When is the best time to visit Costa Rica?
The country has a wonderfully tropical climate throughout the year, thanks to its proximity to the equator. However, there are some differences in weather and climate depending on where you are. For example, the highland and mountainous regions such as the Tilaran Mountain Range (near the fascinating Monteverde Cloud forest), are generally cooler than the flatter regions or areas closest to the sea such as the gorgeous coastal province of Guanacaste. So a good rule of thumb is to keep in mind that the higher you go the cooler it is.
This is one of the busiest times of the year, with travelers in the northern hemisphere heading to Costa Rica to make the most of the warm climate! This is high season, so book well in advance. The beaches are a big draw, as are the several festivals during this time!
- Head to the beaches on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast – but do note it can get very warm and sunny!
- Head to Palmares for the Fiestas de Palmares – this state fair is replete with music, traditional food, beer, bullfighting, horse parades and lasts for two whole weeks!
- If you want a change of pace, stay in the small highland town of La Fortuna, the gateway to the Arenal Volcano National Park, and enjoy its relaxed atmosphere, pleasant nightlife and quirky art galleries
Sunny and warm with hardly any rain – these conditions make the month of February a hugely popular time to visit Costa Rica. Temperatures usually range from the high 70s to the mid 90s around this time.
- Head to the remote south of Costa Rica to Osa Peninsula and explore its vast rainforests in the Corcovado National Park with its stunning biodiversity
- When in Osa, you can also go surfing in its pristine waters or take a boat ride through the mangrove forests
- Enjoy a week-long carnival celebration during the Puntarenas carnival, replete with parades, bright colors, revelers and music, food and beer!
March is peak tourist season in Costa Rica and one of driest months of the year – across the country. Temperatures can cross 100°F so make sure you have your sunscreen and sunhats out as you enjoy the beaches!
- Enjoy the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve – with the omnipresent rains and cloud cover largely missing during this month. Explore the region through the many hiking trails snaking among tropical plant life, jaguars and exotic quetzals
- You can also soar over the scenic beauty of the Reserve on a mile-long face-down zip line!
- If you are in the capital San Jose in March, don’t forget to check out the National Orchid Show – with over 300 species of orchids on show, this two-day festival is a celebration of Costa Rica’s national flower
This is usually the hottest time of the year, and the last month of the dry season before the rains set in. Easter is celebrated with great gusto at this time!
- Visit the charming town of Bajos del Toro and relax amid emerald hillsides, waterfalls, lush cloud forests, and estancias that run family farmsteads and quaint little dairy farms
- Semanta Santa or the Holy Week is celebrated grandly all across Costa Rica with parades and mannequins, church masses, processions
This is a transition month in Costa Rica, with the rains gradually setting. The weather can be unpredictable so make sure you have your rain gear handy!
- Go whitewater rafting in some of the country’s magical rivers
- Before the rains set in, experience Costa Rica’s scenic beauty on horseback as you tour the stunning La Fortuna Waterfall in Arenal
This is the green or rainy season in Costa Rica. Expect plenty of rainfall in short, sharp bursts, and expect the countryside to be a lush green! Temperatures usually vary between the mid-60s to the late 80s.
- Visit the vibrant capital city San José and soak in its Spanish colonial heritage and modern identity, along with coffee plantations, spa destinations and tropical gardens
- Visit the city’s Gold Museum and the Barrio Amon neighborhood with its colonial structures converted into modern art galleries
Though July falls within the rainy season time, interestingly, this month also experiences a period of ‘little summer’ when the rains abate and the sun shines!
- If you are in San José at this time visit the neighborhood of Barrio Escalante for some of the best Costa Rican dishes in town
- Drop by the city’s bustling Saturday markets with the colorful stalls selling local wares and artifacts
This is one of the rainier months in Costa Rica so make sure you have your rain gear handy at all times!
- Head to Tortuguero for a spot of turtle watching. This is the main nesting season for turtles – take a guided turtle watching tour to one of the beaches where you’ll see hundreds of turtles nesting on the shore!
- Keep your eyes open for the countless other animals that live in and around the area
- Witness more than two million devotees making a pilgrimage to the city of Cartago to the Our Lady of Los Angeles Church to pay their respects to the Virgin
Much like August, the rain persists through this month.
- Head to Uvita, best known for its whale watching opportunities from the famous Cola de Ballena or the beach that’s shaped like a whale’s tail!
- When at Uvita, visit the Marino Ballena National Park whose tropical jungles are home to endangered macaws and squirrel monkeys
- Enjoy the Independence Day (celebrated on 15 September) festivities across the country with parades and processions and much revelry
Expect rain, rain, and more rain this month – this is one of the wettest times of the year!
