Wondering whether Costa Rica or Jamaica is better to travel to for vacation? If so, this article’s for you!

I’ve personally visited each of these countries and they both offer plenty of fun activities for tourists. However, there are key differences that set them apart.

I’ve put together this guide comparing the two countries to help you plan your next trip! 

My article will cover the key differences between Costa Rica and Jamaica’s tourist activities, cuisine, nightlife, cost, and more.

Ready to find out which destination suits you best? Let’s dive in!

costa rica vs jamaica

Jamaica vs Costa Rica: A Brief Overview



Costa rica


Lush rainforests, towering mountains, and Caribbean beaches

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

Tourist Attractions

  • Dunn’s River Falls Park 
  • Bob Marley Museum
  • Seven Mile Beach in Negril
  • The Ochos Rios Blue Hole
  • Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Monteverde Cloud Forest
  • Arenal Volcano
  • La Fortuna Waterfall
  • Cuisine

    • Ackee and saltfish (salted COD and ackee fruit)
    • Jerk chicken
    • Fried breadfruit
  • Gallo pinto (rice and beans)
  • Chifrijo (fried pork and beans)
  • Casado (plate of rice, beans, plantains, and tortillas)
  • Nightlife

    Lively beach bars, nightclubs, and live music 

    Lively nightclubs and beachside bars


    The average daily cost in Jamaica is around $129 per person

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

    Costa Rica At A Glance

    Costa Rica is a small country in Central America, that’s landscape consists of rainforests, cloud forests, mountains, volcanoes, and tropical beaches. 

    Whether you’re looking to explore a rainforest teeming with wildlife or hike up an active volcano, Costa Rica has something for you. 

    Manuel Antonio National Park
    Manuel Antonio National Park
    (Image by: Atanas Malamov)

    Costa Rica’s most popular tourist attractions include the Manuel Antonio National Park and Arenal Volcano National Park.  

    Head to the Manuel Antonio National Park to observe fascinating wildlife, including koalas, monkeys, and diverse bird species. The admission fee is $18.08 for adults, and $5.65 for children.

    The national park is surrounded by lush rainforests, scenic waterfalls, and white sand beaches that are perfect to swim in. 

    The Arenal Volcano is another must-visit destination in Costa Rica. The national park is surrounded by jungles and there are natural hot springs and waterfalls throughout the park. Admission to the park is $15 USD for adults, and $5 USD for children.

    You can also book a guided tour to visit La Fortuna waterfall and walk over hanging bridges, that overlook the rainforest.

    arenal volcano
    Arenal Volcano National Park
    (Image by: Patricia Palacin)

    Since Costa Rica has a Caribbean coastline, it has plenty of beautiful white and gold sand beaches.

    Jaco Beach and Tamarindo Beach are two popular beach towns with restaurants, hotels, cafes, bars, golf courses, and more, if you plan on spending time at the beach.

    Costa Rican cuisine is comforting and has mild flavors, with rice and beans being part of nearly every dish. Some of the most common dishes include gallo pinto (beans and rice) and casado (plate of rice, beans, plantains, salad, tortilla, and meat). 

    In the capital city of San Jose, there are plenty of cute cafes, museums, traditional restaurants, and national parks nearby.

    If you want to pick up souvenirs, handmade clothing, spices, and fresh local produce, head to the Central Market. It’s located in downtown San Jose and is open from 6AM to 6PM every day. 

    If you’re looking to party on vacation, Costa Rica has a lively nightlife, especially in San Jose, Tamarindo, and Jaco Beach. From disco clubs to laid-back rooftop lounges, there’s something for everyone. 

    All in all, Costa Rica is an excellent vacation destination if you love coffee, enjoy hiking volcanoes, or exploring rainforests with scenic waterfalls.

    Guatuso, Costa Rica
    (Image by: Marcelo Villalobos)

    Jamaica At A Glance

    Located in the Caribbean sea, Jamaica is a mountain island country that’s known for its beautiful beaches and rich history.

