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Best Time to Visit Costa Rica | When to Go & Travel Tips

Best Time to Visit Costa Rica | When to Go & Travel Tips

One destination on most everyone’s must-see travel list is tropical Costa Rica. This Central American country is home to wild jungles, incredible national parks, cascading waterfalls, and more.

With a booming tourism industry and tons of things for everyone to enjoy, anyone who’s been to beautiful Costa Rica will tell you – you’ve got to see it to believe it. But Costa Rica’s two seasons (dry and rainy) mean the weather there swings wildly throughout the year.

Making the most of your tropical vacation means knowing the best time to visit Costa Rica. You’ll learn the best time to visit Costa Rica – and the worst time to plan your visit – in this quick travel guide.

We’ll show you the best time to visit Costa Rica no matter what your goal is – the best overall trip, the cheapest, the least busy, and more.

See average Costa Rica temperatures, seasonal weather patterns, pricing differences between the two seasons, and the least crowded time of year to visit below.

Why You Should Visit Costa Rica

Costa Rica is bubbling over with life and energy. This tropical Central American country is nestled between Nicaragua (to the north) and Panama (to the south).

You’ve got the highly-developed Pacific coast on the western side and the more-affordable, culturally-driven Caribbean coast on the eastern side. There’s something for everyone here – you’ve just got to know the best time to visit Costa Rica to plan the ideal vacation! 

Parks, Plants, and Wildlife

Image of a Macaw in a tree during one of the best times to visit Costa Rica

Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock

Costa Rica is known for its national parks and vast protected areas. These are home to millions of different wildlife and plant species – some you can’t find anywhere else.

The dense jungles and protected rain forests in national parks here are ideal destinations for anyone who loves to get out and see wildlife in their natural habitat. From scarlet macaws to slow-moving sloths, you will be astounded at the diversity of life you’ll find in this country.

There are more than 500,000 animal species in the country, making it one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Top-notch wildlife and bird watching, hiking, swimming, fishing, and boating are all great reasons to visit. 

Tropical Climate

Costa Rica’s warm, tropical climate is one reason tourists flock to the country during the peak season. Costa Rica doesn’t have the 4 “traditional” seasons. Instead, it has a dry season and a rainy season.

You won’t run into frigid temperatures when you visit here, no matter what time of year you go.

Temperature averages throughout the country range from 75°F to 90°F year-round. If a warm and sunny tropical vacation is what you’re looking for, it’s hard to beat Costa Rica’s pleasant climate. 

Natural Beauty and Adventure

Natural Beauty and Adventure as viewed in a hot spring during the best time to visit Costa Rica

Ivalin/Shutterstock

Costa Rica boasts 800 miles of pristine coastline on both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Stunningly blue water and sandy shores of all different colors – even a famous black sand beach – draw tons of tourists here each year.

You’ll see amazing volcanoes, dense tropical jungles, jaw-dropping waterfalls, and rivers full of life winding throughout the country. 

If you’re looking for incredible natural wonders and sights to see, this is the place. Caving, zip lining, aerial tours, and jungle exploration are all great ways to get out and explore the beauty of Costa Rica. 

Cultural Experiences

One of the best costa rican dishes, Casado de Res, for a piece on the best time to go to Costa Rica

Fredy Estuardo Maldonado/Shutterstock

Natural wildlife and beauty aside, Costa Rica’s bustling cities are another great reason to visit. Whether you’re looking for lively metro areas with tons of shopping, accommodations, and restaurant options or a tucked-away towns with vibrant and authentic Costa Rican culture, you’ll find it here. 

That’s great, because you’re definitely going to want to try some of the famous dishes this country is known for. Authentic specialties like casado, gallo pinto, sopa negra, and more await your taste buds when you dive into the real Costa Rica – off the beaten path. 

From the central capital city of San Jose to smaller towns that dot the dreamy coastlines (we especially love Quepos for its natural beauty and immersive cultural experience), Costa Rica is so alive with culture, tradition, and amazing foods. 

Overall Best Time to Visit Costa Rica

July through August – the “little high season” – is the overall best time to visit Costa Rica. You get it all when you visit at this time of year!

