In a small country it’s possible to feel sweltering heat, to witness torrential rains and to shiver from the cold, all in a one hour ride. For example, while going from Puntarenas to San Ramón, I´ve had to start off by wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, and as I’ve progressed into the mountainous regions, put on a sweater for the cold and rubber boots if I want to get out of the car and walk in rainy pastures. The variety and quantity in plant and animal life is due to this geographical and climatic diversity.
Costa Rica is located within the 8 and 11 degree latitude lines, which places it automatically in the tropics. When people from the Northern Hemisphere hear the word “tropics” they tend to think in only two adjectives: hot and humid. However, there are twelve climatic zones in Costa Rica, and frost and even snow exist in the coolest regions.
The temperature in Costa Rica is mostly determined by the elevation and other geographical factors, and not by “season” as in the Northern Hemisphere. The only two seasons that exist are the dry (Dec.-April) and rainy seasons (May- Nov.) During the rainy season most mornings are usually sunny or at least dry, since rains don’t start until the afternoon.
Temperatures don’t vary much during these seasons, and are usually as follows: 70 degrees F. in the Central region, low 80’s near the Caribbean, and high 80’s in the Northern lowlands. The coolest temperatures have been recorded in the highest mountain- Chirripó- at low 40 degrees F. The hottest months in all of the country are March and May, while the coolest are December and January, when there’s also a large contrast between daily and nightly temperatures.
The amount of rain also varies in different regions, with the Atlantic coastline being the most humid and the Northern lowlands being the driest. The average rainfall in the country is 100 inches per year, but there are dry areas like the Guanacaste province that receive a very low amount of rain.
It’s important to keep in mind the change in temperatures and weather conditions when travelling to Costa Rica. The best tip for figuring out a wardrobe is to layer- bring lightweight clothes as well as sweaters or jackets that you can add on when necessary. And of course, if you’re coming in the rainy season, don’t forget to bring many pairs of socks and shoes that can dry readily.