Is July a good month to visit Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is a destination worth visiting all year round. Yet, what happens if you visit the country in July, halfway through the rainy season? Here’s what should you expect from the weather if you visit Costa Rica in July.

If you visit Costa Rica in July expect manageable temperatures. Anywhere between 31 to 20 degrees (Celsius). If you are from Europe this is far better than most countries back home which usually experience severe heatwaves in July & August. Despite the manageable temperatures, Cota Rica will feel much more humid than most places in Europe. If you can handle the humidity, then you will be fine.

Also, expect far cloudier days than you will ever experience during the Costa Rican summer. Saying this though there will be enough sunny days, so don’t worry, you will still get a tan by the end of your stay in the country. At least, I did.

When I first arrived in Costa Rica my weather app forecasted rain every single day. Yet, it does not actually rain every single day and when it does it is usually in the afternoon and evening. The thunderstorms I experienced in Costa Rica in July were pretty average.

You will experience thunder and lightning, but nothing out of the ordinary. Remember that even if July is part of the rainy season, it is not the wettest month. The wettest month is November when Costa Ricans expect far more rain than it falls in July.

Is July a good month to visit the capital (San Jose)?

As I already said July is officially part of the rainy season in Costa Rica. Although the weather forecast can predict rain every day (as it did for most of the time I was in San Jose, it does not actually rain every day). 

While I stayed in San Jose I experienced both light and heavier rain. On a day when it barely rains, the locals don’t even use umbrellas and the temperature is still around 25 degrees Celsius.

Also, expect cloudy skies and some wind while in San Jose. The humidity is still high in the capital, yet bearable for someone who lived most of her life in Europe.

Tips on travelling to San Jose from the airport

If you arrive in Costa Rica by plane, I have some advice I received from locals:

  • If you can, avoid withdrawing money from the ATM inside the airport. Both my  B&B host and the local taxi driver told me they charge higher fees than the regular ATMs in San Jose.
  • If you can, book an Uber. It’s much less than an official taxi will ask for. The official taxis are red (you will see them stationed outside the airport). I couldn’t book myself an Uber because unfortunately, I did not have a local sim and the airport wifi wasn’t reaching the outside area. So I ended up paying almost $50 instead of $11 which is how much an Uber would have charged me.
  • Also, note that Uber cars are not allowed inside the airport so you will need to walk outside the airport area and have them pick you up from there. If you ask around, people will guide you to the area where you can pick up your Uber.

Is San Jose worth visiting?

Some of you flying to Costa Rica will arrive in San Jose which is the capital city of this beautiful country. As I was advised, make sure you don’t stay too much in the capital because there isn’t much to see.

After a few days in San Jose, I can confirm that indeed the city is not that big. In fact, it’s quite small compared to other capital cities. This does not mean you cannot stay in San Jose for a few days and visit some of the landmarks.

The main avenue in San Jose is called Paseo Colon/ Avenida 2. This is where you will find the cathedral, the central market, the theatre and some of the museums ( The Jade Museum, Pre-Colombian Gold Museum etc.). Plaza de la Cultura (The Culture Square) is yet another place you want to check out while in San Jose. Plaza de la Cultura is also close to the main avenue.

The city centre is packed with local shops where you can find everything from clothes to food, toys, make-up, beauty products etc.

The streets are indeed animated and full of people who advertise their products the best they can. They will try to make you buy no matter what. You don’t get to see this kind of selling in Europe anymore. 

People here would shout, play music, and put on a whole show just to make you enter their shops and eventually buy something. Some of them even have microphones so you can hear them from afar. Out of all the things I saw in San Jose, this was something I really found entertaining and unique to this place.

Another place worth visiting which is on the outskirts of San Jose is El Parque La Sabana. It’s easy to reach if you stay in the city centre. I was told that La Sabana was built to replace the old airport which has now been moved further away from the city. It’s quite a nice place as you get to see local trees and birds. Locals use the park to walk their dogs and exercise.

While in San Jose make sure you add to your list Spirogyra Butterfly Garden and the National Museum of Costa Rica. You can easily visit both places in half a day. Butterfly Gardens are quite common in Costa Rica, yet I chose to visit the one in San Jose. Go there early morning and you will have the entire space for yourself.

If you have a limited time to visit Costa Rica I would advise you to stay around 2 perhaps 3 days maximum in San Jose because everything I listed above can easily be covered in 2 to 3 days.

Is San Jose safe for solo female travellers?

