Costa Rica has a tropical climate with two seasons: dry season and rainy (or, “green,” as locals may call it) season. Due to varying elevations and environments, there are multiple microclimates around the country. The average temperature hovers around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 26 degrees Celsius) but it can get down to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) at higher elevations and as high as nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius) on the Pacific beaches. Costa Rica is located close to the equator, so the number of daylight hours don’t fluctuate dramatically; in general, the sun rises around 5 a.m. and sets around 6 p.m.
Popular Regions of Costa Rica
This region is known for its sun, sand, surf, and wellness activities, so it’s a favorite amongst beachgoers, surfers, and yogis.
The Caribbean coast also has big waves and beaches and tends to be more humid than the Pacific. It’s home to Tortuguero National Park, a famous turtle nesting and wildlife area where boats are the common form of transportation to navigate palm tree-lined canals.
The Northern Zone, or northern plains as it is also called, includes fertile plains as well as iconic Arenal Volcano and bio-dense rainforests such as those found in Sarapiqui. This region attracts travelers looking for adventure sports and wildlife. Due to reforestation efforts, green macaw numbers are increasing in Sarapiqui in particular, so birdwatchers also flock here.
The country’s capital, San José, is located in the Central Valley. This region is also one of the coffee-producing regions. Travelers interested in Costa Rica’s history, arts, culture, and coffee will find plenty to do, see, eat, and drink here.
Dry Season in Costa Rica
Dry Season on the Pacific Coast and in Central Valley
In general, the Pacific coastal region, including popular destinations such as Guanacaste, Nicoya peninsula, and Manuel Antonio, is the warmest and driest area of the country, with temperatures ranging from 70 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 35 Celsius), rarely reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius), even in the hottest months of March and April. The dry season on the Pacific is from November to May. The seasons in the Central Valley are similar to the Pacific. Dry season here is December to April.
Dry Season on the Caribbean Coast and in the Northern Zone
The Caribbean coast and Northern Zone typically receive more rain year-round, with slightly drier periods from September to October and February to March. Humidity tends to be higher on the Caribbean side.
Green Season in Costa Rica
Green season on the Pacific coast and in the Central Valley
The green season on the Pacific is late May to November. The Central Valley receives a great deal of rain in September and October, with the green season here spanning from May to November.
Green season on the Caribbean coast and in the Northern Zone
The Caribbean coast and Northern Zone are wetter in general and receive rain year-round, with slightly drier periods from September to October and February to March. The rainiest months here are December and January.
What to Pack
- If you’re headed for the beach, you’ll need swim gear and beachwear such as tank tops, sundresses, sandals, and shorts.
- Costa Rica is located close to the equator, so don’t forget your eco-friendly sunscreen no matter what region or time of year you’re traveling. And bring along some eco-friendly bug spray as well. Pack these in your checked bag; they’re expensive to buy in Costa Rica.
- If you’ll be doing some adventure sports, be sure to bring closed-toe shoes for hiking and zip-lining as well as water shoes for white water rafting and waterfall swimming, rappelling, and jumping.
- Consider packing a pair of quick-dry pants for protection while hiking and for comfort for horseback riding, zip-lining, and rappelling—harnesses and horsehair can be uncomfortable with shorts.
- Always pack your rain jacket when you’re traveling in the tropics, no matter the season. Even during the dry season, you may still experience showers.
- If you’ll be spending a couple of days in San José, don’t forget some city-appropriate clothing; although Costa Rica is a tropical country, San José is an international city so you definitely won’t want to wear your bikini around town, and some San José restaurants and clubs do enforce a dress code.
- Bring a sweatshirt or fleece jacket. The further you go up, the more the temperatures may drop at night, so if you’ll be visiting higher elevations or overnighting at a rainforest lodge you’ll likely need an extra layer. The weather is cooler during the green season and can feel even more so when it’s damp at night.
- A waterproof dry bag and/or waterproof cases for your phone and camera.
- Humidity can be high, so quick-dry clothing is recommended.
- Traveling to Costa Rica during green season has some advantages such as fewer crowds and lower rates on hotels.
- Even during much of the green season, mornings can often be sunny with rains arriving in the afternoon. So, with some preparation—expect rain, always pack your rain gear, schedule outdoor activities for the first half of the day, have a plan B—you can still have a wonderful trip.
- Travel with a mindset of flexibility and appreciation rather than frustration; after all, it’s thanks, in part, to the rain that there is so much tropical vegetation and wildlife.
- Some businesses may temporarily close during September and October due to heavier rains, so always call ahead.
- And remember, those green months in the Central Valley and on the Pacific side are actually the months that the Caribbean and Northern Zone receive more sun. So no matter what time of year you travel to Costa Rica, you can likely find some sun if you know where to go and plan accordingly.