    The landscape of Jamaica consists of everything from lush rainforests to towering mountains, and stunning waterfalls. If you’re an adventure seeker, Jamaica’s for you.

    Blue Mountain, Jamaica
    Blue Mountain, Jamaica
    (Image by: Yves Alarie)

    Tourists often stay by the beaches in a resort in Negril or Montego Bay. These beach towns have a relaxed, laid-back vibe, and some of the most beautiful beaches in Jamaica.

    Negril, Jamaica
    Negril, Jamaica
    (Image by: Jainam Sheth)

    Head to the capital city of Kingston to visit the Bob Marley Museum, where you can take a 2 hour tour to learn about Bob Marley’s family and life!

    Kingston has cute cafes, museums, historical landmarks, botanical gardens, art galleries, and more, so it’s definitely worth a visit.

    Jamaica is also known for it’s stunning beach towns.

    Montego Bay, Ochos Rios, and Negril are popular beach towns that have resorts, upscale boutiques, restaurants, and picturesque beaches.

    Ochos Rio, Jamaica
    Ochos Rio, Jamaica
    (Image by: Andy Ngucaj)

    Similar to Costa Rica, the beaches in Jamaica are great for swimming, snorkeling, and surfing.

    Beyond tourist activities, Jamaica has a rich cultural heritage, which can be experienced through the music, dance, celebrations, and cuisine.

    The cuisine of Jamaica is delicious, and it incorporates flavorful sauces and staple ingredients like coconut, rice, beans, plantains, and seafood. 

    Similar to Costa Rica, Jamaica has a vibrant nightlife, with endless options throughout the country. One of the most popular nightlife hotspots is the Seven Mile Beach, in Negril.

    From beach bars playing reggae to laid-back jazz lounges, Jamaica has something for you. 

    Negril, Jamaica
    Negril, Jamaica (Image by: Hazal Ozturk)

    Overall, Jamaica has the perfect blend of island beauty, delicious cuisine, cultural richness, and lively nightlife. 

    Differences Between Jamaica and Costa Rica

    • Jamaica is 4,244 square miles while Costa Rica is 19,730 square miles 
    • Jamaica is a Caribbean island, whereas Costa Rica has a Pacific and Caribbean coast
    • Jamaica has 49 islands, while Costa Rica has 79 islands 
    • Jamaica only has one national park, while Costa Rica has 32
    • Jamaica’s official currency is the Jamaican Dollar while Costa Rica’s is the Costa Rican Colon
    • Jamaica’s official language is English while Costa Rica’s is Spanish

    Similarities Between Jamaica and Costa Rica

    • They each have lush rainforests, towering mountains, and tropical beaches
    • Both countries have public transportation, taxis, and Uber
    • They both have delectable cuisine, friendly locals, and lively nightlife
    • They both have endless natural attractions and an abundance of wildlife 

    Which country has the best beaches?

    Being a Caribbean island, Jamaica has more notable beaches than Costa Rica overall.

    Although Costa Rica has a Caribbean coastline, the beaches in Costa Rica have larger waves so they’re better for surfing.

    In contrast, Jamaica’s beaches have calm waters so they’re perfect for swimming.

    That being said, both places have lovely white sand beaches with ample opportunities for snorkeling and water sports.

    tamarindo beach
    Tamarindo Beach, Costa Rica
    (Image by: Jeffrey Eisen)

    In Costa Rica, Tamarindo and Jaco beach are two popular beach towns with restaurants, resorts, shopping, and surfing schools.

    If you’re looking to snorkel or swim, Manuel Antonio Beach is a great spot with gentle waves. 

    Here are some of the best beaches in Costa Rica. 

    • Manuel Antonio Beach
    • Tamarindo Beach
    • Jaco Beach
    • Puerto Viejo
    • Coco Beach

    In Jamaica, Montego Bay, Negril, and Ochos Rios are full of picturesque beaches.

