I (Vicki Skinner - aka "THE Sarong Goddess") created this blog in 2007 to share DETAILED Finds•Lists•Info•Events•Experiences to help bring more EASE to people living in, visiting or thinking of moving to Costa Rica since DETAILS are NOT easy to find!
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Friday, March 15, 2013

SAMANA SANTA • EASTER - What it is like in Costa Rica - 2013

Costa Rica


2013 brings the world an EARLY (1-2 weeks early on average) Samana Santa•Easter which is NOT good for people in the Tourism industry!!

So what's Easter•Samana Santa like in Costa Rica?  It SOOO depends on where you are! 

MANY things (especially LOTS of the governmental agencies•services) will start to
shut down
Friday of March 22 and not re-open till Monday April 1

(so if there's ANYTHING you need governmentally - do it WELL BEFORE March 21 as especially that week - not only will they be packed - but MANY employees will have Vacation Brain!!)
A LARGE percent of the people seem to head for the BEACH where it's INSANELY PACKED and many prices on accommodations, etc. are MEGA jacked up (in all fairness to them YOU the public tend to mainly patronize them between Christmas and New Years so they only have a few months a year to make a profit/pay for their business!!  Heck - some people even camp on the beaches during this time!!! EVERYTHING there will mean a LONG WAIT - at restaurants, most tours will book WELL in advance, prices will JUMP UP BIG TIME (double and triple often) - especially on hotels, airfares and car rentals (Christmas/New Years and Easter/Samana Santa prices can double+ that of Green/Low season!) and don't be surprised if gas prices go up a LOT (but that happens in the U.S. also)

I LOVE this as the Central Valley is like a Ghost Town so there's SOOOO LITTLE Traffic and it's SOOOO much quieter!!  Since a large percent of people go away - that also equals MANY things close down and/or are on limited hours (Goddess forbid - even McDonald's and big markets are on limited hours) so PLAN AHEAD!!!
(it will be interesting to see if it changes this year as MANY people seem to be cutting back in their spending).

With that said, I'd bet it's safe to say about AWAY from beach areas and Arenal - 95+% of the restaurants and businesses close - at least for that Thursday and Friday (if not the whole weekend). Markets/grocery stores usually are open shorter hours. EPA is usually open (I think every day of the year).

The mass exodus starting to head for the Beaches (hence CRAZY TRAFFIC JAMS on roads leading there), Airports and Borders (ESPECIALLY Nicaragua!!  See details on the "Border Crossing" below) tend to be ESPECIALLY worse
Friday - March 22
Saturday - March 23
Wednesday - March 27
Thursday - March 28

And heading back:
Saturday - March 3 home:
Sunday - March 31

Note that at some points even the opposite traveling lanes MAY be closed during certain times to make more lanes for those heading to/from the beach.

There will be OVER 4,000 police servicing those highly populated areas (so if you do NOT have a Cedula - make sure you HAVE a copy of your PASSPORT AND a copy of your ENTRY STAMP on you at ALL TIMES as in the past - in some areas - they DO CHECK and I'm SURE you'd rather spend your time on the beach vs Immigration Jail.  Also - do NOT do STUPID things to GET yourself landing in jail - like drugs, be drunk/stupid in public, etc.!!!).

This also translates to there WILL be LESS police in those areas where there are NOT as many people at that time (like YOUR HOME) - hence the importance of having someone to
House • Pet Sitting
which I - Vicki Skinner - DO

MOST embassies will be closed that Thursday and Friday so the SOONEST you can get a replacement passport if yours gets lost or stolen is Monday - BUT Monday WILL be INSANE after this holiday (and part of Tuesday) so if you're not flying out immediately, SERIOUSLY consider going even best - a week later since if you're not FLYING within a couple days (and BRING PROOF of that)(see my article on that process at

Thursday and Friday - March 28 and 29
***Maury/Holy Thursday and Good Friday - (during Samana Santa•Easter • Holy WEEK)***

WHY THURSDAY AND FRIDAY AND NOT EASTER SUNDAY?Tico's (many Latins overall) take THESE 2 Holy days VERY SERIOUSLY (well - for many - it's the HOLIDAY/days off/at the beach that they take seriously - while for some it IS the religious aspect of it) where MANY businesses (not in beach destinations since THOUSANDS of people head for the beach during this time) are close
(well - at least in MOST businesses) - practically shutting down towns not relying on the tourist $$!!!  (I personally LOVE this time in the Central Valley as it's SOOOO PEACEFUL - but PLAN AHEAD as even markets will be on limited hours and smaller ones closed totally!)


