The best time to visit Costa Rica is during the country’s dry season or “summer” which is December through April. This time of year is also Costa Rica’s peak tourism season thanks to the endless sunny days and high temperatures. On the other hand, another good time to visit Costa Rica is the rainy season for those traveling on a budget and those who don’t like crowds.
We will talk all about the best time to visit Costa Rica in this post, depending on factors such as what kind of vacation you want, how much your budget is and who you are traveling with.
**Make sure to read our Costa Rica COVID post to stay up to date on travel to Costa Rica during COVID-19**
When is the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica?
Anytime is a good time to visit Costa Rica! But there are some very important things to know.
First, let’s go more in detail about Costa Rica weather because it is one of the deciding factors for when the best time to visit Costa Rica is for your trip. If you want sun, sun and more sun, then the dry season is the best time to visit Costa Rica.
Costa Rica experiences typical tropical climate with two distinct seasons: dry and rainy.
Dry Season to Escape the Rain
If you’re coming to Costa Rica to escape the rain or snow, the best months are December through end of April which is Costa Rica’s dry season. This is known as Costa Rica’s “summer.”
For anyone wanting to escape the North American or Europe dreary winters, dry season is the best time to visit Costa Rica.
Key things to know about visiting Costa Rica during dry season
- This is the high tourism season so it is the most expensive and crowded time in Costa Rica.
- February is normally the driest month. March and April are the hottest.
- Average day time and night time temperatures do not fluctuate much at all.
- You have to book your hotels, car rentals and tours at least 2-3 months before your trip. If you are visiting over Christmas, New Years, spring break or Easter, book at least 4-6 months out. Some hotels and vacation rentals get booked 6+ months out!
- Temperatures soar well into the 90s F (32 C) and above on the coasts in February and March. It is a bit cooler on the Central and South Pacific Coast and Caribbean Coast but it is significantly more humid. It is drier on the Guanacaste coast and Nicoya Peninsula but with higher temperatures. San Jose, Central Valley and mountain area temperatures hover around the high 70s F (24-26 C) during the day.
- The rainforest areas such as the South Pacific and Northern Highlands may rain during dry season randomly. We visited Dominical in February once and it actually poured rain for 2 days straight.
Rainy Season for Less Crowds and Cheaper Prices
Costa Rica’s rainy season is generally from middle of May – end of November and this is considered as Costa Rica’s “winter” or “green season” due to the intense lush foliage that bursts into life with the rain. For this reason, tourist prices are cheaper and the crowds thin out.
If you’re traveling on a budget, rainy season months are the best since rates are lower. You can save money on hotels and car rentals since they are cheaper that time of year.
Key things to know about visiting Costa Rica in rainy season
Not sure if you should visit in rainy season? Read our tips for visiting Costa Rica in rainy season here.
- Rainy season temperatures do not really vary from dry season. It does get cooler but not much. On average it is around 5-10 F degrees cooler than dry season.
- October is the rainiest month for most of the country. May, June, September and October can also be very rainy in places like the Central and South Pacific, the mountains and Northern Lowlands.
- On the Caribbean coast, October is the summer month. These are Tortuguero and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.
- On the coasts, a normal rainy season day is dry and cloudy in the morning, then intermittent rains in the late afternoon, evenings and nights. In mountainous and rainforest areas, it can rain in early afternoons or even mornings.
- You may need to rent a 4×4/4wd for your itinerary. Make sure to check the road conditions in Costa Rica. Some roads may be impassable or bridges may collapse for heavy rains in remote areas.
- Some businesses may close during September/October, have limited availability or undergo construction.
- There is a “little summer” in July where it stops raining and dries up for a week or so. This is normally around mid July. July is also a busy month because of families coming during summer vacation. Make sure to book your cars and services at least 2 months out if visiting in July and August.
If you’re going to the Caribbean side (Tortuguero, Limon and Puerto Viejo), it doesn’t follow the strict rainy/dry season months. It is much more humid with temperatures in the high 80s F (31 C) and possibility to rain all year round.
The driest month on the Caribbean coast is typically October. January to March are usually sunny with swells and good snorkeling. November and June are typically more rainy.
The busy tourism months for the Caribbean are August and September, particularly Tortuguero as that is peak turtle nesting time, so there are lots of tourists that go to Tortuguero.
Holidays to Keep in Mind
There are 2 times of the year where it is extremely busy and you will want to avoid if you’re on a budget or want to avoid crowds. These are what we call “peak season.” If you visit during these times of year, make sure to book everything at least 4-6 months beforehand!
If you are spending your Christmas in Costa Rica, book ASAP! Hotels and car rentals go super fast and it is really expensive during these times. Vacation rentals, resorts and luxury hotels can book up even up to one year out.
