What is the Weather like in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is a beautiful lush country in Central America that’s known for its tropical climate, with temperatures ranging between 22 – 28 °C throughout the whole year.
The Central Valley has a perpetual spring climate with damp jungle and cloud forests, the perfect home base for Costa Rica’s incredible wildlife. In the evenings and high up in the mountains, temperatures cool down, dropping to a minimum of 15 °C.
There are two distinct seasons in Costa Rica; the rainy season and the dry season. During each period, you can choose from different activities, making this an incredible country to visit anytime in the year.
Filled with lush jungles and beautiful green scenery, Costa Rica heavily relies on rainfall in order to thrive.
- The rainy season in Costa Rica, also known as the Green season, runs from May through November. The transition is gradual, with showers starting in May and picking up in June.
- The rainiest areas during this period are the central mountains, volcanoes, and the southern Pacific coast. The average annual rainfall is over 5000 mm here!
- While rainfall does become more frequent during these months, the days still get plenty of warm sunshine. Especially the mornings are sunny, with afternoon storms later in the day.
- Roads are susceptible to landslides and flooding, so it’s important to ask locals about the road conditions before heading out. A 4WD vehicle is not necessary unless you’re traveling to the country’s more rural areas. Read more about driving in Costa Rica.
- National parks such as those around La Fortuna and Monteverde are much quieter during the rainy season. This allows you to spend longer periods observing the stunning wildlife without any interruptions.
- Generally, the dry season in Costa Rica runs from December through April, with March and April being the hottest months.
- Expect sunny skies, lesser clouds, and little rainfall during this period, with warm temperatures reaching up to 30 °C – perfect for spending time on the beach.
- This is also the busiest and most expensive time in Costa Rica, with lots of people visiting from all over the world.
- Areas become much drier, but there are still plenty of beautiful views to discover during this time of the year.
High and Low Season
The busiest time to visit Costa Rica is between mid-December and April, when the country has drier and sunnier days. This period brings in many visitors, spending their time in popular national parks and beach destinations such as Manuel Antonio. Accommodations fill up faster, and rental agencies sell out of vehicles quicker, meaning you might have to book months in advance.
Over the years, the shoulder season has also seen an influx in tourism, with more people visiting between late June and August.
Christmas and New Year’s
With its warm weather and beautiful scenery, Costa Rica makes the perfect winter getaway for foreign visitors looking to escape the cold. Because of this, the country is one of the most popular destinations to visit during the holiday season.
Between December and January, especially around Christmas and New Year’s, prices and crowds are at their peak. This means that you’ll likely pay top dollar for flights and accommodations during this time. It’s, therefore, better to visit a couple of weeks later when crowds thin and prices drop.
Best Time to Visit Costa Rica
Though the country has different seasons, each with its qualities, there’s really no bad time to visit Costa Rica. There are less expensive times to visit, periods with less rain, and different activities in each season: all factors that can make up your mind about when to visit the country.
Whether it’s hiking through incredible national parks in the shadow of a volcano, surfing on the gentle waves in front of white sandy beaches, or spotting Costa Rica’s impressive wildlife, there are plenty of things to do throughout the year.
Best Months to Visit Costa Rica for Nature & Waterfalls
Costa Rica is covered in beautiful nature, from dense cloud forests to differently-colored beaches and powerful waterfalls. Nothing tops walking under the rainforest’s canopy, listening to all the jungle sounds as the clouds slowly drift between the greenery.
Hike conditions are the best during the high season because of favorable weather. The trails are generally dry during this period and fewer close due to landslides or floods. Most waterfalls will still flow but aren’t as powerful as they can be once the rain comes in.
If you’re visiting between May and November, nature appears lush and green, and waterfalls are at their fullest, plummeting down with a powerful force. Though roads are muddier and rainfall is more frequent, this is still a good time to visit Costa Rica to go hiking.
Best Time to Visit Costa Rica for Surfing
Known as one of the top surfing destinations in the world, Costa Rica has become a hot spot for surfers, especially beginners. With 1200 KM of coastline and popular surf towns such as Santa Teresa, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice the sport.
While it’s possible to surf year-round, if you’re an intermediate to advanced surfer looking for big waves, the best time to visit Costa Rica is between June and September. Swells are then at their highest along the north Pacific coast, but you can avoid the heavy rains that typically come in October.
If you’re a beginner looking to learn the sport, visit in the drier months of December – April. This period has smaller waves but brings in plenty of wind to keep you cool during the hot summer afternoons.
Best Time to Visit for Beaches and Relaxation
Costa Rica makes a fantastic summer beach destination, with soft black and white sandy coastlines on both sides of the country. Average daytime temperatures range between 28 – 30 degrees, cooling only slightly in the evenings.
