The Music of Costa Rica – Part 1

In every Latin American country music is at the center of the culture, and Costa Rica is no exception to this. There are many influences that date back to colonial times in the music of Costa Rica, so Spanish and European influences feature heavily. But as time progressed these European rhythms and tunes mixed with indigenous influences to create a unique Costa Rica sound. The contemporary music of Costa Rica is influenced from modern British and American rock as well as more traditional Latino rhythms. So, hanging out in the bars and live music venues of San Jose there is a myriad of different music options to choose when you fancy a night out.For those locals who prefer to dance then the Latin clubs are the most popular featuring bolero, cumbia, merengue, and salsa. Wherever you go in San Jose, music is absolutely everywhere, in the streets, theaters, bars, discos and even the restaurants.

Costa Rica Folk Music

Folk music is defined in Costa Rica as music that is by the people for the masses. Its influences extend to all forms of music in Costa Rica’s rich musical heritage. But there are four places that champion the folk music cause and they are, San Isidro del General, Limon, the Central Valley, and Guanacaste. Each area has its own style of folk music and unique sound, and is named after the location such as musica limonense, or musica guanacasteca.


Musica Guanacaste is very much linked to the nation’s cultural heritage concerning folk music. And it is a mix of Colombian, Panamanian, Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Spanish rhythms and influences. Musica Guanacaste is normally played on a marimba and the music is intertwined with the folk dances of Costa Rica. Two of the more famous dances include Los Amores de Laco and Punto Guanacasteco.

Central Valley

The music of the central valley is very much influenced by Spanish themes and rhythms and the songs are called serenatas campesinas which translates as peasant serenades. These are played on marimbas and guitars and have a hypnotic rhythm to them. Many of the songs of the central valley go back so far that nobody knows who wrote or composed them. The music acts as a flavor of the area and is not attributed to one or two composers. But two of the most favorite songs are No puede haber amor como el primo, and Despierta nina.


Costa Rica of course has many Caribbean influences in its music, and there are four main branches. Firstly, there are Comparsas which are lively bands that play at festivals and parades. Second is Sinkit, which is music that features heavily bass and snare drums, together with clarinets.Thirdly there is Caribbean music from Limon that is called Son and is based on the rhythms of Cuba, Spain, Panama, and the Dominican Republic. The fourth and final Caribbean style of music is Afrotica and that is a blend of the plebeian Costa Rica and colonial Christian music. There are many other forms of music in Costa Rica including classical, jazz, calypso, reggae, and tropical which makes Costa Rica a great destination for all music lovers.