Costa Rica’s Tropical Climate Will Surprise You

by isvolunteers on Friday, 3 May 2013

Arenal Volcano (Volcán Arenal) in Costa Rica © used with permission by Narelle Webber ISV Program Director

Located approximately nine degrees north of the equator, Costa Rica’s climate is tropical year-round. However, the climate varies depending on elevation and rainfall and it is greatly affected by the country’s geography.

There are numerous cordilleras (mountain ranges) that run through Costa Rica which separate the coastal plains of the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. Within these ranges are over 100 volcanoes, many of which are active. While most ISV participants expect Costa Rica to be hot, what they don’t expect is for it to be cool or even cold at some elevations. In fact, the highest point in Costa Rica is Mt Chirripo which reaches 12,450 ft (3,795 m) above sea level!

Costa Rica’s seasons are defined by how much it rains during a particular period. The year can be easily split into two periods, known to the residents as verano, summer and invierno, winter.

  • Verano is from December to May, and is the time of year when it is less wet (i.e. the ‘dry’ season).  The dry season in Costa Rica is usually hot and humid, but not always sunny.
  • Invierno is the period from May to November, and it rains frequently throughout much of the country during this time.

Note – Costa Rica measures temperature in degrees Celsius.  To accurately convert between Celsius and Fahrenheit:

°F to °C Deduct 32, then multiply by 5,   then divide by 9, E.g. using this   method 70°F is equivalent to 21.1°C.
°C to °F Multiply by 9, then divide by 5,   then add 32, E.g. using this method 33°C is equivalent to 91.4°F.

If you want to make a quick mental conversation and are happy with an approximate measure:

°F to °C Subtract 30 then divide in half, E.g. 70°F is approx. 20°C.
°C to °F Double then add 30, E.g. 33°C is approx. 96°F.


How will the climate affect what you bring to Costa Rica?

Volcán Poás is an active volcano in Costa Rica, not far from San Jose © Narelle Webber, ISV

Participants should definitely refer to the ISV packing list recommendations in the Project Overview and the Costa Rica Participant Travel Manual.  A few special points to note:

  1. Bring Rubber: Some participants will need to have rubber boots (gumboots to Aussies and Kiwis) for their Projects, but please make sure you check this in the Project Overview packing list.  If you have some, bring them along.  If not, you will have an opportunity to buy a pair once you arrive in Costa Rica (note that U.S. size 10 or larger is more difficult to find).
  2. Prepare for getting wet: Your clothes will likely get wet and muddy at times on both your Project and Tour, so think about leaving your best shirt or pants at home! Things take forever to dry, so consider “quick drying” fabrics and leaving behind any leather footwear.
  3. Prepare for heat: You will definitely get a dose of very hot sunshine as well!  Think sunscreen, wide-brimmed hats, and long lightweight pants and shirts to protect you from the sun.
  4. Dress modestly: Costa Rica is a very casual, relaxed, yet modest country; please dress conservatively. Also, avoid bringing any expensive clothing items that could get ruined by the rain or humidity.
  5. Forget something?  Don’t worry: extra clothing, if needed, can be purchased inexpensively at the local markets in nearby towns.

To learn more about ISV’s program in Costa Rica visit our website:

For more pre-departure blog information please use the following link:


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: