Why you should travel in the Costa Rica rainy season
By David Bolaños on Jul 06, 2022
Costa Rica is a tropical paradise on earth.
Lush green vegetation, singing wildlife and crystal clear waters all make Costa Rica the top of many bucket lists. But most who visit Costa Rica choose sunshine and beach weather. This means missing out on some of the best times of the year in the Costa Rica rainy season.
Today, we think this needs to change.
With 1.7million visitors every single year, Costa Rica has been one of the most accessible places in recent years. Its popularity has been for good reason, with a total of 12 ecosystems in a single country, there is truly something for everyone.
Moreover, its proximity to the US and land borders with both Panama and Nicaragua make Costa Rica not only one of the best places for vacationers, but also for long-term travelers. Digital nomads love the Western vibe and fast internet speeds found around this Latin American utopia.
So, overlooking the rainy season could be a big mistake whether you’re a Costa Rica stan or planning your first-ever visit. In this blog post, we will show you all you’ve been missing out on in Costa Rica’s rainy season.
In the US, we are familiar with having four seasons in a year (spring, summer, fall, and winter). But the region surrounding Costa Rica only experiences two states during the year. These are the dry season (locally known in Spanish as Verano or summer) and the wet season (or Invierno).
Costa Rica’s rainy season typically occurs between May and December, although this will vary from year to year. During this time, visitors should expect sporadic rainfall patterns, with some days totally dry. Typically, the mornings will be dry and there are heavy rain showers during the early afternoon and evening times.
During the rainy season, there is not too much of a temperature change, but things are usually very humid. These elements must be considered when thinking about what to pack for Costa Rica rainy season.
At the fringes of the seasons, in the months of December and April/May, for example, tourists will notice a gradual increase or decrease in rainfall. This is sometimes known as the green season, before and after hordes of visitors arrive but still in reasonable conditions. Some believe that this is the best time to visit Costa Rica.
Then, Costa Rica is usually fairly dry between December and April. In some parts of the country, there is hardly any rainfall at all during this period, while other regions experience showers every once in a while. During the season, the majority of tourists arrive which makes the cost of experiences go up.
Where is Costa Rica?
Many visitors will ask: “what is the rainy season in Costa Rica?”. But to answer that properly, it’s important to know where Costa Rica is located, and how this affects the weather patterns in the country.
Costa Rica is part of the Latin American region. Alongside its neighboring countries of Panama and Nicaragua, it signifies the Southern region of the continent of North America.
This region is part of what’s colloquially known as the ‘ring of fire’, which means that it’s sat directly on top of two opposing tectonic plates.
Due to this position on the Caribbean and Pacific plates, there are a number of unique and varied geographic features in Costa Rica. This includes volcanoes and mountains, which produce incredibly fertile soil. This in combination with the rainfall in Costa Rica leads to incredible biodiversity. The land only covers 0.03% of the earth but contains 6% of the world’s biodiversity.
A note about El Nino / La Nina
Throwing it back to geography classes at school, you may remember learning about a weather phenomena called El Nino and La Nina.
Without going too far into it, Costa Rica’s location on the pacific ocean means that its climate is affected by El Nino and La Nina. Both weather events typically last for a year, with El Nino causing drier and hotter conditions on the pacific coast.
During La Nina, the opposite occurs. Costa Rica experiences an extra long wet period and a higher frequency of precipitation, even in the supposedly dry months. The Latin American region typically experiences one round of El Nino every three to seven years, more frequently than La Nina.
While neither of these weather phenomena can be changed, it is useful to know if one of these is likely to coincide with your trip to have a more accurate sense of the weather on the vacation.
Dry Season in Costa Rica
When researching a visit to Costa Rica, the majority of tourists will fly in the dry season. With most visitors coming from the US, in the northern hemisphere, this means that they maximize their sun exposure and can return in time for the typical US summer.
Rain is very infrequent in places like the Guanacaste region, which has a lot of beachy landscapes. However, the rainforest areas like La Fortuna and Monteverde will experience a wet climate all year round, it will just be less intense between December and April.
The dry season is definitely the most popular time for tourism. In the 2021/2022 Costa Rica dry season, the country was absolutely packed, which meant that lots of activities were booked up well in advance. Both transportation and accommodation became more expensive since it was in high demand (with some prices tripling).
Therefore, the dry season would probably not be the best time to visit Costa Rica for travelers who prefer to plan the day-to-day more spontaneously. Moreover, those looking for deals or cost-cutting ideas will struggle during this time of year.
With such a volume of visitors in the country at once, they are all competing to have the same experiences and there is not always space for everybody. Booking in advance is recommended since availability is super low and there is hardly any room for a change of plans.
Rainy Season Costa Rica
Alternatively, Costa Rica is still ‘visitable’ during its rainy season. The amount of rainfall during this time is not paralyzing, with most days having a few hours of heavy rain in the afternoons. Mornings are usually still sunny.
When it’s the rainy season in Costa Rica, the majority of tourists choose to stay away in order to forego the wet conditions. This can be a blessing for those who do opt to venture into the country between the months of May and December.
Rainy season means a more relaxed style trip, with lots of room for spontaneity and last-minute decisions. Prices are also much lower during this time, since there are fewer tourists to compete for excursions, shuttles and rooms, companies need to focus on just filling up their quotas.
With most of the rainfall occurring in afternoons, however, why not maximize your sun hours by choosing to travel later in the day during those rainy periods?
One thing to note is that public transport, such as shuttles, will be less frequent during these months of the year. Therefore, it may be worth finding some friends in order to travel through the country, or looking at alternative means of travel.
Benefits of visiting Costa Rica rainy season 2022
A visit to Costa Rica during the rainy season is extremely underrated. Few visitors see this side of the country every year.
Instead of approaching it from the mindset of, “how bad is rainy season in Costa Rica?”, we encourage potential tourists to think about the benefits:
It’s so much cheaper
Much more flexibility
Less busy on transport
Better accessibility to those all-important views
Prices change significantly during Costa Rica rainy season. But these cheaper room prices don’t signify a drop in quality, and many will find that they can afford to stay in something more luxurious that would otherwise be out of budget.
Moreover, with less pressure to book everything before you arrive comes greater flexibility throughout the time spent in the country. This is great for those who prefer to travel spontaneously and make last-minute decisions when thinking about where to stay in Costa Rica. Solo travelers in particular may prefer to visit Costa Rica during the rainy season as is easier to form a group with new friends and find spaces for group activities.
With its drop in numbers, the rainy season in Costa Rica is preferred for those wanting a more comfortable journey when traveling from one place to another. Unfortunately, some of the road conditions in the country are poor, with a typical bus lasting between 4 and 8 hours. To ensure this is as comfortable as possible, of course, a less packed vehicle would be preferred.
Finally, there’s nothing worse than rocking up to a popular tourist destination and finding your view crowded and overshadowed by other people. Thankfully though, this is something that doesn’t have to be a problem during the wet season in Costa Rica, with plenty of breathing room to take in the views (and snap some pics without other people ruining the shot).
Best places to go in Costa Rica during the rainy season
With two lines of almost parallel coastline in Costa Rica, the places visitors choose to see will affect the amount of rain and their experiences during their trip. This means that you’ll get very different feelings on the Caribbean side compared to the Pacific coastline.
Moreover, the timing and force of the rainy season differ slightly, depending on where you are in the country. For example, the south pacific region is the rainiest part of the Latin American country. As you move north and towards the Caribbean, the weather becomes drier.
To avoid the heaviest rainfall, we recommend a visit to the Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo. It’s a relaxed little surf town with great local music and plenty of beaches.
Alternatively, tourists can visit the towns of La Fortuna and Monteverde, which have the most consistent all-year-round weather. Since they are both high-altitude destinations, the rainfall here can become intense for long periods of time. The air is fairly muggy and humid too, even in the dry season.
The rainy season in Guanacaste Costa Rica is not as wet as elsewhere. It’s a great beachy option for those who don’t mind some rainfall and would like to be in the vicinity of lots of nearby activities.
What to do during the rainy season in Costa Rica
The myth in Costa Rica is that the rain is paralyzing, and would be a poor choice for travelers who want to see the country for the first time. But in actuality, it can be a great time to experience the best that Costa Rica has to offer, without the annoying crowds.
Visit the waterfalls
When thinking about what to do in Costa Rica during the rainy season, waterfalls should be at the top of the list. The truth is, there is no better time to see the crystal clear waters overflowing their banks and trickling down into gorgeous pools, many of which can be swum in.
In the summer, many of these banks run dry and travelers will make their way to waterfall sites just to be disappointed. But during the rainy season, alongside a great view, many tourists choose to play in the falls and even enjoy white water rafting.
