If you’re thinking about visiting Costa Rica but not sure when, then bookmark this blog post.
We will talk all about the best time to visit Costa Rica in this post, depending on factors such as what kind of Costa Rica vacation you want, how much your budget is and who you are traveling with.
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 high tourism season thanks to the endless sunny days and high temperatures. These months are the busiest tourist times in Costa Rica.
On the other hand, rainy season is a good time to visit Costa Rica for those traveling on a budget and those who want to visit in less busier times. However, this means that there are possibilities of rain, rainstorms and thunderstorms.
Average year round temperatures do not vary greatly in Costa Rica so no matter what time of year you visit, you will generally have all sunny days.
Costa Rica Facts
- Capital city is San Jose
- In Central America. Nicaragua is to the north, Panama to the south
- Official language is Spanish with many indigenous languages spoken. English is widely spoken in touristic areas like San Jose, Guanacaste, Jaco, Manuel Antonio, Puerto Viejo de Limon and La Fortuna.
- Currency: the Colon. Current exchange rate approximately 515 CRC to 1 USD. Read about handling money in Costa Rica
- GMT-6 time zone.
- Drives on right hand side of road
- Uses 110 Volts
- Two major international airports: Juan Santamaria International Airport in Alajuela province (airport code SJO) and Guanacaste Airport in Guanacaste province (airport code LIR).
When is the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica?
Anytime is a good time for visiting Costa Rica and seeing all its natural beauty! However, there are some very important things to know before you blindly choose a month to go to Costa Rica.
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.
Remember, Costa Rica experiences typical tropical climate with two distinct seasons: dry and rainy. Average year round temperatures do not vary much, but the amount of rain certainly does.
Dry Season to Escape the Rain
If you’re coming to Costa Rica to escape the rain or snow, the best times to travel to Costa Rica are December through end of April. These are months are Costa Rica’s dry season and 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 due to high volume of tourists and snow birds.
- 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. These are peak season times. Some hotels and vacation rentals get booked 6+ months out!
- Temperatures soar well into the 90s F (32 C) and above on the Northern Pacific 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 North Pacific coast (Guanacaste coast and Nicoya Peninsula like Santa Teresa) 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 Caribbean sea, Central and South Pacific Coast 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 rainforest 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 time to go to Costa Rica since rates are lower. Hotel prices, car rentals, tours and restaurants are a bit cheaper during the green season, particularly October which is the slowest month.
Key things to know about visiting Costa Rica in rainy season (green 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 coast, 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 will still have sunny mornings during rainy season, but it may get cloudy quickly.
- As it tends to rain more in the late afternoons and nights, places like Arenal Volcano National Park may close early or not allow visitors if there are lightning/thunderstorms.
- 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 green season months, have limited availability or undergo construction. Hotel prices are much cheaper and some tour companies offer green season rates.
- 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.
The Caribbean Coast
If you’re going to the Caribbean coast (Tortuguero, Limon and Puerto Viejo), it doesn’t follow the strict rainy/green season months. On the Caribbean coast, it is generally wetter all year round, except during September and October which are considered their “summer” months. It is also much more humid with temperatures in the high 80s F (31 C).
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. October is the best month to visit Puerto Viejo or the Caribbean coast because it’s the summer month. You’ll be able to see all the gorgeous beaches on the Caribbean side with great weather.
The busy tourism months for the Caribbean coast are August and September, particularly Tortuguero as that is peak Green sea turtles nesting season, so there are lots of tourists that go to Tortuguero National Park.
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. Places like Manuel Antonio National Park, Tabacon hot springs and Poas Volcano National Park sell out days in advance so get your tickets early!
Semana Santa (Easter)
Easter week usually coincides with American/Canadian/European spring break. That week is as busy 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 us what are our favorite months in Costa Rica, we love the shoulder months of May, June and November, the transition months between dry and green season. National parks are not as crowded and the weather is still very good.
November is when the rain starts letting up. 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. Personally for us, the shoulder months are the best times to travel to Costa Rica.
The Best Time to Visit Costa Rica for Activities
Nature and Wildlife
Wildlife watching is great any time of the year but the best time to visit Costa Rica for wildlife spotting is the rainy season. The months of August, September and October are optimal months to see humpback whales in Costa Rica. For sea 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.
Nature lovers will have a great time visiting Costa Rica any time of the year, however the rainy season can make it a bit harder to spot animals as they will hide in the rain.
Check what are the best time to visit Costa Rica for wildlife like toucans, dolphins, sea turtles 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. The La Fortuna waterfall and La Paz Waterfall Gardens may turn brown or be full of debris during rainy season.
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.
All adventure activities are fantastic any time of the year in Costa Rica! However, rainy season is better for water activities. 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.
You can still visit a beautiful beach or two during rainy season. We do recommend to go in the morning to avoid rains in the afternoons and nights.
Best Month to Visit Costa Rica – What Each Month is Like
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. If you are visiting Costa Rica during these months, you have to purchase tickets well in advance for places like Manuel Antonio National Park.
March & April
Hottest times of the year for most of the country. Peak season is during spring break and Easter Week. Very 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 (aka green season). 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.
Costa Rica’s Pacific coast gets more swells, making May and June awesome months for surfers to catch big barrels.
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, laid back 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 the turtle nesting season, especially the Olive Ridley sea turtles during the arribadas (mass arrivals) at Ostional Wildlife Refuge.
Rainforest areas and high elevation mountain areas still rainy. Coastal areas start seeing less and less rain towards the end of the month.
The high season generally starts around mid December for the winter holidays. Rain starts to let up during December in Costa Rica 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.
When you should visit Costa Rica will mostly depend on what you want.
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 the green season or shoulder months.
- Get the best of both dry and rainy season: Come during the shoulder months of May, June and November.
Need some ideas for itineraries? Check out our favorite Costa Rica itinerary ideas!
Costa Rica Vacation Checklist
- First time to Costa Rica? Read our First Time in Costa Rica guide.
- Not sure how to move around Costa Rica? Read our How to Get Around Costa Rica guide to find the best transportation method for you.
- Click the link to get our detailed Costa Rica Packing List so you know what essential items to bring.
- Do not forget to purchase Travel Insurance for your trip to Costa Rica.
- Stay connected by purchasing a prepaid SIM Card in Costa Rica.
- Save money with Mytanfeet Deals for tours and hotels. Save more money with our Costa Rica Car Rental Discount.