Costa Rica Easter Holiday: How & Where to Celebrate

aerial view Tamarindo Playa Grande 16 9

You call it your Costa Rica Easter holiday; Latin America calls it Semana Santa. You celebrate with chocolate, bunnies, colorful eggs, and meals based on ham or perhaps lamb. Costa Rica, however, celebrates with none of the above.

Instead, it embraces religious processions and Costa Rica Easter traditions, including stuffed pastries, corn and dried cheese biscuits (called rosquillas), and trips to the beach. And if you visit during this time of year, know that this week – typically falling anywhere from mid-March to mid-April – is poised to be the cultural experience of your life.

So, we’ve written this guide so you can know what to expect, when to expect it, and how to have the best vacation of your life amidst this unique cultural phenomenon.

Semana Santa, the Costa Rica Easter Holiday


While much of the world will celebrate Easter on March 31, 2024, here in Costa Rica, we’ll be immersing ourselves in Semana Santa during the entire last week of March.

Though both occasions mark the resurrection of Christ, their similarities end there: Easter is a holiday, but Semana Santa is a cultural phenomenon that spans a whole week (and the entire season of Lent, if you want to be inclusive). And so, for all the cultural travelers seeking authenticity, we thought you might want to delve deeper into this.

What to Expect

In Costa Rica, Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is synonymous with a week-long vacation – nearly everyone in the country has at least part of, if not the entire week off. What’s more, the boasts its own special foods, TV shows, rules, and Costa Rica Easter traditions.

Here in Guanacaste, home to Tamarindo, long-held beliefs blend with Christian traditions, and the beach becomes the go-to destination for anyone able to reach it. Don’t associate Easter with beach trips? Well, you’re clearly not from Costa Rica.

Day by Day

The week begins quietly on Monday, with schools closed but most businesses still operating. Tuesday mirrors this pattern.

Concerned that a “religious festival week” would mean no alcohol? Don’t worry, it’s allowed… Mostly (keep reading). By Wednesday, a buzz of activity signals something big is happening. Supermarkets fill with beach supplies and cars head to the coast. It’s festive, lively, and overwhelming – Semana Santa is about to kick off.

Thursday sees the country grind to a halt, except for supermarkets. Bible story-based films air on public television. Year-round beach locals mix with an influx of city-dwelling Costa Ricans, who bring their own unique energy to the coast. And the festivities have just begun. Foreigners arrive, unaware of the impending chaos. Tamarindo transforms into a snarl of traffic, with beer delivery trucks blocking streets. After all, the Costa Rica Easter holiday also coincides with Spring Break!

In the past, alcohol sales were prohibited, but now tourist areas like Tamarindo bypass this rule. Still, memories remain of dry days when stores closed, buses stopped running, and climbing trees was taboo due to forest-dwelling dwarves. Yes, dwarves! Costa Rican folklore is a joy.

Today, we can climb trees, buy groceries, and visit bars during Semana Santa. However, services are still limited. Friday and Saturday mirror Thursday’s chaos, with another folklore belief that Holy Saturday always brings rain. While it doesn’t always rain, it has become a tradition. Easter Sunday marks the end of the festivities.

Then, beach towns gradually empty, returning to normalcy as everyone heads back to work. And with a collective sigh of relief, the coast cleans up and life resumes its usual pace.

Easter Week Weather

aerial view of Playa Avellanas
Pictured: Playa Avellanas

Semana Santa arrives at the hottest time of the year. If you love the heat, you’ll be the happiest beach bum on the shore! If you struggle with high temperatures and you’ve booked an Easter vacation in Tamarindo, you might opt to spend the midday hours in air-conditioned places or cooling off in the pool.

Not to worry! Your Tamarindo vacation rental will likely have air conditioning and a pool, so make the most of it! While open-air dining is common in Costa Rica, there are also air-conditioned restaurant options. We recommend heading to the beach in the early mornings –before 9 or after 5 pm for the best sunset views.

Costa Rica Easter Traditions

seafood dinner at Pangas Tamarindo

When you strip away the time off work and school, beach holidays, and a touch of bacchanalia – at its core, the Costa Rica Easter holiday holds profound religious significance, as Catholicism is the nation’s official religion.

Easter observance officially commences with preparations beginning on Ash Wednesday and extends throughout Lent. During this time, you may spot one of the most prevalent traditions: crosses embellished with purple, black, and white drapes, symbolizing Jesus’ journey to resurrection.

