When Is The Best Time Of Year To Travel To Costa Rica?

The below post is now available as an audio recording (ideal for the visually impaired). Click on the video below to play the reading.

Like all Costa Rica trip planning, the ‘best’ anything (whether it be the best places to visit, the best things to do, or the best time of year to travel) can only be determined by the traveller asking the question. Trip planning is an incredibly individual process, and since every traveller differs from the next according to their trip interests, preferences, needs, and budget, it would be impossible to suggest that any one facet of the country (or travel throughout the country) is better or worse than another. This being said, as experienced as we are with travel and tourism throughout Costa Rica, we have developed recommendations and advice that can help travellers come to their own conclusions about the ‘best’ that Costa Rica has to offer. Today we aim to focus on applying our knowledge to the question “When is the best time of year to travel to Costa Rica?”.

Costa Rica's Rain Season: A little rain never hurt anyone... it may even create a rainbow!

Costa Rica’s Rain Season: A little rain never hurt anyone… it may even create a rainbow!

When travellers pose this question, we respond by asking them to prioritize the following three trip influences:

1. Cost
2. Trip Duration (aka. available vacation time)
3. Weather

Sure, we’d all love to be able to vacation without limits – spending as much as we’d like, travelling for as long as we like, and with perfect weather the entire time – but the reality of trip planning is that most often one or more of these influences has to give. Some travellers have the flexibility to travel at many times throughout the year, but on a restricted budget. Other travellers are more flexible with their pocketbooks, but can only travel during particular months or weeks throughout the year. For those who are fortunate enough to have both the freedom to plan a vacation at any time of year and at any cost, perhaps travel at a time when the local weather is most desirable is the greatest priority.

Since choosing the best time of year to travel to Costa Rica is a balancing act between managing cost, trip duration, and weather, consider the following pros and cons of each when prioritizing the three for yourself.

COST

Costa Rica’s seasons not only indicate weather changes, they also reflect increases and decreases in tourism throughout the country. As a result, prices for various accommodations (and in some cases, attractions) fluctuate between the low season (when the least amount of foreign visitors come to Costa Rica) and the high season (when a large number of foreign visitors come to Costa Rica). Furthermore, additional price changes be enforced during the shoulder season (a time of year that sees less tourism than the high season but more tourism than the low season) and/or during the peak season (otherwise referred to as the holiday season – the time of year when tourism is at its absolute highest). In general, Costa Rica’s high season runs from December to April (with some companies enforcing high season pricing from December 1st onward and others waiting until mid-month to make the change) and the low season runs from May to November/mid-December.

In sync with this cycle, Costa Rica tourism costs are at their lowest between May and November (in some cases, mid-December). During this time, travel during May, June, September, October, and November is the least expensive as some accommodations/attractions classify July and August as shoulder/high season travel (given the increased amount of tourism during these two months) and increase prices for the 60-day period in the middle of Costa Rica’s 7-month low season.

It is also important to watch and factor in pricing for international flights to and from Costa Rica. Airlines change their flight prices frequently, and their price increases and decreases do not typically follow suit with Costa Rica’s high and low seasons. In general, the airlines increase their rates when air-travel volume is at its highest, typically coinciding with popular holidays and breaks such as spring break and/or summer break when family-travel is booming. This may mean that international airfares are at their highest during months when tourism in Costa Rica is least expensive, or alternatively, that international airfares are at their least expensive during months when Costa Rica tourism is at its highest. If maintaining a tight budget is your priority, we recommend limiting your travel scope to the months of September, October, or November (when Costa Rica’s low season most often corresponds with the lowest international airfare prices), followed by May and June (when Costa Rica’s low season most often corresponds with reasonable international airfare prices). If you prefer to travel during July or August, you will likely be able to access a mix of low, shoulder, and high season Costa Rica tourism prices (as companies vary in their price offerings during these months), although international flight prices will likely be at their highest. Lastly, travel during December (from mid-month on), January, February, and April will offer a variety of international flight prices, although Costa Rica’s high and peak season tourism prices will apply.

TRIP DURATION (AKA. AVAILABLE VACATION TIME)

Many travellers are not only limited in the number of days they are able to travel for, but are also restricted to travel during particular months or weeks during the year. If this is the case for you, there may be little room for outsiders’ recommendations as your holiday time might already be determined for you. If this is the case, don’t sweat. You’re still planning to visit Costa Rica, even if it is for a shorter visit than you would like and/or at a time of year that you are not convinced is the best for travel. Here’s a secret – the country is beautiful, whether you are able to experience it for 5 days or 50 days, rain or shine. Furthermore, there is no bad time to visit Costa Rica. There are less expensive times to travel, and times of year when there is less rainfall, but the quality of experiences to be had are worth the cost and can brighten even the cloudiest, drizzly day.

