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What to do during the rainy season in Costa Rica

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As we enter the rainy season in Costa Rica, it is a good time to remind others why we expats love living in such a dynamic climate. Many of us did move to Costa Rica for the sun and the heat, but the longer we stay here, the more that we come to appreciate the rain.

In Costa Ballena real estate, the majority of the homes that we have on market are located between 200 and 1000m above sea level. According to the Holdridge life zones system chart, the Costa Ballena region predominantly consists of tropical wet forest in the lowlands and middle elevation rainforest in the higher elevations. Despite having a dry season of around 5 months, these areas receive a substantial rain fall of between 120” and 160” annually. 

From pelo de gato (misty rain) to aguacero (heavy downpour), invierno (winter) in the Southern Zone offers a whole range of wet experiences for all to enjoy. Rain is essential for the local ecosystem, filling our rivers and creeks and their tributaries. If you plan to visit the Southern Zone of Costa Rica between May and November, you can expect to experience rain – from gentle morning showers to thundering afternoon storms. The average temperatures during this time remain warm at around the mid 80s (29 C). And after a hot dry spell, the refreshing rainy season comes as more of a blessing than a curse.

But if you’re worried about what you’re going to do during six months of wet weather, rest easy. Below, we have compiled a list containing a wide variety of ways that the lush, vibrant, rainforest region of the South Pacific will entertain you throughout the rainy season.

More vibrant forests

Rainforests are home to two-thirds of all living animals and plants on Earth. Although Costa Rica’s area is very small, it is easy to witness this level of biodiversity, especially during the rainy season. 

The first rain of the season is often a joyous occasion where people will run into the drops and dance in gratitude. Five months with relatively few bursts of rain is depleting to nature. The areas that are nearest our dirt roads are the most obviously revitalized. As soon as the first rains of wet season begin, it is almost as though you can hear the forest breathe a sigh of relief.

Colorful flowers blossom overnight and grass turns moist and lavish. The rainy season is a time when the succulent, tuberous plants of our gardens and local jungle will flower and fruit. You can feel life abounding all around you.

The smell of the rain quenching the forest is intoxicating as you sit on your patio or balcony during a storm in Costa Rica. Watching lightning from a distance as it strikes the sea in the dark of night is mesmerizing, or hearing the rumble of thunder vibrate the earth around you.

By virtue of our mountainous area, the storms cool the air and set up the sky for the most awe-inspiring sunsets filled with colored clouds. And keep your eyes peeled for rainbows in the daytime rains!

More wildlife sightings

Although you can see wildlife in our region at any time of year, there are certain natural phenomena that are more likely to happen in the rainy season in Costa Rica.

In the marine world, of the four species of turtles in the Costa Ballena, the majority have their arribadas (birthing arrivals) during the rainy season. Reserva Playa Tortuga in Ojochal is a great place to learn more about turtles, reptiles, birds and butterflies in the region. Visiting their office near the beach is especially great if you have small kids and want to get out of the rain for an afternoon.

Humpback whales have a long mating season between August and September in the warm subduction zone waters of the Marino Ballena National Park in Uvita. Take a boat tour to see the pods as they feed and play, sometimes breaching water to great heights!

Even trees near the beaches flower and fruit more in the rainy season in Costa Rica, bringing more sloths, squirrel monkeys, fiery-billed aracari, and toucans in more prominent view of beach-goers.

There must be something about the freshness of the rain brings a wider variety of bird and frog species to our lower forests, exposing our ears to a cacophony of new sounds. This is the season to listen to parrots, parakeets, toucans, woodpeckers, and many others call out to their mates with untiring persistence. The yigüirro, or clay colored thrush, is the national bird of Costa Rica who is especially vocal in the rainy season. The yigüirro’s song is said to be “asking for rain.” Watching them splash around in puddles with apparent enjoyment can make one think that their appreciation for rain is more than a mating ritual.

Exciting activities

River rafting trips are the fastest, smoothest and most intense during the rainy season when raftable rivers swell with class III and IV rapids. The rapids in Savegre near Dominical are much more thrilling to raft through with gushing waters and dark green jungles surrounding you. Bear in mind that the later you go in rainy season, the more likely your tour may be cancelled because the river heads are too intense.

Deep sea sport fishing in Costa Rica is generally very good in the rainy season. Peak months for Wahoo and Yellowfin tuna around nearby Caño Island are from June to November and Mahi Mahi has its peak season from September to November. 

Although heavy storms can affect visibility underwater, some of Costa Rica’s best dive sites are only accessible during the rainy season. And if you plan on getting your scuba diving certification, rainy season is a great time to do it since it is also cheaper in most places.