Easter Food

Culinary customs include the chiverre squash treats – a variety of spaghetti squash cooked down and sweetened with raw sugarcane – as well as seafood dishes, in international Lenten tradition.

Meanwhile, in Guanacaste, grandmothers and helpers prepare unique corn-based delicacies and sweet fruit puddings. In the background, others harvest coyol palm wine, a sweet juice when fresh – or a potent hangover when fermented.

Religious Processions

Towns and communities around Costa Rica host events on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, with Easter Sunday holding somewhat lesser significance, although some churches organize Joyful Resurrection processions.

On Maundy or Holy Thursday, one can witness the Last Supper procession, featuring representations of Jesus, the apostles, and Mary figures, often conducted in respectful silence. The procession typically starts at a designated point and concludes at a church, where the Last Supper is re-enacted. All are welcome to participate.

Good Friday brings forth the most elaborate procession events – in towns that host processions (not all do) – featuring a route adorned with the 14 stations of the cross, intricately designed and decorated. Participants, portraying figures such as Jesus, the Roman court, soldiers, and disciples, traverse the route in elaborate attire, evoking a profound spiritual and religious experience. All are welcome to attend.

While observing these traditions offers intriguing insights into Costa Rican culture, it’s essential to recognize that much of the population is deeply religious, and these processions are solemn religious ceremonies.

Where to Stay

One of the best things to do in Tamarindo begins before you even arrive: Dream, peruse, and then reserve your favorite vacation home! Not only do vacation rentals add an extra layer of privacy and space to your time in Costa Rica, but they help you both save money (hi there, full kitchen and more!) and build in vacation extras (ex. a resort poolbeach gear, and more) that you’d have to pay for, anywhere else.

That said, bear in mind that the Costa Rica Easter holiday is one of the busiest times of year, and your favorite home may book months or even a year+ in advance. With that in mind, here are some recommendations to start your dreaming:

Compass House

Tamarindo | 8 Bedrooms | 8 Baths | Sleeps 16

Compass House Tamarindo villa rentals amenities

While the sun’s descent is ever westward and the compass unwaveringly points north, it’s your heart that will guide you to Compass House. Nestled atop the hills, this mansion offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, verdant landscapes, and the Tamarindo Estuary, all under the canvas of awe-inspiring sunsets.

Step into this ocean-view haven, where the sea’s rhythm is so close you can gauge the surf just by stepping onto the terrace. Designed with an eye for elegance and sophistication, Compass House boasts towering interiors touched with a contemporary color scheme, highlighted by sleek steel details and a seamless fusion of indoor-outdoor living.

As for those sunsets, there’s no more splendid spot to view them than from your private infinity pool, next to a magnificent pizza oven and a warm Jacuzzi. These luxuries, adjacent to the outdoor dining space, frame some of the most spectacular vistas. Embrace this chance to deepen your bond with the horizon and nature’s embrace.

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Crystal Sands Penthouse 504

Playa Langosta | 3 Beds | 3 Baths | Sleeps 12

Crystal Sands Penthouse 504 rental Tamarindo Costa Rica 16 9

Look, it’s a truth universally acknowledged that sometimes, you just need your own penthouse. And when “sometimes” becomes “for this vacation,” Crystal Sands 504 delivers with a gorgeous penthouse, a spectacular Langosta Beach location, and Pacific Ocean views that stretch for as far as your eyes can see. Good thing you have that private balcony

When you can drag yourself indoors – and, we admit, it can be a challenge, when you’re here! – you’ll love your penthouse’s private hot tub (on the balcony!), breezy interiors, and gourmet kitchen. Don’t want to cook? That’s what the full-sized gas grill is for! (Grilling isn’t cooking, right??). And everywhere – even from the bedrooms – you’ll be able to enjoy your private ocean panoramas. Welcome to paradise! 

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Planning a Costa Rica Easter Holiday? 

That just happens to be our specialty!

Whether you’re venturing off the beaten path or sticking firmly to it, we can help you make the most of your time (and buck) here – even and especially if you’re traveling to Costa Rica on a budget. At Vacation Rentals of Tamarindo, our job and calling are to make you feel at home, everywhere and anywhere you find yourself adventuring.

We offer everything from cozy two-bedroom condos to top-tier luxury Costa Rica Guanacaste vacation rentals, equipped with ocean-view swimming pools, rooftop terraces, chef’s kitchens, and so much more. Search our inventory to find your perfect vacation home!