Should I Avoid Costa Rica During the Rainy Season?

My family and I love to visit Costa Rica. While I know it’s pretty temperate all year, I’ve wondered should I avoid Costa Rica during the rainy season?

Here’s what I’ve learned after 5 visits:

No, Costa Rica is a beautiful & amazing country worth visiting year-round, even during the rainy season from May-November. Most parts of the country do get some rain each day during the rainy season, but often only 1-2 hours in the late afternoon. The Caribbean side gets the least rain in September & October.

But there’s a lot more to get into about visiting Costa Rica and the rainy season.

So in this article, we’re exploring all there is to know about Costa Rican weather and travel. We’ll look at maps of the whole country and see how the rainy season changes across the country.

But we’ll also get into how the rain affects the roads, and how the rainy season affects my favorite Costa Rican state, Guanacaste.

Specifically, we’ll answer the question should I avoid Costa Rica during the rainy season?

Let’s get started!

Make sure to check out my Costa Rica Travel Resource List with links to everything you need!

When is the rainy season in Costa Rica?

The short answer is May through about mid-November.

This is also sometimes called the “green season” or Invierno. It’s also worth noting that it doesn’t apply to the Caribbean coast.

If you aren’t familiar (yet) with Costa Rica, it’s a long, thin strip of land in between Panama (to the south) and Nicaragua (to the north).

On the west side of the country is the Pacific ocean and the Caribbean is on the east.

While the average year-round temperature in Costa Rica is an amazing 79°, Costa Ricans do refer to the rainy season as winter. Of course, don’t go there expecting snow!

Costa Rica actually has dozens of microclimates.

While September and October are 2 of the rainiest months of the whole year in most of Costa Rica, they are the 2 sunniest months along the Caribbean coast.

The dry season, what Costa Ricans call summer, or Verano, is from mid-November to April.

But because of the various microclimates in Costa Rica, we can’t just give 1 answer that applies to everywhere.

In Guanacaste, for instance (which happens to be my favorite state), the dry season lasts a lot longer than in many other parts of the country. I’m talking several weeks longer.

But as I mentioned above, on my trips to Costa Rica, even in the rainy season, the days typically start off sunny. When it does rain (and there are days when it doesn’t), the rain tends to sprinkle in the afternoon and evening.

Don’t expect torrential rain that lasts for hours.

I mentioned the Caribbean coast tends to have different patterns. Especially if you journey south of Limón, you tend to see rain all year; not just during Costa Rica’s rainy season.

Ironically though, as I also mentioned above, the whole Caribbean coast gets a lot less rain in September and October than anywhere else in the country.

So if you want to visit the Caribbean side, those 2 months is a great time to go!

Here is a guide to location, temps and rainfall during Costa Rica’s rainy season:

Area in Costa Rica Temperature ranges Average Monthly Rainfall
San José area Lows around 65°, highs around 75° About 14″ in Sept, 11″ other months, drops sharply in Nov
Central Valley mountains Lows around 60°, highs around 70° About 11″ in Sept, 9″ other months, drops sharply in Nov
Pacific Coast (Guanacaste and Nicoya) Lows around 70°, highs around 95° About 11″ in Sept, 9″ other months, drops sharply in Nov
South Pacific Coast (Jaco and Manuel Antonio) Lows around 78°, highs around 85° About 11″ in Sept, 9″ other months, drops sharply in Nov
South Central Inland (San Isidro and San Gerardo de Dota) Lows around 65°, highs around 75° About 15″ in Sept, 11″ other months, drops sharply in Nov
Caribbean Coast (Tortuguero and Puerto Viejo) Lows around 78°, highs around 85° About 16″ in July & Dec, 11″ all other months throughout the year

What is the rainiest month in Costa Rica?

Right out of the gate, before I answer this question, let me just say that ANY time of year is a great time to visit most parts of Costa Rica.

And I’ve had a great time there during the rainy season. It also tends to be a lot cheaper if you go during the rainy season, so don’t be scared off.

That being said, September and October are the rainest months in Costa Rica. 

Also know that if you’re hoping to visit Arenal Volcano or La Fortuna, there’s a risk of rain all year round. So don’t count on the season to predict when it will rain there.

While the rainforests and jungles get really rainy, as I mentioned above, I’ve had near-perfect beach days along the Pacific coast in Guanacaste. That’s especially true of my favorite beach town in Guanacaste, Tamarindo.

