While December through April is the most common target timeframe (based on the weather), January and February are quite possibly the most favorable times to travel to Costa Rica if you’re looking to avoid the rainy season and holiday/spring break crowds.
However, your time of year to visit mostly depends on what you’d like to see, what your budget is, and when you have time to travel. Visiting from May to November offers lower prices and occasional rain (but still plenty of sunshine).
Temperatures are typically between 75° and 82° year-round. It all depends on your goals for your trip, whether that be targeting the best weather or the best prices.
There are three primary travel seasons in Costa Rica based on weather: high/peak season, shoulder season and green/low season. Each season will affect the availability and price of lodging, types of activities available, festivals, and other events. Keep this in mind when planning your itinerary, whether it be a family trip, a honeymoon, or an adventure vacation where you have specific destinations and activities in mind.
Everyone should visit the rainforest on their trip, and you should expect some rain when going on excursions. It’s only natural! We recommend that you review the weather patterns and climate zones throughout Costa Rica. Travelers looking to avoid the rain as much as possible should plan their trips according to the appropriate weather patterns and seasons. It’s best to let itinerary designers guide your decisions.
Note: Costa Rica’s borders are now open to travelers! Please learn more in our Coronavirus in Costa Rica article.
Visiting Costa Rica During the Dry Season & Spring Break
The dry season (and tourist peak season) in Costa Rica begins around the United States Thanksgiving holiday, in late November. The peak tourist season lasts from mid to late April (spring break in the US). The summer or dry season tends to begin in January and extends into April.
The tourism’s peak season schedule is driven by school vacation schedules so that the entire family can travel together. It also happens to be right around the time that people from up north are seeking warmer, summer-like conditions. Aside from mid-November through December, this time frame coincides with summer (the “dry season”) in Costa Rica, which for the most part means a lot less rain during your travels through the country.
The weather for the last couple of weeks in November and the month of December can be hard to predict. There are years when the rain is prevalent and others when the sunshine dominates. While this time of the year is considered to be part of the summer season, it’s necessary to understand that the weather can be unpredictable during the end of November and the beginning of December. You must be prepared for both rain and sunshine.
Visiting Costa Rica During the Rainy Season
The months of September into December tend to be wet and rainy throughout most of Costa Rica. The Guanacaste region, along with the Pacific Coast and Central Valley, tends to experience wetter days. While the sunshine does come out, mostly in the mornings, this is the best time of the year to take a budget-friendly trip to Costa Rica. Not only are the prices lower, but there are fewer travelers here.
Contrary to the rest of Costa Rica, the Caribbean Coast experiences gorgeous weather during the months of September and October. The lesser-visited Caribbean or ‘Limon’ Coast has sunny skies, calm blue waters, and scorching hot temperatures during these two months and tends to be the location of choice for those visiting at this time of the year. A trip through the mountains of the Caribbean slope to the coast during these two months is one of the best-kept secrets and offers travelers an alternative to the rain.
Visiting Costa Rica and its magnificent ecotourism attractions during the green season can be a wonderful experience. Rivers run higher, the rainforest becomes a little more mystical, and even Guanacaste’s dry forests turn green and lush. During this season, throughout most of the country, it rains at nearly the same time every day. For this reason, planning activities and outings are highly possible.
Driving can sometimes be difficult during the green season due to the lack of bridges and poor road conditions. Many of the more unkempt roads can become nearly impassable, although a professionally designed itinerary combined with professional transportation services can help you reduce the probability of getting stuck.
Visiting Costa Rica During the Shoulder Season
Costa Rica’s shoulder or “green season”, is the third season within the travel industry, and it is a wonderful time of year to travel. This term is currently used to refer to the timeframe from May through mid-August. Generally speaking, this time of year coincides with the summer vacation for schools in the United States and Canada.
June and July are very busy months with family vacations and student travel groups. May and August tend to be less busy, attracting visitors who have flexibility with their travel dates.
The typical weather pattern during these months consists of morning sunshine into the early afternoon. The sun gives way to clouds and tropical thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening. These storms can pass through an area rather quickly, other times they can stay into the night. A full day of sunshine and/or a full day of rain is not out of the question either but is not normal during these months.
The ‘green season’ offers a great blend of the summer and rainy season and while you should expect rain, you should get your fair share of sunshine as well.
Here is a breakdown of what it will be like in Costa Rica by month. This insight will help you in your research, but you can also contact us for one-on-one help with planning your trip.
January is the first truly dry month of the Costa Rican dry season. The first half of the month is also great from the perspective of weather but it tends to be somewhat crowded and peak season surcharges can make the first week one of the most expensive all year. The second half of January is one of the most popular times for a Costa Rica vacation. Learn more.
February is the heart of the dry season for Costa Rica’s Pacific beaches & Central Valley (San José, Alajuela, etc.) There is almost no rain in the western and central regions of Costa Rica. In February, visitors will experience sunny & hot weather – perfect for your mid-winter Costa Rica Escape. When the rain comes, it typically showers in the afternoon, evening or overnight. The chance of rain on the Caribbean side is still fairly high; however, this region of the country still receives plenty of sunshine, too. Many say that February is a great month for a trip. Learn more.
March falls right in the middle of Costa Rica’s dry season. This is also the month for Spring Break in the United States, which means you may notice lots of family vacations and student group trips through Costa Rica. During the month of March, travelers can expect plenty of sun, very low amounts of rain, and a drier climate overall.
Sometimes, in Guanacaste, there can be small forest fires that release smoke into the air. In other regions, many trees are flowering, resulting in an amazing “color-changing” season for visitors. Learn more.
