Though majority of visitors want to see Costa Rica in all its sunny glory, there’s something magical about Costa Rica in rainy season. Visitors CAN still have an incredible time in Costa Rica during rainy season despite what you may have read, but there are some things to know so you come fully prepared.
Below is our guide to visiting Costa Rica in the rainy season, the Costa Rica rainy season months and our tips for a safe and fun trip.
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When is Costa Rica’s Rainy Season?
Rainy season in Costa Rica is generally beginning of May to end of November. Although there aren’t the four seasons in Costa Rica, rainy season is considered Costa Rica’s “winter.” The transition months from dry to rainy are April and May. The rainiest months in Costa Rica are September and October. November is the transition month from rainy to dry season. As Costa Rica has over 20 micro-climates, day and night time temperatures and the abundance of rain varies throughout the country.
Central Valley (San Jose, Heredia, Cartago, Alajuela)
In the city, during the day it is around high 70s F (26 C) and at night, it cools off to around 60-65 F (15-18 C). These are areas such as San Jose, Alajuela, Cartago and Heredia. If you go up to the mountains outside the city, it gets cooler, windier and tends to rain a bit more. This area can start to rain around end of March/beginning of April (sporadic rains in the evenings/nights).
Guanacaste Coast and Nicoya Peninsula
On the Northern Pacific coast (Guanacaste and Nicoya Peninsula), it is much drier. It is still very hot, around mid 80s F (30 C) and very humid. It doesn’t really start raining hard constantly until about August/September and it is mostly cloudy in mornings, rainy in afternoons and nights. As transition months, May and June may see off and on random rains and is usually very cloudy and humid.
Central and South Pacific Coast (Jaco, Manuel Antonio, Costa Ballena, Osa Peninsula)
For the Central and South Pacific coast (Jaco/Manuel Antonio/ Dominical, Uvita, Ojochal/Osa Peninsula), this area is very humid and tends to rain more. Average temperatures are around mid 80s F (29 C). This part of the Pacific coast can start seeing rains around beginning of April but it can also rain during dry season being the proper tropical rainforest.
Mountaineous Areas (Monteverde, San Isidro de Perez Zeledon, San Gerardo de Dota, etc.)
In the mountainous areas such as Monteverde, San Isidro de Perez Zeledon, Bajos del Toro, Poasito, San Vito and San Gerardo de Dota, it is much colder. Daytime temperatures are around low to mid 70s F (21-23 C) and cools off at night to low 60s F (15-16 C). It can get even colder if it’s windy. San Gerardo de Dota can get even colder, down to 50 F (10 C) at night.
Caribbean coast (Limon province)
On the Caribbean coast, 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. October is usually their summer month.
Temperatures During Costa Rica’s Rainy Season
Average day time temperatures in Costa Rica don’t vary too much throughout the year, even between the dry and rainy seasons. In rainy season, it does cool off a little tiny bit but you get very high humidity in return. For more information, you can our Costa Rica’s weather post.
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Now let’s get into why you should visit during Costa Rica’s 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 (Islas Murcielago), is only accessible during the 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. Thousands of turtles come onto shore to lay their eggs during arribadas! In Tortuguero, another excellent destination for turtles, the nesting season is May – November.
Whales and dolphins
If you want to see whales, good news! Costa Rica has a long humpback whale season and the best months are August and September. In Uvita, they hold the whale and dolphin festival in August since it’s such a good time to see whales.
There are several places in Costa Rica for whale watching such as Drake Bay, Manuel Antonio, Gulf of Nicoya, Golfo Dulce and Marino Ballena National Park in Uvita. We have even seen humpback and pilot whales in the Gulf of Papagayo and near the Catalinas Islands by Flamingo beach.
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.
This is typical for areas such as Guanacaste, Nicoya Peninsula and even the mountainous areas.
Save Money During Costa Rica’s Rainy Season
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/green season, high is dry season and peak is during Christmas/New Years and Semana Santa (Easter week).
Low season rates can be a good amount less than high season. For example, a hotel that is normally $100 USD a night in high season may be $80 USD a night in low season. Same goes for car rentals. Additionally, some tour companies or restaurants may run promos in the lowest months of September and October. When we visited Manuel Antonio in October, a ton of restaurants had 30-50% off their entire menu (cash only).
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. August is also high travel season on the Caribbean coast.
The cheapest times to travel in Costa Rica are the shoulder months of May, June, September and October.
Rivers and Waterfalls are Fuller During Costa Rica Rainy Season
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 jungle 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.
But Keep in Mind…
However, one downfall to visiting waterfalls in rainy season is the color and extreme weather conditions. 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.
Another downside is that during the peak rainy season months, it may be storming so the rivers may get too full. In those situations, it will be too stormy to run rafting or tubing tours so those tours will cancel. This can happen more during August, September, October and November.
