Travelers to Costa Rica frequently want to know what the weather is like for various months of the year, typically wanting to avoid the rain.
Especially for Americans, who get fewer vacation days per year than other countries, most want to make sure they can enjoy the sun rather than sitting in a hotel room during a monsoon.
So first of all, in Costa Rica we don’t have official monsoons. We do however have occasional storms that last 3-4 days where it will rain all day and there may be some flooding and a few trees knocked over. We experience this type of storm a couple of times per year, often when a hurricane is hitting another country to the north such as Nicaragua, Belize, or Honduras.
Does Costa Rica get Hurricanes?
Costa Rica does NOT get hurricanes. We’re blessed to be a bit too far south and so the weather patterns push the hurricanes farther north. But, a hurricane farther north can bring in heavy spin-off storms that can last several days and cause localized flooding.
When is the Rainy Season in Costa Rica?
For the Pacific side of Costa Rica, the rainy season starts in the beginning of May, and goes through the middle of December. Keep in mind that on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, during the dry season many of the trees lose their leaves, and there’s a lot of dust on the roads. The beach towns are much prettier during rainy season, and it’s not as hot because there’s more shade and less sun. So, you don’t need to avoid the rainy season… just pick the right rainy season months.
Month by Month Description of the Weather and Travel Conditions in Costa Rica:
December: “December is a jewel”, many people in Costa Rica say. It’s the most beautiful month of the year, as the jungle is still green, yet there’s very little rain. The sky can be blue, with gorgeous clouds, and the ocean waters will be becoming more transparent. The first two weeks are generally pretty dead for tourism, because most people save their travel time for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. December is also the windiest month, especially in the central valley (San Jose) area. If you’re interested in photography of Costa Rica, this is the best month.
January-April: These are the driest months, and each month is drier, hotter, and dustier than the last. The climate is basically a desert, and most of the trees lose their leaves to go into a state of hibernation. The lush green rainforests turn yellow and grey. Only the trees with the deepest roots to reach water below will keep their foliage. The oceans are clearest so this is the best time for scuba diving and snorkeling. The beaches are also the cleanest, since less organic matter (and trash in big cities) is washing down the rivers and into the ocean.
May: May in Costa Rica is very beautiful with lots of lighting storms. You may see giant swarms of crabs on the beach roads and on the beaches. Lots of new foliage appearing so the jungle is VIVID GREEN. But, lots of bugs hatch after hibernating in their eggs through the dry season. May is typically the buggiest month of the year. May also has the disadvantage that some restaurants close down so the owners can take a break after five months of the busy high season. There are less tourists in May and less special events. Organic material from the rivers makes the ocean water less transparent, so it’s not so good for snorkeling and scuba starting in May. The beaches tend to get more driftwood and leaf litter from washing down the rivers. So, there are some very good things about May, but also some bad ones.
June: By June, the rainy season is in full swing and the jungles are all lush and green again. The bugs have settled down as the rainforest is more in balance. Generally it rains in the late afternoon and evenings. It’s a very nice time to visit.
July-August: July and August are among the best months to visit the pacific coast of Costa Rica. The rainforest is completely lush, and it’s cooler than in “summer” (Dec-Apr) and there’s no dust. In July and/or August, Costa Rica often has one or two “little summers” where there’ll be no rain at all for a week or two. There are plenty of tourists here, but it’s not nearly as busy as the dry season. It’s a very fun time to visit, and ideal for photographers who want to capture green jungles and blue skies with white puffy clouds.
September: The first half of September is often like August, but in general September is one of the wetter months, and it gets wetter (on average) as we approach October. A few of the restaurants and some hotels may close for September.
October: October is the rainiest, muddiest month. It’s not good for snorkeling and scuba, but there are often surfers and rainforest enthusiasts here, and a couple of honeymooning couples that didn’t bother to read about the weather. Because it’s the slowest month of the year as far as tourism goes, many hotels and most restaurants close for repairs and improvements. Those interested in Costa Rica real estate often visit in October to see properties in their worst state… to see how the access is, how the water flows, etc. Some years October can be very nice, but on average it’s the rainiest.
November: Generally speaking, every week in November gets drier than the previous one as the rainy season winds down. The end of November is a great time to visit, especially around Thanksgiving.