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Travel Advice
December in Costa Rica - Coffee Picking

December in Costa Rica, as green and beautiful as can be. It is the end of the rainy season and a time when hotels are empty and offer discounts. But towards the end of the month, this changes radically.


December in Costa Rica is the end of the rainy season and the whole country is as green as can be. However, it is important to start this by saying that it is very different to travel at the beginning of December, than at the end of December.

Costa Rica in December, and in the Central Valley and the Pacific regions and coastline is a bit windy, usually very sunny with spells of freshness in the upper areas of the country.


On the Northern area and the Caribbean, it is as rainy and luscious as it can be. The rest of Costa Rica is dry and sunny.


As we are in the tropics, December in Costa Rica can be chilly in the higher elevations and deserves to have a light jacket if you are visiting San José.

In December in the mountains and the Central Valley, the temperature may fall 2 or 3 degrees (Celsius).


December in Costa Rica by regions:

Caribbean: Rainy Season

Arenal: Rainy Season

Rio Celeste: Rainy Season

North Pacific: Dry Season

Monteverde: Dry Season yet very windy and it might rain.

Central Pacific: Dry Season

Central Valley: Dry Season

South Pacific: Dry Season

Talamanca Mountain Range

Mostly dry season.

December in Costa Rica - Yearly Calendar

Diverse Climates:

In Costa, Rica climate varies according to several factors like height, rainfall, location, etc.

On the coast and in lower regions, the weather is hot and humid. Except for the North Pacific area where you will find drier weather. At least for some months and this helps to have great wildlife sightings.


December in Costa Rica for your vacations

December in Costa Rica - Manuel Antonio


Early December, usually before Christmas, is virtually empty, as green as can be and not rare to find great discounts on airlines as much as in itineraries, and hotels.

This changes radically by the last week.

Late December, as well as Easter week, are known as the peak season. 

By October, about 90% of the accommodations for the last week of the year, are already taken. It is vacationing time for all Latin America (including Costa Rica) and the beginning of every year’s escape from the cold.

December in Costa Rica - Casa Corcovado
December in Costa Rica – Casa Corcovado

Accommodations have higher peak season rates (20% to 50% over the high season) during the last week of the year (Sometimes extending to the first weekend of the following year. A lot of hotels and resorts have obligatory parties and dinners on Christmas and New Year’s Eves.  (Generally $50 to $100 per person).

In some hotels, you will find that minimum stays are also required. From three to seven nights.

Reservations as far as one year before the traveling date are heavily recommended.

Where to go if I don’t have reservations for December in Costa Rica?

If you decide to come in this time of year and found that it is already too late,  know that there are areas that are not as known however magnificent like the South Pacific (Especifically Golfo Dulce hotels), mountain resorts like Altagracia, and breathtaking destinations like Turrialba that are off the beaten track.

December in Costa Rica - Hacienda Altagracia
December in Costa Rica – Hacienda Altagracia

Another great option is to go for a regular hotel in San José, Liberia or similar towns and use it as a hub doing one-day excursions.

December in Costa Rica - Cruiseships Cruises in December in Costa Rica

Cruises arriving in the Central Pacific on the following dates of December: 3,4,5,6,7,8,11,13, 15 23, 26, 27 and 29.

On these dates, the Central Pacific may have an increase in the visiting groups of the popular attractions.

Places that might be affected during these days:

All of the Jaco area, Tarcoles River safaris, aerial tram of the Pacific, the Carara National Park.

In Monteverde, cruise groups arrive in the morning and leave before 2 p.m. and affect:  Selvatura and Sky Adventure Parks. Sometimes also the Monteverde Reserve, the Frog Pond, and the Coffee and Cultural tours.

In the popular places during December:

Manuel Antonio and Monteverde Reserve  may have long lines at the entrance of the National Park

In Tortuguero, there may be some waiting time on the boat for the National Park canals tours.

Costa Ricans daily life, holidays and traditions:

December in Costa Rica - Horse parade
By Gutis1979 [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons
Schools and universities are in their summer vacations. Therefore, you will find many Costa Ricans on the beaches and National Parks. And it’s not a good time to visit schools.