April is pushing towards the end of the Costa Rican dry season. Temperatures are ideal throughout the country in April; very hot & sunny on the beaches with slightly cooler temperatures in the mountains and the central valley where San José is located. What little rain falls usually comes in the afternoon, evening or overnight. Many travelers are surprised to find that Guanacaste’s Pacific Northwest region looks more like a desert than a jungle. Learn more.
May is the beginning of the “shoulder season” which means the weather is changing from dry to rainy in Costa Rica and the weather is a bit more unpredictable. As you might guess, the weather starts out dry but by late May rainy season weather patterns are in greater effect. Especially with Costa Rica’s weather, there’s no way to predict this precisely. The rains begin earlier on the Caribbean coast, where it is generally wetter all year round, except during the Caribbean summer in September and October. May is a great transition period for travelers as they return to school after Spring Break but before summer vacation. The beaches and lowlands experience high temperatures, while mid-elevations, like the Central Valley & San José, are 5-10 degrees cooler. Temperatures at high elevations (such as Monteverde and Chirripó) can be 20 or even 30 degrees cooler. Learn more.
June is a transition month for the weather in Costa Rica, but it is considered part of the “green season”. The majority of the rain showers in June fall in the afternoon, evening or overnight. There is plenty of sunshine in the mornings and the beaches are excellent early in the day. This month tends to be a busier month for travelers due to summer vacation schedules in the United States and Europe. Once again, you can expect to see many Costa Rica family vacations & volunteer groups traveling through Costa Rica in June. In June the rainy season usually hits the Caribbean a little earlier than the Pacific. Learn more.
July is smack-dab, right in the middle of Costa Rica’s rainy season. However, during July, Costa Rica experiences a short mid-year, mini-dry season. This “veranillo” or “little summer” as it is called in Costa Rica, typically takes place sometime between mid to late July and the beginning of August. Rainfall decreases significantly for three or four weeks especially in the northern Pacific and is replaced by endless sunshine and impressive sunsets. The entire month of July is a great time to visit, with hot sunny days to enjoy the beach and afternoon and evening rains to cool off so that you can enjoy the evening. Due to student travel & school schedules, there are still numerous Costa Rica family vacations taking place at this time of the year. Learn more.
August is in the middle of the rainy season but there is a lull in the rain at the end of July and the beginning of August. This is especially true in Guanacaste. The Caribbean side is solidly in the rainy season weather pattern with some rain nearly every afternoon and/or evening. August is a great time of year in Costa Rica if you have some flexibility in your schedule. August tends to be a quieter month and there are often deals to be found throughout the country, which can be great for honeymoon vacations where couples want a more relaxed atmosphere, don’t mind a little precipitation and are on a budget. Learn more.
September and October are very rainy months in Costa Rica, specifically on the western side of the country and through the mountain ranges. Expect rain if exploring the beaches on the Pacific coast and also the Central Valley. There will oftentimes be mornings filled with sunshine that succumb to rain later in the day, so mornings are ideal for outdoor activities. Extensive rainfalls and windy conditions are common in the Osa Peninsula and Southern Pacific coastal areas. During this time, lodging and tourist activities are often suspended until Thanksgiving timeframe. The Caribbean side of the country gets a break in September and October. These months generally bring clear weather especially in the southern Atlantic beach areas of Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, and Manzanillo. Learn more about the months of September and October.
The weather in November is a roll of the dice. In an average year, the northern and central beaches, as well as the mountains, will get significant rainfall on most days. They typically enjoy a pattern of sunny mornings and days with most of the showers in the afternoon or evening. Early in the month the southern Pacific and the Osa Peninsula are still quite rainy. Lodges and tour operators that have shut down during the exceptionally wet months of September and October resume operations as the weather begins to dry towards the end of the month. The end of November and the United States holiday of Thanksgiving begins another busy travel season. Learn more.
December is another transitional month for weather and it is quite unpredictable. The Central Valley usually enjoys the crisp freshness of the “vientos navideños” or “Christmas winds” starting in early December. The month begins slowly with lower prices and low hotel occupancy. The first two weeks of December are a great time to enjoy Costa Rica all to yourself. By the holidays, the high season has begun, hotels have a tendency to sell out at very high, peak season prices and excursions and adventures are fully booked. Learn more.
Visiting Costa Rica During the Holidays
The super-high season for tourism has little to do with the weather in Costa Rica, but more with demand in the country based on vacation schedules for foreigners and visitors.
The two to three weeks around Christmas & New Year’s are extremely busy for the travel industry in Costa Rica. Oftentimes demand exceeds supply during this timeframe and people who start their planning later are left with few or no options for their trip. For this reason alone, if you want to plan a Holiday trip to Costa Rica – start early! Easter Break or Semana Santa also experiences a bustle, but for the most part, super-peak season encompasses the holiday break in December & January. In general, visiting during the high and super-high seasons means that prices will be higher; however, much of the pricing compares favorably to many other tropical tourist destinations throughout the world during this time period, such as Hawaii.
Many hotels, activities, and points of interest might be slightly more crowded, but Costa Rica has a plethora of amazing tour options to choose from within close proximity no matter where you are in the country. In many cases, certain parks or attractions limit the number of visitors allowed to avoid an overcrowded or unenjoyable experience or for conservation purposes.
So, When Should You Plan Your Trip?
We can answer that question in so many different ways! It all depends on what you envision for your dream vacation in Costa Rica. We at Costa Rica Escapes are experts when it comes to enjoying this beautiful country, so let us help you plan the perfect trip at the perfect time for you.