Curious whether to travel to Costa Rica or Colombia for vacation? If so, this article is for you!

Costa Rica is known for its lush rainforests, volcanos, exceptional national parks, and abundance of wildlife. Colombia is known for its rich cultural history, magnificent historical landmarks, stunning Caribbean beaches, and diverse landscape. 

But, which makes for a better vacation? I’ve personally visited each of these places and they both offer endless opportunities for fun.

However, they have a few differences that set them apart. My guide will give you the key differences between Costa Rica and Colombia to help you decide where to vacation to next. 

I’ll cover how they compare in terms of cost, climate, cuisine, tourist activities, and much more.

So, keep on reading to find out which destination suits you best!

Costa Rica vs Colombia

A Brief Comparison Of Costa Rica and Colombia


Costa Rica



Lush rainforests, tropical beaches, steep mountains, and active volcanoes

Amazonian rainforests, Andes mountains, grasslands, and tropical beaches

Tourist Attractions

  • Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Monteverde Cloud Forest
  • Arenal Volcano
  • La Fortuna Waterfall
  • Cartagena’s Old Town
  • Tayrona National Park
  • Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira
  • Rosario Islands


  • Gallo pinto (rice and beans)
  • Chifrijo (fried pork and beans)
  • Casado (plate of rice, beans, plantains, and tortillas)
  • Arepas (fried cornmeal patties)
  • Bandeja Paisa (plate of chicken, rice, beans, plantains, and arepas)


Lively nightclubs and beachside bars

Lively nightclubs, disco clubs, rooftop bars, salsa clubs 


The average daily cost in Costa Rica is around $113 per person

The average daily cost in Colombia is around $45 per person

Costa Rica At A Glance

Located in the Pacific Ocean to the west of the Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica is a Central American country. Due to its magnificent landscape consisting of lush rainforests, volcanoes, and tropical beaches, it’s a popular destination for tourists.  

Costa Rica has an abundance of natural attractions for tourists, including national parks, coffee plantations, animal reserves, cloud forests, and active volcanoes. Whether you’re looking to hike through a forest to see sloths or go on a coffee tour, Costa Rica has something for you. 

costa rica
Image by: Etienne Delorieux

Costa Rica is home to around 50,000 coffee farms and is known for producing some of the world’s most flavorful Arabica coffee beans. If you love coffee, going on a tour through a coffee plantation is essential.

Although we didn’t get the chance to go on a coffee tour, a popular tour is the Britt Coffee Tour, which is around a 30-minute drive from the capital. 

When staying in Costa Rica, I highly recommend and always use Discover cars to pick up a car from the San José airport. They have the best deals and offer FREE cancellations up to 48 hours before your reservation.

Some other tourist attractions that are very popular in Costa Rica include hiking through the Manuel Antonio National Park, Arenal Volcano, or Monteverde Cloud Forest. The rainforests in Costa Rica are home to an abundance of wildlife. 

Image by: Marcelo Villalobos

The Manuel Antonio National Park has koalas, diverse bird species, and monkeys. It also has 5 white-sanded beaches where you can go to swim if you prefer isolated beaches. The beaches within the national park are some of the most stunning beaches you’ll find in Costa Rica, and they’re a popular spot for surfers. 

Costa Rican cuisine is hearty Central American cuisine that incorporates ingredients like beans, rice, yucca, plantains, and seafood. If you plan on visiting, make sure to try out gallo de pinto, which is their national dish of rice and beans that’s often served with eggs and fried plantains.

Costa Rica has a rich culture, and the locals are incredibly friendly. In the capital city, you’ll find museums, historical landmarks, and some of the best authentic restaurants. In downtown San Jose is the San Jose Central Market, where you can purchase handmade clothing, artwork, souvenirs, spices, and fresh local produce. 

Overall, Costa Rica is a wonderful vacation destination if you seek an adventure, and enjoy exploring nature. 

Take A Look At Costa Rica’s Most Popular Tours

Colombia At A Glance

Located in South America, Colombia is a country known for its rich cultural history, diverse landscapes, unique tourist activities, and delectable cuisine. 

