Timing your Costa Rica vacation well can mean the difference between a memorable adventure and a series of expensive disappointments. The seasons in Costa Rica are exactly opposite those in most visitors’ native countries, making Costa Rica a prime winter destination. Vacation timing also depends on unexpected factors like turtle mating seasons, local festivals, and tropical weather conditions.
Peak season for a Costa Rica vacation is November through April. This is when the weather is dry and warm, the landscape is still green and lush from the rainy season, and the weather in the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Europe is cold and snowy. If escape from winter winds and time in the sun on one of Costa Rica’s secluded beaches drives your ideal vacation timing, November through April is the perfect time to go.
Keep in mind, however, that the time between Christmas and New Year’s Day is crazy busy and expensive as well, so if it’s a beach bargain you need, focus on February, March or April. Airfares and hotel rates are significantly higher around the winter holidays, so book in advance and aim for very early in the calendar year for a more affordable stay.
In recent years, Costa Rica’s tourism industry has started calling the May through mid-November season ‘the green season’. If scheduled during the rainy season, your Costa Rica vacation will be lush and green indeed—even Guanacaste is green during this time of year. But you need to know that your ‘green season’ Costa Rica vacation will also be wet.
On most days during the rainy season, downpours hit late in the afternoon, then pass, leaving visitors the early part of each day and the evenings to enjoy the terrain. Attractions are also less crowded and rates are either lower or more negotiable, making ‘green season’ Costa Rica vacations attractive to students, eco-tourists, and bargain hunters.
Weather anywhere comes with few guarantees, however, and it is not unheard of to lose a complete week to steady rain, so be prepared with alternative plans should your best hopes fall flat during your green season Costa Rica vacation.
Green season vacationers should also invest in lightweight rain gear to take along everywhere, and some quick-dry, tropical clothing—both available at most outdoor and sporting stores. Don’t forget your feet when shopping for your trip. You’ll want to carry an extra pair of dry socks around, and make sure to buy comfortable shoes made for tropical weather.
Another tip to keep in mind if you schedule your Costa Rica vacation during the ‘green season’ from May through mid-November is that dirt roads can become all but impassable during this time, so if a remote locale is part of your itinerary, make sure to take this possibility into account and plan accordingly.
Finally, Costa Rica is a Catholic nation and observes religious holidays with various festivals and events, year after year. Timing your Costa Rica vacation around these festivals is important—plan ahead if you want to be there for a specific festival and also if you don’t.
To familiarize yourself with the festivals and the dates they will be celebrated and where, visit the Costa Rica Travel Board atwww.visitcostarica.com or call them directly at 800-343-6332. The Travel Board can also help you with the best timing for turtle mating seasons, fishing, and wildlife sightings and connect you to the best guides and accommodations.