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An aerial view of a blue ocean with greenery and the beach in the background
September 28, 2022

Ultimate Guide to December in Costa Rica

Are you planning a trip to Costa Rica in December? If so, you’ve picked a great time to visit this tropical country—and not to mention a popular time too!

December is the peak travel season in Costa Rica, so prepare for high season prices for flights, accommodations, and activities. However, there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy great weather on the Pacific Coast, unlike the unpredictability of the low season, which is why December is such a popular time to visit.

Follow these travel tips for visiting Costa Rica in December to learn which national parks, gorgeous beaches, and popular destinations to visit during the peak season.

Costa Rica Weather in December

Costa Rica’s weather in December is generally dry, warm, and sunny, thanks to the strong winds that blow away much of the rainy, humid weather. However, select regions in Costa Rica still experience rainy weather during December.

Pacific Side: Dry Season

December is the start of Costa Rica’s dry season in the Central Valley, San Jose, and along the Pacific Coast, which lasts from December to April. Fortunately, Costa Rica also enjoys its warmest weather during the dry season, with average high temperatures between 80°F and 90°F, so it’s a great time to enjoy the most popular Costa Rica experiences without the prospect of a rainstorm ruining your plans

A dry, brittle tree in the desert in Costa Rica during the dry season

Caribbean Coast: Rainy Season

Not all of Costa Rica’s weather is sunny and dry during December. The Caribbean Coast, which is the least-visited portion of Costa Rica, is only midway through its rainy season. If you need a break from the heat, plan a few days on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Likely, you’ll find great hotels and tourist attractions available for cheaper, too. Just don’t forget to bring your rain jacket and rain gear!

A green hanging bridge in the Costa Rican rainforest

Events & Festivals in December

Costa Ricans love to celebrate, and when you visit Costa Rica in December, you’ll see why! These are a few of the December holidays you can celebrate during your Costa Rica trip, starting in early December and ending at the start of the new year.

Festival de las Luces

The “Festival of Lights” is a month-long celebration in San Jose that begins in early December and features parades, light shows, live concerts, and other fun events.

Several colorful floats in the Festival of Lights during December in Costa Rica

Christmas Eve

The Christmas season in late December is a popular time to visit Costa Rica! The entire country celebrates with delicious food, like homemade tamales, and many locals attend a Christmas mass on this popular holiday.

A nativity scene with Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus in the manger

El Tope Nacional

El Tope Nacional is a traditional horse parade held in late December (December 26th) to celebrate the country’s history and culture. Although these horse parades happen on a smaller scale throughout Costa Rica, the most significant event, “El Gran Tope Nacional,” takes place in San José.

San José Carnival

Held in Costa Rica’s capital city in late December (December 27th), this one-day carnival features handmade floats, costumed locals, live music, and more. It’s a great way to ring in the new year during your trip to Costa Rica!

Men and women dressed in festive red, blue, and white attire in the San José Carnival

Best Things to Do During December in Costa Rica

Since Costa Rica’s rainy weather clears away in December, you’ll find that this warm, sunny month is the perfect time to enjoy all the outdoor activities the whole country has to offer.

Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal Volcano is an active volcano in the La Fortuna area. It’s not only one of the most popular attractions in Costa Rica—it’s one of the top sites to see in Central America! There are plenty of things to do at this top-rated destination, like hiking, ziplining, and birdwatching. While you’re there, you can also enjoy relaxing activities, like soaking in the natural hot springs heated by the area’s active volcanoes.

Arenal Volcano in the background with a blue pool and lush greenery in the foreground

You can also take a day trip to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in central Costa Rica from Arenal Volcano. The high-elevation cloud forests are a sight to behold at any time of the year, but in December, you can enjoy fun activities like hiking tours, canopy tours, and ziplining through the trees without the prospect of a rainstorm.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park is a popular place to visit during the dry season in Costa Rica. Located between Guanacaste and the South Pacific Coast, this iconic destination features sparkling white-sand beaches, coral reefs, tropical rainforests, and abundant wildlife. When you visit, you can see sloths, monkeys, and hundreds of unique bird species on a guided tour with a local travel specialist.

Corcovado National Park

If you’re looking to trade the busy, tourist-filled beaches of Costa Rica for adventurous activities in a remote location, head south to the Osa Peninsula. Here, you can visit Corcovado National Park, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, filled with exotic wildlife, nature hikes, and scuba diving at Drake Bay.

A man standing on a beach wearing a blue backpack looking at the ocean

Nicoya Peninsula & Guanacaste Area

The tropical beaches of Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula are undoubtedly some of the best places to visit in Costa Rica during December. Santa Teresa Beach, Flamingo Beach, and Tamarindo Beach are just a few of the most popular locations to relax under shaded palm trees or surf, dive, and soak up the sun in the Pacific Ocean.

Pacuare River

Finally, one of the best ways to cool down from the December heat is taking a whitewater rafting, kayaking, or riverboarding trip down the Pacuare River that flows into the Caribbean Sea. You’ll likely encounter gorgeous waterfalls along the way, in addition to exotic wildlife, such as monkeys, ocelots, and jaguars!

Several people in inflatable rafts floating down the clear blue waters in the rainforest

Spend December in Costa Rica to Enjoy the Tropical Paradise with Special Places of Costa Rica

Though Costa Rica is a beautiful destination year-round, we can’t recommend visiting during December highly enough if you love warm weather, seasonal events, and an upbeat atmosphere filled with tourists from around the world. We hope this Costa Rica travel advice helps you plan the perfect vacation to Costa Rica in December. Browse our luxury houses, stylish villas, and affordable condos to find the ideal place to stay during your beachfront vacation in Costa Rica.


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