Though majority of visitors want to see Costa Rica in all its sunny glory, there’s something magical about Costa Rica in rainy season that isn’t there in dry season.
If you’re worried about visiting Costa Rica in rainy season, don’t. Even if it rains, you will still have an incredible time here and you’ll still get that full jungle experience.
Not convinced yet? Here are our reasons why travelers should visit Costa Rica in rainy season (or green season as it’s otherwise known as). Take it from Yeison, a local and me, a Washingtonian girl yearning to escape the rain. “Winter” in Costa Rica is still every bit the pura vida tropical paradise as it is in summer. Here are 6 reasons why you should visit Costa Rica in rainy season.
Click the section to skip to it. This post has been updated April 2019.
- When is rainy season?
- Wildlife watching
- Green green green!
- Save money
- Waterfalls and rivers
- Cooler temperatures
- Less crowds
- Tips for visiting
- Best things to do
When is Costa Rica Rainy Season?
First, let’s talk about when is the Costa Rican rainy season.
Rainy season in Costa Rica is beginning of May to end of November. The rainiest months in Costa Rica are September – November. As Costa Rica has over 20 micro-climates, temperatures vary throughout the country.
- In the Central Valley, during the day it is around low to mid 70s F (21-23 C) and at night, it cools off to around 65 F (17-18 C). These are areas such as San Jose, Alajuela, Cartago and Heredia. If you go up to the mountains, it gets cooler and tends to rain a bit more.
- On the Pacific coast (Guanacaste and Nicoya Peninsula), it is much drier. It is very hot at around low to mid 90s (32-35 C) and humid.
- For the Central and South Pacific coast (Jaco/Manuel Antonio/ Costa Ballena/Osa Peninsula), this area is very humid and tends to rain more. Average temperatures are around mid 80s (29 C).
- In the mountainous areas such as Monteverde, San Isidro de Perez Zeledon and San Gerardo de Dota, it is much cooler. Temperatures are around low to mid 70s F (21-23 C) during the day and cools off at night to low 60s (15-16 C).
- The Caribbean side for Tortuguero and Puerto Viejo follows a different weather pattern. The rainiest months normally are June and November but this area can rain any time of the year.
When it comes down to it, rainy season in Costa Rica is not as bad as people expect or think it is. Average temperatures in areas like the Central Valley don’t vary too much from January to August. You can read more about Costa Rica’s weather here. Now let’s get into why you should visit Costa Rica in rainy season!
Wildlife Watching Galore
Although you can see wildlife in Costa Rica any time of the year, there are certain times where you can witness natural phenomenons that only happen during rainy season. Wildlife watching during Costa Rica rainy season is excellent when it comes to marine wildlife.
One of the best scuba diving spots in Costa Rica, the Bat Islands, is only accessibly during rainy season (May – November). The islands have an extremely healthy and large population of bull sharks and manta rays.
If seeing turtles is high on your bucket list, then you must visit Costa Rica in rainy season. Ostional Wildlife Refuge experiences a mass gathering of nesting turtles (called arribadas) during this time of year.
These arribadas are best in September, October and November. The shore becomes so full of turtles it is hard to walk! In Tortuguero, another excellent destination for turtles, the nesting season is May – November right during rainy season. Additionally, if you go boating you may see turtles mating in the water!
If you’re more of a mammal lover, then you can’t miss the humpback whales. Costa Rica has a long humpback whale season and the best months are August and September. In Uvita, they hold the festival of whales and dolphins where they have promos on whale watching tours.
It’s So Green!
There’s a reason why they say green is nature’s color and makes people feel refreshed and calm. When we lived in Playas del Coco, we would go months and months without a drop of rain meaning all the grass and hills were yellow and dry like a desert. But as soon as we got a few good hard rains, Coco transformed into this lush, verdant beach town.
Colorful flowers blossomed overnight, grass turned moist and lavish and you could almost hear the trees sigh with relief. Everyone who lives in Coco prays for rain, completely opposite of what the tourists wish for and when it does, we are elated and thankful.
