Aruba vs Costa Rica – Both incredible beach destinations, you can’t go wrong with either Aruba or Costa Rica. And while Aruba offers a year-wide dry climate, with long walks on sandy white beaches, Costa Rica is much bigger, thus offering a wide array of trip possibilities – swimming in blue beaches, biodiversity, and nature trails, it’s a total paradise!
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Comparing Aruba vs Costa Rica
Between Aruba vs Costa Rica, Costa Rica wins for us. While both Aruba and Costa Rica are paradises, we love how Costa Rica offers more outside the lounging on the beach type of vacation. Costa Rica has blue beaches comparable to Aruba’s, but it also has incredible nature that you can visit as well while you’re in the country.
Traveling in Aruba
Aruba is an island located in the southern Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Venezuela. It is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and is known for its sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and warm weather. Aruba is also home to a variety of attractions, including the California Lighthouse, the Alto Vista Chapel, and the Hooiberg, a mountain that offers panoramic views of the island.
Traveling in Costa Rica – Costa Rica vs Aruba
Costa Rica is a country located in Central America, between Nicaragua and Panama. It is known for its biodiversity, with over 500,000 species of plants and animals. Costa Rica is home to a number of national parks and reserves, including the Arenal Volcano National Park, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, and the Manuel Antonio National Park. It is also a popular destination for eco-tourism, with activities such as birdwatching, rafting, and snorkeling.
Costa Rica is the better choice for an activity-based beach trip, with a lot of time with nature, while Aruba is a beach-type vacation with Caribbean beaches and hotel stays and parties.
Getting There – Costa Rica vs Aruba
Getting to Aruba
By plane: The main airport in Aruba is the Queen Beatrix International Airport, which is located just outside of Oranjestad, the capital of Aruba. There are many major airlines that offer flights to Aruba from a variety of cities in the United States, as well as from other countries in the Caribbean and Latin America.
By boat: It is also possible to travel to Aruba by boat. There are regular ferry services from the nearby islands of Curacao and Bonaire, as well as from Venezuela.
By cruise ship: Another option is to visit Aruba as part of a Caribbean cruise. Many cruise lines offer itineraries that include a stop in Aruba, and you can explore the island during your time in port.
Getting to Costa Rica
By plane: The main airport in Costa Rica is the Juan Santamaría International Airport, located in the capital city of San José. There are many major airlines that offer flights to Costa Rica from a variety of cities in North America, South America, and Europe.
By car: If you are planning to drive to Costa Rica, you can enter the country by crossing the border from Nicaragua or Panama. It is important to have all necessary documents, including your passport and a valid driver’s license, and to check the requirements for entry into the country.
By bus: It is also possible to travel to Costa Rica by bus. There are regular bus services from neighboring countries, including Panama, Nicaragua, and Honduras.
By boat: It is possible to arrive in Costa Rica by boat, although this is not a very common way to enter the country. There are some ferry services that operate between Costa Rica and Panama, but these are not frequent and may not be suitable for all travelers.
Things to do in Aruba
Aruba is a 21-mile-long country that sits in the Southern Caribbean, very close to South America. When visiting Aruba, you’ll most likely be flying into the country via its only international airport, Queen Beatrix International Airport, in Oranjestad.
You can easily expect some of the world’s best beaches in Aruba, just as in the rest of the Caribbean. Aruba is outside the typhoon belt, and with its arid climate, generally, any time of the year is a good time to visit the country.
Let’s look at Aruba’s best things to do in this Caribbean series.
1. Eagle Beach
One of the most popular beaches in Aruba, the Eagle Beach. A lot of resorts are here, but it’s definitely the place to be and see in Aruba. It’s one of the best beaches in the world, and you can’t deny it, once you see it. Make sure to not miss it.
2. Divi Divi Trees
The Divi Divi tree (or Watapana Tree) is the most unique thing in Aruba and is known as Aruba’s compass. Once you find the Divi Divi tree, you’ll know that it’s always pointing in the Southwestern direction. It’s one of the most unique things in Aruba, and definitely something to see!
3. Baby Beach – Costa Rica vs Aruba
Another beach in Aruba to see is Baby Beach or Klein Lagoon. It is a shallow, sheltered man-altered lagoon located in the Mangle Cora locality near the village of Seroe Colorado, on the southwest side of the southeast end of the island of Aruba. It is frequented by locals and tourists.
