Costa Rica

Best Cultural Experiences in Costa Rica

Best Cultural Experiences in Costa Rica

A trip to Costa Rica isn’t just about trekking through rainforest and lazing on the beach (though rest assured, there’s plenty of that). Because it’s simply brimming with natural beauty, this pocket-sized country is often sold short when it comes to culture. In fact, there’s so much to do in Costa Rica that will not only teach you about its history, but also encourage you to experience its positive, pulsating present. Read on for our list of the best cultural experiences in Costa Rica.


Try a Traditional Cooking Class

Sampling local dishes is undoubtedly one of the best ways to immerse yourself in a country’s culture, but why stop there? On a traditional farm, take part in a private cooking class where you’ll learn the basics of Costa Rican cooking before reaping the rewards by tucking into your creations. Costa Rican cooking is typically high in starches and full of flavour. The most famous dish is gallo pinto (referred to as simply pinto by the locals), a combination of rice and black beans that’s traditionally served with breakfast alongside eggs and cheese. Another speciality is casado, a platter of food that varies from place to place, but typically includes rice, beans, salad, tortillas and meat. Whatever you end up cooking, expect to top it off with a good dollop of Salsa Lizano: a mild and savoury sauce that’s Costa Rica’s favourite condiment.


Go Museum Hopping in San José

Nothing says ‘culture’ more than a wander round a museum or gallery, and where better to do it than the country’s capital ? San José is home to a host of wonderful institutions that can provide you with a deeper insight into the history and culture of this beautiful country. Housed in former military barracks, the National Museum of Costa Rica displays artifacts from the pre-Columbian era to the present day. When you walk in, you’ll be greeted by the fluttering wings of butterflies in all shapes and sizes, courtesy of the museum’s butterfly garden – who said nature and culture can’t go hand in hand? The Pre-Columbian Gold Museum focuses solely on, you guessed it, the Pre-Columbian era, displaying maps, coins, jewellery and other gleaming golden items across three floors. For those with an eye for design, the Museum of Costa Rican Art is home to the largest collection of state art in the country, while the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design showcases work by local and international artists. Our final recommendation is The Jade Museum, which houses the largest collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts in the world and is dedicated to preserving the region’s archaeological heritage.

Read our article What to Do in San Jose ?


Dance the Night (or Day) Away

Costa Rica moves to the sound of cumbia beats, American pop and pretty much anything else that will have you humming a tune and tapping your feet. Music is an essential part of Costa Rican life, even more so when it’s combined with the rhythmic and sensual movements of Latin dance. Originating in Cuba, salsa is the most popular form of dance in Costa Rica, practiced not only in professional and performance settings, but in the late-night venues and lively bars that are crowded with regulars on a Saturday night. For an unbeatable cultural experience, learn to move like a Tico (Costa Rican) during a salsa class where you’ll get to grips with the basic movements of this world-famous dance. Or better yet, let a local lead you to the dance floor in a bar or restaurant, and learn how to feel the music and dance your cares away.


Visit an Indigenous Village

Costa Rica may be Hispanic today, but indigenous populations called the country home long before it came under Spanish rule. There are eight indigenous peoples spread across 24 territories in Costa Rica, and unfortunately rights to land and self-determination are an ongoing struggle for these groups. A visit to an indigenous village is therefore one of the most important cultural experiences in Costa Rica, a chance to learn about a different facet of the country’s culture and immerse yourself in the indigenous way of life. The Bribri tribe live in the Puerto Viejo de Talamanca region. During a visit to their village, see the spaces where the Bribri live, work and go about their lives, admire the crafts and artwork they have created, participate in activities such as chocolate making, and sample some delicious indigenous dishes. Above all, you’ll have the opportunity to meet the welcoming people who call Puerto Viejo de Talamanca home.


Ride the Waves

Whether or not this counts as a cultural experience is debatable, but surfing is an integral part of Costa Rican life, practiced not only by tourists coming from far and wide, but also by born and bred Ticos. And hey, any excuse to soak up Costa Rica’s scenic coastline. If you’ve never surfed before, fear not – with practically year-round swell along two coastlines, Costa Rica is full of beginners surfing spots as well as more challenging beaches for seasoned pros. Beaches like Santa Teresa, Tamarindo and Playa Hermosa on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast are some of the best places in Costa Rica to surf, but there are also plenty of spots on the Caribbean side if that’s where your adventure leads you. If you do want to surf on the Caribbean Coast, stick to the southern portion where the waves are more consistent. When you’ve spent the day riding those waves, be sure to grab a beer and take in one of Costa Rica’s magical sunsets on the beach. This is the land of Pura Vida after all.