May officially kicks off Costa Rica's rainy season. But calling it the "green" season isn't some clever marketing ploy—the nation really is that much more beautiful, what with the rain revitalizing its world-famous flora. It's true that regular showers might put a damper on your beach activities or certain mountain excursions (especially if you're planning on visiting Monteverde, Manuel Antonio National Park, Arenal, or much of the Caribbean coast).
That said, the dry season might carry over a little bit into May—so if you plan your trip toward the beginning of the month, you might get less rain and highs could remain in the mid-80s Fahrenheit (as opposed to the high 70s average during the later months of the green season).
Crowds & Costs
With spring break and Easter over, many of the vacationing crowds have gone home by May. This is when the hotel prices start dropping, and you can expect to find savings of up to 50% depending on where you go. You'll likely be able to take advantage of cheaper airfares during this time period as well.
For more on visiting Costa Rica in the rainy season, check out this article.
Where to Go
Visiting Costa Rica in May is a great excuse to see the more popular destinations without the tourist hoards. Monteverde and Arenal are good examples of places that will be less hectic, although these highland areas get more precipitation, so there's even more of a chance of heavy rains.
Another spot worth visiting during this time is Tenorio National Park, particularly the Río Celeste. The ethereal blue waters here are the stuff of dreams—the old story goes the Río Celeste got its color when God dipped his brush in the water while he was painting the sky. For this reason, it's one of the most popular tourist destinations in the entire country. Any other month you'd be shoulder-to-shoulder with the crowds, but in May you should find it refreshingly sparse in terms of visitors. So come and enjoy the hiking trails leading all the way to its unforgettable 295-foot waterfall.
What to Do
If you are interested in visiting Costa Rica's beautiful rivers (such as the Río Celeste mentioned above), then consider a rafting trip. The river levels in Costa Rica are higher during the green season, which makes for even better whitewater rafting conditions than at other times of the year. Some of the best rafting rivers include the Pacuare, Sarapiquí, Balsa, and Savegre. And if you do visit Tenorio National Park, consider a tubing trip down the Río Celeste. It's the best way to experience those electric blue waters.
If you want to maximize your chances of sun and sand during your May trip, you'll visit the Pacific coast of Guanacaste Province, particularly the Nicoya Peninsula. The tropical dry forest of this region is just beginning to bloom with the new rains, yet there is still a good chance of sun here, as the climate doesn't fluctuate that much throughout the year. So consider planning a surf trip up and down the coast, hitting places like Playa Hermosa, Tamarindo, and Playa Avellanas.
Events in May
Labor Day. Costa Rica's Labor Day kicks off May 1st. Most locals have the day off work and celebrations include fireworks, parades and a speech by the president.
Corpus Christi Day. This national holiday occurs on May 29th every year. Expect festivals in many cities and towns.
Traveling to Costa Rica in May? Check out these great itineraries.
Guanacaste from Liberia. This five-day beach getaway takes you to the heart of Guanacaste Province, in northwestern Costa Rica, which stays sunny during the green season. You'll have plenty of time to relax and soak up the unique landscapes and beaches of the region, with just the right amount of adventure thrown in.
Family Fun on the Caribbean Coast. Get out and explore Costa Rica's capital city before making your way towards the southern Caribbean Coast, which is likely to remain warm and sunny this month. From river rafting on the Río Pacuare—ideal in May—to pristine beaches, this weeklong itinerary is created for families who want to experience Costa Rica's splendid scenery, wildlife, and distinctly laid-back culture.