4. Hiking in the Arikok National Park
The beautiful Arikok National Park in Aruba comprises almost 20% of the island. Enjoy gorgeous vistas of Aruba’s rugged terrain, desert-like hills filled with tall cacti, and a breathtaking coastline, and protect native flora and fauna.
The National Park takes you on a memorable journey of the island’s past offering unique geological, cultural and historical sites. These can all be enjoyed and explored either on your own or during guided tours. A wide variety of educational and informative programs and fun activities are available.
5. Conchi Natural Pools
Bjørn Christian Tørrissen
Experience true adventure at Aruba’s most remote, yet also most popular natural attraction, the famous Natural Pool.
In a unique rock formation, volcanic stone circles a small depression, creating a tranquil pool: Aruba’s Natural Pool.
On a deserted stretch of coastline, dramatic shows of water spraying over the rock occur on a regular basis as the tide rushes to shore. The unique natural pool is also known as ‘Conchi’ (bowl) or ‘Cura di Tortuga’ (Turtles Cove) and is located inside Aruba’s national park Arikok.
The location of the Pool is surrounded by some of Aruba’s most rugged terrain, so a visitor truly gets the feeling of having “discovered” something when they reach the site, by either foot, horseback or 4×4 vehicle. Because of the nature of the environment in this secluded area, the site is inaccessible by a regular car. Inexperienced drivers are encouraged to visit the pool on a Jeep Safari.
During the day small snacks and drinks are sold at the top of the stairs that lead to the Natural Pool.
5. Quadiriki Caves
The Quadiriki Caves are located in Arikok National Park on the island of Aruba. There are three caves, which tourists commonly explore. The caves are located at the base of a limestone cliff. They contain Amerindian petroglyphs. The name of the caves is of Arawak origin
6. Scuba Diving in Punta Basora
One of the top areas for scuba diving in Aruba is Punta Basora. Punta Basora is the easternmost point of Aruba, from which a narrow reef stretches far out into the sea. On calm days, divers will see tuna, ballyhoo, eagle rays, stingrays, barracudas, dorados, hammerhead sharks, and hawksbill and loggerhead turtles pass by on their way around this point of the island.
7. Snorkeling in Tres Papi
Tres Trapi (meaning “three steps”) is a tiny sandy cove nestled in the rocky northwestern shore of Aruba. The 10-meter-long beach is accessible by three rustic steps carved into the rock, after which the site has been named. Tres Trapi has white sand, a grey cliff, and pristine placid waters, where hundreds of red cushion starfish lay on the seafloor, making it one of the favorites and most photogenic snorkeling spots of the island
8. Palm Beach
Palm Beach is a resort area on the northern coast of Aruba, a Dutch Caribbean island. It’s known for its calm waters and long sandy strip lined with bars and restaurants. To its south, the lush Bubali Bird Sanctuary has an observation tower and is home to herons and other migratory birds. Nearby is the Old Dutch Windmill, imported in the 1960s, and the Butterfly Farm, with free-flying butterflies in a jungle enclosure.
9. Flamingos in Renaissance island / Renaissance Island / Flamingo Beach
Leave the cares of the world behind as you venture over to a private island complimentary to Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino guests. Renaissance Island features Aruba’s only private beaches and is just an 8-minute water taxi ride away. Here lies a true oasis with family-friendly beaches or beaches just for adults.
Pamper yourself at the private Spa Cove, play a game of beach tennis, sit down to the delicious lunch specials at Papagayo Bar & Grill or have a drink at our newly added Mangrove Beach Bar, or just lie back and let the sun caress you. A day on Renaissance Island is a day well spent.
Kitesurfing is a popular activity at this windy beach with waves, turquoise water & a serene vibe. Boca Grandi is a very popular location for this.
10. Boca Catalina
This small, secluded bay with a sandy white beach offers swimming & snorkeling
11. California Lighthouse
The California Lighthouse is a lighthouse located at Hudishibana near Arashi Beach and the Sasariwichi dunes on the northwest tip of Aruba. This lighthouse was named for the steamship California, which was wrecked nearby on September 23, 1891.
12. Wariruri Bridge
Wariruri Beach is located at Wariruri Bay, a sandy cove surrounded by a rocky coastline consisting of limestone, worn out by the sea.
13. Tripod Bridge
Other gorgeous natural bridges can be found in the southern part of the island near Black Stone Beach where you’ll find a unique tripod bridge.
14. Hiking in Aruba
Now, one of the most unique things in Aruba is that not only does it have amazing blue waters, it also has good hiking trails. Below are 3 of Aruba’s most popular hiking trails.