    Ocho Rios, Jamaica
    Ocho Rios, Jamaica (Image by: Amit Shubinsky)

    Here are some of the best beaches in Jamaica.

    • Seven Mile Beach
    • Doctor’s Cave Beach
    • Negril Beach
    • Treasure Beach
    • Frenchman’s Cove
    • Boston Bay Beach
    • Bloody Bay Beach
    Bloody Bay, Jamaica
    Bloody Bay, Jamaica
    (Image by: Josh Eaton)

    Things To Do In Costa Rica

    Whether you’re looking to explore lush rainforests full of wildlife or tour a coffee farm, Costa Rica has something for you. 

    A must-visit destination in Costa Rica is the Manuel Antonio National Park, which is a 3 hour drive away from San Jose International Airport.

    Manuel Antonio National Park
    Manuel Antonio National Park (Image by: Atanas Malamov)

    The national park has lush green rainforests and an abundance of wildlife. You can see sloths, monkeys, squirrels, diverse bird species, and other interesting wildlife. The admission fee is $18.08 for adults and $5.65 for kids but parking is free.  

    Another place you’ll definitely want to visit is the Arenal Volcano national park. The hike around the national park takes 1 hour and 20 minutes on average, and it’s surrounded by lush rainforests, hot springs, and hidden waterfalls.

    There are several great walking trails that’ll give you a scenic view of the volcano.

    The national park is also home to La Fortuna waterfall, a 200 feet waterfall, where you can stop to swim or take spectacular photos. 

    La Fortuna Waterfall
    La Fortuna Waterfall
    (Image by: Etienne Delorieux)

    If you love coffee, Costa Rica’s for you. Known for producing some of the world’s best Arabica coffee, Costa Rica has plenty of incredible cafes, and over 50,000 coffee farms. Tour a coffee plantation and roastery to learn how coffee is cultivated.

    A popular tour is the Britt Coffee Tour, a 90 minute tour that’ll tour a coffee plantation, roastery, and send you home with freshly roasted coffee beans. Tickets are $29 for a coffee tour, and $44 for a coffee tour with lunch. 

    In the capital city of San Jose, there are markets, museums, cafes, and natural parks, making it a nice place to stroll for the day.

    Just 2 hours and 30 minutes away from San Jose is Monteverde, which is home to the famous cloud forest.

    Monteverde Cloud Forest
    Monteverde Cloud Forest
    (Image by: Selina Bubendorfer)

    Admission to the forest is $25 for adults, and $12 for children. It’s full of unique wildlife, and has a hanging bridge you can walk over to overlook the dense rainforest.

    In Monteverde, you can book a chocolate, coffee, and sugar cane tour as well with Don Juan tours. 

    And if you prefer staying at the beach, Tamarindo and Jaco are two popular beach towns. Jaco Beach is known for surfing, horseback riding, and having some of the best nightlife in Costa Rica.

    Tamarindo is a vibrant beach town with resorts, gyms, restaurants, breweries, and bars.

    Tamarindo, Costa Rica
    Tamarindo, Costa Rica (Image by: Jeffrey Eisen)

    Every Thursday from 6PM to 9PM in Tamarindo the moonlight night market is held. You can enjoy live music, local authentic food, and purchase art and jewelry. 

    Overall, Costa Rica is ideal for anyone who loves outdoor adventures, and exploring natural attractions.

    Here are some of Costa Rica’s best 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

    Things To Do In Jamaica

    Jamaica is a beautiful island country with tons of stunning coastal towns and fascinating natural attractions.

    Whether you’re looking to lounge on a beach listening to reggae or learn how rum is made at a distillery, Jamaica has something for everyone.

    Due to it’s diverse landscape, Jamaica is filled with natural attractions.

    One of the most popular tourist attractions is the Dunn’s River Falls Park, located 2.5 hours away from Ochos Rios.

