If you’re considering a beautiful tropical paradise the next time you go on vacation, you could do worse than the gorgeous locales that Costa Rica and Nicaragua have in abundance. But if you can only choose one which should you visit?

The Case for Costa Rica

Since the 1970s, Costa Rica has been a go-to vacation spot for VIPs from across the globe, and it’s easy to see why. The island nation has a bevy of beautiful beaches that are just as well known for their incredible surfing opportunities as they are for the spectacular wildlife you can see in the forests and off the coasts of each location.

Nicaragua vs. Costa Rica: Which Should You Visit Next?

But this small country packs more than just beaches. It’s beautiful jungles like Monteverde Cloud Forests are lush with colorful plants and massive trees. The country is a treasure trove of strange and fascinating animals and you can even catch a closer glimpse of them at a number of the country’s sanctuaries, such as the sloth sanctuary in Cahuita. And even if you aren’t big on exploring the natural terrain of your vacation locale of choice, Costa Rica features plenty of shopping opportunities as well as a newly bustling urban nightlife scene.

Puerto Viejo is a great bet if you’re looking for a fun day-to-night experience. Its vibrant shops and bars draw visitors who love to be in the middle of things, so if you aren’t big on exploring the natural terrain of your vacation locale, there’s a newly bustling urban nightlife scene to discover.

Nicaragua vs. Costa Rica: Which Should You Visit Next?

Still looking for more excitement? Arenal Volcano National Park features jaw-dropping, world-famous hikes. Poas Volcano, an active site, sports an impressive crater over 1,000 feet deep, and a full mile across. It’s no surprise that Costa Rica’s volcano sites make some of the most spectacular backdrops for Instagram-worthy shots. Cahuita National Park is ideal for animal spotting, and if you’re into shipwrecks, there are two sunken ships to explore in this protected coral reef just off the Caribbean coastline.

Nicaragua vs. Costa Rica: Which Should You Visit Next?

If you’re just seeking serenity, new luxury resorts are popping up every day, with Costa Rica beachfront villas making some of the best places to unwind and enjoy the beautiful beaches and sunsets from your own private porch. If your goal is to relax among some of the most gorgeous scenery and unique animals you can find in the whole world, you can’t go wrong by booking a trip to Costa Rica.

Negotiating for Nicaragua

Of course, Costa Rica can make for an expensive destination much of the time, which is why many travelers seek an alternative in Nicaragua. The going prices tend to be a little cheaper, and to reflect this, the land itself is much more rugged, with towering volcanoes and swirling ocean waves protruding from every corner of the area.

Nicaragua vs. Costa Rica: Which Should You Visit Next?

But of course, as with any vacation destination, there isn’t just one kind of thing to see and do there: Nicaragua is roughly divided into the Pacific Ocean, the northern and central mountain region, and the famously biodiverse Mosquito Coast, all of which feature their own range of activities.

You can hit the jungle for an unforgettable adventure, or explore the Spanish missionaries for a dose of gorgeous architecture and captivating history in places like the colonial town of Granada. Located central to Lago de Nicaragua, Ometepe Island features two volcanoes to rival anything found in Costa Rica. Explore by land via hike or water via grand kayaking tour. And adventurous types adore ultra-rugged Somoto Canyon for climbing, deep pools, and caves.

Nicaragua vs. Costa Rica: Which Should You Visit Next?

No matter what kind of holidaymaker you think of yourself as Nicaragua will have something for you to see and do.

Where Should I Go for My Next Vacation?

You’re practically guaranteed to have a great time no matter which of these two vibrant countries you end up visiting, but they do have a few key differences you should keep in mind before you buy your tickets. Costa Rica has a relatively newfound reputation for being an upscale destination for those with a taste for luxury, so if you’re interested in indulging in some of the best resorts and restaurants the Pacific has to offer, this might be your spot.

Nicaragua vs. Costa Rica: Which Should You Visit Next?

However, if you’re more interested in tramping around on your own two feet and soaking in the sheer wonder of natural spectacles, Nicaragua could very well be your destination of choice. No matter where you set your sights, there are a few tips and travel strategies you’ll want to adhere to, which we’ll cover in the next section.

Travel Strategies for Tropical Islands

Pack clothes for a variety of situations: Even if you’re not much of an outdoorsman, a good selection of hiking and camping gear will make sure you won’t be caught unprepared no matter what your journey may bring.

Nicaragua vs. Costa Rica: Which Should You Visit Next?

Be safe and wear a mask: Although Costa Rica has recently reopened its borders to international travelers, we live in uncertain times when it comes to the wild peaks and valleys of COVID-19, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry when traveling.

Bring the right resources: You’ll obviously need to have the correct documents on hand to even enter the country you want to visit, but you also need to think of things like the right toiletries to bring and even the sort of bag you should carry them in if you want to have the most hassle-free vacation possible. Travel checklists can be extremely helpful so you don’t forget anything!

Nicaragua vs. Costa Rica: Which Should You Visit Next?

If you’ve been to either of these places before, what kind of experience did you have? Leave us a comment below; we’d love to hear from you!

Written by Katie Tejada