- Hooiberg Hiking Trail
- Arikok Mountain
- Alto Vista Trail
15. Dos Playa
Dos Playa (two beaches) is a pair of bordering coves carved out of the island’s limestone. One cove is a go-to for island surfers, with a broad white-sand beach for sunbathing or relaxing under the shade of the sea-grape trees.
16. Manchebo Beach
Manchebo Beach is a wide stretch of beach on the most western point of the island (just after Eagle Beach), located in the low-rise hotel area in front of the Manchebo Beach Resort. The beach area offers a combination of exciting waves, due to converging currents, and calm waters.
17. Andicuri Beach
No-frills bay beach enclosed by coral cliffs, with powerful currents for bodyboarders
18. Mangel Halto
Mangel Halto is a small beach located in Pos Chiquito, which you will find on your way to San Nicolas. The beach is surrounded by mangroves and is a favorite among locals for a relaxing day on the beach. Mangel Halto is also known as a perfect snorkeling and shore-diving spot due to the calm and shallow waters.
19. San Nicolas
San Nicolaas is 19 kilometers southeast of Oranjestad and is Aruba’s second-largest city. As of 2010, it has a population of 15,283, most of whom originate from the British Caribbean and the rest of the Caribbean
20. Fishing in Aruba
If we missed any more water activities, fishing is also possible in these local or tourist boats in Aruba! If it’s a big hobby of yours, don’t miss doing it in Aruba’s incredibly blue waters.
Tell us which Caribbean island you chose, and if you have more tips, let us know in the comments.
Things to Do in Costa Rica
Rio Celeste is a beautiful blue river located in Costa Rica’s Tenorio Volcano National Park. It gets its distinctive color from the minerals that are found in the water, which create a blue-green hue.
The Rio Celeste is formed by the confluence of two smaller rivers, the Rio Buena Vista and the Rio Quebrada Agria. The river is approximately 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) long and is surrounded by dense rainforest and volcanic rock formations. It is a popular destination for hikers and nature enthusiasts, who come to see the river’s stunning blue color and the surrounding wildlife.
In addition to its natural beauty, the Rio Celeste is also home to a number of attractions, including the Rio Celeste Waterfall, which is a popular spot for swimming and picnics. The area around the river is also home to a variety of plant and animal species, including sloths, monkeys, and a wide range of birds.
If you are planning a visit to Costa Rica, the Rio Celeste is definitely worth a visit. It is located in the northern part of the country, near the town of Bijagua. To get there, you can take a bus from San Jose or from other nearby towns, or you can rent a car and drive yourself. It is advisable to book a tour or hire a guide to help you navigate the area and ensure that you get the most out of your visit.
Tortuguero National Park
Situated in one of the most culturally diverse places in Costa Rica, Tortuguero National Park is biodiverse. Although it is a park, Tortuguero is different than others. Aside from the observable richness of its flora and fauna, you could also enjoy boat trips into its canals and just enjoy the ride.
Tortuguero National Park have multiple nature trails like Gavilan Trail, La Ceiba, La Bomba, Harold, Mora, and Chiquero.
From San Jose, you could go here by Plane, Bus, Shuttle, or boat. The boat costs for about 3 USD to 8 USD and the Bus costs about 8 USD. The plane ride costs about 60 USD but it is the fastest route available. If you fancy a Shuttle then you’ll have to pay 50 USD per person.
Puerto Viejo Talamanca
A surfer’s haven as they call it but it is more than that. Puerto Viejo Talamanca shows you how to relax and enjoy doing nothing as time passes by. It doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything here but the laidback vibes really take over. Get a hammock, lie down, and relax. It is absolutely refreshing!
It is also a lively party place that leans to Reggaeton music a lot. Also, the party’s music has a really good harmony with the sounds that the animals make. Backpackers also often visit Puerto Viejo Talamanca because of the vibes. For 5 hours, you could go to San Jose from Puerto Viejo Talamanca,it is worth 10 USD. You should say “talamanca” because there is another Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica.
The capital of Costa Rica, San Jose is great because of the combination of old and modern hints to the city, blending traditions and innovation. The city also likes their museums and galleries like the most visited Museo de Jade, house of beautiful jade collections.