    Dunn's River Falls Park
    Dunn’s River Falls Park
    (Image by: Lakeisha Bennett)

    You can climb to the top of a 600 foot waterfall, and take a dip in a pool at the bottom once you’re finished! Tickets to the park are $25 USD for adults, and $17 for children.

    While in Ocho Rios, head to the Ocho Rio’s Blue Hole or Dolphin’s cove.

    The blue hole is a bright blue natural pool with a waterfall surrounded by lush rainforests where you can go to swim. It’s only 30 minutes away from Ocho Rios town center, and the admission is $20 for adults.

    Ocho Rios, Jamaica
    Ocho Rios, Jamaica
    (Image by: Amit Shubinsky)

    Just 7 minutes away from Ocho Rios Cruise Port is Dolphin’s cove, where you can swim with dolphins or snorkel with stingrays! 

    Jamaica has lush jungles, forested mountains, rivers, and plenty of tropical beaches. If you seek an outdoor adventure, Jamaica’s the place for you.

    Spanish Bridge, Jamaica
    Spanish Bridge, Jamaica
    (Image by: Paul Mathew)

    You can go hiking, river rafting, horseback riding, biking, or enjoy water sports on the beach in Jamaica. 

    A popular beach is the Seven Mile Beach in Negril which has serene white sand beaches with calm waters. The beach town has many resorts, cute cafes, restaurants, botanical gardens, and more, making it an excellent place to stroll around for a day. 

    Montego Bay is another popular beach town that’s filled with resorts, boutiques, fine-dining seafood restaurants, jazz bars, museums, beaches, and rivers. 

    Montego Bay, Jamaica
    Montego Bay, Jamaica
    (Image by: Juan Jose)

    You can book a half-day ATV tour to the Rastafari Indigenous village to learn how Rastafarians live and grow their food. Rastafari tours are available from Negril or Montego Bay, and the tickets typically cost $165. 

    Just 1.5 hours way from Negril is the Appleton Estate in Jamaica’s countryside, where you can go on a rum-tasting tour.

    You’ll get the chance to taste authentic Jamaican rum, learn how its made, and end the tour with authentic Jamaican food. Tickets are $39 USD, and the tour is 2 hours. 

    Countryside of Jamaica
    Countryside of Jamaica
    (Image by: Lyncoln Miller)

    Regardless of which town you stay at, there are endless things to do while in Jamaica. 

    Here are some of Jamaica’s top tourist attractions. 

    • Dunn’s River Falls and Water Park
    • Bob Marley Museum
    • Green Gotto Caves
    • Old Spanish Bridge
    • Dolphin Cove in Ochos Rios
    • Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience
    • Blue Hole in Ochos Rios
    • Emancipation Park
    • Blue Mountains
    • Seven Mile Beach in Negril

    Differences in Climate

    Costa Rica and Jamaica have tropical climates with warm weather year round. The average temperature in Costa Rica is 75 F to 90 F throughout the year.

    The average temperature in Jamaica ranges from the low 70s to the high 80s throughout the year. Costa Rica’s wet season runs from mid-May through November, with September and October being the wettest months.

    The wet season in Jamaica is from June to November, and thunderstorms often bring heavy rainfall in August and September. 


    The official currency in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón, while the official currency in Jamaica is the Jamaican dollar.

    US Dollars are widely accepted in tourist areas, but you should convert dollars to Costa Rica and Jamaica’s currency for the vast majority of purchases. 

    The conversion rate for Costa Rican colones to dollars is: 1 Costa Rica Colon = 0.0019 USD. The conversion rate for Jamaican dollars to US dollars is: 1 Jamaican Dollar = 0.0065 USD. 


    The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish whereas English is the official language of Jamaica. However, you’ll find that many Costa Ricans speak English fluently, especially in tourist areas.

    Other languages spoken in Jamaica include Spanish, Chinese, and Jamaican Patois (English-based creole). 

