The Best Time to Visit Costa Rica

All the Information for the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica

Costa Rica, the green paradise or Switzerland of Central America, as some call it because of its exemplary, stable democracy, invites you to have a wonderful holiday all year round. To find the best time to visit Costa Rica, it is necessary to consider both the geographical location of the Latin American country and the topographical structure. Depending on the location of a holiday region, there are different weather conditions. On the one hand, it is affected by the altitude, on the other hand, it depends if a region lies on a coast or inland. In this article, you can learn everything you need to know about the best time for your Costa Rican holiday! Firstly, there will be a list of the optimal Costa Rica travel times depending on activities and preferences on holiday, this will then be followed by more information on the climate. This will be based on a map I’ll show you of the topographical distribution of the metropolitan areas of Costa Rica. In addition, you can read the exact temperatures in the various resorts.

Overview

Beach view on Costa Rica

 

The Best Time to Visit Costa Rica

The best time to visit Costa Rica is from December to April, which is the dry season. Little rainfall allows for a great beach holiday or a fantastic round trip. If you want to explore the rain forest or surf the Pacific coast, the rainy season from May to November is better. The so-called green time has another advantage: the trips are cheaper. Take a look at the following overview on when is the best time to visit Costa Rica for various activities on your holiday!

Best Time to Visit Costa Rica Based on Activities

  • Best time to visit Costa Rica to explore the landscape: December to April (dry season)
  • Best time to visit Costa Rica to explore the rainforests and biodiversity: May to November (rainy season)
  • Best time to visit Costa Rica to watch animals:
    • Quetzal: November and April
    • Leatherback turtles: April to May
    • Green turtles: August to September
  • Best time to visit Costa Rica for swimming
    • on the Caribbean coast: February to April and September to October
    • on the Pacific coast: all year round, but best travel time: December to April (dry season)
  • Best time to visit Costa Rica for surfing
    • on the Atlantic coast (eg Salsa Brava): December to March
    • on the Pacific coast: April to August (especially June and July)
    • in the Central Pacific: September and October
  • Best time to visit for Costa Rican round trips: February and March (also ok: April, May and June)

Waterfall picture from a holiday to Costa Rica

 

What’s the climate like in Costa Rica?

The climate in Costa Rica is tropical due to its location between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. It can be divided into two periods: a dry season (Verano) and a rainy season (Invierno). During the dry season, from December to April, it is mostly dry and warm. However, there is a difference between the temperatures in the plains, at high altitudes and on the coasts. On average, the temperatures during the dry season in Costa Rica range from 25 to 30° C. It can get even hotter on the coasts. In the rainy season from May to November you can expect on average more showers and cooler temperatures. The humidity is high, too. Despite its proximity to the Caribbean islands and the Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica is not plagued by hurricanes. Hurricanes instead rage in the Caribbean, which influence Costa Rica in that it rains more and is fresher.

Geographical location of Costa Rica and topographical distribution

Costa Rica is located in  Central America between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. It borders Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the east, Panama to the south and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The name Costa Rica is Spanish and when translated it means “rich coast”.  The Latin American country is especially rich in natural diversity. It is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. From lush rainforests to active volcanoes to breathtaking beaches on the Caribbean Sea and on the Pacific coast, everything is here.

Topographically, Costa Rica can be divided into five large areas. The Valle Central, with the capital San José, makes up one of these areas. The landscape form of the province of San José is characterised by the volcanic mountain ranges of the Cordilleras, which extend from the Cordillera Central to the Cordillera de Talamanca. The Cordilleras form one of the five large areas due to the altitude, the variety of still active volcanoes and other climatic conditions. In the east of Costa Rica is the Caribbean coast and in the west the Pacific coast. The latter is topographically separated from northwest and west. In the northwest is the dry peninsula Guanacaste, which can be considered a separate metropolitan area. A larger city in western Costa Rica is the port city of Puntarenas. On the Google Map below, you can take a closer look at the location of the five metropolitan areas of Costa Rica.

Weather during the dry and wet season in Costa Rica

The dry season in Costa Rica extends from December to April. In spring, it doesn’t rain so often and the humidity is more bearable than during the rainy season. As it rains more on average in the south of the country and on the central Pacific coast, the dry season sets in here one to two months later. However, it then ends here in April.In the central north of Costa Rica, east of the great mountain range, there is the least rainfall during the dry season. In the north of the Pacific coast, it can sometimes reach 40°C during the dry season.  On the Atlantic coast, however, there is an equatorial climate throughout the year. This brings a chill in any season, and the months of February, March and April are rather spared during the dry season. THese months are ideal for a beach holiday on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. The main travel season for a Costa Rican holiday is usually between December and February. At this time of the year, schools in Costa Rica are on holidays and the beaches are more crowded than usual.

