Cruise and Beach Destinations
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Costa Rica

Best and Worst Times to Visit Costa Rica

Puntarenas pier
Puntarenas is quiet during the summer. Source: Wikimedia

The best times to visit Costa Rica are late fall to early spring months when heavy rains ease. Temperatures are drop into the 70s Fahrenheit, but visitors have more freedom to move around.

The best months are November through April during the annual dry season. The worst months are May through October because of a much higher risk of rain.

But for cruise visitors, the best and worst times also depend on whether they are visiting the Puntarenas cruise port on the Pacific coast or the Limon cruise port on the Caribbean coast.

Knowing when to go can make a difference for cruise visitors who want to explore one of the most popular and wettest eco tourism destinations in the Western Hemisphere.

Unlike most Caribbean destinations, people come to Costa Rica for what the rain creates.

6 Tips on Best and Worst Times to Go

Costa Rica cruise statistics
Total cruise visitors by month. ©
With that in mind, here are six tips on the best time to visit Costa Rica:
  1. February and March are the best months for the Limon cruise port while July is the worst.
  2. Limon temperatures are not a factor because they remain steady.
  3. Puntarenas has a distinct dry season from December through April.
  4. The worst months to visit Puntarenas are May through October—especially September.
  5. Like Limon, Puntarenas has steady temperatures throughout the year.
  6. Weather in the popular capital of San José has more in common with Puntarenas than Limon.

Read more below about other months to visit or avoid for Limon and Puntarenas.

Limon Monthly Weather

Limon Costa Rica monthly weather
The Limon monthly weather shows the best and worst times to visit the port. © 2020 Scott S. Bateman

The Limon cruise port on the east coast has two windows of time when the rain lets up a bit.

The first window is during February and March when the city experiences an average of about eight to nine inches of rain each month, according to 30 years of data from the World Weather Organization.

These same two months are among the most popular months for western Caribbean cruises because other destinations—such as Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Roatan—also have lighter rain during the same time.

In contrast to Limon, these destinations average about one to two inches a month in February and March.

The next best time to visit Limon is during September and October, when the average rainfall is six and eight inches a month.

It is unusual for Limon weather to get a break in September and October. Those same two months are the worst months of the year for visiting the rest of the Caribbean because of the annual hurricane season.

Worst Cruise Weather

Costa Rica rainforest
Heavy rains produce Costa Rica’s famous rainforests. Source: Wikimedia (Creative Commons license)

Cruise activity in the Caribbean declines as a result, so September and October are months when people are more likely to visit the eastern coast of Costa Rica for longer stays.

The three worst months of the year to visit Limon are July, November and December. December’s average rainfall of 18 inches equals the entire year of some islands such as the arid Aruba.

Temperatures are not a factor in when to visit. The above weather chart shows that Limon maintains a steady high temperature throughout the year.

The average highs stay in the mid 80s Fahrenheit or upper 20s Celsius. The average lows, which take place mainly at night, hover around 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 21 Celsius.

Puntarenas Monthly Weather

Puntarenas Costa Rica monthly weather
The Puntarenas monthly weather shows some important differences from Limon. © 2017 Scott S. Bateman

Limon gets hit hard with rain throughout most of the year, but the Puntarenas cruise port on the Pacific coast fares much better.

Unlike Limon, Puntarenas has distinct dry and wet seasons. The dry season runs from December through April and the wet season goes from May through November, which coincides with the Pacific hurricane season.

Average rainfall is less than one inch from January through March and only a little more than an inch in April and December.

But look out for the rest of the year. The average rainfall jumps to eight inches or more from May through October and reaches a high point of about 12 inches in September.

Clearly, the best time of year to visit Puntarenas is during the winter and the worst times to visit are during the summer and fall.

Temperatures are much warmer than Limon with average daily highs reaching into the 90s Fahrenheit from January through August and dipping into the high 80s for the rest of the year.

The two seasons are so different that knowing when to go to Puntarenas is an easy choice—any month from December through April.

The capital city of San José and many interior locations attract visitors from Puntarenas for the city’s nightlife and natural attractions of the surrounding area.

San José and the Interior

Zacero Costa Rica
Despite heavy year-round rain, clear skies are possible like this one in Zacero. Credit: Wikimedia (Creative Commons license)

The capital city of San José and many interior locations attract visitors from Puntarenas for the city’s nightlife and natural attractions of the surrounding area. They attract fewer visitors from the Limon cruise port because of distance.

San José has weather that is more in common with Puntarenas than Limon. It experiences low rainfall from December through April and higher rainfall from June through November.

Total rainfall averages less than one inch from January through March, a little more than one inch in May and December and eight inches or more from May through October. The city reaches a high point for rain in September and October thanks to the Pacific hurricane season.

San José and the interior has one big difference with the cruise ports on either coast of the country. They are usually much cooler throughout the year than either Puntarenas or Limon. San José has an average high temperatures in the low 70s Fahrenheit.

This is partly the result of higher elevations. Temperatures remain fairly constant throughout the entire year.

Costa Rica Rain Days

Costa Rica rain days
© 2017 Scott S. Bateman

One other way of deciding which months are best for destinations in Costa Rica is by looking at the average number of days that it rains each month.

The chart above shows that Limon gets rain about 18 days a month on a fairly consistent basis throughout the year.

Puntarenas and San José get rain more than 20 days a month from May through October and peak at 25-26 days in September and October.

The chart again shows that it is wise to avoid Limon in June and July, but take advantage of September and October. Avoid Puntarenas and San José during the summer and fall, but plan to visit during the winter and early spring.

These numbers don’t guarantee the best months to visit Costa Rica because the weather does vary some from year to year. But they do give some guidelines on how to reduce the chance of running into bad weather.

Costa Rica Hurricane Season

Costa Rica rarely experiences the direct impact of a hurricane on the Caribbean or Pacific coasts.

Both Limon and Puntarenas lie far enough south that they usually avoid either Pacific or Caribbean hurricanes.

They are more likely to experience an increase in total rainfall.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
October 29, 2021

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