Between December and March, the country (especially the northern Pacific region) becomes far less humid and experiences less rain. The ocean also gets calm, clear, and inviting for a swim or surf session.
Though the seasons along the Pacific Coast are more well-defined, the Caribbean coast tends to be less predictable when it comes to the weather. Nevertheless, both sides are well worth a visit on your Costa Rica itinerary during either season.
If you’re looking to catch a glimpse of Costa Rica’s vibrant sea life, such as sea turtles and whales, there are a few different times you can visit.
Between December and March, you can witness humpback whales migrating from the north along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. You can spot them again migrating from the south between July and October. Costa Rica also sees five out of seven species of sea turtles, and nesting is in full swing on the beaches during the rainy season!
- On the Pacific coast, olive ridley turtles nest in large numbers between August and November. Baby turtles are spotted from October through January.
- On the southern Caribbean coast, leatherback turtles nest from March through June, and babies can be seen from May – July.
- Along the coastline of Tortuguero National Park, you’ll be able to see green sea turtles. They nest from July to September, and baby turtles hatch between August and November.
The Best Months to Visit Costa Rica for the Fewest Crowds
The best time to visit Costa Rica is during the green season, with quieter beaches, waterfalls with fewer visitors, and more accommodation options. Group sizes are also much smaller during this time, with fewer hotel guests and less noise in general.
Around mid-April, the peak tourist season wraps up, and crowds start to thin. But, the weather tends to remain relatively dry, making it a good time to visit for fewer crowds. Between October and early December is the least busy time of the year to visit Costa Rica. This is, however, also the peak and tail end of the green season, which comes with more frequent rainfall.
Cheapest Time to Travel to Costa Rica
Sometimes referred to as the Switzerland of Central America, Costa Rica is known to be a more expensive destination within this part of the world. Especially during the high/holiday season, which coincides with the drier months, accommodation and vehicle rental prices surge.
Because of this, the cheapest time to travel to Costa Rica is in the green season during May, June, September, October, and November. During this time, accommodation prices are at their lowest, and flights to Costa Rica are much more affordable. On top of that, you’ll also be rewarded with the lush scenery that emerges during the country’s rainy period.
Best Months to Visit Costa Rica Overall
Though every month in Costa Rica offers its own rewards, the very best time to visit Costa Rica is from late April to early May. During this time, the seasons transition from dry to rainy, and the landscape becomes incredibly lush and vibrant.
Although there’s some rainfall, this doesn’t persist all day, leaving plenty of room for spotting wildlife and relaxing on the beaches. Tourism also drops, with smaller crowds and more affordable prices for tours, accommodations, and flights.
Do I Need Insurance to Visit Costa Rica?
No matter how long you’re traveling or what you plan to do on your Costa Rica itinerary, we recommend purchasing single-trip travel insurance. The country itself is safe, though unforeseen circumstances can happen – such as an injury while surfing in Puerto Viejo or a canceled flight while standing at the San Jose airport.
It’s something you hope you’ll never need but can save you from a massive headache in case you do. Because of this, we use HeyMondo for all of our trips. They also have 24/7 doctors available in their app for all your questions.
Do I Need a Visa for Costa Rica?
Most passport holders do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica. However, a valid passport and a ticket are required to prove that you will exit the country within 90 days.
Top Tips for Costa Rica
- Even if you’re visiting in the dry season, rainstorms can hit unpredictably. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to be prepared with weatherproof clothing and equipment such as raincoats and waterproof bags.
- Costa Rica lies close to the equator, meaning it’s got powerful sun, even during the rainy periods. Make sure to wear reef-safe sunscreen, a hat, and cover up with clothing.
- Though the country is known for its wildlife, such as monkeys and sea turtles, always keep a respectful distance.
- Bring your non-toxic mosquito repellent! Mosquitos and sandflies are common in Costa Rica, especially during the wetter months and in more humid areas.
Where to Stay in Costa Rica
- San Jose: Casa 69, Grano de Oro Hotel, and Escalante Hostel
- Puerto Viejo: Le Cameleon, Shawandha Lodge, and Pagalu Hostel
- Tortuguero: Mawamba Lodge and All Rankins Lodge
- La Fortuna: Casa Luna, Sangregado Lodge, and Poshpacker Hostel
- Monteverde: Los Pinos Lodge, Chira Glamping, and Outbox Hostel
- Santa Teresa: Lua Villas, Somos
- Manuel Antonio: The Falls Hotel and Teva Hostel
- Uvita: Seren Glamping, Karandi Hostel, and Uvita Paradise