Costa Rica is a beautiful country in Central America, and it's a popular place to visit because of its culture, beaches, and natural areas.
There are three main seasons in Costa Rica: dry, rainy, and green. The temperature in Costa Rica stays the same year-round, but the amount of rain and sun varies.
While the dry season is commonly said to be the best time to visit Costa Rica thanks to the good weather, there are benefits to visiting during the other seasons, like lower prices and fewer people.
Dry Season in Costa Rica
The dry season is the most popular time to travel to Costa Rica. The dry season runs from December to April, and the peak tourist season is in December, March, and April, thanks to the holidays.
The weather in Costa Rica is best during the dry season, which is why for many it's considered the best time to travel to Costa Rica by far. There is little to no rain in the country during the dry season, and you can expect a lot of sunny afternoons and perfect temperatures.
In all honesty, I prefer dealing with some less than perfect weather to get fewer crowds and better prices on accommodation. Since I work remotely, those not-so-great-weather days actually make for the perfect work days.
Holidays during Dry Season
Another reason tourism is so high between December and April is the holidays. People are off work, and kids are off school starting in mid-December, when it gets super busy, especially in touristy areas.
The busy holiday season lasts until mid-January when the holidays end and the crowds stay a little lower until March. Although it is a busy time of year, as far as the weather is concerned, it's a great time to visit Costa Rica.
Spring break is also during Costa Rica's dry season, in March and April. Many students and families visit Costa Rica on spring break since the weather is nice, and it is easy to get to from most places in the Western hemisphere.
High Prices in Dry Season
Although it is the best time to visit Costa Rica for good weather, prices are also higher since the demand is higher.
You will want to plan your trip to Costa Rica in advance if you are visiting during the peak season since hotels and tours will sell out fast, and airfare and transport around the country are more expensive than in the other seasons.
Things to do during Dry Season
There are a lot of outdoor activities you can do when you visit Costa Rica during the dry season, which is part of what makes this the best time to visit Costa Rica.
At a quick glance, the best things to do during the dry season are:
- Go kayaking
- Learn how to surf
- Enjoy the Christmas & New Years celebrations
- Visit the sea turtles
- Go trekking or ziplining in the jungle
First, there are a lot of things you can do on the beaches and in the water. The temperatures are high, so it's a good time to swim, lay on the beach, or do some water sports like kayaking.
The season is also a good time for beginner surfers to visit since the waves are not as intense as they are in the rainier months.
There are also a lot of events and festivals you can participate in during these months, especially if you are spending the dry season in a city or town. Some of the Costa Rican festivals that take place in these months include food, live music, bullfighting, and dancing.
The dry season is also a good time to see sea turtles in Costa Rica. The sea turtles are easiest to see in the national parks and wildlife refuges. In fact, this is the best time to see all wildlife in Costa Rica since they are not hiding from the rain showers and a lot of the animals thrive in the dry heat.
Finally, many tours are running since the season sees the best weather and the highest demand. You can find tours on the water, city tours, tours of the national parks and jungles, and even adventure tours that include activities like zip-lining.
Just be sure you are planning a trip to Costa Rica in the dry season far in advance, especially if you are booking popular tours or activities during this time of year.
Rainy Season in Costa Rica
The rainy season in Costa Rica happens from September to November.
This time of the year in Costa Rica is the worst time to visit weather-wise. As the name of the season suggests, there is a lot of rain during the season. If you visit during this time of the year, you can expect rain every day, and oftentimes it will last for most if not all of the day. Y
You'll still experience some rainy days or short bursts of a downfall when you visit Costa Rica starting in May. From May to November, rainfall shouldn't surprise you but more aggressive storms and monsoons are more common between September and November.
September and October see the worst storms, and it tends to lighten up by mid-November.
Mid-November to early December is shoulder season. It's a good time to visit since the rain has decreased significantly and it is not quite busy yet. You'll find fewer crowds and lower prices during shoulder season, so it's a great time to visit Costa Rica.
The peak rainy season isn't a great time to visit Costa Rica to take tours and see wildlife. Tour operators run significantly fewer tours during the rainy season, and the storms keep animals in hiding.
But, by the end of the rainy season, everything is so green and lush in Costa Rica, and the jungles are beautiful, just in time for peak season.
Things to do during Rainy Season
At a quick glance, the best things to do during the rainy season are:
- Go surfing (best for experienced surfers)
- Enjoy the café & food culture
- Save money on a working holiday
While you need to be cautious and stay safe, the rainy season is actually a good time to surf in Costa Rica. The beaches are quiet, and the storms bring big waves, especially on the Pacific Coast. Plus, the water is warm all year round, so it's a popular time for surfers to visit Costa Rica.
While there is not too much to do during the rainy season, unless you want to get wet or stay inside, it is a great time for digital nomads to visit. With the weather, you can spend the rainy days inside working and the nicer times outside. If you're planning to apply for Costa Rica's digital nomad visa, this could be a strategic time to move since the prices will be lowest and there will be less competition for accommodation. Just keep in mind that it could mean moving in the rain, which isn't ideal.
You can also avoid crowds in typically busy cities like San José, where you can do plenty of things to avoid the rain. It is also a good idea to stay in a city during the rainy season because flooding is common, especially in remote areas. If you are not staying somewhere with lots of access to roads, you may be stuck there until the roads stop flooding.
And, since it is low season, accommodations are cheaper. You just need to be flexible with your days and take advantage of time outside when the rain does stop.
Costa Rica's Green Season
The third and final season in Costa Rica is the green season which runs from May to August.
Green season is the best time to visit Costa Rica if you want to avoid the worst crowds but still want some good weather. Unlike during December through April, there is rain during the green season, but it is not nearly as bad or constant as it is in the rainy season.
Most of the rain happens in the afternoon or evening and doesn't even happen daily. So, you can spend time exploring Costa Rica's jungles and beaches in the morning, then spend some time inside if it rains later in the day.
It is also a good time to visit Costa Rica if you work there on a flexible schedule. You can work when it's raining, then go out and enjoy everything Costa Rica has to offer.
Since demand is lower, you will not have to worry about planning your trip too far in advance if you are visiting Costa Rica during these months.
Things to do during Green Season
At a quick glance, the best things to do during green season are:
- Enjoy a tour
- Visit Tortuguero National Park
- Relax on the beach
- Go surfing (a good mix of days for beginners and experienced surfers)
- Go trekking in the jungle
There is a lot to do in Costa Rica during green season, and all the tours will have good availability. Prices will also not be as high for all the activities, so it's a good time to try something more expensive like zip-lining or a jungle tour.
If you want to see some of the wildlife in Costa Rica, the green season, specifically in July and August, is a good time to visit. Some of the most popular wildlife to see are the sea turtles which you will find in Tortuguero National Park.
You should also spend some time at the beaches, exploring the coasts, and hiking in the national parks since the crowds will be minimal.
The green season is also a good time to visit Costa Rica to surf. The rain brings in some good waves, especially on the Pacific Coast. If you want smaller waves that are good for beginners, visit the Caribbean coast during the season.
Finally, the green season is the best time to visit a city in Costa Rica like San Jose. With the low crowds and less rain, you will find the city more enjoyable and will not have a hard time getting into restaurants and finding activities.
However, with the weather changing, you don't know when you will need to take cover, and in the city, there are plenty of restaurants, shops, and museums where you can do so. Then, you can spend the sunny days enjoying the outdoors.
So, what's the best time to visit Costa Rica? Visiting Costa Rica can be a fantastic decision all year round, but the ideal time to visit Costa Rica will really depend on how much time you have in the country and what you're hoping to do on your trip here.
If you want plenty of entertainment options, things to do, and great weather, I'd suggest visiting during the high season (dry season) when the weather is rain-free.
If you're looking for great waves and plenty of relaxing days spent indoors, you'll love visiting in September, October, and until mid-November.
Lastly, if you're like me, and are more than happy to have sunny mornings and potentially cloudy or rainy afternoons so long as it means less crowds, head on down to Costa Rica from May until the end of August.
Now it's up to you, when is the best time to visit Costa Rica for you?
Hero photo by Chiaroscuro.