When is the best time to visit Costa Rica? Costa Rica is made up of a load of different climate zones, but essentially, this country is one thing – hot. It could be hot and wet, thanks to the rainy season, or it could be hot and dry – you guessed it – because of the dry season.
Its location close to the equator means that temperatures are consistently high. But when should you visit Costa Rica? Good question. That’s why we’re giving you the monthly lowdown of what’s going on in this tropical Central American nation.
When is the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica?
January in Costa Rica
January is dry. Dry and hot. The average temperature is 27°C with highs of something like 33°C throughout the month. Most of the time in January, the days will be filled with sun (66% of them to be exact) – perfect for lounging around on the beach.
At other times, it’ll be cloudy. Little to no rain is expected, however, so January is sort of the perfect month to get out into nature. Even the evenings are beautifully balmy, so you won’t need to be packing any sweaters or anything like that. Summer clothes only, people; the minimum temperature in January is 21°C.
It’s nice as well because there’s less humidity. All in all, it’s comfortable, we’d say.
February in Costa Rica
February is still dry. You can expect days upon days with no rain. Temperatures creep up higher than they were in January, just about reaching a 28°C average. You’ll also get to see about 11 hours of sunshine per day, which ain’t bad at all.
Winds tend to get stronger in February, so fans of windsurfing should make a beeline to Lake Arenal – a windsurfer’s paradise.
There’s a little bit more cloud appearing in February than there was in January. Still, there’s a lot more sun than not. It’s a great time of year, which makes it one of the most popular months to visit Costa Rica.
March in Costa Rica
Another perfect month for visiting Costa Rica for good weather, March brings sunny days on both the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts of the country. It’s a popular time of year, that’s for sure.
Still very much the dry season (or what locals call verano, which means ‘summer’), it can actually be super dry in the northwest of the country – dry enough for forest fires, for example.
Rain can occur sporadically, but usually at night time. And if it does occur, the rain itself will be pretty limited in how long it actually goes on for. It’s warm too. Well, hot: temperatures hover around the low 30s for much of the month.
April in Costa Rica
This is the hottest month of the year in Costa Rica. It’s particularly hot on the Pacific Coast, with beaches getting busy with locals and visitors alike. Manuel Antonio, for example, is one of the most beautiful (and most popular) beaches on the Pacific Coast.
It’s also the driest month of the year, with barely a drop of rain falling for April’s 31 days. You’ll really want to stick to the shade when the sun’s at its hottest, slather on sunscreen, and wear shades; there’s a lot of sun, and the temperatures are low-to-mid 30s.
The South Pacific region of Costa Rica sees some showers at the beginning of the month, but they pass by quickly. Arenal and the Central Valley, however, have beautiful weather throughout April.
May in Costa Rica
May is actually the start of the rainy season in Costa Rica (invierno – i.e. ‘winter’). It’s also known as the ‘Green Season,’ which does make sense because this is the time of year when the flora of Costa Rica bursts into life.
It’s not that dramatic, though. In May it rains on average only 14 days out of the month, which is still less than half of the month. Temperatures don’t suffer too much either, with the average being 28°C.
On the days when it does rain, most of the day will actually be rain-free. The general pattern is that the heavens will open up anywhere between late afternoon and night time.
The northwest Pacific Coast, however, remains in verano in May, with temperatures in the 30s and hardly any rain at all.
One good thing about the start of the wet season is cheaper room rates. Except because everyone comes during their summer time (June-September), wet season is popular, and prices pretty much stay the same. Boo.
June in Costa Rica
This is when the wet season, green season, or invierno properly starts up. Previously brown, dry scenery turns verdant, and it starts to rain a lot.
Temperatures kind of suffer during this month, but elevation becomes an actual significant factor in that for the first time of the year. Coastal areas are the hottest; lowland areas – such as those around the capital, San Jose – are cooler, and higher altitude areas are cooler still. Not by much, but enough for it to make a difference.
The rainy nature of Costa Rica in June means you’ll want some raingear, for sure. Most of all, the Caribbean Coast is pretty darn wet during this month.
Low pricing sometimes begins in June, but a lot of places have cottoned on to the summer vacation period of northern hemisphere countries, and low prices won’t start till September. Like we said.
July in Costa Rica
July is when families from North America and Europe start to make their way to Costa Rica. Even though it’s technically the wet season, there’s a phenomenon that the locals call veranillo – ‘little summer.’ This spans July and most of August.
Generally, it’s still a good idea to have rain gear with you, as this phenomenon isn’t always set in stone. Rain can still occur late in the evenings or late afternoons, especially on the Pacific Coast.
The Caribbean Coast is pretty wet, too. It’s hot and humid but gets less rain overall than the Pacific side of things. Arenal and Central areas can see late afternoon showers, too.
