December in San Jose, Costa Rica is a celebratory affair with many opportunities to view local cultural events that provide 'authentic' experiences. December is also a transitional month for the weather and therefore requires different attire. Here is our list of travel advice to make the most of December in the capitol city!
1. Bring a Scarf and Sunscreen - December in Costa Rica can be sunny or cloudy, or both within a 10 minute time period, but it is almost always windy. A scarf makes for a nice, lightweight solution to stay warm or protect against the sun. Sunscreen is still a must for when the sun is shining. It may feel cool but we are only 10 degrees north of the equator so the sun can still burn you quickly! We also encourage our lady friends to save skirts for the beach, although the Tico men surely won't mind seeing your underwear when the wind blows your skirt up! ;)
Live in a winter place? Like scarves for souvenirs? Try an Art Tour to see local fasions and maybe meet designers.
2. Try a Tamal - December is the month for Costa Ricans to get together with family members and make Tamales. Each maker has his or her special recipe but traditionally they will have pork or beef and vegetables packed inside a maza dough and then wrapped and cooked inside a banana leaf. You will find these sold by street vendors or can try some on our Food Tour.
3. See San Jose at Night - The municipality of San Jose does a great job of lighting streets and monuments to share the holiday spirit. A walk down Paseo Colon to the National Theater, then up to Parque Morazan and east to view the INS building will leave you feeling young, happy and festive. We encourage you to do this between the hours of 6:30 - 8:30 when there are more people on the streets and it is safer overall. Leave expensive cameras, jewelry and extra cash behind. Grab a nice cup of coffee afterwards at Kalu.
4. Support English Theater - The Little English Theater Group provides interactive ways for Costa Ricans to learn English and also acts as a social group amongst expats. Each year they host a Christmas performance. This year will be a 'live radio broadcast' performance. If you are considering living or moving to Costa Rica this is a great group to join and support.
Show times are 7:30 Fri. Nov. 30 and 2:30 Sat. and Sun. Dec. 1 and 2. Reservations are preferred. Cost is $13.
5.. Eat Art at Bon ArtPetit 2012: À table! - This unique event is in its 3rd year and will be free to the public (limited to 500 attendees). Artists submited edible works of art and 13 finalists were chosen. If you have lived in Costa Rica this past year you will find some of these humorous commentary on recent failures by the government. Pieces will be on display at the Children's Museum (Museu de los Ninos) on Dec. 13th starting at 7:30 p.m. until 10:30. This event is hosted by the French Alliance. Attendance is free if you bring a packet of sugar...I'm sure this has to do with the art. Take a cab to the event. The immediate neighborhood cannot be described with nice adjectives, but you will be fine in a taxi. To be prepared for this event take an art or city tour to get up to speed on current politics.
6. Attend a Tope (Horse Dance Festival) - December kicks off the season of Tope Festivals around the country. The National Tope takes place on Dec. 26th at noon. This is a special event in which cowboys come from the country side and show of their horses and their horse dancing skills. While drinking out of open containers is now illegal in Costa Rica I guarantee these cowboys will be drunk.....watch out for the horses. View full schedule of December topes in the country.
7. Sparkle with the Festival of Lights - We always love a good parade and nothing beats the Festival of Lights in San Jose. This year the event will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Dec. 15th. The parade consists of about 20 lighted floats. Find a spot somewhere between Parque La Sabana and Teatro Nacional (we recommend closer to the park for better viewing). Remember open containers are now illegal in Costa Rica so it might be a handy time for the flask. Watch out for the confetti. While it's illegal to throw it, teenagers can't resist, and they win points with their peers for covering tourists in it. If you'd like to see some of the city beforehand book a walking tour.
8. Go Out in Style with the Nutcracker in the National Theater - From the 6th to the 16th of December (expect the 10th and 15th) you can catch the classic ballet performance of The Nutcracker performed by the National Dance Company, and also view the stellar interior of the National Theater. Tickets start at $20. We think any seat in the theater is spectacular so buy for your budget. Monday - Friday 8 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m. and 5p.m., Tickets can only be bought at Mundoticket locations so try a Walmart or Mas x Menos.
9. Get in the Ring at One of 26 Bullfights - Called the Best Sport Ever by Erin at DelaPuraVida, the bullfights in Costa Rica begin on Christmas Day and last until Jan. 6th. Every day at 3 p.m. and at 9 p.m. mostly men and boys hop in the ring with a bull. In complete, passive Costa Rican fashion these fights aim to hurt the humans, not the bulls. No one can beat Erin's enthusiasm for this event so please read the link above. This event takes place in Zapote and tickets start at $16. Typical fair activities are also a part of the fun.
10. Discover Local Treasures and Culinary Delights on a Walking Tour - This is our favorite time of year to take guests on adventures exploring the nooks and crannies of San Jose. As we close 2012, we'd like to thank all of our clients that have helped us create the most unique walking tours available in San Jose, Costa Rica. We've grown from one standard tour into 5 walking tour options including city, art, photography, food and fiesta. Let us help you create your San Jose experience, email BarrioBird@gmail.com.
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By Stacey Auch.