Semana Santa (Easter)
Week of Easter which usually coincides with American/Canadian/European spring break. Easter is as busy of a holiday as Christmas in Costa Rica so book your hotels and cars as soon as possible.
Shoulder Months for the Best of Both Dry and Rainy Seasons
If you ask Yeison and I what are our favorite months in Costa Rica, we love the shoulder months. These are May, June and November, the transition months between dry and rainy season and vice versa.
November is when the rain starts letting up and crowds are still thin. There is also a lull after Thanksgiving until mid December. May and June is when the rain starts but you’ll still get plenty of hot sunny and humid days. The crowds die out and we start getting good swells for surfing.
The Best Time to Visit Costa Rica for Activities
Nature and Wildlife
The best time to visit Costa Rica to see marine wildlife is the rainy season. The months of August, September and October are optimal months to see humpback whales in Costa Rica. For turtles in Costa Rica, May – November are the best months.
For scuba diving in Costa Rica, February and March are the best time to dive with the giant oceanic manta rays. However, water temperatures are very cold during those months.
Check what are the best months to see other wildlife like toucans, dolphins and sloths in our Costa Rica wildlife post.
Waterfalls become much fuller in the rainy season. However, with the extra rain, the color of the waterfall may turn to a murky brown.
For example, Rio Celeste is a sky blue river in the Tenorio Volcano National Park. Sometimes when it has been raining a lot, the river may turn brown. This has more chances of happening in October, November and December.
Additionally, waterfalls may become too full. When we visited Nauyaca Waterfalls in August, a tropical storm just passed through so the waterfall pool overflowed so much that we couldn’t swim.
White water rafting is super fun in rainy season as rivers are much fuller. However, if there is a storm, rafting tours may have to be cancelled so that is one risk of booking rafting tours during the rainy season.
Fishing is great during rainy season with lots of possibilities to catch tuna, snapper and mahi mahi.
Surfing is amazing in the rainy season in Costa Rica thanks to the swells and better offshore winds.
January & February
Tons of tourists for the New Year, starts to decrease a few days after the 1st. The 2nd to last week of January is a great time to visit since it’s great weather, prices go back to normal after the New Year and still a bit green. Hot, but not quite as hot as the following months. Great time for dry season travel for both beaches and rain forest.
February is super busy and is right at the boom of high season.
March & April
Hottest times of the year for most of the country. Tons of tourists because of Easter and spring break up north. Expensive to travel. Super hot, very dry for Guanacaste, looks like a desert and waterfalls are reduced to a trickle and rivers dry up. Good time for the South Pacific/Osa Peninsula. Great time for Monteverde for birding. May start getting some rains end of April up in the mountains or rainforest areas.
May & June
Transition months from dry to rainy. Landscapes start turning green with the first rains and temperatures cool down a little bit. Less tourists than previous months but still a good chunk. Very humid, cloudy with on and off rains in the country. Low winds.
More tourists because of summer break up in North America and mid winter break in Costa Rica. Great weather, has a “little summer” with sunny days. Excellent for water activities.
Best month for wildlife such as whales, turtles and dolphins. Beginning of the month sees lots of tourists, end of the month starts dying down. Common to have sunny skies in the morning and rainy afternoons/evenings.
September and October
Most popular time for Europeans, especially on the Caribbean as that side starts raining less. Still great time for wildlife, rains a bit more often. Cheapest time to travel because this is the lowest tourism month of the year so you will find more empty beaches, quiet town centers and limited nightlife in October.
October can be very rainy for most of the country. Common for tropical waves and storms to pass through.
Still rainy but can start letting up a little bit. Beginning of November doesn’t have many tourists, towards the end of the month is when the snowbirds come down. Best time to see turtles, especially the Olive Ridley turtles during the arribadas.
Rainforest areas and high elevation mountain areas still rainy. Coastal areas start seeing less and less rain towards the end of the month.
Rain starts to let up but you still may get some random on and off short rains. Rainforest areas still have rain and the beginning of December can still see some big storms.
For this reason, the first two weeks of December are not as crowded. But then around mid December, it will start getting crazy packed for Christmas and New Years. Very expensive to travel.
Very windy in December, this is normal and known as “Christmas winds.” By mid to end of December, the coasts see very little rain.
The best time to visit Costa Rica will mostly depend on the person and what vacation they’re looking for.
So if you want:
- To avoid the rain: Come in dry season, December – April for most of the country. October for the Caribbean.
- To travel on a budget: Travel during low (rainy) season or shoulder months.
- Get the best of both dry and rainy season: Come during the shoulder months of May, June and November.
- To escape tourists: Come in May, June, September and October.
Need some ideas for itineraries? Check out our favorite Costa Rica itinerary ideas!