Costa Rica weather is just as varied as the country itself. Although Costa Rica is unequivocally tropical, it can be divided into several climatic zones, each of which has different characteristics of its own.
The main reason for the diversity in Costa Rica’s weather is the many elevations found in it. For example, the highlands of Monteverde are misty, cold and foggy year-round, while Guanacaste has a dry warm climate as it’s located on the country’s lowlands. The Central Valley, including the capital city of San José, has perhaps the best climate in Costa Rica, since its average temperature is 22°C (71°F) and is constantly cooled by the coastal breeze.
The average annual temperature for most of the country lies between 22°C (71°F) and 27°C (81°F). Due to its close proximity to the equator, Costa Rica has no real summer or winter periods, and the sun shines here throughout the year. The climate in Costa Rica is classically divided into two major seasons – rainy and dry.
Costa Rica’s dry season runs from December through May and Costa Rica’s rainy season from May to November. Locally, dry months are called ‘verano’ or summer, and the rainy months ‘invierno’ or winter. An interesting fact is that some of the coldest temperatures are registered during the early dry season or ‘verano’.
The Caribbean coast is the wettest area in the country. Here the rainy season begins in April and continues through December and sometimes January. Major storms occasionally hit this slope between the months of September and February, causing constant rain for several days. On the contrary, the driest months of February and March might be almost entirely without rainfall.
The Pacific slope is known for having sunny and warm days, with occasional rains in late afternoons during the rainy season (May to November). The Northern Pacific experiences an intense dry season each year, with no rainfall for several months, while the southern half of the Pacific is much wetter with a shorter dry season and heavier afternoon rains during the wet season. On the other hand, the Central Valley experiences a mild dry season with moderate temperatures for most of the year and a lower than average amount of precipitation.
One of the most notable weather patterns to affect Costa Rica is the El Niño phenomenon. El Niño is a weather pattern of severe rainfall which occurs every two to seven years. It causes an unusual increase in water temperature in the Pacific Ocean, changing weather conditions as far north as the United States and as far south as Argentina.
The best time to visit Costa Rica
In general, the best time to visit Costa Rica is December through April, as it is the country’s dry season. Although the dry season doesn’t mean it does not rain, there’s definitely less rainfall.
Tourism in Costa Rica is heavier from December to February, as well as during Easter week. Because of the number of North American and European tourists, the country experiences a mini-high season during the months of June and July.
If you want to avoid the tourist fuss and get more economic rates for lodging, the early months of the rainy season are a great time to travel to Costa Rica. During this time, however, roads get muddy and rivers start to swell, making travel throughout the country a more challenging experience.