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

When to Travel?

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, ziplines 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 contiues 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 continous days of rain refered 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 (Monteverde and Chirripo) 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.

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.

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

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.


Costa Rica December Calendar

This calendar shows natural events, turtle nesting, festivals and more for the upcoming December 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.

 December 2015

Exchange Rate 0 ¢ per $U.S.
Sunrise ↑ 5:40, Sunset ↓ 17:15








Festival de la Luz


Fiesta Pattronale Pavas





Immaculate conception, Fiesta de los Negritos




Fiesta de la Yeguita














Misa de Gallo


Christmas Day


Tope Caballos






New Years Eve


New Year's Day


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

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.

Fiesta Pattronale Pavas-Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)

Immaculate conception, Fiesta de los Negritos-Formerly a national holiday now celebrated with religious processions, masses, and costumed dancing

Fiesta de la Yeguita-Bullfights and a parade followed by a party in the parque central of Nicoya with food, concerts and fireworks.

Misa de Gallo-Christmas eve midnight mass. (Literally, Mass of the Rooster.)

Christmas Day-Family gatherings and Christmas mass

Tope Caballos-A horse parade through downtown San José proudly displays the equine traditions and unique Criollo breed.

New Years Eve-Many hotels host parties

New Year's Day-Revelers who were partying in the clubs the night before gather in San José's Parque Central and Buenos Aires, and Puntarenas to continue the festivities at dances.

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 (5:40) and sunset (17:15) 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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