Costa Rica vs Belize: In-depth Comparison in 17 points
I have been there, comparing Costa Rica vs Belize and trying to take a decision on which country to visit and enjoy. I ended up visiting both in the last few years and honestly, they are both beautiful but quite different too.
In this post, I have compared all I had in my mind based on my experience, from the geography of the country to the climate, from the budget you need to the activities you can do. I have eventually organized 17 subjects to compare them so you can take a decision on either Belize or Costa Rica.
And if you find any missing point, please, let me know in the comment section. I am always happy to add and update my guides.
Costa Rica vs Belize – Key points
In this table below I have summarized the key points for this Belize vs Costa Rica comparison. Of course, it’s all very subjective and it really depends on what kind of experience you are after.
Click on the subject to see a full description (or read them all after the table). Swipe left and right on a mobile to see all the columns on a mobile.
|Small tropical paradise with diverse landscapes, including coastlines, volcanoes, and forests.
|Coastal plain with low mountains and around 450 islands, part of the second-largest reef system in the world.
|Both countries are geographically stunning, but they offer different attractions.
|Tropical climate with a dry season and a green season. Cooler climate in the highlands.
|Similar tropical climate. Coastal areas are more humid and hotter. Inland and mountainous regions have a cooler climate.
|Both countries have similar climates, but Costa Rica offers more variety.
|Access to the Country
|Two international airports with connections to numerous international airlines.
|One primary international airport with direct flights from the US.
|Both countries are easy to reach, but flights to Belize are generally more expensive.
|Good public transportation system, but slow. Uber and taxis are available in tourist destinations.
|Main modes of transport are buses and taxis. Boats are used for travel between islands.
|Costa Rica has a wider transportation network, but both countries offer a variety of ways to get around.
|Cost of Travel
|Depends on travel style. Backpacker lifestyle can cost $40-$50 per day, luxury experiences can cost at least $200 per day.
|Can manage a day for $30-$50 with budget accommodations, local food, and public transportation. High-end experiences can cost $200 per day or more.
|Both countries offer good value for money, but Costa Rica tends to be slightly pricier.
|Renting a Car
|Renting a car is a good option for exploring the country. Some rural areas may require a 4×4.
|Renting a car is feasible but can be challenging due to the rural terrain. A 4×4 is recommended.
|Costa Rica has a superior road infrastructure, making it a better choice for renting a car.
|Over 800 miles of diverse and stunning coastline on the Pacific and Caribbean sides.
|Beautiful sandy beaches along the coastline and on the cayes (islands).
|Belize, with its unique cayes and barrier reef, might have the upper hand when comparing beaches.
|Tourism is a major income source. The country is popular, but there are still many secret places to discover.
|Tourism industry is rapidly growing. The country is focusing on eco-tourism and conservation efforts.
|Costa Rica, with its diverse offerings and more established industry, takes the trophy in the tourism category.
|A paradise for families with diverse attractions like ziplining, wildlife spotting, and kid-friendly beaches.
|Offers a combination of adventure and educational experiences, making it an excellent family destination.
|Costa Rica offers a wider range of family-friendly attractions.
|Safety for Tourists
|Generally safe for tourists, but petty theft can occur. The country is politically stable and the crime rate is generally low.
|Generally safe for tourists, although certain areas of Belize City have higher crime rates.
|Costa Rica has a slightly better reputation for tourist safety.
|Attractions are centered around its rich biodiversity, including volcanoes, forests, and national parks.
|Offers a blend of natural and cultural attractions, including the second-largest barrier reef globally and ancient Mayan ruins.
|Costa Rica, with its vast range of biodiversity and eco-tourism focus, might be more compelling.
|Offers adrenaline experiences like ziplining and white-water rafting, as well as hiking and beach activities.
|Offers water sports like snorkeling and diving, as well as exploring ancient Mayan ruins and zip-lining.
|For more terrestrial adventures, Costa Rica is your go-to. But for an underwater world like no other, Belize takes the crown.
|Surfing Spots and Opportunities
|A surfer’s utopia with year-round waves in spots like Witch’s Rock and Pavones.
|Not a go-to spot for surfing due to its natural barrier reef. However, other water sports like kiteboarding and windsurfing are popular.
|When it comes to riding the waves, Costa Rica steals the spotlight.
|Wild nightlife, especially in San José, with pumping nightclubs and stylish bars.
|More chilled-out nightlife with beach bars featuring live music and lounges.
|Costa Rica offers more options for nightlife, but Belize offers a more relaxed, cultural evening.
|Life is all about “Pura Vida,” meaning “pure life”. This saying sums up the culture: relaxed, full of life, and appreciative of simple pleasures.
|Has a great mix of cultural influences from Maya to Creole, from Mestizo to Garifuna, Reggae, and more.
|Costa Rica’s culture is more homogenous, while Belize offers a melting pot of cultures.
|Traditional food is simple and healthy, with rice and beans being a staple. Seafood is also popular.
|Belizean cuisine is a fusion of different cultures, with rice and beans, seafood, and Mayan dishes being popular.
|Both countries offer delicious local cuisine, but Belize’s fusion of cultures gives it a unique edge.
