The Glorious Green Season
Around the third week in April, the typical blue skies of mid-afternoon made way for clouds, which showered fat raindrops over the Costa Rican landscape. Temperatures cooled. The morning dew on now-green grasses resembled tiny emeralds and the scenery erupted with colorful flowers in bloom. The green, or wet season had come early this year.
In most of Costa Rica, a typical day during the green season (May through mid-November) begins with clear skies and transitions into rain by early afternoon. Thunderstorms are common, occurring at least once weekly, and usually last an hour or two. During the first months of the rainy season, some days may see no rain at all, swapping cloud cover for perpetual blue skies. However, there is no set weather pattern during this period: you may experience morning showers, all-day cloud cover, nighttime storms, or warm, sunny days with not a cloud in the sky. My best advice is to go about your day as usual; just buy a sturdy umbrella or raincoat and take it with you everywhere. (Note: The Caribbean coast is a notable exception, as its weather generally follows the opposite pattern of the Central Valley and Pacific coast: May-October is the Caribbean's drier season.)
New residents are often surprised to hear that I love the rainy season. But it's true -- there are so many advantages to experiencing Costa Rica during its greenest months, starting with the country's physical beauty. During this time, Costa Rica's diverse tropical flora come to life, and even in my mountain town (elevation: 4,000 feet), the rains bring blooming hibiscus, flowering fruit trees, and a veritable explosion of all things vibrant. It's a treat for the senses and one I find myself looking forward to year after year.
Due to cooler temperatures, Costa Ricans often refer to the wet season as the winter (known in Spanish as el invierno). While most North Americans smile at the thought of a tropical winter, your tolerance to temperatures is relative -- after a season of 75-80º F days, 60º F sends me to the closet for oversize sweatshirts and socks. Perhaps it's because I'm from the northeastern USA, but there's just something about balmy, chilly air -- something that makes me feel cozy and happy.
When it's time to venture out from under my cocoon of blankets, I always find this to be an excellent time to travel around Costa Rica. During the rainy season, most hotels offer deep discounts, generally in the neighborhood of 10-40% off their high-season (December-April) rates. There are also fewer crowds, which means you spend more one-on-one time with your naturalist guides, get the best surf waves all to yourself, and have even better opportunities for quiet contemplation in the rainforest. My green season travel style amounts to packing lots of activity into the mornings and doing my best sloth impression in the afternoons -- and booking a spa treatment or dinner reservation for the evenings. The perfect vacation, at a fraction of the normal costs. So don't be dissuaded by a little rain; the green season is the perfect time to revel in Costa Rica's natural splendor!