December in Costa Rica

December weathe map of Costa Rica
Costa Rica December rainfall pattern map. Late December is the beginning of the dry season, but clear weather is much more reliable on the Pacific side.

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December starts out with lower prices and occupancy during the tail end of the rainy season but by Christmas the dry season has begun, every hotel room is sold out at special peak season prices, and the trails, zip-lines and white-water rivers are overflowing with tourists.

December Weather

Early December weather on the Pacific and in the central mountains of Costa Rica is a bit of a gamble. Typically the rains are tapering off and it’s common to have perfect beach weather the whole month. However, occasionally (as in 2010) the rainy season continues full force right up to the week before Christmas. Whether it’s drying out or still raining hard the typical pattern of sunny mornings and afternoon or evening showers prevails.

On the Caribbean side of the central mountains it’s wet at the beginning of the month and getting wetter by the end. Flooding is possible, especially in the northeast lowlands where polar air pushes across the Gulf of Mexico picking up heat and moisture then depositing it as continuous days of rain referred to locally as temporales del Atlantico.

The beaches and lowlands experience high temperatures in the seventies to mid-eighties and  low temperatures in the sixties to mid seventies.  A day or two of temperatures in the mid nineties is possible at low elevations and especially on the Nicoya coast during December. Around San José and the Central Valley temperatures are 5-10 degrees cooler and temperatures at high elevations over 5,000ft can be 20 or even 30 degrees lower in December.

Planning Ahead & Reservations

December competes with whichever month Easter falls in (April in 2012) as the most popular for Costa Rica travel.

It’s the heart of the high season for international travelers and the middle of the school holidays for Ticos so activities and accommodations fill up quickly.  Advanced reservations (as far ahead as six months or a year for some of the more popular hotels) are strongly advised.

Getting Around

December (especially the first half of the month) can be tricky on the roads.  Just like November the earth is totally saturated from months of rain and any significant storm is likely to set off landslides that frequently cause havoc with getting around.  CONAVI tries very hard to have things cleaned up by the holidays but we’ve seen every major road in Costa Rica shut down for a week or more at some point in December (once it was nearly every one of them all at the same time!)

Costs & Availability for Travel in December

Hotels and lodges have higher peak season pricing (20% to 50% more than high season) around Christmas and New Years Eve and many resorts and lodges have mandatory dinners and parties on those two nights (usually $50 to $100 per person). Minimum stays of three to seven nights are also common during the holidays so plan accordingly.

For the second half of December we strongly recommend booking your lodging and airfare at least three months in advance and six to twelve months ahead is much better for availability.

Alternatives to December in Costa Rica

If you like the sound of Dry Season, but would prefer to avoid the crowds try traveling in February or early March before the Spring Break and Easter crowds arrive.

…Other Bests…best to do, best kept secrets & best places

Notes:

The developing El Niño Weather pattern announced in April and subsequently described as strengthening by NOAA will have increased drying effects on Costa Rica’s weather through 2015 and into mid 2016. Something to keep in mind when looking at the rainfall maps.

Ash from intermittent eruptions of Turrialba volcano are expected to occasionally disrupt operations at San Jose (SJO) airport possibly until the end of 2015 – see Choosing an Airport for more info.

Calendar of Nature, Holidays & Fiestas – Costa Rica in December

The more you see of a turtle, whale or quetzal symbol the more likely you’ll see one. A detailed explanation and legend is also included at the bottom.

