Costa Rican bullfighting – best sport ever!

I recently discovered an amazing activity here in Costa Rica that is not recommended highly enough in any of the guide books – Costa Rican bullfighting, which is commonly called Toros a la Tica. To call it bullfighting is actually a misnomer because there is no fighting, just a lot of running around and looking like an idiot.

costa rica bullfighting

Red Cross is always standing near by in case these run-ins with the bull turn into a serious accident…which does happen quite often.


The rules are simple: you can’t hurt the bull, but the bull can hurt you.

Any man or woman is allowed to sign up to step into the ring with a fiesty champion bull who has been trained to knock them down. There can be anywhere from a handful to hundreds of people in the ring at one time running from the bull. And Red Cross has their own special window leading straight into the ring so injured people can be conveniently transported out and in to one of the ambulances waiting outside in a line, ready to go to the hospital.

The object of the game is to get the bull to chase you while you cleverly avoid his stalk and eventually his stomp.

The reason I am so utterly and helplessly in love with this newly discovered jewel of a sport is that the majority of the people who sign up to step in to the ring with the bull are completely clueless! It is one of the most hilarious things to watch a 1500 lb bull chase someone down, see the look of terror on their face as they narrowly escape, and then watch them jump right back in to the ring, running out to pat the bull on the butt so they can do it all over again. Add to this the hilarious commentary from the announcers poking fun at everyone and you have a recipe for hours of priceless entertainment.

This holiday season proved to be one of the most exciting in Tico history because the bulls were all particularly brave. I saw numerous bulls single out a specific person from the crowd and repeatedly aim for them until they were out of the game and on their way to the hospital.

The highlight was most definitely the bull that removed some poor guy’s pants – how scary!!!

At least with clothes on, you have some semblance of safety. The man escaped without major injury, as you can clearly see in this slow motion instant replay.

The best bulls in Costa Rica participate in the festival in Zapote which takes place during the Christmas holiday, but you can find bullfighting year round. Here is some video that I took last week at Fiestas Palmares – the biggest, most popular festival in Costa Rica.

These brave Ticos started out standing on top of three crates, now they are down to two.

Next, they went down to one crate, but since the bull didn’t knock anyone out, they decided to huddle together to make a bigger target!

This is always fun – running around the bull in a circle, the poor bull is confused and the intensity rises because no one knows which direction the bull will charge next!

If you are traveling through Costa Rica, make sure to ask the locals when and where you can find the next Toros a la Tica!



  1. says

    While Spanish bull fighting is ridiculously gruesome (to me, anyway), this does remind me of what happens after the running of the bulls. After the run, in my pueblo anyway, they allow anyone and everyone to hop into the arena to dodge one feisty teenaged bull. In this case, however, the people that do this are typically teenaged guys who’ve been drinking all night. Despite their lack of sobriety, these kids are surprisingly skillful in their abilities to dodge, escape and leap over the bull. While entertaining, I still find it hard to watch given the occasional trampling or worse. Ay ay ay, madre mia.

  2. says

    Ayngelina – look me up if you make it to Costa Rica and I’ll fill you in on the hot spots for toros a la tica, you won’t regret it!

    La Tortuga – I’m surprised at my ability to watch people get trampled :/ …I’m thinking I am less empathetic because they voluntarily signed up and are well aware of the possible repercussions. It kills me, though, when the girls get on the seesaws in the middle of the ring and try to dodge the bull by forcing their side of the seesaw up, which usually results in the girl falling to the ground in front of the running bull. like you said: ay ay ay!

  3. says

    I am so happy to have found your blog via Travel Blog Exchange. I lived in CR for 2 years – it is my ‘happy place’ – how I miss it so. I am really enjoying your stories and photo. I’d love you to add a post to my expat Linky Party on March 19th :)

  4. says

    These people are nuts! Have you ever seen anybody get hurt? At first I thought your post was going to be about traditional bull fighting which I think is cruel, but this is an interesting twist to for Costa Ricans to take. lol

  5. says

    Hi Laura, Thanks for the kind words, glad I can bring you a little of your happy place :)
    What’s this about an expat linky party??

  6. says

    Hi Christy! I have seen people get hurt – the red cross is on standby at these events, ready to whisk people off to the hospital. When someone is in the ring and gets trampled or even nudged by the bull, everyone forces them to go and immediately get checked by red cross because sometimes the adrenaline masks the pain. The majority end up OK.

  7. says

    This sounds like a lot of fun! I wonder I will be daring enough to sign up or not. Maybe not, but I think it will be cool if I am. Ryan and I are in Honduras currently, and we are going to go to Costa Rica. What’s the best way to watch this? And what do you think the must things to do in Costa Rica?

  8. says

    It’s fun to watch – I don’t recommend signing up!!! Toros a la Tica occur in every town – just ask around while you are here, they are not marketed online or on tv unless it is a big festival. You have to find out by word of mouth. If you are here for Easter week, though, some of the best Toros a la Tica happen all over the country. As well as horse parades – which I also highly recommend!
    So must do things: Toros a la Tica, Tope (horse parade), and definitely check out the amazing biodiversity. Costa Rica has 6% of the world’s biodiversity on less than 1% of it’s land. Go see Arenal at night, and spend at least a couple days to ensure a clear view. The Arenal Observatory Lodge has the best views. You should also check out the hot springs while you are in town. Poas and Irazu Volcanos are also fantastic, you can get up close to the craters and Irazu is like walking on the moon.
    The national parks are also incredible – Manuel Antonio, Corcovado…
    One of my favorite beaches is Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean, very laid back multi-cultural town. Black sand beaches, white sand beaches, natural rock swimming holes, and always a good night life.
    The South Pacific is fantastic too as far as beaches and wildlife go.
    Really, I could go on and on. How long will you be here?? :)

  9. says

    Hey, thank so much for the recommendations! I have saved the info safely in my laptop. We are currently in Roatan Island, Honduras, and after we are done here, we will make our way to Panama, passing through Nicaragua and Costa Rica. We will need to be in Panama in about a month.

    • says

      You’re welcome! Contact me when you know what date you are coming to Costa Rica and I’ll see if I can find some festivals for you to go to :) I look forward to reading about Honduras on your blog!

  10. says

    This is why I love Pamplona – the bulls get their chance for revenge! And also after the running/fighting bulls are safely penned after the run, they release some young ones and everyone is still in the ring and they chase people around more or less harmlessly.
    I just now noticed someone posted something something similar!

    • says

      Hi Oswald and Passport Stamps! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. :)
      I’ll have to seek out the ring after the running of the bulls when I finally make it to Pamplona. Sounds just as entertaining!

      The bulls in toros a la tica never end up injured, but the people (los valientes) always come out with at least bumps and bruises, usually hospitalization, and sometimes death. The really entertaining bouts are with the bulls that have some years of experience trampling people in the ring. They know exactly how to trick the people and corner them into being trampled. You have to be insane or ridiculously drunk to voluntarily jump in the ring with one of these bulls!!!

    • says

      Neither would I! I think there is enough excitement watching and also hoping the bull doesn’t jump the edge of the ring, which does happen sometimes!

  11. says

    I never knew this kind of bullfighting existed. I would never even consider going to a bullfight in Spain, but this looks more entertaining and fun to watch.

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