When is the best time to visit Costa Rica?


The tourism industry is booming in Costa Rica with more than 1.7 million tourists per year, thanks in large part to ecotourism.

Costa Rica’s tropical climate and abundance of nature parks offer nonstop opportunities for forest and volcano hikes, zip lining excursions, wildlife viewing, beach time and more. Still, you’ll want to be informed before deciding what time of year is best to get the most from Costa Rica’s attractions and culture.

Playa Escondilla and Playa Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica. ATANAS MALAMOV/UNSPLASH

Here’s some advice for choosing the right time to visit:

When to go to Costa Rica for good weather

Costa Rica’s tropical climate is warm year-round. The country harbors many microclimates that differ in temperature and rainfall, but temperatures don’t vary wildly within them. As a result, the average temperature for the country overall only fluctuates between the high 70s and low 80s Fahrenheit; it’s the rain that’s most likely to impact your travel plans.

Costa Ricans see their year as divided between the high season (the dry season, December to April) and the green season (rainy season, May to November).

For the best weather, visit Costa Rica during the dry season, typically from December to April. During these months, you can expect plenty of sunshine, minimal rainfall and warm temperatures, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities and exploring the country’s rugged beaches and national parks.

However, it’s worth noting that weather patterns can vary across different regions of Costa Rica.

The Cordillera Central mountains, on the Caribbean side, face dry season in September and October, which is when most of the other regions see the majority of the rain. This makes the green season the perfect time to explore Cahuita National Park or the Tree of Life Wildlife Rescue Center.

For the majority of the country, high season is a great time for beach goers, while green season is the perfect opportunity for experienced surfers and whitewater rafting.

Best time to hike Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano and the surrounding Arenal Volcano National Park in the center of the country are among Costa Rica’s most compelling sights.

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Until 2010, the volcano was considered one of the 10 most active volcanoes in the world, with molten rocks and ash emanating from the summit daily. Smoke and ash are still visible but no lava has erupted in recent years. The volcano is surrounded by lush forests laced with hiking trails, thermal hot springs and beautiful Lake Arenal.

Views of the Arenal Volcano National Park. WESTEND61/GETTY IMAGES

The period of May through November sees the least precipitation at the volcano, so trails will be less slippery and temperatures should be pleasantly warm — usually in the mid-80s. Many consider this the best time to visit. (On the other hand, there are those who would say that there is no bad weather — only inappropriate clothing — and the most dramatic time to see the volcano is when clouds are on the move.)

Best time to see wildlife in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a biodiversity hotspot and offers incredible experiences and adventures for wildlife enthusiasts.

The best times to see wildlife in Costa Rica are during the dry season months of December to April. During this time, animals tend to congregate around water sources, making it easier to spot them. Additionally, the lack of dense foliage makes it easier to observe birds and mammals in the trees and along the forest floor.

However, it’s important to note that Costa Rica’s wildlife is abundant year-round, and even during the rainy season, you can still encounter a wide variety of species. This country’s nature reserves are full of monkeys, birds, wild cats, amphibians, etc. If you want to see sloths, there’s a whole sloth sanctuary for that.

Three Toed Sloth in Costa Rica

One of the experiences you may want to time carefully, however, is a visit to Tortuguero National Park (Place of Turtles). Also known as the “Little Amazon” of Costa Rica, this is where you can observe sea turtles nesting. Leatherback turtles nest on Tortuguero between March and May, while green sea turtles nest between July and October. In November, nesting is over but the babies may be seen hatching.

Ecotourism companies will take families on boating and kayaking excursions to see turtles nesting on the beach — from a respectful distance, of course.

When to visit to avoid crowds

Those who don’t mind rainy afternoons will be rewarded in the green season with quiet trails, cooler temperatures and dramatic scenery. It’s a trade-off for sure as dry weather makes it easier to get around and quite possibly get to experience more activities.

But even during the rainy season (May–November), most of Costa Rica doesn’t receive days of constant rain; it’s more common for mornings to be calm and afternoons to be rainy. So, embracing Costa Rica’s rainy season may result in a truly special experience.

During this time, you’ll also find lower prices for accommodations, tours and flights.

