If you are planning to visit Costa Rica in December, it is important to know what to expect before you plan and head out on your vacation. Anytime you plan a vacation to a new place, it is a good idea to have knowledge about what to expect in your destination during that time of year as the weather, crowds, and open businesses can vary.
Table of Contents
- What should you know about visiting Costa Rica in December?
- Costa Rica Overview
- Weather in Costa Rica
- Regions in Costa Rica
- Visiting Costa Rica in December
- Events in Costa Rica During December
- Things To Do in Costa Rica in December
What should you know about visiting Costa Rica in December?
Visiting Costa Rica in December means that you should be aware of road conditions, inflated costs during peak season, planning ahead for accommodations and excursions, and being knowledgeable about the weather during that time of year.
It is always critical to be aware of what traveling to a new place will be like during a certain time of year so you can set yourself up for a successful and fun trip. It is important to always plan ahead and know what your destination is like during that month.
Costa Rica is a beautiful place to visit in December to get away for the holidays and to escape colder weather. The information in this guide has been verified by not only travel experts but weather experts as well to ensure accurate information that will allow you to have an excellent Costa Rican vacation.
Costa Rica Overview
Costa Rica is known officially as the Republic of Costa Rica and is a country in Central America. It is bordered by Nicaragua in the north, the Caribbean Sea to the northeast, Panama to the southeast, and the Pacific Ocean to the northwest. It has plenty of places to travel all over the country depending on what you are wanting to see.
There is a population of approximately 5 million people in the entire country, and 333,000 people live in the country’s capital of San Jose.
Approximately 23% of the country’s land is covered in national parks and protected areas which makes it a great destination for people seeking a stunning nature-filled trip. Costa Rica boasts stunning beaches between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and has active volcanoes that can be visited as well.
It is believed that Costa Rica may have approximately 6% of the world’s plant and animal species, including huge ficus trees and animals such as the jaguar and macaw.
Although the Caribbean is a popular tropical destination, Costa Rica has drawn in quite a lot of tourists over recent years due to the beautiful beaches and stunning natural beauty.
Costa Rica History
Costa Rica has a beautiful and rich history. The land was first discovered in 1502 by Christopher Columbus. At this time, it was inhabited by Carib, Boruca, Chibcha, and Diquis Indian tribes.
The land got its name, which means “Rich Coast” when translated from a Spaniard that noticed the incredible gold jewelry that the Indians wore. The Spaniards began to colonize the land in 1524, and the indigenous people either died from disease or moved away during this time.
It was in 1821 that Costa Rica claimed independence from Spain, and in 1948 “Don Pepe” took control of the land, and it became a republic. When this happened, it gave minorities the right to vote within the country and provided a system of checks and balances.
Weather in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a tropical climate with over 20 micro-climates so the weather can change fairly quickly. This is due to the country having beaches, mountains, valleys, and volcanoes and these all contribute to different climates.
Although the weather is typically fairly mild, it can vary slightly from what is forecasted so it is important if you are visiting to be aware of the weather during that time and to be aware of potential weather changes.
Costa Rica has high proximity to the equator, so it, therefore, does not have a winter season. When the weather in Costa Rica is referenced, it is usually referenced in terms of the wet and dry seasons.
The temperatures do vary slightly depending on the location of the country that you are in, but typical temperatures in Costa Rica range between 70 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The coast and inland lowlands will be higher in temperature, with temperatures sometimes getting into the 90s.
The dry season in Costa Rica is typically from December to April, with the hottest temperatures being in the months of March and April.
The rainy season begins at the end of April and will usually run through November, with the most rain falling in September and October.
Rainfall totals are usually around 100 inches for the year in the country, with some areas potentially getting 300 inches of rain per year. Even during the rainy season in Costa Rica, most days will begin with abundant sunshine, and the rain will begin falling in mid to late afternoon.
Regions in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is split into seven different regions that each have not only their own climates but their own nature as well as things to do.
Guanacaste is a region in northwestern Costa Rica and is a popular spot for people that are visiting the country. It is known for its stunning beaches, and it almost always has warmer weather.
Guanacaste has some of the most expensive resorts in the world that sit on the Papagayo Gulf. It is known to have some of the top surfing spots in the world as well as fun beach towns.