Geography in Belize Vs Costa Rica
Costa Rica is the small tropical paradise of Central America. It is located between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, it gets everything, isn’t it? It is a vibrant, green wonderland. You’ve got picture-perfect coastlines, craggy volcanoes, misty cloud forests, dry forests, rainforests… you name it.
For those who appreciate nature, Costa Rica is a top destination. It boasts an impressive 5% of the world’s biodiversity, despite occupying only 0.03% of the Earth’s surface.
Switching gears, Belize’s got its own charm. Nestled on the northeastern coast of Central America, it’s got a coastal plain with low mountains towards the south. But that’s not the real draw here – Belize is the proud owner of around 450 islands, or “Cayes”, that are part of the second-largest reef system in the world.
Snorkelers, divers, get excited – the marine life here is phenomenal. Inland, Belize has some of the most significant Mayan ruins in Central America tucked away in its rainforests.
Geographically, both Costa Rica and Belize are stunning, no doubt about that. But if it’s mountains, volcanoes, and a wild variety of ecosystems you’re after, Costa Rica takes the cake. However, Belize’s Barrier Reef and Mayan ruins are uniquely captivating.
Climate in Costa Rica and Belize
Costa Rica keeps it tropical, with plenty of sunshine and high temperatures all year round on the coasts, and a much cooler climate up in the highlands. There’s the dry season from December to April, and then the green season from May to November.
This season when you can experience big and never-ending storms, mostly in the highlands, or just afternoon showers, especially if you are on the Pacific Coast
Belize has a similar tropical climate. Dry from late November to April and rainy from May to November. Coastal areas tend to be more humid and hotter. Inland and mountainous regions have a cooler climate.
During the wet season, Belize can be affected by hurricanes, especially from August to October.
Climate-wise, Costa Rica and Belize are on par. If you prefer constant warmth and want to do water activities, Belize is a solid choice. On the other hand, if you prefer a cooler climate and want to explore the highlands, Costa Rica’s the winner.
Is it easier to Access Costa Rica or Belize?
Flying into Costa Rica, you’ll likely land at one of two international airports – Juan Santamaria International Airport near San Jose or Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia. Both have connections with numerous international airlines, making Costa Rica a breeze to get to.
If Belize is your destination of choice, you’ll probably be flying into Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport near Belize City. It’s the primary airport, well-connected with direct flights from the US, which is great news for North Americans.
In saying that there are more low-cost airlines flying to Costa Rica, making the ticket cost to Belize generally more expensive
When it comes to getting there, there is no winner between Costa Rica and Belize. Both countries are easy to reach with regular international flights, especially from the US. Belize tickets are usually more expensive though.
Transportation in Costa Rica Vs Belize
Getting around Costa Rica is pretty straightforward. There is a good, although slow, public transportation system that will take you just about anywhere you want to go.
I honestly prefer to rent a car in Costa Rica because it gives me so much more freedom. Keep in mind that some rural areas may require you to hire a 4×4. Uber and taxis are usually available in the tourist destinations
In Belize, your main modes of transport will be buses and taxis. Buses are cheap and cheerful, and the way to go for longer distances. Taxis are abundant in the cities and larger towns, but make sure you’ve got your haggling hat on to negotiate fares.
Between islands, you can catch quick boats, generally run by private companies or individuals.
If we’re talking transportation, Costa Rica edges out Belize slightly because of Uber and a wider bus network. But don’t worry, both countries offer a variety of ways to get you where you need to go.
Renting a Car
I still remember my first trip to Costa Rica. I was totally confused and unsure of how to get around the country. Of course, public transportation is available in the country, but honestly renting a car to venture through Costa Rica was one of the best choices I ever made.
A choice that I would not hesitate to suggest because I had so much freedom to explore the most hidden corners of this country. Driving between the major towns of Costa Rica is very easy. The secondary roads are normally unsealed but doable without problems in the dry season.
However, as you venture to hidden beaches and secret waterfalls, you will start experiencing bumping roads. A 4×4 rental is advisable in Costa Rica if your plans involve veering off the well-trodden path.
