Costa Rica Weather

The following satellite image shows the weather throughout Costa Rica and is refreshed every 30 minutes. If the picture is black, then it’s nighttime.

Costa Rica is unequivocally a tropical country, situated between 8° and 11° north latitude – fairly close to the equator. Although Costa Rica’s mountainous terrain (much of which is above 4,000 feet) gets much cooler temperatures, the average annual temperature for most of the country lies between 21.7°C (71°F) and 27°C (81°F). The coolest months are from November to January, and the warmest months are from March to May

The nation's climate is divided into two major seasons: the rainy season and the dry season. The dry season typically runs from January through May, while the rainy season lasts from May to December.

The weather in the tropics is related to both solar radiation and air circulation. Intense heat at the equator puts air into motion, and a worldwide pattern of winds is thus established. The most famous of these in Costa Rica are the northeasterly trade winds, known locally as alisios. These winds blow with considerable force from December to April and are responsible for carrying moisture, in the form of mist, to the slopes of the Tilarán mountain range. These mists sustain the magnificent cloud forest ecosystem around Monteverde and Santa Elena.

Rainfall patterns, although seasonal, vary greatly in intensity across different geographical areas. Some locations receive over 18 feet (6 m) of precipitation per year, while others receive less than 4 feet (1.5 m). Most of the total rainfall for any given location occurs on less than 15 days of a whole year, often experienced as a torrential downpour. Costa Rica may, in fact, hold the world record for the amount of rainy days in one single location in one year: Hacienda Cedral registered 359 days of rain in 1968!

The topography of the country also has a great influence on the weather patterns. As a result, the timing of the seasons varies on each slope of the mountain ranges, which run from the northwest to the southeast and divide the country into a Caribbean slope and a Pacific slope.

On the Caribbean side, the rainy season begins in mid-April and continues on through December. The wettest months are July and November, with a dry spell that often occurs during August or September. Major storms, known as temporales del Atlantico, occasionally buffet this slope between September and February with continuous rain for several days. An average rainy season day will begin with a few hours of sunshine and then give way to clouds and rain by the afternoon. In contrast, the driest months of February and March might be entirely without rainfall at all.

On the Pacific slope, the rainy season lasts from May to November. Days often begin sunny and give way to rain later in the day. In the northern half of the country, the Pacific slope experiences an intense dry season, in which rain may not fall for several months. The forests of the northwest are, to a large extent, deciduous, meaning that their leaves fall in order to conserve water. Winds can be very strong, occasionally reaching speeds of 90 km/hr in the lowlands, although their average speed is closer to 20 km/hr.

The whole Central Valley experiences a mild and pleasant dry season that is matched by moderate temperatures for most of the year and a lower-than-average amount of rainfall. The southern half of the Pacific slope is much wetter than its northern counterpart, with a shorter dry season and longer and heavier afternoon rains during the wet season.

Temperature conversions: 25°c = 78°f, 20°c = 68°f, 16°c = 60°f, 14°c = 57°f. 1 kph (kilometers per hour) = 0.62 miles per hour.

The following are common terms for describing the weather in Spanish:

  • - Soleado = sunny
  • - Nublado = cloudy
  • - Parcialmente = partially
  • - Poca nubosidad = a few clouds
  • - Nubosidad parcial = partly cloudy
  • - Nubosidad parcial con lluvias aisladas = partly cloudy with scattered showers
  • - Bancos de neblina = fog
  • - Lluvia = rain
  • - Lluvia debile = light rain
  • - Lluvias aisladas = isolated showers
  • - Aguacero = heavy rain
  • - Tormenta = storm
  • - Tormenta electrica = electric storm

Interested in tours? Please see Monteverde Tours.