Also, they like serving their new ideas with food. The Paseo Gastronomico La Luz in Barrio Escalante gets you hungry and craving even after you’re full! San Jose is the best place to start before engaging in more exciting experiences around Costa Rica
Monteverde Cloud Forest
I know that a lot of places in Costa Rica is biodiverse but this place is highly biodiverse. With 2500 flora and 620 fauna, it is really amazing to experience being up close to some of them. There are tours inside for Butterflies, Hummingbirds, Coffee, Chocolate and Sugarcane. You could also hike the Monteverde reserve or take exhilarating photos at their zip-lines and suspension bridges.
To go here, take a bus from San Jose to Santa Elena. The buses have services in 6:30 AM and 2:30 PM. If you’re taking a bus the trip would take 4 hrs but if you’re taking the shuttle the trip would take 2 hrs and a half only.
Are you looking for another surfer’s haven? Well, surfers of all levels could enjoy this place because of wave consistency. But if you don’t know how to surf, it’s a great place to know how because there are many surf shops around. It will be a little bit cheaper to get help from local surfers who you can trust. You could also relax on a cruise sunset sailing, great for couples and families.
Coming from San Jose,the bus will take 6 hrs to get from here. The cost would only be 10 USD per person. The shuttle could take 4 hrs to go here but would cost 45 USD to 55 USD per person and you’ll share the trip with other people.
Arenal Volcano (La Fortuna)
La Fortuna is the home of the country’s largest lake and beautiful volcano. The volcano is symmetrical cone shapes wonder standing tall above Arenal Lake, where you could kayak and enjoy the views of the towering Arenal Volcano. You could also enjoy hiking to La Fortuna Waterfall, a place to swim and enjoy the coldness of the water falling from the top while enjoying beautiful surrounding views.
If you’re going to Arenal Volcano with a car, the shortest route is through the Panamerican Highway towards Puntarenas. This route would only take you 3 hrs. But if you’re going with a shuttle that costs 50 USD, it would take you 4 hrs. And for the bus, it would take you 10 USD for 6 hrs.
Corcovado National Park
Corcovado is the largest national park in Costa Rica and arguably the most beautiful. The ecosystem will surely mesmerize its visitors. There are plenty of researchers and visitors in the area because here, you’ll always learn something new about the animals. The wildlife of this place will not disappoint you.
The travel time is fairly long from San Jose to Corcovado. It varies from 6-8 hrs depending on the stops that will be made. From San Jose, you could go here for 20 USD for a public bus.
Montezuma is the Perfect place to find a good beach to swim. One example is Playa Montezuma a beautiful beach perfect for sunbathing and swimming. The waves are not strong so it’s perfect for casual swimming. Also, there is a stunning waterfall that is easy to hike from the village. The Montezuma waterfall has three cascades that are perfect for everyone
The easiest way to go to Montezuma is through bus and ferry. First, from San Jose you need to go to Jaco by bus for only 4 USD for a 2 hr ride. Then, you need to take a ferry to Jaco going to Montezuma for 42 USD for a 1 hr ride.
Manuel Antonio Park
Known as the park that is most visited by tourists, Manuel Antonio Park is densely populated with mammals and birds. Don’t be shy to ask your guide if you’d like to observe an animal. Apart from this, there are also beaches around the park like Espadilla Sur Beach and Manuel Antonio Beach. It is best to go to the beaches first and then the nature trails
It is fairly cheap and easy to get to Manuel Antonio Park by bus. It would only cost you 6-8 USD and would take only 3 hrs and a half. But if you have rented a car, it would be faster with a 3 hr ride, not much of a difference actually.
Looking for a white sand beach that offers snorkeling and swimming? Manzanillo is the perfect place for that. The afro-caribbean culture gives this place colors. Also, because of the proximity to fishing spots the town has delicious food in it. They serve very good sea food on the market!
Because of its proximity to Puerto Viejo Talamanca, it is better to go there first then here. Take a bus going to Puerto Viejo Talamanca and then take a taxi going to Manzanillo. The ride from San Jose to Puerto Viejo Talamanca takes about 4 hrs and costs for 10 USD. While, the taxi ride from Puerto Viejo Talamanca costs for about 10 USD as well for a short 20 min ride.
Fun Things to Do in Costa Rica
If it wasn’t obvious by now there are really lots of places to surf in Costa Rica. The places vary on difficulty but all offer unique experiences. Costa Rica is one of the places in the world that surfers purposefully seek. The surf schools available are also worth it because you’ll definitely learn at the end of the courses.
