Weather-wise, because of Costa Rica’s location in the Central American tropics, generally speaking, it is hot, sunny, and more or less humid here all of the time. However, due to the line of steaming volcanoes bisecting the country from north to south, jade-green mountains zigzagging everywhere, and two ocean coastlines, a magical combination of sunshine, rain, altitude, and ocean create countless microclimates. The result is that you can enjoy good weather pretty much all year long in Costa Rica.
There are two more or less seasons: dry and rainy. Keep in mind that Costa Rica’s Pacific and Caribbean climates are distinct and quite opposite. From January to April, you’ll find dry season along the Pacific side of the country, which means hot and sunny weather with little rain (although trade winds make it quite windy in January and February). It’s a good time to visit the beaches.
Rainy season starts sometime in May and lasts through November, with a mini-summer dry period in July and early August. Even so, the rainy season usually follows a pattern of sunny mornings with rain showers in the afternoons or evenings, so you’re rarely rained out all day. December tends to be a transition time, with cool trade winds blowing away the rain into dry season.
The Caribbean side of Costa Rica is very different. Trade winds that sweep away rain in the Pacific pile all of that moisture onto the Caribbean, resulting in heavy rains there from December through February. The warm Caribbean Sea brings rain showers most of the year to the Caribbean, which keeps the jungle lush and green. But when the Central Valley and Pacific regions experience daily strong rains in September and October, it’s typically dry, sunny, and beach weather in the Caribbean.
High tourist season runs from Christmas to after Easter, and high prices reflect the demand. If you want to completely avoid the crowds and get great deals, the best time to visit Costa Rica is in the “shoulder seasons” of May to early June, and again from November to mid-December. The mini-summer of July and August is also a good time.
Costa Rica is known for its adventure tourism, which takes its cue as well from the seasons. Mountain biking, hiking and canopy zip line tours are much more enjoyable during dry season months. Meanwhile, whitewater rafting and surfing get better with rain storms.
You need to know: Travel insurance when you visit Costa Rica
Few areas of the planet offer the amount of biodiversity found in Costa Rica. Rainforest, cloud forest, and a multitude of other habitats are home to a mind-boggling variety of birds, butterflies, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and unique mammals like jaguars, tapirs and sloths. National Geographic calls Costa Rica the “seventh most important whale watching hotspot in the world” with two whale watching seasons – July to October for migrating humpback whales from Antarctica, and December to April for humpback and pilot whales migrating from North America.
Visiting Costa Rica on a nature vacation will not disappoint. Close to 26% of Costa Rica’s territory is preserved in national parks and private reserves. It is a prime destination to see five of the world’s seven species of sea turtles nesting and hatching – February to October along the Caribbean Coast, especially in the Tortuguero National Park; and from July to March on the Pacific Coast, especially in the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge and Las Baulas National Park in Guanacaste. Bird lovers will delight to see thousands of migrating and native birds, including endangered species like the Jabiru Stork, in wetlands and forests from October to March. February is nesting season for vividly colored Quetzals in the cloud forests.
Overall, there is no bad time to visit Costa Rica. The friendly nation is a place with something for everyone and for every type of getaway.
Book your Costa Rica vacation today with Horizontes Nature Tours.