Best time to visit Costa Rica
The tropical climate of Costa Rica makes it a charming year-round destination, but many travelers prefer to take advantage of Costa Rica's dry season (December-April), while others will want to take advantage of the off-season deals and lighter crowds during the rainy “green” season (May-November).
Costa Rica's temperature is steady throughout the year, averaging between 71º and 81ºF (21-27ºC). The higher elevations, like the Irazu, Chirripo, and Poas Volcanoes, are cooler than lower parts of Costa Rica, dipping into the 50s, and mid-level elevations are usually 5 or 10 degrees cooler than the coast.
Dry season - Great for the beaches
In general, Costa Rica is driest between December and April. In some northwestern parts of Costa Rica, such as Guanacaste and Nicoya, the air dries out completely and the climate becomes hot and dry, to the point that sustaining agriculture requires irrigation.
Beaches in those regions are very popular during the dry season and can get crowded throughout December and popular school holidays like spring break. If you are planning a trip during this season, make sure you book at least three months in advance.
On the Caribbean side of the mountains, one thing to watch out for in January and early February is the “temporales del Atlantico,” which is when polar air pushes south across the Gulf of Mexico and picks up a lot of water, resulting in several continuous days of heavy rain in the northeast.
The "Green" season – Great for deals
Costa Rica's rainy season falls between May and November, with the heaviest rain falling in October, when there are usually daily showers. Typically, it is sunny through May and June and rising humidity each month after. You can expect a couple of hours of rain every day, but nothing to dampen your experience. Actually, because of the consistent rainfall, dense shades of green foliage define the jungle landscapes, making it a unique time to witness the rainforest in full bloom.
The heaviest rain usually falls to the northeast and southwest of Costa Rica. On the Pacific coast, so much rain falls on the Osa Peninsula and Drake Bay during September and October that some lodges temporarily close.
Despite the humidity and occasional showers, this can be a great season to find deals and promotions to save some money on your trip. Plus, there are notably less crowds during this season as well.
Escaping the rain can be as simple as crossing the small country. In September and October, while the west coast of Costa Rica is drenched with rain, the east Caribbean side is often sunny and dry. When the wind goes the opposite way in January and February and brings the polar air down along the Caribbean coast, the opposite is true.
All that wet weather is usually confined to one side of Costa Rica by the spine of mountains running down the middle. The Tilaran and Cordillera mountain ranges are part of the Continental Divide. When the storms start coming in off the Pacific, the mountain ranges keep most of the precipitation just to the west. When heavy tropical storms come in from the Caribbean Sea, the mountains keep the rain from crossing the country.
A trip into Costa Rica’s renowned rainforest is definitely worth it, but you will get wet no matter when you go. This dense tropical jungle thrives on rain, and the higher you push into the mountains, the wetter it gets. If you visit between December and April, it may be slightly drier, though not completely.
High in the Tilaran Range, it is so wet that the Monteverde Nature Preserve gets all its water directly from the clouds. In this cloud forest, the moisture from the clouds constantly condenses onto the leaves above you, so you will either be a bit wet or soaked, but never dry. In the wet season, cloud forests get about 10% more rainfall than lower altitude rainforests. In the dry season, the amount of rainfall can interestingly be doubled!