October is a hit or miss month for Costa Rica. The southern Pacific swells become less frequent and the northern swells have not kicked in yet. It’s also the rainiest month of year, with showers that can last up to 18 hours straight. The rivers flow out into the break the color of cafe con leche, bringing with it a sure case of an ear or stomach infection. So if you’re headed down during this month, here are some tips.
First, the farther north you go, the less rainy it is. Yes, it will still rain most every day, but the showers do not last as long and there are less storms in the morning hours. Conversely, the morning showers in the southern zone (from Quepos south) mess with the early offshore breezes, taking away the dawn patrol glass sessions. What’s more important are the tides, beachbreaks often work best at midtide going towards high tide.
Second, prepare to walk around in the rain by bringing things that dry quickly and take ziploc bags for your electronics and medicines. One trick I learned is to make a 50-50 mix of hydrogen peroxide and white vinegar and pour a little bit in your ears after each surf session to lessen the chance of ear infections. Make sure your footwear has good traction in muddy conditions. Break out the repellent at dawn and dusk when the mosquitos are at their worst. And during the midday hours, apply the sunblock. Even if it’s cloudy, you’re still only 9 degrees north of the equator, and who likes being burned to a crisp on their vacation.
Third, think vehicle safety. When you get your rental, check the tire tread, the defrost, the spare tire and jack, and the window washer fluid. (On one trip to Pavones, the rental was missing the jack and I didn’t know it unitl 10 p.m. when I tried to fix a flat tire) Drive slower since many rain puddles hide deep potholes. Many streams that are passable in the dry season also morph into raging currents during a heavy shower. And don’t get lax on leaving your things in the vehicle so they won’t get wet bringing them to your room. There are thefts from vehicles ALL year round.
These tips make it sound like going to Costa Rica in October is not a good idea. That is what the majority of tourists think, and therefore it’s a great time to go – to avoid the crowds! A lot of hotels and surf camps have rainy season specials to fill rooms, so ask for them when inquiring about rates. While you’re down there, check out Carnival on the Caribbean Coast, with lots of dancing, parades, drinking, and reggae / soca / calypso music. And the local Boruca tribe celebrates el Festival de los Diablos at the end of October, a tradition going back hundreds of years to when the tribesmen made masks to disguise the leader when the Spaniards first came as conquistadors.