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 visiting in rainy season, make sure to pack appropriately. Check out our guide to packing for rainy season in Costa Rica and our guide to packing for Costa Rica.
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.
If you want to birdwatch, January through July is the best time to see Resplendant Quetzals in the cloud forests such as Monteverde, San Ramon, San Vito and San Gerardo de Dota.
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!
Hola buenos dias
Excelente pagina, la estoy tomando de referencia para organizar nuestro proximo viaje.
Vamos con 2 niños de 8 y 10 años por 14 días.
Estoy en duda en que momento nos conviene ir… por clima sobre todo.
No son de mucho caminar pero aman la naturaleza y tambien la playa
Mayo es mas conveniente para viajar con niños o marzo? (la idea es lejos de semana santa para evitar tantos turistas).
Y que recorrido me recomentarian, para disfrutar playa y selva.
Desde ya muchas gracias.
Para no estar con tantas turistas, Mayo es mejor que Marzo porque Marzo es el mes de vacaciones de primavera en Los Estados Unidos y Canada
Stacy Perdue says
Hello, all the information on your site has been so helpful in helping us plan our family vacation. There is so much valuable information especially for us as a first time traveler. I am planning a vacation for our family which is 2 adults and we will be bringing our 17 year old son. We are the very adventurous types and love to stay busy busy with fun activities. We have a week we can be gone so 7-8 days max there and wanting to come mid August. Was hoping that time of year will be in the middle of not too rainy or crowded but wanted to get your opinion. Also wanted your advice on what itinerary you would suggest for that length of time and that would be the most adventurous with plenty of things to do to keep us and an older teenager engaged. We don’t mind moving around to different areas and at some point would like to be near the beach. We like the water but like to stay busy so we aren’t interesting in having long beach days if that helps. Any tips would be appreciated!
Hi Stacy, please check the following posts for more information.
Costa Rica weather
Why visit Costa Rica in rainy season
Costa Rica itinerary ideas
Heather Storm says
Hey samantha. Me and my husband have started trying to plan our honeymoon again (finger crossed). We are trying to decide on a good time to go to costa rica. I know there are pros and cons to each month but we were hoping to go on a shoulder month to try and get the best of both. We were considering November of next year. My concern was that I saw the temperatures can be lower and it can still be really rainy. Is november still a good time to go to the beach or is it more of a good time to see wildlife? also is everything super muddy in november since its been raining a lot? will it be harder to hike and drive this time of year?
On the coasts, normally in November it starts drying up and it’ll be off and on rains evenings and nights and not necessarily everyday. Temperatures in Costa Rica do not really vary between rainy and dry season.
Heather Storm says
thank you! your blog is so helpful in planning. one more question. So the 2 months we are torn between is february and november. what are the chances of seeing a sea turtle in february? I know they like to come out during rainy season but I didn’t know how slim the chances are of seeing one in february. we do plan to go snorkeling so I’m not sure if that will increase our chances
November is the best month
Osvaldo Arango says
Just wanted to say thank you to Mytanfeet for all of their support in making my March 2020 Costa Rica vacation a great success! From the first time I communicated with Mytanfeet their responses where always quick and very informative. I used their rental car link to make rental car reservation as well as had them coordinate Adobe delivery and pickup of the car at my vacation residence in Playas Del Coco. This worked without any problems. Due to the late arrival Mytanfeet also schedule airport transfers to pick us up at the airport and take us back on day of departure. Will definitely use their services in the future. Also likedall of the information on the website about rental cars, things to do, cell phone usage, and currency exchange it was very helpful and informative.
Thank you for your feedback and message Osvaldo, we were very happy to help and glad to hear you had a good experience. Thank you for reading Mytanfeet and we hope to see you back in Costa Rica one day!
Hi Vinny, it will depend on where you are going. May is a very nice month and you an go to mountain areas like the Central Valley (Grecia/San Ramon/Bajos del Toro) for beautiful mountains, fresh weather, forest and waterfalls. And it’s always green there and will be nice in May. Only in Guanacaste/Nicoya Peninsula does it look like a desert (Pacific coast).
Hi, for travel in the 2nd week of May, will the place be still dry and hot? you mentioned it is a shoulder month and rain starts by then. We don’t like extreme hot and like to see some greenery while we are there, we like lush green mountains and waterfalls. Will the place be dry and still look like a desert at that time?
We were in Guanacaste in mid September of 2017 and it was beautiful – very little rain (an occasional but quick to pass storm here and there), and not too hot.
We are coming back this year in Mid August with my family. I am skeptical of my Iphone weather report of Guanacaste, which has basically been showing rain every single day for the past month. But, as skeptical as I am, I am also concerned – is the weather really that horrible right now, and is it common for it to rain non-stop in the month of August in Guanacaste?
Hi Danielle, not really. August is the start of our rainiest period but Guanacaste generally doesn’t rain as much as other areas in Costa Rica. And it doesn’t really rain non stop, it’s off and on rain. The general day in Guanacaste is sunny in the mornings and cloudy and rainy in the afternoon/night.
Linda Tolliver says
My group of 10 ladies are traveling to Guanacaste July 21-28 can you give me a break down on the weather.
Hi Linda, you can read all about weather, forecasts and more in this post:
Hi very useful blog. We will arrive midJune for 10 days and meet our son there doing world tour. We opted for the Pacific 5 days Samara and 5 days Tamarindo. My husband has some mobility problems difficulty walking without a cane so we intend to rent a car. What best to visit in view of this problem. Thanks
Hi Anna, Samara and Tamarindo are nice towns and they have hotels right in town and on the beach which will be very convenient. The roads through both towns are paved as well. I have written some posts on renting a car which you can read here: Costa Rica car rental tips and we also have a car rental discount with Adobe Rent a Car, a local car rental company to give discounts and benefits. You can make a reservation or a quote on this page here: Costa Rica car rental discount.
