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When to Travel
In general, most travelers visit Costa Rica to escape winter in North America, when average rainfall is lower and migrant bird populations are highest. The sudden onset of a dry spell called veranillo (little summer) occurs between late July and early August and is popular with families who prefer to travel during school vacations.
Increasingly visitors are enjoying the benefits of travel during the off peak green season. During this time, May through November, rain usually falls for a few hours in the afternoon or at night and rarely disrupts travel. Some benefits of travel during this season are lower numbers of tourists, lush and vibrant vegetation, a better choice of naturalist guides, increased availability at popular accommodations, lower seasonal rates and seasonal animal migrations such as the arrival of nesting sea turtles.
Pleasant Year Round Weather
Costa Rica boasts a pleasant, mild climate suitable for travel at any time of year. Most regions have a dry season (December through April) and a wet season (May through November), which also establish peak and off-peak travel periods. We can help plan your trip at any time of year.
12+ Climatic Zones
Temperatures are determined more by elevation and location than by season. Temperatures range from tropical on the lowland coastal plains to cool and temperate in the interior highlands. Some rainfall should be expected throughout the year, usually falling for short intervals during the afternoon and evening.
While the country lies wholly within the tropics, it boasts at least 12 climactic zones and is markedly diverse in local microclimates, which make generalizations misleading. While the dry season tends to be nearly without rain on the Pacific Coast, this is when it rains the most on the Caribbean Coast. September and October are the driest months on the Caribbean while it is wet elsewhere.
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Best Wildlife: Green Season
The green season (May through November) is usually the best time to see wildlife in Costa Rica. During the green season the impact of tourism on wildlife is much lower. Fewer tourists walk the national parks of Costa Rica, so animals are not scared away as easily. In addition, many plants and trees provide fruits that serve as food for the animals during this time of year. With more feeding in the forests comes more wildlife sightings.
Between the end of July and mid-October the green sea turtles come to Tortuguero en masse for nesting. Since these giants of the oceans are an endangered species, it is a very special and unforgettable experience to watch them. This is one of the main reasons why Tortuguero is so famous. You cannot witness this spectacle outside the green season.
Best Rafting: May-November
Many rivers used for whitewater rafting in Costa Rica are more enjoyable in the green season. Because water levels are higher during this time they are more exciting and often better manageable due to more consistent water levels, i.e. fewer boulders and rocks to navigate.
Best Volcano Viewing: June-October
The opportunities to see the volcanoes are usually higher from June to October. Arenal Volcano and the central mountains’ misty weather are mainly affected by weather from the Caribbean side. During these months on the Caribbean side there are fewer tradewinds from the Atlantic Ocean and they have less power to blow clouds toward the country’s interior. In addition, clouds and fog usually vanish after a heavy rain and leave the mountains with excellent visibility, often at night when the lava shows are most spectacular.
Costa Rica Trips for Any Season
No matter what season you seek to travel in Costa Rica, AdventureSmith Explorations has an extensive, curated collection of Costa Rica small ship cruises and rainforest trips to recommend. Learn more about our Costa Rica trips, or go direct to our Trip Finder to search by location and your travel dates.