  • National Children Hospital Christmas Tree Celebrations: On the first week of December, the traditions begin with the lighting of the gigantic Christmas tree  22,000 light bulbs.
  • Festival de la Luz  Taking place in San José downtown, the festival takes a whole day, although it gives a starting point to the Christmas celebrations in the capital city.
  • Fiesta de la Yeguita  It happens in Nicoya city central park with a procession to the Virgin of Guadalupe. During this time you will see bullfights, food, and concerts.
  • Christmas Holidays- During Christmas Eve and Day and the week after December 25, all of Costa Rica erupts in celebrations with fireworks.
  • Misa de Gallo— This isn’t exactly a celebration. It’s the midnight mass that happens on Christmas Eve. It is called “Misa de Gallo” (Rooster mass) as roosters start calling at the time the mass starts.
  • Fiestas de Zapote  A big street fair with carrousels, traditional food, music, dancing, and Toros a la Tica (bullfights Costa Rican style – No bloodshed).
  • El tope de San Jose. The horse parade of San Jose  Happening on December 26th, anyone in Costa Rica that has a nice horse goes to this parade. The best horses of Costa Rica meet on this date. A day for politicians to show off and Costa Rican to celebrate their unavoidable love for the culture and old-time traditions of the country.

(Horse parades are quite big in Costa Rica. The first ones happened when the San Jose cathedral was restored after an earthquake and materials were collected and sent from all regions of the country. These materials were welcomed by the people of San Jose who would escort the oxcarts, wood, and stones to the church with their finest horses. And that is as well why is called “tope”, coming from the verb “topar” that means to bump into or to meet. )

Christmas Food

December in Costa Rica Tamales

In this time of year, Costa Ricans eat tamales. A local version of the Mexican corn tamale.

It is made with mashed potato and corn mixed with pork fat and stuffed with some pork, rice, carrots, sometimes an olive, a dry prune, and sweet pepper. It is wrapped in smoked banana leaves and boiled for several hours. Usually, families join together to make tamales for a day or two.

Wildlife Sightings in December:


In this time of year, the 252 seasonal bird species are relishing in the Costa Rica sunny weather and profusion of food. A lot of resident and attractive migratory species can be seen at this time of the year, some examples below:

Parrots: Scarlet Macaw is the biggest parrot in the world. Observable at Jaco, Osa Peninsula, Manuel Antonio, Carara National Park, and Corcovado National Park.

Resplendent Quetzal: Hard to see in this time of year but worth trying to spot. Observable in Monteverde and Savegre as other high areas of the mountain ranges.

Hummingbirds: Over 50 species of hummingbirds are found in Costa Rica, they have a very distinctive appearance and way to fly as well.

Toucans: Six species are found in Costa Rica. Keel-billed toucans are commonly seen on the Caribbean side and both Keel and Black Mandibuled together. The Emerald Toucanet is seen up in a high elevated land like Monteverde. The yellow Eared Toucanet is very hard to spot.

December in Costa Rica - Sea TurtlesTurtles:

December is not the month to see turtles on either coast. However, Pacific Green Sea Turtles and Leatherback are a possibility in the North and South Pacific beaches.

Leatherback Sea Turtles

Nesting: Some

Hatchlings: Some

Pacific Coast

Pacific Green Sea Turtles

Nesting: Some

Hatchlings: Some

Pacific Coast

Olive Ridley Sea Turtles

Nesting: Some

Hatchlings: Some

On all of the Pacific Coast


December in Costa Rica WhalesWhales:

North Atlantic humpback whales – Dec to March

California humpback whales – Dec to April


Places where you may see whales in Costa Rica:

Tamarindo Beach and surroundings

Santa Teresa, Malpais, and Tambor

Nicoya Gulf

South Pacific Region:

Isla del Caño

Drake Bay

Golfo Dulce

Dominical (Parque Marino Ballena)


Bottlenose and Spotted Dolphins are visible all year round.

Common or Spinner Dolphin, is visible from December to March.

Best places to go dolphin watching:

North Pacific:

Tamarindo Beach and surroundings

Santa Teresa, Malpais, and Tambor

Nicoya Gulf


Limon and South Caribbean

In the North Caribbean Tortuguero Canals, they may be visible although it is rare.

South Pacific Region:

Drake Bay

Golfo Dulce

Dominical (Parque Marino Ballena)


December in Costa Rica - Ripe coffee beans

The coffee picking is at its best. It is a great time for coffee tours.

You will find the usual tropical fruits throughout the year: Banana, pineapple, and papaya. Oranges may not be as sweet as well as tangerines.

You will also find soursop, avocados, plantains, watermelons, and kiwis.


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