Costa Rica Weather

costa rican rancher on a horse in bright yellow rain gear

Costa Rica weather has only two seasons (rainy and dry)- here’s info on the weather so you can make the best travel decision possible.

I constantly get the question- when is the best time to visit Costa Rica? And my answer- every single time is- ALWAYS!

That’s not a very helpful answer- but for me to really answer the question you need to know a bit about the climate in Costa Rica, and have a clear idea of what you want to do while in-country.

costa rican rancher on a horse in bright yellow rain gear

Costa Rican Seasons

In a country with such a variety of climate zones, which create a lot of microclimates, it is no wonder that Costa Rica weather patterns are hard to predict. Generally, there are two seasons: the dry season, also known as “high season” between December and April, and the rainy season, also called the “green season,” lasting from May to November. 

Both have their charm for visiting and while you should plan accordingly, you can enjoy the more quiet atmosphere and the different activities available in Costa Rica during the green rainy season just as much as the intense sunshine of the drier months. 

Costa Rica’s rainy season, also known as the “green season” is characterized by sunny mornings and daily rain showers in the afternoons. While it comes with generally cooler weather, the sun still warms you up. The rainy season starts in May and builds up with September and October generally being the rainiest. The dry season, which is also when most tourists visit the country, is mostly hot and dry.

There is also a tiny little min-summer break that is called “El veranillo de san Juan” which happens in mid-July. The winter breaks and there is a gorgeous summer-like season. We usually travel to Costa Rica in the summer the week of July 4th and hit this perfectly. Costa Rica weather in July is divine.

Also- while the rainy season begins in May, it generally doesn’t really get going with daily rain until the end of the month. Conversely, the rainy season ends in November but that month can be extremely unpredictable as far as rainfall. Thankgsiving week can be a good week to travel to Costa rica if you want to avoid rain but keep prices a bit low.

People often ask me about Costa Rica in June- it can be a great month to visit as schools are still in session and the rainy season is getting ready to let up a bit. This means a few more sunny days. Costa Rica in August can be truly iffy.

Costa Rican in December and Costa Rica in January are both sure bets for perfect weather. They are also super high season so expect lodging and activity prices to be at double a low season cost and plan accordingly.

Surf boards on the beach at low tide, Jaco Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Weather by Location

Costa Rica is divided into 7 provinces: San Jose, Heredia, Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Limon and Puntarenas. The first four are landlocked, make up the bulk of the Central Vallet, and happen to have very similar climates. The last three are all coastal provinces and have much more varied climates.

The Central Valley is where the the capital of San José and urban centers such as Alajuela, Heredia, and Cartago are located. This area tends to have a pretty stable climate with temperatures in the 70° -80° F year-round. The altitudes in this area are higher, making nights cool (55-60° F). Humiditiy is not generally an issue and this tends to be a drier region.

The region around the Arenal Volcano with its touristic center La Fortuna is humid and partly cloudy even in the dry season with February through April being the driest months, while the wet season is mostly overcast and it rains a lot mostly in July and October.

 In the cloud forest of Monteverde, March and April are the warmest months with a misty, humid, and windy climate. Along the Caribbean coast with its touristic enters of Tortuguero and Puerto Viejo, the temperature steadily keeps around  80°F all year with most rainfall happening in June and July. 

Regions along the Northern Plains and coast, like the Nicoya Peninsula, Guanacaste, and Puntarenas tend to be much hotter and way more humid. Temps rarely dip below 70° F even at night, and the daytime temps can get up into the 90°F range in summer.

In one of the most biodiverse parts of Costa Rica, the Osa Peninsula, the hottest month is April with average temperatures around 82°F and the coolest month is December when temperatures are around  79°F.

Tortuguero and the Caribbean tend to have an opposite climate from the rest of the country- while it does tend to rain much of the year, the rainy season is generally from November to January- right when the rest of the country is in Summer. Caribbean dry season is September and October.

Knowing this can really help you to decide what part of the country is best for your trip if you only have specific dates you can travel. Remember that “low season” or “green season” in any part of the country usually means discounted rates on just about anything except food in restaurants.

young girl in rain boots stomping in mud puddle in costa rica

Average Temperatures in Costa Rica

Weather forecasts around the world generally have a bad reputation for not being reliable. In a country with so many microclimates as Costa Rica, this is even more so.

