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By Ted Hayes /

Let’s talk about Costa Rica. I don’t want to waste your time with why you should go there because as a fellow traveler, you’re already hip to the popular things like the sometimes-spewing Arenal Volcano, the uber-lush rain forests and national parks, and the “pura vida” life style. If you haven’t been there already, I highly recommend putting it on the top half of your bucket list. So, let’s talk about when you should go to Costa Rica and the different ways to do it.

As of this posting there are still twelve months in the year and each of them offers something special for a Costa Rica vacation but I want you to see all that there is to see (including the sun) and not have any unwanted strangers walking through your photos.

The rainy season in Costa Rica lasts from early May until about mid November. It is beautiful and has plenty of perks: things could not be greener, there are far less people, and rates are often reduced. The sun is usually out and about in the morning but then the clouds and showers roll in in the afternoon. It’s a rinse, wash, repeat kind of thing. You can absolutely have an amazing trip during the rainy season – most people do. But, if you only get to leave the country once per year or less I want you to go when you have a much higher chance for success. The dry season lasts from late November to early April and ensures you will be able to see and do all the of things you want to on your Costa Rican vacation.

Two general avenues to consider when planning a trip are whether to plan it yourself or to go on a guided trip with a tour operator. You won’t go wrong with either but assuming you like to see, swim, hike, and bike, here’s a look at the best time to go for each option.

Guided Trips

Guided trips are great because they take the stress out of traveling and you get to see and learn about much more of the area. You’re really only responsible for getting to the airport on time and having as much fun as possible. I think the best time to go on a guided trip is in March. March is toward the end of the dry season and you are assured to have sunny days, warm weather, and lots of fun things to see in the water and in the parks. For those of us that live in cold weather climates, a bathing suit and a beach towel sound pretty great in this time of year.

March is traditionally a busy time because of spring break but guided tours help you get around the hustle and bustle. Reputable guides know the area and the ebb and flow of the season and make that extra holiday noise go away. Because there are so many families traveling, that’s when most of the tour companies have scheduled departures so you’ll have plenty to choose from. I recommend doing research to find a trustworthy company to take care of you and your vacation needs. This article may help and there are plenty of others. If you want to see and do lots of different things with the comfort and ease of someone not only who knows the area but also how to maximize your time, a guided trip may be a good fit. March is ideal because it combines fantastic weather, maybe time off for the kids, and the most tour options.

Do It Yourself

If you are a do-it-yourselfer and you want to be able to play it a little more by ear, that’s great too. February is a great time to go to Costa Rica if you are planning on your own. It is in the middle of the dry season and in between the peak times of Easter/spring break and Christmas/New Years. In February you get peak season weather without peak season rates and crowds. Waters are clear for snorkeling or diving and national parks (Manuel Antonio is my favorite!) are free for hiking and exploring. February is also a good month to go because Costa Rica is a catholic country and on holidays most goods and services, including public transportation, are closed. No such holidays fall in February so you are all set there. If you want freedom from an itinerary and maybe a little more personal time, this may be a good option.When I travel, I generally use one of these two, but of course, there are plenty others. While it may be the shortest month of the year, it’s the best time to make the most memories.

Customize it!

Does February sound like the right time but you don’t want to deal with planning a vacation to see and do things in a place you have never been before? Customizing a trip is always an option and can allow you to have the perfect trip with minimal hassle. Few tour operators schedule departures in February because of the lack of travelers but if that’s the time for you, a custom trip could be the way to check everything off your list and have the time of your life.

However you choose to travel to Costa Rica, the pristine beaches and beautiful national parks will be there waiting for you and your adventure to begin. Have fun and travel safe, friends.

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