There are two different ways to experience the waterfalls: either on your own for free, or with a paid tour. For both, expect a visit to the waterfalls to last at least a few hours.
Likewise, the scuba scene is especially great in rainy season for Costa Rica. Each year, the rainfall coincides with specific marine life migration and seasons in order to show off the best of Costa Rica.
The whale season lines up perfectly with the winter months in Costa Rica. During this time, many whales will migrate over to the region in order to give birth to their calf and will make it their home for the initial months of the baby’s new life. The areas of Uvita and the Osa Peninsula are widely regarded as the spots for whale sightings during a scuba dive.
Due to their surface-level activities, whale watching tours are also a popular activity during this time of year. They cost between $50 to $150 (depending on the group size and boat), and should last at least half a day. While there’s no guarantee of sightings, it is fairly consistent during the months of January to March.
Turtles are also reliably found during the rainy season in Costa Rica. This is because the country has quite a few turtle conservation sanctuaries, which care for the beings year-round and therefore guarantee sightings.
Every year, thousands of turtles emerge from the ocean in order to find safety at the beach to lay and bury their eggs. Then, three months later, they hatch. Many require volunteers to help the newly hatched babies to reach their new home in the sea.
A sea turtle hatching and nesting tour should last a few hours, and cost approximately $35. Most of the time, this coincides with sunset in order to give the newly hatched turtles the best chance of survival possible.
Lush green jungle
It’s no secret that the rainforest is one of the biggest sellers when looking at a visit to Costa Rica. These places are packed with biodiversity, plenty of interesting plant life and are loaded with greenery.
As it turns out, tourists rate their jungle experience the best during the rainy season. Costa Rica’s pacific coast locations such as Manuel Antonio are particularly notorious for offering beautiful biodiversity and lush views, even on wet days.
Plus, even during the ‘dry’ times, the rainforest areas frequently experience rainfall anyway, so if it’s rainforest you’re looking to see, it makes no difference what time of year you visit. After all, it’s in the name.
Those searching for reasons to visit Costa Rica in the rainy season need to look no further than the surf. While swells are reliable all year round, advanced surfers are likely to prefer the significantly larger waves between the months of March to November.
Visitors should make a beeline for our resident surf expert Mike over at Tortuga Surf Camp, who runs things at our Jaco, Manuel Antonio and Tamarindo locations. He rates the swells in March for those already comfortable on the water or surfers who really want to get stuck into the larger winter waves. Moreover, there is far less competition on the water, giving visitors just as many chances as the locals.
This guide to surfing in Costa Rica will give visitors the opportunity to get to know the waves before they arrive, and plan their trip around the best swells for their ability.
Visit Costa Rica’s rainy season
At the end of the day, a visit to Costa Rica is going to be enjoyable at any time of year. But many tourists make the mistake of believing that it’s just not worth it to visit outside of the dry season. This is simply untrue, and a real shame as visitors can miss out on some of the best that this Latin American destination has to offer.
If you’re looking at where to stay on your visit to Costa Rica in rainy season, it’s good to know that Selina has you covered. With ten different locations throughout the country, there are destinations for every type of traveler. From social dorms to spacious apartments, there’s truly something for everyone.
For answers to questions like when is Costa Rica rainy season and more, take a look at the FAQs below.
Costa Rica Rainy Season FAQs
Is the entire of the country rainy?
When is rainy season? Costa Rica’s rainfall varies by month and intensity. Those on the Caribbean side will experience all-around drier weather, and even when it does rain, these showers will be much lighter than on the pacific side.
Rainfall is most intense at the highest altitude on the pacific side of Costa Rica.
Where is the best place to stay in Costa Rica?
Tourists have much more choice when they choose to visit Costa Rica during rainy season. Fortunately, this also means that you can choose between any one of Selina’s ten different destinations throughout the country.
Selina Costa Rica offers high-end suites and budget dorms, so no matter where you look on the Costa Rica rainy season map, there’s something for everyone.
When does rainy season start in Costa Rica?
The rainy season begins around May time each year.
When does the rainy season in Costa Rica end? The rain starts to taper down in October and should be fully transitioned into the dry season by December.
Costa Rica Packing list (rainy season)?
We recommend packing walking boots and a waterproof jacket as standard, alongside bug spray. But even in the rainy season, there is still admirable weather, so ensure you bring summer clothing like shorts or skirts, t-shirts, and sunscreen.