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Mexico or Costa Rica: Which Destination Is Better 2023

Are you struggling to decide on whether you should head to Mexico or Costa Rica this year for your vacation? You are not alone, I get asked this question all the time.

Since I spent 6 years living in Costa Rica and several months traveling around Mexico I have a good idea what the two countries are like.

Both countries promise unforgettable experiences, stunning landscapes, and vibrant cultures, but which one should you choose for your next vacation?

Well, a part of that is going to depend on you and what you are looking for from your vacation.

But in this blog post, I’ll go through the top categories of what makes a vacation great and pick a winner between Mexico and Costa Rica.

Making it easier for you to decide which dream destination aligns best with your travel preferences.

Key Takeaways

  • Explore ancient ruins and vibrant beach resorts in Mexico, or experience serenity and eco-friendly tranquility with Costa Rica’s stunning beaches.
  • Savour the freshest food in both countries while taking safety precautions for a secure trip to either destination.
  • Enjoy adventure activities like water sports & wildlife encounters depending on your budget & preferences!

Which Country Has Better Natural Beauty and Landscapes? Costa Rica Wins

Hot water springs over looking the mountains in Oaxaca, Mexico
Hierve Aqua, Oaxaca
A couple walking through a lush tropical rainforest in Costa Rica with backpacks on
Corovado National Rainforest, Costa Rica

Mexico and Costa Rica are both known for their breathtaking natural beauty, but each country offers a distinct landscape that appeals to different types of travelers.

Mexico boasts diverse landscapes, ranging from deserts to more ancient cities, while Costa Rica’s allure lies in its lush rainforests and commitment to eco-tourism.

Do you prefer exploring ancient ruins or trekking through the jungle?

Mexico: Diverse Landscapes

Mexico’s diverse landscapes offer a little bit of everything for everyone. With its Caribbean and Pacific coasts, you can find warm, white sand beaches on one side and cooler waters on the other.

In addition to Mexico’s stunning beaches and quaint small beach towns, Mexico is home to various other landscapes such as deserts, mountains, and even jungles.

For example, Baja California is a state in Baja California. Sur has a dry climate with warm winters and hot summers, while the Yucatan Peninsula offers a tropical, humid climate with more rain.

Mexico is 38 times the size of Costa Rica giving you more area to explore.

Some popular cities and attractions in Mexico include:

  • Mexico City
  • Puerto Vallarta
  • Oaxaca
  • Copper Canyon
  • Monarch Butterfly Reserves
  • Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins
  • Cancun
  • Riviera Maya

Costa Rica: Biodiversity And Eco-Tourism

Costa Rica, on the other hand, is a haven for nature lovers.

Its focus on biodiversity and eco-tourism has made it one of the most sought-after destinations for travelers seeking unique, sustainable experiences.

Costa Rica is full of lush rainforests, and opportunities to see sloths and see monkeys.

In fact, Costa Rica is home to 5% of global biodiversity.

Some popular natural attractions in Costa Rica include the

  • Arenal Volcano
  • Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
  • Stunning beaches around Liberia
  • Rainforests Osa Penisula
  • Snorkeling the Caribbean coasts

Which Country Has Better Beaches and Coastal Activities? Tie

Sunny tropical Cancun Beach, Mexico
Cancun Beach, Mexico
Palm trees lining a black sand beach with blue skies and a few white clouds
Cahuita Beach, Costa Rica

When it comes to beaches and coastal activities, Mexico and Costa Rica each have their own unique offerings.

Mexico is known for its vibrant beach resorts, while Costa Rica provides more rustic local beach escapes.

Mexico: Vibrant Beach Resorts

  • Full of more lively beach resorts like Cancun and Playa del Carmen
  • Beautiful white sand and turquoise waters on the Caribbean coast
  • World-class surfing on the Pacific coast
  • More fun party vibes to the beach towns
  • Top-notch fishing

Costa Rica: Serene Beach Escapes

  • More Laid back Beach towns surrounded by jungle
  • More nature and wildlife surrounding the beaches
  • Focus on eco-friendly practices, you can truly enjoy the natural beauty of the coastline and its diverse marine life.
  • World-class surfing
  • Top-notch fishing

Which Country Has Better Cuisine? Mexico Wins

Fresh Tacos al pastor in Mexico topped with fresh cliantro
Tacos al Pastro, Mexico
Gallo Pinto Typical Costa Rican dish
Gallo Pinto a traditional Costa Rican dish

Both Mexico and Costa Rica are two vibrant countries in Latin America, that boast a tasting cuisine.

In the realm of “Mexico vs Costa Rica”, Mexico’s history and flavorful cuisine are well-known worldwide, whereas Costa Rican cuisine is not as similar.

Many travelers come to Costa Rica thinking that the cuisine will be much like Mexico’s, but it is not.

