Many people are curious as to which sports are played in Costa Rica. Well, today we’ll put an end to all of the questions and list the most common sports in Costa Rica.
Which Sports are Popular in Costa Rica?
They call it fútbol in Spanish, soccer in the United States, and football in the rest of the world. But no matter what you call it, it’s the most popular sport in Costa Rica, as well as the rest of the world. In fact, Ticos first started playing fútbol around 1876 when Spanish colonizers brought their love for the game.
The first national soccer league was formed in 1921, leading to today’s UNAFUT league. The most famous teams in Costa Rica include Liga Deportiva Alajuenlense, Club Sport Herediano, Club Sport Cartagines and Deportivo Saprissa. Costa Rica’s national team is called Federación Costarricense de Fútbol (or La Sele for short) and plays at the National Stadium in San José’s Sabana Park.
Despite its underdog status compared to soccer powerhouses like Mexico, Costa Rica has earned respect international play with their national team the only Central America nation to have played in four FIFA World Cups. But it was the World Cup in 2014 in Brazil where the world celebrated their storybook run, as they beat Uruguay 3-1, Italy 1-0, and tied perennial contender England 0-0, granting them a pass to the Round of 16. In the Round of 16, Costa Rica tied Greece 1-1 after regulation time, but won on a miraculous round of penalty kicks to advance, where they eventually lost to Argentina on penalty kicks, 4-3.
Some of the most famous fútbol players in Costa Rican history include Keylor Navas (goalkeeper) and Bryan Ruíz (Captain of 2014 World Cup team), as well as Limon forward Juan Cayasso. The list goes on with all-time games leader and Saprissa star Walter Centeno, World Cup goalkeeper Luis Gabelo Conejo, two-time World Cup scoring specialist Rónald Gómez, and their all-time leading goal scorer, Rolando Fonseca.
If you want to make quick friends with a Tico, just ask them about their favorite fútbol team – and agree with them!
If fútbol is Costa Rica’s no. 1 sport, then surfing is 1A, especially for those that live on the small nation’s Pacific or Atlantic coasts. In fact, Costa Rica has been one of the best places in the world to surf for decades, drawing millions of visitors every year to the country’s 40 mapped surf beaches.
The list of best surf beaches and breaks in Costa Rica includes Playa Hermosa, Mal País & Santa Teresa, Jacó, Tamarindo, Ollie’s Point, Witch’s Rock, Playa Avellanas, Pavones, and many others.
So it was no surprise when the International Surfing Association (ISA) held the ISA World Surfing Games in Playa Jacó last year in August. The event featured wave-riding boarders from all over the world including Tico national legends Noe Mar McGonagle, his talented sister, Leilani, rising surfing star Anthony Fillingim, and iconic Carlos “Cali” Muñoz.
Even if you’re not a world-class surfer because you live in San Jose, you can still surf more than just the Internet! Many of these surf destinations – like in and around Jacó, for example – are just a short drive away, making surfing one of Costa Rica’s top sports.
Bullfighting around the world is criticized by animal rights advocates as cruel and inhumane for the animals. But while bullfighting is still popular in places like Spain and Mexico, Costa Rica has its own progressive and civil take on the “sport.” In fact, there are bullfights in Costa Rica but the bull is NEVER harmed!
Quite the opposite – as the entertaining spectacle involves the bull chasing brave (or foolhardy) participants around the ring, often injuring them. These men – usually young; often drunk – test their bravery, athletic prowess, and machismo as they tempt fate in the bullring, winning the adulation of the crowds.
Called “Corridas de Torros” – literally translated as “Running FROM the bulls” you’ll find them at fairs, festivals, and horse shows all over the small nation, which are called topes. However, these Corridas de Torros are most common during the festival season from December through late February.
While the bulls are treated well and never harmed, The Costa Rican newspaper La Nación reports that 257 people were injured in bullfights last year, with 67 hospitalizations. Deaths are also not uncommon, and recent cases have included drunk or unwise tourists who jumped in the ring and were gored to death.
By the way, the most famous “athlete” in bullfighting is Malacrianza, a hell-fire demon of a beast that rose to fame at the festival circuit in 2004. Malacrianza went on to become the most feared and respected bull in Costa Rican history, even killing several bull riders and injuring countless others.
With so many beautiful beaches and sun worshipping athletes in Costa Rica, it makes sense that volleyball –especially the beach variety – would be so popular. Many Ticos are pretty passionate about their volleyball (sometimes just called “volle”) and play for high schools, club teams, recreational leagues, tournaments, and even professional leagues. In fact, Costa Rica is active in international volleyball competition. In recent years, both the men’s and women’s teams placed well in the NORCECA Beach Volleyball Tour.
Speaking of the Olympics, Costa Rica first participated in the Olympics in 1936. The country has competed in every single Summer Games since 1956, often in fútbol where they’ve experienced international respect and success for such a small nation.
But it’s the sport of swimming where Costa Rica has truly excelled, as Tico legend Claudia Poll Ahrens won Costa Rica’s first gold medal in 1996 in the 200-meter freestyle. Since then, Costa Rica has won an astounding four gold medals between Ahrens and her teammate, Silvia Poll. Even though the country sits in a subtropical climate, Costa Rica has even participated in several the winter Olympics since 1980!
- Sport fishing
If you’re an avid fisherman, casting off in the waters of Costa Rica will be a dream! The Central American country features 631 miles of pristine coastline on its Pacific side, as well as 131 miles of coastline on the Caribbean coast, which means that Costa Rica’s marine territory is about ten times larger than its land mass!
A joy to fishermen, the Costa Rica’s waters aren’t overfished, and a significant portion of Costa Rica’s land, shoreline, and marine area are designated as protected natural reserves and parks.
The weather and sea conditions are perfect for nearly year-round fishing, with ecstatic sportsmen encountering HUGE fish in Costa Rican waters, like 600 lbs. Marlin, as well as Sailfish, Tuna, Mahi-Mahi, Dorado, and many more!
Costa Rica is home to a surprising number of dazzling golf courses, many of them in the hills and mountains around San Jose, where the year-round sunshine, perfect temperatures, and abundant nature create some of the best conditions for golfers anywhere in the world. From 5-star resort to scenic 18-hole courses in coastal areas, golfers would be wise to pack their clubs when coming to Costa Rica!
With so many finely-tuned athletes, such a sporting culture, and some of the best natural beauty in the world, Costa Rica is a logical choice to host marathons, triathlons, and other competitions every year. That includes the internationally-renowned Ironman Triathlons as well as other races for pros, passionate amateurs, families, and beginners nearly every month all over the country.
- Cycling and mountain biking
Costa Rica offers plenty of meandering roads through breathtaking landscapes – perfect training territory for any serious cyclist. Even better is the mountain biking scene in the country, with aggressive jungle trails, secluded beach rides, and jaunts up and down picturesque volcanoes leaving every mountain biker extremely happy – and dirty!
Ticos also have taken their pedal power abroad, with Tico cyclist Andrey Amador placing 4th in 2015 at the second-most prestigious cycling race in the world, the Giro D’Italia.
Skateboarding, rollerblading, etc. are popular in Costa Rica, especially among the younger generation, and there are skate parks in many town parks.
Believe it or not, but basketball is an increasingly popular sport in Costa Rica, with the influx of American culture leading to games, teams, and recreation tournaments around the country.
With almost 365 days of sunshine, tennis is the perfect activity for Ticos, expats, and retirees in Costa Rica.