If you’re visiting Costa Rica during rainy season (read our post 6 reasons you should visit Costa Rica in the rainy season), the most important thing about preparing for your trip is to pack properly. You don’t want to get caught in a sudden downpour with nothing to wear except shorts and tank tops up in the mountains. Or get all your only pair of tennis shoes sopping wet and muddy after a hike!
So when you are packing for your trip to Costa Rica in the rainy season, you need to come prepared as the weather changes drastically throughout the country. Here is our rainy season packing list for Costa Rica.
What’s rainy season like in Costa Rica?
First, rainy season for most of the country is from beginning of May to beginning of December. However, it’s tropical weather so it can start a little sooner or end a little later so if you’re visiting mid April or mid December, still be aware that it may rain. The peak rainy season months for most of the country is October and November. September is also fairly rainy as well.
You can get idea of how hard it rains in Costa Rica in this video. This was taken in Playas del Coco in Guanacaste in May.
Rainy season in different parts of Costa Rica
- Caribbean side (Puerto Viejo, Limon, Tortuguero): this area doesn’t follow the straight May-November rainy season in Costa Rica. It actually rains throughout the year with October being the driest month. June and November are usually the rainiest months on that side.
- Guanacaste (Tamarindo, Gulf of Papagayo, Samara, Santa Teresa): this is is the driest area. It generally doesn’t start raining hard and consistently until July/August with few showers and sprinkles in April, May and June. Starts getting cloudy in the afternoons in May but doesn’t always rain. It is normally very dry in this area but in May after the first few showers, it gets very humid.
- Central Pacific (Jaco, Manuel Antonio): This area is humid and hot but it doesn’t get as humid as the South Pacific. Jaco and Manuel Antonio experience typical rainy season days with sunny mornings and cloudy/rainy afternoons. We had a mini-tornado pass through Jaco in September when we lived there a couple years ago!
- South Pacific (Dominical, Uvita and Ojochal): this area is hot and humid and can rain even in the dry season months. We visited Dominical in February where it poured for almost a week straight.
- Osa Peninsula: very humid and when it rains, it pours in the Osa. Mostly at night in rainy season but during September – November it can rain all day.
- Central Valley: This area follows the May-December rainy season fairly to the point and it rains hard in the city. It is common for the cities to flood.
- Arenal: Arenal follows a typical weather season. Prepare for rain, when we visited in July we got soaked hiking the national park. Another time in October, it was very cloudy almost every day but didn’t rain all the time, just at night.
- Monteverde: The locals jokingly call Monteverde’s weather rainy and less rainy. This area is up in the cloud forests so nearly 2000 meters in elevation and rains a lot in rainy season. We got poured on in November!
The most important thing to know about rainy season is that it’s spontaneous – it is a tropical country after all! It may be a beautiful sunny day out and then it’ll become dark and rainy in two seconds. Generally in rainy season, it’s sunny in the morning and rainy in the late afternoon and evening. During the peak rainy months of October and November, it may rain all day long.
Best Packing List for Rainy Season in Costa Rica
Many of these tips come from personal experience as we know first hand what it’s like to backpack the country in the rainiest month and hike up a volcano in the middle of a thunderstorm. Add these items to your normal packing list so you can have a safe and fun time in Costa Rica.
You can check out our complete guide to packing for Costa Rica or read on for our suggestions for packing for rainy season in Costa Rica.
The Beach (both Pacific and Caribbean)
If you’re visiting the beach, still pack summer clothes such as swimsuits, flip flops, tank tops, and shorts since it stays in the 90’s and high 80’s. It doesn’t get cold at night but it won’t hurt to throw in a pair of long pants or a light jacket as it does cool down when it rains. I still wear my normal dry season clothes everyday (shorts and tank tops) in the rainy season.
The South Pacific and Caribbean side are much more humid than the North Pacific, so bring some clothes that dry fast like Nike dri-fit. It’s difficult to hang dry clothes when it’s 90% humidity outside! I avoid jeans like the plague as it takes forever to dry.
The Mountains and Cloud/Rain Forest
If you’re visiting the mountains or cloud forests, you will need to bring long sleeve shirts, a sweater, closed toe shoes, socks and long pants. It gets quite chilly at night and when it rains so you’ll want to come prepared. The coldest temperatures in Costa Rica have been recorded at 15F (9C) at Chirripo National Park in the Talamanca Mountain Range.
Up in the cloud forests like Monteverde, it can get down to the 60’s F at night during rainy season! So make sure to bring a warm jacket and long pants. Other mountain areas that get cold are up in Bijagua, the mountain area around Turrialba like Santa Cruz, San Isidro de Perez Zeledon and Nuevo Arenal by the lake.
Make sure to bring rain gear for Arenal. Down by La Fortuna, it is normal to have sunny mornings and rainy afternoons and if you’re staying in the Nuevo Arenal area, it can rain much more.
The City (Central Valley like San Jose, Alajuela, Cartago and Heredia)
The city doesn’t get as cold as in the high mountains but it can get fairly cool. Bring long pants, a sweater, socks and closed toe shoes. The Central Valley area has a pretty comfortable climate all year long and during rainy season, you can snuggle up with a blanket and cup of hot chocolate or tea. At night, it can get around the 60’s.
If you go up in the mountains of the Central Valley like the Poas or Irazu area, it gets very cold as you’re higher in elevation. If you’re up in the mountains of Grecia, San Ramon, Zarcero, Atenas, a sweatshirt is a must!
