Nature travelers may prefer the weather in Costa Rica during the rainy season. // © 2013 Mindy Poder
Costa Rica makes a case for itself during its rainy season, which stretches from May to November. Depending on what you want out of Costa Rica, the wet season may be an even better fit for you than the dry season. Cheaper hotel rates have always been a draw for budget travelers, but they are not the only group benefiting from this season. Romance travelers and nature seekers should also consider the perks that this time of the year offers.
Weather in Costa Rica by Month
It is important to note that not all months during the rainy season are equal. In general, the early months get less rain than the later months. According to Fernando Alfaro, co-owner and general manager of Alma Del Pacifico Beach Hotel & Spa in Playa Esterillos Este, the rain rarely lasts for more than a few daytime hours. In June and July, some towns even experience high-season occupancy due to relatively mild rain, lush rainforest as well as summer vacation months for U.S. travelers. However, if there is one month that most clients will want to avoid, it is October — the muddiest and wettest month. As October approaches, the rain begins to last longer. For those who want the result of rain — lush plant life and less people — without the storms, consider the dry first weeks of December since many travelers wait to visit Costa Rica during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
More rain means more water for the trees, flowers and plants. During my recent visit, I could not stop looking at the heliconias — a blend of deep red and orange, they were truly at their prime.
“During the wet season, the land is always pretty,” said Alfaro. “Everything is bright green with flowers all over.”
Consider this time — nicknamed the ‘green’ season — if you are visiting Costa Rica primarily to explore its natural offerings. During the dry season, trees can lose their leaves, dust gathers on the roads and rainforests are less colorful and lush. However, the dry season does offer clearer ocean water due to less organic matter run-off, making it a better time for snorkeling and Scuba diving.
Though seven-day weather forecasts of rain, high humidity, lightning and thunderstorms can appear daunting, these outlooks can be misleading. Even if the forecast shows an itinerary of thunder and storms, it’s likely that these events will not last for the entire day. The rain patterns are rather stable, and most tour operators are realistic and adept at predicting showers, declining to book tours during periods when rain is predicted. During my visit in July, four out of five of the activities I booked went on as scheduled. Only one excursion, a surf lesson, had to be canceled due to a storm, but, to be fair, it was booked as a gamble during a time of day when storms are predicted.
Adventure travelers should not rule out the wet season, depending on the activity and skill level involved. Some surfers prefer this time of year — the Pacific Coast boasts increased swells and faster, larger waves. As a first-time surfer, the July waves were a bit intimidating for me, and I was told to come back in February for tamer waters. While the wet season may not be ideal for amateur surfers, the added dimension of rain fall can make other adventure activities more exciting. For instance, I loved the added bit of drama when, during my last zipline run, a light rain began to fall, cooling me down from the adrenaline as well as the humidity and high temperature.
In the right context, the tropical, warm rains are an added treat during a Costa Rica vacation, especially for romance travelers. When the late afternoon rain forced a cancellation of my surf lesson, I got to actually sit in my room and make use of its ample amenities — including the covered outdoor deck that faced the ocean. Sitting on my lounge chair, listening to the falling rain, chirping birds and occasional chime (from the ice cream cart vendor, who trudged through the sand during the downpour) even compelled me to take my guestroom’s umbrella and walk barefoot through the grass to the beach. The weather was warm, the sand was thick and soft, no one was nearby, and, meanwhile, water was all around me: bouncing off my umbrella as the waves crashed and the wash approached and retreated. This sort of ambience strongly complements romance trips. Honeymooners and other romance travelers will also benefit from the privacy gained from a lack of crowds. Not only will they enjoy better rates, they will also enjoy the perks of a more attentive staff.
“During the wet season, it is much more romantic, private and intimate,” said Alfaro. “We have more time to come up with creative specials on the restaurant — things like that. It’s the small things that make a big difference."
Other perks of the rainy season: more citrus fruit. While most produce is in season year-round, guests have even more to choose from during the latter half of the year, making a Costa Rica vacation especially sweet.