Deciding to visit Costa Rica's lush rain forests and epic beaches is the easy part. Figuring out the best time to go, however, can be much more complicated. Costa Rica consists of microclimates and varying altitudes, which makes weather a tad unpredictable across the country and brings pros and cons to visiting throughout the year. One rule of thumb: dry season (also the high season) usually runs from December through April, while low season (May through November) brings rain and more opportunities to spot wildlife. Having all of the information will make the decision less complicated, so we broke it down by month for you.
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December – April
December through April are generally the driest, busiest, and most expensive months to visit Costa Rica. Temperatures usually hover in the 70s in San Jose, and drier areas like Nicoya Peninsula and Guanacaste can see temperatures into the 90s during the day. The dependable sunshine brings tourists in droves, so you’ll want to make hotel reservations months in advance — especially if your heart is set on a certain lodging. It’s almost impossible to score a good deal, specifically in December and January when American and European schools are on winter break. Look for California humpback whales on the Caribbean coast in January.
May – August
May through August is when the country gets wetter and rates get lower, though there is an uptick from American visitors in July and August, as it’s their summer break. You can typically expect sunny mornings and light to heavy tropical showers in the afternoon, but temperatures still stay warm. The country’s coasts are generally warmer, and the highlands are cooler, especially at night. Humidity levels rise as you travel south along the Pacific coast. This is a great time to visit if you don’t mind trading in a little rain for less crowded beaches and cheaper hotel rooms. Green turtle nesting season also peaks July through August on the northern Caribbean coast.
September – October
Traveling to Costa Rica in the wettest season (September and October) is not for the faint of heart. The rains are heaviest along the Caribbean coast. Plus, roads in the more remote areas of the country, like Nicoya Peninsula, can often become impassable. This time of the year is charitably referred to as “green season,” but read between the lines: it’s going to rain. Hardcore Costa Rica fans insist that this is the best time to visit for spotting wildlife that depend on the rainy season for food and cooler temperatures. Rougher waves and high rivers also make for fantastic surfing and rafting conditions. Fortunately, Costa Rica is south of the hurricane belt, so travelers don’t have to worry too much about outrageous storms (though you can never be sure how climate change will impact the weather.)
November is an ideal time to visit Costa Rica, as the rains are drying up and everything looks green and fresh from the previous months’ storms. School is still in session and the holidays haven’t quite arrived, so crowds are still at bay. This is often considered shoulder season in Costa Rica, when the tourist industry is ramping up for the big crowds to come in December.
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