Costa Rica Rainy Season: What It’s Like & Why We Love It

Costa Rica’s diversity is what makes the country in Central America so unique. From the volcanic mountains down to the world-class surf breaks on the coast, the landscapes, culture, and attractions are incredibly varied and interesting. And so is the weather. 

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There really isn’t a bad time to visit Costa Rica. While many people assume the rainy season would be difficult and not ideal, we tend to disagree. The weather patterns in the country are as varied as the landscapes, and it makes visiting different regions of the country a completely new experience. 

Our hot tip for travelling to Costa Rica is to not be afraid of the rainy season. If you embrace it, you’ll be able to see parts of the country at its very best.

Rincon de la Vieja National Park, costa rica rainy season
Lush greenery of Rincon de la Vieja National Park during the rainy season
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Seasons in Costa Rica

The country boasts lush jungles, highland valleys, mountains, and stretches of coastline on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides. Like most tropical countries, there are two main seasons – the dry season and the rainy season.

Dry Season

The Costa Rica dry season lasts from December to April. The lack of rain and high temperatures make it a more popular time to visit—this is generally known to be the high season in Costa Rica. However, prices will also be higher, and the vegetation will be much less beautiful than it is in the green season. 

Rainy Season

Costa Rica’s rainy season is from May to mid-November. Rainfall is heavier, bringing lush and beautiful foliage across the country. This is why the rainy season is often referred to as the green season. There are fewer crowds, and prices are lower during this time, as it’s considered low season. 

The rainiest time to visit Costa Rica is between September and October. But despite the rain, we don’t think it’s the worst time to visit Central America and this is why.

Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
Monteverde Cloud Forest

Rainy Season in Costa Rica

Depending on the part of the country you’re visiting, the weather can vary drastically. Costa Rica has over 20 micro-climates, which means the temperatures and the abundance of rain vary throughout the country.

Temperatures

The Costa Rica rainy season brings a variety of temperatures across different regions. The average temperatures in Costa Rica range between 20 – 30 °C year-round, making it relatively stable compared to other countries in Central America.

However, the central regions of Costa Rica tend to be cooler than the coastal areas, and humidity increases the further south you go. The weather in San José and the central valley is milder, staying in the mid-’20s C (70s F) throughout the entire year. Although in the mountain regions around San Jose, such as La Fortuna, Monteverde, Bajos del Toro, San Vito and San Gerardo de Dota, it is colder, with daytime temperatures around in the low 20s C (70s C).

On the Pacific Coast, it’s much warmer as the average temperatures stay in the high 20s C (80s F). This area is the driest region of Costa Rica, meaning humidity isn’t too extreme, but it still reaches around 80-85% during the rainier months from May to October.

The Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica has a very different weather pattern to the rest of the country. While it still sees high temperatures consistently in the high 20s C (mid-80s F), humidity tends to be much higher all year as the region sees more regular rainfall.

La Fortuna Volcano
La Fortuna Volcano

Rainfall

The wet season in Costa Rica tends to follow a similar pattern across the country, with the exception of the Caribbean Coast, which has slightly different rainfall patterns. Typically, rain begins to fall heavily from May onwards in Costa Rica, with the peak rainy season hitting around September to mid-November. 

However, Guanacaste Province and the northwest Pacific Coast are the driest parts of the country. It can stay relatively dry in the early rainy season, with heavy downpours not starting until July and running until October. The first rains also tend to build up in the later afternoon, giving you fine mornings to get out and about. 

As you move further south along the Pacific Coast, conditions get wetter and lusher all the way down to the dense rainforest on the Osa Peninsula. These areas of the southern Pacific coast tend to start seeing rain earlier than the north coast, beginning around April.

The Caribbean Coast is more of an exception. It follows its own weather pattern that differs from the rest of the country. It sees almost double the rainfall than the Northern Pacific Coast at around 125 inches a year, spread out more evenly with rain year-round. The rainiest months on the Caribbean side tend to be July and November, with less rain in the mid-rainy season of September and October, giving it a mini-dry season instead.

Rainfall also brings layers of fog that settle around the mountains and central valleys during the rainy season, making it not an ideal time for spectacular views from the top of volcanoes. But it does bring some relief from the hot temperatures, with far less humidity than the coast.

Guide to Ecotourism in Costa Rica, costa rica rainy season
Rainy day in Tenorio National Park

Wind

The wind direction in Costa Rica is what influences the majority of weather patterns across the country. During the dry season in Costa Rica, strong winds are common from December onwards as the ocean trade winds push the rain clouds and moisture away. 

On the flip side, the northwest trade winds diminish during the rainy season, and the moist air arrives from the Pacific. The mountainous interior of Costa Rica creates a rain shadow as it blocks the effects of the winds coming off the coast; hence, the rainiest months differ between the two coastlines.

This means that the rainy season sees less wind than Costa Rica’s dry season. However, during dry spells on the coast in the middle of the rainy season, often termed “little summer,” such as in July in the Northwest Pacific, monsoon winds can pick up and bring in a tropical storm or two.

Rainy day in La Fortuna, costa rica rainy season
Rainy day in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Tourism

The rainy season is considered an off-season or low season for tourism across most of Costa Rica. Far fewer people travel to Costa Rica during the rainy season, with heavy downpours affecting some aspects of the country.

Once the peak rainy season hits at the end of August for most of the country, some regions become difficult to reach. Dirt roads can be flooded, and landslides are common, making it ideal to explore with a 4×4 rather than regular car rentals. You’ll have to check road conditions before heading out, especially in the national parks along the South Pacific coast and mountainous regions inland. Some of the rainforests in the south will be impenetrable, and you may have to change your travel plans.