The Sale of Alcohol is BANNED in MANY cities around Costa Rica on Holy Thursday and Good Friday before Easter Sunday (in 2012 they made a law to leave it up to the individual city/municipality to decide.  For more details on it, what cities are/are not allowing the selling of alcohol and/or how to work around it, see my blurb on that list for 2103 at:


WARNING - If you don't have patience - don't EVEN think of DRIVE FROM the beach East-bound especially that Wednesday (March 27) and Thursday (March 28) - or back FROM the beach on Saturday (March 30) or Sunday (March 31) and possibly some other days or parts of days in between) as some roads are CLOSED to traffic NOT going in the direction of the masses. Either way - you'll be in TRAFFIC for HOURS - or LONGER if there's an accident!!

MANY BUSES are sold out WEEKS in advance and they bring extra buses on but you'll pay a premium/extra price for them (and STILL MANY are booked up well in advance!!).

MANY bus lines run on a VERY LIMITED schedule on
Thursday and Friday - March 28 and 29!

It's NOT easy getting a taxi from Wednesday afternoon till Sunday since MANY drivers go to the beach with their family and friends!!!


ALL banks WILL be closed Thursday, Friday and Saturday (with LONG lines on Wednesday) and trust me - MANY ATM machines WILL run out of money so PLAN ACCORDINGLY!!!


BORDER CROSSING - Costa Rica - Nicaragua
Need to do a Visa Run??  Do it BEFORE March 22 and AFTER April 2 - or you could easily be facing
3-5+ hour lines at the Costa Rica - Nicaragua Border!!
Read this DETAILED announcement at:

(I don't know how the Panama border is but I'm sure it's nowhere near as bad as the Costa Rica - Nicaragua border crossing since there are SOOO MANY Nica's living in Costa Rica and Samana Santa, Mothers Day and Christmas/New Years are THE BIGGEST times of the year for them to return home since they get time off!!
See my article on BORDER CROSSINGS at:

For the first time ever, the borders into Nicaragua will be open 24 HOURS A DAY on
Saturday and Sunday - March 23 and 24
Wednesday and Thursday - March 27 and 28

They have not announced yet but I'll bet they'll also do it Saturday and Sunday March 30 and 31 (since those 2 days will be the WORST/HIGHEST TRAFFIC days!!)


Malls (and many of the stores in them) and movie theatres are usually open. This is a GREAT time to do some of the tourist things you've been wanting to do around the country like
La Paz Waterfall Gardens - WaterFallGardens.com • Poas Volcano and Doka Coffee Plantation Tour - DokaEstate.com
or MY FAV - you MUST check out the VIP Movie Theatre (or their GIANT screen iMax Theatre) at Nova Cinema in Escazu - a MUST do in your life time!! The VIP theatre has it's own VIP Lounge with a full bar and serving panini's, carmel corn, sushi++ - then you go into the theatre and sit in BIG COMFY leather electric recliners (that practically go back into sleeping position) and while you're watching the movie, waiters come around and SERVE YOU!!!! And it's JUST 5,200-colones - around $10!!!! (in the U.S. this would be $20-$40!!!).

Well, sadly and Goddess-forbid, the safest bet are Americana/gringo establishments like McDonald's, Pizza Hut, probably TGIFridays, Tony Romas, Hooters, Taco Bell, Subway, Quiznos, Burger King, KFC and the like. IF I have the time/desire, I'll look into finding a few NON-gringo places open at least in the Escazu area and share it here. And there's always grocery stores!!


OTHER STORIES • TRADITIONS like the:Burning of the Effigy of Judas
The Burning Soccer Ball Game
The Crocodile Capture



MAKE SURE YOU HAVE PROOF that you are LEAVING Costa Rica within 90 DAYS or risk getting REFUSED to enter or just a 2-day Transit Stamp on your passport!!!
(is an "Open-Ended Ticket" PROOF that you are DEPARTING Costa Rica within 90 days??  NOT!!!!  Some people get in with no problem and I have seen others given shorter stamps - everything from 12 to 60 days.  Do you want that???  And do NOT "doctor" a ticket as if they suspect that, sometimes they WILL call the airlines or bus company and check!!!
People - we're BLESSED to get to live in Costa Rica - do NOT screw that opportunity up!!!

See my article on that at


Among the participants at a Good Friday procession is a woman representing the biblical character of Veronica (photo also by AMCostaRica).
 Churches have a full lineup of events for Semana Santa
SOURCE:  AMCostaRica.com  -  March 19, 2013

The Catedral Metropolitana has a full schedule for Semana Santa or Holy Week beginning with a Palm Sunday procession this Sunday.