Many foreigners have chosen the Guanacaste region to build stunning beach houses and retirement homes, which have contributed to the significant growth in the area over recent years.
The Guanacaste region is also known to be one of the driest regions in Costa Rica, with this area getting about 65 inches of rain per year. Guanacaste has plenty of cattle ranches as well as volcanoes, multiple lakes, and a small area of tropical dry forest.
The Central Valley
The Central Valley of Costa Rica is a high plateau in the center of the country. It is home to some of the largest cities in Costa Rica, including the capital of San Jose. There is a large number of Costa Ricans in the Central Valley, and it is believed that approximately 1 in 5 actually lives there.
This area is surrounded by beautiful rolling hills and mountains that can be up to almost 4,000 feet tall. The largest peaks in the region include 4 volcanic peaks, and 3 of these are still active. The Poás, Irazú, and Turrialba are active volcanoes that have caused a large amount of destruction over the last 2 centuries.
The temperature is fairly mild throughout the entire year in this area. Due to the rich volcanic soil, it is a top agricultural area in Costa Rica, with specifically a large number of coffee farms in the region.
The Northern Lowlands
In an area north of the Central Valley and over the mountains lie a flat area unknown as the Northern Lowlands region.
There is a volcano located centrally in this region and it is known to be an adventurous region of the country. This region includes rainforests, cloud forests, hot springs, and the Braulio Carrillo National Park.
It is a popular area for white water rafting and zip lining. The Northern Lowlands reaches north to the border of Nicaragua and east to the Caribbean Sea.
The Caribbean Coast
The Caribbean coast region of Costa Rica is on the eastern coast and is known to be the home of the Afro-Caribbean community in Costa Rica with many speaking English or Caribbean patois. They have a very vibrant and unique culture within this region.
It is known to be hot and humid but still a beautiful area of Costa Rica. Throughout the region you will see plenty of rainforests and banana plantations.
The northern area of the region is only accessible by boat or small plane and is part of the Tortuguero National Park. This national park is home to plenty of nesting turtles.
The southern portion of the Caribbean coast is the more popular destination area of the region. Although it has breathtaking beaches, there are not many resorts or hotels in the area. While many other areas of Costa Rica are dry from December to April, this region can get quite rainy.
The Central Pacific
The Central Pacific region of Costa Rica is known to be greener and wetter than other regions. The beaches in this region are the closest beaches to the capital of Costa Rica. Manuel Antonio National Park is part of this region, and some of the beaches in the area are the most popular in the world.
Jacó is a popular beach town on the Central Pacific coast that is a little over an hour from San José. It is popular with young surfers and definitely has more of a party vibe.
This region is also the home of the highest peak in Costa Rica which is Mount Chirripó. Frost is common on this peak due to the altitude and drop in temperature that occurs.
The Southern Pacific
The Southern Pacific area of Costa Rica is typically the least visited by tourists. This region boasts incredible surf and is one of the most untouched areas in Costa Rica.
Due to its untouched landscape, there is incredible wildlife in this region, including jaguars and macaws.
There are nature lodges scattered throughout the region, and it is popular with those who prefer ecotourism. It is not an easy area to get to or get around in, but if you are looking for a secluded location surrounded by nature, this is a gorgeous place to see.
Visiting Costa Rica in December
Visiting Costa Rica in December is a popular choice for many people choosing to travel. They are trying to escape cold weather and want to take a vacation during the holidays. Typically by the end of September, 90% of hotels are booked for the weeks before and after Christmas, which proves the popularity of this time of year for traveling to Costa Rica.
There are certain things to keep in mind if you are traveling to Costa Rica in December so you can plan ahead and be prepared.
The end of April through November is the rainy season in Costa Rica. If you are traveling in December, it is good to be aware of the fact that sometimes a heavier rainy season can affect road conditions in the country.
If you are traveling in the earlier part of December, there is a chance that roads could potentially be washed out in areas or blocked due to landslides. The country always tries to get things cleaned up as quickly as possible if this happens, but it is good to know in the event you do run into this problem.
December is the start of the dry season, and due to Costa Rica having beautiful weather while many parts of the world are experiencing cold and snowy weather, this is a peak travel time. Travel costs can be anywhere from 20% to 50% more than during high season in Costa Rica.
