by Park, reprinted from Viva Tropical, July 1, 2013
When many expats think of Costa Rica climate, the first thing that comes to mind is tropical. Costa Rica is warm and tropical, and while this is true in many regions of Costa Rica, the climate in this small country is very diverse and varies from region to region. It may be surprising that such a small country is made up of so many micro-climates, but if you have been planning on making a move down to Costa Rica, it’s good to know a little more about the different climate zones before you commit to a spot.
Costa Rica is located close to the equator and sits between 8°-11° North latitude, providing it with the ideal weather that attracts more expats each year. While the Costa Rica climate is known to be like ‘eternal spring’ with the average temperature ranging between 21.7°C (71°F) and 28°C (81°F), the country’s climate will change drastically as you move throughout the regions, so take the time to experience as many as possible before you take the plunge.
Rainy season vs. dry season. Like many tropical countries, the Costa Rica climate is split into two seasons, rainy and dry. The dry season or summer (named ‘verano’ by Spanish colonizers) generally runs from December to April, while the rainy season or winter (‘invierno’) spans from May to November. Yet even the dry and rainy season will vary slightly from region to region and the distinct topography of each place will have an influence on the climate.
The sweeping mountain ranges that spread from northwest to southwest split Costa Rica into two regions, the Caribbean slope and the Pacific slope. And the rainy and dry season differs on each slope. Along the Caribbean slope the rainy season spans from late April through to December while the Pacific slope experiences its rainy season from May to November. But it doesn’t end there. The climate on each slope will also change according to the region. The Northern portion of the Pacific slope will experience an extreme dry season with little to no rain and the Southern half will have a shorter and less intense dry season.
So now that you know the basics of Costa Rica climate, you can begin to take a closer look at the different climate zones, a factor that will help many expats in choosing the ideal spot to call home.
Central Valley. The Central Valley of Costa Rica, that includes the capital city of San Jose, attracts many expats and tourists with its ‘eternal spring’ climate. But even in the valley the climate will change from warm and dry to chilly and humid depending on which side you choose. When it comes to Costa Rica climate, it all depends on elevation. The western suburb of San Jose, Pavas, sits at an elevation of 3, 280 ft. (1000 m), giving it an ideal average temperature of 71°F (22°C), while in the foothills of the Poás Volcano (located on an elevation of 6, 070 ft.) on the opposite side of Central Valley, the average temperature is a much cooler 62°F (17.4°C). But no matter where you choose to settle, in the Central Valley, you can expect to be greeted with moderate temperatures, clear mornings, and rainy evenings, making it the perfect combination for many expats.
North Pacific. The gorgeous North Pacific region is the most popular region in Costa Rica due to its warm sunny weather and numerous beaches like Playa Conchal, Playa Ocotal and Playa Coco, to name a few. Liberia, the capital city of Guanacaste can be found in the North Pacific region and boasts an average temperature of 82°F (28°C), perhaps a little too hot for some expats, but just right for others.
Central Pacific. This region of Costa Rica includes the provinces of Puntarenas and San Jose and is home to many popular expat destinations like Dominical, Uvita and Jaco. In Puntarenas to the north, it is not uncommon for the daytime high to reach the low 90s and while this may seem a bit on the hot side, the cool breeze coming off the Pacific works wonders to help manage the heat.
South Pacific. The South Pacific is home to some of the country’s most diverse landscapes and in this region you can enjoy both mountain ranges and majestic stretches of rainforest, including the Corcovado National Park (home of the world’s only Jaguar reserve). As a result of this varied topography, the climate in the South Pacific bounces from hot to cold. In some higher areas the temperature can dip as low as 50°F (10°C) making a light jacket a must. Near the coast, the average temperature remains high year round, from the low 80s to the low 90s, but a more moderate climate can be found in the Valle del General (the general valley) and the temperature here will hover around the high 70s to the low 80s.
Caribbean. Spanning the length of the Caribbean coast, the Caribbean region is quite humid, and here, heavy rainfall can sometimes last for days. Although it rains throughout the year, you will find drier weather in September and October, which incidentally, are the wettest months in the Central Valley.
Northern Zone. In the Northern Zone, the climate will differ in accordance with the altitude. In the areas that sit at a higher elevation, the temperature can drop to the low sixties, while the lowlands remain in the high seventies to low eighties. The Northern Zone is also home to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a breathtaking, mist covered forest that has become a popular tourist spot.
So which climate is right for you? With cool temperatures in the highlands, eternal spring in the Central Valley and heat along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, the Costa Rica climate is extremely diverse and definitely something all expats should consider. To make sure that you pick the right region for you, rent before you buy and experience the many different micro-climates Costa Rica has to offer until you find that perfect match and the perfect place to call home.