The best time to visit Costa Rica: weather, wildlife, and savings

The best time to visit Costa Rica: weather, wildlife, and savings

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With its beautiful rainforests, stunning white sand beaches and amazing wildlife, Costa Rica is a bucket list destination for so many travellers. Before you pack your backpack, though, there are a few things to consider. For one thing, that word rainforest. Yep, if you travel to Costa Rica at the wrong time of year, you may find yourself getting awfully damp. Luckily, we’ve put together this guide for you. Read on for our hottest tips on the best time to go to Costa Rica.

The best time of year to travel to Costa Rica for weather

Costa Rica is a tropical country, which means it has just two seasons: rainy and dry. In the wet season, Costa Rica is, let’s face it, pretty wet — and we’re not talking about drizzle here. You can expect rain storms every day, and they often last for hours. Yes, you might get lucky and only have a couple of hours of rain in the afternoon, but you should be prepared for monsoons.

The dry season is, as the name suggests, generally dry, with lots of sunshine and clear skies. Of course, things don’t always run smoothly in the tropics, and occasional rain showers are not unheard of, even at this time of year. Oh, and you know the saying “when it rains, it pours”? Well, whoever thought that up must have been Costa Rican because the concept of light rain doesn’t really exist in this country. Even in the dry season, if you feel a few raindrops coming down, you’d better run for cover to avoid being soaked!

As an overview, the dry season runs from December to April, while the wet season in Costa Rica is at its worst from September to November. The period from May to August is the “low rainy season” or Green Season, which tends to feature storms in the afternoons but clear skies in the mornings.

The best month to visit Costa Rica for a quiet holiday

It’s not all about the weather. There’s no point travelling to a destination and finding it packed full of tourists! You might be wondering what the best time to visit Costa Rica is for those who want to avoid crowds.

Well, naturally, you can head to the country during the rainy season, and you’ll find far fewer people around. There’s a reason for that, though! If the thought of getting drenched day after day doesn’t appeal, try visiting in the Green Season months of May and June. You can generally expect rainy afternoons but clear, sunny mornings, giving you time to do some sightseeing.

In the past, experts would also often recommend July and August as a good time to catch Costa Rica in a tourist lull. However, we’re sorry to say that the secret’s out now. As more and more Europeans head to the tropical nation for their summer holidays, these months are now pretty busy.

The worst time to visit Costa Rica for crowds

As Costa Rica is close to the United States, it’s long been a popular destination for American holidaymakers. This means that if you want to avoid crowds, you should steer clear of American holiday weekends. In particular, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are very busy times for the country. If you can wait a few days, you’ll find that prices tend to drop sharply around the 5th of January, as the Christmas travellers head back to their countries.

We really don’t think that the holiday season is the best time to visit Costa Rica, but if you’ve got no other choice, then be smart. You’ll need to be prepared for prices to be higher than usual, and you’ll probably want to book everything well in advance. We’re not just talking about hotels, either. Popular activities like snorkelling, scuba diving and wildlife safaris may sell out months in advance. All in all, it’s quite a stressful time for your holiday. If you prefer to go with the flow, then you’ll be much happier visiting at pretty much any other time of year.

The other time of year that Costa Rica gets incredibly crowded is during spring break season, as young Americans head down south to party and have fun in the south. Again, you’ll want to book things in advance, particularly if you’re staying by the beach. Unfortunately, we can’t give you precise dates for spring break, as American universities tend to stagger this holiday. In general, though, if you visit any time in March or April, you may have to navigate crowds of drunken frat boys. Maybe you’re into that sort of thing, but if you’re not, steer clear!

The best time to visit Costa Rica for wildlife

In Costa Rica’s lush rainforests, you’ll find a wealth of animal life: sloths, four kinds of monkeys, tropical birds and more. If you’re determined to see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat, then think carefully about when you travel.

A colorful toucan perched on a branch in the lush rainforest of Costa Rica

During the rainy season, animals have an abundance of food all around them, so they can be harder to spot as they don’t tend to move around much. What’s more, the trees have more leaves — so even with binoculars, you may struggle to pick out birds’ nests or lurking monkeys.

