Festival of San Sebastián, Masaya, Nicaragua. Drums, whistles, and chanting reverberate around the streets of Masaya during this festival celebrating Saint Sebastian. The town of Diriamba (30km/19 miles southwest of Masaya) is generally recognized as throwing an even more colorful and authentic parade, too, with a lively mix of pagan satire and colonial pomp. Last 2 weeks in January.
Fiesta de Palmares, Costa Rica. One of the best organized of the country's traditional fiestas, the Fiesta de Palmares includes bullfights, a horseback parade (tope), and many concerts, carnival rides, and food booths. First 2 weeks in January.
Feria de las Flores y del Café (Flower and Coffee Festival), Boquete, Panama. This festival is one of the grandest celebrations of flowers in the world, drawing thousands of people to Boquete for 10 days. Expect lush flower displays, food stands, live music, amusement rides, handicrafts booths, and hotel rooms booked far in advance. Mid-January.
Carnaval. Panama's most revered holiday is Carnaval, the 4 days that precede Ash Wednesday. The largest celebrations take place in Panama City and the Azuero Peninsula, with parades, floats, drinking, costumes, and music.
International Permanent Festival of Art and Culture. This 15-year-old international arts festival in Suchitoto, El Salvador, was founded by retired but once world-renowned cinematographer Alejandro Cotto and is one of the country's premier arts events, attracting visual and performing artists from around Latin America and the world. Dates vary in February.
Baron Bliss Day (Nationwide, Belize). While not officially the nation's patron Saint, Baron Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss is certainly Belize's foremost patron and benefactor. The day is marked with nationwide celebrations. The greatest festivities are held in Belize City, which hosts a regatta, as well as horse and footraces. March 9.
National Orchid Show, San José, Costa Rica. Orchid growers throughout the world gather to show their wares, trade tales and secrets, and admire the hundreds of species on display. Contact the Costa Rican Tourist Board (www.visitcostarica.com) for location and dates in 2009 and 2010. Mid-March.
Holy Week, throughout Central America. Religious processions are held in cities and towns throughout Central America during Semana Santa, and it is a fantastic time to visit the region. León in Nicaragua throws a particularly colorful event with elaborate sawdust pavement paintings. Antigua in Guatemala is also famous for its celebrations and carpet-lined streets. Holy Week celebrations in Comayagua are one of the biggest festivals in Honduras and feature a week of elaborate processions. Celebrations take place the week before Easter, which sometimes falls in late March rather than April.
Garífuna Day (The Bay islands and north Coast, Honduras): Dancing, drinking, music, and other cultural feats take place to celebrate the arrival of the Garífuna on Roatán in 1797. April 12.
Cashew Festival, Crooked Tree Village, Belize. Celebrating the cashew harvest, this weekend festivity features booths selling everything possible under the sun made with this coveted nut, including cashew wine and cashew jelly. Live music and general revelry accompany the celebrations. First weekend in May.
Feria de San Isidro (La Ceiba, Honduras): Hundreds of thousands of revelers flock to this north coast town for the Honduran version of Carnaval. Parades march through the downtown streets, the constant beating of drums is everywhere, and all-night partying occurs on the beaches. The week preceding the third Saturday of May.
Festival Corpus Christi, La Villa de Los Santos, Panama. This Panamanian town explodes with activity for a 2-week religious festival known for its elaborate dances led by men in devil masks. Forty days after Easter.
Lobster Festival (Placencia, Belize). You'll get your fill of this tasty crustacean during this extended weekend celebration of the opening of lobster season. In addition to gorging on lobster, you can also take in concerts and street parties and an arts fair. Check www.placencia.com for the latest details. Late June.
Feria Juniana (San Pedro Sula, Honduras). The last week of June sees a series of parades and live events celebrating the city's founding. There is a large agricultural fair that attracts thousands and the week culminates with a huge, colorful parade down the main thoroughfare on June 29.
Fiestas Julias, July, Santa Ana. Fiestas Julias, also known as Fiestas Patronal, is a month-long celebration in the city of Santa Ana, El Salvador, featuring parades, music, and carnival rides honoring Santa Ana's patron saint. Throughout July.
