Although Costa Rica is in the tropics, it actually contains a dozen micro-climates so there is always somewhere amazing to visit any month of the year. No matter the season or region though, the climate is overall quite mild and rain is always a possibility. Our guidelines below should help with trip planning and let you make the most of your Costa Rica adventure.
DRY & GREEN SEASONS
For most of Costa Rica, except the Caribbean side and the Guanacaste region, the dry season goes from late-November through April and the rainy season is between May and November. Generally, in the highlands and central valley, you’ll have warm days (70 F – 80F) and cooler nights, whereas in the lowlands and on the coast, it will be hot (80 F – 90 F) most of the time.
Dry Season (or Summer):
The dry and somewhat cooler season is the most popular time to visit, especially December through February when those from northern latitudes are escaping winter. Rainfall is less frequent and there is an abundance of migratory birds. Driving to remote areas is much easier as well.
Green Season (or “Winter”):
Visiting in the rainy and warmer season (or “green season”) isn’t actually a bad idea since much of the day is bright and sunny with predictable rains later in the day. Mid-July to mid-August is also bizarrely dry and can be an amazing time to visit. The rainiest months are September and October, so it’s usually best to visit less rainy parts of the country during these months. Animals tend to be more active in the rainy season as well; so if you don’t mind packing a raincoat, you may be rewarded with spotting more sloths, toucans, spider monkeys, and kinkajous.
But of course, there are some distinct variations in a few regions, the micro-climates mentioned above, where the general rules above don’t quite apply . . .
Overall, the biggest differences in climate come not from seasonal changes, but from elevation. The higher elevations, like cloudforest hills of Monteverde and San Gerardo de Dota will be mistier and cooler than the lush rainforests of Corcovado and the Caribbean coast. The humidity also affects the perceived temperature, so bringing a sweater or fleece is usually a good idea for cooler evenings.
GUANACASTE & NICOYA PENINSULA
While there are two seasons technically, it’s basically “hot and hotter”. This region is more arid overall and hardly rains at all during the dry season — think highs of 85 F to 93 F. November through April is the dry, hotter season and it’s the busiest season of the year; you’ll definitely have to leave the most popular beaches to find solitude if that’s what you’re after. The green season is markedly less rainy than elsewhere in the country. The southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula is actually a transition zone between dry forest and tropical rainforest, thus it receives more rain than the northern part of the peninsula and the rest of Guanacaste — thus, its green season is a bit wetter than areas to the north. Many travelers enjoy visiting during the green season because the afternoon rains can be quite welcome and the plant life really blossoms. October is the rainiest month of the year and not recommended for travel. July is a little holiday from the rainy season (known locally as “little summer”) and can be the best time of all to visit.
The Caribbean is known for rain, but also some of the most laid-back beach towns and idyllic beaches. September and October are the driest months (opposite of the rest of the country). February through March are also fairly dry. November through January are the rainiest months and not suitable for travel on the coast, though higher elevations can be fine. April through August are rainy, but usually only in the afternoons. Along the coast, the temperatures are typically in the upper 80’s. In Tortuguero, leatherback sea turtles nest between April and May while the green sea turtles nest July through October. In Turrialba, the rainiest months are June and November; year round temperatures are upper 70’s to low 80’s.
The Osa, including Drake Bay, Golfo de Dulce, and Corcovado National Park, is straight up rainforest. The dry season is January through April (though dry is a relative term in the rainforest, so do expect a bit of rain from time to time) and the rainy season is May through December. Throughout the year, the temperature is in the 80’s or low 90’s.