For that reason, the dry season is the best time to visit Costa Rica if you want to tick some species off your naturalist’s list. For one thing, the sparser forests will make it easier to spot animals and birds high in trees. Plus, at this time of year, animals need to forage further afield to find food, which means you’re more likely to see them out and about. If you’re planning a safari as part of your holiday, make sure you visit in the dry season.

A good time to visit Costa Rica for marine life

It’s not just about what you can see on dry land! The waters on both sides of Costa Rica are also teeming with life, and if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of some rare and wonderful creatures.

Fancy a spot of whale watching? Then the best time to visit Costa Rica is in the dry season. The peak whale season runs from late January to the middle of March, and it’s when you’ll be able to see graceful humpbacks along the Pacific Coast. If you miss that window of opportunity, there’s another chance — a second, slightly smaller whale season takes place from the middle of July until September.

Perhaps the most famous sea creatures in Costa Rica are the iconic sea turtles, which come ashore to bury their eggs in the sand. The sight of baby turtles breaking their eggs, digging up to the surface, and heading for the water for the first time is one that you’ll never forget. If you want to witness this magic moment, then travel between July and September. There’s a chance that you could get lucky and see baby turtle hatchlings as early as June or as late as October, but these months mark the peak of the season.

A baby sea turtle crawling on the sand towards the ocean in Costa Rica

The best month to travel to Costa Rica for scuba diving

Keen divers will find plenty to keep them happy in the waters around Costa Rica. This country boasts two distinct coasts, and the waters of the Caribbean Sea are quite different from the Pacific Ocean. In the former, you’ll find easier dive conditions, calmer water, and colourful reefs where small tropical fish dart around. Out in the Pacific, meanwhile, you should keep your eyes peeled for large pelagic species: manta rays, sharks and even humpback whales often pass through these waters.

A humpback whale breaching the ocean surface during sunset in Costa Rica

The best time to visit Costa Rica for divers depends on what you’re after. If you want to learn to dive, then travel from August to December. That’s when the seas are at their calmest, without much wind to cause problems with surges. Visibility can be as much as 30 metres, making for a truly spectacular diving experience that even total beginners can enjoy.

On the other hand, experienced divers will probably prefer to visit from May to November. The rainy season causes nutrient swells in the waters, which brings big, fascinating creatures like bull sharks and hammerheads to enjoy the feast. Conditions can be a little trickier, but this is really bucket-list diving, particularly if you opt for a live-aboard boat that takes you out to the country’s islands. These trips, which tend to be popular with serious, dedicated divers, will let you explore Costa Rica’s best dive sites, which rank among the finest in the world.

The cheapest time to travel to Costa Rica

Finally, let’s take a look at a question that every budget traveller asks: what’s the best month for Costa Rica on a shoestring? Once again, you’ll want to avoid holidays, especially Christmas, New Year and spring break. Don’t worry, though — travelling on a budget doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to suffer through a miserable rainy season. In fact, there are a couple of dry season months when the prices are low, and you can snap up a bargain holiday.

January and February are great budget months to explore Costa Rica. The weather is dry, the scenery looks stunning, and the prices are quite a bit lower than in December or March. You can also save money from September to November, but be prepared for rain. If you’re happy to take the risk of getting wet, then grab your waterproof poncho and enjoy the savings!

In conclusion, the best time to visit Costa Rica may be different for every traveller — it all depends on your priorities. One thing’s for sure: we can’t get enough of this magical country. That’s why we’re organising a 13-day group trip around the country. You’ll trek deep into the jungles, gaze in awe at stunning volcanoes, and chill out on picture-perfect beaches. It’s also a great way to meet like-minded solo travellers and make lifelong friends.

What do you say? Now that you know the best times to visit Costa Rica, do you want to know more? Of course, read this: Costa Rica: the best places to visit in the country of “pura vida”.

WeRoad Team
Written by WeRoad Team