November in Costa Rica: Balancing Sunshine and Showers
November in Costa Rica: Embracing the Pre-High Season Vibes
Is November a good time to visit Costa Rica? The answer is yes, and for different reasons. November is a transitional month between the rainy and dry seasons—which gives you the best of both worlds, climate-wise. Our opinion is that November and May (another transitional month) are some of the best months for Costa Rica travel. Crowds are smaller, the countryside is green, and prices are lower. Oh—and the afternoon clouds make for some of the most gorgeous sunsets you'll ever see!
After the heavy rains of September and October, November often feels like a renewal. Oftentimes tourist facilities (hotels, restaurants, etc) and national park trails close in October due to a combination of the weather and lack of tourists. November is when things open up again in anticipation of the coming high season. It feels like a tropical version of springtime, almost. A time to start again.
On this page, we'll outline what to expect in Costa Rica in November to help you ascertain whether this month is a good option for you or not—and we believe it is!
|Avg. Temperature (F)||73|
|Sky Coverage||Partly Cloudy|
|Probability of Precipitation||Medium|
|Daylight Hours||Avg. 11 hrs, 50 min|
|Sunrise and Sunset||5:40 AM - 5:30 PM|
November Weather: A Balance of Sunshine and Showers
Weather in Costa Rica during the month of November is just a balance between sun and rain—a seesaw, if you will. It's an unpredictable month where the rainy season starts to transition into the dry season, so typically (although not always), the end of the month is dryer than the beginning. Oftentimes, any variations from the norm are caused by weather phenomena like El Niño, which may bring an early dry season, or La Niña, which can intensify and prolong the rainy season.
The further north you are, especially along the Pacific coast, the dryer it is. The province of Guanacaste in the northwest of Costa Rica can see the dry season start in early-to-mid November, while the southern Pacific may see regular heavy rains well into December. This means that typically in November, the northern and central Pacific and the Central Valley experience substantial rainfall on some days but maintain a pattern of sunny mornings, with most showers occurring in the afternoon or evening, while the southern Pacific and Osa Peninsula can remain very wet.
The southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, including Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, and Manzanillo, generally experience drier conditions—this is an extension of the October "dry season" on that side of the country, although afternoon showers are common. You expect more afternoon rains on the northern Caribbean coast—around Tortuguero—than further south.
Whatever the time of year, rain or shine, temperatures in Costa Rica don't fluctuate much. Coastal areas during November typically range from the low to mid-80s, with the possibility of reaching the low to mid-90s. Lows generally hover in the low 70s. The Central Valley around San José is some five to ten degrees cooler. Once you reach the high cloud forest destinations like Monteverde, temperatures typically range from the mid-60s to low 70s, and it can get quite cold at night.
|Average Cost of Lodging|
|Budget ($)||$120 - $200|
|Moderate ($$)||$220 - $320|
|Luxury ($$$)||$380 - $500|
Is November a Good Time to Visit Costa Rica? Weighing Up the Pros and Cons
We love Costa Rica in November. We love the longer hours of sunshine after September and November, while still appreciating the unpredictability of the weather. And we love that feeling of the high season being around the corner. But then we live here. We're fully aware that our perspective, living here year-round, is different from someone planning a November visit. Below, we list some pros and cons for anyone thinking of traveling to Costa Rica in November:
Pros of Visiting Costa Rica in November:
- Lower prices. November is the shoulder season in Costa Rica, which means that prices for flights, accommodation, and activities are lower than during the peak season (US Thanksgiving Week being an exception).
- Fewer tourists. November is also a less crowded time to visit Costa Rica, so you can enjoy the country's natural beauty and attractions without the crowds.
- Transitional weather. November is a transitional month in Costa Rica, with the rainy season coming to an end and the dry season beginning. This means you can expect a mix of sunny and rainy days, but the overall rainfall is lower than during the rainy season.
- Lush greenery. The rain from the previous months keeps the country lush and green, making it a beautiful time to visit.
Cons of Visiting Costa Rica in November:
- Unpredictable weather. November is a transitional month, so the weather can be unpredictable. Be prepared for a mix of sunny and rainy days, and pack accordingly. If you seek nothing but sunshine, you should wait a couple of months before visiting Costa Rica.
- Higher humidity. The humidity in Costa Rica is high all year, but it tends to be higher in November due to the transitional weather.
- Road closures. Due to the saturated ground at the end of the rainy season, there may be road closures, especially in remote areas. Be sure to check road conditions before traveling.
- Limited activities/some hotels still closed. Early November in particular, especially in southern Costa Rica may still have limited activities available (national parks closed, white water rafting unavailable) or hotels closed due to the weather. They've been closed since October and will be reopening during November, but exact dates might vary. An expert travel consultant can ensure you're in the right places to avoid this.
