Best Time to Visit Costa Rica

When should you go to Costa Rica?

When is the best time to visit the tropical paradise of Costa Rica? Even if the high season, which runs from December to April, is the most popular time to visit Costa Rica, each season has its own charm.  We’ll explore the high and low seasons of Costa Rica, the best time to experience good weather, the festive atmosphere during Christmas and New Year’s, the cheapest times to visit, as well as ideal periods for surfing or hiking. 

High and low season

High and low seasons in Costa Rica can greatly affect your travel experience. Understanding these seasons will help you plan your trip accordingly.

The high season, which runs from December to April, is the most popular time to visit Costa Rica. During this period, the weather is warm and dry, making it perfect for beach lovers and outdoor activities. The skies are clear, and the sun shines brightly almost every day. However, with popularity comes crowds! Expect more tourists during this time, especially around Christmas and New Year’s. It’s advisable to book accommodations and tours well in advance if you’re planning to visit during the high season. However, it’s important to note that even during the dry season, there may be some regional variations in weather patterns. For example, areas along the Pacific coast tend to have drier conditions compared to those on the Caribbean side.

On the other hand, the low season from May to November offers a different experience altogether. This period is characterized by rain showers or “green season” as locals call it. Despite occasional downpours, there are plenty of sunny days too. keep in mind that while it does rain more frequently during this period, it usually follows a predictable pattern of afternoon showers rather than constant downpours. If you don’t mind some rain and want fewer crowds, visiting during the low season can be a great option! Plus, prices for accommodations are usually lower during this time.

Ultimately, the choice of when to visit Costa Rica depends on personal preferences – whether you prefer dryer weather or don’t mind some rain in exchange for cheaper prices and fewer tourists. 


While the green season holds a special allure for many regular visitors to Costa Rica, it comes with its own set of challenges. In particular, regions like the Atlantic slopes, along with the northeast and southwest, experience significant rainfall, affecting travel plans and outdoor activities. The Osa Peninsula, known for its heavy downpours, often sees travel disruptions, leading to many lodges closing their doors in September and October. Additionally, the days can feel somewhat dimmer during this period. Unlike the extended daylight hours seen in regions closer to the poles during summer, Costa Rica’s proximity to the equator means that day length varies only slightly, with the sun typically setting around 6:00 p.m. throughout the year.

Save money during low season

When it comes to planning a trip to Costa Rica, one of the factors that many people consider is the cost. While Costa Rica can be a relatively affordable destination compared to other tropical destinations, there are certain times of the year when you can find even better deals and save some money on your trip.


The cheapest time to visit Costa Rica is during the country’s rainy season, which typically runs from May through November. During this time, you can often find discounted rates on accommodations and tours as tourism tends to slow down. However, it’s important to note that while it may rain more frequently during these months, it doesn’t mean that every day will be a washout. You can still enjoy plenty of sunshine and outdoor activities between showers.


Another way to save money when visiting Costa Rica is by avoiding peak travel periods such as Christmas and New Year’s holidays or school vacations in July. These times tend to be more expensive due to high demand for flights and accommodations.


If you’re looking for an affordable beach getaway in Costa Rica, consider visiting during September or October when prices are lower and crowds are thinner. The Pacific coast experiences its driest months during this time, making it a great opportunity for beach lovers.


While there may not be one specific “cheapest” time to visit Costa Rica that applies across the board, being mindful of low-demand seasons like the rainy season or avoiding peak travel periods can greatly help in saving money on your trip expenses. 

Holiday seasons

Christmas and New Year’s in Costa Rica are a time of vibrant celebrations and joyful festivities. The country comes alive with a festive spirit, as locals and tourists alike gather to embrace the holiday season.


During this time, the weather is warm and sunny, making it the perfect escape from colder climates. You can bask in the tropical sunshine while enjoying all that Costa Rica has to offer.


One popular tradition during Christmas in Costa Rica is setting up nativity scenes known as “portales.” These intricate displays depict the birth of Jesus surrounded by lush greenery and vivid decorations.


New Year’s Eve in Costa Rica is marked by lively parties and fireworks displays. Many people head to beach towns like Tamarindo or Manuel Antonio, where they can celebrate under the stars with friends and family.

Best time to visit Costa Rica for surfing

If you’re a surfing enthusiast, Costa Rica should definitely be on your bucket list. With its stunning coastline and consistent waves, this tropical paradise offers some of the best surfing spots in the world. But when is the best time to visit Costa Rica for an epic surf session?


The good news is that Costa Rica has waves all year round, thanks to its two coastlines – Pacific and Caribbean. However, the best time for surfing depends on which coast you choose.


On the Pacific side, the main surf season runs from April to October when larger swells hit the coastline. This period sees consistent offshore winds and fewer crowds compared to peak tourist months. The famous breaks like Playa Hermosa and Santa Teresa offer perfect conditions during these months.


If you prefer smaller waves and less crowded lineups, November to March is ideal for surfers visiting the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Spots like Puerto Viejo attract wave riders seeking mellow rides with warm water temperatures.

No matter which coast or season you choose, it’s always a good idea to check local forecasts before heading out.ty!


Best time to visit Costa Rica for hiking - December - January

The best time to visit Costa Rica for hiking is during the dry season, which spans from December to April. During these months, you can expect clear skies and minimal rainfall, creating ideal conditions for exploring the country’s stunning hiking trails and national parks. The dry season provides optimal visibility and makes it easier to navigate the trails.


