December is Costa Rica’s dry season but also falls in its peak travel season. There are an almost endless amount of festivities and parties appropriate for anyone. Plus, there’s all that natural beauty the country is famous for.
Discover how to travel to Costa Rica in December during the holidays with this guide.
In this guide:
- Costa Rica Weather During December
- Best Places To Visit in Costa Rica in December
- Things To Do In Costa Rica During December
- Frequently Asked Questions
Table of Contents
Is Costa Rica Warm In December?
Costa Rica has two seasons instead of four, the rainy season and the dry season. When traveling to Costa Rica in December, you will encounter the dry season (December to April). This time also coincides with the peak tourist season.
These are also the hottest months in Costa Rica, with temperatures averaging 80-90+ degrees Fahrenheit, but December is close enough to the end of the rainy season, and temperatures tend to be milder.
Best places to visit in Costa Rica
Although it may seem counterintuitive, when traveling to Costa Rica in December, it is best to do tourism in the capital, San José (instead of simply using it as a point of embarkation or departure to other areas). There is no shortage of Christmas festivities this month, such as The Festival of Lights or The National Horse Parade.
That does not mean that you should spend all your vacation time in the capital. If you want to enjoy the natural beauty of Costa Rica while avoiding the hordes of tourists, perhaps you should spend two or three days in Tortuguero National Park, located on the Caribbean coast of the country, or go down the beach to the surfing paradise of Puerto Viejo. Even if you are not a surfer, you can enjoy the small-town atmosphere, Afro-Caribbean culture, and crystal clear waters.
1. San José
In San José, you can take a walk through the Central Market, which has more than 200 stores, food stalls, and sodas (small traditional restaurants). Then visit the Metropolitan Cathedral, the interior of which combines Greek Orthodox, Neoclassical and Baroque styles and features wood carvings and stained glass windows.
There are also a couple of famous museums in San José, Museo del Oro Precolombino, and Museo del Jade, the world’s most extensive collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts.
2. Arenal Volcano
La Fortuna is the base for exploring the Arenal Volcano National Park.
Located north of the Tilarán Mountains, the cone-shaped Arenal juts out above the San Carlos Plains. If you want to get close to the volcano, kayak, or paddleboarding in Lake Arenal (optional), it is possible and offers spectacular views from its top, or, you can opt for a zip line tour through the forest canopy, where you will cross canyons and see the Fortuna and Pino Blanco Waterfalls, along with the majestic Arenal Volcano. After checking into your hotel, you will have the rest of the day to explore on your own.
Monteverde is known as the “Green Lung” of Costa Rica due to its rich biodiversity. Located in the mountainous northwestern region of the country, Monteverde is famous for its 26,000 acre Cloud Forest Reserve.
The reserve’s marked trails pass through exotic fauna and flora, including the most significant orchid species on the planet -500- with new ones discovered regularly. Suspension bridges allow you to stroll above the forest canopy, with many opportunities to see the colorful and resplendent quetzal.
You can practice various activities for those who prefer the action of jumping on a zip line, as well as aerial tram rides for a panoramic perspective or hanging bridges for close encounters with species of birds and other wildlife. Take the afternoon to enjoy nearby Santa Elena, a charming town with a strong influence known for its excellent coffee and cheese.
4. Manuel Antonio National Park
In Manuel Antonio National Park, you can choose and relax on one of the four beautiful beaches in the park, one of the best in Costa Rica. If you’re in the mood for more adventure, you can also hike one of the park’s many well-marked trails and get up close to capuchin monkeys, sloths, and more than 200 species of birds. You can also snorkel from various points on the beaches.
Things to do in Costa Rica in December
If you decide to travel to Costa Rica in December and get off the beaten path, consider the Osa Peninsula, located on the southern Pacific coast. This area is one of the most remote parts of Costa Rica and is much less crowded, even during peak season. A day trip to this park to do some waterfall hikes and wildlife viewing would be a unique change of pace from the typical holiday party.
1. Enjoy the beach
If you are traveling with family, a good idea is to enjoy some beach time with the children on the Pacific coast. The city of Nosara is charming, and the beaches here with their small waves are perfect for children. Parents can relax a bit by doing yoga and getting a massage.
2. Stroll around the city
Explore Barrio Amón, a historic neighborhood home to coffee mansions built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of the area’s landmark buildings have been converted into hotels, restaurants, and galleries, making this neighborhood a popular place.
