June 1st marks the official start of hurricane season. Since then, we’ve frequently been asked, “Do hurricanes hit Costa Rica?”
The very short answer is no, they don’t. (We’ll get into the science of why not, below.) The slightly longer answer is that no, they don’t, and we are very, very grateful that they don’t.
Of course, there’s more to the answer than that. Costa Rica is tropical! Geographically, we’re close to the Caribbean – to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, to the U.S Virgin Islands and the Bahamas – and we’re neighbors with Nicaragua. They all get hurricanes, so what makes Costa Rica exempt?
Hurricane Science: How Does a Hurricane Form?
To understand why and how hurricanes bypass Costa Rica, we must first discuss the basics of hurricanes and all their various iterations: tropical storms, tropical depressions, etc. etc.
It works like this: Hurricanes can develop when three conditions are present (and they ALL must be present): warm ocean water, warm air, and wind (aka the Coriolis Effect, or Coriolis Force). Note that this is why hurricane season hits during summer/early fall: that’s when the air and water are warm enough (ocean temps must be around 80ºF or higher) reach sufficient temperatures to build and sustain hurricane-force winds.
Moving on to the third required element of a hurricane: the Coriolis Effect. There’s a lot of science behind this force but in a nutshell, the Coriolis Effect is the result of the Earth’s rotation and it influences winds – specifically, the turning of winds. You know, like the spin of a hurricane.
Cliff’s Notes version: The Coriolis Effect kicks off a hurricane’s cyclonic rotation, while warm air and water temperatures facilitate the heat and condensation required to strengthen and then sustain high-speed winds.
Okay, But Why Don’t Hurricanes Hit Costa Rica?
All that explanation and the why is still as clear as mud, right? Well, here’s the simple reason why Costa Rica doesn’t get hurricanes: the Coriolis Effect is not strong at the equator, therefore winds can’t spin fast enough to form a hurricane, no matter the air and water temperatures. (Remember, all three elements must be present for a hurricane to form.)
And that means, that hurricanes typically form within 20-30 degrees of the equator, where the Coriolis Effect is stronger and winds can spin enough to pick up speed. Which, in turn, means that hurricanes cannot form within 4 degrees and very rarely (close to never) form within 10 degrees of the equator. Additionally, tropical winds typically move north and/or west as they progress – never south – meaning they simply do not make landfall within 10 degrees of the equator.
From south to north, Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast (where hurricanes would hit) sweeps from about 9.55 degrees north to 10.9 degrees – well out of the typical hurricane zone.
Hurricane Effects Are Felt in Costa Rica
Now, hurricanes don’t hit Costa Rica but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel their effects. Typically, hurricanes create pressure systems off our eastern coast, which in turn can have an indirect effect of additional rainfall. And, since hurricane season falls during our green season (May through November), that can mean a lot of rain.
So where does that leave us? Green and happy, to be honest. Kalia is located on the west coast, in Guanacaste, Costa Rica’s driest province. So for us, extra rainfall is welcome. Extra rainfall means happier plants and juicier fruits. It means greener grass and that sweet, just-rained smell for a few consecutive days.
And that, Kalia neighbors, is why we are so grateful to live where we do: for us, hurricane season means a little extra rain – nothing more. Our hearts go out to the Caribbean, Florida, Texas, and everyone affected by the catastrophic 2017 hurricane season.
If you want to live in the tropics without the tropical storms, come and explore the beauty of hurricane-free Kalia on an incredible Discovery Tour: 4 glorious days and 3 relaxing nights of Guanacaste life and the pura vida lifestyle, of friendly smiles and your very own infinity pool. Call (800) 219-0310 to book your free Discovery Tour today or click here to learn more.