Many beautiful waterfalls can be found in Costa Rica’s jungles. ELEN TURNER

Cheapest times to visit Costa Rica

The cheapest times to visit Costa Rica typically fall during the country’s rainy season, which runs from May to November. This period experiences lower tourism demand, resulting in more affordable prices for accommodations, flights and activities.

Flight deals to Costa Rica

The cheapest time to fly to Costa Rica can vary depending on myriad factors, including airline promotions, seasonal demand and ticket availability.

However, September, October and November offer lower airfare than the high-season months of December to April. According to Skyscanner data, September is the cheapest month to fly to Costa Rica, with potential savings of up to 19% on ticket prices compared to peak season months.

It’s important to remember that prices can fluctuate, and it’s always a good idea to monitor flight deals and compare prices from multiple airlines to find the best possible fares for your travel dates.

Related: 5 key tools and tips to find the cheapest airfare

How to save money on accommodation in Costa Rica

Finding inexpensive hotel rooms in Costa Rica can be possible if you plan your trip strategically and search for good deals. Some budget-friendly options include guesthouses, hostels and smaller locally-owned hotels. These accommodations generally offer more affordable rates compared to luxury resorts. Also, booking your stay during the country’s low season, typically between May and November, can help you secure discounted rates.

Related: Best all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica for beach visits or hiking trips

Of course, you can always use your points to keep costs down. Costa Rica boasts several hotel chains that cater to frequent guests with rewarding loyalty programs.

The Marriott Bonvoy program encompasses family-friendly properties like the The Westin Reserva Conchal (from 73,000 Bonvoy points per night) and the recently renovated Courtyard San Jose Escazu (from 12,500 points per night).

Hilton Honors is another renowned rewards program, with participating Curio Collection properties such as the Gran Hotel Costa Rica in San Jose (from 41,000 points per night) and the new Botanika Osa Peninsula (from 32,000 points per night) on the wild and rugged Pacific Coast.

Travelers can also explore the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and its IHG Rewards Club, including the InterContinental Costa Rica at Multiplaza Mall (from 36,000 points per night) and the Holiday Inn San Jose-Aurola (from 36,000 per night).

Related: New offer: Earn up to 165,000 points with these IHG credit cards

For Hyatt loyalists, one of TPG’s favorite World of Hyatt redemptions is in Costa Rica: the Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo which offers luxe rooms, excellent amenities and a gorgeous location for just 17,000 points per night during low season.


Best times to go surfing in Costa Rica

Generally, the country experiences two main surf seasons. The high surf season occurs from May to November, aka the rainy season. The rainy season in Costa Rica is widely regarded as the best time of year to surf, and there are several reasons for this.

Firstly, the rainy season brings bigger waves, thanks to the southwest swells from the South Pacific. This translates into prime surf conditions, especially along the Pacific shores of Costa Rica. Additionally, the rainy season experiences less wind, creating a smooth and glossy ocean surface.

While Playa Tamarindo offers mellow waves year-round, intermediate to advanced surfers particularly enjoy the larger swells found during the rainy season. During this time, the country’s renowned breaks, such as Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point, come to life.

However, it’s important to note that the best time for beginner surfers to visit Costa Rica is during the dry season, from December to May when the waves are smaller and more manageable.

Surfing on Jaco Beach, Costa Rica. JORDAN SIEMENS

Costa Rica’s coffee season

Costa Rica is renowned for its high quality, 100% Arabica coffee beans. Experiencing the coffee season firsthand provides a unique opportunity to appreciate the rich flavors and aromas that make Costa Rican coffee exceptional.

The season typically runs from October to March, with variations depending on the specific region and altitude of coffee plantations. During this time, the coffee cherries ripen and are ready for harvesting. The harvest season is busy time for coffee farmers in Costa Rica, as they meticulously pick the ripe cherries by hand. It’s also a significant cultural and economic event in the country, and visitors during this period can witness the vibrant activity on the plantations and even participate in coffee tours to learn about the coffee production process.

Bottom Line

If Costa Rica is on your radar, these guidelines will help you plan out the best time to visit this beautiful country. With many activities, sights and events throughout the year, there really is no bad time to visit Costa Rica.

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