Despite its modest size, Costa Rica enjoys a wide variety of weather throughout the year. With a climate with sharp contrasts between the Pacific and Caribbean coasts as well as in the interior, it’s worth taking into account the type of Costa Rica weather you’re likely to experience when planning a holiday to this fascinating Central American nation.
Wet or Dry?
The first thing to bear in mind is that the term ‘wet season’ and ‘dry season’ are relative. It still rains in the dry season and there are days in the middle of the wet season where you’ll barely see a cloud in the sky. The driest months along Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast are from December to April and it’s at this time that locals flock to the beaches, and the hotels and restaurants are at their busiest. It’s also a good time to see the Costa Rican wildlife, as water sources begin to dry out and animals concentrate around the shrinking lakes and rivers.
The wet season runs from May to November, with September and October experiencing particularly high rainfall. The rains create challenges for travel, with roads sometimes flooded and rivers swollen – it’s not the best time to see wildlife and hiking can be difficult, although fishing trips are often highly successful at this time of the year.
The Caribbean coast tends to have less marked seasons, with drier weather typically between March and September. And of course the interior of Costa Rica is made up of rainforest – and the name provides a vital clue to the type of weather you can expect. But days of solid rain anywhere in Costa Rica are uncommon – expect short daily downpours and plenty of sunshine.
The Perfect Weather for…
The best places to spot wildlife are usually around water, so it follows that as these rivers and lakes evaporate in the dry season, the animals are forced to visit ever-smaller places to get their precious water. The latter part of the dry season, especially from February to April, are the best months to spot much of the Costa Rican wildlife.
During the rainy season access to some of the most popular wildlife-viewing lodges becomes difficult and flooded roads are not the only hazard. Corcovado on the Osa peninsula is one of the best areas in Costa Rica for spotting birds, butterflies, monkeys and even the elusive jaguar, but many lodges in the area close in October and November due to the rough seas which make boat transfers very difficult.
For those wanting to see turtles, leatherbacks are best seen in December and January on the Pacific Coast and in April and May on the Caribbean coast. Loggerhead turtles are best seen on the Caribbean coast in August and September.
Costa Rica offers year-round riches for bird-watching, but for sightings of the beautiful quetzal, the best chances are between November and April.
The rainiest months of September and October bring the best swells on the Pacific Coast, while on the Caribbean coast it’s the winter months (December to April) which typically draw in the surfing crowds. Such are the quirks of the Costa Rica climate however, that some swells remain steady year-round.
The best weather depends on what you want to see and do, but for those wanting to see the Costa Rican landscapes at their most lush, December and January are the ideal months to visit. The rains have recently finished, roads are passable and the vegetation is at its most green and fertile.