When is the best time to visit Costa Rica?
The best time to visit Costa Rica is from January to April for sunshine, a lively beach scene, good visibility for wildlife viewing and easy travel on roads of all sizes. September and October make for good weather on the Caribbean coast.
Best time for surfing: If you are a beginner or intermediate surfer, the consistent waves of the dry season, from December to April, will work for you. On the north pacific coast, high prevailing winds called the Papaguayo work up a good swell from January to March. For advanced surfers seeking big waves and small crowds, the wet season, from May to November is best, and the wettest part of the season on the Pacific Coast, in September and October, can yield the biggest rewards. On the Caribbean coastline, Limon and Puerto Viejo get their biggest waves between December and March.
Best time for fishing: The best time to fish from the North Pacific ports of Tamarindo and Nosaro is from June through August. At that time there is a peak chance of catching marlin, sailfish, yellowfin tuna, wahoo and dorado. The best time to catch those same fish from central Pacific ports, such as Jaco, is in January and February. If you are going from south Pacific ports, such as Drake Bay or the Osa Peninsula, peak times are December and January. On the Caribbean coast, the best times to catch tarpon and snook are from in September and October and from February to May.
Best time to see forest wildlife: If you have been dreaming of spotting squirrel monkeys and silky anteaters in the Costa Rican forests, the best time to come is during the dry season, from December to April, when sunny weather makes for good visibility, comfortable times outdoors, and easy travel on back roads.
Best time to see sea turtles: On the Caribbean Coast, the best place to see nesting Atlantic Green sea turtles is Tortuguero National Park, and the best time to go to see both nesting females and hatchlings is to take an official night time tour from July to October. On the Pacific Coast, Playa del Ostional on the Nicoya Peninsula is a major nesting ground for Olive Ridley turtles. If you want chance of seeing crowds of nesting turtles making their way up the beach, go in the nights around the new moon between August and November.
Best time for birding: Costa Rica is home to more than 900 species of birds and its birding lodges and tours draw people from around the world. When to go depends on what you’d most like to see. The best time to see a resplendent quetzal at San Gerardo de Dota is from December to April. To take in the full bounty of migratory and resident birds at the wetlands at Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge, the best time is between December and mid-February, when the weather is sunny but the marshes are still wet. If you come to Cano in September and October, there is more standing water, and thus it is possible to explore more of the area by boat, which can make for opportunities to see more birds.
Best time for hiking: Costa Rican downpours can turn even the hardest packed trail to mush, so if you are planning on hiking, come during the drier parts of the year: December through April on the Pacific Coast and in the Central Valley, and February, March, September and October on the Caribbean Coast. The Monteverde Biological Cloud Forest Reserve is as dry as it gets from January to May. Corcovado National Park is dry from December into May.
Best time for bargains: The best time for bargain travel to Costa Rica is during the wet season, from May through November. You are particularly likely to find bargains in September and October.
Costa Rica Travel Seasons
High Season (mid-December to April): This time of year, Costa Rica getss sunshine, and with it expect full hotels and flights. Be sure and book well in advance. High temperatures average about 27 degrees.
Shoulder Season (May to July, November to Mid-December): The rains take a while to reach their full intensity, so by coming in May and June, you have a good chance of sun in the mornings and early afternoons, and the landscape is lush and green. On the northern Pacific Coast and in the Central Valley, the rains ease up altogether for two or three weeks in July. The end of the rainy season comes to the North Pacific Coast, in November, while on the Carribean Coast the downpours continue through December.
Low Season (August to October): The rainy season is at its fiercest between August and November in much of the country. (The exception is the Caribbean Coast, which tends to have sunshine in September and October.) In some particularly soggy parts of Costa Rica, in the mountains and the southern Pacific Coast, hotels and other businesses close down. If things are open, you can find some good rates during this time.
Costa Rica Weather by Month
Costa Rica has two seasons: the dry season from Mid-November to April, which locals call “verano,” or summer, and the rainy season from May to mid-November, which locals call “invierno,” or winter. Both have temperatures that are about the same: averaging about 27 degrees C in the day and about 18 degrees C at night, but the wet season has much more rain. When the rainy season hits depends on location. For example, in the northwest corner of the country, rains may not get going until June, while much of the Caribbean Coast has sunny weather in September.
High temperatures in degrees c
Low temperatures in degrees c
Monthly rainfall millimeters
January weather in Costa Rica: For most of the country, the weather is dry and sunny. Strong winds on the north Pacific Coast make for great surfing conditions. Much of the Caribbean Coast can be quite wet.
February weather in Costa Rica: It’s the middle of the dry season, and it’s sunny a lot of the time. The northern Pacific Coast gets strong winds and big swells.
March weather in Costa Rica: At the height of the dry season, the wettest parts of the country, the mountains, are about as dry as they get, while in the driest area, the north Pacific Coast, many trees drop their leaves to save water.
April weather in Costa Rica: The dry season continues on the north Pacific coast, but in the mountains and on the Caribbean Coast, the rains start to return.
May weather in Costa Rica: May starts dry in much of Costa Rica, but by the end of the month most of the country is getting heavy afternoon rains.
June weather in Costa Rica: Sunny mornings and torrential afternoon downpours are usual in much of the country. In the northwest Pacific Coast, leaves return to the trees.
