Wondering when’s the best time to visit Costa Rica? Well, to be honest, there’s no bad time to visit. With a temperate climate year-round, and friendly people always ready to welcome tourists, Costa Rica is a true tropical paradise.
Costa Rica weather is unpredictable at best, and so it is hard to pin down an ideal time to visit. A general rule is that the driest months bring the highest prices, and the wetter months mean fewer tourists.
In general, there are some times that might be slightly better to visit than others, and this post will break those down for you. It really all depends on your budget and what you’re looking to do when you get to Costa Rica.
Here’s a breakdown of Costa Rica’s most important seasons that will help you plan accordingly. And don’t forget about packing! The Costa Rica packing list here will help you get started.
High season is when the prices on accommodations are tours are the most expensive because the weather is really the most predictable. The high season coincides with the dry season. When you are booking accommodations at many Costa Rican hotel websites, you can actually look for the high season and low season (or green season) rates.
Mid-December through April is when you’ll experience the largest crowds, especially around holidays like Christmas, New Year, and Easter. That’s because Costa Ricans (or ticos) have vacation time from school and work during those times, and so they’re also traveling. Expats who live in Costa Rica also tend to visit during this time.
School break runs from the end of November to the beginning of February for public schools in Costa Rica, so this is considered “Costa Rican summer.”
For American tourists that flock to Costa Rica for spring break, this also falls in the “summer” months in Costa Rica, although typically March and April are not as busy with nationals as they are back in school. The one exception is Semana Santa or Holy Week. That is one of the busiest times of year for travel by both nationals and foreigners alike.
July and August (or what Costa Ricans call “little summer”) are also popular travel months, as there’s less rain, some sunshine, and plenty of wildlife. This is also the winter break from school, so ticos will generally travel during this time.
Now, while the high season gets you experiencing the best of Costa Rica, it also means that the price for flights and accommodation is at its highest, so it’s important to do your bookings well in advance, as it’s possible that the best places will sell out.
If you don’t want to deal with large crowds, I would recommend planning your vacation around the green season – May and June or September through early December.
In May and June, days are usually sunny but not as hot as the previous months, with some rain in the afternoon. Thus, you can make arrangements for a morning beach visit and relax in the afternoon when it starts to rain. There are more mosquitos during this season.
In September, October, and November, there are heavy rains almost all the time. This would be a less desirable time to plan your visit, as the rains can get too heavy sometimes to an extent of disrupting your planned activities.
But in exchange, you get to enjoy thinner crowds and cheaper airfare and accommodation, which makes this a great time to come here if you’re looking for a quiet vacation on a budget.
By mid-November, the rains will start to slow down, so if you wait until this time, you’ll get better weather and still be able to enjoy fewer crowds and low prices.
I think the last two weeks in November are some of the best times to visit Costa Rica- kids are still in school in Costa Rica and many American travelers do not have time off or stay home for Thanksgiving.
Okay, the rainy season may not be the best time of the year to visit the land of the ticos, but that doesn’t mean your stay will be totally boring.
In addition to having many hotels available and prices being at their lowest, you’ll also have a higher chance of spotting wildlife.
Moreover, storms cause big swells that are perfect for surfing, plus there are literally no crowds, so you will basically have the beaches and most attractions all to yourself.
If you’re vacationing on the southern Caribbean Coast, you’ll experience fewer rainy days than people on the Pacific coast. While the latter gets heavy rains until mid-November, the rainy season on the Caribbean coast starts to lighten up in September or October, offering a lot more things to do during this time of the year.
Mid-December welcomes the peak season when the heavy rains stop and the sky clears up, paving the way to beautiful beach days and uninterrupted pool time. The landscapes are also vibrant from the recent rainy season.
The weather remains fantastic in January, February, March, and April, welcoming more and more tourists, particularly around New Year and the weeks leading to the Easter holiday.
To avoid the rain and enjoy endless beach days, definitely visit Costa Rica during the dry season. However, as I mentioned, be prepared to pay top dollar for your airfare and accommodation, as there will be thousands of beach-seekers and wildlife enthusiasts arriving from across the globe to explore the stunning sandy shorelines and rainforests.
April is perhaps the hottest month, with sun worshippers on the Nicoya Peninsula and on the Guanacaste coast reveling in highs of up to 96° F (37° C) and nighttime average temperatures of up to 86° F (30° C). The Central Valley stays much cooler than this.
While visitors can still enjoy beautiful clear skies and dazzling blue beaches, most of the vegetation will have lost its lush green sparkle after a prolonged period of dryness.
Also, you will likely not spot many animals, as the majority will remain inactive to slow down water loss and save energy. If your goal is entirely to see wildlife, I would recommend making arrangements for night tours or simply just visiting during low season.
Best Activities for Wet Season
The best weather is in the dry season, but if you are willing to get a little wet, you can do any activity in the rainy season too. There are so many activities for families in Costa Rica!
For example, the zip lines in the rain run even faster than when they are dry, which can be really fun. White water rafting can bring huge rapids in the rainy season.
- Rainforest tours
- Sea turtle watching
- Whitewater rafting
- Spotting wildlife in national parks
- Whale watching
- Fishing for snappers, grouper, and roosterfish
- Indoor activities like visiting museums, sampling Costa Rican foods, going to the spa, and more
Best Activities for Dry Season
The dry season, with its endless sunny days, is a good time to enjoy the following activities:
- Majestic views of the volcanoes
- White water rafting
- Horseback riding
- ATV tours
- Swimming, sailing, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
- Visiting the parks for wildlife spotting
- Hiking to waterfalls
- Touring Cloud forests
Caribbean Coast Seasons
The Caribbean Coast boasts gorgeous weather all year round. It’s never too cold or too hot and rain falls in a relatively predictable rhythm. The seasons on the Caribbean coast tend to be opposite those on the west coast, so when the rains start in September, October and November you can find gorgeous blue skies on the Caribbean Coast.
High season: Running March through September, the high season is drier, cooler, and less humid. The beaches are the most crowded, resorts the fullest, and airfare the highest, making it the most expensive time to plan your visit. That said, the Caribbean coast is a less popular destination for a lot of tourists, so you will see fewer people. The main hubs of activity on the Caribbean Coast are Tortuguero and Puerto Viejo.
Low season: Starting in October and ending in February is the lower season in the Costa Rican Caribbean. This time of the year experiences increased rain. And boy does it rain on the Caribbean side, so we prefer the high season even though costs can be a little bit higher.