The sunset over Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

Travelling to Costa Rica in January: Tips, Events, Weather & More! 

With January being the thick of winter in the northern hemisphere, a getaway to a Central American paradise sounds ideal. With your Instagram feed full of influencers and friends washing up on the shores of Costa Rica this winter, you might be wondering if Costa Rica is the perfect January getaway… and you might be right.

Undoubtedly the best time of year to go to Costa Rica is between January and April, as well as between July and August, because these are the country’s dry seasons. That being said, the high season is also when you’re going to find the most tourists in Costa Rica, which may also affect your decision.

I have visited Costa Rica in their rainy season before, in November, and it was surprisingly un-rainy. Of course, it did rain, but not to an extent that it stopped us from doing anything. This can be a gamble, but it for sure paid off for us! Another great thing about the Costa Rican climate is that the temperature is relatively stable all year round, so there isn’t any one season in which it will be freezing cold (unless you go to higher altitudes, in which case it will always be freezing cold!) 

I personally found January one of the best months to visit Costa Rica, both because of the weather when I arrived and how bitterly cold I knew it was at home! I felt like I was skipping out on the worst of the European winter. As it got towards the end of January I definitely noticed more and more tourists around, but there were surprisingly few tourists at the beginning of January in Costa Rica.

The Pacific Coast of Costa Rica in January

This section will mostly focus on the central pacific coast of Costa Rica, because I have written other sections specifically for each of Costa Rica’s peninsulas (the Nicoya Peninsula in the north and the Osa Peninsula in the south). In the central pacific coast of Costa Rica you’ll find a whole range of popular beach towns that have exceptional weather in both the dry season (including January) and the rainy season.

Inside the rainy season this area is the most sheltered from the rain, and during the dry season this area is stiflingly hot. In January, these towns are amongst the hottest in Costa Rica. So, if you’re looking for heat, the Pacific Coast in January is for you! Otherwise, the Caribbean Coast offers a little (not a lot of) relief.

The main attraction amongst these coastal areas is Manuel Antonio National Park as well as the town itself, Manuel Antonio, which are both well worth a visit.  

The Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica in January

As I mentioned, the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica is slightly less hot during the dry season, thanks to the winds coming in from the Caribbean Sea, but don’t be fooled – it’s not going to be cold! It’s just slightly more bearable than the Pacific Coast. You can still get some rainy days in January, because you’re not long out of rainy season, but it is generally warm and sunny.

The most popular towns on this side of Costa Rica are Puerto Viejo and Cahuita (two towns very close together in the south) and Tortuguero National Park, which is incredible, but exclusively reachable by boat. This area in the north of the Caribbean Coast can stay quite humid, even in January. 

The Central Valley of Costa Rica in January

The Central Valley of Costa Rica includes its capital, San Jose, as well as various surrounding mountainous areas and national parks. The climate as well as the culture is quite distinct from any of Costa Rica’s coastal areas, and if you’ve not got this area on your list of places then be sure to add it asap! 

The best places to visit in this area are La Fortuna, the Arenal Volcano National Park (including its incredible hot springs!), Monte Verde, and, if you’re lucky enough to be able to pay a visit, the Sarapiqui Rainforest.

The Nicoya Peninsula in January

The Nicoya Peninsula is the larger, more northern peninsula on the pacific coast of Costa Rica that makes up a large part of the Guanacaste province. Around here they have the longest dry season of Costa Rica (but September and October should still be avoided due to heavy rainfall). In January you’re right in the middle of their dry season, aka the perfect time for a holiday! By the coast the weather can be a bit stifling, especially to the east of the peninsula.

The Nicoya Peninsula is home to the popular surf town, Santa Teresa, and Playa Flamingo, a popular spot for higher-end resorts. The average temperature on this side of Costa Rica tends to be a little higher, climbing well above 30 degrees between January and April.

