Best Time to Visit Costa Rica
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Best Time to Visit Costa Rica
When visiting Costa Rica, the winter and spring months consist of the dry season, offering sunny skies and plenty of rain-free days in which you can enjoy the variety of activities, wildlife, and scenery that has made Costa Rica one of the most popular countries in Central America. Instead of four seasons, such as autumn, winter, spring, and summer, Costa Rica hosts two distinct seasons, consisting of dry and rainy.
The rain across the country keeps the forests emerald green and the animals around the canopy. Even in the rainy season, the showers pause and provide stunning visions of Costa Rica’s natural beauty with temperatures that vary by region. The thick forests along the Eastern shores of the Caribbean Sea have high humidity rates that are similar to the Northern Plains with temperatures that consistently range between the 70s and high 80s Fahrenheit. However, the North Pacific has a lower rate of humidity with temperatures that often reach the high 90s Fahrenheit. San Jose and the greater Central Valley hosts an eternal spring with temperatures that typically remain in the low to upper 70s Fahrenheit throughout the year.
Peak travel season for the entirety of Costa Rica takes place in January, which is during the dry season, and when locals and tourists eagerly enjoy Christmas, New Years, clear skies, and fabulous landscapes. Passing humpback whales along the Pacific and returning leatherback, green, hawksbill, and Olive Ridley sea turtles can frequently be spotted during this season.
The rainy season in Costa Rica is typically referred to as the “wet season” or the “green season,” and generally takes place between May and November with the rainiest months belonging to September and October. The dry season is the ideal season for travelers in Costa Rica, but the rainy season offers plenty of rewards beyond the endless greenery, such as active wildlife and smaller crowds across the country. Normally, visitors during the rainy season experience bright, sunny mornings and afternoon showers, which provide a balance of early excursions and afternoons of relaxation. Sea turtles linger along both coasts during the wet months of July and August, and humpback whale pods stay for long periods of time within the warm waters of the Golfo Dulce.
Best Time for Families
The best time to visit Costa Rica for families is between December and April or July and August.
When visiting Costa Rica as a family during the dry season between December to April, you can expect plenty of sunshine and fascinating wildlife that are perfect for both beachgoers and jungle-adventurers. Whether seeking thrills in the spectacular rainforest or finding time to snorkel and paddleboard along the golden shores of the Pacific, your family can indulge in the diverse splendors for which Costa Rica is known, including searching for waddling green turtles along the coast or discovering soaring quetzals in the misty cloud forests.
Visiting Costa Rica as a family between July and August offers your family a unique view of Costa Rica that is steeped in jade foliage and creates a pocket of dryness that renders what locals call El Veranillo, meaning “little summer,” which also actively changes from year to year. The clear mornings and typical rainy afternoons that are present during this time create a great schedule for families to partake in rumbling rapids or to uncover lavish wildlife that consists of howler monkeys, migrating whales, or nesting sea turtles.
Best Time for Couples
The best times for couples to visit Costa Rica is during July and August and again between December and January.
Couples can enrich their relationship with a romantic escape to Costa Rica in July and August during El Veranillo, or “little summer,” which is when the sunlight creates a gap in the green season. While the exact days of the little summer in July and August vary by year, the weather in these months remains warm and comfortable, while smaller crowds mean more opportunities for secluded romance from the Cloud Forest of Monteverde to the isolated beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park. July and August are also great months to search for the sensational wildlife of Costa Rica, including scarlet macaws, spider monkeys, and toucans.
When visiting Costa Rica as a couple between late December and January, you are nearly guaranteed pleasant weather during the peak of the dry season because the foliage of the Guanacaste region turns golden and the flora of the rainforest terrain retains its emerald sheen. Less rain offers more opportunities for exciting, romantic excursions and couple’s outings that take you from the white sands of Playa Conchal to the mangrove forests of the Osa Peninsula.
Best Time for Monteverde Cloud Forest
The best time to visit Monteverde Cloud Forest is between December and May during the dry season.
Monteverde and the Cloud Forest are located in the highlands at a peak altitude of 5,900 feet above sea level with 100 percent humidity on which the foliage thrives. During the dry months from December to May, you have the best opportunities for traversing the winding hiking trails and trekking through the landscape in search of the elusive, famous resplendent quetzal. The wet season takes place between May to October, and downpours take place mostly during the evening, giving way to sun-soaked mornings.
During the rainy season, the coastal winds and thick mist rise up the slopes to the summits of the Tilaráns, which often results in the local authorities closing the trails. No matter the season in Monteverde, the Cloud Forest contains its marvels and can be experienced in the form of horseback riding excursions, coffee plantation tours, biological reserve hikes, riding the sky tram, and soaring through the canopy on a zipline.
