The best time to visit Costa Rica

Updated: 06th March 2018

Arenal Volcano - Best time to visit Costa Rica - On The Go Tours

Seasons and Weather

Enjoying an enviable location close to the equator, Costa Rica benefits from a tropical climate with two distinct seasons. The dry season typically lasts from mid-November to April with warm temperatures and sunny days with occasional northern winds in January and February. From May to mid-November the wet season kicks in with bright clear mornings and rainy afternoons. The heaviest rains come in September to October. November, December, April and May are often considered the best time to visit Costa Rica as these months fall in between seasons meaning the country is often green and refreshed.

While the wet and dry seasons dictate the general climate, the weather can also be governed by the altitude which can cause it to vary greatly. The coast is always warm and balmy throughout the year and the mountains are cool. The middle slopes (northeast) of the Central Cordillera Mountains see the lion’s share of the rainfall with over 5000 mm falling annually. There also tends to be more humidity on the Caribbean side of the country rather than the Pacific.

If you're visiting Costa Rica for its beaches, it's worth considering the changes in weather between the Caribbean coast and the Pacific coast. The Caribbean coast has rain throughout the year whereas the Pacific coast is more affected by the dry and wet season with heavier rains between May and December.

Climate | San Jose

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °C141415171717171616161413
Temp Max °C242426262726252626252524
Rainfall (mm)155204622924121124130530014541

Climate | Tortuguero

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °C222222232323232323232322
Temp Max °C282828292929282830292828
Rainfall (mm)310210200270280280410290140180370400

Festivals and Events

As a Catholic country Costa Rica observes a number of religious holidays throughout the year including Easter and Christmas. The Caribbean influence is also strong with a number of vibrant carnivals held across the country. Here's our selection of the best festivals and events.

Fiestas Zapote

Held in the small town of Zapote this is the ultimate bull riding event for Costa Ricans with riders flocking to show off their skills. The event is similar to a traditional rodeo with the added bonus of spectators trying their hand at the sport, which can make for some funny moments.

Fiesta of the Diablitos

This three day event takes place in late January in Rey Curré village near San Isidro de El General. Villagers re-enact the struggle between the native population and the Spanish conquerors with dance displays wearing wooden devil masks and costumes. During the festival there are also firework displays and Indian handicraft markets.

Día del Boyero (Oxcart Drivers' Day)

In the suburb of Escazu in San Jose on the second Sunday of March each year colourfully painted oxcarts parade through the streets to celebrate the agricultural heritage of the region with local priests blessing the oxen.

Juan Santamaría Day

The country's national hero is honoured every April with parades of flag-bearers and drummers. Juan Santamaría was a drummer boy from the city of Alajuela who was a pivotal player in the victory in the Battle of Rivas in 1856.

Independence Day

On the 15th September each year Costa Rica's independence from Spain is celebrated with a children's marching band parade playing the national anthem on steel xylophones. Spectators will often carry homemade lanterns to symbolize the original freedom torch.

Limon Carnival

Caribbean culture is what is showcased during this colourful carnival of parades, floats, music, rum and plenty of dancing. It's a time to let your hair down and have fun with a festive vibe taking over the port city of Limon. The carnival is likened to a smaller Mardi Gras.

Festival de las Luces

Costa Ricans begin to celebrate the Christmas and New Year festive period with the Festival of Lights. Firework displays and music concerts take place across San Jose with the city decorated in pretty lights. Grand parades of floats adorned with lights travel through the streets with a competition for the best floats.

2018 Calendar

To help plan when to visit Costa Rica, here's an overview of the 2018 calendar of top festivals and events:

February 3rd-4th - Fiesta of the Diablitos (Rey Curré village)
March 11th - Dia del Boyero (San Jose)
April 11th - Juan Santamaria Day (countrywide)
September 15th - Independence Day (countrywide)
October 7th-17th - Limon Carnival (Limon)

There's also a number of national holidays in Costa Rica and on these dates many businesses and some tourist sites will close for the day so plan your visit accordingly.

See Also

For further help planning your visit to Costa Rica take a look at our handy Travel Guide resources:

Best Places to Visit - recommended top spots in Costa Rica
Tourist Visas - what you need to know for entering Costa Rica
Top Travel Tips - useful info on money, health and food in Costa Rica
Beach Guide - top 10 beaches in Costa Rica
Wildlife Guide - Costa Rica's favourite species and where to find them
Style of Travel - what to expect on our Central America group tours