Costa Rica Dry Season – What to Expect

guanacaste coast
about us

Hi! We’re Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and now live in sunny Costa Rica.

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The Costa Rica dry season is the most popular time to travel to the country. It is also referred to as the Costa Rica high season.

You can expect sunny, hot days with almost no chance of rain. However, because it is the most popular time to visit Costa Rica there are some things you should know in order to get the most out of your visit.

So, let’s go through everything you need to know about this time of year.

When is Dry Season?

guanacaste beach

Dry season in Costa Rica runs from usually around mid-December through April. This time of year should be dry, hot, and with almost zero rain.

What Can I Expect by Month?

dry season beach

December

In early to mid-December the rains stop. This is a great time to visit if you want to still experience everything being lush and green but without rain. However, towards the end of the month hotels start filling up as everyone goes on winter holidays.

January

In January you can expect the weather in Costa Rica to be hot, hot, hot and dry. Everything should be still somewhat green. 

February

Tourism goes down a little bit as all Costa Ricans go back to work. Everything starts to turn a bit brown due to the lack of rain.

March

The heat and zero rain continue on! In the Guanacaste region of the country, there are sometimes fires on the hillsides.

April

April is usually a bit of a transition month. Sometimes you can go the whole month without any rain and sometimes later in the month you will start having a few afternoon showers of rain.

For us, we celebrate every year when it starts raining again. Can you imagine almost five months straight of zero precipitation? 

It is always strange for us since we come from Hamburg and Boston, two spots with decent rain and snowfall. 

The weeks around Easter get a bit crazy here. We talk about that further down in this article.

What Are the Best Costa Rica Destinations During Dry Season?

puerto jimenez

Keep in mind that this time of year is dry on the Pacific and most of the Central part of the country but not on the Caribbean. 

On the Caribbean, the dry season is usually from August until November. If you visit the Caribbean in January or February you may have some days of very heavy rains (but very few tourists). 

So, the best destinations are the Pacific coast and the middle part of the country.

Are There Any Areas to Avoid During High Season?

beach guanacaste

I wouldn’t say there are any areas you should actively avoid, but certain destinations do get more crowded than others.

For example, the more popular tourist towns such as Tamarindo, Manuel Antonio, and La Fortuna definitely tend to fill up fast.

If you are planning to go to a resort or stay in a very popular town, I definitely suggest booking your hotels, transportation, and activities as early as possible. 

I am Visiting During Christmas, What Can I Expect?

playa blanca

In Costa Rica the school year runs from mid-January to mid-December. That means that all school kids are off for at least a month at this time.

That also means that a lot of Costa Rican families travel within the country at that time. So, hotels book out quickly and the beaches tend to fill up with large families.

I am Visiting During Easter, What Can I Expect?

tamarindo
Tamarindo beach on Easter weekend

Almost all Costa Ricans are off of work during the week before Easter. Expect the beaches to be really full and for hotels to book out fast.

If you are visiting for two weeks, it is not a bad idea to plan your visit to the mountain towns (such as La Fortuna or Monteverde) for the week before Easter and then head to the beach on the Monday after Easter.

For more info, check out our guide to Easter in Costa Rica

What Should I Pack During this Time of Year?

You can most likely leave the rain gear at home unless you are traveling to the Caribbean coast or a cloud forest destination such as Monteverde. However, if you are traveling in April, you may get the occasional light rain.

You should pack:

SPF 50 Sunblock – You can always buy this in Costa Rica if you don’t want to bring it with you. But, go for the SPF 50. Bonus points if it is waterproof. And apply it often!

UV protecting clothing – I know it sounds excessive, but you’ll thank me later. There have been so many times that Thomas and I have gone on snorkel or boat day trips and we are the only people swimming with long sleeve UV shirts.

Everyone looks at us like we are crazy until the end of the day when they are turning more bright red by the minute.

A Hat – Bonus points if it is UV blocking. I just bring a breathable baseball hat. I have this Nike one that I wear constantly. Or, if you want to be very protected, I love this one from Columbia.

Bug spray – The second the sun goes down, the mosquitos come out. Don’t forget, if you plan to bring your bug spray it needs to be a spray bottle, not an aerosol can. Aerosol is not allowed on planes even in checked luggage.

How Early Should I Book Things During High Season?

beach guanacaste

I suggest starting to plan your trip as early as possible. During high season I wouldn’t hesitate to book four to six months early (or even earlier if you are super on top of your stuff).

What Do You Suggest for Booking Hotels?

hotel santa teresa

We always use Booking.com to book hotels and VRBO to book houses/ villas/ apartments. We like both of these sites because they have tons of options as well as good cancellation policies.

You will need to look at each listing individually to see the exact policy. 

What Do You Suggest for Booking Transportation?

driving dry season

Book your transportation as soon as possible.

We use Adobe for all our rental car needs and in the winter they almost always run out of cars. I have had people contact me several times saying they have checked every rental car company in the country and can’t find a single car left for their trip. 

So, book now and you won’t have to stress. Plus, Adobe has free cancellation if your plans change.

Note: We partner with Adobe on a commission basis and they have given us a 10% discount plus other great perks to pass on to you. How awesome is that?!?! You can find out more in our car rental guide.

BOOK YOUR COSTA RICA RENTAL CAR AND SAVE 10%

The Adobe Rent-A-Car discount includes…..

– A 10% DISCOUNT  

– FREE SECOND DRIVER 

– FREE ROOF RACKS TO USE 

– 0% DEDUCTIBLE ON LIABILITY PROTECTION

– DISCOUNTED SMARTPHONE USAGE WITH UNLIMITED DATA

What Do You Suggest for Booking Activities?

costa rica surfing santa teresa

You should have a bit more flexibility with booking activities than with transportation and hotels. Usually, you can book day tours somewhat last minute. However, if there is something you know that you really want to do, it doesn’t hurt to book it early.

Typically we like to try and book directly through Costa Rican tour companies, but lately, we have been booking more things through Viator. The reason for this is that most activities on Viator offer good cancellation policies (you need to look at each listing individually to check the exact policy).

We find this nice because we can book toys several months in advance and don’t have to stress that if our plans change we will lose out on our money. 

Also, if you are planning to visit national parks (specifically places like Poas Volcano or Manuel Antonio National Park which fill up fast), you can book those tickets ahead of time on the Costa Rica National Park website. The booking process is a bit cumbersome but doable.  

What Are the Pros and Cons of Visiting During this Time of Year?

arenal volcano

Pros

– The weather will be perfect every single day

– All hotels, restaurants, and activities will be open (sometimes companies close further into the rainy season due to lack of customers)

– You won’t have to plan your day around the daily afternoon rain showers like during the green season

– You won’t have to worry about activities being canceled due to heavy rains. In the rainy season, we have had several occasions where we plan to g kayaking or on another type of adventure and they have to be canceled due to the weather.

– If you would like to visit Rio Celeste, it will definitely be bright blue and nice to see.

Cons

– Everything is more expensive including hotels, activities, and transportation

– You will have fewer options because things book out fast

– Everything turns brown from lack of rain and it just isn’t overly pretty like when everything is lush and green

So, what do you think? Is dry season the right time for you to visit Costa Rica? We are sure you will love the country no matter what time of year you visit, but not having to worry about rain is always nice!

If you are still unsure. We have a guide to the weather in Costa Rica which details what to expect every single month. Also, all of our Destination Guides include a section on the weather for that particular town.

Do you still have questions about visiting Costa Rica during dry season? Just leave them in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out! – Sarah & Thomas

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