Writing about where to specifically celebrate New Year’s Eve in Costa Rica is a bit of a challenge – because on December 31st the entire country basically turns into one giant party. You can pretty much just walk outside and go anywhere to find something fun to do – street vendors, music and crowds of people drinking Imperial beer flood the streets all night long.

Here are some of the major highlights when it comes to celebrating New Year’s Eve in Costa Rica:

Pork Dinner: Pork. It’s what’s for dinner on New Year’s Eve in Costa Rica — having a roast on December 31 is akin to eating turkey on Thanksgiving in the United States.

Fireworks: At the stroke of midnight you can expect to see fireworks lighting up the sky in pretty much any town or city in Costa Rica. The best place to watch them in Tamarindo is right on the beach – but to avoid the crowds, try driving up into the hills or going to a less crowded beach like Playa Flamingo.

Wish Lanterns: Wish lanterns are another popular tradition. People light up these beautiful paper flying fireballs and set them free as they make a wish near or at midnight. Just make sure you get ones that are biodegradable — you wouldn’t want to ensnare any baby sea turtles or dolphins when they fall over the ocean, would you?

12 Grapes for Good Luck:

This was originally a Spanish tradition that spread to Costa Rica (along with Mexico, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Colombia). It’s a pretty easy custom to follow – you just eat one grape for each month of the year at midnight. The clock will strike 12 times and you eat a grape with each beat. That’s it.

There are different explanations for where this rather strange custom came from. Check some of them out here.


Where to celebrate New Year’s Eve in/around Tamarindo:

Pangas – Pangas will be featuring live music and fireworks at midnight. They’ll have their regular menu plus a few surprise specials (to be announced).

Dragonfly: Dragonfly will be open for dinner, with their usual menu and also some specials.

Sharky’s – Wild Wednesday drink specials — dirt cheap booze all night long!

El Pescador – El Pescador is throwing a 12-hour New Year’s Eve beach party with live music, bonfires, a fire show and a DJ. They’ll be raffling off two sets of parasailing tour (each for three people).

Hotel Iguana Azul

If you want to escape that Tamarindo chaos, check out the dinner party at Hotel Iguana Azul (25 min south of Tamarindo). Cost is $50 a head including buffet. Alcohol not included.

Playa Flamingo: For a quiet (and inexpensive) New Year’s Eve you could also just grab a beach blanket and a cooler and find a spot on Flamingo Beach.

Photo credit: Genna Marie of Tamarindo Family Photos