Talk to a Tico during dry season and they’ll express how much they can’t wait for the rains to come, especially the farmers. As agriculture and farming is an important part of the industry, rain is essential to their livelihood. Costa Rica in rainy season is unbelievably green!
Whenever we talk to travelers who have only been to Costa Rica in dry season, they are shocked to hear how green it gets as this is their normal view in Guanacaste.
If you’re planning on traveling in Costa Rica on a budget, rainy season is definitely the best time to visit. Hotels in Costa Rica normally have three different seasonal rates: low, high and peak. Low is rainy season (or green season), high is dry season and peak is during Christmas/New Years and Semana Santa (Easter week).
Low season rates can be as much as $30-50 less, car rental rates are significantly lower and restaurants and tour companies offer special deals. If you plan on getting your scuba diving certification, rainy season is a great time to do it since it is also cheaper in most places.
Be aware that mid-summer break in July (second week of the month) is considered high season due to North America summer vacation. When we traveled to La Fortuna with my parents, it was hard to find hotels since many of them were full and prices were normal like high season.
Rivers and Waterfalls are Fuller
Water levels are much lower during dry season and water sports such as rafting and tubing aren’t quite as exciting. We’ve gone white water rafting and white water tubing in both dry and rainy season and we have to say hands down, rainy season is way more fun! The rapids are much more thrilling to raft through with gushing waters and dark green jungles surrounding you.
Same with tubing. With low water levels you don’t bounce around nearly as much as rainy season when the rivers are full. Still fun in dry season but definitely more in rainy!
Likewise, waterfalls are normally drier and smaller in dry season, especially in Guanacaste and Nicoya Peninsula. During rainy season, the waterfalls fill up! There’s nothing more breathtaking than seeing a huge waterfall dropping from a tall cliff. It’s not quite as impressive when it’s a tiny stream.
However, one downfall to visiting waterfalls in rainy season is the color. La Fortuna waterfall is actually a pretty bright green/blue but in the photo it looks grey. The color change is due to the sediment and dirt run off from the rain. Keep this in mind if you plan to visit Rio Celeste, when it’s raining very hard, it may not be the beautiful sky blue color.
We all love sunny days and clear skies but sometimes (and I mean many times), it can get way too hot. Guanacaste and Nicoya Peninsula are two of the hottest areas in Costa Rica and it stays in the high 90s and 100s (36-38 C) for weeks on end. Roads get super dusty, the air is stale and dry and it is just damn hot.
The first few rains make the air very humid but when rainy season is underway, temperatures drop a bit. One of our favorite things to do is to lay on our hammock either at the beach to watch the sunset or on our balcony, listening to the raindrops.
Enjoy Beaches All to Yourself
Rainy season means less tourists and Yeison and I have had beautiful beaches all to ourselves many times during this time of year. Even places that are normally very busy like Manuel Antonio empty out once September and October roll around.
Rent a car, explore and you can find beautiful beaches all to yourself! It’s one of the best parts about the Costa Rica rainy season.
A Few Extra Reasons
- You will experience the typical humid tropical climate and you’ll really feel like you’re in the jungle!
- You can see intense lightning storms. I have never seen such crazy lightning strikes before!
- If you’re a scuba diver, some of the best sites are only accessible in rainy season or have the best visibility during that time.
Tips for Visiting Costa Rica in Rainy Season
- In rainy season, it is generally sunny and dry in the morning and rainy in the late afternoon and nights.
- Schedule all your activities in the morning.
- Consider visiting destinations that are not far from the international airports in Costa Ricainternational airports in Costa Rica. That way you don’t need to worry about driving long distances in the rain.
- You don’t necessarily need to pre-book all your activities if you want to wait and see how the weather is.
- Check Facebook pages of the tour you’re doing, hotels you booked and places you’re visiting. They may post updates on conditions.
- Bring mosquito repellent. Mosquitoes are absolutely awful in rainy season so bring repellent and reapply often! Read our post about our favorite bug repellents for Costa Rica.
- Pack accordingly. Be prepared for sudden rain so it’s best to bring waterproof gear. We never leave without our Aqua Quest backpacks! Read our complete guide to packing for Costa Rica during rainy season.