If you are dreaming of tacos, nachos and burritos on your next vacation, you might want to stick to Mexico.

Mexico: Flavorful Food

When it comes to cuisine, Mexico is famous for its bold flavors and variety. From street food favorites like tacos al pastor and quesadillas to fine dining experiences, Mexico is a foodie’s dream

Typical Foods you will enjoy in Mexico

  • Tacos
  • Burritos
  • Mole
  • Enchiladas
  • Nachos

Costa Rica: Cuisine

Costa Rican cuisine focuses on fresh, healthy ingredients, with dishes like Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) and Casado (rice, black beans, vegetables, and fresh seafood) taking center stage.

Typical Foods you will enjoy in Mexico

  • Ceviche
  • Gallo Pinto
  • Chifrio
  • Patacones
  • Casados

Which Country Has The Better Culture? Mexico Wins

Mexican Culture

Mexico’s culture is deeply rooted in its history, with influences from ancient civilizations such as the Maya, Aztecs, and Olmec.

This rich heritage can be seen in its vibrant festivals, like Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Cinco de Mayo.

Mexican culture is louder and more known around the world.

It is also known for its National Museum of Anthropology and the Frida Kahlo Museum.

Costa Rican Culture

In contrast, Costa Rica’s culture is centered around the “Pura Vida” lifestyle, which emphasizes simplicity, eco-friendliness, and an appreciation for nature.

This laid-back approach can be felt throughout the country, from the friendly locals in San Jose to the relaxed atmosphere at its beach towns.

Everything moves at a slower pace in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica’s commitment to sustainability and eco-tourism also means that travelers can enjoy unique culinary experiences while supporting local communities and the environment.

Which Country Is Safer? Costa Rica Wins

Police walking the beach in Puerto Vallarta
Police walking on the beach in Mexico

Safety is a top concern when traveling. So if safety is one of your top priorities, when choosing between Mexico and Costa Rica for the most part Costa Rica is safer.

Mexico has some safety concerns related to crime and drug cartels, but this rarely affects tourists unless you are caught in the crossfire.

Costa Rica is generally considered one of the safest countries in Central America.

Mexico: Travel Precautions

Mexico’s safety concerns primarily stem from crime and drug cartel activity, particularly in certain border regions.

However, popular tourist destinations like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Puerto Vallarta are generally safe and removed from these issues.

It’s important to stay aware of your surroundings, avoid traveling alone at night, and not flash valuables around.

Taking proper precautions when traveling no matter what country you are in, will help to ensure you stay safe.

Costa Rica: A Safer Alternative

Costa Rica is renowned for its safety compared to other countries in Central America, making Costa Rica safer for travelers.

It is viewed by many as one of the safest places to visit. Besides pretty crime, you don’t have much to worry about here.

There is no cartel compared to Mexico.

With its stable political situation and low crime rates, Costa Rica offers an attractive option for those concerned about safety.

In summary, Costa Rica’s reputation as a safe and peaceful destination makes it an appealing choice for travelers seeking a worry-free getaway.

Which Country Is More Affordable? Mexico Wins

Mexican Pesos
A Mexican Peso
Colorful Costa Rican Money
Costa Rican Colonie

Budget is another important factor to consider when choosing between Mexico and Costa Rica for your next vacation. If you are on one, avoid Costa Rica and opt for Mexico.

While both countries offer a range of experiences catering to various budgets, Mexico is generally more affordable, with lower costs for transportation, accommodations, and food.

Mexico: Budget-Friendly Options

Mexico tends to be more budget-friendly than Costa Rica, with a range of accommodations from budget hostels to luxury resorts catering to all types of travelers.

Food in Mexico is also relatively inexpensive, especially if you’re willing to eat at local markets and street food stalls. Think $5 a meal compared to $15

Transportation costs in Mexico are generally lower as well, making it an attractive destination for budget-conscious travelers.

Costa Rica: Eco-Tourism at a Premium

Costa Rica’s emphasis on eco-tourism and sustainable practices can result in higher costs for accommodations, food, and activities.

However, these premium experiences provide travelers with unique, eco-friendly adventures that are worth the investment.

To save money while traveling in Costa Rica, consider eating and drinking like the locals, taking public transportation, staying in hostels, and planning activities wisely.

Eating in local “sodas” will help to reduce your costs on meals. Sodas are local restaurants that normally sell casados but don’t usually have menus. They carter to the locals and not the tourists.

Costa Rica also adds an additional 23% tax to most bills, which adds up quick.

Which Country Has Better Adventure and Outdoor Activities? Tie

Anicient Mayan Ruins in Mexico with clear blue skies
Mayan Ruins, Mexico
Girl zip lining through the jungles of Costa Rica
Girl Zip lining in Costa Rica

Adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to do in both Mexico and Costa Rica.