However, for the most part, things remain open around Costa Rica even in the rainy season. This is because the wet season is actually the high season for some activities, such as surfing and wildlife spotting. 

Costa Rica driving car road Max 00077

Why Visit Costa Rica in the Rainy Season

You don’t have to put off your trip to Costa Rica in the wet season because there are so many good reasons why the rainy season is the best time to go to Latin America.

Fewer Tourists and Cheaper Prices

Being the low tourist season means you’ll enjoy far fewer crowds at the popular towns and attractions, as well as cheaper accommodation and food prices. This is ideal if you’re a budget traveller or you prefer to be a bit more flexible with your travels and book things last minute.

However, more Costa Ricans travel during this time, but the beaches remain pretty quiet and tourist towns offer more deals on excursions and tours.

Arenal, Costa Rica
Green season in La Fortuna Town, Arenal, Costa Rica

Great Surf Conditions

One of the best reasons for visiting during Costa Rica’s rainy season is the great surf conditions. While Costa Rica is considered a year-round surf destination, the green season brings waves catering to more intermediate to advanced surfers.

The South Pacific swell runs from June to September, bringing the biggest conditions for advanced surfers along the South Pacific Ocean coastline. The North Pacific swell is slightly different and peaks more in the dry season, but a northwest swell also tends to hit Guanacaste Province in the wet season.

The surfing conditions on the Caribbean coast aren’t as consistent, with its more varied weather patterns. From the late rainy season onwards, you’ll get bigger swells starting in October, which then run into the dry season until mid-April. 

If you’re hoping to plan your trip around the best surfing spots in Costa Rica, then the rainy season offers an amazing time for surfing.

Surfing in Guanacaste
Surfing in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Pleasant Weather (Especially in the North Pacific Coast)

While the common assumption is that the Costa Rica rainy season is a miserable time to visit, this is not always true. The weather is generally quite pleasant and not as impactful as you might think. 

During the beginning and end of the rainy season (May until early July and late November until December), the weather isn’t all that bad. In fact, you’ll more than likely have sunny mornings with clear blue skies until the afternoon showers build up, especially on the Pacific Coast.

If you visit the Guanacaste coast, the rainy season is shorter, and the weather forecast is drier compared to other regions, making it generally sunny for most of the year. At the same time, the change in wind conditions means the temperatures drop a little, making it good weather to be outdoors.

You can also plan your trip around when the seasons flip-flop between coasts. During September and October, when the Pacific gets the most rain, you can simply head to the Caribbean Coast, which enjoys a mini summer with little rain. It all comes down to smart planning!

Playa Lagartillo, Guanacaste
Playa Lagartillo, Guanacaste

Perfect for Yoga and Wellness Retreats

The best part about joining a yoga or wellness retreat in Costa Rica’s rainy season is that it doesn’t matter if you have a tropical downpour or more rain. With more flexibility in both indoor and outdoor activities, it’s a nice time to indulge in a retreat at one of the wellness centers around Costa Rica. 

With some of Costa Rica’s best yoga retreats on the Caribbean Coast and around Guanacaste Province, you can escape the rain by picking a location that suits you and the weather. It also means you’ll likely have a more intimate experience with fewer people travelling at this time. 

Costa Rica Avellanas Yoga OM 1122

Nature is at its Best

There is a good reason why the rainy season is referred to as the green season. With all the rain, the landscapes around the country come to life, flowers bloom, waterfalls are full, and the rainforest is lush. 

If you plan on visiting during Costa Rica’s rainy season, then definitely plan to go chasing the best waterfalls. In the dry season, some of the waterfalls reduce to simple trickles of water, and it’s only after heavy rain that they are pumping through the rainforest again and are impressive to see.

Things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica: Travel to La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall. Arenal, Costa Rica.

Ideal for Wildlife Spotting

Costa Rica’s rainy season is a dream for wildlife enthusiasts. Some of the best wildlife encounters can be experienced during the rainy season. 

Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast sees the year’s largest arribadas, or mass sea turtle nesting and hatching, from March until November. If this is high on your bucket list, we recommend heading to Playa Ostional and Ostional Wildlife Refuge to catch thousands of turtles coming ashore.

If whale watching is what you’re looking for, the wet season is also a wonderful time to go. While Costa Rica has whale watching almost all year round, arguably the best time to see humpback whales on the Pacific Coast is during the second half of the wet season, from late July until November. Try heading to the central pacific national parks, including Manuel Antonio, Drake Bay or Marina Ballena National Park around Uvita for some incredible boat tours getting you up close.

Turtles arrival during "Arribada" on Ostional Beach
Turtles arrival during “Arribada” on Ostional Beach

READ NEXT: Things to do in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

FAQs: Costa Rica Rainy Season

What is the rainiest month in Costa Rica?

Across most of the country, September and October are the wettest months, especially on the Pacific Coast. However, the Caribbean is generally pretty dry during these months and has more rain in July and November.

What months are best to visit Costa Rica?

If you want to get the best of both the dry and rainy seasons, then we highly recommend visiting during the transition months between the two seasons. Try planning your trip for November to early December or June to mid-July for the best weather.

Is it worth visiting Costa Rica in the rainy season?

We love the Costa Rica rainy season! If you prefer fewer crowds and cheaper prices, then visiting Costa Rica in the rainy season is definitely worth it. The weather is rarely as bad as you think, and there are plenty of wonderful things to do during the rainy season, including world-class surfing, whale watching, waterfall chasing, and scuba diving.

Costa Rican Sunset
Costa Rican Sunset

READ NEXT: Best Time to go to Costa Rica

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