Best Time for Beaches
The best time for beaches in Costa Rica is between late December and early April during the dry season.
Manuel Antonio Beach
The beaches of Costa Rica are defined by the greater majesty of the country’s microclimate and separated by the Continental Divide that acts as a boundary between the unique weather on the West coast versus the Eastern shoreline. The diverse sands and varied waters along the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea attract visitors year-round from around the world who are eager to bask on the edge of tranquil waters in both dry and wet season. The beaches are complete with rugged coves that are surrounded by tropical rainforest and creamy white sands that are shaded by rows of palm trees.
The dry season promises the best access to sunlight for beachgoers in Costa Rica while also providing significant warmth along the sandy shores of the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Some of the most noteworthy beaches in Costa Rica are the beaches from the Nicoya Peninsula in the north, the Corcovado Peninsula in the south, the soft sands of Tortuguero in the east, and the secluded, lapping waves along Cahuita. Overall, the dry season between December and April embodies the best weather for visiting the beaches of Costa Rica.
- Manuel Antonio Beach, Manuel Antonio National Park
- Tamarindo Beach, Guanacaste
- Nacascolo Beach, Papagayo Peninsula
- Dominical Beach, South Pacific
- Manzanillo Beach, Southern Caribbean Coast
Best Time for Ziplining
The best time for ziplining in Costa Rica is between July and August or December and April.
When ziplining in Costa Rica in July or August, the bordering green season ensures that there is active wildlife around the forest canopy, allowing you to view sleeping sloths, hunting harpy eagles, or white-headed capuchin monkeys. The pocket of summer that is nestled between rainier months of June and September also offers sunshine throughout the day for a drier, clearer ziplining experience. If you are visiting Costa Rica during the rainy season and plan on ziplining, the mornings tend to have little to no rain before the afternoon and nightly showers.
December to April is also an excellent time for ziplining in Costa Rica with the summer months consisting of little to no rain for bright and expansive views beneath the forest canopy. The reputation of visiting Costa Rica and the popularity of ziplining remains prevalent during summer, reflecting the regard visitors have for flying across the forest canopy for marvelous views of scenery and wildlife.
Best Time for Hiking
The best time for hiking in Costa Rica is during September and October or again between December and January.
September and October are the heart of the wet season in Costa Rica but wildlife spotting during the green season is at its best for ample opportunities for viewing passing whales, burrowing turtles, or howler and capuchin monkeys. The landscape glimmers with greenery and waterfalls gush across the country, while the weather remains cooler during the rainy periods. During the wet season, it often rains in the afternoon or at night, making the cool, drier mornings perfect for following trails.
December and January are peak dry season, providing excellent access to all of Costa Rica’s most popular trails. Depending on the region in which you travel, the weather can reach hot and humid temperatures by the late afternoon, but you do not have to worry about rain dampening your discovery of hidden corners of Costa Rica.
The best time for bird watching in Costa Rica takes place from May to September.
Rather than visit Costa Rica during the drier months, birders have a better chance of spotting incredible avifauna during the shoulder season when the crowds in the famous national parks have diminished, creating better conditions for both bird watchers and the birds when visiting the more popular Pacific side of the country. When visiting the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, the best time for bird watching takes place in August, September, and October, which is when the rain lessens but the food supply remains consistent because of the moisture that supports the growth of fruit, insects, and reptiles. The best destinations for birdwatching in Costa Rica include:
- La Selva Biological Station
- Cerro de la Muerte
- Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary
- Monteverde Cloud Forest
- Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge
Costa Rican iguana in the Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge
Best Time for Surfing
The best time for surfing in Costa Rica is between May through September and again from December to April.
The sandy beaches and consistent swells along the coasts of Costa Rica have made it a popular destination for surfers of both vast experience and those who are just learning to catch a wave. The water temperatures average in the low 80 degrees Fahrenheit with surfers, the coastline, and towns along the shore all possessing a relaxing ambiance that enhances the thrilling opportunity to ride the breaks on the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. With over 801 miles of coastline, Costa Rica boasts incredible wave breaks and safe swells that result in waves on which beginners can learn and surfing experts chase.
Surfing in Costa Rica is great throughout the year without a specific season, but visiting Costa Rica during the months of May to September offers the best opportunities for consistently large swells on the Pacific coast, while December through April provides quality surf due to the frequent offshore winds. The Caribbean coast has less predictable waves but features great swells during winter or hurricane season, which occur further north along the coast of North America. The following list offers a collection of beaches across Costa Rica for surfers of all skill level.