Mexico offers a mix of ancient ruins and water sports, while Costa Rica is known for its wildlife encounters, eco-adventures and water sports.

Both Costa Rica and Mexico have a wide variety of adventures to be had.

Mexico: Ancient Ruins and Water Sports

Mexico is well-known for its ancient ruins, such as the famous Chichen Itza, offering travelers a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the country.

Mexico Offers

  • Historical sites, and destinations like San Miguel de Allende provide a unique and charming experience for visitors.
  • Archaeological sites
  • Surfing
  • Diving
  • Deep sea fishing

Whatever fun activity you are looking for, it is most likely Mexico will have it.

Costa Rica: Wildlife Encounters and Eco-Adventures

Costa Rica, on the other hand, provides unique eco-adventures and opportunities for wildlife encounters.

With its lush rainforests, cloud forests, and diverse ecosystems, Costa Rica is a haven for nature lovers and those seeking to connect with the natural world. There are plenty of bucket list items to do in Costa Rica.

  • Hiking through the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
  • Spotting exotic wildlife in the Arenal Volcano National Park
  • Zip-lining through the jungle canopy.
  • Surfing
  • Diving
  • Deep Sea FishingWhen you visit Costa Rica, you’ll find that its focus on eco-tourism and sustainability ensures that your adventures also support local communities and conservation efforts.

Accommodation Recommendations

When planning your trip to Mexico or Costa Rica, finding the right accommodations can make all the difference. Both countries offer a variety of lodging options to suit different budgets and preferences, including: Using sites like Expedia or Booking is a great way to save on accommodation.

  • Budget-friendly hostels
  • Mid-range hotels
  • Vacation rentals
  • Boutique hotels
  • All-inclusive resorts

Choose the option that best fits your needs and enjoy a comfortable stay during your trip.

Whether you’re seeking a serene escape or an action-packed adventure, we have a few recommendations to help you find the perfect place to stay.

Mexico: From Budget to Luxury

Mexico offers a range of accommodations to cater to all types of travelers, from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious resorts.

For those seeking a lively atmosphere and water activities, Cancun and Playa del Carmen are popular choices with a wide range of hotels and resorts available.

If you’re looking for a more laid-back experience, consider staying in Puerto Vallarta or Cabo San Lucas, where you can find boutique hotels and vacation rentals that offer stunning views and a more relaxed vibe.

Costa Rica: Eco-Lodges and Boutique Hotels

Small eco lodges surrounded by jungle in Costa Rica
Eco Lodge in Arenal, Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, accommodations focus on sustainability and unique experiences, with eco-lodges and boutique hotels being popular choices.

These lodgings often prioritize environmentally friendly practices and provide immersive experiences in the country’s lush rainforests and pristine beaches.

For a more budget-friendly option, consider staying in a hostel or local guesthouse to save money and experience authentic Costa Rican hospitality, making your trip to Costa Rica cheaper.


In conclusion, both Mexico and Costa Rica offer unforgettable travel experiences. If you are on a budget you might want to stick to Mexico, but if you are looking for more ecotourism Costa Rica will be the better bet.

Mexico’s diverse landscapes, vibing beach resorts, and rich history make it an appealing destination for those seeking adventure and cultural immersion.

Meanwhile, Costa Rica’s lush rainforests, eco-tourism focus, and commitment to sustainability provide a unique, nature-centered experience for travelers.

Ultimately, the choice between Mexico and Costa Rica depends on your personal travel style and priorities.

Either way, you can’t go wrong with a vacation to either Mexico or Costa Rica.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Costa Rica Better Than Mexico?

Costa Rica is the better destination if you’re looking for outdoor adventures and attractions, while Mexico is better suited if you’re interested in its historical and architectural sights.

Is Costa Rica Or Mexico More Expensive?

Mexico is 11% cheaper than Costa Rica, so it is the more cost-effective option. Food and Transportation are far cheaper in Mexico than Costa Rica

What Is Better Cancun Or Costa Rica?

Cancun is great if you are looking for American chain restaurants, activities, and a beach getaway.

Costa Rica is a better choice for those who want to explore nature and wildlife.

Both places have their own unique beauty, so it all comes down to what you’re looking for in a vacation. Good luck in your decision!

Is Costa Rica Or Cabo Better?

If you’re looking for something more exotic and adventurous, Costa Rica is the better choice.
The beaches in Guanacaste province are beautiful, and it offers a variety of activities, such as ecotours, that Cabo doesn’t have.
On the other hand, Cabo has great nightlife and beaches, but it’s much more touristy than Costa Rica.

Are Mexico And Costa Rica Safe For Travelers?

Mexico and Costa Rica are both generally safe for travelers, particularly in popular tourist destinations.

Costa Rica is considered one of the safest countries in Central America.

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