The rainy season in Costa Rica lasts from May to November. There are rain showers almost every day during this season but that shouldn’t scare you. The rain usually starts at noon and will stop within a few hours. This rule of thumb is an especially true and when you get to higher altitudes. The mornings are generally sunny and warm. At 2 pm, grey clouds form in the sky and bring down heavy rains. After about two to three hours of precipitation, the sun comes out again. Rain falls on the Atlantic coast more than in other parts of the country. On the Atlantic Coast the relatively dry months during the rainy season are the months of August, September and October. Across the country, the months of September and October are on average the rainiest during the rainy season. Therefore, trips are cheaper in this period and the resorts are less full up. Despite the rains that could disturb you on holiday, this season has a very special incentive. It produces some seriously lush vegetation. That’s why many talk about the green rainy season in Costa Rica. If you want to explore the species-rich rain forest, the rainy season is the best time to travel to Costa Rica.

Parrots in the forest in Costa Rica

 

Practical tips for your Costa Rica trip during the dry or rainy season

Due to climate change, dry season and rainy season are becoming more and more mixed in Costa Rica. Thus, there are sunny days without rain during the rainy season, and rainy days during the dry period. I would recommend you be equipped in every season, so bring a rain jacket and a bathing suits. In addition, you should take both sturdy shoes and sandals/flip-flops. The weather can change from sunny to rainy or vice versa in any season. If too many showers fall and the water can not completely seep into the ground, some roads turn into muddy areas. Sometimes smaller or larger streams are created, so if you don’t have an off-road vehicle some of the villages are not reachable during the rainy days. Before you begin your journey, you should inform yourself with the weather forecasts during your travel time, especially online as these are regularly updated. If it’s raining, you should bring rubber boots or other waterproof footwear and a rain jacket and even warm clothes for the night. Furthermore, it is advisable, especially during a holiday in San José and the surrounding area, to plan your outdoor activities for the morning. The rain showers at noon result in wet and muddy roads in parts of the city that don’t make it easy for certain activities.

View of City in Costa Rica

 

Climate Data for San José (Valle Central)

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. Temperature in °C 24 24 26 26 27 26 25 26 26 25 25 24
Min. Temperature in °C 14 14 15 15 17 17 17 16 16 16 16 15
Hours of Sunshine Per Day 7 8 8 7 5 4 4 4 5 4 5 6
Rainy Days Per Month 3 1 2 7 19 22 23 24 24 25 14 6

 

The Best Time to Visit San José

In San José it’s springtime pretty much all year round. Here you can delight in the flowering of the trees all year round. Inland, the climate of Costa Rica is temperate. Every year, only half as much rain falls here as on the coasts. The temperatures only rise slightly above 25° C. During the dry season from December to April you can count on fewer rain showers. The months of February, March and April are especially bathed with sun in the Valle Central. These months are considered to be the best travel time for San José and the surrounding area. During the rainy season from May to the end of November, the nights can be a bit cooler. It rarely gets below temperatures of 15° C.

The best travel months for San José in the countryside

  • December: 24°C, 6h of Sunshine, 6 Rainy Days
  • January: 24°C, 7h of Sunshine, 3 Rainy Days
  • February: 24°C, 8h of Sunshine, 1 Rainy Days
  • March: 26°C, 8h of Sunshine, 2 Rainy Days
  • April: 26°C, 7h of Sunshine, 7 Rainy Days

Beach view in Costa Rica

 

Climate Data for Puerto Limón (Caribbean Coast)

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. Temperature in °C 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30
Min. Temperature in °C 20 20 20 21 22 22 22 22 22 22 21 20
Hours of Sunshine per day 5 5 6 6 5 4 4 5 5 5 5 5
Water Temperature in °C 27 26 26 27 28 28 28 28 29 28 27 27
Rainy Days Per Month 16 14 13 13 15 16 21 18 13 15 17 18

 

The Best Time to Visit Peurto Limón

On the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, where you’ll find popular locations such as Puerto Viejo, Limon, Cahuita and Tortuguero, the daytime temperatures are rarely below 30° Celsius all year round. Even at night, it barely gets below 20° Celsius. On the Atlantic coast, the trade winds provide a year-round warm but humid climate. Although during the dry season in the months of December to April there fewer showers, rain isn’t completely unheard of at this time. The best time to visit is February to April and September to October, with plenty of sunshine and less rain. The most popular time for a holiday on the Caribbean coast is the months of February and March. Here the trips are on average more expensive and the resorts are more full. However, unfortunately, heavy rains await you, especially in July and in the months of November to January.