A piece of advice I received from locals was to be careful and not go out by myself after 7 pm.

 I was also told that if the street is populated, then that’s a safe place to be.

Something else I was told to do was to walk with my day bag in front and hold on to it.

I did consider advice number 1 & 2. Yet, I let go of advice number 3 since I saw locals wearing their day bags normally and being quite relaxed on the street, minding their own business.

I was also advised against using my phone too much on the street as I might tempt thieves to steal it. I have not used my phone on the street that much because the city is quite easy to navigate if you stay where the touristy places are. Yet, I have used my phone to check locations or get to places and the whole experience went smoothly. I started using my phone more when I saw locals using their phones on the street and being relaxed about it. But I have not exaggerated or been too relaxed about it. 

After a few days of wandering around the city, I realised that San Jose is not as dangerous as it was portrayed. San Jose might not be as good-looking as other places in Costa Rica, but it’s a safe place for solo female travellers to walk around (during the day).

Where it is safe to stay in San Jose?

I booked my first accommodation in San Jose without knowing much about the area. It was later that I found out I was in one of the best areas in terms of safety. If you are wondering where to book your accommodation in San Jose, choose either California or the Escalante neighbourhood as they are considered some of the safest areas in San Jose.

Do not book anything near bus stations since these areas have quite a ghetto vibe even during day time.

Is July a good month to visit the north (La Fortuna)?

Expect more rain in the north than in San Jose. The humidity also feels worse in the north. The rain can be intense so expect muddy trails if you plan on going hiking. I also experienced far cloudier days than in San Jose and by the coast. Yet, the average temperature remains high (it was around 27 degrees Celsius when I was in La Fortuna).

How to get to La Fortuna from San Jose?

You can easily get to La Fortuna from San Jose. You need to head to Terminal 7-10 Bus Station in San Jose and get the bus to La Fortuna. Departure times are available on the website:  https://terminal7-10.com/

You can either buy the ticket with cash from the bus driver or you can use the website above to buy the ticket online. 

The bus journey is almost 5h long and includes toilet stops too.

Which activities are available in La Fortuna?

Below you have a list of the most popular activities in La Fortuna:

Hike to the Arenal Volcano

The hike to the volcano is quite easy. It takes around 40 minutes to complete. Don’t expect to see the crater since most days in July the volcano is covered in fog. I was unlucky and did not manage to see the crater during the hike, but managed to see the volcano from town.

Visit the hanging bridges

The hanging bridges are usually offered as part of the tour. They are also easy to walk on. The path is very well marked and looked after. Just know that it might rain as it happened the day I was there.

Relax in the hot spring

This is indeed the most relaxing bit of the tour. The water is indeed warm and it feels good to relax in the spring after a full day of walking and hiking.

Hike to La Fortuna Waterfall

Some tours offer this activity. Alternatively, I was told you can book an Uber and visit the waterfall by yourself. Go prepared and have your swimming suit on if you plan to swim in the waterfall. 

-Visit the Sloth sanctuary

I have done this activity individually and it was fun to walk around and spot animals in their natural habitat. Obviously, the sloth was the star of the show, but you do spot other animals on the trail.

Visit Rio Celeste (only book this activity if it’s a dry and sunny day. This is more difficult to predict in July in La Fortuna. I was told that if you want to see the blue water the river is famous for it needs to be sunny and clear sky, otherwise you will only see some grey waters).

-There are also activities like Chocolate tours, Canopy, ATV & Jeep tours.

Tip: if you are on a tight budget try and book a tour with as many activities as possible because paying individually for each one of them costs quite a lot. Plus, if you don’t pay with cash, they always make you pay the transaction fee which is quite significant.

Another tip would be to compare the activities they offer before deciding which one you are ready to buy. Look around in town, check with your hotel/hostel and even online on websites like TripAdvisor, Viator etc. I was surprised to sometimes find really good deals online and other times the offers were better on the ground. 

A final tip here would be that if you’ve already been to La Fortuna, you can skip Monteverde because they offer the same type of activities. I would say just choose one of these locations and do all activities in one place because some of them get duplicated. 

From my research, there is much more to do in La Fortuna than in Monteverde. Personally, I skipped Monteverde because it is a bit more difficult to get there (there is no direct public transportation from La Fortuna to Monteverde and the activities offered in Monteverde were way too similar to what I have done in La Fortuna).