- Always have your rainjacket with you.
- Don’t forget sunscreen. Even if it’s cloudy, the sun is still strong. Here’s our sunscreen recommendations.
- If you plan on renting a car, rent a GPS or use Waze on your phone. It’s pretty hard to see road signs when it’s pouring rain and the last thing you want to happen is to get lost or stuck in a thunderstorm.
- When using GPS, do not take the shortest route or that detour “shortcut.” Most of the time, it is through an unpaved road. If you miss a turn, go back to the main road. Always take the paved route and check road conditions.
- Don’t long distances at night because it rains and thunders the most at night time.
- Rent a 4×4 if you’re going to rural areas. These are places like Monteverde and Osa Peninsula.
- In some areas, the power may go out during rain or thunderstorms. Bring a battery pack to keep your phone charged. A headlamp or flashlight will also come in handy if you’re staying in rural areas or hostels.
Costa Rica Rainy Season Months
The weather app will always say it’s raining, thundering and lightning here in Costa Rica rainy season. Don’t listen to the weather forecast! My best tip is to check the location tag on Instagram and Facebook to see the photos people upload in real time.
Although April is in dry season, it may still rain. It’s still very hot but if you’re visiting Costa Rica at the end of April, it may rain in the high elevation areas, Central Valley or South Pacific. Can get cloudy on the coasts.
What the weather is like in Costa Rica in May: May is our shoulder and transition month. It may rain off and on sporadically. Days are still hot, though cloudy.
What it’s like to travel Costa Rica in June: June is about the same as May. Sporadic rains get a bit more common. It may rain very hard for 10 minutes and then be super sunny for the rest of the afternoon. Tends to rain more on the Caribbean coast in June.
What it’s like to travel Costa Rica in July: July has what the locals call “little summer.” This little summer is around mid-July and the weather tends to dry up, as if it’s dry season. It even has clear blue skies and little humidity. Although it can still rain in July in the rainforest areas, it is generally drier and a great month to visit Costa Rica.
What it’s like to travel Costa Rica in August: It starts going back to the typical rainy day with sunny mornings and cloudy afternoons. Rain can start picking up more in the afternoons and nights and more often towards mid to end of August. Starts to rain more in the rainforest and cloud forests.
What the weather like in Costa Rica September: September is the start of the rainiest months in Costa Rica. Expect more cloud and rainy afternoons and nights. Starts to dry up in the Caribbean. September and October tend to be the coldest months in Costa Rica.
What it’s like to travel Costa Rica in October: This is the driest month for the Caribbean side but the worst for the rest of the country. Expect sudden rain storms during the day and it may rain late into the night. On the Pacific coast you will still get dry but cloudy mornings but by afternoon, it’ll start raining. In 2018, the Guanacaste coast was hit by a tropical storm in October!
What it’s like to travel Costa Rica in November: Still expect a good amount of rain throughout the country. Starts transitioning to dry season but can still rain in the afternoons and nights in the higher elevation areas. The coast will have hard rains at night. At the end of November 2017, the Costa Rica Northern Coast got hit by Hurricane Otto, the first hurricane since 1996.
What it’s like to travel Costa Rica in December: Beginning of December is very nice as it is drying up. It can still sprinkle here and there beginning of December but by the end of December, it’s not common to have hard rains. It usually gets very windy in December throughout the Central Valley and North Pacific coast. If there is a cold front up north in the Atlantic, the Central Valley will also be affected.
Best Things to do in Costa Rica Rainy Season
- Fishing in Costa Rica is generally very good in rainy season, especially for mahi mahi and tuna.
- White water rafting and tubing: Rivers are fuller like I mentioned before so it’s a lot more fun! Take note if you’re visiting September – November though the weather may get too crazy. Tour companies will cancel rafting tours if the rivers are too full so if you visit those months, be aware that it may happen.
- Coffee tours: The coffee harvest season starts around September to December/January so you can see the entire picking, separating and processing procedure.
- Museums: On a rainy afternoon in San Jose, you can visit the indoor museums and Central Market.
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