Daydreaming about your next getaway is always an exciting time, but picking the location can be challenging. You may be trying to decide which tropical location is the best, Costa Rica or Hawaii, and with so much information about both, you are probably having a hard time deciding. These two destinations are quite similar, but thankfully we know both well and there’s some unique differences that you need to know.

Hawaii will give you access to a more resort-like vacation, whereas Costa Rica is considered more rural and natural. Both destinations offer beautiful beaches, a wide range of fun activities, and amazing accommodations. You can’t go wrong with either, but deciding what is the best fit for your needs at this time will make your trip one to never forget.

Here, we pit Costa Rica vs Hawaii to help you make the right decision. We look at which has the better beaches, wildlife, weather, activities, which is more affordable, family friendly and more!

Costa Rica vs Hawaii: Which Has Better Beaches?

Both locations are known for having beautiful beaches, however, Hawaii has around 100 beaches across the main islands, compared to the 300 beaches in Costa Rica. But quantity doesn’t always mean quality. Many people report preferring the beaches in Hawaii to those in Costa Rica.

In Costa Rica, you will have access to two types of beaches. On the Caribbean side of the island you will find warm, gentle, clear water, like the beaches of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. However, you may need to drive far to find a great beach spot as some of the best places are in more remote areas.

The other type of beach Costa Rica has are on the Pacific side. These beaches tend to have some great waves for surfing, and there’s often a good nightlife and beach bar scene at the more popular beaches. (Related: The Best Pacific Beaches in Costa Rica).

Costa Rican beaches are definitely more underdeveloped and often less busy than the beaches in Hawaii. Which is a big plus point if you’re looking for a quiet relaxed beach vacation. However if you’re looking for big hotel resorts, restaurants, tiki bars, a beach party scene and the like, Hawaii may be the better choice.

The beaches in Hawaii are also world-class, offering warm water for swimming (although some do have strong currents), clear views for fishing, boating, diving, and surfing.

Hawaii is known for its beach accessibility too, as many of the best beaches are very easy to reach. With that comes accessibility to beach activities – but also the likelihood of being on a more crowded beach. We love the fact Hawaii offers amazing off beach snorkeling as well. For an amazing snorkel experience visit Molokini Crater with Kai Kanani, a family-owned and operated snorkel company that operates in Maui.

Winner: Draw

Costa Rica or Hawaii

Costa Rica vs Hawaii

Costa Rica vs Hawaii: Which Has The Better Overall Climate?

Costa Rica has a very diverse climate but overall is very warm with average annual coastal temperatures of 80-90℉ and about 75-80℉ inland and around the mountains. Costa Rica experiences quite a bit of rain during the summertime, particularly in the mountainous rainforest areas. That means Costa Rica may not be the better choice if you are traveling during your summer vacation, but could be a great winter escape for those wishing to take advantage of the warm weather over the winter holidays.

On the other hand, the average summer day in Hawaii is 85℉ and winter temps only dip to about 75℉. Hawaii experiences its rainy season in the winter, making it a good option if you’d like to travel in the summer.

Both destinations offer a great tropical environment at different points in the year so decide when you’d prefer to travel and use that to help guide your decision.

Winner: Draw

Costa Rica vs Hawaii: Which Has Better Wildlife?

If bird watching and unique wildlife sightings are what interests you, then Costa Rica takes the cake. Costa Rica is home to a very diverse animal population. In Hawaii, you’re unlikely to encounter much wildlife on land but you can expect to find a great offering of diverse sea life.

Costa Rica will take you to the depths of some of the most lush and tropical rainforests, with monkeys swinging above your head, more than 850 species of bird, along with volcanoes and bountiful rainforests.

In fact it’s entirely likely that you’ll run into a monkey right outside your hotel or rental in Costa Rica. This is a country home to sloths, beautiful birds, and many species of monkeys. If visiting the country, check out the amazing safari options from Costa Rica Experts. You can choose your safari based on which animals you’d like to see in their natural habitat.

While Hawaii offers the opportunity to snorkel alongside dolphins and turtles, Costa Rica not only provides the same experience with these animals, but even more with other types of wildlife. That makes it our clear winner for animal enthusiasts!

Winner: Costa Rica

Costa Rica or Hawaii

Costa Rica vs Hawaii

Costa Rica vs Hawaii: Which Has Better Activities?

Both Costa Rica and Hawaii offer amazing activities that span a wide variety of options. Outdoor activities like surfing, snorkeling, and diving are available in both areas. You’ll find a variety of exceptional hikes, waterfalls to swim in, and even volcanos to explore, in both destinations.

Hiking through beautiful forests to waterfalls, like the Bajos del Toro Waterfall in Costa Rica or the well-known Manoa Falls Trail in Oahu are musts while visiting either place. The sheer number of outdoor activities available in each area is enough to keep even the pickiest visitor happy and busy every day.