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.
Tips for Visiting Costa Rica in Rainy Season
Consider visiting destinations that are not far from the international airports in Costa Rica. That way you don’t need to worry about driving long distances in the rain.
If you are really concerned about rain, consider rescheduling your trip to the dry season (December to April). If you can’t reschedule, then consider visiting the Caribbean coast if you will be coming in October and the Guanacaste/Nicoya Peninsula for May through August as those are the drier areas in the country.
- Schedule your activities in the morning. In rainy season, it is generally sunny and dry in the morning and rainy in the late afternoon and nights
- Check Facebook or Instagram accounts of the tour you’re doing, hotels you booked and places you’re visiting. They may post updates on conditions.
- You don’t necessarily need to pre-book all your activities if you want to wait and see how the weather is.
- Bring mosquito repellent. Mosquitoes are absolutely awful in rainy season. Read our post about our favorite bug repellents for Costa Rica. This is one of our favorite DEET free mosquito repellents.
- Pack accordingly. Be prepared for sudden rain so bring waterproof gear. We never leave without our waterproof backpacks! Read our complete guide to packing for Costa Rica during rainy season.
- Always have your light weight rain jacket with you. A small travel umbrella is a good idea too.
- Don’t forget sunscreen. Even if it’s cloudy, the sun is still strong.
- Get our Costa Rica packing list with rainy season tips here!
- We don’t recommend to drive long routes in the late afternoon/night during rainy season because it tends to rain more at night. If your flight lands after 3-4 PM and your next destination is 3 hours way, stay a night near the airport and then leave early the next morning. Remember that it gets dark by 6 PM everyday in Costa Rica. Find out what other things to know about Costa Rica before you go here!
- If you plan on renting a car, rent a GPS or use Waze/Google Maps on your phone. It’s pretty hard to see road signs when it’s pouring rain. The last thing you want to happen is to get lost or stuck in a thunderstorm. We also recommend to get a Costa Rican prepaid SIM card so you can make phone calls in case of emergency. Get our Costa Rica car rental discount here!
- When using GPS, do not take the shortest route or that detour. 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.
- Rent a 4×4/4wd if you plan to explore, are staying up in the mountains or staying in places outside the main tourist zones.
- In some areas, the power may go out during rain or thunderstorms. Bring a battery pack to always keep your phone charged. A headlamp or flashlight will also come in handy.
Costa Rica Rainy Season By Month
Although tropical weather is more unpredictable, here is a general breakdown. Costa Rica is also affected by the El Niño y La Niña events which may influence how much it rains and when the rainy season starts/ends for the year. In Costa Rica, El Niño tends to bring drier weather with a later rainy season.
Although April is *technically* dry season, the weather generally starts to transition around mid April. It may rain in places like the Central Valley, La Fortuna or South Pacific and some North Pacific coast places may start getting cloudier and get a random rain here or there.
Because of this, around mid to end of April, it will get extremely humi.
What the weather is like in Costa Rica in May: May is our shoulder and transition month. It may rain off and on sporadically and some days may be rainier than others in the rainforest and mountain areas. Days are still hot, though cloudy and humid. It may rain very hard for 10 minutes and then be super sunny for the rest of the afternoon.
What it’s like to travel Costa Rica in June: June is about the same as May but the rains may become more common. 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 cloudy days 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.
There are also many possibilities of big storms in October and when it storms in Costa Rica, it storms good. In 2018, the Guanacaste coast was hit by a tropical storm in October. Roads flooded, people got stuck. This is a great reason why you should purchase travel insurance for your trip if you plan to visit during rainy season. Travel delays and cancellations can be common.
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 rain here and there beginning of December but by the end of December, it’s not common to have the super 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 or weather becomes dangerous 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.
Enjoy the rain! We absolutely love sitting on our covered balcony with a hot cup of tea or coffee, watching the rain fall while listening to the thunder. We also love seeing the crazy lightning storms.
Be Prepared for Costa Rica Rainy Season
Whether you visit Costa Rica during May, July or October, the most important thing is to be prepared for rainy season. Bring appropriate gear, schedule your activities in the morning, don’t plan to drive long routes in the late afternoons and after dark and consider planning an itinerary that doesn’t go to very rural/remote places if you can’t rent a 4wd.
Costa Rica Vacation Checklist
- First time to Costa Rica? Read our First Time in Costa Rica guide.
- Not sure how to move around Costa Rica? Read our How to Get Around Costa Rica guide to find the best transportation method for you.
- Click the link to get our detailed Costa Rica Packing List so you know what essential items to bring.
- Do not forget to purchase Travel Insurance for your trip to Costa Rica.
- Stay connected by purchasing a prepaid SIM Card in Costa Rica.
- Save money with Mytanfeet Deals for tours and hotels. Save more money with our Costa Rica Car Rental Discount.