Yes, Tamarindo is very touristy. But then, even though I’ve visited Costa Rica 5 times, I am definitely a tourist. Tamarindo is a great little surf town though, tourists or not.

The plus of Tamarindo in the rainy season though, is the seasonal changes are less dramatic.

As I’ve mentioned above, while the Caribbean coast tends to be rainy all year, September and October are the least rainy, so those months are a great time to visit!

I’ve mentioned my family a few times, and in case you’re wondering, Costa Rica, is VERY kid-friendly. I have several blog posts about Costa Rica, but in that post linked above, I go into great detail about traveling to Costa Rica with kids.

I get into safety, disease concerns, and vaccine requirements. Just click the link to read it on my site.

Does it rain all day in Costa Rica during the rainy season?

No is the short answer. At least in most parts of Costa Rica.

Check out this handy annual rainfall map of the whole country to see the wettest parts.

Because of all the microclimates I mentioned above, location makes a huge difference with how much rain you can expect.

So yes, it might be raining in one part of the country, while other areas aren’t getting any rain at all.

That might seem crazy given how relatively small the country is. After all, Costa Rica is only 19,700 square miles (51,100 sq. km). Texas, in the United States, where I live, is a whopping 268,581 square miles. So just the state I live at in my country is 13 times larger than Costa Rica.

So yes, Costa Rica is fairly small.

But Texas doesn’t have all the different climates and elements that Costa Rica has. So as air currents move across mountains, it might bring pouring rain to that part. Yes, at the same time a beach town just a handful of kilometers away might be sunny and clear.

Where I live, they call this “scattered showers“. So if you’re used to that term, you have a good idea of what to expect in Costa Rica.

Now, of course, if you are visiting any part of Costa Rica during the rainy season, you should expect some rain no matter where you are.

But how much rain is the question? Let’s get into that more in the next section.

Does it rain a lot in Guanacaste Costa Rica?

No is the short answer.

In reality, no matter what part of Costa Rica you are in, especially on the Pacific coast in Guanacaste or central areas, you are likely to see a big downpour in the afternoon.

Of my 5 visits to Costa Rica, 2 have been in Guanacaste during the rainy season, and we had an awesome time!

Most days start off clear, sunny and beautiful. Then by late morning, you might notice some clouds starting to form. The clouds might get closer and darker as afternoon approaches.

Then heavy rain or thunderstorms start by late afternoon or early evening.

Luckily, the storms usually only last an hour or two. And because the patterns are somewhat predictable each day, it’s fairly easy to plan around. And, of course, some days will see no rain at all, especially on the Pacific coast.

We often will head out, grab some breakfast and head to the beach. Then we’ll eventually leave the beach, grab some lunch and maybe some groceries to make dinner later and head back to the house.

By mid to late afternoon, we’re usually lounging in our house (we prefer to rent houses rather than stay at hotels). So the rains might come and we’ll just be chilling at the casa.

Depending on where we’re staying and the temperature, we might even have all the windows open to enjoy nature at it’s finest!

But generally, you can expect Guanacaste to be a bit warm and humid during the rainy season.

For the ultimate travel guide to Guanacaste Costa Rica, make sure and check out a recent article I have which covers Guanacaste from head to toe!

I update it frequently and cover everything you need to know from the best (and least-crowded) beaches to what wildlife to expect (and which animals you won’t see). And since you aren’t likely to see sloths or macaws in Guanacaste, I breakdown the best places to drive to where you can see those.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is the Costa Rica weather forecast reliable?

The short answer is no; like many other parts of the globe, such as where I live outside the Austin, Texas area, weather predictions in Costa Rica are, well, predictions.

Or guesses. Or hopes.

Predicting the weather in Costa Rica is a hard job. Costa Rica is located near the equator. But it is getting pounded on the left and right by 2 totally different oceans (the Pacific and the Caribbean).

Then you throw in jungles, and rainforests and volcanoes and you can see how weather predictions can get challenging.

On top of that, compared to a lot of the developed world, there isn’t a large system of weather equipment in Costa Rica.

Without a huge complex of radar towers, meteorologists in Costa Rica often view satellite images of the area to make their predictions.

But cloud cover changes quickly with all the elements in and around Costa Rica. This makes it a real challenge to keep up if you’re a meteorologist.

So use your phone’s weather app as a guide, not a be-all, end-all.