However, in our experience getting to activities in Costa Rica can be more troublesome. Often your destination may be in a more remote area and transportation to those areas can be challenging unless you hire a rental car. In Hawaii it is often easier to access a wide range of activities.

Costa Rica or Hawaii

Costa Rica vs Hawaii

Visitors to Costa Rica should make time to visit the small rainforest town of Monteverde and visit the unbelievable Sky Walk Suspension Bridges. Hawaii visitors should plan to make time to visit some of the many film locations available to visitors. Ever heard of a little film called Jurassic Park? The landscape in the film was filmed in Hawaii! (Recommended: Horrifying Hawaii Bugs You Could Meet on Vacation!).

Whatever your interests are, you are sure to find activities in both destinations to keep you interested. Or if lounging on the beach relaxing is your only desire, then you’re in luck because both Costa Rica and Hawaii offer that too.

Winner: Draw

Costa Rica or Hawaii

Costa Rica vs Hawaii

Costa Rica vs. Hawaii: Which is More Biodiverse?

Costa Rica wins this one, hands down.

This nation offers a rich climate including Caribbean beaches, cloud forests, and huge varieties of plants, animals, and insects. Costa Rica also has access to incredible rainforests and you can even drive right up the Poas Volcano! Costa Rica is the more rural of the two options, with fewer large cities to visit. As such, visitors to this country can drive several hours and then find themselves in a completely different landscape.

While no one is arguing that Hawaii isn’t beautiful, there is less diversity to offer visitors. Many of the most popular islands are very urban, which may surprise visitors who are looking for more of a tropical escape. Some areas of Hawaii can sometimes be crowded with other tourists too, as it tends to be a more popular destination for tourists than Costa Rica.

Winner: Costa Rica (By a landslide!)

Costa Rica or Hawaii

Costa Rica vs Hawaii

Costa Rica vs. Hawaii: Which is More Family-Friendly?

We can’t overstate how beautiful both destinations are and how similar the activities are in each region. However, much of Costa Rica is still developing and many areas are more remote. That makes traveling more challenging with children. A true Costa Rican vacation would be made up of visiting a few different places, which is not always compatible with kids.

Hawaii offers all of the same great activities and amenities that you are looking for, but within in easy access and often in one area. That can be significantly easier for people who are traveling with children, especially young ones! (Related: Which is the Best Hawaiian Island for Kids?).

Winner: Hawaii

Costa Rica or Hawaii

Costa Rica vs Hawaii

Costa Rica vs Hawaii: Which Has Better Amenities?

Hawaii offers all the big-name hotels and resorts that you are probably familiar with. You will also have access to your favorite well-known restaurants and fast food chains in Hawaii, and access to a variety of transportation options.

In Costa Rica, you’ll have access to smaller more boutique accommodation options and many Airbnbs. Transportation can be a little more challenging as many of the roads in the country can be more rural. Restaurants in Costa Rica will be more local fare than familiar offerings and you’re unlikely to find many international names. So the winner here really depends on how adventurous you are and how many creature comforts you are willing to part with in the name of a new experience. If you want something different and new, Costa Rica will have it. If you want something you already know, then Hawaii is for you.

If you do go to Costa Rica then check out the beautiful Hotel Aguas Claras, modeled off of the traditional banana plantation houses. It’s located on Chiquita Beach, Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.

In Hawaii, you’ll have access to all of the hotel brands you know and love, but the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort in Honolulu has been a favorite of visitors for many years.

Winner: Depends on your level of adventure

Costa Rica or Hawaii

Costa Rica vs Hawaii

Costa Rica vs Hawaii: Which is More Affordable?

In general, your money will go further in Costa Rica than it will in Hawaii, as Costa Rica is a poorer nation than the U.S. For budget travelers it’s easy to stay cheaply at some amazing mid-range accommodations in Costa Rica, but you can also splurge on luxury accommodations in the country too, like beachside resorts or jungle lodges.

However, in Hawaii, even the standard accommodation could set you back. Food and experiences are also cheaper in Costa Rica than in Hawaii.

Winner: Costa Rica

Costa Rica or Hawaii

Costa Rica vs Hawaii

Costa Rica vs Hawaii: Which is The Better Choice?

Choosing between Costa Rica and Hawaii comes down to two aspects; how adventurous you want your trip to be and how much time you can devote to planning it out.

If you’re looking for the easiest, most relaxing beach vacation possible, then Hawaii is a better choice than Costa Rica. Hawaii offers accessible beaches and activities, top-tier accommodation, and easy access to everything you’ll need.

If you are interested in a little bit of adventure, exploration, and are willing to put in more time planning, Costa Rica is a better option than Hawaii. Costa Rica provides visitors with unparalleled biodiversity, unique animal encounters, and the option to individualize your experience – alongside some stunning beaches that are often far less developed than Hawaii.

You can’t go wrong with either location, so we’d recommend making time for both at some point in your travels. Happy traveling!

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