Costa Rica January Print e-mail this info
Costa Rica January Rainfall Patterns
Costa Rica January rainfall patterns.  January is the begining of the dry season. Clear weather is much more reliable on the Pacific side. (©Toucan Guides)

When to Travel?

The second half of January is one of the best times for a Costa Rica vacation. The first half of the month is also great from the perspective of weather but it tends to be somewhat crowded and peak season surcharges can make the first week one of the most expensive all year (see below).

January Weather

January the first reliably dry month at the beginning of the Costa Rican dry season. November and early December can be very wet or quite dry, the end of the year is usually dry. By January the northwestern (Guanacaste) and central regions (Jaco, Manuel Antonio) of Costa Rica have little rain and mostly sunny weather. What little rain falls usually comes as afternoon or evening showers.

On the Caribbean side of the central mountains it's wetter especially in the northeast 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 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 January. Three thousand feet higher around San José and the Central Valley temperatures are 5-10 degrees cooler and temperatures at high elevations (Monteverde and Chirripo) can be 20 or even 30 degrees lower in January.

Planning Ahead & Reservations

Not only is January one of the best months to travel it is also one of the most popular. 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. Especially for the first week, advanced reservations (as far ahead as six to twelve months) are a necessity for the popular higher quality mid-price, superior and luxury class hotels, lodges and resorts.

Budget and mid-priced hotels that rely on walk-in clientele also fill up but if you arrive early in the day and are flexible you shouldn't generally have any trouble finding lodging on the fly in January.

Costs & Availability for Travel in January

Prices reflect the popularity of travel at this time, high season rates are in full effect, and most hotels and lodges in the mid and luxury price ranges add a holiday surcharge for the first week of January. Many hotels and lodges that have dining rooms throw New Years Eve parties. Dinner and dancing are often mandatory for all guests and included in the room rates for the night of December 31 adding between $50 and $100 per person. Many accommodations also have minimum stays ranging from three to seven nights over New Years so you should check the fine print carefully when booking.

Reasonable airfares are available for advance purchasers, but most have sold out by November when prices typically climb by 20-50%.

The approximate predicted currency exchange rate is shown on the calendar below.

Alternatives to January 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.

Costa Rica January Calendar

This calendar shows natural events, turtle nesting, festivals and more for the upcoming January to help you to plan ahead. The symbols and how to use them to choose the best time to travel are explained at the bottom.

 January 2016

Exchange Rate 0 ¢ per $U.S.
Sunrise ↑ 5:56, Sunset ↓ 17:29














Fiesta Palmares







Día de Santo Cristo de Esquipulas



















January Holidays & Festival Notes
indicates an official government and bank holiday when most businesses are closed

Fiesta Palmares -Traditional (no bloodshed) bullfights, live music, folk dancing, carnival with rides and games take place the first two week of the year in Palmares

Día de Santo Cristo de Esquipulas-Popular religious festival celebrated with fiestas and dancing in Alajuelita, Dulce Nombre and Santa Cruz. Alajuelita also includes an ox-cart parade and procession to the iron cross on the mountain above the village where a blessing is given.

Costa Rica Calendar Symbol Legend
Price SymbolsSeasonal pricing is indicated by dollars signs. A single $ indicates low season pricing. Two $$ are shown for dates when some properties still have low season prices but others have switched to high season. Three $$$ indicates high season and four $$$$ are shown for dates when the more popular hotels add a holiday surcharge on top of the high season prices. In general the higher the cost at the time you are traveling the more adviseable it is to make reservations and the farther in advance you need to make them. 

Tide SymbolsHigh and low tides are shown for the Pacific coast (Caribbean tides about 15 minutes earlier) and are appropriate for timing surf outings where the break is better on a particular tide or planning a beach walk, but not intended for navigation. Please check locally for precise times for tides when trekking beach routes that require low tide to complete (e.g. in Corcovado). 

Full moonMoon phases and rise and set times are helpful when choosing a date for a moonlight canopy tour (best under a full moon), turtle viewing (see below), or a night hike (best under the dark skies of a new moon when nocturnal animals are most active). Sunrise (5:56) and sunset (17:29) times are for the first of the month and vary by less than ten minutes over the course of the month.

turtle symbols The turtle symbols indicate the best nights to observe mass nesting of Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) sea turtles at Playas Nancite and Ostional when up to 40,000 turtles come ashore in events locally refered to as arribadas (arrivals).  A large symbol means more turtles are nesting at that time of year (a big symbol means the peak of nesting season) and the solid symbols indicates the nights when the moon is in its last quarter and the chances are almost five times greater for an arribada than the other moon phases. A big solid turtle symbol represents the best bet for a good viewing night.

Do you have a community event you would like to add, a festival we overlooked or a change in a date? Please contact us and let us know about it.


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