Contrary to what you might imagine, a visit to Costa Rica during the rainy season is actually a great idea. Ask a local or long-time resident, and you’ll likely hear the green season is their favorite time of year.
But first, let’s get the details straight. What exactly are Costa Rica’s seasons, and when is the rainy season?
Seasons and weather in Costa Rica
Due to its proximity to the equator, Costa Rica doesn’t have the same four seasons as in northern or southern climes. There are only two. The dry and the rainy seasons (aka the green season).
Locals, or Ticos as they refer to themselves, call the seasons Verano (summer) and Invierno (winter).
Sound easy? In reality, it’s a little more complicated than that.
Due to its diverse topography–tall mountains, deep valleys, long coastlines, and numerous estuaries–Costa Rica has diverse weather patterns. In fact, despite its small size, the country harbors twelve distinct life zones and over thirty microclimates.
A microclimate implies that certain areas may have entirely different weather than what you’d find nearby. Many valleys, canyons, or mountainous areas have their own microclimates.
What does that mean for your trip to Costa Rica? It means that the weather you encounter will depend on where you plan to visit.
Costa Rica weather explained
Lesson 1: Costa Rica’s east coast or Caribbean side is generally rainier than the west coast Pacific region. Similarly, the northern region is generally drier than the southern zone.
The country’s interior, on the other hand, is a hit or miss.
For example, the trendy town of La Fortuna, home of the Arenal Volcano, is wetter on average than the Central Valley.
La Fortuna is a perfect example of a microclimate. Its weather mimics the Caribbean region’s weather for the most part. While just a few miles to the north is considerably drier year-round.
Lesson 2: As a rule of thumb, the Pacific Coast’s dry season runs from December to April. And the green season runs from May to mid November. As you can probably imagine, Costa Rica’s peak tourist season is from December through April. July and August are also popular months.
The Caribbean Coast receives more rain on average year-round. The driest months are September and October. These are the high season (tourists) months for the Caribbean.
Lesson 3: An interesting weather phenomenon that occurs during the Pacific’s rainy season is called Veranillo. Meaning “little summer,” Costa Rica’s veranillo entails a decrease in rain. This dry period usually la for two or more weeks between late July and August.
The lovely letup in wetness coincides perfectly with school vacations around the globe. Hence these two months are often considered part of the high season when most tourists visit.
Lesson 4: Four extensive mountain ranges intersect the country from northwest to southeast. Within them are countless ancient volcanoes and a few active ones. And coincidentally, there are lots of microclimates.
Costa Rica’s mountains are often covered in cloud and rainforests. Naturally, these environments experience regular rain, which adds to their mystique and beauty. Costa Rica’s forests harbor tens of thousands of plants and animal species.
Lesson 5: There are advantages to visiting Costa Rica during the rainy season. Many hotels and tours lower their rates. Visitors will enjoy fewer crowds and more availability.
Another plus is the visiting wildlife. Humpback whales and nesting sea turtles are most prolific during the rainy season.
And lastly, the green season is literally the greenest! Rains bring life to Costa Rica’s forests. Dry parched soil and plants are rejuvenated in an explosion of new leaves, flowers, and berries. And wildlife is most active with the arrival of many wild newborns to entertain visitors.
Lesson 6: Remember that the best way to experience Costa Rica to the fullest is by car. At Adobe, we have 14 full service offices strategically positioned across the country. We also have an Adobe Rent a Car office in Limon City and several offices on the Pacific Coast.
The Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica
Popular destinations on the Caribbean side, such as Tortuguero National Park in the north experience more rain annually.
The nationally renowned beach towns of Puerto Viejo and Cahuita on the South Caribbean Coast experience their peak tourist season from September through November. They also get less rain around January and March.
Surfers love this time of year as the northern Atlantic swells promise lots of big waves and challenging surf.
What’s great about Costa Rica’s weather is that when it’s wettest on the Pacific side, the Caribbean is sunny and dry! These months are a great time to visit Costa Rica’s Caribbean region.
The Pacific side of Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast weather varies as well. Guanacaste Province in the north is the driest of all regions. Beaches such as Tamarindo and the Gulf of Papagayo may not receive any rain at all from January through April, This is where you find most of the large, all-inclusive resorts.
The Central Pacific Coast is the perfect medium. Popular towns like Jaco and Manuel Antonio are lush and green, with hot and sunny mornings nearly year round.
The southernmost reaches of the Pacific Coast are the wettest. The Osa Peninsula, for example, is home to Corcovado National Park. The massive refuge receives copious rainfall and is covered in rainforest.
Costa Rica hurricane season – Should you worry?
Costa Rica has the great luck of being positioned below the “hurricane belt” Atlantic hurricanes usually hit Central American countries that are 10 degrees latitude north or the equator or higher.
The Pacific and Atlantic hurricane seasons run from June 1 through November 30. This coincides with the rainiest months in Costa Rica as well. To check the regional weather conditions and storm formations, visit the National Hurricane Center or the World Meteorological Organisation.
Do hurricanes ever hit Costa Rica?
How many hurricanes have hit Costa Rica, you ask? According to records, no hurricanes have made landfall, but many have impacted the country adversely over the years.
Hurricanes in Costa Rica seldom make landfall. However, rain bands, storm surges, and high winds from passing storms can and do affect the country. Flooding and landslides incur the most damage.
September and October are the peak of Costa Rica’s hurricane season. The most recent hurricanes in Costa Rica were Hurricane Bonnie and Hurricane Lisa. Both occurred in 2022. Neither storm made landfall on Costa Rican soil. However, flooding and damages from landslides displaced some communities.