The number one question we get asked here at Costa Rica Vibes is, “What is the best time to go to Costa Rica?”
I always struggle to answer this because the Costa Rica weather is so different depending on the time of year. There really is no “best” time to visit this beautiful country.
Instead, each month in Costa Rica brings its own set of weather pros and cons.
We created this guide to help all of you trying to figure out when is the best time for you, with your specific interests, to visit Costa Rica.
The Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Costa Rica have opposite rainy seasons.
The dry season on the Pacific coast tends to run from mid-December until early May.
On the Caribbean coast, the weather is usually best in April and May and then again from August to early October.
For more info check out our guide to choosing the Pacific or Caribbean coast for your travels.
The picture above was taken near Playas del Coco in the Guanacaste Province in late February. See how dry it is? It is not unusual for this area to experience a lot of fires after several months of zero rainfall.
During the dry season you can expect almost no rain and hot days.
The downfall of this time of year is that everything turns brown from the lack of water and it is the most popular time for tourists.
That means prices can be super high for hotels and activities.
On the Pacific coast, during the rainy season the rain tends to roll in around 2pm and lasts for a few hours. Laster in the year (September – December) the rain can become worse and last for longer during the day.
However, this does depend on where you are going. If you are visiting a cloud forest town like Monteverde you may have rain all day long. We think it is all part of the charm!
At this time of year all the prices go down, there are fewer tourists, and everything turns green again.
Check out our guide to rainy season in Costa Rica for tips on how to plan a great visit even if the weather isn’t the best.
Let’s go through the weather you can expect each month in Costa Rica. This will help you to better plan your travels according to your trip dates.
In January you can expect no rain and hot hot temperatures on the Pacific coast. In San Jose, the weather is warm and windy. On the Caribbean coast, you can expect frequent rainstorms and a lot of humidity.
Pros: The weather is basically perfect if you are visiting the Pacific coast. Also, the rainy season has just ended so everything is still very green and lush looking.
If you are visiting places like La Fortuna you have a very good chance of having a clear view of the volcano.
Cons: This is the most popular time to visit Costa Rica. This means that prices are high and everything books out fast. If you plan to visit Costa Rica in January, definitely try to book all your hotels, activities, and rental car ahead of time.
Just like with January you can expect hot temperatures and no rain on the Pacific coast. In San Jose it is dry and a bit less windy than in January. On the Caribbean coast you can expect humid temperatures and some rain storms.
Pros: You can pretty much guarantee good weather on the Pacific coast, in La Fortuna, and San Jose.
Cons: Prices are still high and there are still a lot of tourists here. As with January, try to book as much as possible ahead of time. If you are visiting the Caribbean coast you might not have some rain.
In March you can expect hot weather on the Pacific coast. You may have one or two days with afternoon thunderstorms (but it is pretty rare). In San Jose the weather is hot and the wind is gone.
Pros: The weather on the Pacific coast, La Fortuna, and San Jose is almost guaranteed to be great.
Cons: By now, everything has turned brown and dead. The country is just not as pretty (in our opinion) as it is when everything is green. Prices are still high.
Find out more in our guide to Costa Rica in March.
April means hot weather and the possible start of the rainy season. You never really know because it is different every year, but especially later in the month, you might deal with the occasional afternoon thunderstorm.
April tends to be one of the hottest months in Costa Rica on the Pacific coast.
Pros: The weather is still generally good.
Cons: All of the country is off over Easter and basically the entire country heads to the Pacific beaches. If you are traveling during that time you can expect big crowds and high prices. Everything still looks dried out due to the lack of rain. You may also deal with the occasional thunderstorm.
In May, the rainy season officially begins. You may not have rainstorms every day, but they definitely become more frequent. Typically the rain storms roll in around 2pm and last for no more than two hours.
Pros: Everything starts turning green again due to the rain. Also, you don’t have to worry as much about things being booked out because there are fewer tourists in May. Some hotel and activity prices go down.
Cons: You may have some afternoon thunderstorms.
June is not a bad time to visit Costa Rica. You can expect afternoon thunderstorms almost every day, but the weather is hot and good for the rest of the day.
Pros: There are still a lot of tourists, but not as many as earlier in the year. Prices tend to be a bit lower for hotels and activities. Everything looks green and lush.
Cons: You will likely have afternoon thunderstorms.
July is actually one of our favorite months to travel around the country. Everything is back to being really green and you can expect hot sunny days with the afternoon thunderstorms like clockwork. There are a fair amount of tourists because it is summer vacation time, but not as many as earlier in the year.
In July there is also (usually) a two-week break from the rain.
Pros: Prices are lower for hotels and activities because it is officially the Costa Rica green season. Everything is green and pretty.
Cons: You will have to deal with the normal afternoon thunderstorm.
August in Costa Rica can be a bit wet and gray. Sometimes you will have absolutely perfect days with no rain, other times you might have afternoon thunderstorms, and some days will just be overcast. However, there are very few days which are complete washouts.