The Osa Peninsula in January

The Osa Peninsula is a smaller, much less touristic peninsula in the south of Costa Rica, but still on the pacific coast. The Osa Peninsula is known for its incredible biodiversity and world-class beaches for surfing. It’s home to just 30,000 people, which gives you an idea of just how remote it is! The main town in the Osa Peninsula is Puerto Jimenez.

The climate in the Osa Peninsula very much follows the same pattern as the rest of Costa Rica, but the average temperature tends to be cooler. The dry season is between December and April, making January a great month to visit! Many of the places to stay in the Osa Peninsula are eco-lodges in the higher regions, which is part of the reason for the lower temperature here. It will still be pretty warm by the coast.

The Osa Peninsula is best known for the Corcovado National Park, which takes up a large portion of the peninsula. Corcovado National Park (Parque Nacional Corcovado) is known for lush hikes through the rainforest, stunning beaches, and incredible wildlife.

Read more about Central America…

A Full Guide to the Bus from Nicaragua to Costa Rica

Best Places to Surf in Costa Rica in January

In all honesty, the best actual surf in Costa Rica do not change with the seasons and will be the same in the high season and the low season, the wet season and the dry season. The most reliable places to find surfable waves are all on the Pacific Coast, including the peninsulas, thanks to the strong wings coming in from the pacific coast. That being said, most of the coastal areas in Costa Rica are somewhat surfable and you can also surf on the Caribbean Coast. 

Best Places to Go Scuba Diving in Costa Rica in January

January falls at the end of the high season for scuba diving, narrowly missing out on the calm yet warm waters of August to December, which are the best months to learn scuba diving as a beginner. If you’re an experience scuba diver, you can expect warm temperatures in January but slightly gustier winds and stronger currents.

No matter which season you go in, most of the best scuba diving spots in Costa Rica are along the Caribbean Coast and just off the Osa Peninsula.

Best Places to Go to the Beach in Costa Rica in January

My absolute favourite beach in Costa Rica was in Manuel Antonio. The sunset from here was just unreal, and the beaches are white, serene and less full of tourists (at least, they were two years ago – I can’t vouch for how they are now!). 

This might also be a good time to mention that you should hold onto your coconuts – especially if you’ve added rum to turn it into a cocoloco. If you’re not careful, a monkey will steal it from you, and that’s a promise!

The truth is that all of Costa Rica’s beaches are spectacular with sunny weather, which is practically guaranteed during the dry season. This year I went to Cahuita (where the beaches are pretty but small) and Puerto Viejo (where the beaches are amazing) and had a great time. 

Events in Costa Rica in January

Palmarés Festival, Província de Alajuela

Palmarés Festival is a religious festival in Palmares, Província de Alajuela, Costa Rica. The festival usually begins on the second Thursday of January and lasts for two weeks, so if you’re going to Costa Rica in January chances are you’ll have time to catch it! Palmarés is just an hours drive from San Jose, so it’s even feasible to visit for the day if you don’t have much time on your hands. Expect live music, comedy shows, fireworks, and an all round great atmosphere.

Santa Cruz Festival

Santa Cruz is a town in Guanacaste province in the north west of Costa Rica. The Santa Cruz Festival officially begins on the 14th January, but some warm-up cultural activities start up to a week before! This festival is a more traditional cultural festival, with traditional music and dance, bull riding, and a horse parades through the town.

New Year’s Day 

Okay so this isn’t necessarily an “event”, but it’s worth remembering that in Costa Rica they celebrate the New Year just like we do in Europe, and what better way to celebrate? There is something magical about New Year’s Eve in Europe, I will admit, but imagine celebrating it on the beach with a cocktail in hand… 

1 thought on “Travelling to Costa Rica in January: Tips, Events, Weather & More! ”

  1. I thinks it’s so good to check out when the best seasons are to visit a place as I am sure that helps get the most out of the experience. I have never been to Costa Rica, but it would be somewhere I would love to visit.

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