July weather in Costa Rica: Sometime in July, the rainy season takes a break, and the north Pacific coast and the Central Valley get sunny weather for two or three weeks, in a phenomenon locals call “veranillo” or “little summer.” On the Caribbean Coast and the south Pacific Coast, the downpours keep coming.
August weather in Costa Rica: On the north Pacific Coast there might be some clear weather at the beginning of the month, but once that is done, rainy season is back in effect. Sunny mornings and afternoon downpours are the norm for most of the country.
September weather in Costa Rica: There’s sunny weather on the Caribbean Coast but for most of the country, it is the rainiest of the rainy season. In parts of the highlands and the south Pacific Coast many businesses shut down at this point.
October weather in Costa Rica: The Caribbean Coast has sunny weather, but the rest of the country has lots of rain. Tourism shuts down in parts of the highlands and the South Pacific Coast.
November weather in Costa Rica: The rainy season begins to ease its grip on the country. The north Pacific Coast gets some sunny weather this month. The Caribbean coast goes back to being soggy.
December weather in Costa Rica: As December progresses, more and more of the country has beautiful sunny weather, though the Caribbean Coast can get some heavy rainfall. High “Papagayo” winds get going on the north Pacific Coast, making big waves for surfers.
Costa Rica Special Events by Month
New Year’s Day – A public holiday in which people recover from the revelry on New Year’s Eve.
Fiesta de los Diablitos – A three day festival of indigenous Boruca culture, held in the village of Boruca Dec. 30 to Jan. 2, featuring dances and games using elaborate carved masks.
Palmares Festival – Hundreds of thousands of people converge on the small town of Palmares for a two-week fair including Costa Rica style bullfighting (sometimes called “bullrunning,” it involves unarmed people provoking and then dodging bulls), a huge horseback parade, concerts, rides, and the consumption of enormous quantities of beer.
Dia de Santo Cristo de Esquipulas – The town of Santa Cruz honors its patron saint with a festival including music, dancing, bullfighting and bullriding.
Fiesta de los Diablitos – A three-day festival of indigenous Boruca culture, held in the village of Rey Curre the first weekend of February, featuring dances and games using elaborate carved masks.
Liberia Fiestas – Two weeks of fiesta in the town of Liberia, including music, dancing, drinking and dangerous events involving bulls.
Envision Festival – Music, art, psychedelia, yoga, and workshops on sprituality and being one with nature are part of a four day festival on the beach outside Uvita.
Dia de Boyero – On the second Sunday in March, about three hundred teams of oxen pulling intricately hand-painted carts parade through San Antonio de Escazu.
Feria Nacional de la Mascarada – The small town of Barva throws this annual parade and performance featuring outsized papier mache masks inspired by folklore and pop culture.
Holy Week – The week before Easter is a holiday in Costa Rica, and many Catholics mark the occasion with parades, particularly on Good Friday, when they reenact the events leading up to the Crucifixion.
Dia de Juan Santamaria – Costa Rica marks the death of an army drummer who became a war hero with this patriotic public holiday.
Labor Day – May 1 is a public holiday celebrating working people.
Dia de San Isidro Labrador Residents of the San Jose suburb of Escazu honor the patron saint of farmers with an oxcart parade and other festivities.
Feria de Chocolate – For a weekend at the end of June, Estadio Nacional in San Jose showcases the delights of one of Costa Rica’s cash crops: cacao.
Fiesta del Virgen del Mar A parade of decorated boats is the highlight of this festival at the seaside town of Puntarenas.
Dia de Guanacaste The July 25 annexation of the territory in the far northwest of the country is cause for an enthusiastically celebrated public holiday.
Virgen de Los Angeles Day – Thousands of pilgrims mark Aug. 2, the saints day for Costa Rica’s patron saint, by walking 22 km from San Jose to the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles in Cartago.
Mother’s Day – Mother’s Day is Aug 15 in Costa Rica and it’s a public holiday.
El Desfile de Faroles – The night before Costa Rica Independence Day, children carry handmade lanterns in parades around the country.
Costa Rica Independence Day – A patriotic public holiday, with parades and the wearing of red, white and blue clothing.
Dia del Encuentro de las Culturas – October 12 is a public holiday, officially meant to celebrate the mix of cultures that make up Costa Rica.
Dia de la Mascarada – October 31 is a popular day for traditional Costa Rican parades featuring folks in elaborate papier mache masks.
Day of the Dead – It’s not a public holiday in Costa Rica, but many families will mark Nov. 2 by going to Mass and visiting and decorating the graves of loved ones.
Entrada de Santos y Desfile de Boyeros – Elaborately painted oxcarts parade through the streets of San Jose on the last Sunday of November.
Festival de La Luz – A parade with spectacular lighted floats, fireworks and concerts are part of San Jose’s celebration of the Christmas season.
Christmas – Lights and elaborate Nativity scenes go up in public spaces around Costa Rica as the holiday approaches.
Fiestas de Zapote – Starting on Christmas Day, the fairgrounds of Zapote, a small town near San Jose host two weeks of rides, concerts and other fair activities, centered around Costa Rica’s most important bull-riding contest.
El Tope Nacional – A huge parade of horses makes its way through San Jose on December 26.
New Year’s Eve – Fireworks on the beach, anyone? People gather on the beaches to count down to midnight.