Puerto Rico vs Costa Rica: Which Is A Better Vacation Destination (2024)

Costa Rica and Puerto Rico are both popular vacation getaways, so which is better?

Whether you’re looking to learn more about Costa Rica’s many species of animals or to learn about the Spanish colonial architecture of Puerto Rico, there’s a lot to consider.

In this article, I’ll help you decide which destination you should choose for your next vacation.

Costa Rica vs Puerto Rico safety — which is safer?
Costa Rica vs Puerto Rico beaches — which has better beaches? 
Which is better for families with kids?
Which has more fun and unique activities?
Which is cheaper to vacation to?
Which is easier to get to from the United States?
Which is easier to get around?
Other frequently asked questions


Costa Rica vs Puerto Rico safety — which is safer?

Costa Rica is considered one of the safest destinations in Central America.

Puerto Rico is considered one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean.

They are very similar in what safety risks they have, but with Puerto Rico being a United States territory, it’s a bit more developed.

image showing the aerial view of Old San Juan
Aerial view of Old San Juan, the city’s historical district.

Both Puerto Rico and Costa Rica have issues with petty crimes like pickpocketing and mugging, as well as large crimes involving gang violence and drug trafficking.

Gang violence very rarely affects tourists. 

That being said, in Costa Rica you’re more likely to have a run-in with trouble, and you would have a harder time getting yourself out of it, for a few reasons. 

Firstly, Costa Rica has fewer English speakers. 

School Buenaventura Corrales, San José, Costa Rica.

In Costa Rican urban and tourist areas you’ll find English speakers, but outside these areas, it’s more likely that everyone will speak Spanish.

Asking for help or explaining that you’re lost is more difficult if you don’t know the language. 

Spanish is the primary language in Puerto Rico as well, but many more people are bilingual, meaning there’s almost always someone you can ask for help, even in rural areas. 

image of a beachfront in San Juan, PR
Condado Beach, a popular tourist area in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Speaking of rural areas, Costa Rica is less reliable when it comes to cell coverage.

International service isn’t always included in your cell phone plan, whereas in Puerto Rico, you can bring your United States phone without purchasing an international plan and almost always have service. 

Coffee farms in the rural area of Costa Rica.

Both destinations are prone to natural disasters and have long rainy seasons. 

Costa Rica is less likely to be impacted by a hurricane, but is home to 8 active volcanoes, and can receive up to 14 inches of rain per month in the wet season.

Puerto Rico has no volcanoes, and usually receives about 4 inches of rain per month in the wet season. 

image of Arenal Volcano
Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica.

When it comes to drinking water, Puerto Rico is safer as well. 

Puerto Rico is held to the same water standards as the mainland United States, so you can almost always drink tap water. 

Costa Rica is much less reliable, and it’s recommended that you drink bottled water. 


Costa Rica vs Puerto Rico beaches — which has better beaches? 

For a simple Caribbean vacation, Puerto Rican beaches are a more popular choice. 

image of a beach in Puerto Rico
Flamboyan Trees (pictured here in red) bloom in the summertime in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rican beaches are smaller and more commercial, and closer to cities and towns, where you can find lifeguards, showers, parking, beachside resorts, restaurants, bars, and clubs. 

There are remote and “untouched” beaches in Puerto Rico as well, but you don’t have to travel for hours to get to them or need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to visit.

Costa Rican beaches are more rugged, remote, and preserved, with vast, wild coastlines that may take you a while to travel to with very few lifeguards!

Manzanillo at Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.


Which is better for families with kids?

For smaller children especially, Puerto Rico is a better destination. 

Puerto Rico has more family resorts and kid-oriented parks, museums, and activities that are fun for the whole family. 

portrait of a mother and children on sand
A mom with her two children on vacation at the beach in Puerto Rico.

There are also more beaches in Puerto Rico with showers, lockers, and lifeguards, making it easier for a family’s day out. 

Costa Rica has activities for families, but they’re more suitable for older children, couples, and solo travelers, like hiking and adventuring, and the beaches are less commercial.

For traveling with kids, Puerto Rico is a bit easier because you don’t need to get passports or go through customs.

Check out the video below of a family traveling to Puerto Rico:


Which has more fun and unique activities?

Overall, Puerto Rico has a better range of fun and unique activities. 

Paddle boarders in the Condado, Puerto Rico lagoon. Condado is a beautiful area of San Juan with plenty to do.