For those travellers who have control over the duration of their trip and the time of year of travel, you may want to consider travelling during the low season (or shoulder season) if doing so would create an opportunity to increase your overall trip experience and/or extend your trip length. Since a similar vacation experience can be had regardless of the season you wish to travel during, why not opt to travel during the low season to take advantage of lower tourism rates? If you are fortunate enough to have a loose budget, travel during the low season will simply allow you to save more off your total trip cost, which can then used to upgrade particular trip items (ie. your accommodations or in-country transportation arrangements) and/or add additional days/nights to the trip length.

We often work with families who prefer to travel during March break, Christmas break, or July/August in order to avoid having their children miss school. We are regularly asked whether a vacation over the the March or Christmas break would be better or worse than a vacation over the July/August break. When cost is a concern, we recommend July/August for the reasons outlined in the COST section above, however if price is not an issue, we ask whether or not the number of days the family would have to travel for would be limited in either case. For example, while March break typically offers an opportunity for a 7-8 day vacation, travel during the July/August months invites the possibility of a lengthier trip (provided the adult travellers are able to secure additional vacation time). If the family’s trip duration is limited to a specific number of days (such as 7 or 8), then travel at any time of year would be possible. However, if the family has an opportunity to explore Costa Rica for longer, they may prefer to travel during July/August when they can take a few extra days to spread out their activities, add in more beach relaxation time, and/or give themselves a day at the start and end of their vacation to prepare for their international flights. In this case, although the addition of days/nights to any vacation will increase the overall cost, the added expense could be off-set by savings earned as a result of choosing to travel during the July and August months (low/shoulder season travel) instead of during March/Christmas break (high/peak season travel).

WEATHER

If your budget and vacation time are free from restrictions, let the weather be your guide! Costa Rica’s high and low seasons are defined by the weather, as the start of the green/wet/rainy season in May marks the beginning of the low season and the start of the summer/dry season in December marks the beginning of the high season. As a result, most classify travel during January (as early as the end of December), February, March and April as the ‘best’ as the forecast typically calls for sunshine and little rain during this time. This 4-month stretch of the year offers Costa Rica’s best climate and is ideal for travellers looking for the utmost tropical experience.

This being said, given that Costa Rica is a rainforest-inhabited country, rain is common throughout the year. For this reason, the lushness that many travellers flock to Costa Rica for is available year-round, and depends more on the locations you plan to visit than the time of year you plan to travel. For example, the Monteverde and La Fortuna (Arenal) in-land areas are lush throughout the year. Naturally, they are wetter during the green/wet/rainy season, but both areas are fully green year-round. In contrast, the Guanacaste coast is Costa Rica’s driest area. It is brown throughout most of the year, and although it is greener between May and November (when rainfall is at its highest), the area never comes close to offering the same lush, rainforest experience that other areas of the country offer on a continual basis.

Resource: click here to learn more about the best places to visit during your Costa Rica trip!

If weather is your greatest priority and sunshine (coupled with little chance of rain) is what you are looking for, than travel during January, February, March, or April is what you should aim for. If you are unable to travel at this time of year (or Costa Rica’s high season prices are more than what you feel comfortable spending), then opt to visit in July or August. Although in the middle of the green/wet/rainy season, these two months offer better weather than May, June, September, October, and November, and are a less expensive alternative to summer/dry season travel.

Resource: click here to learn more about Costa Rica weather and rain in the rainforest during the rain season!

COMPARE THE PROS/CONS FOR YOURSELF

Costa Rica Vacation in JANUARY:

-high season tourism pricing (with peak season tourism pricing in effect at the start of the month), international flight prices at increased rates, summer/dry season weather, busy time of year creates issues with vacation item (accommodation, tour, and transfer service) availability

Costa Rica Vacation in FEBRUARY:

-high season tourism pricing, international flight prices at average rates, summer/dry season weather, busy time of year creates issues with vacation item (accommodation, tour, and transfer service) availability

Costa Rica Vacation in MARCH:

-high season tourism pricing (with peak season tourism pricing in effect during Easter week, if the calendar calls for this in March), international flight prices at increased rates, summer/dry season weather, busy time of year creates issues with vacation item (accommodation, tour, and transfer service) availability

Costa Rica Vacation in APRIL:

-high season tourism pricing (with peak season tourism pricing in effect during Easter week, if the calendar calls for this in April), international flight prices at average rates, summer/dry season weather, busy time of year creates issues with vacation item (accommodation, tour, and transfer service) availability

Costa Rica Vacation in MAY:

-low season tourism pricing, international flight prices at average rates, green/wet/rainy season weather, less busy time of year avoids issues with vacation item (accommodation, tour, and transfer service) availability

Costa Rica Vacation in JUNE:

low season tourism pricing, international flight prices at average rates, green/wet/rainy season weather, less busy time of year avoids issues with vacation item (accommodation, tour, and transfer service) availability

Costa Rica Vacation in JULY:

-low/shoulder season tourism pricing, international flight prices at increased rates, green/wet/rainy season weather (although offering more favourable weather than other green/wet/rainy season months), moderately busy time of year can cause some issues with vacation item (accommodation, tour, and transfer service) availability

Costa Rica Vacation in AUGUST:

-low/shoulder season tourism pricing, international flight prices at increased rates, green/wet/rainy season weather (although offering more favourable weather than other green/wet/rainy season months), moderately busy time of year can cause some issues with vacation item (accommodation, tour, and transfer service) availability

Costa Rica Vacation in SEPTEMBER:

-low season tourism pricing, international flight prices at average rates, green/wet/rainy season weather, less busy time of year avoids issues with vacation item (accommodation, tour, and transfer service) availability

Costa Rica Vacation in OCTOBER:

-low season tourism pricing, international flight prices at average rates, green/wet/rainy season weather, less busy time of year avoids issues with vacation item (accommodation, tour, and transfer service) availability

Costa Rica Vacation in NOVEMBER:

-low season tourism pricing, international flight prices at average rates, green/wet/rainy season weather, less busy time of year avoids issues with vacation item (accommodation, tour, and transfer service) availability

Costa Rica Vacation in DECEMBER:

-high season tourism pricing (with peak season tourism pricing in effect at the end of the month), international flight prices at increased rates, summer/dry season weather, busy time of year creates issues with vacation item (accommodation, tour, and transfer service) availability

QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: What time of year is your favorite to travel to Costa Rica? Why?

Pura vida!

53 responses to “When Is The Best Time Of Year To Travel To Costa Rica?

  1. haha thats quite true… was quite surprised when we came to Flamingo, Guanacaste in Feb, saw everything was brown and dry! Now its as green it is in Arenal! It only took about a week of rain and it was all green again!

    Found your blog very useful even for us living here in CR! thank you!

    • The Epic Duo –
      Kat and Romeo – you guys make us laugh! Your site is wicked fun and we love meeting new people living in CR. All the best to you both, new amigos, throughout your journey! 🙂
      Pura vida!

  2. Pingback: Costa Rica Caribbean | Independent Travel Agent Berkshire Hampshire·

  3. I was just telling a friend how I wished to live in a rainforest, she recommended I visit Costa Rica haha so I’m seeing this right on time!. thanks for following ‘Melomania’ 🙂

  4. Hey! Thanks for checking out my post about DCF. Jai Uttal – the “Daddy” of Kirtan these days, has a Kirtan camp in Nosara, C.R. Any suggestions about travelling there?

  5. Awesome that you have written it so detailed..I think I shud go there soon after reading about it ….thanks for likinv my post

  6. Great tips! I would love to go there someday!

    Thanks for following my blog! I really like yours too!

    • Nancy DeLaval Miller –
      That would be great! We would love to see you in Costa Rica one day! 🙂
      Pura vida!

    • themcnealway –
      Your blog is incredibly inspirational! It is a mish-mash of everything entertaining and encouraging. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and the great quotes with your readers. For a potential trip to Costa Rica this summer, please never hesitate to send any questions you may have our way (info@puravidaeh.ca) as we’d be happy to answer them for you. We also offer over 2000 discounts for Costa Rica trip items (hotels, tours, and transportation services) and would love to have you access these as well. 🙂
      Pura vida!

  7. Awesome run down on times to travel! I prefer to go shoulder season….I am guessing the start of the rainy season would be ok – such a warm and tropical rain! Wish I had unlimited time – that has been my biggest issue in the past…so much to see and do in Costa Rica, I have always felt one week is not enough!