Like quite a few other months of the year in Costa Rica, the average temperature is 28°C. Still hot, but also more sticky than other months.
August in Costa Rica
It’s a busy time of year. And because of that mini dry season still in play, things are relatively dry. But as time moves towards the end of the month, heavy rains set in and become a regular feature – as usual, these will occur later in the day. They become a daily happening.
Temperatures remain high, however, in the upper 20s.
The reverse is true of the Caribbean Coast. The beaches in the area start to dry out more than they were; temperatures are around 32°C on the Caribbean side, and they become the place to go.
August is still, on average, very rainy. 21 days during this month will see rain. It’s still not really going to ever be cold though.
Hit up a mountain resort or try out a volcanic mud bath. Costa Rica looks lush this time of year, but then again you may want to wait until…
September in Costa Rica
September is wet, wet, wet. It is the rainiest month of the year. Pretty much every day will be marked with some sort of rain.
With all that rain, all the trees and plants are going to be pretty well watered. Heading on a trek, discovering waterfalls, and getting to see the verdant flora of the country is a good idea during September. Just be prepared and do go with a guide.
The Caribbean Coast is, strangely enough, having some great weather at this time of year. The Osa Peninsula in the south Pacific Coast is completely drenched in rain, however. Things still remain hot and humid, but it’s not a good idea to go to the southern parts of the Pacific Coast at this time of year.
Basically, if you’re looking for sun, head to the Caribbean (we’re talking record numbers of sunny days). Prices will definitely be cheaper by this point, too!
October in Costa Rica
October is as rainy as ever. Temperatures drop to about 26°C as a national average.
Thanks to the Temporales del Pacifico, the South Pacific Coast is still practically underwater, while the Caribbean Coast is basically getting its best month of the year. It’s a tale of two halves, for sure. But the Caribbean Coast is only 100 miles away from all the mad rain. Isn’t that crazy?
It’s the Pacific Coast that’s bringing the temperature average down, because the Caribbean side definitely isn’t chilly. Daytime highs are about 32°C, and each day boasts pretty much sunny skies.
The Central Valley is experiencing the same sort of weather as the Pacific Coast, with a lot of rain and lower temperatures across the board.
November in Costa Rica
The Pacific beaches of Northern Costa Rica finally begin to brighten up during November. Even though it’s still technically part of the rainy season in Costa Rica, sunny days become more regular. Towards the end of the month, the Pacific side gets drier and drier.
Temperatures on this coast are around the mid-20s, and downpours start later in the day. The Temporales del Pacifico are lessening.
On the other hand, the Caribbean Coast begins to get a little more rainfall. Temperatures are still pretty high though, not usually dipping below 30°C.
Prime discounts abound throughout the country, with virtually no tourists around. Thanksgiving, however, is becoming an ever-popular time of year to jet on a quick vacay to Costa Rica. From this time of year, Leatherback turtles start to lay their eggs on Playa Grande (Pacific coast).
December in Costa Rica
The Pacific Coast finally segues into the dry season during December. Things start to get pretty hot towards the middle of the month. People start to fill up the beaches again – this time for the holiday season, of course.
The Caribbean Coast is currently deep into its rainy season in Costa Rica. Flash downpours, rather than day-long rains, are par for the course along the coastal areas.
The Central Valley, like the Central Pacific, is also starting to dry up this time of year. Even though it’s not scorching, that makes it a good time of year to try out some adventure sports in the great outdoors.
The average temperature across the country is 27°C, with variations to some extent depending on altitude.
Festivals in Costa Rica
Festivals Between December-February
Still wondering when to visit Costa Rica? How about during a festival! The beginning of December in Costa Rica, unlike northern hemisphere winters, isn’t an anticipation of equinoxes. Instead, December kicks off with the Festival de la Luz, marked on the 2nd Saturday of the month, and heralding the beginning of the Christmas season. Lights fill the streets, and fireworks explode later in the evening.
December 15 is Las Posadas. Children sing carols from door to door, re-enacting Mary and Joseph’s tiresome search for shelter. Classic. Christmas Day arrives on the 25th with much merriment.
Even more merry is Carnaval Nacional. Held on December 27, it’s marked by floats and parades in Downtown San Jose. Just before the end of the year is Las Fiestas de Zapote, held in the suburbs of the capital with a ton of Latin culture and bullfighting.
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are much what you’d expect them to be – crazy. The first two weeks in January are a massive list of festivities, with parades, bullfights, events, and a lot of alcohol.
Late February is the start of Lent, and that means one thing – Carnival!
Festivals Between March-May
Semana Santa (‘Holy Week’) starts in March. This is all about colorful religious processions leading up to Easter, which is – Costa Rica being catholic – a big deal indeed. It takes place in various towns.
Easter is a family affair; families spend time together or head to the beach. Or both.