I like to use the Costa Rican National Weather Service site to see climate predicitons in Costa Rica.

What the temperatures look like on the thermometer and what they feel like in reality can be worlds apart and that has to do mainly with the differing humidity. 80 °F in the Central Valley where you will have a refreshing breeze almost every day, feel much cooler than the same temperature on the Caribbean side, where you have a very high humidity all year around.

Even when it is raining and “freezing” as ticos will say, you aren’t ever getting weather much below 60° F. A fleece jacket is about the warmest clothing you will need, and you will definitely sweat. Especially if you are just inland of the coast, you can plan to be very hot. that’s why packing correctly is so important.

two young girls pointing to a costa rican waterfall in a rainstorm

Rainfall in Costa Rica

The average annual temperature in Costa Rica is between 70° and 81° F and the average rainfall is around 100 inches per year, while some areas, mostly the mountains, receive up to 25 feet of rainfall per year.

So what does this mean? It means that in Costa Rica, when it rains, it pours. Since most Costa Rican roofs are made of tin, I think of the rainy season as sounding like bullets pelting the roofs, long afternoon naps, and time with friends.

Getting caught in the rain is no joke- have an umbrella and a transportation plan if you are out and about. The rain can last 15 minutes, but it can also last 15 hours.

Generally mornings are not rainy, so plan your activities for early to avoid rain. Conversely- embrace it! The rain is warm – unlike my home state of Colorado where the rain is always super cold. Many ticos will walk or swim in the rain- if you are going to get wet you might as well get soaked.

costa rican wooden house in a rain storm

Activities In Costa Rica By Season

Another key bit of information when making your Costa Rica travel plans is knowing which activities are best in the rainy season and which are best in the dry season.

Also note- in the dry season the landscape near the beaches is very brown. You have the gorgeous lush rainforest picutres more in the rainy season unless you are really deep in the forest or in the La Fortuna area.

Dry Season Activities

  • Surfing
  • Zip Lining
  • Coffee Picking (happens from November-December)
  • Bull fights (they don’t kill the bull in Costa Rica)

Rainy Season Activities

  • Waterfall chasing (the waterfalls are, of course, bigger in the rainy season)
  • Flower and mushroom hunting
  • White Water Rafting

Year Round Activities

  • Butterfly Gardens
  • Zip Lining (Zip lining in the rainy season is intensely fast)
  • Bird Watching
  • Stand Up Paddleboarding
  • Horseback Riding
  • Surfing
  • ATV tours
  • Hot Springs (you haven’t lived until you’ve experienced a downpour in the hot springs)
  • Hanging Bridges
  • Nature Walks
  • Coffee Tour
  • Visit a Volcano

As you can see- the longest list is activities that work in both seasons- they will just look different whether you are doing them wet or dry.

For example, zip lining in the rain means you’ll be soaked- but you will fly much faster.

Surfing in the dry season means the waves might be smaller, but you will not be surfing in the rain with the potential for lightning.

Best Time To Visit Costa Rica

Because of these different weather patterns, the best time to visit Costa Rica is… all year round! It will depend widely on where in the country you are planning to go and what experiences you want to have.

Most people chose to visit during the dry season, from mid-December to April, when plenty of sunshine makes exploring rainforests and beaches a pleasant endeavor.

Nonetheless, this is also the peak tourist season and you will not be alone on those beaches. In the high season, prices also tend to go up, so that is something to consider if you are on a budget.

FAQ

What is the hottest month in Costa Rica?

The hottest months in Costa Rica are between February and April.

What is the rainy season in Costa Rica?

The rainy season, that lasts from June to November, is what Ticos call their “winter.” In most regions of the country (except the Caribbean), you will commonly have more rain in the afternoon during this time.

What part of Costa Rica has the best weather?

The central valley with the metropolitan area of San José is said to have the best weather. Most days, the central valley will have a nice breeze and temperatures around 72°F.

Does it rain all day in Costa Rica?

Rarely. Even in the mountains around the Cerro de la Muerte and in the coffee region of Dota that do get a lot of rain, you will have mostly sunny mornings while the afternoon tends to be rainy. The weather in Costa Rica will always let you see the sun at some point during the day.

Is there a hurricane season in Costa Rica?

No, Costa Rica does not have a hurricane season. However, the peak months of rain in October and November often come with flooding and inundations along the pacific coast and landslides with resulting roadblocks can occur because of the rainfall.

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