The Best Time to Visit Costa Rica


weather, migrations, nesting, costs & crowds

If you have a time of year in mind you can use the drop down menu to choose when you’ll visit and access a summary of weather and rainfall, prices, lodging availability, wildlife migrations, bank and school holidays, festivals, and other seasonal information.

When to Travel to Costa Rica?

It mostly depends on what you’d like to see and when you have time to go. We’ve visited at every time of year and while there are advantages to the high dry season, we often prefer the low rainy season (referred to by the tourism board as the “Green Season”).

January weather patterns in Costa Rica
Blue is rainier and gold drier so the difference between January and October is obvious at a glance on the weather pattern and rainfall maps (use menu at top to see any month)

October weather and rainfall map for Costa RicaAs you can see by comparing the weather maps there are a few places where it would be ill advised to visit at specific times because of the weather (the Osa in October) and some undiscovered and uncrowded times with gorgeous weather (the Caribbean in October).

Other comparisons and suggested alternatives are noted in the summary of each month linked in the drop down menu.

Don’t forget while browsing all the weather and climate data that one of the reasons you’re visiting Costa Rica is because it’s covered in amazing rain forests, and surprise, surprise – it rains in the rainforest. If you’re only looking for sunny days on the playa then Costa Rica has a zone and season that guarantees that too – January, February and March are bone dry in Guanacaste (the northwest beach area).

Notes:

The developing El Niño Weather pattern announced in April and subsequently described as strengthening by NOAA will have increased drying effects on the Pacific side and intensify rains on the Caribbean 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.

Best Time Quiz

Answer the three questions below for yourself to determine the best time to visit.

1) When can you go?

If your work or school schedule forces certain dates that’s the best time and you can start looking at where’s the best place in Costa Rica to find the weather and activities you want when you go.

If you can go any time then read on to figure out when you’ll have the best weather for where you want to go and what you want to see.

2) How badly do you want to stay dry?

I melt in fresh water and must have 100% sun and sea water.

Consider the Baja desert as an alternate destination, but if Costa Rica is definitely where you’re headed then you should go to the Pacific northwest (Guanacaste) beaches between mid January and mid April.

Some rain is okay as long as there’s some great beach weather too.

Avoid September and October on the Pacific side (the Caribbean is dry and sunny then though) and November could be questionable but the rest of the year should meet your weather expectations almost anywhere in Costa Rica.

3) What do you want to see and do?

If you must see sea turtles nesting, quetzales mating, or hit the Pacaure at high water for class IV rapids then obviously you have to travel during those seasons.  For other things like canopy ziplines, wildlife watching, or hanging out on the beach almost any time can be a good time to go if you head to the right places.

If you’ve decided on must see destinations then your time frame might be restricted.  For example Corcovado and the Osa peninsula practically shut down due to rain in September through November.

What About Crowds, Costs and Other Factors?

There used to be distinct high and low (“green”) travel seasons in Costa Rica but the secret is out.  July and August are as popular as December.  Discounts have shrunk or even disappeared.

There are still some price differences depending on when you travel.  Christmas and Easter peak seasons can be nearly twice as expensive.  The shoulder months (May/June and  Sept./Oct./Nov.) are still quite uncrowded and some price breaks are available.

If you’re going to travel over Christmas or Easter you should book about a year in advance for the best selection and some places are filled even further in advance.  Shifting your travel by a few days can make a huge difference.

If there are other factors you’re wondering about let us know and we’ll do our best to help figure out the best time to go.

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