The takeaway is that Costa Rica offers incredible opportunities for hiking year-round due to its diverse landscapes and rich biodiversity. However, if you want optimal weather conditions with clear skies and less chance of rain interfering with your adventure on foot – then plan your trip during Costa Rica’s dry season from December until April! 

View of the Arenal Volcano
Suspension bridge in the jungle in Arenal National Park

Best time to visit Costa Rica for wildlife spotting

The best time to visit Costa Rica for wildlife spotting largely depends on the region and the specific animals you hope to encounter.

If you’re eager to witness the vibrant birdlife of Costa Rica, plan your trip during the dry season from December to April. During this time, many migratory birds flock to the country’s numerous national parks and reserves, offering incredible opportunities for birdwatchers.

For those seeking glimpses of elusive mammals like sloths and monkeys, consider visiting during the transitional months between wet and dry seasons – May or November. This period sees a decrease in rainfall while still maintaining lush vegetation that these creatures call home.

Remember that nature operates on its own schedule, so flexibility is essential when planning your wildlife adventures in Costa Rica. Stay patient and keep your eyes peeled as you explore this biodiverse wonderland – there are surprises waiting around every corner!

When to visit Costa Rica for turtle nesting

When it comes to witnessing the incredible phenomenon of turtle nesting in Costa Rica, timing is everything! The country’s Pacific coast plays host to several species of sea turtles, including Olive Ridley, Leatherback, and Green turtles. Each species has its own unique nesting season, making the timing of your visit crucial.


For those looking to witness Olive Ridley turtle nesting, the best time to visit Costa Rica is between July and November. During these months, thousands of female Olive Ridleys emerge from the ocean under cover of darkness to lay their eggs on remote beaches. It’s a truly awe-inspiring sight as they dig their nests and carefully bury their precious cargo before returning to the sea.


If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of majestic Leatherback turtles laying their eggs, plan your trip between March and June. These gentle giants can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and are known for their impressive size and strength. Watching them navigate through the sand dunes with grace is an experience like no other.


Green turtles have a longer nesting season that stretches from September through February. These magnificent creatures return year after year to lay their eggs on select beaches along Costa Rica’s coastline. Witnessing baby green turtles hatch and make their way into the ocean is an unforgettable experience that will leave you in awe of nature’s wonders.

Man and woman in the water holding a big turtle

Best time to visit Costa Rica for whale and dolphin watching

The stunning coastal waters of Costa Rica offer a remarkable opportunity to witness the majestic beauty of whales and dolphins in their natural habitat. If you’re looking to embark on an unforgettable aquatic adventure, here is the best time to visit Costa Rica for whale and dolphin watching.


The optimal period for this incredible wildlife experience falls between December and April, during the dry season. During these months, humpback whales migrate from colder regions to give birth and raise their calves in the warm waters surrounding Costa Rica’s coastlines. This migration provides a unique chance to observe these gentle giants as they breach, tail slap, or even sing their haunting melodies.


In addition to humpback whales, several species of dolphins can also be spotted off the shores of Costa Rica. These intelligent creatures are known for their acrobatic displays and playful nature. Common dolphin species include bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins, and spotted dolphins. Be sure not to miss out on witnessing their captivating aerial flips or synchronized swimming routines!


While December through April is considered prime whale-watching season in Costa Rica due to increased sightings, it’s important to note that marine life encounters are never guaranteed. Nature follows its own course, so factors such as weather conditions and ocean currents may affect visibility.

To maximize your chances of spotting these magnificent marine animals during your visit:


1) Plan your trip between December and April when whale activity is at its peak.

2) Join reputable tour operators who have experienced guides with extensive knowledge about local wildlife behavior.

3) Keep an eye out for recommended areas along both Pacific Ocean coasts (Guanacaste Province and Osa Peninsula), where whale sightings are more frequent.

4) Consider multiple outings or longer boat trips if possible since prolonged excursions increase opportunities for encounters.


Remember that responsible tourism practices should always be followed when observing marine life in their natural environment. Maintain a respectful distance from animals without disturbing their behaviors or habitats—this ensures a positive and ethical experience for both you and the wildlife.

FAQ: Best time to visit Costa Rica

Are there any specific events or festivals that take place during the high or low season?

Costa Rica hosts various festivals and events throughout the year. During the high season, you can experience the Envision Festival (February/March) for music and arts, as well as the Fiestas de Palmares (January). On the other hand, the Costa Rican Independence day (September 15) celebrations occur during the low season.


Are there any special holiday-themed events or celebrations that travelers can participate in? 

Yes, during the holiday season, various towns and cities in Costa Rica organize Christmas fairs, concerts, and parades. San Jose and other major cities often have festive street markets where you can shop for unique holiday gifts and local crafts.


How far in advance should I book accommodations if I plan to visit during this festive period? 

To secure accommodations during Christmas and New Year’s, it’s advisable to book at least 6 to 12 months in advance, as this period attracts a high number of tourists, and hotels and vacation rentals can fill up quickly.


What are some specific ways to save money while traveling during the low season? 

To save money during the low season, consider booking all-inclusive packages, taking advantage of discounted tour packages, using public transportation, and opting for budget accommodations like hostels or guesthouses.


Are all tourist attractions and activities open during the cheaper months, or are some closed? 

While some tourist attractions and activities may have reduced operating hours or limited availability during the low season, most major attractions and popular destinations remain open for visitors.


How much can I typically save on accommodations and tours during the low season compared to the high season? 

During the low season, you can save anywhere from 20% to 50% on accommodations and tours compared to the high season prices.

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