When Does Tourist Season Start in Costa Rica? Unraveling the Best Times to Explore

Last updated on January 1st, 2024 at 04:49 pm

Have the urge to visit Costa Rica? Dry season is when Costa Rica really shines; thankfully, this coincides neatly with the US school holidays! Starting in late November or early December, Costa Rica’s natural beauty is revealed when the rainy season subsides, providing endless sunny mornings for the winter holidays. Around this time, temperatures hover at a comfortable mid-70s to low 80s°F. This is considered a “shoulder season” in Costa Rica, where the rainy season is transitioning into dry season; you can expect showers on occasion, interspersed with warm, dry days.

Around mid-December, the rainy season has fully relinquished its hold, creating a perfect opportunity to visit Costa Rica and luxuriate in its natural beauty.

Peak season begins in the week leading up to Christmas and New Year’s. This time tends to be incredibly popular in this dream destination, with hotel prices skyrocketing and beaches filled with happy revelers. The Pacific coast is very popular at this time of year, particularly in the Central Mountains near Vista Hermosa Estate.

The high season reaches its end around the US spring break in late April, after which is another “shoulder season” of rain storms and dry days before the rainy season fully takes hold.

The Seasons of Costa Rica: From High to Low and Everything in Between

High Season (Peak or Summer Season)

The high season in Costa Rica typically coincides with the dry season, which falls between December and April. This time of the year is characterized by sunny weather, warm temperatures, and, unfortunately, tourist crowds. Major cities like San Jose and coastal areas such as Guanacaste and Puntarenas become hubs of activity. With better weather conditions, national parks become popular destinations for wildlife sightings. As the most popular destinations get packed, prices can skyrocket due to the influx of many tourists.

Low Season (Green or Rainy Season)

Starting around May and extending to November, the low season or the rainy season is often referred to as the “green season” due to the lush landscapes it brings. Contrary to its name, mornings often start with sunny weather, followed by afternoon showers. The winter months, especially between September and October, can have the most rainfall. Larger cities experience milder temperatures, and while tourist crowds thin out, it’s an opportune time for off season travel and visit Costa Rica. The chances of seeing wildlife remain high, and popular destinations become even more serene, perfect for those who want to experience Costa Rica’s natural beauty with fewer distractions.

Shoulder Seasons

The months that bridge the high and low seasons, namely May and November, are considered the shoulder season. It offers a blend of the best weather from both seasons. With pleasant weather conditions and fewer crowds than the high season, it’s an ideal time for travelers looking for a balance. Prices are more moderate than in the peak season, and many popular destinations are less crowded, causing wildlife sightings more intimate.

Off Season Months

The true off season months are typically September and October. These months see the most rain, but they also offer the most authentic experience with the fewest tourists. Off season travel during these months means fewer interruptions and a chance to experience Costa Rica’s culture without the commercial buzz of the tourist season.

Costa Rica offers a diverse range of wonderful experiences throughout the year. Whether you’re chasing the sun, looking for a quieter experience, or seeking a balanced trip, understanding the country’s seasons will help you make the most of your visit.

When Should I Book Travel Arrangements for the Busy Season?

Peak season and off season in Costa Rica
Off season travel at Playa Samara Costa Rica

Earlier is always better when it comes to Costa Rica: even in low periods, competition for the best accommodations can be very fierce.

If you know you’re going to be joining us during the busiest months of the year, you need to start planning well ahead of time to ensure that you can get tickets and reservations at the most popular places.

Some people book up to 1 year out should they know they’re heading to this tropical paradise for a wedding or family reunion. When you join us at our private villa, you can look at rates and calendars of availability well ahead of time, and we also provide a free quote based on how many people will be joining you and the dates that you would like to visit.

You’ll get the best results if you book international airfare, such as from the United States, between six and seven months out.

By four months ahead, you should have everything booked and begin working on your itinerary, with a plan to have everything prepared a month ahead of time. Two weeks ahead of your vacation, you should have all your activities, cars, and other needs planned for, such as dinner reservations and tickets for tours.

This seems quite early, but rest assured that the extra planning to visit Costa Rica will be worth it when you get the best deals on airfare, accommodations, and tourist activities.

Why Consider Off-Season and Shoulder Season Travel?

Apart from the allure of fewer crowds, traveling during the off season and shoulder season has its perks. Prices for accommodations and activities are often reduced, making it a budget-friendly option. Wildlife sightings can also be unique as animals adjust to changing weather patterns. While the summer months draw many tourists with the promise of sunny weather, don’t disregard the beauty and tranquility that comes with the winter months and the periods in between.