The weather is amazing with little rain to ruin your outdoor plans, crowds are moderate, and pricing for airfare, accommodations, and car rentals are lower than in the true high season.  

No wonder July and August are highly regarded as the best time to visit Costa Rica by travel agencies and experienced travelers in the know! In July and August, Costa Rica is in the drier part of the rainy season – Costa Ricans call it veranillo or ‘little summer’.

Rains typically pass quickly at this time of year, delivering much-needed hydration to the lush jungles and rain forests without sticking around long enough to make your beach trip a waste.

The light rains during July and August are nothing compared to the deluges common in September through December. And it’s much less rainy at this time of year than during May and June (other popular times to visit). 

If you decide to go during July or August, you’ll get the best of both worlds with sunny, warm temperatures, fewer crowds, and cheaper pricing than the peak season. And the only tradeoff is a little short-lived rainfall during your stay!  

Cheapest Time to Visit Costa Rica

Woman on a suspension bridge during the cheapest time to go to Costa Rica

Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock

If budget is your main concern, you’ll want to visit Costa Rica sometime between September and mid-December (the low season). November and early December are traveler favorites for cheap prices and fewer tourists.

Crowds are thin, so the pricing for airfare, accommodations, and rentals is much lower at this time of year. But you should know that this period is also the height of the Costa Rican rainy season.

When you visit at this time of year, you’ll only get glimpses of the “ideal” Costa Rican weather because there’s so much rainfall.  But there are certainly bonuses to traveling here during the low season.

While there’s more rainfall from September through mid-December than any other part of the year, you also benefit from cheaper prices and fewer crowds. Be sure to plan your stay before mid-December, because prices (and crowds) pick back up for Christmas break near the end of December.

Many report that November and early December are the best times to go on a budget. As the heavy rainfall begins to wrap up in mid-December, it’s also one of the best times of year to spot wildlife on land and in the ocean.

You’ll see sloths, monkeys, humpback whales, sea turtles, and migratory birds in abundance in November and December – sounds like an ideal vacation!

Least Busy Time to Visit Costa Rica

The least busy time to visit Costa Rica showing an empty beach at sunset

SL-Photography/Shutterstock

October through early December is the least busy time of year to visit Costa Rica. This is the low season in Costa Rica due to the heavy rainfall (it’s the peak and tail end of the rainy season).

With fewer demand for airfare, accommodations, and rentals, prices are also cheaper during the low season. So you’ll also save a lot of money if you plan your visit during this time of year! Don’t think your trip is doomed to heavy rains all day, every day if you visit from October through early December.

While there’s considerably more rainfall during these months, the rains in Costa Rica move through quickly and will still leave you with plenty of time to enjoy the sunny beaches and outdoor exploration.   

You’ll have an easier time booking a last-minute vacation at this time of year with fewer crowds and less tourists choosing to visit. And with fewer crowds, you’ll feel that you’ve got the beach, park, or town to yourself.

For anyone who appreciates exploring new countries “off the beaten path,” this is arguably the best time of year to go for authentic experiences. The cheaper pricing is just a bonus! 

Worst Time to Visit Costa Rica

Rainy day in a Costa Rican forest during the worst time to visit

Jeroen Mikkers/Shutterstock

First, let us say that there’s truly no bad time to visit Costa Rica. Even if you go during the height of the rainy season or peak tourism times, you’re going to appreciate the natural beauty and cultural vibrancy of this country.

But if we had to single out the worst time to visit Costa Rica, it would be late December through January. That time period shifts slightly depending on your goals for the trip.  

  • The worst time to visit overall is late December through January. Prices and crowds are at their peak, making this the most expensive and crowded time to visit. You’ll pay more, deal with bigger crowds, and less availability for rooms, flights, and rentals, but hey – it’s peak season for a reason. The weather is great and wildlife is abundant at this time of year. 
  • If budget is your main concern, late December (Christmas and New Year’s) and Easter (usually late March through mid-April) are the worst times to visit. With Christmas and Easter holidays drawing thousands of tourists to Costa Rica during these times, prices for flights, rooms, and rentals jump and nearly double. 
  • If avoiding big crowds is your goal, the worst time to visit Costa Rica is during the peak season from December through January. This is the busiest time of year for tourism and prices are also at their peak. 