3. Visit the National Theater
An opulent neoclassical building built in the late 19th century, offering free hourly guided tours. You can also check their calendar to see dance, music, and theater shows.
Also, for younger visitors, visit the Children’s Museum, with more than 40 interactive experience rooms on topics ranging from the human body to outer space. Or, explore the Spirogyra Butterfly Garden, located in downtown San José amid the city’s lush botanical garden. Kids will love seeing butterflies in their natural habitat and learning more about the different species.
4. Learn to Surf
Consider taking a surf lesson; one of the ideal beaches is Playa Espadilla, which stretches for almost a kilometer and is suitable for families, as it is a quiet public beach with lifeguards on hand during the day.
5. Go Rafting on the Pacuare River
Located along the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica, the deep canyon of the Pacuare River is considered one of the best river navigation sites in the world. Along the way, you pass through the most diverse topography in Costa Rica. Here it is not uncommon for rafters to see various species of tropical birds, as well as monkeys, ocelots, and (much less frequently) jaguars.
So it’s time for your whitewater rafting adventure to begin. After a guided orientation, you’ll embark on an adrenaline-pumping ride on class II-III rapids. You will paddle through breathtaking tropical landscapes on swift white waters until you reach your destination, an eco-friendly hotel on the banks of the river.
6. Go Whale Watching
Did you know that Costa Rica has the most extended whale watching season in the world?
The best places for this unique Costa Rican activity are the Gulf of Papagayo, Drake Bay in Corcovado, and Uvita.
7. Practice Snorkeling and Diving
Isla del Caño, Cahuita and the Gulf of Papagayo are some of the best places to dive in Costa Rica.
Are you a diver? One of the best things to do in Costa Rica for expert divers is a multi-day boat trip to Isla del Coco.
This World Heritage Site is by far the best dive spot in Costa Rica, with a large population of giant mantas, yellowfin tuna, hammerhead sharks, and many more.
The island is quite far from the mainland coast, so it takes a couple of days to get there by boat.
8. Taking a look at the waterfalls is one of the best experiences in Costa Rica
Are you looking for more ideas on what to do in Costa Rica? How about a look at some incredible waterfalls?
The Rio Celeste Waterfall is perhaps the most famous in the country. It has a height of 60 feet and sky blue water.
However, Costa Rica has many more waterfalls to offer, and although they are the best attractions in Costa Rica, there are still some waterfalls without much of a crowd.
9. Canyoning and Waterfall Rappelling
Are you ready to get out of your comfort zone and go on an adventure?
Canyoning and rappelling waterfall are other activities in Costa Rica that cannot be missing from the list of best things to do in Costa Rica.
10. Go horseback riding
Horseback riding is a popular activity on the beach or in the mountains.
I recommend it without a doubt as one of the best things to do in Costa Rica, even if the horses usually do not attract your attention. Trust me!
11. Relax in the hot springs of Costa Rica
Costa Rica has some of the best hot springs in the world.
I recommend the Tabacón hot springs near the Arenal Volcano. You can book a day trip from San José to Tabacon hot springs and Arenal volcano if you’re short on time.
When should you not go to Costa Rica?
Unless you enjoy torrential storms and you should not visit Costa Rica during the rainy season (May through November)
What should I avoid in Costa Rica?
Don’t reserve Costa Rican hotels until you’ve considered the implications of their exact location. Some locations require 4×4 vehicles and some others are not suitable to travel with children or seniors.
What is the coldest month in Costa Rica?
January is usually the coldest month of the year in Costa Rica, with average temperatures in the 16.1°C (61°F) to 25.6°C (78.1°F) range.
Are bugs a problem in Costa Rica?
Depends on the perspective, Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth so it is clear that bugs will be present no matter where you go. However, the biting ones are similar to those anywhere else: mosquitoes, sand flies (no see ums), spiders (which will not bite if not touched). In rainforest, ants can be a problem, especially bullet ants.
You can avoid these little creatures by making sure you wear bug repellent; as for the ants, while in your accommodation make sure you don’t leave sugary food around; and while walking keep, an eye where you step.
Can you drink water in Costa Rica?
The short answer is: YES. In Latin America, there are only two countries were drinking tap water is safe, one of them is Costa Rica, and the other one is Chile.
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