Which Side of Costa Rica is Better During Peak Season?

Dreaming of sun-soaked days on pristine beaches? Head to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica during its picture-perfect dry season, roughly from December to April. But, travel buddies, come mid-May to November, those dramatic Pacific sunsets might come with a sprinkle or two. Now, over on the Caribbean side, things get a tad more spontaneous. Showers can pop up any time of the year, but you’ll find its most consistently dry spells around September and October. The other months, especially November to January, can be a bit more on the wet side. So, always have that stylish rain poncho at the ready!

What Are the Different Areas of Costa Rica's Pacific Coast Like During High Season?

The northern Pacific coast is the driest area of Costa Rica, where you can appreciate beautiful tropical dry forests with huge populations of endemic bird species. While many of the plant species will be dormant during the peak season, you can watch some of Costa Rica’s most notable bird species frolicking in their natural habitat, including the turquoise-browed motmot and streak-backed oriole.

During the high season on the Central Pacific Coast, home to Manuel Antonio and Vista Hermosa Estate, you’ll encounter lush rainforests with a breathtaking array of animals, including hummingbirds, sloths, the green basilisk lizard, and the enigmatic toucan. About a 45-minute drive south of Manuel Antonio is home to a world-class surfing destination, Dominical.

The Central Valley, where the capital of San José is located, is ripe with culture, including the National Museum of Costa Rica and the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. It’s definitely worth a visit during peak season before returning to your cozy private estate in the beautiful beach town of Manuel Antonio.

Down on the southern Pacific coast, you can experience Costa Rica’s most pristine wilderness, as this is one of the least-visited areas of the country. This area of southern Costa Rica is a perfect time to visit during the peak season. If you’re headed that way, visiting Corcovado National Park located on the Osa Peninsula is a must as it is considered one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. 

What is Costa Rica Weather Like Each Season?

Costa Rica’s seasons diverge from those in the United States. While what may be the colder, wetter months in the continental US mark Costa Rica’s dry season, known for its best weather. Understanding these seasonal nuances is key to planning a visit to Costa Rica effectively. If you prefer fewer crowds and a more intimate experience, consider off-season travel. On the flip side, high season offers optimal weather conditions but attracts larger crowds. Discovering the best time to visit Costa Rica hinges on aligning your preferences with its unique seasonal rhythms.

Its important to note, while “dry season” and “summer months” might coincide for northern hemisphere travelers, it’s essential to remember that the term “summer” can be misleading. In tropical countries like Costa Rica, it’s more about wet and dry seasons than traditional summer/winter delineations.

High Season: Visiting Costa Rica During Peak Tourist Season

High season - tourist season in Costa Rica
La Fortuna Waterrfall During High Seaon

Pacific Coast - Guanacaste

January is a fantastic month to visit Costa Rica for many travelers. It falls within the peak of the dry season, offering ideal weather conditions for exploring this stunning country. Throughout most of Costa Rica, you can anticipate sunny days and warm temperatures.

During the dry season, the high season in Guanacaste peaks, making it a popular time for tourists. This is particularly the case in the summer months when many travelers from the northern hemisphere seek warmer climes.

Guanacaste boasts some of the best weather during the dry season. Expect sunny weather with warm temperatures, often accompanied by mild temperatures in the evenings. This better weather makes Guanacaste one of the most visited destinations on the Pacific coast.

The dry season offers an optimal chance to see wildlife, especially in national parks like Santa Rosa and Rincon de la Vieja. Species such as monkeys, iguanas, and various birds become more visible, a favorite time for wildlife enthusiasts.

Pacific Coast - Puntarenas

Similar to Guanacaste, Puntarenas sees its high season during the dry months. The tourist season reaches its peak as Puntarenas becomes a hub for many travelers, particularly those heading to nearby beaches.

The dry season brings pleasant weather to Puntarenas with consistent sunny bright weather and warm temperatures. However, given its coastal nature, occasional breezes can bring relief from high temperatures.

Marino Ballena National Park, close to Puntarenas, is a hot spot for marine life sightings during the dry season. Additionally, terrestrial wildlife, like monkeys and tropical birds, are commonly seen.

Costa Rica's Central Valley

The Central Valley, home to large cities like San Jose and Alajuela, sees many travelers during the dry season. Although it doesn’t have the coastal allure, its cultural offerings and pleasant weather make it a must-visit.

Benefitting from its elevation, the Central Valley enjoys mild temperatures even during the dry season. The weather is consistently sunny but less oppressive than coastal regions, providing a respite for those who prefer milder climates.

