Last updated on July 23rd, 2020 at 08:13 pm EST
Pictured above (left to right): An empty hanging bridge on a rainy day at the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park; an empty hotel and hot springs at the Tabacon Resort; a wet and empty trail in the Arenal Volcano National Park
Some of the information in this article about traveling to Costa Rica in May can also be found in our related blog post:
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Is May a good time to go to Costa Rica?
The answer to this question depends on what you’re looking to get out of your travel experience, where in Costa Rica you’re headed, what you want to see and do while here, how much money you’re willing to spend, and several other factors. We compiled the information below to help you decide whether you should or shouldn’t go to Costa Rica in May, which is part of Costa Rica’s “low season” (click here to learn more about Costa Rica’s high and low travel seasons), according to your own interests, wants, needs, and vacation priorities.
Planning to visit Costa Rica during a different month? Don’t miss our related blog posts:
Costa Rica in January / Costa Rica in February / Costa Rica in March / Costa Rica in April / Costa Rica in June / Costa Rica in July / Costa Rica in August / Costa Rica in September / Costa Rica in October / Costa Rica in November / Costa Rica in December
Special events and celebrations in May
May is a fairly low-key month in terms of Costa Rican celebrations. There aren’t many significant events or holidays that take place in Costa Rica in May that are worth planning your trip around.
Noteworthy wildlife / marine life sightings in May
If you’re coming to Costa Rica to see a particular species of wildlife or marine life, consider the following benefits to visiting Costa Rica in May:
- Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Ostional (the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge) hosts olive ridley sea turtles nesting on Playa Ostional in May (best seen between May and December, ideally between August and December).
- Parque Nacional Tortuguero (the Tortuguero National Park) hosts olive ridley sea turtles, leatherback sea turtles, loggerhead sea turtles, and green sea turtles nesting on Playa Tortuguero in May (best seen between March and October).
- Islas Murcielago (the Bat Islands, also known as “The Bats”) hosts bull sharks in May (best seen between May and November).
- Isla del Coco (Cocos Island) hosts sharks and whales in May (best seen between May and December).
- Islas Catalina (the Catalina Islands, also known as “The Cats”) hosts giant manta rays in May (best seen between November and May).
- Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Mixto Cano Negro (the Cano Negro Mixed Wildlife Refuge) hosts resident bird species in May (best seen between May and December).
- Parque Nacional Palo Verde (the Palo Verde National Park) hosts resident bird species in May (best seen between May and December).
Interested in Costa Rican wildlife? Don’t miss the photos in our related blog post:
Costs in May
On average countrywide, the least expensive time to travel to Costa Rica is during the low season, especially during months that fall outside of the shoulder sub-season (July and August), including May. This is when accommodation prices and car rental rates are at their lowest (note that prices for tours / activities, shared and private transportation services, and food tend to remain the same year-round).
Weather in May
Costa Rica’s least favorable weather is experienced during the low season, which spans May. During this time, most of the country experiences Costa Rica’s green / wet / rain season, which is considered Costa Rica’s winter season. Even though you’re most likely to encounter fewer periods of sunshine and above-average periods of rain if you visit during May compared to dry / summer season months (mid-December to April), there’s still plenty of great weather to be had. It’s also worth noting that the first few months of Costa Rica’s green / wet / rain season (May and June) typically receive more sunshine and less rain than the last few months of the green / wet / rain season (September, October, and November), so if you plan to visit Costa Rica during the off-season, May offers some of the best non-dry season weather you can get.
Views in May
Cloud cover and sporadic rain is experienced in Costa Rica during the month of May. This weather can affect otherwise beautiful views captured during adventure and nature tours, atop volcano craters, and at several miradors (viewpoints) around the country.
Landscape in May
May marks the start of Costa Rica’s green / wet / rain season, which means you’re most likely to witness the country lush and green when you visit. However, if the green / wet / rain season begins later than normal (such as in late May or early June) during the year you visit, or if you come to Costa Rica early in May, it’s possible that parts of the driest areas of the country (mainly the Northern Pacific / Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula) may still appear dry and brown. It can take several weeks of sporadic rainfall for Costa Rica’s dry forests to gain their leafy green look while the majority of the country transitions from the dry / summer season to the green / wet / rain season. If you don’t want to experience Costa Rica when it’s dry and brown, visit between the end of May and mid-December.
Road conditions in May
In general, Costa Rica’s roads conditions are average during May. Though driving at anytime during Costa Rica’s green / wet / rain season comes with its challenges, including occasional road delays or closures due to landslides, river crossings, and bumpy roads dotted with potholes, the roads aren’t as bad as they can be at the end of the season (October and November). Since rain is a common occurrence during the green / wet/ rain season, if it has rained recently where you plan to travel, you may find that unpaved roads comprised of dirt and dust have turned to mud or become lined with ruts. Having a 4×4 vehicle is a good idea—if not a requirement, depending on which highways and roads you’ll be covering—if you plan to drive around Costa Rica in May.
Plan to drive yourself around Costa Rica? Learn what to expect from each road and highway by reading our related blog posts:
Water levels in May
Costa Rica experiences an average amount of rainfall during May, which means water levels around the country are sometimes high. This also means that waterfalls (for swimming in and canyoning beside) may be powerful, white-water rafting excursions may be intense, and other water-related activities (such as kayaking tours and boat tours) may require tour modifications during the month that you visit. Though tour and activity cancellations resulting from dangerous water levels are more likely to occur in October and November, they may also occur in May.
Terrain in May
Hike conditions tend to be average during May but rainfall throughout the month can produce muddy and debris-filled trails. Though uncommon during May, you may also encounter trail closures due to landslides, floods, or fallen trees.
Tourism in May
Countrywide, tourism in Costa Rica is low and muted during May. If you plan to visit during this month, you can expect smaller group sizes for organized tours; below-average numbers of hikers on popular nature trails, guests in hotels, and diners in restaurants; fewer occupants in transportation vehicles (i.e., shared shuttle services, domestic flights, water taxis, ferries, and local buses); and lower levels of noise.
Atmosphere in May
Characteristic of Costa Rica’s low season, the month of May gives off a laid-back vibe that thrives among the absence of crowds.
Closures in May
Since May sits neatly between Costa Rica’s high season, which ends in April, and Costa Rica’s shoulder season, which typically begins in July if not the end of June, the majority of tourism businesses don’t bother temporarily closing, reducing their hours of operation, or renovating during the month. This is great news because it means that most of the hotels, tour companies, and/or restaurants you wish to experience in Costa Rica will be available to you during your May visit.
Cruises in May
Costa Rica’s cruise season typically runs from October to March each year. Because cruises rarely dock in Costa Rica during May, tourism is practically non-existent in port towns like Puntarenas (on the Pacific coast) and Limon (on the Caribbean coast) during the month.
Availability for accommodations in May
Most Costa Rica hotels don’t sell out during the month of May, which means room availability is typically easy to come by.
Wondering when you should book Costa Rica trip items to not lose out on availability? Don’t miss our related blog post:
Availability for tours / activities in May
Spaces for most Costa Rica tours / activities don’t sell out during the month of May. If you’re interested in booking preferred tour times and/or tour guides though, it’s a good idea to reserve tours / activities once you’ve selected them. If you’re a single traveler visiting Costa Rica in May, you may find it tough to participate in some tours / activities as many tour operators have a minimum two-person requirement. Since May receives fewer visitors than most other times of the year, it can be tough to find other people to participate in guided tours with during the low-season month.
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Availability for transportation services in May
Most Costa Rica transportation services (including shared shuttle services, private transfer services, domestic flights, water taxis, and ferries) don’t sell out during May. If you’re interested in booking preferred departure times and/or routes though, it’s a good idea to reserve transportation services once you’ve selected them. Some transportation service providers (such as shared shuttle service providers and domestic airlines) reduce the number of services they offer during low-season months, including May, so there may be fewer departure times available for you to choose from.
Need help deciding which transportation services to use in Costa Rica? Check out our related blog post:
Availability for rental cars in May
Most Costa Rica car rental agencies don’t sell out of vehicles during May. 4×4 vehicles are the first to go, however. Since it’s recommended to navigate many of Costa Rica’s roads in May with a 4×4 vehicle, it’s a good idea to secure a rental car of this type as soon as you decide on it.
Have you booked your Costa Rica hotels, transportation services, or car rental yet? If not, don’t miss the free discount codes we offer for these items:
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you been to Costa Rica in May? What did you experience?