The Best Time to Visit Costa Rica for Good Weather, Wildlife, and Affordable Prices

The best time to visit Costa Rica for surfing, wildlife spotting, great weather, and more.

Gorgeous Beach in Costa Rica with Two Fronts of Water

Kryssia Campos / Getty Images

Over the last few years, the small Central American nation of Costa Rica has earned a reputation for its easy going, pura vida sensibility. It's a place with something for everyone — though the destination is especially popular with adventure travelers and nature lovers, who flock here to surf, sun on the beach, snack on seafood, and hike the rainforest.

Depending on what draws you here, there are ideal — and less ideal — times to book your vacation. Whether you're seeking cheap flights, warm waters, or cloudless skies, these are the best times to visit Costa Rica for every type of getaway.

Best Time to Visit Costa Rica

Generally speaking, there is no bad time to visit Costa Rica. Many travelers prefer to visit Costa Rica during the dry season from December through April when there’s more sunlight and less humidity, though airfare and lodging will typically be more expensive. If you want a good deal and fewer crowds, visit Costa Rica in the rainy months of July and August.    

Best Time to Visit Costa Rica for Good Weather

Costa Rica sees its best weather during the dry, bright season between December and April. Leading up to the wet season in the spring, March and April are the hottest months when peak temperatures can reach upwards of 90 degrees. 

The rainy season, which peaks during the summer months and is considerably more humid and damp, is not without its perks — it's less crowded, for example, and rain typically falls in short bursts before things quickly get sunny again. The wet season continues through November and coincides with hurricane season in the Caribbean, but because of its location, Costa Rica rarely gets a direct hit from a hurricane on the Atlantic or Pacific coasts — just expect more rainfall.

Best Time to Visit Costa Rica for Wildlife Spotting

Costa Rica is home to endemic species found nowhere else on Earth. The exceptional number of national parks and wildlife refuges all play a part in helping to protect these animals, while simultaneously allowing travelers to catch a glimpse.

The best time to spot wildlife depends on which animals you'd most like to see. Some well known attention-grabbers, like the Capuchin monkey, can be seen (and heard) year-round. But those seeking to spot sea turtles should head to the Caribbean coast between February and October, or during April and May for leatherback turtles. Generally, you'll want to rise early — well before sunrise — and head to a reserve just as the animals wake up.

Best Time to Visit Costa Rica for Birding

Most birds native to Costa Rica can be spotted all year long, but those devoted to the patient hobby of birdwatching find that the best time to spot the country's resident birds is during the dry season, which runs from December through April. It's during this time that birds come out more frequently (as there is less rain) and can be heard singing nearly everywhere. Also, visibility is greatly improved during this season.

If you're looking for migratory birds, traveling to Costa Rica from September through November provides a window of opportunity. If you're specifically seeking the famed quetzal, you may want to get some local advice on the best areas to find these long-tailed Central American birds, though they are often found feeding on wild avocados in the cloud forests during during the dry season.

view at conchal beach (playa conchal) in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

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Best Time to Visit Costa Rica for Surfing

Surfers come from all over the world to catch the waves on Costa Rica's Pacific Coast — especially along the Nicoya Peninsula. In fact, surfing (though an import), has become as Costa Rican as a bowl of ceviche.

Beginners, and those looking to test minimal surfing skills, should take to the crests in March or April — the last two months of the dry season — when temperatures and humidity rise and waves remain tame. For the daring and the experienced, the biggest waves can be found during the rainier months of September and October. But if beach crowds are more the issue, then the low tourist season of June through August is a sure bet.

Best Time to Go to Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast

Limón Province, which stretches the length of Costa Rica's Caribbean coast, is very different than the nation's Pacific edge. It's here that visitors will find a stronger influence of Afro-Caribbean culture and food, along with a pace that's much slower. While not the first choice for most tourists, the Caribbean coast has exciting spots like Puerto Viejo (an eclectic town that draws surfer crowds) or Cahuita National Park (home to sprawling coral reefs).

The best time to visit this area is during the dry season (December-April), as the humidity during the rainy season is much more pronounced here.

Best Time to Go to Costa Rica's Cloud Forests

Monteverde, in Puntarenas, is Costa Rica's most popular cloud forest. It's here that you'll find trails leading up to the mountaintops that punctuate a fog so dense it appears to be a cloud. It's a magical sight to see — but travelers may want to avoid visiting during the height of the wet season (July-August), when paths can be difficult to trek. Fortunately, the fog formations are not greatly impacted by the seasons.

The Most Affordable Time to Visit Costa Rica

The most expensive and most affordable times to visit Costa Rica coincide with the high and low seasons — and this has nothing to do with the actual seasons in the country. The high season is related to winter (December through February) farther north, when visitors from the United States and Europe are looking to escape freezing temperatures. Thus, hotel prices, airfare, and other travel expenses are a bit inflated during this time.

While Costa Rica is a relatively affordable destination, travelers can save on accommodations and flights by traveling during low season (July and August) when there's less demand.

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