While not as biodiverse as the coasts, Central Valley has its share of wildlife, especially in the outskirts and close to the mountains. Birds, in particular, are a major attraction for birdwatchers.

Caribbean Coast

The high season on the Caribbean Coast doesn’t always align perfectly with the dry season due to its unique climate. Still, during its drier months, tourist crowds flock to popular destinations like Puerto Viejo and Tortuguero.

The Caribbean Coast’s dry season doesn’t always guarantee completely dry days, but there are certainly more sunny weather periods compared to other times of the year. Expect warm temperatures and occasional showers.

Tortuguero National Park is one of the highlights of the Caribbean Coast, especially for sea turtle nesting. sightings of wildlife are abundant, from jungle creatures to marine life, making it one of the most popular destinations for nature lovers.

Low Season: Rainy Season in Costa Rica

green season - off season in Costa Rica
Toucan during off season in Costa Rica

Pacific Coast - Guanacaste

Surprisingly, the rainy season doesn’t always mean a dip in tourism for all regions. While the off season months of September and October see fewer tourists, the shoulder season often have a steady flow of visitors looking for a mix of sun and rain, especially in areas like Guanacaste.

In Guanacaste, the low season falls between May and November. While mornings are often filled with warm weather and sunshine, afternoon showers are typical. By the winter months, consistent rain becomes more common, giving life to the region’s dry forests.

The rainy season brings an explosion of greenery and with it, increased wildlife activity makes it a perfect time to visit Costa Rica. Many species become more active, and the lush environment provides ample food and shelter.

Pacific Coast - Puntarenas

For Puntarenas, the travel industry sees a dip in tourists during the off season. However, most hotels offer great value deals, attracting those looking for a quieter, budget-friendly vacation.

Similar to Guanacaste, Puntarenas low season is from May to November. Showers are frequent but usually short-lived, still offering pockets of sunshine for beachgoers.

The moisture-rich environment attracts a variety of wildlife, from monkeys to tropical birds, making it a perfect time of the year for nature enthusiasts.

Central Valley

The Central Valley, which houses major cities like San Jose, tends to have steadier tourism throughout the year. However, during the rainy season, some tourists opt for coastal regions, making it a quieter time for urban exploration.

The Central Valley has a milder climate due to its elevation. The rainy season here is characterized by cooler temperatures and more predictable rainfall, especially during the winter months.

While not as biodiverse as coastal areas, the Central Valley’s rainy season sees an uptick in bird activity, especially migratory birds. Parks and green spaces become alive with their calls and songs.

Caribbean Coast

The Caribbean Coast has a unique climate, with its rainy season not always aligning with the Pacific Coast. This attracts tourists throughout various times of the year, with some off season months offering a break from the crowds.

The rainy season on the Caribbean Coast is more extended and less predictable, with rainfall possible throughout the year. Still, warm weather persists, making it ideal for those who don’t mind the occasional shower.

This coast is renowned for its biodiversity. The rainy season, particularly the winter, is a prime time for turtle nesting, especially in Tortuguero. The vibrant ecosystem, from coral reefs to jungles, thrives during this period.

While the rainy season might deter some from planning a vacation to Costa Rica, the off season and shoulder season offer unique experiences. From fewer crowds to a more authentic interaction with the natural world and locals, the rainy season has its charm, and it’s a period worth considering for your next trip.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica?

Any time is a great time to visit Costa Rica, but the absolute best time to visit Costa Rica really depends on exactly what you want to experience. While many prefer to visit around the peak travel season from mid-December to late April, every month in Costa Rica has its own unique charms.

What Month Has the Best Weather in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica’s weather varies between the Pacific and Caribbean sides; for example, Costa Rica’s dry season primarily refers to the Northern Pacific, Central Valley, and Southern Pacific. The Caribbean region has its own dry months, but its weather is generally rainier and more humid all year round, with less of a distinctive dry season.

On the Pacific side, January and February have some of the best weather: you can expect spotless blue skies, impeccable weather, and slightly lower travel prices.

Caribbean Costa Rica’s best time to visit is in September and October when the weather is warm and sunny.

What's the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica for Surfing?

Costa Rica has different seasons for surfing, as it does for other tourist activities, and it depends on your skill level. Beginners should consider visiting Costa Rica during the dry season when the waves are smaller, and it’s easier to get the hang of this delightful sport.

If you’re a more seasoned surfer, you might visit during the green season between May and November, when swells are larger, and you can catch some serious hang time. In the northwest Pacific area, you can get the most consistent waves between late May and August: June, July, and August are the most promising months to enjoy this rowdy sport.

When Should I Visit Costa Rica for Hot Sunny Days?