Renting a car in Belize could be a bit challenging, yet it’s a feasible option. The primary roads are in good shape, but rural terrains can prove tough. Renting a 4×4 would be a wise decision.
I personally preferred to not rent a car but I was mostly island hopping. This is something I will try on my next trip for sure
Costa Rica is the winner here. It has a superior road infrastructure, it’s almost a must If you want to experience everything that this country can offer.
Cost of Travel in Belize and Costa Rica
The cost of travel in Costa Rica largely depends on your preferred travel style. For a backpacker lifestyle, $40-$50 per day should suffice. However, if you are more into luxurious experiences, then budget at least $200 per day.
Food expenses can be minimized by choosing local diners, known as ‘sodas’, and using public transport can save on travel costs. I found the beer to be very expensive, not to mention wine, on par with the United States.
There are a few amazing places to stay in Costa Rica, that usually cater to different budgets and styles. As a rule of thumb, the most unknown is the area the cheaper it gets, but you will also have less choice.
Surely Costa Rica is not a cheap destination, however, I see it as a small drawback compared to the amazing nature and adventures that you can have.
In Belize, you can manage a day for $30-$50 if you choose budget accommodations, local food, and public transportation. However, for a high-end experience, you can expect costs to spiral to $200 per day or more. It also depends on which islands you decide to visit.
For example, Caye Caulker is much cheaper than Ambergris Caye. They are both beautiful, however, they cater to different markets.
In terms of travel costs, both Costa Rica and Belize offer good value for money. Costa Rica probably tends to be slightly pricier.
With over 800 miles of coastline on the Pacific and Caribbean sides, Costa Rica’s beaches are diverse and stunning. You can find calm tropical paradises as well as exciting surfing beaches. I have shortlisted just 5 of them but I could easily extend this list into 3 digits.
|Manuel Antonio Beach
|Golden sands, turquoise waters, monkeys in the trees.
|A paradise for surfers with a vibrant nightlife.
|Santa Teresa Beach
|Relaxing vibes and mesmerizing sunsets.
|Distinctive for its shell-covered shoreline, perfect for snorkeling.
|Punta Uva Beach
|A tranquil Caribbean beach with a lush jungle backdrop.
Belize also boasts beautiful sandy beaches along its coastline and its cayes (islands). Here are the top picks of the country. I am totally in love with Caye Caulker, I loved so much my time there.
|Known for water sports, scuba diving, and Caribbean beaches.
|16 miles of perfect beaches for sunbathing.
|A laid-back island with breathtaking beaches.
|South Water Caye
|Part of the barrier reef, offering excellent snorkeling.
|Hopkins Village Beach
|A welcoming community and a long sandy beach.
Though it’s a close call when comparing beaches, Belize, with its unique cayes and barrier reef, might just have the upper hand.
Tourism is a major income source for Costa Rica. The country is certainly not anymore a hidden destination, however, you can still find so many secret places hardly touched by any traveler, especially when you leave behind the most popular destinations. The higher prices in Costa Rica are just another indication of its popularity, unfortunately.
Belize’s tourism industry is rapidly growing. Every year, more and more visitors are drawn to the ancient Mayan ruins and the world-class barrier reef. The local travel industry is increasingly focusing on eco-tourism and conservation efforts. I love this new trend and I do hope it will be well developed also in future
While both countries have a strong focus on eco-tourism, Costa Rica, with its diverse offerings and more established industry, takes the trophy in the tourism category.
Belize Vs Costa Rica for a Family Trip
Costa Rica is a paradise for families. Its diverse attractions like ziplining through rainforests, wildlife spotting in national parks, or lazing on kid-friendly beaches can keep everyone entertained. Plus, Costa Ricans love children, so you’ll find a warm welcome wherever you go.
On my last trip in December, the waves were so nice and kind, the perfect place for my little one to start surfing. Tamarindo with its easy swell was his highlight of the entire trip.
Belize, with its combination of adventure and educational experiences, also makes for an excellent family destination. Children can enjoy snorkeling in the barrier reef or exploring ancient Mayan ruins. Belize is a compact country, meaning less travel time between attractions.
The islands work so well also for some sand castles or to start some windsurfing and kitesurfing like in Caye Caulker. I loved my wind sports there.
Choosing a destination for a family trip is always very challenging. However, Costa Rica offers a wide range of family-friendly attractions. The country is bigger and it has more choice.
Costa Rica vs Belize Safety for Tourists
Costa Rica is generally safe for tourists, but petty theft can occur. I always suggest taking common-sense precautions like you would do in any other destination. The country is politically stable and the crime rate is generally low. Respect local customs, follow advisories, and you will have a safe trip.