Another learning opportunity in Costa Rica is to learn Spanish. There are a lot of Spanish classes in Costa Rica offering packages with different services. Some packages have it all like the AIFS Study Abroad in San Jose. Some specialize in teaching students quality Spanish classes and some focus on cultural immersion in school.
Biking around beaches
There are lots of mountains wherein you could have fun with your bicycle; if you don’t have one, you could also rent it out. One place that has a cycling trail is Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna. The views are just astounding. You could feel that you’re surrounded by beauty as you wander on the trail and cycle slowly. Seriously, you need to try this!
Nightlife in Costa Rica
Costa Ricans love to party. That’s why you’ll see lots of bars, clubs and restaurants. Some of the most active places to party at night are Jacò, San Jose and Tamarindo. If you have time after doing your day activities you could always take it up a notch by partying in these places.
The port city in Limòn hosts Limòn Carnaval, a one week celebration of Costa Rica’s cultural diversity. They celebrate the members of the community from all races. The festival is full of energy and colors. You won’t see anyone not smiling as they celebrate this festival. As a tourist, you’ll love the cultural immersion in this Carnaval.
It is really a classical way to explore places but it is still universally remarkable. Horseback riding is popular with tourists because it is easier to be one with nature in this way. Many places offer horseback riding tours. Examples are places in Monteverde, La Fortuna, Jaco, and Cocles.
After sunbathing and swimming, you might want to dive into the colorful life underwater. There are lots of places to dive in Costa Rica but if you’re a beginner you might want to go to the Caribbean coast because you’ll enjoy the peaceful dive. If you’re intermediate to advance you might want to go to the pacific coastline because there you’ll see manta rays and sharks.
Try Gallo Pinto
Gallo Pinto is the favorite breakfast of Costa Ricans. They add black beans or red beans to their rice and pair it to other dishes. There are many variations of Gallo Pinto in Costa Rica but each variation proves that Gallo Pinto is better than old plain boring rice in the morning.
Try Fresh Tropical Fruits
Costa Rica has lots of fruits all over the region. Examples are bananas, watermelons, guavas, mangoes, coconuts, papayas, cantaloupes, blackberries, pineapples, passion fruit, and carambola. Costa Ricans really like their fruits served as juice or shakes. An example is their coconut shake which is really creamy and sweet. You’ll often find restaurants or even kiosks selling shakes
Festivals in Costa Rica
Limon Carnival happens on the port city of Limon. This carnival has a lot of vibrant feel to it. The people are very energetic and you’ll rarely see people not smiling. They celebrate the unity of different cultures residing in Costa Rica with music and dancing. This is the best time immersed in Costa Rican’s culture because they show off their food and people.
After Christmas and New Year, there is another festival tourists are excited about. Fiestas Palmares is a two-week-long fiesta in January that celebrates the culture of Costa Ricans and having fun. What I mean by fun is bullfighting, soccer games, outdoor concerts, comedians, horse parades, beer, and many more! Well, if that’s not fun I don’t know what is.
A transformational festival that is said to transform human potential. Yes, it is spiritual and a fun way to get loose. VICE said that is like a “hippie jungle festival”. Combination of yoga for partying, dancing that removes your inhibitions, and many more.
Best Time of Year to Visit – Aruba vs Costa Rica
Best Time to Visit Aruba
In Aruba their summer (December to April), there are fewer showers of rain than normal. In their winter (May to November), the rains are almost non-stop. For most tourists best time to visit Aruba is from December to April because of easier transport.
Best Time to Visit Costa Rica
The best time to visit Costa Rica is between December and April. These are the months that are driest and you’ll get a lot of sun. If you want to travel during the “green season”, you’ll find National Parks much quieter, and you can travel to Costa Rica from around from May to June or in November.
Final Thoughts on Aruba vs Costa Rica
You can’t go wrong when choosing between Aruba vs Costa Rica. Aruba is a paradise beach trip with an arid and dry climate all year while Costa Rica offers beautiful nature and biodiversity in addition to its beautiful beaches. Costa Rica wins for us in this battle. Let us know what you ended up choosing and have a fabulous trip!
About the Author: Ruben, co-founder of Gamintraveler.com since 2014, is a seasoned traveler from Spain who has explored over 100 countries since 2009. Known for his extensive travel adventures across South America, Europe, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and Africa, Ruben combines his passion for adventurous yet sustainable living with his love for cycling, highlighted by his remarkable 5-month bicycle journey from Spain to Norway. He currently resides in Spain, where he continues to share his travel experiences alongside his partner, Rachel, and their son, Han.