Expect plenty of sun in January, as this is start of Costa Rica's dry season. Not coincidentally, it also happens to be the high travel season. It's crowded with both international tourists and locals due to the holidays, including local Tico holidays.
People naturally 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. The Caribbean coast, on the other hand, is still experiencing its rainy season, with often daily showers and temps around the mid-80s.
Monteverde and Arenal, offer the lowest temperatures in January as they are located in the central highlands. Situated at a higher altitude, the more refreshing temps here fall 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; if you have any flexibility, the end of the month would be better in terms of both crowds and costs.
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 Costa Rica during the holidays, read this article.
If you're in the country during the middle two weeks of the month, 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 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 January weather means most locales in the country are ideal for a visit. If you like tropical beaches, visit Manuel Antonio National Park. For adventure sports head to the zip-lines and suspension bridges of Monteverde. The Guanacaste Province and Pacific Coast, with its surf villages, like Tamarindo and Playa Avellanas, are ideal for novice and experienced wave riders. That said, winds can be high this time of year, which is good for surfing but not great for boating excursions.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
You could embark on a combined surfing and yoga excursion around the Nicoya Peninsula. After some spirituality and wellness in the village of Nosara you could travel down the coast to Tamarindo and take advantage of the good Jsnuaray waves. Another option is to make an excursion 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 the Osa Peninsula, 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-lover's 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.