I looked for a Crime Rate Scale, and I was pleasantly surprised to Costa Rica neck to neck with European countries like France and Sweden and certainly safer than the Bahamas and Malaysia.
Belize, too, is generally safe for tourists, although certain areas of Belize City have higher crime rates. Honestly, I didn’t feel comfortable in the capital and certainly, you have to pay attention walking in the night. Besides that, most tourist areas in Belize are well-patrolled and considered safe.
I looked up also Belize on a Crime Index Scale and it is in a similar position as Costa Rica. In saying that, if you exclude Belize City, the country probably becomes one of the safest in the world.
Both countries have areas where caution is advised, but overall, Costa Rica has a slightly better reputation for tourist safety.
Costa Rica’s attractions are centered around its rich biodiversity. Here are a few standouts:
|An active volcano with hot springs nearby.
|Monteverde Cloud Forest
|A unique eco-tourism destination with abundant wildlife.
|Manuel Antonio National Park
|Known for its diverse fauna and beautiful beaches.
|Corcovado National Park
|A biodiversity hotspot with untouched rainforests.
|Tortuguero National Park
|Famous for turtle nesting sites.
Belize offers a blend of natural and cultural attractions. Here are the top picks:
|Great Blue Hole
|A world-class destination for scuba divers.
|The largest island in Belize with pristine beaches.
|Caracol Mayan Ruins
|A significant ancient Mayan city.
|A laid-back island known for its reggae vibes.
|Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
|A jaguar preserve with hiking trails.
While both countries are brimming with attractions, Costa Rica with its vast range of biodiversity and eco-tourism focus might be more compelling. Costa Rica has 2 amazing coastlines and an incredible green interior, a unique combination.
Look no further if you’re in search of adrenaline experiences. Costa Rica offers just that, and so much more! Imagine yourself ziplining over foggy, other-worldly cloud forests or conquering thrilling white-water rapids.
The quieter people might prefer hiking in the shadows of active volcanoes or just lazing around on picturesque beaches.
I particularly love my time surfing there. And my little one has just started on the beautiful waves of Tamarindo, a great spot for beginner surfers. Really the choice is so wide that I always highly suggest pre-planning your itinerary in advance, to maximize your time once in the country.
Belize, on the other hand, is an absolute paradise if you love the sea and all the activities that come with it. Snorkel your way through the second-largest barrier reef globally, or if you’re feeling gutsy, explore ancient Maya ruins or zip-line through the jungle. Or you can just enjoy the amazing beaches of Ambergris Caye.
I particularly loved my time in Caye Caulker where I could do some amazing snorkeling between reef sharks and mantas. At the same time, my wife had unique diving in the area too, of which the Blue Hole is certainly one of the most famous spots in the world.
Picking between Costa Rica and Belize is like choosing between chocolate and vanilla – it all comes down to your taste. For more terrestrial adventures, Costa Rica is your go-to. But for an underwater world like no other, Belize takes the crown.
Surfing Spots and Opportunities
Hang ten in Costa Rica, a surfer’s utopia! The year-round waves in spots like Witch’s Rock and Pavones are sure to give you a rush like no other. Costa Rica offers unique surfing conditions that cater to both rookies and seasoned pros, thanks to its dual coastlines.
I highly suggest Santa Teresa, an increasingly popular village, with a few beaches around that work well for all levels. You can also find a few surf shops where you can rent your gear and book lessons for any level.
Belize, however, isn’t the go-to spot for surfing, all thanks to its natural barrier reef. But, fear not! Other water sports like kiteboarding and windsurfing have begun to catch the wave of popularity. I had some awesome windsurfing in the Caye Caulker lagoon. You can also get closer to the reef for a few waves. Plenty of possibilities.
When it comes to riding the waves, Costa Rica steals the spotlight. Although Belize does not have surfing opportunities as such, it still offers a variety of other water sports adventures.
Costa Rica’s nightlife, especially in San José, is as wild as its wildlife. From pumping nightclubs to stylish bars, the fun never stops. And for the beach bums, the biggest party town is probably Jaco where you will find plenty of bars and clubs that open up in the late afternoon till the early hours of the morning. For a chilled-out time, I suggest Tamarindo instead.
The nightlife in Belize leans towards the chilled side. Think beach bars with live music featuring local Garifuna drumming or lounges in areas like Ambergris Caye and Placencia. Of course, there are clubs in Belize City if you fancy dancing the night away, but the capital is not the safest place in Central America, and you know what I mean here.
When it comes to painting the town red, Costa Rica offers more options. But for a chilled-out, cultural evening under the stars, Belize has got you covered.
