Playita Beach, Manuel Antonio
Playita Beach, Manuel Antonio

Spoiler alert: I’m going to tell you that there is NO bad time to visit Costa Rica. My home country is amazing year-round! There are, however, pros and cons to each season depending on what you have on your Costa Rica's bucket list, and which region you are interested in visiting.

Costa Rica is known around the world for having one of the most diverse climates, which makes the country a great place for everyone to visit, from nature lovers to scientists to surfer to adventure seekers. There are two general seasons in Costa Rica, the dry season (which we call summer) and the rainy season (which we call the green season). That’s it – no winter! So, if you are unfortunate enough to live in an area that has winter, then I invite you to come visit my country during those months, which are likely to be prime beach months in Costa Rica!

Each region in Costa Rica has its own unique climate zone; while it might be dry season in one area, it might be rainy season in another. This can work to your advantage though; if you plan your trip just right you can get the best of the beaches and the mountains all in one shot!

One thing to keep in mind when visiting my country is that there is a lot of sun. Even for a native tree frog like me, it gets intense. The sun shines throughout the year, and can last for about 12 hours a day. That’s great for vegetation, but many travelers that I have come across have mentioned that they didn’t know there was so much sunshine. But, now you know! The sun is especially hot from March through May, so if you visit during those months you should plan to be diligent with the application of your sun screen. November, December, and January tend to be cooler months, though year-round temperatures average between 70 degrees to 80 degrees.

The rainy season in Costa Rica will typically run from May through November, though the months with the heaviest rainfall are September and October. While overall my country can see up to 100 feet of rain in one rainy season, that weather tends to be concentrated in certain regions; mountain areas might see a quarter of that total rainfall. Since I’ve lived through many years of dry and rainy seasons here in Costa Rica, here’s my guide for helping you find the best time to visit Costa Rica:

Sunset at the Papagayo Gulf in Guanacaste
Sunset at the Papagayo Gulf in Guanacaste

North Pacific Coast

In this region, the dry season begins at the end of the year in December, and lasts through about Easter time in April. During this season it is great to visit the beaches of Tamarindo and the Papagayo Gulf. The rainy season starts in May and wraps up in November.

Mal País Beach
Mal País Beach

Nicoya Peninsula

This area is not only amazing, it’s also home to some of the best beaches you’ll ever visit in Costa Rica (trust me, I’ve been to them all!). The best part is that you can enjoy these beaches for half of the year during the dry season! With no winter in Costa Rica, December is actually prime beach season, and it runs through April. If you visit between May and November, you may have to trudge through some wetter weather.

Inviting beach chairs in Manuel Antonio
Inviting beach chairs in Manuel Antonio

Central Pacific Coast

If you’re heading to the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica between December and April, you’re in for a treat. This popular, easily accessible destination is beach-ready during that time, and there are plenty of beaches to choose from, including Manuel Antonio National Park. May through November is rainy season in this region also.

Statue at the back of Art Museum in La Sabana Park
Statue at the back of Art Museum in La Sabana Park

Central Valley

Central Valley and the country’s capital city, San José, have the ideal climate, I love coming here because while the temperature is hot/comfortable, there is always an amazing breeze off the coast. If you’re looking to enjoy the beaches, head here in December, or the first four months of the year. Otherwise, from May through November, it might be raining.

Arenal Volcano Smoking
Arenal Volcano Smoking

Arenal Volcano & Northern Lowlands

If you’re hoping to see the volcano, then there is no doubt that you should visit the Arenal Volcano area in either September or October. May, June, July, August, and November are also suitable times to visit, but then from December to April you’ll hit the rainy season. The lowlands are known for generally hot days.

Beautiful view of hills in Monteverde
Beautiful view of hills in Monteverde

Monteverde

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is one of my favorite places to visit in Costa Rica, because there are so many animals to see! I try to stay away in November and December because it can be windy, but the rest of the year is open season. It’s dry from January through May, and wet from June through September but there is no bad to time visit this area.

Morning at Tortuguero
Morning at Tortuguero

North and South Caribbean

This is a great area to visit, and it is so close to the Caribbean Ocean, but you should expect it to be rainy and wet most of the year. Head here in February, March, September, or October to have dry weather for visiting the Tortuguero National Park, Cahuita National Park and Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. I highly recommend visiting in September or October.

Chestnut Mandibled Toucan standing on a branch
Chestnut Mandibled Toucan standing on a branch

Osa Peninsula & Drake Bay

One of the world’s most diverse places is dry from December – April and wet from May – November. Hands-down a great place to visit any time of year, you’ll be able to enjoy much of what this region has to offer even if it is raining.