Colombia shares its borders with Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama. From lush Amazonian rainforests to towering Andes mountains, Colombia has a very diverse landscape.

The capital city of Bogota has a rich cultural history and is home to various museums, historical plazas, botanical gardens, cathedrals, and more.

Image by: Santiago Boada

Cartagena is home to old town and some of the most beautiful beaches in Colombia, including the Rosario Islands.

Old Town in Cartagena is a charming walled city protected by 400-year-old stone buildings that’s considered a UNESCO World Heritage site. If you’re looking for a blend of historic cities, nightlife and Caribbean beaches, Cartagena is the best place to stay in Colombia.

Image by: Jennifer Poole

Similar to Costa Rica, Colombia has several exceptional natural attractions for tourists. Tayrona National Park is a place you won’t want to miss while visiting. It has lush rainforests, tropical white sand beaches, and over 100 different mammal species, making it one of the most biodiverse rainforests in the world.

Other very popular tourist activities include the Cocora Valley, Caño Cristales (5-colored river), the salt cathedral of Zipaquira, and the El Totumu Mud Volcano. 

The cuisine in Colombia is a blend of indigenous, Spanish, and African influences. Some of the best dishes to try out are bandeja paisa (a hearty plate of rice, beans, meat, egg, and plantains) and arepas (cornmeal flatbreads).

Similar to Costa Rica, Colombia is known for its bold and flavorful Arabica coffee. You can go on a coffee tour around an hour away from Medellin, or in the small city of Salento.

Salento is the most popular city to visit for coffee tours, since it’s part of Colombia’s “Eje Cafetero”, also known as the Coffee Axis. The Coffee Axis is 348,700 acres of land in rural Colombia that’s responsible for producing the majority of Colombian coffee.

When it comes to nightlife, Colombia is lively and abundant, with major cities like Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena having numerous bars, clubs, and live music venues. Salsa dancing is especially popular, with Cali, Columbia being the salsa capital of the world!

medellin colombia
Image by: Joel Duncan

Colombia celebrates many festivals throughout the year, including the exciting Carnival of Barranquilla and the colorful Flower Festival in Medellin. 

All in all, Colombia is an incredible place for a vacation if you’re looking to explore tropical rainforests teeming with biodiversity, visit charming old colonial cities, and immerse yourself in Colombian culture. 

Take A Look At Colombia’s Most Popular Tours

Where To Visit in Costa Rica

Due to its diverse landscape, Costa Rica has several fascinating places to visit for tourists. 

Whether you’re looking to hike through a volcano or visit hidden waterfalls in a rainforest, Costa Rica has something for you. 

One of the most well-known national parks in Costa Rica is The Manuel Antonio National Park. The park has rainforests, white sand beaches, hidden waterfalls, and a diverse array of wildlife.

costa rica

Throughout the park there are monkeys, sloths, anteaters, hummingbirds, and over 100 other animal species. In addition, you may be able to spot dolphins on the shores of Manuel Antonio Beach. 

The next must-see attraction is the La Fortuna Waterfall which is a wet rainforest with stunning waterfalls and hostprings. I highly recommend you walk the Bogarin trail in La Fortuna to see sloths and other unique wildlife. The entrance fee is $15 USD for adults, and private guided tours are available for around $35 to $60 USD. 

Another attraction worth visiting is the Arenal Volcano National Park. This is a large active volcano with several walking trails for hiking. Waterfalls, swimmable hot springs, and lush rainforests surround the national park so it’s an excellent place to go hiking. 

arenal volcano
Image by: Patricia Palacin

Driving through Costa Rica is relatively easy in most areas. However, there are bad roads, particularly when driving to Monteverde Cloud Forest. If you plan on driving throughout the mountainous regions, you may want to consider renting an SUV or 4WD vehicle to avoid bumpy roads.

Similar to Colombia, Costa Rica produces some of the world’s most flavorful Arabica coffee. 

There are around 50,000 coffee farms throughout Costa Rica, where you can attend a coffee tour if you’re interested in how coffee beans are harvested. 

