Everybody knows that living near the equator = hot hot hot! And Costa Rica certainly lies very close to the equator, in fact just 8 and 12 degrees north of it. So with a year round tropical climate, you can probably guess what the weather in Costa Rica is like but actually it all depends on the topography of the region.
There are several micro-climates within the country that may surprise you. It doesn’t snow but it does get fairly cold in some areas up in the mountains. The weather is not as straightforward as some may think – there is actually quite a big range!
Weather in Costa Rica
Dry and Rainy Season
Costa Rica experiences typical tropical weather with two seasons: dry and rainy. That’s right, no winter, no fall. If you love seeing autumn leaves unfortunately you won’t see any of that in Costa Rica. No snow or spring cherry blossoms either.
Dry season is generally from end of December to beginning of May. Some characteristics of dry season are:
- Temperatures rise up to 95F on the coasts. Lower in the Central Valley and Monteverde area.
- Nights cool off as low as 80F degrees.
- High winds in some areas, big swells on the Pacific coast.
The hottest months are March and April. On the coasts, temperatures soar into the 100’s, up in the mountains like the Central Valley and Monteverde, temperatures hover in the 80’s. In Monteverde, it is not unusual to run into light showers.
If you are going down to the South Pacific or Osa Peninsula, be aware that it may still rain early January/February. We were in Dominical the first week of February and it poured for 5 days straight.
Rainy season is generally from late May to beginning of December. Some characteristics of rainy season are:
- Thunder and lightning storms
- Temperatures up to 85F on the coast. Lowest can get down to 50F in the mountains
- Common to have sunny mornings and rain in the late afternoon/evening
- When it rains, it rains hard
The rainiest months are September, October and November with October as the rainiest month.
How much does it rain?
Some regions rain more or less than other and it is necessary to research beforehand to come prepared.
The Pacific Coast stays quite hot even in rainy season. Guanacaste has the longest season of dry months and certain areas in Guanacaste are extremely dry since they don’t experience a heavy rainy season until August or so.
Areas like this are the Gulf of Papagayo such as Playas del Coco. However, when it rains, it rains hard! You can see in the video below how hard it’s raining in Playas del Coco in October.
If you are in the Central Valley or the cloud forests of Monteverde, it is a lot colder since you are at around 1000-1500 meters in elevation. In rainy season, temperatures are high 70’s and can get down to the 50’s. It is normal for it to rain all day in rainy season or be very cloudy with off and on showers.
When we were in Monteverde in November, it poured almost all day!
“Little Summer” and Shoulder Months
Though rainy season is generally from end of May to beginning of December, there sometimes is a “little summer” in July where it is very sunny like dry season. Just remember that it’s tropical weather and it is very unpredictable so you should still come prepared for rain if you are coming in the 2nd and 3rd week of July.
Shoulder months are June and November where the weather is transitioning from dry to rainy and vice versa. You may run into rain in June especially up in the mountains but the coasts will still be nice and hot. November still sees rain but it starts gradually decreasing. These are our favorite months in Costa Rica because it starts getting super green in June and November is very lush.
The Caribbean experiences a very different climate than the rest of Costa Rica, it’s actually the opposite! It doesn’t have the typical dry and rainy season, instead it is normal for the Caribbean side to rain almost all year long and it’s very hot and humid. October is the sunniest and driest month so you do need to keep that in mind if you are planning to visit Tortuguero or Puerto Viejo. August and September are generally drier as well and January – March are very sunny months.
November and June are usually the rainiest months for the Caribbean.
We visited Tortuguero in November and had short heavy showers in the late afternoon but beautiful sunny mornings and early afternoons. We ran into storms in Puerto Viejo in September and cloudy days in December.
How to prepare for dry season:
- Wear LOTS of sunscreen (sweat proof preferable)
- Drink lots of water
- Bring after sun gel (most people burn the first day since Costa Rica is so close to the equator)
- Bring a hand towel or sweat band
- Bring clothes that dry fast (like Nike dri-fit) especially if you’re going to be doing a lot of outdoor activities.
How to prepare for rainy season:
- Still need to bring sunscreen
- Bring lots of mosquito repellent. Mosquitoes thrive during rainy season
- Make sure your equipment is waterproof/water repellent especially if you have any electronics. You need to be prepared because rain storms are come suddenly and unexpectedly so bring a waterproof backpack, jacket and lots of plastic bags.
If you’re not sure what to bring, here is our ultimate packing list for Costa Rica, both seasons, all microclimates, men and women.
The weather during rainy season can change in a blink of an eye. It can be beautiful and incredibly sunny one minute and then pouring down rain with lightning the next. Always be prepared when visiting in rainy season to protect your equipment, especially your electronics.
Read our packing list for rainy season in Costa Rica to be prepared!
Best activities to do during dry season
Dry season is perfect for those who want to soak in the sun all day long. Beach lovers will love dry season as waters are very clear and good for snorkeling.
The best activities are anything with the beach (January – March sees big swells on the Pacific coast, great for surfers), hiking, ziplining and boating. You won’t have to worry about rain at the beach at all and you can enjoy sailing, SUP, surfing, kayaking and everything else.
If you love birds, March and April are excellent months to see the Resplendant Quetzal up in the cloud forest as it is their mating months.
Best activities to do during rainy season
Don’t fret! You can still do plenty of activities in rainy season. Actually, some of our favorite things to do in Costa Rica are best when it’s raining!
If you love wildlife, you must visit Costa Rica in rainy season. The peak of turtle egg laying season is rainy season, particularly the month of November. Ostional Wildlife Refuge hosts the most Olive Ridley sea turtles where you can see thousands of mothers laying their eggs. Arribadas happen year round but rainy season is the best.
Whale watching is also best in August and September, you can see turtles mating out in the ocean as well as huge pods of dolphins.
White water rafting is incredible during rainy season because the water level is high. In dry season, it is normal for rivers to turn into Class 2 and 3 rapids and in rainy season, they turn into Class 3 and 4!
Waterfalls also get much fuller but if you go after August to waterfalls like Nauyaca, it may be too full. We visited Nauyaca waterfalls in August and it was so full, we couldn’t swim or do anything. Our experience was the same at La Fortuna waterfall. Rio Celeste, the sky blue river turns a cloudy brown after hard rains. So the best time to see Rio Celeste is actually in dry season.
Since I know not everyone is stoked about rain, I wrote a post about 6 reasons why you should visit Costa Rica in rainy season. I’m a little biased because I actually love the rain but Costa Rica is still as magical and amazing in the rain as it is in dry season.
Want to know more about Costa Rica? Check these posts out!
If you like this article, follow us on Facebook for more Costa Rica/travel tips and inspiration!
Pin this post about weather in Costa Rica to Pinterest.