If a poolside vacation is your plan, consider visiting Costa Rica in February, which is the peak season for cloudless, perfect skies. The Pacific coast side of Costa Rica averages only two days of precipitation in February; you can expect more frequent afternoon showers on the Caribbean coast, but it’s still much drier than throughout annually.

The driest months for Caribbean Costa Rica are February, March, September, and October, where you can expect great weather on both sides of this tropical country.

When Is Prime Beach Weather in Costa Rica?

For the Pacific region, expect immaculate beach time in early December, when the dry season really begins to kick in. This is usually before the holiday rush, so you can expect to have much of the pristine coastline to yourself. Warm, tame water ensures you can get a great tan without fighting for towel space with other tourists.

The Caribbean region usually gets the nicest and driest weather around February and September, though it is still rainier and a little more tempestuous than the other side of the country.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica for Wildlife Viewings?

Wildlife abounds all year round in Costa Rica, but the best time to visit for your jungle fix is in September and October, which is the peak of the green season for the Pacific side. During this time, you can expect to see humpback whales and green sea turtles, who are visiting their mating grounds in full force. Other animals, such as monkeys and sloths, are also quite active at this time of year, ensuring you can see some of the world’s most amazing creatures up close.

This is the rainiest time to visit Costa Rica, so be sure to bring sturdy shoes, waders, and a good raincoat to ensure that you stay warm and dry while out hunting those once-in-a-lifetime animal experiences.

When is Costa Rica the Least Crowded?

If you’d like empty beaches and short waits at tourist destinations, consider visiting Costa Rica from May to early November, when crowds thin and this tropical paradise’s natural beauty is all yours. At this time, the Caribbean coast is actually experiencing its dry season, while the Pacific coast tends to be rainy and blustery.

The low season is also the green season, when plants flourish, and animals abound. Be sure to pack a raincoat and some sturdy gear before you venture off into the wilderness, as you can expect frequent showers.

When Is the Cheapest Month to Visit Costa Rica?

October is the cheapest month to visit Costa Rica, as there are fewer tourists. Most kids are in school, and parents are saving up their vacation days for winter or summer vacation, so you’ll be guaranteed better rates on airfare and hotel rooms.

The Caribbean coast is generally considered a better bet for gorgeous weather in October, as this is during their drier months. Over on the Pacific coastline, you’ll be in for heavy rainstorms throughout the day, which can put a damper on outdoor activities. However, there’s still plenty to do even when the weather is poor: you might consider visiting some of the smaller cities to soak up the culture, or head over to the capital to peruse the many museums and cultural institutions.

Of course, Vista Hermosa Estate is pleasant all year round! You’ll have spacious rooms, a private chef, and excellent views of the coastline, as well as easy access to beautiful Manuel Antonio National Park should you choose to venture out into the storms.

Embrace Our Laid-Back Lifestyle

Costa Rica is the epitome of pura vida: pure life. We love to relax, eat good food, and enjoy the companionship of great friends. Be sure to schedule unstructured downtime where you can lounge about in your private villa and soak in the fantastic views!


Costa Rica’s diverse climates and ecosystems offer something special every season. While many tourists flock to its shores during the dry months considered to be Costa Rica’s high season, the rainy season unveils a different, equally enchanting side of the country. From the rich biodiversity flourishing in the rains to the tranquil beaches and cities without the usual crowds, there’s an undeniable charm in embracing Costa Rica during its wetter months. As with any destination, it’s not just about the time of year you visit but the unique experiences and memories you create. Whether you want to visit Costa Rica’s popular tourist spots, an adventurer, a nature lover, or someone seeking a peaceful retreat, Costa Rica in the rainy season might just be the unexpected paradise you’ve been looking for. Don’t let the rain deter you; sometimes, it’s the rainfall that makes the journey memorable.

Join Us at Beautiful Vista Hermosa Estate: Where Adventure and Relaxation Meet

Step into the world of Vista Hermosa Estate, the epitome of luxury where adventure and relaxation unite. Set against the backdrop of spectacular ocean views of the Pacific, our estate boasts 5-star service that’s hard to match. Our full staff, including a gourmet chef, ensures a stay of unparalleled comfort and indulgence. Nature lovers, rejoice! Your mornings could be graced by daily visits from playful monkeys, the striking presence of toucans, or the laid-back charm of sloths. When it’s time to unwind, immerse yourself in our 3-sided infinity edge pool, letting the horizon take your breath away. And for those grand vacation get-togethers or retreats, we can comfortably accommodate up to 24 guests, making it an idyllic haven for both intimate and larger gatherings. Check our availability calendar for the ultimate beach vacation.


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