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February 22, 2023

Costa Rica vs. Belize: Which Destination Is Better for Your Vacation?

If you’re planning a trip to Central America, you may be debating between two popular destinations: Costa Rica vs. Belize. While both these countries offer gorgeous beaches, memorable inland adventures, and unique cultural experiences in North and Central America, if you only have time to visit either Belize or Costa Rica during your vacation — it’s essential to choose the country that matches your travel style best.

That said, here is an overview of both Belize and Costa Rica — including the similarities they share and unique differences — to help you choose the perfect destination for your vacation.

Overview & Quick Facts

Before we dive into our analysis, here are some basic facts and key information to know about Costa Rica and Belize.

A map of Costa Rica, pinpointing the capital city, San Jose.
Costa Rica is located in the center of Central America and can be found right here on a map!

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is located between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, offering two unique coastlines on each side of the country and 300+ beaches to explore. Overall, Costa Rica offers more inland attractions than Belize, so it is best for thrill-seeking travelers who want to embark on adventures like kayaking, hiking, four-wheeling, white-water rafting, and surfing.

  • Capital City: San José
  • Official Language: Spanish
  • Currency: Costa Rican Colon
  • Most Popular City: Tamarindo
The colorful city of San Jose in Costa Rica from an aerial view.
San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, is a colorful city with plenty of culture, history, and attractions.


Overall, Belize attracts fewer international tourists than Costa Rica. It’s much smaller in size — just shy of 9,000 square miles compared to the 20,000 square miles to explore in Costa Rica — however, Belize is one of the top diving locations in the world, so visitors looking to encounter sea life will be drawn to this destination.

  • Capital City: Belmopan
  • Official Language: English
  • Currency: Belize Dollar
  • Most Popular City: Belize City
An aerial view of, Belmopan, the capital city of Belize, withs tons of houses, residential properties, businesses, and more.
Belize may be a smaller country than Costa Rica, but the capital city, Belmopan, is still filled with plenty of things to do, as you can see here.

Beaches & Water Sports

Belize is a better destination than Costa Rica for snorkeling, diving, and swimming. However, the stunning white-sand beaches (and sheer quantity of beaches!) in the tropical paradise of Costa Rica simply can’t be beaten.


Belize is home to the Belize Barrier Reef — the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and second in the world only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

This barrier reef off the coast of San Pedro Town is teeming with marine life! Snorkeling at the Coral Gardens, Ambergris Caye, or Caye Caulker Marine Reserve is a great way to encounter angelfish, manatees, turtles, rays, dolphins, eels, and coral. If you are feeling adventurous, you can even go scuba diving with reef sharks at popular dive sites like the Blue Hole National Park.

A person snorkeling underwater with yellow fish in the blue ocean.
You can see tons of tropical fish while snorkeling in Belize in the Belize Barrier Reef.

Costa Rica

While Belize is known for its abundance of marine life and calm waters for snorkeling and diving along the Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica is better known for its fabulous surfing along the Pacific Ocean in popular beach towns like Santa Teresa and Nosara.

However, if you’re still looking for a diving adventure in Costa Rica, you will be satisfied with the diving around the Bat Islands and Catalina Islands in Guanacaste. You can swim with bull sharks and giant manta rays on these islands for a memorable diving experience.

You can also snorkel on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast at Cahuita National Park — the only coral reef in Costa Rica.

Attractions & Adventures

Both Costa Rica and Belize offer plenty to see and do (besides beachy activities) during your vacation. However, when it comes to history, Belize has the upper hand, whereas Costa Rica is the capital of Central America for wildlife spotting and thrilling adventures!

Costa Rica

Compared to Belize, Costa Rica is a much better destination for eco-tourism. Nearly 30% of the country’s tropical rainforests, beautiful beaches, and mountain terrains are protected in national parks. In these parks, you can encounter an abundance of wildlife and spot sea turtles, monkeys, red-eyed tree frogs, humpback whales, tropical fish, and more!

A gorgeous, lush, tropical rainforest in Costa Rica with moss, a river, trees, and plants.
Did you know that 30% of Costa Rica’s gorgeous landscapes, like the tropical rainforest pictured here, are protected in national parks?

Arenal Volcano National Park — a mountain rainforest filled with scenic hiking trails, hot river swims, and wildlife — is one of the top national parks to visit in Costa Rica. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a tropical jungle at a high altitude that is another popular spot to visit in Costa Rica for hiking, ziplining, and canopy tours.


Did you know Belize offers insight into ancient Mayan history? During your trip to Belize, you can visit the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins and Cahal Pech Archeological Reserve in San Ignacio and other ruins around the country to gain insight into what was once a thriving civilization.

A man and woman with their arm around each other pointing at one of the biggest Mayan ruins in Belize.
The Mayan Ruins in Belize are one of the biggest cultural draws to this country vs. Costa Rica.

In Belize, you can also do some jungle touring through the lush forests, including the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, or take a dip in the clear, blue waters of St. Herman’s Cave — once believed by the Mayans to offer a path to the underworld.

Food & Drinks

Costa Ricans and Belizians are united on one front — they know how to cook! You can find Central American fare in both countries, but in Belize, you’ll tend to find a “tropical” spin on dishes, especially near the coast. In contrast, Costa Rica tends to adhere to more traditional dishes bursting with complex flavors and spices.

Costa Rican Food

The local cuisine is one of the most significant parts of Costa Rican culture. While you can find nearly any cuisine in tourist towns — from Italian to American — these are a couple of the country’s most popular regional dishes you must try:

Casaso - one of the best traditional dishes in Costa Rica.
Casado is a popular Costa Rican dish that features rice, vegetables, and meat like you see in this bowl.
  • Gallo Pinto — a breakfast dish with rice, beans, and tasty seasonings.
  • Casado — a popular dish with rice, beans, vegetables, and meat (chicken, beef, pork, or fish) served with fresh fruit and a tortilla.

Belizian Food

Belize also offers traditional Central American cuisine, but many dishes have a tropical flair. For example, beans and rice may be cooked in coconut milk, and meals are more likely to incorporate fresh seafood, like lobster, shrimp, conch, or sea bass, over fresh meat.

Costa Rican cuisine, featuring ceviche, salsa, sauces, and a flatbread
Though ceviche can be found in Costa Rica or Belize, it is more of a traditional dish in Belize thanks to the country’s location on the Caribbean Sea and “tropical” culture.
  • Ceviche — a dish made from fresh raw fish coated with fresh citrus juices, spices, and toppings such as red onions, cilantro, and other seasonings.
  • Fruit Cake — a delicious dessert that is made with caramel and served with rum.

Belize vs. Costa Rica: Which Is the Better Choice?

Only you can determine whether Costa Rica or Belize is the superior country to visit for your vacation. However, if you decide the stunning beaches, adventurous activities, and abundant wildlife are calling you to Costa Rica — we would love to host you in one of our vacation rentals!

Special Places of Costa Rica offers hundreds of beachfront homes, luxury mansions, cozy hotel rooms, and practical condos on Playa Flamingo and Playas del Coco for worldwide tourists, allowing you to enjoy the best of Costa Rica from a comfortable, convenient location.


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