The archdiocese have published a booklet with all the events, and San José Mayor Johnny Araya has written an invitation for the public to participate.

The events are colorful and worth photographing even for those who are not Christian or even religious.

The procession Sunday begins at 9:30 a.m. with a blessing of the palms at the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de La Soledad at the east end of the Avenida 4 pedestrian mall. The San José municipal band will participate as marchers commemorate the Christian tradition of the triumphal entrance into the city of Jerusalem by Jesus Christ. Sometimes there is an actor playing Jesus. Other years there have been statues. Almost always there is a donkey.

The procession will go to the cathedral and pass through a temporary construction representing the gates of the ancient city. There is a 10:30 Mass in the cathedral with Hugo Barrantes Ureña, the archbishop, officiating.

Palm Sunday is called domingo de ramas in Spanish.

Monday night the plan calls for a public Stations of the Cross on Avenida 4 starting at 7 p.m. This is a recreation of the passion of Jesus.

Tuesday night there is a 6:30 p.m. concert by the Banda Nacional de San José in the cathedral.

Wednesday morning is the traditional offering of fruit and vegetables by those who maintain stalls at the Mercado Central. That is at 8:30 a.m. At 6:30 p.m. there is another band concert in the cathedral.

At 8:15 a.m. Thursday there are prayers to start a long day. At 9 a.m. the archbishop presides at the blessing of the ashes made from the palms that were used the previous Sunday. These ashes mixed with oils will be held until Ash Wednesday next year.

Then at 6 p.m. there is a Mass marking the tradition of the Last Supper of Jesus and his apostles.

At 7:30 p.m. there is a procession called Jesús atado a la columna. This recreates the biblical account of Christ being tied to a column and whipped by the Romans. The procession leaves Parque Central for the Iglesia El Carmen along Calle 0.

For the rest of the evening the cathedral is open for prayers and adorations.

Friday morning there is a 9 a.m. prayer service at the El Carmen church followed by a procession of Jesus carrying the cross to his execution. Actors participate. The procession leaves the EL Carmen church via Avenida 3 and then turns south at Calle 2 to pass in front of the Correos de Costa Rica building. Mary Magdalen joins the procession there and Veronica, she of the veil, joins the march at the Banco Nacional de Costa Rica building on Avenida Primera. The procession goes as far west as the Mercado Central. Various larger than life statutes join the procession at established points.

At 10:30 a.m. in the company of fire fighters, the procession heads back to Parque Central for a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

At 4 p.m. Friday there is a service in the cathedral commemorating the death of Jesus followed at 6 p.m. by a procession to the tomb of Christ. That procession is the largest of the season with apostles, Roman soldiers, Veronica and her veil, the municipal band, various religious organizations and the glass casket bearing the statue of the crucified Christ.

The line of march is north from the cathedral to Avenida Primera and then west to Calle 4 and then south to Avenida Segunda and then back to the cathedral.

Saturday at 4 p.m. is another procession marking the visit of Mary, the mother of Christ to His tomb. That procession leaves the El Soledad church.

At 7 p.m. there is a service in the cathedral that the church says is the most important of Semana Santa. Various blessings are planned.

Sunday at 10 a.m. is the procession marking the resurrection of Jesus. The line of march is from the Iglesia de la Merced to the cathedral where an Easter Mass will be offered at 10:30 a.m.

All these events are open to the public and attract thousands of spectators. Tourists usually are surprised by the detail and the  elaborate floats and statues that make up the processions.

Although the cathedral has the most processions during Semana Santa, there are similar events at local churches.

The Episcopal/Anglican Parish of The Good Shepherd also has a week of activities planned.

The church at Avenida 4 between Calles 3 and 5 will mark Palm Sunday with a procession at 9 a.m.

Monday there is a noontime prayer at the church. Tuesday members of the congregation will be visiting the sick. There is a 9 a.m. service Wednesday and one at noon and another at 6 p.m. Thursday.

On Good Friday the members of the church will participate in a Way of the Cross at noon based on the Passion of Christ according to John. There is a 6 p.m. service Saturday and a 9 a.m. service Easter Sunday.


Do YOU have anything to add to this??? 

Do you know of any NON-beach area restaurant or business open that Thursday and Friday??  Any tours/things to do AWAY from the beach?  Any other religious services in English or Espanol?

Please get me the DETAILS (I will ONLY be posting what you share.  I will NOT seeking out the details myself.  Ideally include their website or Facebook Page) and I'll add them onto this list!!


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