The best beaches for Beginner Surfers:
1. Playa Tamarindo
2. Playa Guiones
3. Playa Los Cedros
4. Playa Jaco
5. Punta Uva
The best beaches for Intermediate Surfers:
1. Playa Grande
2. Playa Manzanillo
The best beaches for Advanced Surfers:
1. Salsa Brava
3. Witch’s Rock, Tamarindo
4. Ollie’s Point, Santa Rosa National Park
5. Playa Negra
Best Time for National Parks
The best time to visit Costa Rica for the famous national parks is between December and April and again between July and August.
The national parks and reserves in Costa Rica feature primary forests that have remained untouched through the millennia in addition to a complex system of freshwater and marine areas that host a vibrant combination of land and sea, colorful marine life, active avifauna, and captivating wildlife that accounts for up to 28 percent of the entirety of Costa Rica. The unique weather and diverse ecosystems of the different national parks make the best season for visiting dependent upon the specific destination, changing as you travel north and south or venture across the Continental Divide from east to west.
The microclimates that are shaped by the distinct weather patterns and elevations of the country embody the importance the Costa Rica’s pristine nature and the thrilling beauty of the biodiversity that coexists within communities. This biodiversity thrives inside the borders of the national parks, reflecting the breathtaking preservation of the lush land, tranquil sea, and vibrant wildlife in one of the world’s most biologically diverse countries.
The best time to visit Manuel Antonio National Park is from December to April during the dry season and during the transitional months of June and July, which is considered the green season. The rugged terrain features both luscious, untouched jungle and gold-sand beaches that act as a home to 109 mammals and 184 bird species from the endangered spider monkey to the motmots and hawks. The dry season makes visiting the beach and enjoying the trails much easier throughout the day while visiting during the wetter months of June and July offer more active wildlife in the mornings and afternoons in addition to smaller crowds.
The best time to visit Corcovado National Park is between December to April during Costa Rica’s dry season. The fascinating destination of Corcovado National Park is often considered the most intense biodiverse place in the world, hosting animals such as puma, ocelot, squirrel monkeys, crocodiles, and toucans. At Corcovado, visitors can observe the wonders of the wildlife in their healthy, natural environment. Venturing to the more than 163 square miles of protected, tropical rainforest during the dry season between December and April allows for easier access to the secluded trails and borders of the park in addition to drier paths on which to hike.
The best time to visit Arenal National Park is from February to April. The lowland plains around Arenal are humid year-round with light rainfall that often occurs regardless the season. When visiting during the dry season months of February to April, Arenal National Park offers a diverse range of exciting activities to explore such as coffee tours, floating safaris, hot springs, ziplining excursions, white water rafting, and waterfall rappelling. The consistent wetter weather provides thick, running currents to La Fortuna Waterfall and higher waters of Lake Arenal, which feed the rugged terrain, rivers, and strangler figs across the landscape. The drier months between February and April also provide easier access to the trails, winding through Arenal National Park and making it much easier to view the nearly 850 bird species, fresh lava flow, and a sporadic panorama of the 2,400-foot tall conical summit.
The best time to visit Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica is between July and October. As one of the leading ecotourism destinations in Costa Rica, Tortuguero highlights the grandeur and splendor of nature in the remote, Northeast corner of the country, which gained it the nickname of: “the Amazon of Costa Rica.” By visiting Tortuguero between July and October, you will have the opportunity to view the popular turtle nests, while the months of September to October offer the best weather for the area. The busiest times of the year for visitors who are traveling to Tortuguero occur during December and July, but the isolated wilderness and fantastic canals in Tortuguero National Park create an enchanting and unforgettable experience.
The best time to visit Irazu Volcano National Park is during March and April. The unique region of Costa Rica offers plenty of remarkable activities year-round with trails that lead into the active craters along the summit, reaching 900 feet deep. The crater lake that is known for waters that turn from deep green to red above the lunar landscape is also here. High winds and cold temperatures affect the weather throughout the year, but March and April offer the best records of pleasant temperatures along the 11,260-foot tall summit, which is affected by passing clouds and black, sandy terrain.
Rainy Season in Costa Rica
The rainy season in Costa Rica takes place between May and mid-December.
The wet season in Costa Rica can depend on the region of the country with the Caribbean coast to possess a more consistent rainfall throughout the year but to decrease in the months of October and March. The Pacific coast is host to the rainiest months in September, October, and November. While the heavy rains in September and October can make traveling around Costa Rica during the rainiest months of the year more challenging, they do not generally impair a tour of the captivating country because many experienced visitors prefer to visit during the wet season in Costa Rica because of the glowing greenery and smaller crowds.