In Costa Rica, life is all about “Pura Vida,” meaning “pure life”. This saying sums up the culture: relaxed, full of life, and appreciative of simple pleasures. It’s not unusual in Costa Rica to experience a local traditional festival, with plenty of music and parades.
I was lucky enough to be in the country during the December 2022 Football World Cup, an event that highlighted once again the local pride and somehow the “mental illness” for this beautiful sport.
Belize has a great mix of cultural influences. A unique blend that goes from Maya to Creole, from Mestizo to Garifuna, Reggae, and more. They all contribute to the country’s unique cultural tapestry.
I was totally impressed by the language spoken in the country. Most speak English and Spanish with tourists but they have their own idioma influenced by both languages. I loved it.
Both Belize and Costa Rica have distinct, rich cultures that captivate visitors. While Costa Rica’s Pura Vida philosophy embodies its culture, Belize’s cultural diversity provides a unique blend of traditions and customs.
Ticos, as Costa Ricans call themselves, are famous for their hospitality and warmth. When you meet a local you meet a new friend. You may end up talking the entire day about the country.
I particularly love the “Pura Vida” lifestyle, a relaxed way to enjoy the moment and the day without thinking too much about tomorrow. Ticos are so peaceful that they decided to not have an army, a unique choice, especially considering we are in Central America, and bordering Nicaragua, another country I often compare to Costa Rica.
The people of Belize are just as welcoming, very laid-back, and easy-going. Certainly, the nice warm weather helps both Belize and Costa Rica to have a more relaxed lifestyle.
Belizeans are always ready to chat, share a story, or help out visitors explore their homeland. It’s so easy to open a conversation at a bar or a pub, especially when you offer the first drink 😉
In the battle for friendliness, it’s a tie between Costa Rica and Belize. Both countries are renowned for their friendly, warm-hearted locals who make travelers feel right at home.
Local food and Cuisine
Costa Rican cuisine is hearty and flavorful. You will always find a “Soda” around, a restaurant run by a local family offering food and drinks at a more reasonable price. I had my best food actually along the main roads when I was driving in Costa Rica and I stopped for lunch somewhere along the route.
Local dishes usually include rice and beans, often paired with meat, plantains, and local vegetables. And finally, how can I not mention Costa Rica’s famous coffee – a must-try for caffeine lovers!
Food in Belize has been influenced by its people. Here, you’ll find a mix of Maya, African, Mexican, and Caribbean cuisine. Seafood is a staple, thanks to Belize’s coastal location, and dishes like ceviche and rice and beans are local favorites.
For food lovers, both countries offer tasty local cuisines that are sure to delight. Whether you prefer Costa Rica’s classic combinations or Belize’s diverse blend of culinary influences, you will surely enjoy your time at the restaurant.
Choosing between Costa Rica and Belize for your next getaway ultimately depends on your travel preferences.
Both countries offer stunning natural landscapes, friendly locals, and a plethora of adventures. If you crave a diverse, rich culture with a laid-back atmosphere, Belize is your destination.
However, if a mix of beaches, biodiversity, and “Pura Vida” appeals to you, Costa Rica is calling your name.
Both countries guarantee unforgettable experiences, promising more than just a trip, but a journey full of cherished memories.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Costa Rica or Belize better for a beach vacation?
Both offer stunning beaches. Belize boasts the Barrier Reef, while Costa Rica has both Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
How do the food experiences compare in Costa Rica and Belize?
Belizean cuisine features a mix of Caribbean and Mayan flavors. Costa Rica’s food is more traditional Central American, with rice and beans staples.
Is Belize or Costa Rica better for surfing?
Costa Rica is renowned for its surfing spots, particularly on its Pacific coast. Belize’s reef calms its waters, making it less ideal for surfing.
Which is more tourist-friendly – Belize or Costa Rica?
Both are tourist-friendly. Costa Rica has a more developed tourism infrastructure, but Belize offers a more intimate travel experience.
Is it more expensive to travel in Costa Rica or Belize?
Generally, Costa Rica is slightly more expensive than Belize, especially in tourist areas.
Which is safer for tourists – Costa Rica or Belize?
Both countries are generally safe for tourists, but usual precautions should be taken. Costa Rica tends to have lower crime rates than Belize.
Which country is better for a family vacation?
Both countries are family-friendly, but Costa Rica’s more established tourism infrastructure and variety of attractions might give it an edge.
Are Costa Rica and Belize good for nightlife?
Costa Rica, especially in areas like Jaco and San Jose, is known for its lively nightlife. Belize offers a more laid-back night scene, with beachfront bars and local hangouts.