It’s Festival Season: Calendar of Events in Central America
Thursday, April 4th, 2019
A party is never far away in Central America. From Catholic mysteries to indigenous celebrations to modern-day festivals, Central Americans celebrate in style with a color and flavor all their own. You can catch a major cultural event – sometimes more than one – almost any time of year you visit. You may not even have to search… land at the right time and a parade, procession, or street party will find you. Here are some hot festivals to look out for as you make your way through the region.
Festival of San Sebastián, Masaya, Nicaragua (10 days in late January)
San Sebastin is celebrated in riotous fashion in Barrio Monimb, the one neighborhood in Masaya that has preserved the ethnic identity of the indigenous village that once lived there. The festival climaxes with the Baile de Chinegro de Mozote y Verga, a mock battle where participants hit each other with large sticks. Don’t worry, everyone makes peace at the end.
Fiesta de Palmares, Costa Rica (3 weeks in January)
A newer, hit addition to the festival scene, the tiny town of Palmares has given Costa Rica’s answer to Coachella with two weeks of concerts, parades, stand-up comedy, fireworks, and sporting events. Ticos and foreigners alike flock to the fairgrounds to see Costa Rica’s most popular musical acts take the stage in a massive party atmosphere.
Feria de las Flores y del Café (Flower and Coffee Festival), Boquete, Panama (10 days in January)
Founded in 1950, the Flower and Coffee Festival or la Feria de Boquete attracts 130,000 visitors annually to the town of Boquete for ten days of flowers, crafts, demonstrations, and performances. The family-friendly festival features carnival rides and open-air clubs with live music and dancing. Coffee can be in surprisingly short supply, but you’ll find plenty of rum!
Carnival, Panama City, Panama (four days preceding Ash Wednesday)
The weekend before Ash Wednesday, Panama City comes to life with revelry, starting with the Crowning of the Carnival Queen on Saturday and preceding through four days of lavish masked parades, street fairs folk dance, and wild parties that rage until the break of dawn. Panamanians really know how to do a last hurrah before Lent.
Envision Music Festival, Costa Rica (End of February)
A 4-Day festival dedicated to awakening the human potential. Envision Festival provides a platform for different cultures to unite harmoniously in regenerative community. Inspiration is the focus with collective participation in art, spirituality, yoga, music, dance, performance, education, regenerative strategies, all balanced with a true connection to nature. Beautiful and magical at its core, everyone should experience this one of a kind cultural experience.
Tribal Gathering, Panama (February-March)
60 tribes from all over the planet convene on the beautiful Caribbean beaches of Panama to create a festival that delights all the senses. Over 150 international music acts with varying tribal bands and indigenous musical projects. This gathering creates a one of a kind atmosphere that encourages cultural awareness and celebrates diversity. Make sure you put this festival on your list for 2020.
Baron Bliss Day, Belize (first Monday after March 9)
Yes, it was renamed National Heroes and Benefactors Day in 2008, but to us, it’s still Baron Bliss Day, named in honor of the eccentric British traveler who willed his personal fortune to Belize for the public good of its citizens.
National Orchid Show, San José, Costa Rica (Month-long)
Love orchids? Over 1,400 species of orchid thrive in the high tropical mountains of Costa Rica. In March, horticulturists migrate prime examples to downtown San Jose where they put their best face forward in a dazzling exposition of this delicate, expressive flower.
Holy Week, throughout Central America, (from Palm Sunday to Easter)
The mysteries of Central America’s Catholic heritage comes to vivid life during la Semana Santa with processions, re-enactments, colorful decorations, and vivid costumes. Almost any town or village will wow you with its devotion, but particularly the celebrations in Antigua, Guatemala are particularly famous.
Garífuna Settlement Day, The Bay islands and North Coast, Honduras (April 12)
Visitors to the Bay Islands and northern coast of Honduras in April can catch a priceless cultural experience, celebrating the settlement of the Garifuna people in the region. Still a thriving culture in the region with its own language and customs, Garifuna Settlement Day pops and hums with the fantastic music and dancing for which these distinctive people are known.
Cashew Festival, Crooked Tree Village, Belize (two days in mid-May)
Did you know cashews not only have a delicious nut but attached to that there is also an equally tasty and juicy fruit called a cashew apple? Crooked Tree Village, 32 miles from Belize City, is famous for its cashew harvest, and for two days in mid-May they make sure you know about it. Amid music and dancing, a lovely local is crowned the Cashew Queen, and the streets and shops boast an array of cashew products to sample, including cashew jelly, cashew pastries, and (of course) cashew wine. Try some cashew apple juice, it’s amazing.
Feria de San Isidro, La Ceiba, Honduras (3rd or 4th Saturday of May)
La Ceiba celebrates its patron saint with a week’s worth of festivities, culminating in a massive parade and an all-night party along Avenida San Isidro. One of the largest festivals of its kind, as many as half a million revelers descend on the city to contribute to the festive atmosphere.
Empire Music Festival, Guatemala (First Weekend of May)
If Electronic Dance Music is your jam, then the Empire Music Festival in Guatemala might be the perfect fit for you to experience a new culture, beautiful scenery, all while rocking out to some of your favorite music. This festival is quickly becoming one of the premier EDM festivals in all the world! Come see why Guatemala’s reputation for amazing festivals is no joke!
Festival Corpus Christi, La Villa de Los Santos, Panama (four days roughly 40 days after Easter)
Over a month after Easter, the small, quaint Spanish Colonial town of La Villa explodes with colorful re-enactments, song, and dance celebrating the Eucharist and exploring the dichotomy between Good and Evil.
