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Both Mexico and Costa Rica are some of the most popular tourist destinations in Latin America. While both countries have a lot to offer, each country has its unique flair, culture, attractions, and personality that may lead you to prefer one destination over the other.
While we obviously recommend visiting Costa Rica over Mexico, before you decide to visit Costa Rica vs. Mexico, read through this guide comparing both countries to determine which country is best for you — and then, if you agree with us, book a plane ticket to enjoy the ultimate vacation in Costa Rica!
Weather in Mexico vs. Costa Rica
Mexico and Costa Rica are both known as warm-weather destinations. However, generally speaking, Mexico offers a dry, arid climate, while Costa Rica is tropical and rainy.
Mexico is a large country, which means it has several regions and climates — similar to how you’d find differing areas and environments throughout the United States. Before planning a trip to Mexico, it’s essential to check the weather — certain regions will have more favorable temperatures at different times.
For example, drier regions like Baja California Sur, where you find Cabo San Lucas, tend to experience warm winters and hot summers and only receive ten inches of rainfall per year. On the other hand, the Yucatan Peninsula, where you’ll find the Riviera Maya, experiences more rain and, therefore, a tropical, humid climate, with a hurricane season from June to November. Regions in Central Mexico, like San Miguel de Allende or Mexico City, get cold in the winter months of December and January, with low temperatures averaging around 42°F.
Overall, Costa Rica experiences more consistent weather than Mexico since the country has a tropical climate with two seasons. In Costa Rica, the rainy season lasts from May to November, and the dry season lasts from December to April.
Though certain regions experience more rain and slight variations in temperatures — for example, the Guanacaste Province is drier and warmer, while the Central Valley and the capital city, San Jose, are generally wetter and cooler — you can count on consistently good weather when visiting Costa Rica during December through April. The rainiest months in Costa Rica (and the least popular months to visit) are September and October.
Beaches in Costa Rica vs. Mexico
People visit Mexico and Costa Rica for the stunning beaches, so you can’t go wrong with either of these countries for a beach vacation. Here is an overview of the famous beach destinations in Costa Rica and Mexico to see how each compares.
Mexico is well-known for its all-inclusive resorts on beautiful beaches on both sides of the country. People who visit Mexico tend to choose one resort community and will stay there for the duration of their vacation. Staying in a popular, well-developed tourist destination, like these resort communities, is also a great way to stay safe from violent crime caused by the drug cartels in Mexico.
Los Cabos, located in Baja California Sur, is famous for its stunning views, dramatic cliffs, and excellent fishing. Playa del Carmen and Cancún are known for fluffy white sands, turquoise waters, and fun activities like snorkeling and diving. Puerto Vallarta is ideal for surfers, sunbathers, and the nightlife scene.
Costa Rica’s beaches are on both the Pacific Ocean and along the Caribbean Sea, but most of the country’s beautiful (and most visited) beaches are on the Pacific Coast.
Compared to what you’ll find in Mexico, Costa Rica offers calmer and more laid-back beach towns instead of highly-developed resort communities. Some of the most popular beaches on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast include Playa Flamingo, a gorgeous white-sand beach popular for fishing, snorkeling, and sunbathing, and Playa Tamarindo, a beach well-known for surfing and lively nightlife.
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Culture in Costa Rica vs. Mexico
Both Costa Rica and Mexico have a rich culture — from food and music to events and celebrations. If you’re unsure whether to visit Mexico vs. Costa Rica, perhaps the unique cultural experiences in each country will help you choose a winner.
Chances are, you’re already familiar with Mexican culture and Mexican food, especially if you live in the United States. When visiting Mexico, you can try delicious, authentic, spicy tacos, enchiladas, street food, and other delicious Mexican cuisine, depending on where you are in the country. For example, you’ll find more seafood-focused dishes, like ceviche, in coastal cities like Cabo San Lucas.
As you explore Mexico, you’ll discover the country has a rich cultural heritage and a friendly, unhurried pace of life. If you want to dive deep into the country’s culture, visit during one of the popular celebrations, like Cinco de Mayo (Mexico Independence Day) or Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), for a taste of the vibrant culture in Mexico.
Costa Ricans embrace the “pura vida” lifestyle, which translates to “simple life” or “pure life.” They crave simplicity in all areas of life, which translates heavily into Costa Rican culture — the country values eco-friendliness, peacefulness, and an easygoing lifestyle. Costa Rica has a reputation for being a peaceful nation and doesn’t even have a military — making Costa Rica safer for visitors than Mexico.
One of the best ways to experience the culture of Costa Rica during your vacation is through Costa Rican cuisine. Gallo pinto is a traditional dish served in Costa Rica, made with rice, beans, and spices, and casado is another popular Costa Rican meal made with rice, beans, meat, plantains, salad, and a tortilla.
Costa Rican food tends to be healthier and lighter than the food in Mexico, so expect lots of fruit, vegetables, and meats incorporated into meals. Costa Rica is also one of the world’s largest suppliers of coffee, so be sure to try some fresh-brewed coffee while you’re in Costa Rica, too!
Attractions in Mexico vs. Costa Rica
Both Costa Rica and Mexico offer plenty to do during your vacation to keep you busy for days. However, aside from the beaches, the significant sights in Mexico center around history and architecture, while Costa Rica offers more outdoor adventures and attractions.
If you’re looking for a country with a rich history on display — visiting Mexico is probably your best bet.
In addition to gorgeous beaches, Mexico offers dozens of archaeological sites and ancient ruins to explore, such as Chichén Itzá and Teotihuacan. There are also several world-class museums in Mexico, like the National Museum of Anthropology and Frida Kahlo Museum, that will expose visitors to the unique history, art, and culture of this popular tourist destination.
The majority of tourist attractions in Costa Rica center around the country’s stunning natural beauty — from the natural hot springs and active volcanoes to the sandy beaches and lush jungles. In fact, nearly 30% of Costa Rica’s land is protected in national parks, making this country the perfect place to visit for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers.
One of the most popular national parks in Costa Rica is Manuel Antonio National Park, where visitors can spot wildlife, like monkeys, and spend time hiking in the rainforest or surfing on Manuel Antonio Beach. Another famous national park is Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, where visitors can enjoy fun activities, like canopy tours and ziplining while observing hundreds of exotic birds and other creatures native to this unique ecosystem.
Stay with Special Places of Costa Rica for the Ultimate Vacation Experience in Central America
Though Mexico and Costa Rica are both excellent Central American countries to visit, which vacation destination is best for you is a decision only you can make. However, in our opinion, when it boils down to visiting Mexico or Costa Rica — we think Costa Rica is superior because of its unique natural attractions, stunning beaches, and reliable weather.
If you’d like to visit Costa Rica, we hope you’ll consider staying with us at Special Places of Costa Rica. We offer hundreds of vacation rentals, from spacious beachfront homes to luxurious private villas, to help you find the ideal place to stay in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.