Costa Rica is definitely having a moment right now.
And rightly so. With palm-fringed beaches, adrenaline-inducing activities, dense jungle, amazing wildlife, belching volcanoes, mysterious cloud forests and friendly locals, the Central American country has something for everyone. (Unless you’re a desert fan – you won’t find desolate swathes of scorching sand here.)
Despite being so close to the equator (it’s between eight and 12 degrees north) and having a year-round tropical climate, the varying microclimates mean that the weather conditions can change quite dramatically, depending on when – and where – you travel. There’s no such thing as summer and winter here either. Costa Rica has two predominant seasons: wet and dry.
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The dry season
December to April in Costa Rica is the dry season, and offers up hours of sunshine, warm temperatures and very little rainfall. This is also peak season, so you can expect to see a lot more people ambling around beach towns, soaking up on the sun on the beach and wandering through national parks.
This is a great time of year for bird watching; twitchers should keep their eyes peeled for quetzals, hummingbirds and hawks. It’s also prime for hiking and snorkelling, as trails are generally dry and the water is clear.
During the dry season, the weather can be extremely hot, and with no rainfall some waterfalls and kayaking rapids can be reduced to a trickle.
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The wet/green season
During May to July (and again in November), Costa Rica heads into the wet/green season. The country generally sees sunny mornings, with bursts of rain in the afternoon, usually lasting for a few hours. If you can deal with the showers and increased humidity, this can be a great time to travel in Costa Rica, as the majority of tourists have moved on. The rainforests are lush and green, with explosions of colour from flowers and new growth, the towns are far less crowded, and you’ll get to see the country’s stunning waterfalls in all their gushing glory.
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The *really* wet season
Costa Rica is at its wettest between August and October, however this is an awesome time for spotting wildlife – keep your eyes peeled for humpback whales on the Caribbean Coast and turtles on the Pacific Coast. Storms along the Pacific Coast make for excellent surf conditions, and it’s a great time of year for kayaking.
A few rule breakers
There are a few spots in Costa Rica that don’t play by the conventional weather rules. Visitors to La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano can expect all types of weather, whatever the time of year. It’s slightly drier between February and April, but still pack wet weather gear, because you never know when the skies will open. Temperatures range from the low-twenties to the mid-thirties (Celsius).
Monteverde’s famous cloud forest is another anomaly. The mountaintop park is almost always shrouded in mist, but can be pretty wet and windy during the dry season. During the wet season, hiking trails can get very muddy, which may make your afternoon forest walk a little less enjoyable so it’s a good idea to wear waterproof boots and a waterproof jacket.
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There’s never really a bad time to visit Costa Rica – while more sun equates to more tourists, there are plenty of out-of-the-way spots to visit, where you’ll feel like you’re the only person on earth. Travelling during the green season is often cheaper and quieter, and an afternoon rain shower is the perfect time of day for a beer (or a nap).
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Feature image by Robert Cicchetti, Shutterstock.