Last updated on July 23rd, 2020 at 08:10 pm EST
Pictured above (left to right): Dolphin- and whale-watching boats depart from Playa Uvita during the annual Whale and Dolphin Festival; Parade during Independence Day celebrations; Beautiful, sunny weather in the Southern Caribbean (Playa Arrecife)
Some of the information in this article about traveling to Costa Rica in September can also be found in our related blog post:
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Is September 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 September, 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 May / Costa Rica in June / Costa Rica in July / Costa Rica in August / Costa Rica in October / Costa Rica in November / Costa Rica in December
Special events and celebrations in September
If any of the following Costa Rica events interest you, you may want to plan your vacation to Costa Rica in September:
- Dia de la Independencia (Independence Day): This day is celebrated on September 15th each year, though holiday festivities typically begin in the evening on September 14th. It is usually marked by cultural events that take place in cities and towns all over Costa Rica, most notably the country’s capital city: San Jose. To learn more about how Costa Ricans celebrate Independence Day, don’t miss our related blog post Independence Day In Costa Rica.
- Festival de Ballenas y Delfines (What and Dolphin Festival): This dolphin- and whale-watching festival is hosted by the central Pacific community of Uvita, typically over two weekends in September.
- Feria de Pejibaye (Peach Palm Fruit Fair): This food festival typically takes place in the small, inland village of Tucurrique (between Turrialba and Cachi) in October, though it’s sometimes held as early as September or as late as November.
Noteworthy wildlife / marine life sightings in September
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 September:
- Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Ostional (the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge) hosts olive ridley sea turtles nesting on Playa Ostional in September (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 September (best seen between March and October).
- Refugio de Vida Silvestre Camaronal (the Camaronal Wildlife Refuge) hosts olive ridley sea turtles, leatherback sea turtles, and hawksbill sea turtles nesting on Playa Camaronal in September (best seen between June and December).
- Islas Murcielago (the Bat Islands, also known as “The Bats”) hosts bull sharks in September (best seen between May and November).
- Isla del Coco (Cocos Island) hosts sharks and whales in September (best seen between May and December).
- Costa Rica’s Pacific coast hosts humpback whales migrating up from the south in September (best seen between July and October).
- Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Mixto Cano Negro (the Cano Negro Mixed Wildlife Refuge) hosts resident bird species in September (best seen between May and December).
- Parque Nacional Palo Verde (the Palo Verde National Park) hosts resident bird species in September (best seen between May and December).
Interested in Costa Rican wildlife? Don’t miss the photos in our related blog post:
Costs in September
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 September. 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). As an off-season month for travel in general, international flights to/from Costa Rica tend to be fairly priced for visits during September.
Weather in September
With the exception of southern Caribbean destinations, Costa Rica’s least favorable weather is experienced during the low season, which spans September. 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 below-average periods of sunshine and above-average periods of rain if you visit during September, there’s still plenty of great weather to be had. If you want to increase the amount of sunshine you get and decrease the amount of rain you receive, consider vacationing at destinations along Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast (between Limon and Manzanillo). Opposite the weather pattern that the rest of Costa Rica follows, the southern Caribbean receives its best weather during the months of September and October.
Views in September
With the exception of southern Caribbean destinations, cloud cover and sporadic rain is experienced in Costa Rica during the month of September. 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 September
September is part of Costa Rica’s green / wet / rain season, which means you’re most likely to witness the country lush and green (as opposed to dry and brown, in some areas) when you visit.
Road conditions in September
Costa Rica’s roads take a beating during the low season. They’re typically at their worst during October and November following a long green / wet / rain season. Drives in September aren’t as bad as they can be during the following two months, but you may still experience some road closures due to landslides, river crossings, and bumpy roads dotted with potholes. If it has rained recently where you plan to travel, you may also 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 September.
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 September
Costa Rica experiences an average amount of rainfall during September, which means water levels around the country are sometimes high. This 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 September.
Terrain in September
Hike conditions tend to be average during September but rainfall throughout the month can produce muddy and debris-filled trails. Though uncommon during September, you may also encounter trail closures due to landslides, floods, or fallen trees.
Tourism in September
Countrywide, tourism in Costa Rica is low and muted during September. 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 September
Characteristic of Costa Rica’s low season, the month of September gives off a laid-back and somewhat solemn vibe. It’s great to visit during September if you want to feel like you’re traveling off the beaten path, but if you’d rather experience Costa Rica when the country doesn’t feel so empty, vacationing in September should be avoided.
Closures in September
Several tourism businesses close temporarily, reduce their hours of operation, or renovate during the month of September. If you plan to visit Costa Rica during this month, you may want to contact each hotel, tour company, and/or restaurant you wish to experience to make sure they’ll be available to you during your visit.
Cruises in September
Costa Rica’s cruise season typically runs from October to March each year. Because cruises rarely dock in Costa Rica during September, 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 September
Most Costa Rica hotels don’t sell out during the month of September, 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 September
Spaces for most Costa Rica tours / activities don’t sell out during the month of September. 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 September, you may find it tough to participate in some tours / activities as many tour operators have a minimum two-person requirement. Since September 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 September
Most Costa Rica transportation services (including shared shuttle services, private transfer services, domestic flights, water taxis, and ferries) don’t sell out during September. 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 September, 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 September
Most Costa Rica car rental agencies don’t sell out of vehicles during September. 4×4 vehicles are the first to go, however. Since it’s recommended to navigate many of Costa Rica’s roads in September 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.
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QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you been to Costa Rica in September? What did you experience?