citizen and has provided relocation and retirement tours for twenty-five years. He is also the author of the 20th edition of “The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica — the official guide to relocation” and “The Guide to Costa Rica Spanish.” Both are available through and

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