Weather: Sun, Rain and Cloud.
We came to Costa Rica in November of 1998, a week after hurricane Mitch blasted through northern Central America. We had 2 weeks of solid all-day unrelenting rain, while living in a tent. This, needless to say, quite effectively soured our view of life in Costa Rica.
However, when the weather stabilized, we were entranced by what followed.
With time we also discovered that a Hurricane Mitch event is very infrequent. Costa Rica lies outside the hurricane belt, a fact which many Floridians have come to appreciate.We do get the peripheral effects of hurricanes, which translates to huge amounts of rain while they are happening in the Atlantic.
In most of our 9 years here the general pattern has been roughly 4 to 5 months (December to April) of dry weather and the rest wet.
We found the wet season generally has a very pleasant pattern to it – sunny mornings, clouds gathering around midday and rain in the afternoons. This is truly a glorious weather pattern.
With good soil, lots of rain and sun and warmth, things grow rapidly. If you enjoy gardening these are perfect conditions. In the rural mountain areas the people still have a deep connection with the earth and growing things.
The exceptions to this idyllic round are the months of September and October, when it gets seriously wet. This means grey skies, all day rain showers, mud and mould.
We often choose this time to take a break and visit somewhere drier. Lots of our friends do too.
Of course, it’s important to realize that it’s not cold rain. We’re not talking about winter rain in New York here.
If it’s not a heavy downpour (an ‘aguacero’), the agricultural and field workers (‘peons’ – this is not pejorative as in English) don’t bother with a rain jacket (capa), or any protection at all. They just don’t mind getting wet.
I once bought complete sets for the guys working on our property, thinking they would really appreciate staying dry (they don’t stop working for rain). Those things are still hanging in the storeroom (bodega), and I’m the only one who uses one! They find this slightly amusing for some reason.
During the rainy season, normally constant, there are a couple of variables at work.
One is called the the Veranillo de San Juan, a Caribbean high pressure system which causes high winds to clear the air, so to speak. The result is a period of between a few days to a week or so of fine sunny weather. This happens somewhere around the feast of San Juan, June 24th.
The other is called 'canicula' occurring in July to August, causing similar weather, wit5h little rain. The sky can be dark with clouds in the afternoons but no rain falls.
By mid November to mid December you’re already transitioning into the dry season. This is of course the start of Costa Rica’s high season for tourism, and the weather is just gorgeous. Sunny, warm, bright, and surprisingly, a little cooler in the evenings. They say the lack of cloud cover lets the daytime heat escape, producing cooler evenings.
Costa Rica is mostly mountains. Mountains once covered by rainforests, which at our elevations are classified as cloud forests.
In our former location on the slopes of Barva Volcano in the Central Cordillera, we lived at an elevation of 1,400 meters (about 4,500 ft.), and clouds formed a good deal higher. But at this elevation the nights were considerably cooler, and we often spent our time rugged up in socks and sweaters.
Where we now live (at 3,000ft) the clouds form much lower, at 3,000 ft., but no sweaters and socks in the evenings.
So an important tip is to check the area you’re interested in for the level at which the clouds form.
If views are important to you then this is a factor to consider. Don’t just come in the dry season (December to May), but also check the area of your interest in the wet season.
We’ve encountered areas which have impressive views during the dry season, but when the wet comes the area is encased in cloud and fog most of the time. Most of the time could be 7 or 8 months of the year! Now some people are fine with that, but we find it a little depressing.
San José Temperatures
Puntarenes is a Pacific Ocean port at sea level, while San José is at about 1150 meters (3,770 ft).
Note that temperature readings alone are a little misleading. Some coastal places record temperatures similar to the mountains. The reality is that they don’t include the effects of humidity. Places such as Orotina, a little inland from the Pacific coast, but at low elevation, are unbearably hot due to humidity effects, yet record similar temperatures to Santiago de Puriscal, which we experience as warm and pleasant.
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weather in Santiago de Puriscal
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