Costa Rica has popular beach towns, including Tamarindo and Jaco Beach. Tamarindo is a tourist hotspot and has restaurants, resorts, gyms, bars, and beaches with watersport activities. It’s nearby to 7 national parks so it’s a great place to stay for those looking to enjoy time out at the beach. 

There are also museums, botanical gardens, city parks, historical landmarks and plazas located in the capital of San Jose.

Here are some of Costa Rica’s top tourist attractions. 

  • Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Arenal Volcano
  • Tamarindo Beach
  • Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
  • Tortuguero National Park
  • La Fortuna Waterfall
  • National Museum of Costa Rica
  • Corcovado National Park

Where To Visit In Colombia

Similar to Costa Rica, Colombia is full of natural beauty. What sets Colombia apart from Costa Rica is its rich cultural history. A must-visit destination is Cartagena’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its charming cobblestone streets and old colonial city.

Image by: Ricardo Gomez

Another must-see destination is Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, a 500-year-old fortress that sits on top of San Lazaro hill in Cartagena. This fascinating castle overlooks the city of Cartagena, and it has underground winding tunnels that visitors are allowed to explore. 

Tayrona National Park is another popular tourist attraction. This national park has tropical beaches, lagoons, and lush rainforests teeming with wildlife. There are over 100 mammal species throughout the park, including jaguars, tamarins, and poison dart frogs! In addition, there are campsites located within the park if you’re looking to stay overnight. 

Colombia national park
Image by: Shubham Singh

Another natural attraction that deserves a visit is Caño Cristales, a five-colored river located in the Serranía de la Macarena National Park. It’s often thought of as the most beautiful river in the world, and you can get there via a 1-hour flight from Bogota. 

Another notable tourist attraction is the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira, which is an underground Roman Catholic Church carved out of salt rocks. It’s located 600 feet underground and you can explore tunnels surrounded by ancient artifacts and sculptures.

Beyond this, Colombia has cloud forests, museums, ancient cities, old towns, and endless places for tourists to visit. 

Image by: Ricardo Gomez

Here are some of the top tourist attractions in Colombia. 

  • Cartagena’s Old Town
  • Tayrona National Park
  • Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira
  • Monserrate
  • Zona Cafetera (Coffee Region)
  • Ciudad Perdida (Lost City)
  • San Andres Island

Which place is better for a vacation?

Costa Rica and Colombia both offer beautiful natural attractions, biodiverse rainforests, and tropical beaches. 

If you’re looking to hike through volcanoes, tour a coffee plantation, and observe wildlife at national parks, Costa Rica’s the place for you.

If you’re looking to visit the world’s most beautiful river, explore old colonial cities, or dance in the Salsa capital of the world, Colombia’s the place for you. 

That said, both places will leave you with unforgettable experiences. If you do plan on visiting either Costa Rica or Colombia, the ideal time to stay for each place is 10 days. 

Costa Rica vs Colombia: An Overview


Both Costa Rica and Colombia have many beautiful Caribbean beaches. In Costa Rica, some of the most beautiful white sand beaches are located in Manuel Antonio National Park. Costa Rica also has beach towns such as Tamarindo and Jaco Beach, which are popular spots for surfing and swimming. 

costa rica
Image by: Atanas Malamov

Colombia has powdery white sand beaches with crystal-clear turquoise waters, making them great for snorkeling, swimming, or simply relaxing. The most stunning beaches are located in the coastal city of Cartagena.

If you prefer less crowded beaches, you can visit the Rosario Islands, a group of 27 islands with secluded beaches. The Rosario Islands are located 12 miles offshore from Cartagena, and many visitors stay a day to snorkel and party. 

colombia beach
Image by: Backroad Packers

Best beaches in Costa Rica

  • Manuel Antonio Beach
  • Playa Hermosa
  • Playa Conchal
  • Jaco Beach
  • Playa Tamarindo

Best beaches in Colombia

  • Playa Blanca
  • Tayrona National Natural Park beaches
  • San Andres Islands
  • Palomino Beach
  • Rosario Islands


Both Costa Rica and Colombia have tropical climates and are relatively warm year-round. In Costa Rica, the average temperature ranges from 75°F to 90°F (24°C to 32°C). On the other hand, Colombia has a slightly cooler average temperature range of 67°F to 87°F (19°C to 31°C).