The best travel months for Puerto Limón on the Caribbean coast

  • February: 30°C, 5h of Sunshine, 26°C Water Temperature, 14 Rainy Days
  • March: 30°C, 6h of Sunshine, 26°C Water Temperature, 13 Rainy Days
  • April: 30°C, 6h of Sunshine, 27°C Water Temperature, 13 Rainy Days
  • September: 30°C, 5h of Sunshine, 29°C Water Temperature, 13 Rainy Days
  • October: 30°C, 5h of Sunshine, 28°C Water Temperature, 15 Rainy Days

view of the sea in Costa Rica

 

Climate Table for Puntarenas (Central Pacific)

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. Temperature in °C 33 34 34 35 33 32 32 32 32 32 32 32
Min. Temperature in °C 22 22 23 24 24 24 23 23 23 23 23 22
Hours of Sunshine per day 8 9 9 8 6 5 5 5 5 5 6 7
Water Temperature in °C 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28
Rainy Days per Month 1 1 1 2 11 15 15 16 17 18 7 4

 

The Best Time to Visit Puntarenas

The Pacific coast of Costa Rica is divided into three zones. In the North Pacific, you can find popular beach resorts like Flamingo, Samara or Tamarindo in the province of Guanacaste. In the Central Pacific are popular beach and surfing areas such as Jacó, the Playa Hermosa, Quepos, Dominical and the Nicoya Peninsula, the city of Puntarenas and Manuel Antonio National Park. In the South Pacific, you will encounter the less visited resorts of Palmar and Golfito as well as the Corcovado National Park. n all three Pacific regions, the dry season lasts from December to April, with the south clearly rainier than the more northern regions.

On the west coast of Costa Rica, for example in the city of Puntarenas in the Central Pacific, there is little or no rainfall between December and April. These are perfect conditions for a beach holiday, with sunshine guaranteed up to 35° Celsius. On the south coast, however, the rainy season usually only ends in January. Dry weather conditions can be found in the South Pacific, especially between February and April.

The best travel months for Puntarenas on the central Pacific coast

  • December: 32°C, 7h of Sunshine, 28°C Water Temperature, 4 Rainy Days
  • January: 33°C, 8h of Sunshine, 28°C Water Temperature, 1 Rainy Days
  • February: 34°C, 9h of Sunshine, 28°C Water Temperature, 1 Rainy Days
  • March: 34°C, 9h of Sunshine, 28°C Water Temperature, 1 Rainy Days
  • April: 35°C, 8h of Sunshine, 28°C Water Temperature, 2 Rainy Days

Wide sweeping view of Costa Rica

 

Climate Data for Liberia in the province of Guanacaste (North Pacific)

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. Temperature in °C 32 33 34 35 33 31 31 31 30 30 31 31
Min. Temperature in °C 22 23 23 26 25 24 24 23 23 23 22 22
Hours of Sunshine Per Day 9 9 9 9 7 5 5 6 5 6 6 8
Water Temperature in °C 27 28 29 29 29 29 29 29 29 28 28 28
Rainy Days Per Month 2 1 1 2 11 14 15 16 17 17 7 4

 

The Best Time to Visit Guanacaste

Compared to the other areas of Costa Rica, the climate in the province of Guanacaste on the North Pacific resembles the climate of an African savanna. Especially during the dry season from December to April, it hardly rains here and the temperatures rise with an average of nine hours of sun per day and temperatures of up to 35° Celsius. During the rainy season, from May to November, it is still hot with daytime temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius. However, the rainy days accumulate for up to 17 rainy days in the months of September and October. The rainy season brings some beautiful vegetation. The dry areas bloom in green and enchant the eye. In general, the north of Costa Rica is a popular destination for nature lovers. Here are the Guanacaste National Park, various dry, rain and wet forests, and also some great bays, rocky cliffs and sandy beaches. The province of Guanacaste and, above all, the popular beach resorts of Flamingo, Samara and Tamarindo are great for a beach holiday all year round. If you’re looking for little rain, the months of December to April during the dry season will provide. However, the rainy season has its charms as well – you can watch the gorgeous birds.

The best travel months for Guanacaste province on the Pacific coast

  • December: 31°C, 8h of Sunshine, 28°C Water Temperature, 4 Rainy Days
  • January: 32°C, 9h of Sunshine, 27°C Water Temperature, 2 Rainy Days
  • February: 33°C, 9h of Sunshine, 28°C Water Temperature, 1 Rainy Day
  • March: 34°C, 9h of Sunshine, 29°C Water Temperature, 1 Rainy Day
  • April: 35°C, 9h of Sunshine, 29°C Water Temperature, 2 Rainy Days

My Conclusion on the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica

The best time to visit Costa Rica is roughly set to be the dry season from December to April. However as I have shown you, what you want to do in your Costa Rica vacation is also very important. So the rainy season for nature lovers and surfers is the better time to visit Costa Rica. It also depends on which of the five metropolitan areas of Costa Rica you wish to visit. While it can get really hot in the North Pacific during the dry season with little rainfall, precipitation on the Caribbean coast is a year-round thing. Likewise, it is rainy throughout the year in the  South Pacific, while the weather in the  Central Pacific During the dry season hardly wet, but rather sunny. If you are planning a tour of Costa Rica, the months of February and March are best, as it is relatively dry and sunny in all areas of the country during this time. However, these months are also the most popular for a holiday in most places, so it is busier and prices for travel are more expensive. If you want to have a cheaper Costa Rican holiday and still have good weather conditions, I would also recommend the months of April, May and June.