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World Travel Guide > Guides > North America > Costa Rica

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Costa Rica Weather, climate and geography

Weather and climate

Best time to visit

Located 8 to 12 degrees north of the Equator, Costa Rica enjoys a tropical climate year round with an average high of 27°C (81°F) and an average low of 18°C (64°F).

Costa Rica's Pacific Coast

Divided into North Pacific, Central Pacific and South Pacific regions, this long stretch of coastline attracts many visitors to its sandy beaches and secluded coves. December to March is the best time to visit Costa Rica's Pacific Coast as this is the dry season with plenty of sunshine, with March being the driest and hottest month. As this is the peak season, you need to book months ahead and be prepared to pay more. May to October is the rainy season with September and October being the wettest months. April and November are transition months, preferred by travellers who don't want to pay top prices but still get to enjoy relatively good weather.

Puntarenas on Costa Rica's Central Pacific Coast has a tropical climate with intense heat year-round. April is usually the warmest month in Puntarenas with temperatures averaging 30°C (86°F). Further inland you will find the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve which is slightly cooler than the coast.

The Osa Peninsular (Peninsula de Osa) on Costa Rica's South Pacific Coast has a shorter dry season (January to March) with year-round temperatures averaging 28°C (82°F).

Central Valley

Spanning from the Central Volcanic Range in the north to Candelaria Ridge in the south, the Central Valley is divided into two parts: Western Central Valley and Eastern Valley; with the former experiences a temperate climate with influence from the Pacific while the latter is mostly influenced by the Caribbean weather system.

This region is home to the nation's four out of five largest cities: San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia and Cinco Esquinas, thanks to the good weather, fertile volcanic soil and many rivers.

Located in the Western Central Valley, San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and has a well-defined wet and dry climate. December to March is the dry season, making it the best time to visit San Jose. April is usually the warmest month with an average high of 30°C (86°F) and an average low is 19°C (66°F).

The period between May to October sees heavy downpours on most days with September being the wettest month. October is the coolest month with an average high of 25°C (77°F) and an average low of 18°C (64°F), which is still very warm to many.

Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast

Spanning from Barra del Colorado in the north to Sixaola in the south, this stretch of coastline receives abundance of rainfall throughout the year with no distinct dry season. The northern part is usually wetter and has higher temperatures than the southern region.

September and October, then February to March are widely considered to be the best time to visit Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast – these are the 'dry seasons' although they are still relatively wet.

Limón, or Puerto Limón, is the largest city on the Caribbean Coast (and second largest in Costa Rica). It has a tropical rainforest climate with an average high of 30°C (86°F) year-round. September is the driest month with 142mm (6 in) of precipitation.

Required clothing

Lightweight cottons and linens are fine most of the year with warmer clothes for cooler evenings. Waterproofing is necessary during the rainy season. Loose-fitting clothing is best. Wear neutral browns and greens for birding and wildlife viewing. Always bring mosquito repellent for both day and night. Bring appropriate footwear for whatever activities you're planning (hiking boots, sneakers, etc) and check the weather forecast before leaving for your trip.

Geography

Costa Rica, lying between Nicaragua and Panama, is a complete coast-to-coast segment of the Central American isthmus. Its width ranges from 119km to 282km (74 to 176 miles). A low, thin line of hills that rises between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Ocean in Nicaragua, broadens as it enters northern Costa Rica, eventually forming the high, rugged, mountains in the Pacific Northwest and the centre of Costa Rica.

The southern half of the country is dominated by mountains of tectonic origin; the highest peak is Mount Chirripó which reaches 3,820m (12,530ft). More than half the population live on the Meseta Central, a plateau with an equitable climate. It is the setting for the country's capital, San José. There are lowlands on both coastlines, mainly swampy on the Caribbean coast, with savannah and dry forest on the Pacific Northwest merging into mangrove and rainforest southward. Rivers cut through the mountains, flowing down to both the Caribbean and the Pacific.