Whether you book your trip during the best time to visit Costa Rica or during the “worst,” you’re going to have an amazing tropical experience. Some of the worst times to visit are also the best in terms of weather, little rainfall, and wildlife spotting opportunities! 

More Things to Consider

You know the best time to visit Costa Rica, but making the most of your trip to Costa Rica means you need a little more info to plan your getaway. It’s simple with our helpful travel tips!

Study up and see how you can optimize your Costa Rican getaway without breaking the bank:

  • Pack the right clothing and gear. If you’re planning on getting out and exploring the natural beauty of Costa Rica, make sure to bring comfy beachwear and sandals, closed-toe hiking shoes, a sweatshirt or light jacket, rain gear, dry bag, and plenty of sunscreen and bug spray. Extras can be expensive to buy once you’re in Costa Rica. 
  • Have a plan for rainy days. If you’re visiting during the rainy or “green” season, you’ll want to have a few indoor activities planned for the short but heavy rainfall you may experience. When it starts raining, have a plan to go out and explore San Jose or another bustling city, find small authentic restaurants to try, or check out one of the cool museums. Plan most outdoor activities during the first half of the day to avoid most of the rain. 
  • Make a list of activities you want to do. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the options once you arrive, so make a list before you go with all your must-dos and must-sees. Find out where you’ll be staying (that’s easier once you know the best time to visit Costa Rica) and map out a few activities and sights to see. The national parks here are world-renowned and full of options like caving, snorkeling, rappelling, zip lining, bird watching, whale watching, and more. Your list will make it easier to squeeze your activities into your trip, no matter how long or short your stay. 
  • Decide which area piques your interest. The Pacific coast is highly developed with the most accommodations and activity options. But it’s a little less “authentic” than the sunny Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, which is more affordable, full of wildlife, and home to the best nightlife. North Costa Rica is home to the storied Monteverde Cloud Forest, active volcanoes, and tons of wildlife. South Costa Rice is a little more rugged with fewer places to stay, but unparalleled wildlife and rainforest exploration. 
  • Call ahead to know what’s open when you go. There’s nothing worse than making plans only to find the businesses are closed when you go to visit! Call ahead or check online to make sure the activities you’re planning will be open for business during your trip. During the start of the rainy season – usually September through October – many businesses shut down due to the heavy rainfall. Call ahead to make sure your zip lining, diving, or fishing activities will be up and running when you go. 

So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica?

Aerial view of the best time to visit Cost Rica featuring a gorgeous and warm beach

Duarte Dellarole/Shutterstock

If you want an unforgettable tropical vacation, Costa Rica is one of the best destinations. The best time to visit Costa Rica overall is July through August – you get the best, most balanced experience during this time, called “the little high season.”

Prices are slightly cheaper, crowds aren’t bad, and the weather is excellent because this is the veranillo or “little summer” in Costa Rica. 

It’s even cheaper if you visit during the low season, September through mid-December (especially November and early December). With annual tourism at its lowest point, the prices for airfare, hotels, and rentals plummet and you can score the cheapest Costa Rican vacation. 

If avoiding big crowds for a serene, peaceful getaway is your main goal, the best time to visit Costa Rica is anytime during October through mid-December.

This period is during the low season, so you’ll deal with fewer tourists and may feel like you’ve got the place to yourself. This coincides with cheaper rates and prices, so think of it as a bonus!

Final Thoughts

While there’s really not a bad time to go to Costa Rica, the “worst” time to plan your first visit is during late December through January. This is the peak tourism season, so prices are steep and crowds are deep.

The weather is phenomenal and rainfall tapers off considerably, so there are still reasons to go during this time. But be aware that your trip will be more expensive and a little less serene! 

Now that you know the best time to visit Costa Rica and have a few seasoned traveler tips under your belt, you’ll be able to plan the perfect tropical vacation.

Thinking of planning your trip somewhere tropical and not quite settled on Costa Rica? Check out this guide next: Best Time to Visit Hawaii | When to Go & Travel Tips.