One of the real attractions of Costa Rica is the weather. Throughout the country you’ll find that temperatures vary relatively little from January to July. This is true whether you’re in the central valley, in the mountains or along the coast.

For starters let’s compare San Jose to a place we have all heard of (and I lived in for a few months). I’m talking about the 2nd City, the Windy City, Chi Town… Chicago, Illinois!

I suppose that the most obvious thing about the above chart is just how much COLDER it gets in Chicago. Well, YEAH! But also notice how in July the average high temperature in Chicago is actually HIGHER that in San Jose, CR. How can that be? Well, without laying any math on you (as if I could) it’s due to two things.

Firstly, due to the difference in latitude, Chicago actually receives more sun in July than San Jose does. Although the sun is not as intense at Chicago’s latitude, days last a lot longer there than in Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, there is only about a half hour difference between the longest day and the shortest day.

The longest day in San Jose is less than 12 and a half hours, while the longest day in Chicago is 15 plus hours. The shortest day is about 9 and a quarter hours. So by doing a little math (sorry) you can see that the days vary by about 6 hours in Chicago but less than a half hour in Costa Rica. So it’s no surprise that the temperature range in Costa Rica is less variable than locations in North America. Even Miami is more variable than San Jose.

Now let’s take a look at somewhere closer in latitude than Chicago, that is, Miami. Once again, both highs and lows in Miami exceed those in San Jose. The reason Miami gets much hotter in summer is due to its altitude of over 3000 ft.  One of the little tidbits I picked up in my physical geography class was that all other things being equal, every thousand feet in altitude you climb you lose about 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Since San Jose is more than 3000 ft. in elevation, San Jose is about 10 degrees cooler than the coastal areas of Costa Rica (yes, there are more than one!).

Everybody who lives in Costa Rica knows that the beach is warmer than the mountains, though some can’t tell you why, not having the benefit of one whole course in physical geography. I suppose I should mention rain before I wrap this up. Costa Rica is more or less divided in the middle by a range or mountains. The part of the country that is east of the divide gets more rain than the western part, which doesn’t get much rain from around the first of December to the first of May. I won’t bother to try to explain why other than to say it has something to do with air currents (or something).

As I stated before and as can be seen by the climate chart, the temperature doesn’t vary much from one season to the next. So if you prefer a warm climate, you can find places that seldom dip much below 75F, and if you prefer cool, you only have to head to higher ground where, if you go high enough, you can find a place where you’ll need a ski jacket year round. These places are very few, but they do exist. I can testify to it.

In my own particular case,I live in the Monte Cielo Gated Community in Puntarenas, in the hills above Pacific near Jaco. I have a beautiful ocean view, a pleasant warm climate but with nice breezes and cooler than the lowlands below.  At the moment, I wouldn’t change the temperature even if I could. Pura vida!


Phil Taylor, retired building contractor from Chicago Illinois. Phil lives with his wife of 35 years, two mongrel dogs they adopted locally and a parrot named Socrates. Phil enjoys working on his tree house and writing about his adopted country.

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