What is the best time to visit Costa Rica to look for your tropical dream property? Frankly, there is no bad time to visit Costa Rica! A couple of hours’ drive in any direction will change the scenery, the temperature and even the ecosystem completely.
That is because Costa Rica is a tiny country with a dramatic mountain range running down the middle and an ocean on both sides. Because it is near the equator, there is no annual seasonal change–the daytime temperatures vary at the most 10 degrees all year. If you are at sea level, it is hot (80-90’s). But if you climb the mountains just a little, the temperature begins to cool off. For example, if you land at the Liberia International Airport, the temperature will likely be around 85. However, if you drive just a forty-five minutes up toward the Rincon De La Vieja volcano, you will experience about a 1400ft change in altitude and the temperature will drop about 5-10 degrees. So, if you are hot, climb. If you are cold, drop your altitude. It’s as easy as that.
The other variable in Costa Rica weather has to do with rainfall. Generally speaking, December through April is the dry season (it may only rain a couple of times during those months, of course, depending where you are) and May through November is the rainy season. During the rainy season, the day will usually start out sunny and then start clouding up after noon. The rain comes in the form of 3-4 hours of downpour–often with lightning and thunder–and then lets up around sunset (5-6 pm).
The Caribbean and Southern Pacific coasts follow different climatic rules. It is off-and-on rainy all year. Although September and October are the driest months in the Caribbean, they are incredibly wet in the Southern Pacific. It is very rare for the Pacific northwest part of the country to have 2 completely overcast days in a row and if it does happen it will occur in September or October. Just like this past week.
Let’s focus our meteorological attention on the northwest Pacific coast (Guanacaste) where you as a beach-seeking purchaser and retiree are most likely to visit and purchase as it has some of the best conveniences without the crowds of the Central Valley or as desolate as other parts of Costa Rica. So when it comes to Guanacaste, when is the best time to visit Costa Rica? We’ll take it month by month:
December is the first month of the dry season, so the landscape is still lush and green. It is a beautiful month to visit as skies are clear and the landscape is still verdant. But please come in the first part of December! All of Costa Rica gets the last 2 weeks around Christmas and New Years off, and they head for the beach. Everything gets pretty crowded along the Pacific coast, and lodging can be tough to find if not planned well in advance. And I do not mean 2 weeks–I am talking months in advance!
February has fantastic weather, but the lack of rainfall starts to dry out the low lying vegetation and trees start to lose their leaves. The local children return to school this month, so there are much less people on the beaches.
By March things are heating up and drying out, and you will want to plan a lot of time at the beach. You will have clear blue skies every day. If Easter falls in March, rooming will be sparse and rates hiked. Costa Ricans flock to the beaches during Easter week as well. So if you want to check out the Central Valley of San Jose, Christmas week and Easter week are the time to do it.
April is generally the hottest month of the year in Guanacaste. It may start to rain a bit, but it will be just a quick rain now and then. And this is the month the region starts to bloom. Trees flower out in bright yellow and orange, and in pastels of lavender and peach. It is as though nature was putting on a show to attract rain! As with March, if Easter falls in April, you can expect a tourist spike over the holiday.
Finally, in May the rains arrive to cool off the heat and resurrect the landscape. After three inches of rain, it’s a tropical forest again. Typically, the morning will be sunny with a cloudburst of rain mid- to late afternoon. Along with the drop in temperature comes a drop in hotel prices and the number of tourists. So if you’re looking for low prices and solitary beaches, May is the best time to visit Costa Rica.
June sees a small surge in tourists as the kids up north get out of school and family vacations start.
The months of July and August are pretty much the same with the exception that the first two weeks of July are school vacation for Costa Rica and we experience what the locals call “El Veranillo de San Juan”: Costa Rica’s “Little Summer”. This is a two week period normally of no rain and no clouds. It is just an incredible time of year.
November is a shoulder month between the rainy and dry seasons and could go either way. Surfing and rafting are fantastic. Hotel rates are still low and tourists are few and far between.
So, green season or dry season? That depends on your tastes, activities and budget. But remember, there is never a bad time to visit Costa Rica and look for that dream property.
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