While Costa Rica is a year-round destination, there are two general seasons: the rainy season (May through October) and a dry season (November through April). This applies to most of the country, most of the year. There are some important exceptions however, chief among them is that from mid-September through early November, try to avoid travel on the Pacific coast. That region can get heavy rains then, even floods, which close down beaches, roads, and can wash out facilities. During that time frame, for beach fun, head to the serene Caribbean side instead, when ironically September through early November can be among the best months to visit. This is the second major caveat: around early/mid-November through January is considered the Caribbean coast’s rainy season, though the weather is still highly variable, with dry days and wet days all mixed in. For travelers keen on visiting the culturally-superior Caribbean coast, in it’s distinct rainy season, it’s best to sprinkle in a couple of extra days, so even if one or two days see heavy rain, you’re likely to see a few beautifully clear days as well.
What is a typical day like in the typical rainy season? During most of the rainy season, mornings are often surprisingly clear and sunny, with clouds developing in the mid-day and soon after, rain, so when planning core activities, it’s best to plan for an early start and try to leave afternoons free for traveling or relaxing. It’s also important to remember that being located in the tropics, it can rain on any day of the year, especially in inland areas like Monteverde and Arenal.
The rainy season can sometimes be slightly better value with slightly lower prices plus activities, parks, and beaches can be a little less crowded. Rafting can be better during the rainy season. In addition, different areas within Costa Rica can have “micro-climates” and peak seasons for specific wildlife.
For example, July-October is best for sea turtles in Tortugeuro (the most famous place to see them nesting), on the Caribbean coast, while in Las Baulas National Park, on the northern Pacific coast, often reached Tamarindo, the best time for sea turtles is October-March. The best months for the beautiful resplendent quetzal are February-March-April, when they nest in the cloud forest and the beautiful males are easy to see due to their territorial mating calls. If you have any specific interests that you feel may be helped or hurt by climate, let us know your question and we can help with advice.
Temperatures vary more by location than by time of year usually. For example, Monteverde and the cloud forests in general are cooler year-round, while the coasts tend to be hot year-round, especially mid-day. San Jose and Arenal are mid-altitude areas which are mostly pleasant year-round, though a nice rain can be welcome for cooling things off on a hot afternoon.
The Christmas/New Year’s period and Easter week are the most crowded seasons for Costa Rica, so please plan your trip in advance if you can. There is often a holiday season supplement at hotels during those times.
Monthly Averages (San Jose)