Fiesta of the Virgin of the Sea, Puntarenas, Costa Rica. A regatta of colorfully decorated boats carrying a statue of Puntarenas's patron saint marks this festival. A similar event is held at Playa de Coco. Saturday closest to July 16.
La Fiesta Nacional Indígena de Guatemala, Cobán, Guatemala. This is one of Mesoamerica's greatest celebrations of Maya culture. The city of Cobán features a steady stream of street fairs, concerts, parades, and parties. This is celebrated for 2 solid weeks in late July, sometimes extending into early August.
Festival Patronales de La Virgen de Santa Librada, Las Tablas, Panama. This is famous for its Festival de la Pollera on July 22, which showcases the region's most beautiful pollera dresses and elects the "Queen of the Pollera" for that year. July 20 to July 22.
Fiesta de la Virgen de la Asunción, Guatemala. The Virgin of the Assumption is the patron saint of Guatemala City and, by extension, the entire nation. There are celebrations, parades, and small fairs across the country, but the largest celebrations are held in Guatemala City. August 15.
Fiesta of the Virgin of Los Angeles, Cartago, Costa Rica. Each year, on August 2, Costa Rica's patron saint is celebrated with a massive pilgrimage to the country's only basilica in the former capital city of Cartago, 24km (15 miles) outside of San José, to the basilica in Cartago.
Costa Maya Festival, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize. This is perhaps the largest festival in the country. Drawing participants from the neighboring countries of El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras, this celebration features a steady stream of live concert performances, street parades, beauty pageants, and water shows and activities. Early August.
Costa Rica's Independence Day, celebrated all over Costa Rica. One of the most distinctive aspects of this festival is the nighttime marching band parades of children in their school uniforms, who play the national anthem on steel xylophones. September 15.
Festival de la Mejorana, Guararé, Panama. This nationally famous folkloric festival features hundreds of dancers, musicians, and singers coming together for a week of events and serious partying. Last week of September.
Belize Independence Day, celebrated throughout Belize. Patriotic parades and official celebrations are mixed with street parties, beauty pageants, and open-air concerts. September 21.
Fiestas Patronales, Masaya, Nicaragua. The handicrafts capital of Nicaragua finds reason to celebrate year-round. The biggest festival date is September 20, though, with the opening of the Fiestas Patronales, weekend parties in different neighborhoods that carry on until December.
Festival del Cristo Negro (Black Christ Festival), Portobelo, Panama. Thousands of pilgrims come to pay penance and perform other acts of devotion at the Iglesia de San Felipe, home to a wooden black Christ effigy that is paraded around town on this day. October 21.
Día de los Muertos (All Saints' Day), Guatemala. The most famous celebration in Guatemala is the "drunken horse race" in the mountain town of Todos Santos. Guatemalans also fly giant, colorful kites to communicate with the dead in the village of Santiago Sacatepéquez. November 1.
Garífuna Settlement Day, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua. Garífunas from across the Caribbean coast of Central America gather to commemorate their arrival from St. Vincent in 1832. Street parades, religious ceremonies, and dance and drumming performances are all part of the celebrations throughout this zone. November 19.
Día de la Purísima Concepción, León, Nicaragua. This celebration is known as the Gritería (shouting), a type of religious trick-or-treat. Groups of people walk around, shouting up to households, in order to obtain sweets. The following day is the Día de la Concepción de María, when the whole country goes parade crazy. December 7.
Quema del Diablo (Burning the Devil), Guatemala. Huge bonfires fill the streets throughout the country as trash, tires, old furniture, and effigies of Satan are burned in a symbolic ritual cleansing. December 7.
El Tope and Carnaval, San José, Costa Rica. The streets of downtown belong to horses and their riders in a proud recognition of the country's important agricultural heritage. The next day, those same streets are taken over by carnival floats, marching bands, and street dancers. December 26 and 27.
Boxing Day, Belize. While Christmas Day is predominantly for the family in Belize, Boxing Day is a chance to continue the celebration with friends, neighbors, and strangers. Dances, concerts, horse races, and general festivities are put on around the country. December 26.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.