April 11 is a national holiday – Dia del Juan Santa Maria. Expect parades, celebrations, and dancing in Alajuela – all to commemorate a heroic fighter.
May 1 is May Day. Workers’ Day. There are parades, a lot of fun to be had, and even a speech from the president. It’s most definitely a lively day to be visiting Costa Rica.
Festivals Between June-August
What we’d call the ‘summer’ months isn’t the summer in Costa Rica. It’s wet. There are not the same sort of music festivals that the northern hemisphere puts on, either, but there are still a few cultural events to go see.
The Fiesta of the Virgin of the Sea involves a decorated flotilla of boats parading a decorated statue of the Virgin of Mt Carmel along the coastline. It takes place at the very fun Puntarenas in mid-July. The evening involves dancing and fireworks.
Over 30 statues of patron saints are taken out of their local shrines in San Ramon for… San Ramon Day, of course. The party really kicks off next month, though…
Festivals Between September-November
Two words – Independence Day. Yep. Taking place on September 15, Costa Rica’s Independence Day celebrates winning, um, independence from Spain all the way back in 1821. It sees huge marching band parades, the national anthem is played by school kids, and there’s a load of traditional food to try out on the streets.
Fast-forward a month, and you get to the Carnival Dia de la Raza (October 12). This happens in Limon and is a celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture in Costa Rica. Expect vibrant dancing, colorful costumes, tasty Caribbean food, and performances.
November means the Dia de los Muertos. If you were expecting a mad Mexican-esque affair, think again. Dia de los Muertos here is more about the Catholic tradition of All Souls Day, in which families visit graveyards to pay respects to deceased family members.
When is the Best Season to Travel Costa Rica?
Dry Season (Late November to Late April): Contradictory of high season in North America, Costa Rica celebrates its best weather during the North American winter. The high season in Costa Rica is the dry season. From late November to April you’ll get little rainfall to spoil your holiday. This is good and bad. Obviously, no one likes rain on their holiday, but it also means that everything won’t be nearly as lush as in the wet season. It’s during this time you’ll find higher prices, and accommodation options booking up fast. Advanced bookings are recommended.
Rainy Season (May to November): Often referred to as the green season, this is when the rain falls in Costa Rica. May is the beginning of the rainy season with peak rainfall happening in September and dying back down come mid-November. The rainy season means lower prices and fewer tourist. However, you should travel with a rain jacket as chances are high you’ll get rained on. The plus side is everything is green and gorgeous. We traveled to Costa Rica during the middle of May and did get rained on at least once a day, but still saw plenty of sunshine and had a fantastic time still! Rain in the jungles of Costa Rica is so picturesque!
Best Time to Travel to Costa Rica?
The best time to travel to Costa Rica is during the high season from late November to late April. Tourism typically peaks around the holidays. If you can take off for Costa Rica in early December or mid April you may stand a chance at getting shoulder season prices and great weather.
When is the Cheapest Time to Visit Costa Rica?
The cheapest time to visit Costa Rica is in the rainy season. That would be from May to November when the chance of rain is higher. The closer you get to to September the lower the prices will be, but also many tourism establishments close around this time.
Best Time to Visit Costa Rica for Honeymoon?
The best time to visit Costa Rica for a honeymoon is March, April, and May. March and April you’ll see little rain. Showers will start in May, but you’ll find lower prices and greenery everywhere!
Best Time to Visit Costa Rica for Surfing?
The rainy season (June, July, August, and September) have good swells making these promising months for hardcore surfers.
Best Time to Visit Costa Rica for Wildlife Viewing?
Traveling to Costa Rica for the wildlife is a huge draw for many. The famous resplendent quetzal is typically spotted in the Monteverde Cloud Forest from January to July. Humpback whales arrive on the Costa Rican shores between November and December and will give birth until March.
Quick Costa Rica Travel Tips
- Currency: Costa Rica Colón
- Visa: Many nationalities can enter Costa Rica for 90 days visa-free
- What to Pack: Good hiking shoes, a bathing suit, rain jacket, and rain boots. See our full Costa Rica packing list here.
- Stay Connected: We recommend Sim Cards from either Kolbi, Movistar, or Claro. Sim cards can be purchased in town centers
Where is the Best Place to Stay in Costa Rica?
Lapa Rios, Osa Peninsula
The Osa Peninsula is one of the best places to go in Costa Rica. Lapa Rios is one of the pioneers of ecotourism in Costa Rica and likely one of the most famous lodges in the country. It’s one of the best places to stay in Costa Rica for families. It’s located in the Osa Peninsula and considered one of the most biodiverse locations in the world.
All the rooms here have outdoor showers, private decks with fantastic views, and screen walls allowing for the sounds of nature to enter the room. This isn’t the place you come if you want air conditioning and televisions. Rather Lapa Rios is a sanctuary for nature lovers who want to immerse themselves into the Costa Rican jungle.
