The best and worst time to visit Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a wonderful destination to visit year-round. However, each season has its pros and cons. I’m going over exactly what to expect in each season to help you determine the best and worst time to visit Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is an absolute must on any Central American itinerary. The country truly has it all:  towering volcanoes, lush jungles, scenic beaches, and rich wildlife.

This guide will dive into the two seasons in Costa Rica: the dry season and the rainy season (the green season). I’ll also include the best things to do in both seasons.

Let’s dive in.

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But first – what’s the best and worst time to visit Costa Rica?

The best time to visit Costa Rica

The dry season (December to April) is the prime time for sunny skies and great weather in Costa Rica.

Specifically, the peak season starts in January, with many travelers extending their stay from the Christmas and New Year holidays.

You’ll enjoy the lowest chance of rain and the highest chance of clear, sunny days, which are perfect for beach outings and exploring national parks.

Lots of sunshineHigher prices due to peak demand
Ideal for wildlife spotting and outdoor activitiesIt’s crowded

The worst time to visit Costa Rica

Traveling during the rainy season (May to November) can be tricky; especially in September and October where you’ll see the heaviest rainfall.

It might disrupt your plans, especially if they involve outdoor activities.

The Caribbean coast can be an exception, often having sunnier weather than the rest of the country during these months.

Lower costs and fewer touristsFrequent and heavy rain showers
Lush landscapesPotential for limited accessibility to some areas due to flooding

Weather in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, the weather really depends on where you are. The country is tucked between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, so each area has its own climate.

The highlands are usually cool, while the beaches are pretty warm. If you head down the Pacific coast, it gets more humid, and the Caribbean Coast is generally hot and wet.

So, when you’re packing, remember that Costa Rica has a bit of everything, weather-wise.

San José75°F77°F79°F79°F79°F77°F77°F77°F77°F77°F75°F75°F
Manuel Antonio90°F91°F93°F93°F91°F90°F90°F90°F88°F88°F86°F88°F
Arenal Volcano82°F84°F86°F86°F84°F82°F82°F82°F82°F81°F81°F81°F

Things to do in the dry season

During the dry season, from mid-November to early April, you can expect clear skies and temperatures averaging in the mid-70s °F (around 24 °C), which is perfect for outdoor adventures.

Here are some of the best things to do:

Hike the Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal and La Fortuna are a top pick for your dry season itinerary.

You can hike the park’s diverse trails with clear views of the imposing Arenal Volcano.

Afterward, go white water rafting or relax in naturally heated thermal springs, with many located right within the park.

Arenal Volcano

Poas Volcano National Park

At Poas Volcano National Park, you’ve got the rare chance to peek into an active volcano’s crater.

It’s easy to visit on a day trip from San José. Just make sure to go early to avoid clouds obscuring the view.

It’s cooler here, so dress in layers. And remember, the park limits the number of visitors, so snagging a reservation is smart.

Poas volcano

Surfing in Tamarindo

Surfing in Tamarindo is prime during the dry season.

Whether a beginner or experienced, you’ll find great waves and plenty of surf schools.

Water temperatures are warm, so a wetsuit isn’t necessary, just plenty of sunscreen.

Playa Tamarindo

Look for wildlife

The wildlife in Costa Rica is one of the main reasons people visit (myself included).

In the dry season, you’ll have an easier time spotting animals without the rainforest’s thick rainy-season foliage.

With drier conditions, many species gather around water sources, making them more visible to spot.

Read next: Sloths in Costa Rica and where to find them

best Manuel Antonio tours Costa Rica

Things to do in the rainy season

While the rainy season in Costa Rica extends from May to November, don’t let it dampen your spirits.

You can still enjoy a multitude of activities that will give you a taste of adventure as well as some unique wildlife experiences.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserves

In Monteverde, the moisture creates a mystical setting that’s worth exploring regardless of drizzles.

Going to Monteverde in the rainy season means you’ll see really green scenery and fewer people around.

It’s also a good time for wildlife since animals are more out and about. Plus, you can usually find better deals on hotels. Just remember to pack something for the rain.

Monteverde, Costa Rica

Turtle nesting season

Your rainy visit could coincide with the extraordinary turtle nesting season.

From mid-July to mid-October, you can witness mother turtles lay their eggs on the beaches, an event remarkable enough to justify a little wet weather.

Here’s a list of turtle nesting seasons in Costa Rica, with locations, species, and times:

  • Tortuguero National Park, Northern Caribbean Coast
    • Green Turtles: July – mid-October (peak: August – September)
    • Leatherback Sea Turtles: February – June (peak: March – April)
  • Las Baulas National Marine Park, Guanacaste
    • Leatherback Sea Turtles: October – mid-February
  • Osa Peninsula
    • Leatherback Sea Turtles: March – September
    • Hawksbill Sea Turtles: July – October
    • Green Sea Turtles: July – October
    • Olive Ridley Sea Turtles: June – December
  • Cahuita National Park, Caribbean Coast
    • Leatherback Turtles: March to July
    • Atlantic Green Sea Turtles: July to October
    • Hawksbill Sea Turtles: February to May
costa rica wildlife - turtles

Whale watching in Uvita

Despite the rain, it’s still a prime time to spot humpback whales in Uvita.

Whale watching has two seasons. The first runs from mid-July to mid-November, and the second from mid-December to April.

costa rica wildlife - humpback whale

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Head to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca if you’re looking for a drier spot in the rainy season. This coastal gem often gets sunnier days when the rest of the country is experiencing showers.

Hacienda Pozo Azul

For a rush of adrenalin, Hacienda Pozo Azul offers white water rafting expeditions that are even more thrilling with the higher river levels caused by the rains.

Take a road trip

A road trip across the country is a great idea all year round.

Heavy showers are typically short-lived, so a road trip can be a great way to experience Costa Rica’s diverse landscapes and climates, even during the wettest months.

Dealing with bugs and heat

You’ll be dealing with more than your fair share of bugs if you travel from May to October during the rainy season.

This is when mosquitoes and other insects are at their peak. Make sure to pack insect-repellent and lightweight, long-sleeved clothing to protect your skin.

The heat in Costa Rica can get intense, particularly in the coastal areas. Humidity levels soar, and it can feel like you’re walking through a sauna.

Staying hydrated is crucial, so always carry water with you. It’s also wise to plan your activities in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the midday heat.

FAQ – The best and worst time to visit Costa Rica

What is the best month to go to Costa Rica?

The best time to visit Costa Rica is between December and April. It’s the dry season, so you’ll get great weather for outdoor fun.

If you don’t mind a bit of rain and fewer crowds, May, June, or November are also good picks.

What time of year is hurricane season in Costa Rica?

Hurricane season in Costa Rica typically aligns with the broader Atlantic hurricane season, running from June to November.

However, Costa Rica is less affected by hurricanes compared to other Caribbean nations, as it’s located further south.

The country may experience indirect effects like heavier rainfall during this period.

What are the rainiest months in Costa Rica?

The rainiest months in Costa Rica are September and October.

What is the most expensive month in Costa Rica?

The priciest time to visit Costa Rica is around Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter.

Apart from these holidays, high season rates apply from December through April. These months are generally more expensive than other times of the year.

How many seasons does Costa Rica have?

Costa Rica has two seasons: dry and rainy. The dry season goes from December to April, and the rainy season is from May to November.

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Discover the best and worst time to visit Costa Rica in my latest post. Get essential Costa Rica travel tips to plan your trip perfectly. Whether you're looking to avoid the crowds or catch the best weather, this guide breaks down when to visit Costa Rica for an unforgettable experience. #CostaRicaTravel #BestTimeToVisit #TravelTips

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