Many times Costa Rica was voted one of the happiest places in the world. The country of rainforests, beautiful beaches, and cultural heritage is waiting to be discovered. Find out about the best time to travel to Costa Rica and what should you expect upon arriving.
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Best Time to Travel to Costa Rica
Costa Rica, like many other tropical countries, has only two seasons, the rain season and the dry season. Best time of year to travel to Costa Rica is from mid-December to April, during the dry season. But if you don’t mind the rain, any time of the year is perfect for you.
In most of the country, the rainy season runs from May to mid-November, with noticeable exceptions around the Caribbean coast. Costa Ricans refer to this rainy season as “winter.” Temperatures are mostly affected by elevation rather than seasons. The coast always has hot weather, but in the mountains, it gets cold during the night.
What is winter for the northern hemisphere, it is the best time for Costa Rica. The sky is blue, the weather is perfect, and nature is gorgeous after so much rain in the past months. The most popular months for visiting this incredible country are December and January. The prices follow the popularity, so if you want to find more affordable accommodation choose spring or fall for a visit.
In spring, especially during the Holy Week and Easter, locals make huge celebrations and go to the beach with their families. Although it is very interesting to see how locals celebrate their holidays, the public transportation and working hours for shops, banks, etc are very limited. Be aware of this if you are planning your holiday in April or May.
Fall is the least favorable time for visiting Costa Rica with the heaviest rain falling in September and October. Although it won’t rain all the time and it rains usually in the afternoon and evening, it can happen that rain doesn’t stop for several days in a row.
Where to Stay in Costa Rica with Kids
Costa Rica has an incredibly diverse nature and choosing the right place to stay depends on what you want to do with your family, which excursions to take, and if you would rather be in a touristy area or on the beach.
1. Nosara Beach
Nosara Beach is located in a small town famous for its laid-back way of living. It is a popular surfing and yoga destination with many classes happening on the beach and in retreats. Nosara is a small village about 3 miles from the beach, and it is a beautiful place to visit and experience authentic culture.
This is an ideal vacation spot for nature lovers. The village is located within the national park, where the beaches are the main nesting site for green turtles. You can visit The Sea Turtle Conservancy for turtle-related exhibits. Other wildlife in the area consists of jaguars, tapirs and manatees.
3. Coco Beach
Enjoy one of the oldest beaches that foreigners started visiting in Costa Rica. It is a tourist area with beautiful hotels and resorts, a great place for everyone looking for a relaxing vacation on the beach.
4. Puerto Viejo
This small town is located on the Caribbean coast, a perfect place for those who like to mix up adventure and beach vacation. Here you will find amazing surfing locations, but also stunning beaches like black-sand Playa Negra. Natural attractions in the area are Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, The Jaguar Rescue Center, and Cahuita National Park which has a large coral reef and a shipwreck dive site.
5. Drake Bay
Drake Bay is a place where tourists that love nature, ecology, and stunning views go to. It is more remote than other beach communities, but it offers great hotels and activities. Go on a treasure hunt with your kiddos, as the legend says notorious pirate Sir Francis Drake hid his treasures somewhere in Drake Bay.
6. Rincon de la Vieja
Rincon de la Vieja is an active volcano surrounded by impressive nature, and it is a perfect place for those seeking adventure and some awesome hiking trails to explore. On your way to the volcano you will pass by hot springs and waterfalls. You can also encounter wildlife like sloths, tapirs, kinkajous, pumas, jaguar, howler and spider monkeys.
7. San Jose
Visit the largest city and also the capital of Costa Rica. Here you will find world-famous hotels, museums, parks, and historical buildings. From here it is easy to reach national parks and beaches, so it is a good starting point for your journey.
How to get around Costa Rica with Kids
Roads in Costa Rica are not the greatest and if you are not a confident driver it is better to take a bus, or a shuttle. Driving in Costa Rica is not safe if you are traveling on secondary roads. Main roads are well maintained, but those less used roads are not in great shape, and if something happens you won’t find help easily.
Another issue with driving is that you are going to be in a country with unpredictable weather conditions, like heavy rain and strong wind. In conditions like these, just like in snowy weather, accidents are common. There is also a lack of proper signs along the side of the road, bad lighting, narrow roads, busy traffic, etc. Locals drive much faster and more dangerous because they know the road, and they can cause accidents as well.
Busses are reliable and frequent out of San Jose, although there is no central terminal where all the busses start their journeys from. They are also the cheapest way of transportation around the country, but they can be very crowded, which is not the best feeling on a hot summer day. Check with your hotel if they offer shuttle services, or do research on local shuttle services available to tourists at the destination you are traveling to.
