As I write this article, I’m happy for a reason that may seem odd to you. It’s raining outside. Here in the province of Guanacaste, rain is very much welcome. Our dry season is longer than the rest of the country and we constantly have water shortages, not to mention that it looks like a desert.
Which is why rainy season in Costa Rica is a magical time. Plants and flowers flourish, more animals come out and everything starts turning lush and green again.
It’s like the beginning of spring after a long winter.
I know many visitors want to come to Costa Rica during dry season so that they don’t run into any rain, but there’s something special about green season that many people miss out on. Depending on the month you come, your days may indeed be filled with rain and thunderstorms but it’s another aspect of the country most people miss. You’ll have unique experiences you’ll never forget. (Read our post “6 reasons you should visit Costa Rica in the rainy season.“)
So when you are packing for your trip to Costa Rica in the rainy season, it’s best to come prepared as the weather changes drastically throughout the country.
What’s rainy season like in Costa Rica?
You can get idea of how hard it rains in Costa Rica in this video. This was taken in Playas del Coco in Guanacaste a couple years ago in May.
Do keep in mind that the Caribbean side doesn’t follow the straight May-November rainy season in Costa Rica. It actually rains throughout the year with October being the driest month.
Guanacaste is the driest area, with a shorter rainy season. While all the rest of the country is dealing with floods in May and June, Guanacaste is still hot and dry. It generally doesn’t start raining hard and consistently until July/August with few showers and sprinkles in April, May and June.
The Central Valley follows the May-November rainy season fairly to the point and it rains hard in the city.
You can read more about the weather in Costa Rica here.
Tips for Packing 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 for my rain jacket if it’s raining.
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!
The Mountains and Cloud/Rain Forest
If you’re visiting the mountains, 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 as cold as 5o-60F and even lower if it rains! So make sure to bring a warm jacket and long pants. In the Arenal rain forest area, it gets chilly as well and rains hard. If you’re staying in the Nuevo Arenal area or around the lake, it gets pretty cold at night. We’ve visited Arenal in July three different times and it always poured!
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 does get pretty chilly. 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. A sweatshirt is a must!
Important Items to Bring
In addition to your standard packing list, here are some very important items to bring. 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 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. Look for ones that are waterproof or water resistant so you can jump off waterfalls, go horseback riding and go river rafting all without changing your shoes.
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
A super useful thing to have that I wished we had earlier. 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. 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. We like this flashlight because it’s also waterproof and a headlamp is also really useful.
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.
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 but you’ll see most Costa Ricans (and expats) don’t wear them unless they plan to go out to the farm or something. Bring rain boots if you plan to go to Tortuguero or Corcovado though, those trails are rugged and muddy in the rain!
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.
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
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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