Our Costa Ballena region of Costa Rica has consistent waves year-round at a few different beaches. Though the rainy season generally offers stronger wind and rain — it also brings with it the biggest waves. The South Pacific beaches of Dominical, Hermosa and Chaman get large southern swells during the majority of the rainy season. And the beach lovers can enjoy a quieter beach experience with less tourists in this season.

If you like to play rough and dirty instead, off-road ATV adventures during the rainy season are extra exciting! Splashing through puddings and cutting through knee deep rivers to get to an intensely flowing waterfall can be an exhilarating trip for the thrill seeker in the family.

Cheaper prices

If you’re planning on traveling in Costa Rica on a budget, rainy season is definitely the best time to visit. Hotels and home stays in Costa Rica normally have three different seasonal rates: low, high and peak. Low is rainy season and the best time for the budget-minded to take advantage of less traffic and lower prices.

Car rental rates are significantly lower during the rainy season. Lodging prices during this season are usually 10-40 percent cheaper, and many hotels offer deeper discounts for residents (that includes expats with residency) to encourage local travel during the low months. Though tour prices generally remain the same, the lower volume of travelers makes it easier to negotiate deals.

Time to take in culinary delights

During a northern winter, one of the best things to do is to sit down to a nice, rich meal in a warm environment. Most of the restaurants in the Southern Zone are open-air, so in that warm freshness of the rainy season in Costa Rica, one of the best things to do is to savor some exceptional traditional soups that are well suited for a rainy day. Olla de carne, creama de pejibaye, sopa negra, sopa de mariscos and rondón are just a few traditional Costa Rican soups that will warm your heart and excite your palate.

Ojochal is still claiming its title of Culinary Capital of Costa Rica, with long time favorites and newcomers continuing to inspire diners and each other with the gifts of international flavors and sensational multicultural ambiance. In recent years, Uvita and Dominical have started bringing a whole new set of gastronomical experiences to our Costa Ballena region. From wine bars to sushi bars, it really feels now like we’ve got it all.

Craft beer culture in Costa Rica is unsurprisingly gaining a strong local following. Places like Fuego Brew Co have a delightful array of ales, as well as a full menu of delicious treats and a warm polished wood ambiance to accompany your artfully decorated flight of beers.

Culture trips

Been dreaming about visiting galleries and museums or going on a shopping trip? The rainy season is a great time to visit the capital for some culture in Costa Rica! San Jose is a comfortable twenty minute flight from Quepos or Palmar Sur, both of which are within an hour’s drive of the Costa Ballena. Uber around the city and visit the National Theatre, the National Art Gallery, the Gold and Jade Museums, and go shopping at the Multiplaza in Escazu. Walmart, Price Mart, and all of the art, furniture, bedding, linens, tools and more can be found in San Jose. Enjoy a day of shopping, have a delicious meal at a high-end restaurant and go out to see a movie or a musical performance in the evening.

Spa treatments

Treat yourself, indulge, and make your rainy day extra relaxing by getting a spa treatment. There is no better time for a spa day than a rainy day and our Costa Ballena region has world-class spas and treatments. There are plenty of options to get a great massage, volcanic mud mask, a blue clay mask or a soothing body scrub at a number of world-class hotels. Try Kura Design Villas or Oxygen Spa for a day of deluxe treatments.

Peaceful relaxation

Rain is one of the most used sounds for aiding in rejuvenating rest and relaxation. The color green, which surrounds us everywhere in Costa Rica, makes people feel refreshed and calm. This makes the rainy season in Costa Rica an easy recipe for deep decompression.

The slow, whooshing sound of rain is naturally calming. Lay back and listing to the sounds of the rain on the roof, or the stream nearby flowing more strongly and the waves crashing in the distance. These are all sounds that stimulate relaxation and sleep, perfect for reading, journaling and napping.

Explore your spirituality

If you prefer to be more active during the rainy season in Costa Rica, submit yourself to a full day of yoga in peacefulness and tranquility. Meditate while listening to the rain and focus on the soothing sound to reach deeper levels in your practice. Indulge in a ritual: light a candle, bring an offering, and be present in the moment to get closer in touch with your intuition.

Added thoughts for the rainy season in Costa Rica

  • From May to November in the Costa Ballena, it is generally sunny and dry in the morning and rainy in the late afternoon and at night.
  • It is a good idea to schedule all activities in the morning or early afternoon if you fear cancellation due to inclement weather.
  • Driving can be less safe during heavy rains because of diminished visibility and potential for hydroplaning, so it’s best to plan to be home before the rain begins.
  • Keep bug repellant on you as there tends to be more biters in the rainy season.
  • Mid-July has what Costa Ricans call “little summer.” For around two weeks, the weather tends to dry up, there are clear blue skies and little humidity. This makes July a slightly more popular month to visit Costa Rica.

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