If you’re visiting Costa Rica during rainy season, the most important thing about preparing for your trip is to pack properly. Tropical weather is no joke and the rain can come suddenly and quickly so it is important to bring the proper gear to protect yourself and your gear.
Therefore, if you’re visiting Costa Rica during the rainy season, check our rainy season packing list post to see the essential items to bring.
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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/end a little sooner or a little later. Also, some places may rain more than others. There are over 25 micro-climates in Costa Rica so the weather can vary quite a bit.
The peak rainy season months for most of the country is October. September is also fairly rainy as well, particularly during La Niña years. However, on the Caribbean coast, October is their summer month due to their different climate pattern.
If you’re visiting mid April or mid December, still be aware that it may rain, especially for places up in the mountains or in the rainforest. These are places like San Vito, Bijagua, Uvita, La Fortuna, Osa Peninsula and Bajos del Toro.
Read more about Costa Rica weather in our post.
Average Temperatures during Costa Rica’s Rainy Season
The average day time and night time temperatures during rainy season in Costa Rica does not vary greatly from dry season. It normally cools off just a few degrees.
On the coasts, average day time temperatures are around low to mid 80s F (26 – 29 C). Average night time temperatures are around mid 70s F (23 C).
In the mountains and in high elevation areas, temperatures are much lower. In places like Irazu, San Gerardo de Dota , Poas, Vara Blanca, and San Isidro de Perez Zeledon, night time temperatures can go down to low 60s F (15 C) and colder if it is very windy. Day time temperatures are around low 70s F (21 C).
What to Know About Costa Rica’s Rainy Season
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. Then it’ll stop raining and be super clear and sunny for an hour. And then start raining again a few hours later in the night.
Generally in rainy season, it’s sunny in the morning and rainy in the late afternoon and evening.
Rainy season in Costa Rica is not as if someone just turned the faucet on on May 1st. It is a gradual transition from dry to rainy with on and off, spontaneous random rains and then can get more constant rains in late afternoons and nights the further into rainy season it is. If there is a tropical storm or hurricane in other parts of the world, it will also affect Costa Rica and mornings may be dark and rainy.
Rain in Costa Rica Video
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.
This rain lasted about 20 minutes and then stopped. It started back up again about an hour later which is typical rainy season weather. It’ll be super sunny one minute, pouring down the next, then sunny again.
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.
- Guanacaste (Tamarindo, Papagayo Peninsula, Samara, Nosara, Liberia, La Cruz): this is is the driest area. In May, it starts getting super cloudy and humid. June can get more rainy in the afternoons and nights. Then in July it’ll get hot and dry for a few weeks. In August, it’ll start getting more cloudy with few off and on showers. By September and October, it’ll start having more consistent rains, mostly in late afternoon, evenings and nights.
- Nicoya Peninsula (Montezuma, Tambor, Paquera, Santa Teresa, Mal Pais): Their weather is very similar to Guanacaste’s weather, very dry and hot in dry season.
- Central Pacific (Jaco, Manuel Antonio): Experiences typical rainy season days with sunny mornings and cloudy/rainy afternoons. Very humid. This area can quite hard August – beginning of December at night.
- 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 quite a bit, usually afternoons and nights.
- Central Valley: This area follows the May-December rainy season and it rains hard in the city. It usually starts raining mid to end of April.
- La Fortuna: Follows a typical weather season but can rain in April. Rains hard July – November and can on and off during the rain.
- Monteverde: This area is up in the cloud forests at nearly 2000 meters in elevation. Clouds roll in and out all throughout the year with constant spring showers in dry season.
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 packing list 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. 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 mosquitoes are very bad on the coasts during rainy season. 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 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 or warm jacket, 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!
Make sure to bring a warm jacket, socks, warm hat and long warm pants. Other mountain areas that get cold are up in Bijagua, the mountain area around Turrialba like Santa Cruz, San Isidro de Perez Zeledon, San Gerardo de Dota, Cerro de la Muerte, Poas and Nuevo Arenal by the lake.
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.
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.
Waterproof Backpack and bags
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, one from Aqua Quest.
If you are doing any aquatic outdoor activities like boating, snorkeling, fishing, or waterfall hikes, then you should bring waterproof bags or dry bags to protect your stuff.
Plastic bags, ziploc bag
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.
Ziploc bags are a quick and easy way to protect your stuff from sand and water. Can never bring too many!
If you are doing light outdoor activities, closed toed hiking sandals or waterproof trail running shoes are the best shoes in the rainy season.
Yeison and I both have a pair of KEEN sandals that are excellent for tubing and rafting. The sandals let your feet breathe and say goodbye to nasty soggy socks! For hikes, we both love our Salomon waterproof trail running shoes. These shoes are amazing!
For more advice, check our post on best shoes for Costa Rica.
A must have item. And a real, waterproof rain jacket. The best one is a shell because it is very humid in Costa Rica. A shell is light and usually have the armpit vents to lets air flowers through. Yeison and I both adore our North Face Venture shells.
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 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 for tropical weather. When you get caught in rainstorms, use it to dry off when under cover. Or if you’re hiking in the national parks, use it to wipe the sweat off. So many uses for a microfiber travel towel.
During rainy season, it is common for the power to go out. Sometimes for a minute, sometimes for longer. However, many streets do not have street lamps or are very very dimly lit, this is especially apparent in rural areas. Bring a small powerful flashlight just in case. A headlamp is also super handy. Remember, it gets dark by 6 PM everyday.
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. I also have a pair of Arc’teryx water resistant pants that are fantastic and very light.
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. Furthermore, it is very humid in Costa Rica all year long so you will sweat a LOT. If you don’t have access to a laundromat, bring some dryer sheets so that your dirty clothes don’t stink up your luggage too bad.
Some optional items
- Travel umbrella: Get a small travel umbrella to save space.
- Extra battery pack: This is particularly useful because the power can go out occasionally during rainy season in rural areas. A extra battery pack will make sure your phone will have plenty of battery.
- Travel organizing cubes. So helpful!
- A travel hair dryer. Hostels/cheap hotels and vacation rentals don’t always offer hair dryers. In rainy season, a folding travel hair dryer is useful especially when visiting colder destinations.