Lobster Festival, Placencia, Belize (three days in late June)
For lovers of the deep-sea delicacy, the Placencia Lobster Festival in Belize is your Mecca for three days in June, when producers from the region set up over 50 booths and spoil thousands of guests with creative preparations, from lobster pizza to lobster pie to lobster fajitas and more. You can step up the adventure and hire a guide to take you out on crystal blue waters to trap or free dive for a magnificent feast.
Feria Juniana, San Pedro Sula, Honduras (all month)
The people of San Pedro Sula celebrate their patron Saint, Peter the Apostle, with a month of art exhibits, folk dance, carnivals, fireworks, and concerts.
Fiesta of the Virgin of the Sea, Puntarenas, Costa Rica (weekend closest to July 16)
This unusual festival, commemorating a deadly storm that cost lives and property in 1920, sets a massive street festival – dancing, live music, ox cart parades – against a backdrop of ships in the harbor, decorated lavishly with religious images.
La Fiesta Nacional Indígena de Guatemala, Cobàn (Guatemala)
This massive celebration of Mayan culture culminates in a beauty pageant among Mayan women, amid concerts, parades, and rodeos.
Festival Patronales de La Virgen de Santa Librada, Las Tablas, Panama (two days in late July)
This two-day festival is held in concert with the Festival de la Pollera. Polleras are lavish handmade dresses that become family heirlooms. Considered the national costume of Panama, the climactic parade of polleras is truly dazzling.
Fiesta de la Virgen de la Asunción, Guatemala (August 15)
Guatemala celebrates a Virgen de la Asuncin on August 15 with spectacular parades of costumed dancers and oxcart floats, as well as lavish church decorations.
Fiesta of the Virgin of Los Angeles, Cartago, Costa Rica (August 2)
This festival is the culmination of a 22-kilometer pilgrimage that thousands of Ticos and visitors make from San Jose to Cartago to visit the relic known as La Negrita, located in the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles.
Costa Maya Festival, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize (four days starting the first Thursday in August)
Launched by the local Chamber of Commerce, Costa Maya brings top pop stars from all over the Latino world to converge on Ambergris Caye and headline a festival of beach volleyball, lobster cookouts, football marathons, and an all-night fair.
Costa Rica’s Independence Day (September 14-15)
Costa Rica commemorates its independence with an elaborate street fair featuring traditional Costa Rican foods, fireworks, and parades of children in traditional dress performing folkloric dance. Processions and parades are vibrant, colorful, and family-friendly.
Festival de la Mejorana, Guararé, Panama (late September)
This is the Super Bowl of Folk dance. Central American troupes travel from all over the region to demonstrate in concerts, parades, and a colorful procession on oxcart floats. Some folk dances are performed here and nowhere else.
Belize Independence Day (September 10-21)
Predominantly English speaking, Belize concluded it’s journey to independence from British rule in 1981. While Independence Day is celebrated on September 21, the party starts as much as ten days earlier. Belize City erupts in food stalls, street fairs, and parades. Dancing and revelry powers right on through to the morning.
Festival del Cristo Negro (Black Christ Festival), Portobelo, Panama (October 21)
The 1.5-meter-tall Black Christ statue is a source of miracles and local pride in the town of Portobelo. On October 21 the statue is paraded through the street, followed by a night of drinking and dancing. Many celebrants don purple robes and crowns of thorns.
Día de Todos Santos (All Saints’ Day), Guatemala (November 1)
Guatemala’s version of Dia de Los Muertos features several unique traditions, including a dazzling kite festival and an elaborately-costumed horse race. The kites from the festival must be burned for the souls of dead relatives to return; their tombs elaborately decorated so that the ghosts will be pleased on arrival to the all-night celebration.
Garífuna Settlement Day, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua (November 19)
If you missed Garifuna Day in Honduras, versions of the festival take place in late November in Belize, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, all homes of vibrant, musical Garifuna culture.
Día de la Purísima Concepción, León, Nicaragua (December 8)
Celebrated throughout the country, la Pursima is marked by lavishly decorated altars, boisterous celebration, and particularly enthusiastic renditions of la Gritera – praise of the Virgin Mary, shouted at the top of your lungs.
Quema del Diablo (Burning of the Devil), Guatemala (December 7)
As the New Year approaches, Guatemalans across the country build large paper mache effigies of the devil and then do whatever anyone would do to leave the evils of the past year in the past – light that devil effigy on fire. Held on the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, this tradition is said to burn away sin and make the way for Mary to arrive in a state of grace.
El Tope y Carnaval, San José, Costa Rica (December 26-27)
Costa Rica celebrates their Carnaval just after Christmas, starting with El Tope, a massive horse parade along Paseo Colon and Avenida Segunda. The Carnaval Parade was only reinstated a few years ago after a long absence. Needless to say, San Jose is a great place to be around Christmas.
Boxing Day, Belize (December 26)
Carrying over the tradition from the British colonial days, Belize keeps the tradition of Boxing Day alive to extend the festive mood days after Christmas has come and gone.
If we missed any that you think we should know about, please comment! If you are looking for a way to tie this together with a family vacation, romantic getaway or ecotour, we’d love to help.
We strive to share and promote the beauty and magic of Central America through first-hand knowledge and by providing luxury travel experiences beyond expectations. We make travel dreams a reality by assisting our clients in planning creative travel itineraries that encompass their interests, passion, style and values. We believe that conscious travel is the answer to bridging the world together, supporting local communities, life-culture preservation, all while creating everlasting memories.
Cosmic Convergence, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (December 28 – Jan 1, New Year’s)
A festival like no other, a truly magical New Years’ experience on the shores of beautiful Lake Atitlan. Cosmic Convergence hosts a multitude of music, performances, workshops, art installations, local foods, healing, ancient Mayan traditions, ecological and social impact activities. Rethink what is possible!!
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