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Appreciating Costa Rican Art

Posted by Katie on November 22, 2017
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A trip to Costa Rica is a complete experience. You’ll find ideal relaxation time on the pristine beaches, adventurism in the mountains, and learn about biodiversity in the rainforests. You’ll have the opportunity to visit interactive museums, try new foods, and learn phrases in a new language. Experiencing the many factors of Costa Rican life is easy in this small, tropical country, as cultural pride is bursting at the seams. While you’re organizing your itinerary, don’t forget to include art appreciation. Costa Rica has a very strong, traditional culture, and art is how this culture is best expressed. If you eat local dishes, buy a hand-made hammock, and try some artesanal coffee, you’re well on your way to being a Costa Rica art connoisseur. Art doesn’t need to be appreciated in a museum, and with such a strong culture, you’ll be among traditional art during your entire trip. If you know what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to enjoy it more and even partake in some of the art yourself.


Dance may be the most popular and easy-to-find art form in Costa Rica. And as Costa Rica stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean coast, you’ll notice a change in rhythms and movements as you travel the country. Young students learn traditional dance in school, and dancers will come out for parades, festivals, and street concerts. These dances can often seem impromptu, and it can be rather difficult to find a schedule of posted street events, so you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled and go wherever you hear music. While traditional dance is popular for parades, the most common form of dance in Costa Rica is salsa. Almost every Costa Rican knows basic salsa moves, and the style is combined with rhythmic Latin beats and sensual movements. Regardless of where you are in Costa Rica, there is a bar or two with a salsa night. These bars will be packed to the brim and usually feature live music and professional bartenders. You don’t need a group to go, you’ll dance with strangers, switching partners every song. Regardless of your knowledge of this dancing style, you’re absolutely guaranteed a fun night and a dozen new friends.


Music is an integral part of Costa Rican culture, and you’ve probably already run into a street corner performance or a bar singer. Costa Rican music takes traditional instruments, such as the marimba, and adds influences from Cuba, Mexico, and Colombia. The music is rhythmic and beat-centered, and you’ll notice the unique combination of folkloric styles mixed with modern rock and even jazz. Moving eastward toward the Caribbean coast, you’ll quickly notice the usage of calypso style. Steel drums and reggae beats quickly become the norm in the eastern part of the country, and you’ll hear the music of world-renowned artists who worked in this region. Before your trip to the Caribbean provinces, download the music of Walter Ferguson to familiarize yourself with the musical genius of Cahuita city.


Costa Rican architecture is an eclectic mix of Spanish colonial building and modern cubist designs. Architecture may be the most rapidly evolving style of Costa Rican art, and if you keep your eyes open as you walk down the streets, you’ll be amazed at the buildings you see. Your morning coffee joint may have an intricate wooden ceiling design, the bank has a huge colonial courtyard, and even your hotel may sport geometric shapes and modern designs. There is a reason so many models come to Costa Rica to pose in front of local buildings and doorways, so make sure you notice the art surrounding every step you take.

Sculptures and paintings

These classical styles of art don’t live in museums in Costa Rica. Artists commonly use surrealism and non-European standards for visual art, so the products are more creative and unique than what you may be used to. Some of the most renowned Costa Rican artists have their works displayed in churches, cathedrals, and governmental buildings. Modern day artists often have work displayed in cultural coffee shops and book stores. You may even see a street performer doing live paintings during your trip. Unlike in other countries, beautiful art from popular artists can be purchased at a very reasonable price in Costa Rica. You will find traditional style canvases for sale in book stores and at street side kiosks, and a hand-made painting is the perfect souvenir from your trip.


Jewelry is a traditional art form developed by indigenous cultures that still is widely practiced today. These will be mainly statement pieces and feature local stones and materials, such as jade, onyx, and turquoise. Many of the larger stones will be picked from local streams and mineral pockets by the artists themselves. These pieces can be purchased from any street side vendor or local artisan shop, and are the perfect gifts to bring back with you. If this subject strikes your interest, check out the Pre-Colombian Gold museum for a history of Costa Rican jewelry making.


You may not think of a dining room table or a rocking chair as art work, but that means you haven’t yet experienced Costa Rican woodworking. Traditional furniture in Costa Rica will not only be functional; it needs to be beautiful too. Entire landscapes are carved into headboards, flowers decorate the backs of chairs, and tables all stand on intricate legs. These artistic furniture styles are not hard to come by either, any home will feature them in every corner, and you’ll easily find a furniture shop, often open-aired, in the market sector of your city. It isn’t every day you have the opportunity to purchase hand-made, one of a kind furniture for a low cost, straight from the artist.

Take an Art Trip

Costa Rican art will surround every step of your tropical vacation, and many of you may enjoy appreciating the artesanal qualities of everyday finds, such as buildings and furniture. For those of you who are more interested in the local art scene, however, there are a couple of destinations you can add to your itinerary. A trip to Sarchi, a small town in the mountains thickly populated with local artisans, will be the perfect place to find jewelry, furniture, house décor, and small canvas paintings. You will also learn the history of the oxcart, which is claimed by this small town, and how its invention redefined the coffee transportation system. In any city, you can research a number of small galleries and coffee shops dedicated to the promotion of local art. A drive will certainly be worth it to see these cultural centers.