Expect plenty of sun in January, as this is Costa Rica's dry season. Not coincidentally, it also happens to be the high tourist season. People come for the great beach weather, but be forewarned—it can get hot. Temps on the tropical dry areas of the Pacific coast often touch the mid-90s Fahrenheit. Exceptions to this include both Monteverde and Arenal in the central highlands—at higher altitude, these areas offer more refreshing temps somewhere in the mid or low-80s.
Crowds & Costs
In January you not only have to contend with foreign tourists but locals on holiday as well. That's because Costa Ricans aren't content merely with Christmas—they like to party throughout January as well. This obviously includes New Years Day, but also the two weeks of the middle of the month that comprise the Palmares Festival (more on this below). Be sure to book your flights and hotels well in advance. You'll be looking at price increases of at least 15% as opposed to the low-season months (May to mid-November).
Where to Go
If you are in Costa Rica on the first of the month, then the capital of San José is the place to be. Ticos love New Years Day, and they party accordingly. The celebration will be one for the books, and it's best experienced in downtown or the Zapote district (southeast of the city center). For more tips on visiting San José, read this article.
If you're in the country during the middle two weeks of the year, you need to make your way to Palmares. Normally a tranquil hillside town northwest of San José, on the second Thursday of every January it becomes the site of the biggest annual party in the whole country. There's epic outdoor concerts, horse parades, lantern processions, soccer games, bullfighting, and a whole lot of beer. It lasts for a staggering two whole weeks, so if you partake, be sure to pace yourself.
Other than that, Costa Rica's weather means most locales in the country are going to make great destinations. If you like tropical beaches and mountainous rainforest, be sure to visit Manuel Antonio National Park. For adventure sports head north to the zip-line tours and suspension bridges of Monteverde. The Guanacaste Province and the Pacific Coast, with its endless surf villages, like Tamarindo and Playa Avellanas, are ideal for both novice and experienced wave riders.
What to Do
You could embark on a combined surfing and yoga excursion on the Nicoya Peninsula. Not only are the aforementioned surf villages great spots to catch waves, but idyllic towns like Nosara offer much in the way of spirituality and wellness. You can also make excursions from the north coast further inland to Monteverde and Arenal.
If the parties get to be too much and you want to get away from the crowds, consider going on a multi-day nature hike in Corcovado National Park, on the southern Pacific Coast. There are exotic animals and birds galore, including jungle cats, monkeys, sloths, tapirs, and even macaws and the resplendent quetzal. It's a nature-lovers paradise and one of the most biologically diverse places on earth.
Events in January
New Years Day. This is the biggest holiday of the month by far. Throughout the country, you'll be treated to fireworks, street parties, live music, dancing, and plenty of good local eats.
Palmares Festival. The second Thursday of the new year kicks off the biggest party of the year. There are all kinds of activities and revelry, and it lasts for two weeks.
Traveling to Costa Rica in January? Check out these great itineraries.
Highlights of Costa Rica. January's warm weather and festive atmosphere make it a great time to see all of the country's major highlights. With this itinerary, you'll discover the best attractions Costa Rica has to offer in just a week, including Monteverde, Arenal, and Manuel Antonio.
Osa Jungle Adventure. Want to escape the holiday crowds? Try the Osa Peninsula. Over half of all animal species in Costa Rica exist here, making this week-long tour one of the best for unique flora and fauna.