Instead of spending more time up north, you could catch a bus to the coast: Tamarindo is popular among tourists, perhaps too much based on what I was told by locals. If you prefer places that are a bit less touristy, I was recommended, Manuel Antonio.

If you come to Costa Rica for nature, I want to let you know that there are national parks everywhere across the country. Whether you head to the coast or up to the north, there will always be some national parks to visit.

Is La Fortuna safe for solo female travellers?

La Fortuna is quite touristy. There are many Europeans, US citizens etc. hanging out until late, having fun all around the town. Thus, La Fortuna is quite animated in the evenings as well as it is during day time. For this reason, Fortuna felt perfectly safe for me (a solo female traveller) to walk around at night and be by myself during day time.

Travelling between locations in Costa Rica

If you plan to travel between several locations in Costa Rica and don’t have access to a car, I have to say that some locations might be harder to reach by public transport, therefore, you will rely on private shuttles which are more expensive. You can still use the local public transport, but that might mean that your journey will take considerably longer and will also involve several bus changes.

For example, the journey from La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio would have meant changing a few public buses, so in the end, I opted for a private shuttle.

Tip: when booking a private shuttle in Costa Rica make sure you ask for several quotes. Try the online ones ( offered by Viator for example) and compare them to the ones you can get on the ground through your hotel or local tour company. This way you will make sure the price you pay is the lowest there is out there.

What to expect from the weather on the coast?

The weather on the coast can be sunnier and less wet than in the north and San Jose. At least this is what I experienced. The temperature can go slightly above 30 degrees Celsius, making it the perfect weather for swimming and sunbathing. The only inconvenience is that it feels even more humid by the coast than it feels in the north or San Jose.

You can also experience sporadic rain (especially in the afternoon/evening). Yet the ocean water was still warm enough for swimming in both locations Manuel Antonio & Jaco.

Manuel Antonio

As I was saying earlier, public transportation in Costa Rica it’s not great. You have good links to and from San Jose. Unfortunately, all other locations across Costa Rica are poorly connected meaning that you will either need to book a private shuttle or change several public buses to get to your destination. Another option is to travel to San Jose and get your desired bus from there since the capital it’s the biggest transport hub in the country.   

Manuel Antonio is an alternative to the noisier and busier Jaco. Yet, make sure you book your accommodation as close as possible to the beach because this coastal town is quite steep. If you are on a budget, you will either need to use the local bus to get to the beach or challenge yourself to go up and down the steep road to enjoy the beach in Manuel Antonio. Note that some portions of the road do not have pavement.

The beach in Manuel Antonio is far more beautiful than the beach in Jaco though. 


Activities in Manuel Antonio

Apart from the usual beach day, you could book yourself a visit to the Manuel Antonio National Park. You can visit the national park by yourself (make sure you reserve the tickets in advance as there is a limit on how many people can get inside the park daily). 

Yet, if you want to see as much wildlife as possible, I would recommend a booked tour. I booked quite a few tours while in Costa Rica and was very happy with the outcome. The tour guide knows where the animals are better than you do. Plus tours are indeed informative. I would have not learnt so much about the wildlife in Costa Rica if it wasn’t for the tour guides.

Jaco

As I mentioned the busier and noisier Jaco, I must say that I got to spend a few nights in this beach town too. To travel from Manuel Antonio to Jaco you have two options: you either use public transportation (which includes changing two buses Manuel Antonio-Quepos and then  Quepos-Jaco) or a private shuttle.

A tip if you book the private shuttle. Make sure you get a few quotes. The private shuttle service I found in Manuel Antonio sent me a quote that was way too expensive. I booked my transfer from Manuel Antonio to Jaco with Easyridecostarica and the price I paid was half of what the 1st company quoted me. 

While Manuel Antonio seems to be preferred by families, Jaco is the perfect beach town for young people. Lot more touristy than Manuel Antonio, Jaco is also easier to walk around. If you don’t mind the party vibe, Jaco can be a good alternative to exploring one more beach town in Costa Rica.

The town has everything you need from supermarkets, drug stores & restaurants to hostels, souvenir shops, bars etc.

The beach does not look as idyllic as the one in Manuel Antonio. You won’t have the blue water or the fine sand. Still, the beach in Jaco is known among surfers and in fact, my first day in Jaco was perfect for those practicing this sport.

Activities in Jaco

Apart from going to the beach, perhaps the most popular activity you can do while in Jaco is to visit La Isla Tortuga. It’s usually a full-day activity and you can easily book it in Jaco or online.

