COSTA RICA'S TWO SEASONS
Dry “summer” (verano) – January through April
Rainy “winter” (invierno) – May through December
These correspond to the tourism high season and low season. The term “peak season” is often used to describe the two weeks from just before Christmas until after the New Year when special higher pricing is in effect for the holidays.
The descriptions dry and rainy apply most accurately to the beach destinations of Guanacaste and Nicoya in the northwest corner of Costa Rica. The rest of the Pacific side and much of the central mountains follow a similar pattern although with more precipitation in general.
The Caribbean (east) half of the country doesn’t show strong seasonal variation and tends to be rainier year round. It breaks the rules in September and October when the rest of the country is experiencing the heaviest rain and the Caribbean beaches are warm, dry and sunny.
You may have noticed that like the southern hemisphere the names of Costa Rica’s seasons are reversed relative to the U.S.and Canada. While the north is blanketed in snow December through April Costa Rica is enjoying summer.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT?
The best time to visit Costa Rica is January after the holiday peak season tourist crowds head home and prices drop. The rains end in December but the rainforests remain lush into the new year while dry sunny weather prevails on the beaches.
It’s one of the best times for wildlife when tropical species like monkeys and sloths are joined by migrant birds from the north, humpback whales giving birth in the warm waters, and sea turtles nesting on shore.
Another excellent answer to the question “when is the best time to go to Costa Rica?” would be July and August when there’s a bit more rain but even fewer visitors and lower prices. In fact there’s no bad time to go. It really depends on what your travel goals and priorities are.
When is the Best Weather?
The best weather depends on where as well as when. There are a number of distinct microclimates in Costa Rica and it can be flooding in one zone but bone dry in another.
While there are advantages to the high Dry Season often people prefer the low Rainy Season (referred to by the tourism board as the “Green Season”).
12 Things About Visiting in the Rainy Season:
1. Rainy season paints the landscape lush, verdant and colorful – a real jungle!
2. Mornings are almost always hot and sunny. Rain usually falls for a few hours in the afternoon or at night.
3. Rain helps bring the temperature down.
4. Sea turtles come to nest on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts during this period, making it “turtle season”.
5. Discover the two-week “mini-summer” that happens in July.
6. Rain fills the rivers making it the best time for whitewater rafting.
7. Remember to carry an umbrella when you go out for the day or in the afternoon. Invest in one of those huge golf umbrellas while you are here; you will understand why.
8. Plan your day to do all activities – tours, sightseeing, errands, shopping – in the morning and leave the afternoon for indoor pastimes like museum visits, visiting with friends, reading, emails, naps, etc.
9. You may not want to get up early on your vacation, but think again. You want to do all tours in the morning during rainy season, when it is dry and sunny and pleasant. The earlier in the morning, the cooler the temperature and the more wildlife you see. Hiking or ziplining through a rainforest in a torrential downpour is definitely a memorable experience, but is not very comfortable.
10. Be sure to rent a 4×4 vehicle in rainy season, when unpaved roads turn to muddy bogs.
11. Skip off to the Caribbean Coast in October for Costa Rica Caribbean Summer.
12. You can find better values in rainy season on vacation packages, hotels, tours and transport.
Quick Monthly Summaries
Use these quick descriptions to get the big picture of good, better and best then click on any month for details. You may also want to try the best time quiz to determine when you should visit.
The New Year is one of the most popular holidays for Ticos, Europeans and snow birds from the U.S. to head to the beach. It’s very sunny, warm, crowded and expensive. Wait a couple of days and you’ll discover one of Costa Rica’s best kept travel secrets. Around January 5th the prices drop, the crowds disappear and there are four to six weeks of perfect weather. The rainy season just ended so the forests are still green and lush and the rafting rivers and canyoneering waterfalls still have plenty of flow. – BEST TIME
The number of travelers starts to pick up in February. The dry season is well established and the trees of the tropical dry forests on the Pacific side in Guanacaste and Nicoya are dropping their leaves. The rivers in the central mountains still have plenty of water and the Caribbean side is in it’s normal pattern of afternoon showers. February is a great time to visit the Osa Peninsula and it’s the beginning of the nesting season for the Quetzales in the cloud forests. – BEST TIME
March & April
These two months get lumped together because they’re very similar. It’s busy because of north American spring breaks and mobbed the week of Easter when the Costa Ricans all go on vacation at once. The southern, central and eastern parts of the country are still green but some river levels drop too low for rafting. The northwest is bone dry, the trees are bare and the rivers are reduced to trickles there. – BETTER TIME
May & June
The transition into the rainy season is gradual with showers starting in May and picking up in June. The dry season dust is settling and the rivers are filling up. The wildlife breathes a sigh of relief as things cool down a little and the tourists all but disappear. Sea Turtle nesting is in full swing on many of the beaches for many species. – GOOD TIME
July & August
This is the best off-peak time to visit Costa Rica. Costa Rica is a great escape from the snow but it’s also a fantastic summer beach destination and the rains typically let up a bit this time of year. Inland the rivers are at their best for rafting and waterfall rappelling. The Sea Turtles are still around and the Antarctic Humpback whale pod is taking up residence in the warm waters of the Golfo Dulce. – BEST TIME
September & October
This would be a good choice if you want the whole Pacific side and central mountains to yourself. These are the rainiest two months in those zones and the grey weather is accompanied by the biggest discounts of the year. The Caribbean side on the other hand is enjoying its driest weather. – BEST TIME FOR THE CARIBBEAN
November & December
The first six weeks are something of a gamble for weather and could easily be the wettest of the year or relatively dry anywhere in Costa Rica. Discounts are available and reservations are easy to come by. By the last two weeks of the year it usually drying out in the Pacific northwest but come rain or shine it’s the peak season with the highest prices and biggest crowds everywhere in the country. – GOOD TIME