What is the best part of Costa Rica to visit during the rainy season?

This one is a no-brainer.

The dryest spots in September and October are along the Caribbean coast.

If you’re inland during those months, it may well rain for most of the day. But that just means it’s a great time to rent a car and drive to the Caribbean coast! September and October happen to be amazingly beautiful months along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.

Some of the best places to visit then include:

  • Tortuguero
  • Cahuita
  • Puerto Viejo

But even away from the Caribbean side, there are some great places to visit anytime during the rainy season.

Specifically, I’m talking the Pacific coast in and around Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula.

And yes, even in the rainy season, you are likely to see a lot of sunshine. When I have visited Costa Rica in the rainy season (along the Pacific coast), it did generally rain a little bit every day.

But I never saw it rain more than about an hour a day usually in the early afternoon; perfect for an afternoon siesta!

But part of the beauty of Costa Rica is that the country is so diverse in weather, climate, wildlife, and scenery. There’s always something different to see and a new adventure to be had.

So ANY time of year is a great time to go.

Costa Rica is also a top honeymoon and couples destination. So if you’re ready to leave the kids behind, or if you don’t have any in the first place, you’ll definitely want to check out my article on the best places for couples to stay in Costa Rica!

I only recommend the best of the best, and as things (and reviews) change, I update the article often too. One of the places was recently voted as the best honeymoon spot in the world by The Knot!

Just click the link to read it now on my site.

What are the benefits of visiting Costa Rica during the rainy season?

The biggest benefit you’ll see is in prices on lodging.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this post that my family and I typically rent a house rather than stay in a hotel. We most often have used Airbnb and FlipKey (a similar site owned by Trip Advisor). But VRBO works too.

As an example, booking the same house using FlipKey in the beach town of Playa Potrero (Pacific coast in Guanacaste), here are the price differences in booking either in late February compared to late July.

To be clear, I set my filters on both searches the following:

  • A price range of $90-$250 per night
  • 2 bedrooms
  • Whole house

Here’s what I saw in price difference:

COZY HOUSE – 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, sleeps 6, with a private pool. 10-minute walk to the beach and restaurants

Renting from February 21st through February 28th, it was $213/night.

That same exact house, specifying July 21st to July 28th was $185/night.

For a whole week, that’s a savings of $197 or a little over 13% less. While you may find cheaper rates on airfare and car rental, in my experience, the biggest savings is in lodging.

Are the roads worse in Costa Rica during the rainy season?

Let me start by saying my family and I always rent a car in Costa Rica.

We just like the freedom of being able to go where we want to when we want to. Costa Rica roads sometimes get a bad rap, but for the most part, we’ve had good experiences and I say that having visited 5 different times up and down the country.

The 2 things that you should expect from the roads at any time are:

  1. Much slower speed limits than you’re used to
  2. Mostly 2 lane roads even on highways

Because of those things, driving across Costa Rica is much slower than it is where I live in the states. But it’s not because of the road conditions.

The next thing I want to say is that I have driven in Costa Rica during the rainy season and I had no issues whatsoever.

But that wasn’t in the Central Valley or the Caribbean side.

The biggest problem Costa Rica roads face during the rainy season is poor drainage. Without good infrastructure, some roads do tend to get flooded and can cause landslides down below them.

Mountain roads are the most notorious for this since by their very nature, they are on big slopes and hillsides. You may also find a lot of road closures on these mountain roads towards the middle to the end of the rainy season through January.

The worst parts of the country for rainy season road closures are:

  • Arenal Lake Road (Route 142) – This runs from La Fortuna to Tilaran and is the main road from the Arenal volcano to both the Guanacaste beaches and Monteverde cloud forest.
  • Caldera Highway (Hwy 27) – This runs from Escazu to Caldera on the Pacific side
  • Pan American Highway (Hwy 2) – This runs south of San José to San Isidro
  • Guapiles Highway (Hwy 32) – This runs from San José to the Caribbean

Final thoughts

In this article, we took a look at Costa Rica travel during the rainy season.

We examined when that is and looked at maps to see how it affects different parts of the country. But we also talked about road conditions and even how hurricane season affects Costa Rica.

Ultimately, we answered the question should I avoid Costa Rica during the rainy season?

When is your favorite time to visit Costa Rica?

Make sure to check out my Costa Rica Travel Resource List with links to everything you need!

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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