Overall, November is a good time to visit Costa Rica. The weather is transitional, but it is still generally sunny and warm. There are fewer tourists and lower prices during this time of year. However, be prepared for occasional rain and unpredictable weather conditions. If you're traveling over the USA Thanksgiving holidays, early booking is recommended.
Nature Unleashed: Wildlife Encounters in November
Truth is, November isn't the best month for wildlife spotting in Costa Rica. It's not totally bereft, but it has complications. Costa Rica is one of the best countries in the world to explore and experience the natural wonders of the world, so you'll certainly see monkeys, sloths, frogs, and birds galore. You might even catch a glimpse of big cats or tapirs in national parks that are still largely free of tourists in this pre-high season time—though this is difficult at any time of year, November included.
But you'll find quetzals hard to spot and many of the migrating birds have yet to arrive. It's the very end of the whale season, and most southern humpbacks are on their way back to the Antarctic. Meanwhile, the northern humpbacks won't be around for another month or so.
The best thing, wildlife-wise, about Costa Rica in November is that it's a great month for turtles. November is one of the best months in the year for turtle nesting on both Pacific and Caribbean coasts. At Playa Ostional near Nosara in Guanacaste, there's still a good chance of catching an arribada (mass nesting) of Olive Ridley turtles in November, while this month also marks the beginning of the leatherback nesting season.
Wave Lovers Unite: Surfing Conditions and Beach Recommendations for November
Although the weather can be unpredictable in November, that doesn't mean you should avoid the beach. You can still expect hot and sunny weather much of the time (in the mornings and early afternoons), and remember: the rains are in the process of abating. Beach lovers and sun seekers needn't worry too much.
For surfers, November is a good month. The best Pacific surfing in Costa Rica runs during the rainy season, catching those storms out in the ocean that provide the swells. November finds itself at the tail-end of this season and the waves are still big, especially in Guanacaste. More experienced surfers should hang out up north or way down south (Dominical and Osa), while less experienced surfers and those seeking lessons should stick to the Central Pacific coast in November. The Caribbean side is not at its best at this time, although it starts to get better going into December.
For anglers, November is also a good month. Those in the know consider November one of the best months of the year for marlin. These offshore game fish are common up and down the entire Pacific coast of Costa Rica to some extent or another in November.
Gearing Up: What to Pack for Costa Rica in November
If you’re wondering what to wear in Costa Rica in November, the answer is easy. Costa Rica has pretty warm weather year-round, so traveling in November is no different, really, from any other month. We're talking shorts and T-shirts for the most part, with flip flops or sandals on your feet. That said, you will see some rain, so a light rain jacket is also essential, especially for activities like hiking. Also, bring some hiking shoes or sneakers that you don't mind getting wet. If you're staying in the Central Valley or the cloud forest highlands, a light sweater or something cozy with long sleeves is also recommended. Always bring sunscreen (you'll need it) and mosquito repellent.
Exploring Culture: November's Festivities and Events in Costa Rica
Culturally, November is quite a quiet month in Costa Rica. There's no big Day of the Dead festivities like you find in Mexico or Guatemala, and the September independence celebrations are way back in the rear view mirror by now. November is all about waking up after the rainy season and gearing up for Christmas. To that end, you'll find stores stocking up with Christmas gear and homes and businesses starting to put their lights on.
One cultural event of note in November is the Costa Rica International Film Festival, held each November in the laid-back beach community of Montezuma on the Nicoya Peninsula.
And then there is Thanksgiving. Now, it's important to note that Costa Rica doesn't celebrate this American festival (although congress voted to make it an official "day" in 2022). But there are a lot of U.S. expats living in Costa Rica, so you'll find plenty of bars and restaurants celebrating Thanksgiving with a big turkey feast.
Safety First: Tips for Navigating November in Costa Rica
When thinking about any possible safety concerns in Costa Rica in November, the main one is really about road safety due to the weather. We're coming out of the rainy season here, the ground is saturated, and road closures due to landslides or flooding can occur. If you're driving around, take care, and heed local advice. This is really only relevant for rural, off-the-beaten-path areas, but is something to be aware of anywhere.
We recommend travel to pretty much anywhere in Costa Rica, but if you're traveling early in the month, you might want to avoid the southern Pacific zone, especially the Osa Peninsula, where things might still be closed from October. Stick to the Central Pacific and north to Guanacaste if you want the better beach weather in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica in November: The Ideal Prelude to the Peak
Costa Rica in November is a great place to be. Sure, there's unpredictability with the weather and you'll get some rain. But you'll also get green, lush landscapes, warm temperatures, pristine national parks, fewer crowds, and better deals. Plus a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, if you're so inclined! It's a perfect way to beat the December rush and get your winter started in the right way. Contact us to experience all the charms of Costa Rica in November.
About the Author
Travel Consultant at Costa Rican Vacations
For Alice, travel is an important experience where you expand your horizons and your love for the world. As a hiker and biker, this trilingual consultant is ready to help you craft your ideal trip to Costa Rica.