However, Colombia experiences more regional variation in climate because of its diverse landscapes. Certain high-altitude regions like Bogota have cooler temperatures compared to coastal regions like Cartagena, which are hot and humid. 


In Costa Rica, the official currency is the Costa Rican colón, whereas the official currency in Colombia is the peso. US dollars are widely accepted throughout Costa Rica and Colombia, however, you should convert to their currency for tips and emergency situations.

The conversion rate of Costa Rican colones to USD is: 1 Costa Rican Colon = 0.0018 USD. The conversion rate of Colombian pesos to USD is: 1 Colombian Peso = 0.00024 USD. 


Costa Rican cuisine has mild flavors and incorporates starch-rich ingredients. Some of the most popular dishes include gallo pinto and casado.

Gallo pinto is rice and beans, and it’s often served with fried eggs and plantains. Another must-try dish is casado, which is a traditional platter of rice, red beans, meat, fried eggs, salad, and tortillas. 

Colombian cuisine, on the other hand, is diverse and has bolder flavors. Some must-try dishes if you visit are arepas (cornmeal patties) and bandeja paisa, a hearty dish with rice, red beans, meat, fried egg, and plantains.

If you plan on visiting Colombia, make sure to stop at Restaurante Arepas de Medellin in Bogota to try out some of the best Colombian arepas. Beyond cuisine, both countries are known for producing some of the world’s most flavorful Arabica coffee beans. If you love coffee, attending a coffee tour is worthwhile. 

These are some of the most common dishes in Costa Rica:

  • Gallo Pinto (rice and beans)
  • Casado (rice, beans, plantains, salad, and tortilla)
  • Tostones (fried green plantain slices)
  • Tamales (corn-based dough with meat fillings)
  • Sopa Negra (black bean soup)
costa rican food
Image by: Loren Biser

These are some of the most common dishes in Colombia:

  • Arepas (cornmeal patties)
  • Bandeja Paisa (plate of meat, rice, red beans, arepas, plantains, and fried eggs)
  • Empanadas (fried meat or cheese-filled pastries)
  • Sancocho (hearty traditional meat and vegetable soup)
  • Ajiaco (potato and chicken soup)
  • Bunuelos (deep-fried cheese balls)


Colombia is generally considered more affordable compared to Costa Rica. The average daily price for one person to vacation in Colombia is $43, whereas it’s $111 for Costa Rica.

However, it is possible to travel to Costa Rica on a budget as well. The cheapest time to visit Costa Rica and Colombia is from May to November.


Colombia and Costa Rica have lively nightlife scenes, with the coastal towns being hotspots. The best nightlife spots in Costa Rica are in San Jose, Tamarindo Beach, and Jaco Beach. There are lively nightclubs in San Jose, as well as energetic beach bars in Tamarindo or Jaco. 

In Colombia, cities like Cartagena, Bogota, and Medellin have a lively nightlife scene with numerous nightclubs, rooftop bars, and dance clubs. If you’re looking to salsa dance in the salsa dancing capital of the world, make sure to visit Tienda Vieja in the city of Cali. 


The official language of Costa Rica and Colombia is Spanish. However, there are indigenous languages spoken throughout both countries. Only around 3% of the Columbian population can speak English, whereas around 38% of the Costa Rican population can speak English fluently. 

When’s the best time to visit Costa Rica?

The best time to visit Costa Rica is between December to April, during the dry season. But if you’re looking to save money, the cheapest months to visit are between May to November

When’s the best time to visit Colombia?

In general, the best time to visit Colombia is from December and March, which are the driest months. However, the cheapest months to visit are in May, and August to November


Costa Rica is generally very safe for travelers in tourist areas, but you should exercise caution in non-tourist areas. Colombia is also safe in tourist areas, but certain areas have an increased risk for crime.