- The Caribbean coast is drier and sunnier than other parts of the country at this time, so you could visit the surf villages along its coast
- This is also the time of the Caribbean Carnival, when Limón Province, celebrates its Afro-Caribbean heritage during a 12-day party with a whole lot of food music and dancing
This is a month of transition in Costa Rice – while the beginning of November witnesses rains, expect drier conditions to set in by the end of the month.
- Spend time in the volcanic region of Arenal and explore the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, and the Arenal National Park with its tumbling waterfalls and hiking trails
- When in Arenal soak in one of the nearby hot springs – the perfect way to luxuriate
More sun and less rain mark the time that Costa Rica begins to head towards the dry season. Don’t forget to catch the fireworks display in different parts of the country on New Year’s Eve!
- Get the adrenalin flowing with sky trekking, canopy walks, kayaking and rafting along with fishing, cultural tours, coffee and chocolate tours at Arenal
- Visit the Manuel Antonio National Park, home to abundant wildlife, with over one hundred species of bird, and multiple of monkey species
- Spend time in Perez Zeledon, a small agricultural canton south of San José, and enjoy its fragrant coffee plantations and sprawling
- When in Perez Zeledon, hike to the nearby Chirripó National Park – which is home to Mount Chirripó, the highest peak in Central America
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Best Time to Visit Costa Rica by Season
The consistently tropical climate has the interesting effect of making Costa Rica a country without a clear difference between winter and summer. Seasons are generally split into dry and rainy.
The warmer and drier season generally runs from December through to April. This is by far the most popular season for travelers and visitors to Costa Rica. When the weather starts getting cold up north, many choose to head to the tropics to enjoy the warmer climate and dry weather. So if you want some true tropical heat, these are the months you should consider.
If you prefer the weather to be cooler, consider visiting between November and January. This cool weather is thanks to the mild northeasterly winds, which blow gently through the mountains. This can be a nice change from the sometimes intense heat of the warmer, drier months. At this time the number of visitors begins to decrease with the changing seasons.
The wetter season, or ‘Green Season’ is from May all the way through to November. The local Costa Ricans consider this their ‘winter’, but if you’re used to the cold winters of the north, it will still feel pleasantly tropical. Despite the wetter weather, the Green Season is a wonderful time to visit. You will find far fewer crowds, lusher and greener landscapes, as well as more active wildlife. For a country as ecologically diverse as Costa Rica, this is something special indeed! Because of this, May – June or September -October are great months to travel in Costa Rica.
In recent years, July and August have seen a large rise in tourism, with many travelers from Europe. So, during these months the availability of quality accommodation will generally be lower.
This is, of course, a rough guide, and even when the weather in Costa Rica is cool, it is rarely cold, and the rainy days during the Green Season often start out warm and sunny. So no matter when you go, the weather in Costa Rica is never unpleasant.
What to Pack
Don’t worry about a dress code! Central America is generally very relaxed and almost adventure-styled in some remote regions such as Arenal. You might want to pack something fancier for a night out in a bustling metropolis but only five-star hotels and a few restaurants actually expect some sort of etiquette in the evening.
Some tours, such as the turtle watching tour of Tortuguero, are best enjoyed in the evening, so taking a flashlight and dark clothing is advisable. The dark clothing will make you less visible to the local wildlife and you will be able to get closer to and observe them more naturally. Of course, much of this is dependent on your expectations and plans. So a little bit of research beforehand can ensure that you pack exactly what you need for your journey.
Important: If you are taking domestic flights we recommend you pack light because the baggage limits are much lower than on international flights. Please check the ‘Luggage Transport Allowance’ section.
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Cushioned in the valley between the Central American mountain ranges and volcanic peaks, the Costa Rican capital is surrounded by lush green landscapes.
San José and Central Valley
The beautiful region of Arenal serves as the perfect base for exploring Costa Rica’s highland country of volcanic peaks, ancient caves, hot water springs and national parks.
The little seaside village of Manuel Antonio serves as the entry to the lush tropical rainforests of the Manuel Antonio National Park.
Monteverde sits between two cloud forests, skirted by the picturesque village of Santa Elena.
Perez Zeledon is a pretty little bucolic town in the canton of the same name, set in a beautiful green valley surrounded by the highlands.
One of the very best travel experiences I have ever had. We even got updates once at 3 am! He also made one change in one day’s itinerary to accommodate our wishes which was very wonderful. For business, I have traveled to Europe, Russia, all over Asia and South Africa but was blown away by all the beautiful sites in Argentina and Chile.
All the little touches made by our Enchanting Travel consultant, Amelia Edwards, were noticed and recognized by my wife and I. Thank you for making our milestone trip (25th wedding anniversary) such a memorable one! We look forward to engaging Enchanting Travels again for our next South American adventure!!
This was my first adventure as a solo traveler. But while I may have traveled on my own, I was never alone. I was well taken care of by a superb team of planners, trip coordinators, guides and drivers.
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