If you think you will want to travel during December to Costa Rica, it is a good idea to book any lodging and excursions at least 3 months in advance. Some of the most popular resorts in Costa Rica will be full up to a year in advance.
It is important to plan ahead if you want to travel during peak season. This will ensure that you get the accommodations you want, and you can book any activities and excursions you are wanting to do as well.
Things book up quickly during December due to holiday travel, and if you do not plan ahead, you risk not being able to find the accommodations you want.
It is also a good idea to arrive at beaches earlier in the day. This is peak season, and beaches can get crowded, so if you want to find a good spot to hang out for the day, it is smart to arrive earlier to ensure you will have space.
Weather in December
The weather in Costa Rica during the month of December is usually fairly mild. The temperatures will hover right around the 70’s to mid ’80s. However, due to the wet season ending only a couple of weeks prior, you do run the risk of the rainy season continuing into December. There have been years where it continues to rain through Christmas and New Year.
There are also strong winds possible during December called “Papagayos.” They are caused by cooler dry air moving down from the north and pushing the warmer air out. The air then moves across Costa Rica and can reach up to 100 kph.
It is most commonly noticed in the northwest regions of Costa Rica.
Events in Costa Rica During December
Festival De La Luz
Festival De La Luz is an incredible event to be a part of if you visit Costa Rica in December. It is held in downtown San Jose and includes a large parade with floats, masquerades, live music, and plenty of fireworks.
The Festival De La Luz has been going on since 1996 and is a must-see if you are in Costa Rica during this time.
Festival of La Yeguita
This festival is one that has a long history behind it. It is held annually on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica.
Legend says that two boys were having a machete fight over a girl. People that were leaving church saw the fight and began to pray to the Virgin of Guadalupe at that time. At that exact moment, a small black mare ran between the two boys and stopped the fight.
The festival includes a man dressed as the mare who will dance with another man carrying the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This is followed by mass and then eventually food, music, and general dancing.
El Tope Nacional
El Tope Nacional takes place on December 26th each year in Costa Rica. It takes place in several cities across the country.
Horses have always been a large part of the culture in Costa Rica, and this is the opportunity for Costa Ricans to show off their horse training skills.
It is a great way for the country to link their past when horses played a larger part in the workings of the country to the present. Not only will you witness beautiful horses during this celebration, but there will be eating, drinking, and dancing as well.
Things To Do in Costa Rica in December
1. White Water Rafting
White water rafting is a great activity to do in Costa Rica in December. You can find many excursions that offer white water rafting at all levels, from beginners to those that want a more thrilling experience. This is a fun thing to do when visiting Costa Rica in December as there are many excellent places to go white water rafting.
With temperatures being very mild throughout the year in Costa Rica, snorkeling is a great excursion to plan year-round. There are a large number of snorkeling excursions available in Costa Rica, so it is easy to find something that fits what you are looking for whether you want to take an all-day snorkeling trip or just do something for a couple of hours.
3. Horseback Riding
Horseback riding is a great activity that can be done all year round in Costa Rica. There are many horseback riding excursions in Costa Rica from riding on the beach to riding on beautiful scenic trails.
4. Zip Lining
Zip lining is a great activity if you are seeking some adventure in Costa Rica. You can zipline throughout the year and it is a fun way to get your adrenaline pumping and enjoy the beauty of Costa Rica.
There are zip lining excursions that include just zip lining as well as ones that you can combine with other activities depending on if you want to do an all day excursion or just be gone for a few hours.
5. ATV Adventure
If you are looking for an adventurous excursion, an ATV is perfect for you. You will get to experience Costa Rica in a different way by taking an ATV tour through the scenic landscape of Costa Rica.
You can explore the mountainous terrain, see beautiful waterfalls, and get to overlook the stunning coastline all while enjoying the thrill of riding an ATV. This is an activity that can be done year-round no matter what the weather is like and will be fun for people of all ages.
6. Sunrise or Sunset Cruise
A sunrise or sunset cruise is the perfect way to enjoy the beauty of the ocean and spend a peaceful time with friends or family. There are many sunrise and sunset cruises that you can go on and some include food and beverages as well.
This is a great excursion that can be enjoyable no matter what time of year it is. Some of the sunset and sunrise cruises will include snorkeling as well if you want to combine another activity with your cruise as well.