Costa Rica Fairs and Topes
(horse shows)

Tope - Horse Show San Jose Costa Rica

Costa Rica is famous for it fairs and horseshows (topes). Tope is pronounced toe-pay. I can just about guarantee that some town, somewhere in Costa Rica is sponsoring one of these events just about every weekend year around.

The one constant in every fair is the food! Most fairs offer truly excellent Costa Rica Traditional (tipica) cooking... and this is good stuff!

After the food and drink, nothing is a given, but most fairs include games and rides for the kids (and big kids), music and dancing. The larger ones include live concerts. Regardless of the size, people watching is first rate fun.

The biggest fairs offer Costa Rican Bullfighting!

The larger fairgrounds have a permanent bullring (rondel), but some of the fairs erect one for the show. For those of you who are concerned about the bulls, don't be! In Tico (Costarican) bullfights, the bull is not harmed, though I suspect he does get pretty irritated at times.

Here is what happens!

A bunch of (maybe none-to-bright) folks (mostly men... now whudda thought that?) get into the bullring and annoy the bull by trying to touch him, pull his tail, and do some other not-particularly-well-thought-out things.

The bull resists this process and this has the not-unexpected affect of ticking off the bull who (yes, he has his horns) chases (and occasionally catches) these people.

Children dancing in Boyeros Parade, Escazu, Costa RicaIn other words... at least a few times each night, the BULL really wins! At no time does the bull lose!  It is often pretty hilarious though the risk is real and a goring is not uncommon. Almost every year now, there is a death... so by all means, take the kids. just be ready to cover their little eyes if the bull appears to be taking over! Even with that somewhat remote possibility in mind, it is a LOT of fun and the kids love it.

New rules apparently limit this activity to those who are sober... though I have not yet figured out why you would get into an enclosed area with a 1,400 pound (600 kilos) bull if you, in fact, WERE sober. Anyway... it is a fun way to pass a few hours.

Some of the better fairs are those in Palmares (a short drive from San José), Limon on the Caribbean coast, and Zapote, also near San José.  The Palmares Fair is usually in January of each year and runs for two weeks.  The Zapote fair runs during the Christmas holidays.

February marks the time for the annual Puntarenas Festival.  This is I think the second largest fair (Zapote is larger) and has the full card of events.  The fair is held in the city of Puntarenas as you would expect.


Parades are very popular in Costa Rica.  Three of the best ones are in the San José area during November and December.  The first one is the Boyeros Parade in November and this annual event marks the official start of the Christmas season in Costa Rica. The event is free to the public.

Oxcart - Boyero Costa RicaBoyeros are beautiful hand painted oxcarts drawn by huge oxen and are to many folks the national symbol of Costa Rica. Boyeros come from all over Costa Rica and last year there were an estimated group of nearly 200 carts and their drivers.  These carts were first used to haul coffee to the markets, but later had broader use in just carrying anything (like your kids!).

There is also another huge boyeros parade held each year in Escazu in the late Spring.

The normal parade route has the teams moving East on Paseo Colón from the statue of León Cortés next to the Parque la Sabana. From there, the route is down Avenida 2, past Parque de la Merced and Parque Central then the return to La Sabana.

Oxen driving Oxcart - Costa RicaThese colorful carts and those who drive them are well worth the visit.

The Festival de la Luz or Festival of the Light is the annual light festival in San Jose.  It is a HUGE event, drawing tens of thousands of people from all over the country to see the the parade, the floats, and of course, watch other people.

The festival begins at the east end of the La Sabana and follows Paseo Colon toward San Jose Central.

As with all large public events in most cities, be careful of pickpockets who use the crowds and excitement to ply their trade. 



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