December 2015
approximate exchange rate ¢537 per $U.S.
Rise & Set
Tide Times
Pacific
Caribbean
Costa Rica Moon Phase sunrise and sunset
Costa Rica High and Low Tides
rainy season    wave size
rainy season    wave size
Tue 1
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑22:43 ↓10:35 ↑5:40 ↓17:15 ↑0:11
↑12:35
↓6:25
↓19:00
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Wed 2
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑23:30 ↓11:18 ↑5:41 ↓17:16 ↑1:02
↑13:24
↓7:16
↓19:53
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Thu 3
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑23:30 ↓11:59 ↑5:41 ↓17:16 ↑1:57
↑14:16
↓8:11
↓20:47
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Festival de la Luz – San José’s week long festival of lights is marked by lighting displays and concerts and fireworks after dark in the park.
Fri 4
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑0:16 ↓12:39 ↑5:42 ↓17:16 ↑2:55
↑15:11
↓9:09
↓21:44
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Fiesta Pattronale Pavas – Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Sat 5
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑1:01 ↓13:18 ↑5:42 ↓17:17 ↑3:56
↑16:08
↓10:10
↓22:40
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Sun 6
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑1:46 ↓13:58 ↑5:43 ↓17:17 ↑4:55
↑17:04
↓11:09
↓23:32
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Mon 7
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑2:32 ↓14:40 ↑5:43 ↓17:17 ↑5:50
↑17:57
↓12:04
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Tue 8
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑3:19 ↓15:23 ↑5:44 ↓17:18 ↑6:38
↑18:44
↓0:21
↓12:52
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Immaculate conception, Fiesta de los Negritos – Formerly a national holiday now celebrated with religious processions, masses, and costumed dancing
Wed 9
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑4:08 ↓16:08 ↑5:44 ↓17:18 ↑7:22
↑19:29
↓1:05
↓13:37
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Thu 10
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑4:58 ↓16:57 ↑5:45 ↓17:18 ↑8:03
↑20:10
↓1:47
↓14:19
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Fri 11
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑5:50 ↓17:48 ↑5:45 ↓17:19 ↑8:42
↑20:51
↓2:28
↓14:59
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Fiesta de la Yeguita – Bullfights and a parade followed by a party in the parque central of Nicoya with food, concerts and fireworks.
Sat 12
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑6:43 ↓18:41 ↑5:46 ↓17:19 ↑9:20
↑21:32
↓3:08
↓15:38
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Sun 13
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑7:36 ↓19:35 ↑5:47 ↓17:19 ↑9:59
↑22:13
↓3:47
↓16:18
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Mon 14
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑8:28 ↓20:30 ↑5:47 ↓17:20 ↑10:39
↑22:56
↓4:28
↓16:59
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Tue 15
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑9:18 ↓21:25 ↑5:48 ↓17:20 ↑11:20
↑23:41
↓5:10
↓17:41
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Wed 16
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑10:08 ↓22:20 ↑5:48 ↓17:21 ↑12:04
↓5:55
↓18:27
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Thu 17
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑10:56 ↓23:14 ↑5:49 ↓17:21 ↑0:29
↑12:50
↓6:43
↓19:16
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Fri 18
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑11:44 ↓23:14 ↑5:49 ↓17:22 ↑1:22
↑13:42
↓7:37
↓20:11
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Sat 19
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑12:33 ↓0:09 ↑5:50 ↓17:22 ↑2:21
↑14:39
↓8:36
↓21:10
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Sun 20
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑13:22 ↓1:04 ↑5:50 ↓17:23 ↑3:24
↑15:42
↓9:41
↓22:14
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Mon 21
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑14:13 ↓2:01 ↑5:51 ↓17:23 ↑4:30
↑16:47
↓10:48
↓23:17
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Tue 22
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑15:06 ↓2:58 ↑5:51 ↓17:24 ↑5:36
↑17:51
↓11:53
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Wed 23
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑16:01 ↓3:57 ↑5:52 ↓17:24 ↑6:37
↑18:53
↓0:18
↓12:54
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Thu 24
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑16:58 ↓4:56 ↑5:52 ↓17:25 ↑7:33
↑19:49
↓1:15
↓13:50
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Misa de Gallo – Christmas eve midnight mass. (Literally, Mass of the Rooster.)
Fri 25
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑17:54 ↓5:53 ↑5:53 ↓17:25 ↑8:25
↑20:41
↓2:08
↓14:42
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Christmas Day – Family gatherings and Christmas mass
Sat 26
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑18:49 ↓6:48 ↑5:53 ↓17:26 ↑9:13
↑21:31
↓2:58
↓15:30
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Tope Caballos – A horse parade through downtown San José proudly displays the equine traditions and unique Criollo breed.
Sun 27
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑19:43 ↓7:39 ↑5:54 ↓17:26 ↑9:58
↑22:18
↓3:45
↓16:17
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Mon 28
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑20:34 ↓8:27 ↑5:54 ↓17:27 ↑10:42
↑23:03
↓4:31
↓17:02
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Tue 29
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑21:22 ↓9:12 ↑5:54 ↓17:27 ↑11:24
↑23:48
↓5:15
↓17:46
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Wed 30
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑22:09 ↓9:55 ↑5:55 ↓17:28 ↑12:06
↓5:59
↓18:30
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
Thu 31
Costa Rica Moon Phase ↑22:55 ↓10:35 ↑5:55 ↓17:28 ↑0:32
↑12:48
↓6:44
↓19:18
olive ridley turtle  green turtle  leather back turtlehumpback whale  quetzal nesting
green turtle  leather back turtle  humpback whale
New Years Eve – Many hotels host parties
Costa Rica Moon Phase sunrise and sunset
Costa Rica High and Low Tides
dryy season    wave size
rainy season    wave size
Rise & Set
Tide Times
Pacific
Caribbean

Calendar Legend

Averages for the month

  • Approximate exchange rate
  • General weather pattern for each half of the country
    dry season or rainy season average weather pattern
  • Average surf wave height for each coast
    larger or smaller than average wave height

Shown for each day

  • The phase of the moon, and the moon and sun rise and set times for planning turtle viewing or a night hike (best under the dark skies of a new moon when nocturnal animals are most active).
  • Times for each high and low tide along the outer Pacific coast (gulfs and bays vary). Average height 8 feet (2.5 meters).
    Not intended for navigation.
  • Tides on the east coast occur about 2 hours earlier. However, the average height is only 8 inches (0.2 meters) so levels in the Caribbean Sea do not significantly impact most activities.
  • Natural events are shown as shaded icons for quetzals (nesting), turtles (nesting), and humpback whales (calving) on each coast.
    wildlife calendar species
  • The more solid color shown the more likely the event, the more shaded the less likely.
    more or less likely turtle nesting
  • Baby turtles hatch (usually at night) after approximately 50-70 days incubation so look for nesting activity on the calendar two months prior to your visit if you’d like to see the little ones popping out of the sand..
  • HolidaysBold indicates a government & bank holiday when most businesses are closed and buses may run on limited schedules.
  • Fiesta and local festival dates are approximate – most include events spread over a week or two so check the schedule locally for more information.