According to the US Department of State’s Travel Advisory, you should reconsider traveling to Arauca, Cauca, Norte de Santander, and the Colombia-Venezuela border region due to crime. 


How do you get from Costa Rica to Colombia?

The most convenient way to get from Costa Rica to Colombia is by flight. 

You can fly from San Jose to various cities in Colombia, including Bogotá, Cartagena, and Medellín. El Dorado International Airport is the main airport in Columbia, which is located in the capital city of Bogota. 

How long is the flight from Costa Rica to Colombia?

The flight time from San Jose, Costa Rica to Bogota, Colombia is approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes. However, the flight duration will vary slightly depending on the city you arrive at. 

What airline flies from Costa Rica to Colombia?

Several airlines offer flights from Costa Rica to Colombia, including Avianca, Copa Airlines, Wingo, Volaris, and JetBlue Airways.

The most popular airline that flies from Costa Rica to Colombia is Avianca. Avianca operates flights between several cities in Costa Rica, such as San José, and various destinations in Colombia, including Bogotá, Cartagena, and Medellín.

What papers do you need to go from Colombia to Costa Rica?

You will need a valid passport for the duration of your stay, a return ticket that proves your exit intent, and proof of funds of at least $100 USD for each month of your stay.

Additionally, you should have two blank passport pages for exit and entry stamps. Visit the US Department of State’s Travel Advisory for full requirements here

What country is between Costa Rica and Colombia?

The country that lies between Costa Rica and Colombia is Panama, which is situated to the southeast of Costa Rica and northeast of Colombia.

Is Costa Rica or Colombia better for a wedding?

Costa Rica offers a range of wedding venues that cater to different preferences. Beachfront resorts provide a tropical ambiance with white sand, clear waters, and palm trees. 

In Colombia, haciendas and finca-style venues are popular, providing a rustic and authentic atmosphere with stunning landscapes and mountain views. Historic churches and colonial architecture offer grandeur and cultural heritage for couples seeking an elegant setting.

Is Costa Rica or Colombia better for a bachelor’s party?

Costa Rica and Colombia both offer plenty of fun activities for a bachelor’s party, but Colombia has more events overall. 

In Cartagena, Colombia, you can go on party buses, rent jet skis, or take a party boat to Cholon island. In Medellin, Columbia, there are opportunities for hang gliding, helicopter rides, golfing, paintballing, rafting, and more. 

However, Costa Rica still has plenty of thrilling events. In Jaco Beach, there are beach clubs, casinos, and opportunities for ziplining, ATV tours, and whitewater rafting. Another great spot is the Monteverde cloud forests where you can go hiking, canyoning, ziplining, and even bungee jumping. 

Is Costa Rica or Colombia better for families?

Both Costa Rica and Colombia have tons of kid-friendly tourist attractions.

In Costa Rica, you can visit the Manuel Antonio National Park to observe wildlife, hike through the Arenal Volcano, or go on a chocolate tour at the Don Olivo Chocolate Factory.

In Colombia, you can visit the Tayrona National Park, Parque Explora interactive science museum, and the Cali Zoo. 

Also read:

Costa Rica & Colombia Travel Planning Guide

Is tap water safe to drink in Costa Rica and Colombia?

Yes, the tap water is safe to drink in most areas in both Costa Rica and Colombia. However, I highly recommend and always use a Brita water bottle to filter water and stay hydrated when traveling to more remote areas.

Should I buy travel insurance?

100% YES! Basic coverage starts at $5-$10 per day, and can save you peace of mind. Find the best policy (and prices) for your trip with Travel Insurance Masters.

Should I rent a car in Costa Rica and Colombia?

Yes, renting a car is highly advisable in Costa Rica and Colombia to have autonomy and explore the country on your own.

The minimum age to rent a car in both Costa Rica and Colombia varies from 21-25 years old, with most rental companies requiring you to be at least 23 years old.

Where’s the best place to book accommodations?

My #1 choice for booking hotels is For cheaper accommodations and rentals with a homier feel, my go-to is 

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