    Which country has the best cuisine?

    Costa Rica and Jamaica have comforting cuisines, with beans, rice, plantains, and chicken being common staples. In general, Costa Rica has mild flavors whereas Jamaican food is bursting with flavor.

    That being said, both places have delicious traditional cuisine that’s worth trying out. 

    Costa Rica’s most well-known dish is “gallo pinto,” which consists of beans and rice mixed with onion, red bell pepper, and salsa. It’s often served with eggs, cheese, and fried plantains as a breakfast side dish.

    Costa Rica is known for producing some of the best coffee in the world, so make sure to stop by a cafe to try their flavorful Arabica coffee if you plan on visiting. 

    Here are some of Costa Rica’s most popular dishes. 

    • Gallo Pinto: Traditional rice and beans dish.
    • Casado: Rice, beans, and meat.
    • Olla de Carne: Hearty beef stew.
    • Chifrijo: Rice, beans, fried pork, and avocado.
    • Sopa Negra: Black bean soup 
    • Patacones: Fried plantain slices 

    Jamaican cuisine is packed with flavorful and it consists of spicy sauces, fresh seafood, and many traditional dishes like jerk chicken or goat curry.

    Their national dish is Ackee and Salt fish, a breakfast made from salted codfish and the ackee fruit.

    Jamaica is also known for its flavorful drinks and cocktails, with ginger beer and rum punch being two popular options. 

    These are some of Jamaica’s most popular dishes. 

    • Ackee and saltfish
    • Jamaican rice and peas
    • Jerk chicken
    • Curry goat
    • Fried breadfruit


    The average daily cost in Costa Rica is $111 per person, whereas the average daily cost in Jamaica is $129 on average. However, there are still ways to travel to Jamaica for cheap if you’re on a budget.

    Jamaica has plenty of free tourist activities including over 50 public beaches, Negril Cliffs, Emancipation Park, the Devon House Mansion Tour, and more.

    Additionally, renting a car in Jamaica will save you money on transportation, rather than relying on tours to get from place to place. 


    The nightlife in Costa Rica is lively and there are plenty of beach bars, and popular nightclubs. 

    Common nightlife hotspots In Costa Rica are Tamarindo Beach, Jaco Beach, and the capital city of San Jose. However, Jamaica’s nightlife is more notable than Costa Rica.

    Head to the Seven Mile Beach in Negril to go on a sunset cruise, or enjoy a rum punch at Margaritaville in Montego Bay.

    If you prefer a laid-back vibe, head to Kingston’s Dub Club to enjoy live reggae music and a scenic view of the capital city at night. It’s open from 5PM to 12AM every Sunday, and has a great atmosphere for a relaxing night out. 


    Costa Rica and Jamaica are generally very safe in tourist areas. However, certain cities and neighborhoods have higher levels of crime.

    According to the US Department of State’s Travel Advisory, you should exercise increased caution in Costa Rica, and reconsider traveling to Jamaica due to crime.

    However, you can safely travel to both countries if you take the proper precautions, including being aware of your surroundings, and being informed of the areas you visit.

    Read this article on how to travel to Jamaica safely for more helpful tips. 

    Costa Rica Vs Jamaica: Best Time To Visit

    The best time to visit Jamaica is from mid December through April, whereas the best time to visit Costa Rica is between April to December

    Also read:

    Our Final Thoughts: Which destination is better?

    Costa Rica and Jamaica are two incredible destinations for a vacation that are full of natural beauty. 

    Costa Rica is the ideal destination for you if you’re looking to hike through the magnificent Arenal volcano, tour a coffee plantation, and explore some of the world’s most biodiverse rainforests. 

    Jamaica is the ideal destination for you if you’d like to climb up waterfalls at the Dunn’s River Falls and Park, go bamboo rafting through a river, tour a rum distillery, or visit the Bob Marley Museum. 

    No matter which place you choose, you’ll be left with memories to last a lifetime.

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