You can also fly from one part of Costa Rica to another. The two biggest airports are Juan Santamaría International Airport near the capital of San Jose or Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in the province of Guanacaste. But the most important is proper planning ahead of time and organizing your tours, especially if you are traveling with your little ones. Taxis at the airport will give you higher prices if you haven’t booked in advance or arranged a shuttle to pick you up.
How Much Time to Stay in Costa Rica with Kids
When you find the best time to travel to Costa Rica, another decision you have to make is how long to stay there. Costa Rica is one of those places where you wish you could stay forever, just enjoying the sun and water, eating delicious food, and watching sunsets.
But with jobs and school, unfortunately, it is not possible for most of us. You should definitely stay at least two weeks, ideally a month. That should be enough for anyone to see top attractions and have some relaxing time. You should be able to visit national parks, both coasts, and see some wildlife in two weeks’ time.
Things To Do in Costa Rica With Kids
In Costa Rica best time to travel depends on the activities you are interested in as well. If you are into hiking or swimming, the dry season is for you, but if you like museums and indoor activities you can come to Costa Rica at any time.
1. La Fortuna de San Carlos
This is a popular small town in the northern part of the country, famous for its closeness to wilderness and amazing views of Arenal volcano. Activities available here are hiking to waterfalls, rafting, visiting canopy park, zip-lining, and much more.
2. Mistico Hanging Bridges Park
This beautiful park offers unique views of surrounding nature. You can see wildlife, go on a guided nature walk or even on a night tour. Combine this tour with horseback riding for an extraordinary experience.
3. La Paz Waterfall Gardens
These gardens are one of the most popular attractions in the San Jose Area. You will see five famous waterfalls and the largest animal sanctuary in Costa Rica. Kids will have a blast while learning about nature.
4. Cahuita National Park
Cahuita National Park consists of white sand beaches, forests, and the best-preserved coral reef in the entire country. Marine life is incredible and you can go swimming, snorkeling, or diving here. In the forest, you can see raccoons, coatis, sloths, iguanas, and basilisks.
Tamarindo beach is an attraction you should not miss. This is one of the best beaches in the country and going on a sunset sail from here is an incredible experience. Enjoy breathtaking views or grab some snorkeling gear and explore what’s below the surface.
6. Tio Leo Coffee Experience
An exclusive coffee experience is located in Liberia. You will meet Uncle Leo, the founder of the Costa Rican coffee company, walk through fields of coffee plants and learn the local coffee history.
7. Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park
It is the place for real explorers that are seeking remote places and beautiful nature. The park protects the best remaining coastal rainforest in Central America. You can explore the forest, go surfing, diving, and fishing.
Things to Eat in Costa Rica
Visiting new places and not trying the local food is just not going together. If you truly want to experience a new culture local meals are the best way to do it. Here is what you should try in Costa Rica:
1. Gallo Pinto is in some variation spread through the Caribbean and Latin America, and it is an important part of the tradition and cultural heritage. The base of this meal is rice and beans.
2. Casado means married men, and this dish got its name because married men get to eat this dish at home. It consists of rice, black beans, plantains, salad, a tortilla, and protein sources like chicken, beef, pork, fish, etc.
3. Tamal is a dish that involves the whole family in the making and it takes several days to finish. It is made out of corn dough, potatoes, pork, rice, and vegetables all wrapped in banana leaves.
4. Sopa Negra, a traditional Costa Rican dish is something you have to try. It has similar variations in other Latin American countries. Basically, it is a soup made out of black beans, onions, bell peppers, hot peppers, cilantro, garlic, and chicken broth.
5. Arroz con Leche is a dish that most of the countries around the world have in some variation. The base is rice cooked with milk and you can add cinnamon, sugar, and other ingredients to taste.
6. Chifrijo is a one-of-a-kind Costa Rican dish that consists of white rice, chicharrón pork pieces, beans cooked in spices, pico de gallo, and tortilla chips on the side.
7. Patacones are deep-fried green plantains served with ground beans or chimichurri, which is the tomato, onion, and cilantro mix. They can also be added to sandwiches or as a side to other meals.
After choosing the best time to travel to Costa Rica it is only up to you to pack your bags, and book those flights. Don’t forget a lot of sunscreen, since the beaches are located on both, Caribbean and Pacific coasts, and you will spend a lot of time swimming and making sandcastles with your little ones.