Packing for Rainy Season in Costa Rica: Important Items to Bring
In addition to your standard Costa Rica packing list, here are some very important items to add to your rainy season packing list for Costa Rica. This will help keep all your electronics and personal items from getting ruined especially if you are caught in a rainstorm.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to bring waterproof equipment. We lost a brand new Canon camera when we got caught in a rainstorm while hiking with a supposedly waterproof backpack. After that, we got a real waterproof backpack.
These are the items that we personally use and vouch for. We wrote a review for every single one of the waterproof items we have and tested them to see exactly how good they were.
- AquaQuest Biker Backpack – This is a great backpack that works perfect for day trips and outdoor activities. In fact, I took this backpack with me all over Asia in rainy season, storing my laptop and electronics inside.
- AquaQuest Tote Backpack – This backpack is the ultimate backpack for the beach, water activities, day trips, sight seeing, sports, you name it. Although catered more towards water activities like kayaking and boating, we’ve used this backpack in all sorts of situations and it’s been better than we could have asked for.
- AquaQuest Cell Phone Case – This case is great for any phone the size of an iPhone 5 or smaller. And in case you’re wondering if it’s actually waterproof, it is. You can watch our video to see it for yourself.
- AquaQuest Laptop Case – When we use our own laptop to test for how waterproof a case is and end up recommending it, you know it’s good.
Yeison and I don’t have specific waterproof backpacks for our laptops so we always bring this Camelbak Rain Cover. Super useful if you don’t want to spend the extra money for a waterproof backpack and the yellow is nice and bright, easy to see at night and hard to lose.
Extremely useful when you need to wrap up dirty shoes, collect dirty or wet clothes or wrap your backpack or bag. I like to bring the big white garbage bags that have a drawstring and the normal grocery market bags for dirty clothes. Also great for extra protection for your electronics.
I stopped wearing hiking shoes in Costa Rica since my feet got so stuffy and uncomfortable with the heat and humidity. Unless you’re hiking Chirripo, Cerro Chato or Corcovado National Park, you don’t really need hiking shoes or boots.
Yeison and I both have a pair of KEEN sandals that we always wear when we’re doing outdoor adventures. During rainy season it is common for rainstorms to occur unexpectedly so having a high quality pair of hiking sandals makes it really easy to go from land to water and vice versa. Say goodbye to soggy socks!
For more advice, check our post on best shoes for Costa Rica.
Also useful for zipping up small electronics or things you don’t want to get wet, especially if you’re going boating or out in the water. Can never have too many, trust me.
A must have item. When Yeison and I went to Arenal for the first time, neither of us had rain jackets and we got beyond soaked to the bone. Bring a quality rain jacket, windbreaker or shell because you’ll need it. Yeison and I both adore our North Face Venture jackets and as someone who grew up in Washington state, I know North Face is an excellent brand for rain.
That being said, a poncho is not a bad idea either. In the beginning we got a couple ponchos at the dollar store but those were well, dollar quality. We ended up getting more heavy-duty ponchos like this one since we carry expensive camera equipment in our backpacks. Super useful if your rain jacket doesn’t fit over your backpack and your backpack isn’t waterproof!
Quick dry travel towel
I love love love my micro-fiber towel. It’s incredibly useful to have for any occasion, not just rain. Bring a light, quick dry towel so that when you do get caught in rainstorms, you can pull it out of your waterproof bag and dry off when under cover. Or use it as a beach towel and cover yourself when the rain starts. Or if you’re hiking in the national parks, use it to wipe the sweat off. So many uses for a microfiber travel towel.
You don’t want to be using your cell phone to look up Google Maps when it rains and it’s especially not useful if your paper one starts disintegrating from getting wet. Get a waterproof map instead.
During rainy season, it is common for the power to go out for hours at a time. At night, it can get a bit scary if you’re walking since not all street lights are brightly lit and it gets dark at 6 PM everyday. Bring a flashlight just in case and a headlamp is also super handy.
Any waterproof/water resistant clothing
I bought a pair of water resistant Columbia hiking pants and am obsessed with them. Yeison saw how much I liked them and he bought himself a pair for men. This pair isn’t the exact one we have but they are very similar, with the Omni-Shield built in.
It’s helpful to bring clothes that are quick dry or water resistant because majority of laundry places in Costa Rica don’t use dryers and it’ll be easier to dry when you’re at a hotel and don’t have access to a dryer. Clothes with that mildew humid smell is the worst!
Some optional items:
- Travel umbrella – An umbrella is pretty handy to have but it can be annoying to bring in your luggage since they take up space. Get a travel umbrella instead, they’re compact, fold up nicely and this one is particularly sturdy. You can also buy umbrellas at the supermarket.
- Rain boots – These take up a ton of room so it’s up to you if you want to bring them. You can buy cheap rain boots here if you plan to go to Tortuguero or Corcovado though, those trails are rugged and muddy in the rain! Some national parks or reserves have rain boots for rent. Tenorio Volcano National Park (Rio Celeste) has rain boots for rents for $5 as well as Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve.
- Extra battery pack – This is particularly useful anyways but because the power can go out occasionally during rainy season, you want to bring an extra battery pack just in case your electronics are dying before it comes back on. I always have mine fully charged just in case.
- A packing organizer – We love our PACK which is a incredibly handy packing organizer that cuts our packing time down immensely. It’s great for backpackers because you don’t have to rifle through all your things to find something. Get 20% off the organizer here
- A travel hair dryer. Hostels/cheap hotels don’t offer hair dryers in the rooms, only high end hotels have them. In rainy season or cold places, a travel hair dryer is useful.
When you’re visiting Costa Rica in rainy season, the most important thing to keep in mind when you are packing is to be prepared. Don’t ever take any chances because rain comes suddenly, unexpectedly, and it can come down hard.
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