Despite considerable interest in recent years on species distribution modeling and phylogenetic niche conservatism, little is known about the way in which climatic niches change over evolutionary time. This knowledge is of major importance to understand the mechanisms underlying limits of species distributions, as well as to infer how different lineages might be affected by anthropogenic climate change. In this study we investigate the tempo and mode climatic niche evolution in New World monkeys (Platyrrhini). Climatic conditions found throughout the distribution of 140 primate species were investigated using a principal component analysis, which indicated that mean temperature (particularly during the winter) is the most important climatic correlate of platyrrhine geographical distributions, accounting for nearly half of the interspecific variation in climatic niches. The effects of precipitation were associated with the second principal component, particularly with respect to the dry season. When models of trait evolution were fit to scores on each of the principal component axes, significant phylogenetic signal was detected for PC1 scores, but not for PC2 scores. Interestingly, although all platyrrhine families occupied comparable regions of climatic space, some aotid species such as Aotus lemurinus, A. jorgehernandezi, and A. miconax show highly distinctive climatic niches associated with drier conditions (high PC2 scores). This shift might have been made possible by their nocturnal habits, which could serve as an exaptation that allow them to be less constrained by humidity during the night. These results underscore the usefulness of investigating explicitly the tempo and mode of climatic niche evolution and its role in determining species distributions.