Why Costa Rica Has All The Sunshine You’d Ever Need

March 22nd, 2024
Why Costa Rica Has All The Sunshine You’d Ever Need

It’s a few years ago, and I’m a quarter of the way through a year I’ll spend in Costa Rica - and it looks like there’s something wrong with the sun.

I arrived here after fleeing a bitter English February, and the temperature was something of a shock. A lovely one, certainly, and one I was enjoying getting used to. But virtually every day so far, it was blazing sunshine, the kind where you worry about your shadow leaving a mark on the wall if you stand somewhere too long. And every single day, that sun came up like clockwork at 6am every single morning.

Now it’s May, and despite some rumblings from my Costa Rican partner’s family about how the rainy season was coming in a few weeks and “I’ll never have seen rain like it”, the sun was still making its first appearance at the exact same time as it did 3 months ago.

Costa Rica's idyllic sandy beaches

Costa Rica's idyllic sandy beaches

What? What?

My brain was having problems with this. On some subconscious level, I was quietly freaking out. Why aren’t the days getting longer? Or shorter? Or…something?

If you’re living in the Northern hemisphere right now - hey, did you feel that? We just crossed the Equilux! No, I didn’t just spell “Equinox” wrong - that always comes a few days later than the Equilux. The clue is in the name - “lux” is light, and “equi” is, well, exactly what you’d guess it to be. It’s the day where the daytime and nighttime are exactly the same length as each other. 

If you thought that was the Equinox, this is a common source of confusion. On that day, the daylight and darkness are almost, but not quite, the same. Its true claim of fame is being the day of the year where the sun will cast its light from a position exactly above the equator of the Earth, before it continues to drift northwards with every passing day, lengthening the amount of daylight in the northern half of the world, and shortening it in the south. 

(The reason the Equilux is the true half-and-half day is a little complicated, but it’s basically due to sunlight being refracted by our planet’s dense atmosphere, making the dawn’s sunlight hit us a little earlier than it would if that light followed a straight line - and thereby giving us 12 full hours of sunshine just a few days short of the Equinox.) 

For some of us British folk, this is a week we can feel our spirits lift. At last, the light is coming back properly! We’re now spending less than half the day fumbling around in the darkness! Not everyone feels this way - and I admit I quite like the dark winter months for how different they feel to the summer, making it a time for burrowing under blankets and enjoying roaring fires - but the Equinox week is generally seen as a time of renewal, of Spring having sprung and a new awareness of all the greenery erupting from the ground.

Nature's vibrant springtime awakening

Nature's vibrant springtime awakening

But not in Costa Rica, I have now discovered. In that country - and everywhere else that’s near to the equator - the day is as long as the day is always long, and that’s pretty much that. It’s like someone flipped the switch that makes the sun move, so it’s locked into a single unchanging daily arc across the sky. 

This is the appeal for those of us keen to feel the winter wind, rain and snow. Hop on a flight to Costa RIca in January (as we’ll be doing in 2025) and you’ll step off the plane into what feels like the height of summer, and you’ll be able to go for a swim in warm seas, feel hot sand between your toes and sip on the sweetest beach drink of your life while scrolling through apocalyptic-sounding weather reports from back home. Nobody is judging! We all do it.

Then, if you decide to stay a little longer as I did in 2017, you’ll find that the Costa Rican summer stretches impossibly on and on, like a party nobody wants to end - at least until May, when cloudier days start making an appearance. The closest the country has to a British-style Winter is September and October, when the rain is generally fierce and makes the UK’s downpours look half-hearted…

Costa Rica's biodiverse tropical paradise

Costa Rica's biodiverse tropical paradise

But even then, the daylight is unchanging. It’s unlikely you’ll ever find someone in Costa RIca suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (the science of which is still contentious) - unless they’ve just arrived in order to cure themselves of it!

But perhaps there’s its mirror opposite - let’s call it non-seasonal affective disorder. If you’re from northern or southern latitudes and you stay somewhere along the equator where the usual visual rhythms of the year aren’t apparent to you, you might develop the strangest feeling of being frozen in time all year round, like I did. 

It’d be a year before I left Costa RIca for Britain again, and in all that time, I never got used to its unchanging dawns and dusks (weather dependent). I won’t say it upset me - it was wonderful to not have that sinking feeling as the summer solstice passed and the days started getting shorter and shorter - but it remained weird enough to unsettle. (Spare a thought for Costa Ricans in Europe, like my partner, a former resident of Barcelona for ten years who dreads the European winter for its apocalyptic “why is the sky broken?” vibe.)

So, if you feel uplifted at this time of year but have a nagging worry that the long nights will always return - well, it depends on where you go. That’s one of the gifts of travel: you get to pick and choose the amount of sunshine you want in your life. It may take a little adjustment, but you might end up having the best winter of your life.

Enjoy the winter sunbathing in Costa Rica

Enjoy the winter sunbathing in Costa Rica

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Join Wheel & Anchor this January for a trip beyond the usual beach holiday to explore the volcanos, rainforests of Costa RIca. We'll enjoy two unique eco-lodges balanced between the coast and the spectacular landscapes of the interior, and our trip will culminate in a classic seaside resort. All the details here.

 

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