Music In Costa Rica: Traditional And Modern

Like many other Latin American cultures, Costa Rica holds music dear. Many of its musical traditions can be traced back from the colonial times when the Spanish introduced European beats to its shores. As time goes by, Spanish beats adapted the native tempos to create the distinct folkloric music of Costa Rica.

Besides Costa Rica’s proprietary genres, the people listen to Latin, American, and British modern rock. But when it comes to dancing, most residents like the conventional Latin beats of merengue, salsa, bolero, and cumbia. The people often enjoy flirting wildly while dancing at discs and dance halls during the weekends.

Music is basically everywhere in Costa Rica. From the busy streets to packed restaurants and discos, you can hear different types of music including classical and the popular reggaeton. Below is a list of different music styles popular in Costa Rica.

Types of Music in Costa Rica

Folk Music

Costa Rican folk music refers to the conventional rhythms made by regular citizens for the entertainment of the majority. Over the years, folk music is replicated and changed. In Costa Rica, there are four different styles of folk music: musica guanacasta from Guanacaste, musica aldeana from Central Valley, musica limonense from the Carribean, and musica generalena from San Isidro del General.

Other parts of the country replicate these four main styles to create popular folk music. Let’s discuss the four powerhouses of folk music:


The beats of Guanacaste are a vital part of the country’s musical heritage. Guanacaste’s folk music is a fusion of various influences from Spain, Nicaragua, Cuba, Panama, and Colombia. It uses the sound of marimba, a form of big wooden xylophone, and embraces different styles including puntos, callejeras, and parranderas.

This region’s music is closely knitted with its dances, which include attractive flourishes and conventional costume. The two famous dances in Guanacaste are Punto Guanacasteco and Los Amores de Laco.

Central Valley

Also known as peasant serenades, the folk music in Central Valley is heavily influenced by Spanish melodies. Batambas are a basic form of Central Valley folk music that blends a harmonic and seductive beat with guitarists and marimba players.

You can easily tell that the folk music is from Central Valley because each stanza has a continuous count which is longer than the music. “Despierta nina” and “No puede haber amor como el primero” are two of the most famous examples of musica aldeana.


The Caribbean folkloric music is a mixture of different rhythms from the Central Valley, Spain, and the Caribbean Islands. It has four fundamental branches:

  • The first type spotlights lively bands that perform during parades
  • Sinkit: This second form is a famous Costa Rican musical genre that incorporates snare drums, bass drums, and clarinets
  • Son: This third branch is established from various syncopated beats of Puerto Rico, Spain, Cuba, Panama, and the Dominican Republic.
  • Afrotica: This fourth branch is the output of mixing traditional Christian music with the ostensible secular sounds of Costa Rican commoners.

San Isidro del General

San Isidro del General is a tiny city in Costa Rica. It has a separate culture from the rest of the country, which explains its distinctive folkloric beats. Among its famous regional music include:

  • Campera: A fusion of peasant music an creole rhythm
  • Tambit: A cheerful guitar melody
  • Southern Son: Presents a three-four meter with highlights on the first and third beats
  • Tonadas: They’re local legend-inspired romantic songs that incorporate various harmonies of guitar, accordion, mandolin, and violin.

Classical Music

Costa Rica is also not behind in terms of classical music. Some of the country’s significant fonts in classical music are the Costa Rican Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Costa Rican Chamber Opera, and the National Symphony Choir. The National Symphony Orchestra itself is praised internationally under the direction of Chosei Komatsu.

From classical guitar to grand symphony orchestras and pianists, the National Theater of San Jose holds various concerts. Other venues that hold amazing classical music programs include the Costa Rican and North American Cultural Center, and Teatro Mozart.


Jazz is another saple in the music scene of Costa Rica. If you go around Escazu and San Jose, you can find a lot of jazz cafes and restaurants that present new acoustic and jazz musicians.

There’s so much jazz talent potential in this country. Editus, the country’s most popular jazz group has won international awards including the 2000 Grammy for Best Latin Pop Presentation. To flourish the potential jazz scene in the country, a semi-annual International Jazz Festival is held, which presents some of the best musicians in the world.


When you go to the Caribbean coast, the most popular music style you’ll hear is reggae. This music genre was first created in Jamaica in the 1960s. In 2011, Costa Rica Rica was only the Central American country that Damian Marley visited for his tour.

You can see the local artists like C-Sharp and Fuerza Dread perform reggae at local bars. One of the popular local bars in the country is La Mochila, which holds Costa Rica Reggae Nites each Friday.

Reggaeton is a fusion of urban beats, Jamaican dancehall, and Latin beats. This makes Spanish-language songs famous among the country’s teenagers and the regulars in the dance club. It’s very famous in San Jose street music and alternatively used for making unforgettable advertisement campaigns


This Afro-Caribbean music style originated from Trinidad. Historically, the Trinidad slaves used this music to tell stories. One of the most famous calypso musicians in Costa Rica is Walter Ferguson whose songs include narratives of his childhood in Panama. His songs are a perfect demonstration of Afro-Caribbean culture.


People in the Costa Rican dance clubs jive into the beats of salsa, cumbia, merengue, and other Latin American tempos. While they dance salsa and merengue in the traditional way, they switch the famous cumbia dance steps to creole swing. This brings more hops and bouncing steps into the dance routine.

Who Are The Modern Costa Rican Musicians?

Famous modern musicians in the country include Cantares, Balerom, Ghandi, Evolución, El Parque, Akasha, Gaviota, Debi Nova, and Percance. Unfortunately, Malpais, one of nation’s favorite bands, lost its lead singer, Fidel Gamboa in August 2011.