Costa Rica is a destination for enjoying rugged nature, hiking in the forest and mountains, and outdoor adventuring. 

Puerto Rico has similar outdoor and adventurous attractions, like ziplining, hiking trails, caving, and more, but also has a rich and diverse urban life in places like San Juan

image of two scuba divers
Scuba diving in a cave in Puerto Rico.

After a day in Puerto Rico hiking in El Yunque or snorkeling at the beach, you can go out to enjoy the city’s many clubs and restaurants or plan a whole day of wandering and enjoying museums and historic sites. 

For more details on all you can experience, take a look at our articles 45 Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico.


Which is cheaper to vacation to?

This is a tricky question because there are a few things to consider.

Puerto Rico is a domestic flight when traveling from the United States, you can save money on flight prices and not purchasing passports. 

image of a tourist in Puerto Rico
Woman exploring El Morro, which started construction in 1539. Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In Costa Rica, prices for accommodations and food may be cheaper.

Puerto Rico is regulated by the United States government, so your accommodations may feel more familiar. 

While your dollar may go farther in Costa Rica, it may come with more amenities and peace of mind in Puerto Rico. 

We have a more in-depth breakdown of the cost of a vacation to Puerto Rico in our article How Much Does It Cost To Go To Puerto Rico For Vacation.


Which is easier to get to from the United States?

When traveling from the mainland United States, Puerto Rico is easier to get to. 

Flight times vary based on where in the United States you’re traveling from.

Puerto Rico is a domestic flight you don’t need a passport, and you don’t need to go through customs to enter the island. 

image showing the aerial view of Old San Juan
Aerial view flying into San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Phones and United States currency will work as they are used in Puerto Rico as well, so no converting your dollars or purchasing an international phone plan needed.


Which is easier to get around?

Puerto Rico is generally easier to travel around.

It’s recommended that you rent a car in both locations, but driving in Costa Rica presents more challenges. 

Costa Rica has a less developed road infrastructure, meaning that some destinations need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to access. 

rural road in costa rica
Rural road in Costa Rica.

Rental car insurance in Costa Rica is also very complicated and can cost you a lot if you’re not careful about it. 

In Puerto Rico, rental cars are very easy to come by. There are rental car services outside of the airports and the roads are better maintained. 

image of a highway
Rural highway in Puerto Rico.

Road trips are popular vacation plans because you can drive around the entire island in less than a day, and from north to south in just a few hours. 

Uber and taxis work to get to most parts of the island, but become more difficult to find as you venture away from metro areas like San Juan and Ponce, and into the central island areas.  

image of a highway in San Juan, PR
A busy highway in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Costa Rica’s urban areas and attractions are more spread out.

In Puerto Rico, it is very easy to get from one town to the next by car. 


FAQ section

Is it cheaper to vacation in Costa Rica or Puerto Rico?

Costa Rica is cheaper, but you get more value in Puerto Rico. Flights to Puerto Rico from the mainland United States are generally less expensive, with no passports required.

What are the differences between Puerto Rico and Costa Rica?

Puerto Rico is more developed and commercialized in its beaches, resorts, tours, and other experiences. There are more English speakers, and PR uses United States currency and cell phone services.

Is Puerto Rico or Costa Rica better for surfing?

Puerto Rico and Costa Rica both have great options for surfing, but if you’re looking for well-known surf spots or your first surf lesson, Puerto Rico is the place to be.

Which is better for backpacking?

If you’re new to backpacking, Costa Rica might be a very large undertaking. Puerto Rico is a great place to start as you can adventure into the rainforest while still feeling safe about being able to stay at a hostel near a familiar amenities.


Final thoughts

Puerto Rico is a strong contender instead of Costa Rica for your next vacation. 

Puerto Rico and Costa Rica share a lot of similarities, but Puerto Rico comes out on top as an easy, affordable, and fun Caribbean getaway. Plus, Puerto Rico is home to the world’s brightest Bioluminescent Bay.

Be sure to check out some of our other articles when planning your next trip, like 30 Best Beaches in Puerto Rico and 21 Essential Things To Pack For Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico vs Costa Rica: Which Is A Better Vacation Destination (2024)
Article by

Jenny Diaz

Writer at PuertoRico.com. Growing up in New York and spending my summers in Puerto Rico, I have always loved writing, travel, and animals. I began my career as a travel writer, and after many different jobs in media, I have settled back into what I love most. I enjoy the beach, exploring the island with my family, and coffee!

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