When to Go

High Season: Mid-December to April

This is the driest region of the country, with only 165 centimeters (65 inches) of average annual rainfall. It’s also the hottest region, with average temperatures around 30°C to 35°C (86°F to 95°F) in high season. It’s no wonder that winter-weary Northerners come here for guaranteed sunshine and heat. The beaches and trails can get packed during these drier months, especially mid-December to February, when school is out in Costa Rica. January can be quite breezy, especially along the coast, thanks to the annual Papagayo winds. February through April are the driest months: skies are clear, but the heat is intense and the landscape is brown and parched. Fishing and scuba diving are at their best during this period, though.

Low Season: May through October

Major downpours are pretty much guaranteed every afternoon during the rainy season, which brings lower prices, fewer crowds, and a lush green landscape. But mornings are usually fresh and clear. Unpaved beach roads can become quite muddy, making travel difficult and some roads impassable.

Shoulder Season: November to mid-December

This is the best time to visit, when the rains have abated, the landscape is lush, and the evening air is cool. Hotels and restaurants are prepped for the impending tourist influx, and staff are fresh and eager to please. Except for the popular U.S. Thanksgiving week, you can usually get a deal. High-season rates begin mid-December.

Planning Your Time

Visiting this region for 10 days to two weeks will introduce you to its wonders and give you a real taste of the North Pacific. Schedule plenty of beach time for lounging, sunbathing, surfing, diving, and snorkeling. Logistically, you also need to take into consideration slow travel over bumpy roads. A beach like Tamarindo with lots of restaurants and nightlife can keep you entertained for a week or more, whereas a more solitary beach might merit only a couple of days. Also plan to visit some protected areas to enjoy canopy tours, wildlife viewing, and hiking. Outdoorsy types should consider spending a few days around Rincón de la Vieja National Park for its amazing hiking, bird-watching, and horseback riding. Other parks to consider are Palo Verde National Park, Santa Rosa National Park, and Barra Honda National Park. Many North Pacific beaches are just a few hours' drive from the Arenal Volcano area, so the region can be combined with the Northern Lowlands.

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