Though January may be synonymous with “dead of winter” in northern countries like the United States, in Costa Rica January summons up images of sunny beaches, national festivals and vacation. Read on to learn more about planning a trip to Costa Rica in January.
What is the Weather like in Costa Rica in January?
Summer (or verano as locals call it) is in full swing in Costa Rica in January. This means that the typical weather pattern for most of the country is lots of sunshine and warm temperatures.
Meanwhile, northern winds (hey, it’s winter somewhere!) keep the air fresh and breezy. Additionally, the recent aguaceros (rainstorms) of the rainy season tend to leave the arid, dryer areas of Guanacaste green and lush. In other words, weather in January tends to be the best of all worlds.
On the Caribbean where weather can sometimes be the inverse of the country-wide weather pattern, there is actually a slightly increased risk of rain in January. Therefore, when a typically otherwise-sunny-January has a few days of torrential rains, locals may tend to shrug their shoulders and say nada es seguro, meaning nothing is certain.
Photo Gallery “Glimpse” of Costa Rica in January
National Events/Festivities & Places to Visit
New Year’s Day (January 1)
While most tour operators still work on New Year’s Day, it may feel as if everything else is shut down while a nation of hard-working people takes a much needed day off. January 1st is a national holiday and most people observe it by spending time with their families, either relaxing at home or visiting a local river for a cook-out.
Fiestas de Palmares (1st Half of January)
Hordes of vaqueros (cowboys) or at least, people dressed as cowboys, head to the Palmares Fiestas during the first few weeks of January for this huge “state fair”. There is music, traditional food, rodeos, Costa Rican-style bullfighting, topes (horse parades), and elaborate tent bars open until dawn – and the whole thing is so popular that those who can’t attend watch it televised live!
Fiestas de Alajuelita (@ January 15th)
The ancient practice of pilgrimage is still well-respected in Costa Rica and the Fiestas de Alajuelita are one example. In the days around January 15th each year, many Catholics pack a lunch and make the walk to the Black Christ of Esquipulas in order to ask for a blessing or a miracle.
Santa Cruz Fiestas (Mid-January)
This huge festival located in northwest Costa Rica in the Nicoya Peninsula pays homage to the Black Christ of Esquipulas in Santa Cruz with parades and folkloric music and dancing. And naturally, where there are people in Costa Rica, there is also bound to be plenty of food, drink, and, as always, Costa Rican style bullfighting.
Copa de Café (1st Week in January)
This annual international sporting event hosts the best under-18 tennis players in the world. Famous alumni of the event include Roger Federer and Victoria Azarenka.
What to Pack for a January Trip
In addition to the basic Costa Rica Escape adventure pack that we recommend, for a trip to Costa Rica in January you’ll definitely want to pack high-quality sunscreen as this and other toiletries can be very expensive to purchase in Costa Rica. View our detailed Costa Rica Packing List article.
Pros to visiting Costa Rica in January
- Loads of sunshine
- Lots of opportunities to interact with locals on vacation (a “pro” if you are looking to meet locals and a “con” if you are looking for more of a secluded experience)
- Roads are usually easier to transit due to limited rains
Cons to visiting Costa Rica in January
- Crowded beaches and national parks (especially early January)
- Limited availability in hotels
- Higher prices
Top 5 Things to Do in Costa Rica in January
- Sunset Catamaran & Snorkel Cruise – Long, sunny afternoons that turn into orangey-pink sunsets on the horizon are best to witness from the deck of a catamaran cruise with drinks, food, and a professional crew at the helm.
- Surf Lessons – January means great weather for trying your hand at surf lessons with bilingual guides, included board rentals, and coconut water.
- Night-time Zip-Line – Zip-lining goes to new heights (literally) when you strap on a headlamp and strap into your harness; you’ll get the chance to see and hear the nighttime rainforest wildlife from each tree platform.
- Visit a Volcano – Most of the rest of the year, volcanoes keep their mysterious intrigue by being shrouded in high-altitude clouds, but lots of sunshine and cool northern breezes make January an ideal time to explore one of Costa Rica’s many volcanoes.
- Traditional Fiestas – For travelers who are interested in mingling with Ticos, there is no better month to learn the local customs and sayings than January which is full of vacationing Costa Ricans and fiestas.
The Bottom Line on January in Costa Rica
January is an exciting month to visit Costa Rica with abundant sunshine and loads of festivities. Due to these factors as well as a wave of national tourism in the first half of the month, beaches tend to be packed and there can be limited availability in accommodations. Travelers visiting Costa Rica in January who want a more secluded or unique travel experience will especially want to consult with an experienced itinerary design agency like Costa Rica Escapes to ensure that they have such an experience.