August is the best time to visit the Caribbean coast. The weather tends to be hot and rain-free over there. Also, it is turtle season in Tortuguero, so it is the perfect time to head to the east coast of the country.
Pros: Very few tourists are visiting during this time, which means fewer crowds and lower prices. You don’t need to stress about booking things far in advance. Also, it is a great time to visit the Caribbean.
Cons: You can’t really predict the weather during this time. You might have some gray days with afternoon storms.
Just like with August, you can’t really predict the weather in September. This past September we spent four nights on the Pacific coast and didn’t have a single drop of rain the entire time. Other years it has been a lot more rainy with the typical afternoon storm.
Pros: Prices are low and all the tourists are home due to the start of the school year. The weather has the potential to be decent. This is a great time to visit the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.
Cons: You can’t predict the weather during this time of year. Some places start closing down for the season due to lack of tourism.
October is known for having the worst weather in the country. You can expect some days of full rain. In San Jose where we live, this is the month when we deal with flooding due to some very heavy rainstorms.
Pros: Everything is cheap and tourism is way down.
Cons: The weather is usually not the best. Also, some hotels in smaller beach towns close down for October because they know that they can’t get enough business during this time of year. You also need to be careful while visiting at this time. Sometimes roads can get washed out and this past year there were multiple deaths due to flash flooding.
November is kind of completely up in the air. We have lived in San Jose for three years and every November has been different. Some years have been nonstop rainy and others have been sunny and hot with very little rain. Basically, November is a surprise month.
Pros: This is still a quiet time for tourism (although things definitely pick up a bit later in the month around Thanksgiving). Everything is green and lush and prices are low all over the country.
Cons: You really can’t predict the weather. In some of the smaller beach towns, a lot of hotels are still closed for the rainy season.
In December you have very little chance of dealing with rain (but it can still happen especially during the beginning of the month).
Instead, you will have hot temperatures on the Pacific coast, warm windy weather in San Jose, and some possible rain on the Caribbean. Get ready to hear every local say, “It’s Christmas weather!.”
Pros: During the first half of the month the country is still not overrun with tourists and you will likely have great weather. Plus everything is nice and green.
Cons: The second half of the month means the start of tourist season. The week between Christmas and New Years is one of the busiest times of the year here.
If you plan on booking your vacation during that time, book early and be prepared to pay top dollar for hotels and activities.
*note that this will also sign you up for our email list filled with great Costa Rica travel tips*
Keep in mind that Costa Rica is not that far from the equator. The sun here is powerful!
In fact, the most common medical treatment that visitors to Costa Rica end up needing is due to over-exposure from the sun and bad burns.
We have a full guide to protecting yourself from the sun to help you out.
And our number one tip is to buy a long sleeve shirt for swimming. In our experience, people on beaches or during day boat tours when they are just wearing their bathing suits is the number one time for bad sun exposure.
There are mosquitos in Costa Rica. They tend to be more of a problem during the rainy season and in the evenings.
When you go out to dinner, we always suggest bringing a bottle of bug spray with you.
Unfortunately, mosquitos here have been known to carry illnesses such as Zika and Dengue.
Find out how to protect yourself and what to look out for with our guide to Costa Rica mosquitos.
Typically, Costa Rica does not get hit with hurricanes or tropical storms, but you just never know!
During the rainy season it is important to keep track of the weather and use some precautions.
Things such as flash floods and landslides are known to occasionally happen.
For more tips check out our guide to natural disasters in Costa Rica.
– If you are visiting a cloud forest climate like Monteverde or San Gerardo de Dota, be prepared for rain and cooler temperatures even in the dry season.
– If you are planning to rent a car, we have a 10% discount plus other great perks with Adobe. Their rate fluctuates by season, not by when you book.
In other words, it is best to book your car now so you can guarantee you’ll have one.
The price will not be cheaper if you wait longer, but they may run out of cars if you don’t book in time.
This happens a lot in the dry season.
– Take the Costa Rica weather forecast with a grain of salt. I swear that during the rainy season they just say rain all day every day. This just is not true.
– We have created destination guides to every location in Costa Rica. All of these destination guides include detailed weather descriptions.
Definitely check these out for more details about the weather in the areas you are planning to visit.
It’s important to remember that Costa Rica is made up of several microclimates, so every area of the country can vary greatly in weather.
– All of our descriptions about the weather are predictions. It can be really hard to say exactly what it will be like here. We have lived in Costa Rica for five years and every year has been completely different.
For example, during the summer of our second year, we had scary thunderstorms almost every afternoon.
When I say scary, I mean car alarms would be going off all down our street because the lightning was striking so close.
This past summer we had only a handful of thunderstorms and almost none of them were very scary.
Check out our Destination Guides for the area of the country you are visiting. Each Destination Guide includes a section on the weather in that particular area by season.