Costa Rica weather is predictably unpredictable, so it can rain at any time no matter where you are in the country. There are however annual patterns which you can plan travel around to maximize your odds of taking advantage of the best weather. The country is home to twelve distinct climate zones and literally hundreds of microclimate pockets. The climate zones are generally divided by factors such as elevation, distance to the coast, seasonal patterns and forest cover. The zones range from coastal mangroves, to tropical rainforest, to near desert like conditions, to cloud forest. Each of these pockets is capable of producing unique weather patterns and can be as close as a few kilometers apart.
The towering Talamanca Mountain range which divides the Caribbean and Pacific slopes is one of the most influential factors affecting the weather in Costa Rica. The range looms all the way up into the clouds and halts weather systems, which in turn dump large amounts of rain into them. This creates tropical rainforests at the base of these mountains and cloud forests in higher elevations.
Costa Rica weather is also affected by seasonal patterns, though unlike the four seasons found in places like the United States and Canada. We have two main seasons, the Dry Season and the Rain Season. Many refer to the Rain Season as the Green Season as everything is lush and in bloom at this time of the year.
The seasonal patterns vary by location and generally depend on which slope of the Talamanca Mountain range the destination is located on.
The Pacific slope and beach areas enjoy the best weather from December through April. The South Pacific begins to receive daily showers around May which escalate into harder rains as the season progresses. By the end of August and early September, this area receives torrential rainfalls daily. Further up the Pacific coast, in areas such as the Guanacaste beaches, the rains do not noticeably hit until around mid-July and the significant rains usually only last during the months of September and October.
Unlike the Pacific side, the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica enjoys the best weather in September and October. It is also usually nice on that side during the months of February, March, April, May and August. Other months can be fairly wet. The only thing that is certain about the Caribbean side is the weather is well-known to be unpredictable.
This is a popular question, particularly given the fact that September and October are traditionally the best months for travel on the Caribbean coast. The short answer is it is highly unlikely that a hurricane will hit Costa Rica due to the latitude. Hurricanes in the Caribbean Sea generally only hit starting at latitude 15 and north. With that said, we can receive some of the outer storms generated by hurricanes, but not often. Even less frequently, a hurricane will actually hit Costa Rica, but on average only once every 20 – 25 years and limited to the Caribbean slope of the country. Therefore, the odds of a hurricane hitting during the few days you might stay on the Caribbean side of the country are marginal at best.
Tornadoes are very uncommon in Costa Rica. In the last 10 years, there have only been three tornadoes, each of which quickly dissipated, left little damage, did not harm anybody and were categorized at EF-0 storms, which have wind speeds of 65 – 85 miles per hour. Similar to hurricanes, the odds of encountering a tornado in Costa Rica are slim to none.
Temperatures change a little with the seasons, but not significantly. It will naturally be a little cooler during the Rainy Season, mostly due to the cloud cover. The Dry Season is generally warmer as it is sunnier. April is the hottest month of the year and October is usually the coolest.
Coastal areas of Costa Rica are generally hot with daytime temperatures reaching the mid-80s to mid-90s most days. Nighttime temperature will usually be around the upper 70s. Inland rainforest destinations such as Arenal, Sarapiqui or Turrialba usually have daytime temperatures between the mid-70s to mid-80s and nighttime temps around the upper 60s to mid-70s. Cloud forest destinations such as Monteverde will be cooler with daytime temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to upper 70s and overnight temps in the 50s to 60s.
We have a section of our website which addresses when you should visit Costa Rica. This section goes into greater detail by providing what to expect each month not only for weather, but also for holidays, reservations patterns and more. You can also follow these links directly to the dedicated pages for each month:
We hope this addresses your questions about the weather in Costa Rica. If I were to provide one final piece of advice, it would be to bring a light rain jacket, no matter what time of the year you are visiting (Costa Rica packing list). It is the rainforest after all…
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