Top Five Facets of Costa Rica
If you’re visiting or moving to Costa Rica, here are some of the features that you should not miss:
1. Nature. Get into the jungle as soon as you can and indulge yourself in all that biodiversity. Did we mention this tiny country holds at least five percent of the planet’s biodiversity? Go out and experience it!
2. Beaches. Costa Rica has some of the best tropical beaches on the planet. Golden sands backed by green jungles and monkey-filled coconut trees. Most beaches in CR epitomize the idea of a tropical paradise. Costa Rica has some of the best surfing in the world as well as many calm beaches to relax on or snorkel in.
3. Adventure. This is what puts Costa Rica by and far ahead of its neighbors in Central America and elsewhere in the region. Costa Rica is the adventure capital of the Americas. Zip lining, whitewater rafting, hiking volcanoes, caving, kayaking, horseback riding and more. All are available here.
4. The Cities. Costa Rica is much more of an outdoorsy place than a cosmopolitan place. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid the cities. Costa Rica’s towns and cities are worth checking out for their churches, plazas, parks, and museums. San Jose, in particular, is starting to boom as civic pride takes over at last and things start to scrub up. Where once upon a time visitors got told to avoid San Jose, now the opposite is true.
5. The People. Taking some time out to communicate with and get to know the Costa Rican people is the best thing one can do in CR. Don’t worry about the language if you can’t speak Spanish. Most Ticos are super-approachable and only too happy to share a story over a cold Imperial. That’s what pura vida is all about!
Month-by-Month Guide to Costa Rica (When to Come for What)
There’s no better time than another to come to or be in Costa Rica. The only real restrictions come with the weather. If you hate rain, then avoid October, if you hate constant sunshine and heat, avoid March. But there is a reason to be in Costa Rica every single month of the year as you can see below:
- January. This is the dry season and the weather is hot and sunny but tempered with breezes. Pretty perfect. The Palmares Festival outside of San Jose, in the town of Palmares, takes place in January, too. A two-week festival of music and dancing where some of the top acts in Central and Latin America play. Elsewhere, Santa Cruz on the Nicoya Peninsula has a big party too. The clear weather due to the wind also makes it worthwhile climbing volcanoes, too. January is also a great month for turtle nesting on the Pacific coast.
- February. February is busier, tourist-wise, with many families from North America coming for Spring Break. Not a great deal going on apart from the carnival in Puntarenas, Costa Rica’s Pacific seaport. Hot, dry, and sunny.
- March. Things start to heat up now. March and April are the hottest, driest months of the year. The turtles are still nesting but it’s too hot to do much else but sunbathe and surf. In the town of Escazu, outside of San Jose, the Boyero takes place. That’s the ox cart parade where people bring their bright-painted traditional carts (and oxen) to display.
- April. Semana Santa (Holy Week) often falls in April – or sometimes in March – and it’s the busiest vacation week of the year alongside Christmas. The Central Valley empties as everyone heads to the beach. That means that it’s a great time to be in San Jose. April 11th is Juan Santamaria Day, a holiday with music and street parades to celebrate Costa Rica’s national hero. This is the last traditional month of the dry season.
- May. May is when the rains start to come and the weather gets fresher after two months of searing heat. It’s a beautiful time to be in Costa Rica as the countryside turns green again. Labor Day is a national holiday with street parades on the first of the month. Labor day holiday parades are generally more political than festive, though.
- June. June is a quiet month in Costa Rica. That time before the mini summer high season begins for the tourists. Weather is awesome with sunny mornings and a short burst of rain in the afternoons.
- July. This is a busy month, tourist-wise, as North Americans take advantage of the long summer break. A two to three-week break in the rainy season often occurs here known as the Little Summer of San Juan. Elsewhere, the province of Guanacaste celebrates its annexation by Costa Rica from Nicaragua. Massive street parties ensue.
- August. This month is dominated by the feast for the Virgin de Los Angeles – La Negrita – Costa Rica’s patron saint. Costa Ricans from all walks of life walk (some barefoot in a tone of repentance) from wherever they live to the Basilica in Cartago to pay their respects. The annual walk is called the Romero and is a festive occasion. Mother’s Day in Costa Rica is also celebrated during August, on the 15th. This is a national holiday when schools and businesses shut.
- September. Costa Rica celebrates its independence day on September 15th. A massive holiday with parades and drums and fireworks. This is one of the wettest months of the year, except on the Caribbean side with is pretty clear during this time.
- October. Another wet month which sees the fewest number of tourists from abroad. Many hotels and restaurants in the tourist beach areas close up during this month. It’s the cheapest time to travel. There is traditionally a carnival held in October in the Caribbean city of Limon, although this has been canceled for the last few years. Dia de la Raza – Columbus Day is also celebrated by some and commiserated by others.
- November. The rain starts to ease off and Costa Rica gears up for another dry season. November, like May, is a fantastic time to be in the country. There is also an ox cart festival taking place in San Jose and various Day of the Dead celebrations. Don’t expect the same scale as Mexico, though.
- December. December is a big month in Costa Rica with a lot happening. As the Costa Rican schools break up for Christmas, San Jose empties as locals hit the beaches. Festivity is in the air. The Christmas Holidays start with the Festival de la Luz, a massive parade of lights and carnival floats that takes place in San Jose. After Christmas Day, the Zapote Festival starts in the San Jose district of the same name. This is a drunken party that involves running with bulls, fairground rides, eating and drinking. The 26th also sees a massive parade of horses and cowboys through the capital in the famous Tope. On top of all this, the tourist beaches are as busy as they are during Easter Week in March/April.