Latitude 10 Resort, Santa Teresa
Wondering where to stay in Costa Rica on the beach? Latitude 10 is another property managed by the Cayuga Collection. This little beach lodge in Santa Teresa may have the most beautiful spot on the entire beach.
It’s a collection of open-air casitas scattered throughout the lush seaside forest. The location is serene and peaceful away from any noise experienced in the main town. It’s the perfect place to come if you truly want a barefoot beach vacation and get back to nature while reading your favorite book in a hammock.
Casitas Tenorio, Bijagua
A collection of casitas spread among a hamlet of a primary rainforest. The bed and breakfast is family run and very active in the rural community. We loved the rooms, murals, and the location of Casitas Tenorio. As soon as I walked into our adorable casita I told Cameron that this is what I wanted my house to look like.
There are only a select number of casitas making the experience very quiet. There’s no WiFi or television here, but there are great views over the jungle so make sure to bring a book and a yoga mat and enjoy the serenity. The beautiful little property is also home to a few sloths and tons of birds which the owner Donald was kind enough to show us on a short tour. Make sure to get up early in the morning to take part in their farm tour! Rates start at $120 a night, breakfast included.
What to Pack for Costa Rica
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun since you’ll likely spend a lot of time in the sun in Costa Rica. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. It’s a brand name you’ll see a lot in Costa Rica, in surf towns, as it’s popular with surfers — and ski bums like us.
Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses; however, we love ours and will never buy cheap ones again. Polarized glasses are great at enhancing vision in bright environments and removing glare from windshields and the water.
Grayl Ultralight Water Bottle
Costa Rica has great water quality with an abundance of rainfall. However, we like to travel with a water bottle that purifies water when traveling in Central and South America. We previously used the Lifestraw Go for all those times during our travels when the water is questionable.
However, over time we became annoyed with the water bottle as the filter aged and clogged. Plus the bottle leaks when it is on its side. We now switched to the Grayl Ultralight Purifier. It’s a more simplistic design than the Lifestraw that is more effective and does not leak. Most importantly it is a purifier, not a filter. The Grayl water bottle system purifies water vs. filters which removes viruses and virtually removes all threat of waterborne illnesses.
Quick Dry Towel
We always recommend bringing a travel towel for just about every destination.Quick dry towels are great when you’re out exploring Costa Rica. You can make an impromptu dip in ocean before drying off and heading to one of Costa Rica’s many surf town spots for fish tacos or an Imperial (local beer). They’re also tremendous when you hike to any one of Costa Rica’s numerous waterfalls as the towels are small enough to throw in your daypack and leave room for additional items.
The biggest complaint about travel towels is that they often feel nothing like the plush cotton towels we are accustomed to at home and in hotels. However, with the PackTowl you can forget about all of that because they set out to create a towel that mimics its cotton counterparts with the technical features of a travel towel. It comes pretty close to the real thing.
In case you didn’t know, Costa Rica has something called the rainforest. It’s a safe bet that you’ll be caught in one of the countries many thunderstorms. If you are traveling Costa Rica in the wet season, a rain jacket is essential, but I would bring one any time of year just to be safe. The rain is typically short-lived, but you won’t want to get soaked during that time.
We both have rain jackets made Patagonia. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof. Any rain jacket will do, but the top dollar ones will hold up and really help in inclement weather.
I have to admit we travel a lot in rainy environments so we’ve invested in top of line Gore-Tex shell jackets. If you’re looking for a more affordable jacket we’re big fans of Columbia’s outdoor wear for a good value.
We pretty much live in loose pants when at the beach. After wearing several different pants we’ve landed on prAna for the companies commitment to sustainability and the awesome pants that they produce.
Their women’s Summit Pant is made out of hemp and recycled polyester while offering 50+ UPF protection. They are perfect for beach destinations, especially if you find yourself in more conservative areas.
These men’s Vaha pants are lightweight and weigh nothing in a carry-on bag. I could literally live in these pants if it were acceptable to wear them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner out. While in the Costa Rica, they were a wardrobe staple for nighttime as they are appropriate to wear barefoot out to a restaurant or bar while covering our legs from the pesky mosquitos.
Something to keep in mind for men, most Ticos wear long pants so it’s a good way to blend without feeling too hot in a pair of jeans.
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling to the around Costa Rica as you’re close to the Equator. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will find much higher prices in Costa Rica.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals. They’re mineral based and usually only cost a few dollars more to help protect our oceans. If you’re not going to swim in the ocean just go with a reliable name brand — granted run off often still ends in our oceans.
We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country and it’s best to be prepared. World Nomads provides good short term coverage.
You may not have internet to do research in all of Costa Rica. For wireless nights we typically turn to Lonely Planet.
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