Parking is a bit tight in Samara and Tamarindo since they are small towns with narrow roads but there is parking right along the beach and in town.
Hi! The information in your blog is great! Thank you. We will be honeymooning the first week of November. Starting in San Jose and than ending in Gunacaste. I was wondering if the road trip between the two will be difficult to navigate?
Hi Frannie, San Jose to Guanacaste is not too bad of a drive. It is all on paved roads and depending where in Guanacaste you’re going, through the Interamericana highway if you’re going to the GUlf of Papagayo beaches (Coco/Ocotal/Hermosa/etc.). It is about a 4 hour drive from San Jose to Tamarindo and Coco and a bit longer to Samara. It’s a long drive but it’s not too bad. Just know that there will be some slow trucks on the way and the road is usually only one lane so you’ll have to pass but take your time and enjoy the drive. We do recommend using Waze, the GPS app to help you navigate.
Hi Misty, I’d check out Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. There is one black sand beach near the town, it has a very lively nightlife (big party town) and lots of lush rain forest. You can find mostly eco-conscious lodging with some luxury.
We are coming May 4-14 this year and would like to experience the rain forest and black sand beaches but then also have access to night life. We prefer to be eco friendly but do not mind a couple of days of luxury. Do you have any recommendations of areas/destinations for us?
Hey ! I’ve been following your blog. I was wondering what is the weather like during the end of august and beginning of september? I was thinking going to CR for the first time. Thank you !
Hi Alejandra, it depends on what part of the country you are going since Costa Rica has 26 different micro-climates but August/Sept is rainy season so expect and come prepared for rain. You can read more about weather in Costa Rica in this post: Costa Rica weather
Driving from San Jose to the springs first week of May. Any suggested stops along the way?
There are some really nice views when you go up through San Ramon. There’s a restaurant that has a nice view (I can’t remember the name). It’s a pretty drive, enjoy!
Hello, we are visiting the Caribbean side, Tortuguero and PV from April 12-April 22. What should we expect for crowds over the Easter holiday?
Yes, Puerto Viejo on Easter week is very busy, Tortuguero doesn’t get as many locals as Puerto Viejo.
gefen maayan says
Thank you very much for the post!
I couldn’t understand- if we are coming on 10-17 of April-
is it still the dry season?
our plan is poaz- Arnel- montevarda- manuel.
we want to combine between the volcanoes, rain forest ,reservations, canopy, and a little bit beachs in manuel.
-Do we still have a chance to see animals?
-Do we need to be prepare with rain equipment or that it too early?
April is generally the hottest month so it is still dry season. You can still see wildlife and you won’t need to bring any rain equipment at all, though I do recommend a jacket for Monteverde as it cools down at night.
Hi Mac, at the RIU there will be very few birds. Guanacaste is very dry and at the beach, there aren’t many birds (no toucans, macaws, very few hummingbirds but some parrots, flycatchers, pelicans, frigates). The best places for birdwatching are Monteverde and Osa Peninsula. You can take a day trip to Monteverde but the best time to see birds is in the morning, though you may still have a chance to see some.
We are arriving in Costa Rica on 10 January staying at riu guanacaste from what you say it is the dry season Wil we still see plenty of birds and animals looking forward to the trip thank you for all your information very helpfull . birdwatching is our main hobby
I have been doing alot of reading about the wet season and the dry season. Nothing much is ever said about the very first week of December. We will be there the 4th for 8 days. Not sure what temps it is going to be. Doing a guided tour starting in SanJose and making a loop back. Doing the I quess typical. Rain forest, Cloud forest, volcano, river trip, beach etc. Any help? Thanks
Hi Debra, first week of December is the end of rainy season. It still may be raining quite a bit but the time between THanksgiving to CHristmas is not very busy so you won’t see a lot of crowds.
Mosquitoes are present in tropical countries all year round due to the climate, April is for most of the country, one of our hottest months. It will be right towards the end of dry season so it won’t be as bad as rainy season and it does depend on where you are going. You can read more about weather in Costa Rica here:Costa Rica weather and mosquitoes in Costa Rica here: Best mosquito repellent
Mary Wilson says
We are looking forward to visiting Costa Rica in April for our 40th wedding anniversary. How are the mosquitoes this time of the year?
An informative and useful blog for our first visit to Costa Rica, particularly as we don’t speak Spanish. Very helpful: well written – thank you both so much!
Thanks for reading JOcelyn and glad it’s useful 🙂
We are going to CR mid July. Our first stop is San Jose and then on to La Fortuna. I was wondering if there are sites that we shouldn’t miss since we will only be visiting for about 5-6 days.
Hi Anna, you can read our La Fortuna guide here: La Fortuna and here are our favorite things to do in La Fortuna: Things to do in Arenal and La Fortuna
For San Jose, here is our guide: Things to do in San Jose. I hope they give you some ideas of things to do and see in the area.
I love your blog…very informative. Gracias
My husband and I (from Alberta, Canada) are very excited and looking forward to our first trip to Costa Rica in April.
Keep up the great work!
Hi Eunice, thanks for reading our blog. Have a great time in CR 🙂
Hi Jesse, normally humpbacks but pilot whales are also seen. You can read more about what whales you can see in CR here: Humpback whales Costa Rica
Jesse Stanford says
What kind of whales do you normally see?
James Corkery says
A very comprehensive and well-detailed post. It is a complete wealth of information related to Costa Rica.
Thank you! Glad it’s helpful 🙂