You can also try taking some surf lessons since you are in the perfect place for doing so (as I was saying Jaco Beach is popular among surfers).

Limon

The weather seemed far more humid on the east coast than on the west coast. For sure, it felt far more humid than the weather in San Jose. The temperature remains high, around 30, yet you will experience cloudy days mostly. This does not mean you cannot enjoy Limon and its beaches.

How to travel to Limon from San Jose?

Limon is located on the east coast and while it might not be as popular as Puerto Viejo, it is still worth visiting. Limon is almost 4h away by bus from San Jose. The good part is that there is a direct bus to Limon almost hourly from Gran Terminal del Caribe (San Jose).

You may purchase the ticket at the terminal (you can only pay in cash) or you can buy it online on www.mibus.cr

It might be that the online tickets will end up being a little more expensive because the website does add its fees to the final bus ticket. Yet, if it costs you more to withdraw money, the website is your best option.

When I purchased the bus ticket, I had an issue with one of my cards. I am not sure if that was a one-time error, yet my Master Card was declined while my Visa Card got accepted. You might want to consider this information if you use the website to make a purchase.

What has Limon to offer?

Limon is not big, but it’s packed with shops, supermarkets, restaurants and 3 beaches you can enjoy: Playa Bonita (probably the most beautiful beach in the area, hence the name bonita), Playa Piuta (a rocky beach not everyone enjoys from what I could read online, although I found it quite lovely. It’s in fact a good place to go for a swim if you don’t mind the rocks), and Playa los Banos which seemed deserted when I was there. I am not sure why was that nobody was swimming in that area, but because I found it empty I did not go into the water either.

What I found interesting about Limon is the Jamaican neighbourhood which makes you feel like you are literally in Jamaica. The only thing that reminds you where you really are is the Spanish language you hear on the streets.

Limon did not seem packed with tourists. It actually looked quite overlooked by them. This is something you might enjoy if you try to escape the touristy areas in Costa Rica.

Limon can be a good full-day stop (perhaps 2 if you feel like going window shopping too) on your way to Puerto Viejo. You can obviously travel to Puerto Viejo straight (saying that though you will need to change the bus in Limon to travel further down to Puerto Viejo).

Is the beach in Costa Rica safe for solo female travellers?

The beach towns I visited in Costa Rica were extremely safe. As a solo female traveller, I went alone to the beach and never experienced any incident. I would leave my staff on the beach and go into the water and never had anything stolen from me. Saying that though I would not take most of the stuff with me, only the necessary and would leave the most valuable items in the room.

Cartago

Since Cartago is only half an hour away from the capital, expect the same weather as in San Jose.

How to travel to Cartago from San Jose?

There are 2 ways of getting to Cartago from San Jose. By train and by bus. You are a bit limited by the train service since they are not that frequent and do not run on weekends. Yet, I was told they accept card payments. The bus on the other hand only accepts cash and runs more often, including weekends. 

You can take the train to Cartago from Estacion de Tren Atlantico, San Jose and the bus from Terminal San Jose-Cartago (the bus company which goes to Cartago it’s called Lumaca).

Useful Link:

Train service San Jose-Cartago:  https://incofer.go.cr/transporte-de-personas/ruta-san-jose-cartago/

Bus service San-Jose-Cartago: http://lumaca.cr/

Tip: if you travel on a budget I would advise against staying in Cartago because there are fewer low-budget accommodation options than in San Jose. Perhaps you could stay there for 2 nights, but not more than that.

In my opinion, the cheapest way to visit Cartago is to plan a day trip from San Jose.

What to visit in Cartago?

Although Cartago is quite small, there are a few places you don’t want to miss out. The most important place in Cartago is the ruins located in the heart of the city. Next to it is Plaza Mayor and a bit further away is the local market. The Cartago Municipal Museum can be a good way to wrap up your visit to Cartago.

Final thoughts on whether July is a good month to visit Costa Rica

To sum up, is July a good month to visit Costa Rica? If you can handle the rain, the temperature not going above 30 degrees Celsius, the clouds and fog, then yes, July is a good time to visit Costa Rica.

 As it is low season, there will be more flexibility when booking tours and you can book some of them without any problems even on the day ( I know I did). Also, there will be more availability regarding accommodation options. Costa Rica is not such a cheap country to visit. Yet, during the low season, you might get some good deals on booked tours and extra discounts when booking your accommodation.

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