    • Anita Mac –
      Great choice! The shoulder season is a great time to travel – it provides a nice mix of pleasant weather and decent prices. You are 100% correct – the “rain” that Costa Rica gets is most often a warm, tropical rain and is not always as dreary as that which visitors dread. The most difficult part is that which you mention – planning to have enough time to do and see it all, since there is so much that the country has to offer. One week may not be as much time as you’d like to have, but incredible experiences can be had in 7 days so a visit (at any time of the year, for as many days as you may have to travel for) is worth the trip. 😉 All the best to you over at “Travel Destination Bucket List” – should you ever add Costa Rica to your list of travels, please let us know as we would love to follow your experiences!
      Pura vida!

    • Christine Brady –
      Thanks so much! I am not a mom yet, but hope to become one someday and when that happens I’ll gladly turn to your blog for tips and recommendations! 🙂
      Pura vida!

  8. You got a seriously good blog going on here, I was recently watching old footage of the 1968 world surfing titles held in your country, the waves looked great fun I think it was held at Rincon, not sure which coast that is on. Hawaiian Fred Hemmings beat Australian Midget Farrelly in the final supposed to be a bit debatable. You are so lucky to be there the waves at Gas Chambers and Wilderness are also on my list to hit one day, and it goes without saying the girls are super cute. Happy days ahead.
    James

    • lyttlestreet –
      Thanks so much for your comment! We did some digging (to see if we could catch the videos as well!) and I think we found the one you mention, although I believe this was in Puerto Rico (in 1968). I could be wrong, but I think Rincon is on the west side of the country. We’d love to make it to Puerto Rico some day, perhaps to catch a surf competition at Rincon! 😉
      Pura vida!

    • janehilton –
      We would love for you to visit as well, and of course, follow along your photo journey through your Costa Rica travels! 🙂
      Pura vida!

  9. Beautiful photos. Perhaps one day I will be able to visit your beautiful country.

    Thanks for choosing to follow one of my blogs. I hope you continue to enjoy the posts.

    • leamuse –
      Costa Rica would love to have you! We would love to visit France as well – perhaps we will see you there one day!
      Pura vida!

  10. Thanks for liking “repetitive motion” and for all the great info and pictures of beautiful Costa Rica, where some of our acquaintances live or visit often.

    • drybredquips –
      Thanks again! I had to ‘like’ cross-country as well. It gave us a good laugh. 🙂
      Pura vida!

  11. Thanks for stopping by and following my blog! Costa Rica intrigues us. We would love to visit some day 🙂

    • sudebaker –
      Thanks for the comment! Costa Rica has so much to do and see – it is well worth a visit if you are considering it as a vacation destination. 🙂 Should you ever have specific questions, we’d be happy to answer them for you!
      Pura vida!

    • Elle Hubbard –
      Thank you so much for your comment! We love “tripWheels” as a US vehicle rental resource. Should you ever branch out internationally, we can recommend a number of great vehicle rental agencies in Costa Rica if you need. 🙂
      Pura vida!

    • transplantedtatar –
      That is our preference as well (travel during the low season). LOVE your blog’s caption… “Travel of the hidden-treasure, off-season variety”. We look forward to following your unique travels on “Transplanted Tatar”. 🙂
      Pura vida!

  12. Welcome! Thank you for subscribing to follow my blog. I hope you are encouraged, inspired and enjoy the photos I take of life’s events as seen through the lens of my camera.
    BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!

  13. Aloha, so we have rainbows in common as well as blogging. Thank you so much for your support. I hope to visit Costa Rica one day….it been on my list for a while. When I do I will surely turn to your blog for guidance as it is so well written.

    • sabrinalouise –
      We look forward to it – Costa Rica awaits! 🙂 Thank you for the comment and your kind words. We enjoyed reading your blog too – “fredi” is so cute!
      Pura vida!

      • sandrabranum –
        Thank you for your comment! Costa Rica offers a lot to a variety of people, so being specific in our posts is what we aim for! 😉 All the best to you throughout 2013!
        Pura vida!

  14. Pingback: An Insight to Costa Rica as a holiday Destination « Holidays, Honeymoons, Golf, Ski, Cruise·

    • Say Gudday –
      Thank you for the reblog (we LOVE the blog title)! It’s great to see “Costa Rica” listed as a travel destination on your site. Insider information from locals is the key to understanding any travel destination on a more personal, humble, and impactful level, so if you need any other advice or recommendations for the Costa Rica area, http://www.CostaRicaTravelBlog.com is happy to help!
      Pura vida!

  15. thank you for stopping by …the like and follow too. Great photos & information … great job – Climate Change

    • drybredquips –
      Thanks for the comment! The flying quip caught my attention – it’s both a true point and a humble lesson.
      Pura vida!

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