Toros and Tope de Caballis (Bulls and Horse Parade)

It’s festival time in Playas del Coco…..and that means horses, dancing and drinking….and that’s no bull.

One day,  we were passing the fruit and vegetable stand which is next to the public school and across from the empty field,  we saw a sign “Toros” (Bulls). The bull riding was coming on the weekend as well as the Tope de Caballis (Horse Parade). Here in Costa Rica, there is bull riding and not the bull fighting like they have in Spain but it seems there can be a lot of blood and gore. The bulls are a big event here with the show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The main event was on Saturday and costs ¢10,000 Colones  ($20 US) per person to sit in the stands. The show includes the bulls, local dancing, clowns and parade queens. There are also food and beer stands and a whole lot of fun. We weren’t able to make it this time but will definitely attend the next time which I hope is soon.

The Province of Guanacaste is steeped in cowboy culture. Unlike much of Costa Rica that is covered by rain forest and mountains, Guanacaste is dry coastal savannah with cattle ranching the predominate industry, apart from tourism. A tope is a horse parade where the local sabaneros, or plainsmen, show off their superb horsemanship amid loud brass bands, firecrackers, throngs of onlookers and blaring salsa music. Particularly popular in the dry season from December to April topes are a traditional excuse to have a big party, drink and show-off on horses. Topes are often combined with Costa Rican bullfighting events and a country fair.

When the Tope is in town everyone gets a little loco. On Friday and Saturday morning we heard a bunch of fireworks but on Sunday, the day of the Tope, at 5:30 in the morning we were awoken by a musical band. It was a hoot (excuse the pun). The band started at our end of town and drove down the street waking everyone and getting them all excited, except those who were a little hung over from the previous night’s activities.   After asking a number of  different people when the parade would start and getting a different answer every time we deduced that the parade would start sometime in the afternoon.  So we wondered down the beach around 11:30 AM and waited for something to happen. There was an obstacle course set up on the beach where teams of kids would race through and get sprayed with water. The start included a large ball where one of the kids would get in and get rolled to the start by their team mates.

Beach fun
We sat on the board walk for awhile and watched the commotion. There were chicos selling all sorts of goodies: sombreros, sunglasses, food, cold coconuts, candy floss, beer….you name it. There was a bull and donkey where people could get their pictures taken and this woman obviously had modeling experience.

Picture with the bull

John, naturally,  had to get a close up of the bull.

That's no bull

The kids seemed to be a little afraid of the donkey.

Beach donkey

A band started up just about 1 o’clock which started to get everyone excited. The music reminded me of the Cuban band “Buena Vista Social Club” and had the same sort of rhythm.

Beach Band

We decided to walk into town and check out a good spot to watch the parade and ended up in Coconuts which is a local bar that caters to gringos but has a railing with a great view of the street. It’s a great spot to people watch and check out the action.  We had a few beers and something to eat while we waited…and waited…..and waited. Some one mentioned that the parade should start around 2 but in true Tico fashion it started at 4.  Our friends Gary and Diane were sitting at the Lizard Lounge but decided they couldn’t wait any more.

Gary and Diane

Suddenly we hear loud music coming from  the restaurant next door and the dancing begins. This couple was really getting into the swing of things and had some great moves.

Dancing in the street

People were getting set up all along the street. Trucks and cars pulled in where ever there was space, set up coolers and got ready for a good time. The truck across the street dropped the sides and had obviously had been here before. There was only enough room for two couples to dance at a time so they had to take turns. The dancing reminded us of our friends Nury and Eli who tried to teach me some of the local moves. And this is before the parade has even started.

Couples dancing

The parade starts at the end of the beach just south of town and travels up the beach and into town with people lined up all along the route.


When the parade turned into town they hadn’t closed off the street so it was a tight fit with cars, people, horses all trying to go somewhere.  The parade queen and king were the first to come past us and they certainly weren’t hard to look at.

Parade Queen

Parade Master

And then the rest of the horses follow,  the town is jumping and even the horses got into the groove. Unfortunately dancing horses don’t come across well in still photos so check out John’s video .

Horses in the street

Horse Riders

Some of the riders kept nipping at liquids to keep them hydrated during the long ride.

Drinking horse rider

Everyone had a great time and everyone got into the action. There was one guy who stopped his car right in the middle of the road, had a dance with a woman in the crowd then got back into his car and drove off. This was a wonderful adventure and we hope to see this again real soon.

Parade Rider


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