Jamaica vs. Costa Rica

When considering Jamaica or Costa Rica for a vacation, both are great options for sun, sand, outdoor adventures, culture, and food. But choosing between the two might be more challenging than you thought. Check out this comparison of Jamaica vs. Costa Rica to find out which has the most to offer you.

Jamaica vs. Costa Rica Quick Take:

In general, Jamaica is an easy-to-get-to island with tons of all-inclusive beach resorts and some fun outdoor activities, while Costa Rica offers more variety with amazing jungles, mountains, and unspoiled beaches to explore. 

Jamaica vs. Costa Rica: Overview

A key difference between Costa Rica vs. Jamaica is that Costa Rica is a country that offers both Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, while Jamaica is an island in the Caribbean. The mountains and jungles in Costa Rica are also much more diverse and extensive than in Jamaica.

If you’re looking for beautiful beaches, swaying palm trees, great food, and plenty of outdoor activities like watersports and hiking along with historic sites and nightlife, Jamaica is wonderful. The tourist regions of Jamaica cater to all tastes. If you want miles of white-sand beach, Negril is ideal. If you want something close to the airport with plenty to do and vibrant nightlife, consider Montego Bay. If you want outdoor adventures, go to Ocho Rios or the mountainous interior, which offers activities like jungle tours and ziplining.  

In Costa Rica, you’ll find stunning beaches and excellent food but also lush jungles, amazing rainforest, dramatic mountains, and a pristine coastline that showcases the ocean. Imagine starting your morning on a deserted beach, a cup of coffee in hand as seabirds dive for their breakfast, or falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing outside your open window. On the Caribbean side you’ll find beautiful white-sand beaches with great snorkeling and scuba diving, and on the Pacific you’ll find rougher water that’s perfect for surfing.

Jamaica vs. Costa Rica: Beaches

A lot of travelers go to Jamaica or Costa Rica for the sun and the sand, and there are plenty of good reasons for that. Both Jamaica and Costa Rica have incredible beaches for locals and tourists to enjoy.

Jamaica Beaches

Jamaica is known for its beaches. The northwest coast has dozens of resorts along the many breathtaking beaches. While some stretches are private, there are also plenty of public beach areas so you can easily beach hop on your vacation.

One of the most famous beaches in Jamaica is the iconic Seven Mile Beach. This long stretch of white sand and clear water is lined by some of the most luxurious resorts on the island. Plus, there’s plenty of beachside dining and tons of watersports. You’ll never be bored.

Costa Rica Beaches

Costa Rica has over 800 miles of coastline on two sides–Pacific and Caribbean–which means there are plenty of incredible beaches. Some are perfect for soaking up the sun, some for swimming, some for snorkeling, and some for surfing. The best part? All beaches are public, so you’ll never run out of great options. 

You can also find a variety of sand types, from bright white sand to golden sand to darker colored sands, plus all sorts of coastlines from lush jungle and palm trees to striking cliffs. Some of the top beaches in Costa Rica are Playa Hermosa, Playa Conchal, and Playa Manuel Antonio.

Jamaica vs. Costa Rica: Cost

When it comes to Jamaica vs. Costa Rica, there can be quite a difference in overall cost, but it really depends on when you’re going, what area you’re staying in, the accommodations you choose, and the activities you do.

The cost of a trip to Jamaica can vary greatly from inexpensive to pricey. You can get deals and discounts to make your trip affordable, especially if you travel during the offseason. There are budget, mid-range, and luxury resorts to choose from, and restaurants range from cheap local spots to gourmet fine dining. Activities can be free, such as hanging out on the beach or swimming, or quite expensive like scuba diving excursions.

All-inclusive resorts in Jamaica can cost between $200 to several thousand per person per night, but will include all your meals and most activities. In addition to that, you’ll have the cost of flights, which will vary depending on your departure city and when you travel.

Costa Rica, on the other hand, can be a little bit cheaper since most accommodations are more rustic. For a week-long stay, you can spend as little as $1500, but the total cost varies widely. We spent $4000 for a week the last time we were there so it really depends on the accommodations you choose, as well as what activities you do. 

However, flights to Costa Rica can be more expensive than flights to Jamaica. It depends on where you’re flying from and what time of year you’re visiting.

Jamaica vs. Costa Rica: Weather

Jamaica and Costa Rica are a little over 700 miles apart, with Costa Rica being to the southwest of Jamaica. Jamaica is an island in the Caribbean Sea and Costa Rica is in Central America, in between the Caribbean and the Pacific. While they are both tropical destinations, they do have some differences in weather.

For both countries, you do have to consider hurricane season, which is June to November. If you are making plans during those months, be aware of changing weather conditions and make sure you get travel insurance.

Jamaica Weather

Jamaica is a wonderful “anytime” destination, as the weather is warm year-round. However, there are definitely better times to visit. The best time to visit Jamaica is the dry season, which runs from mid-December to mid-April. There is little rainfall, tons of sun, and warm temperatures.

Jamaica’s rainy season is between May and November. If you don’t mind frequent rain showers, then this isn’t a bad time to visit either. In fact, the island is at its greenest during these months, so it’s a great time to experience another side of Jamaica.

Costa Rica Weather

If you want to be in Costa Rica during its dry season, you should plan your trip from mid-December to April. The dry season boasts plenty of sunshine, but this also means Costa Rica is filled with travelers. If crowds and higher prices don’t bother you, this is the ideal time to relax on the beautiful Costa Rican beaches and explore its lush rainforests.

In case rain doesn’t bother you, plan your escape outside the dry season to enjoy the tranquility and lower prices of this mesmerizing country. 

Jamaica vs. Costa Rica: Resorts

Jamaica and Costa Rica are both filled with tons of resorts, including luxurious all-inclusive options. Not only will you find plenty of great amenities at these locations, but you’ll also have a lot less planning to do before your vacation starts. 

Check out some of these top resorts in Jamaica and Costa Rica.

Jamaica Resorts

Sandals Resorts

There are 7 adults-only all-inclusive Sandals resorts in Jamaica: Sandals Dunn’s River, Sandals Royal Plantation, Sandals Negril, Sandals Montego Bay, Sandals Royal Caribbean, Sandals South Coast, and Sandals Ochi. 

Each of these luxurious resorts is set on a stunning beach and thoughtfully designed for the ultimate in romantic honeymoons or couples’ escapes. They feature a huge variety of complimentary watersports including snorkeling and scuba diving; land activities such as tennis and golf; multiple amazing pools; a fitness center and a spa; and a wide range of restaurants and bars. 

You’ll also find an extraordinary array of amazing accommodations, many of which feature upscale amenities like oversized soaking tubs for two, private plunge pools, and butler service. Honeymooners love the dreamy overwater bungalows. To help you choose the best one, check out our article on the best Sandals resorts in Jamaica.

Half Moon Resort

This elegant resort near Jamaica’s famous Montego Bay hosts celebrities, royalty, and everyone else on its breathtaking stretch of the Caribbean. A family-run hotel, Half Moon Resort features something for everyone, especially couples.

Foodies will love the fresh, locally sourced ingredients, used to create traditional Jamaican food and other delicious offerings at 4 restaurants. The romantic Sugar Mill Restaurant is one of the top restaurants on the island.

Choose from rooms, suites, or large villas with private pools and butler service. Enjoy 5 bars, multiple pools, watersports, golf, tennis, horseback riding, a fitness center, a playground, and a spa.

Costa Rica Resorts

Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort

For a peaceful getaway off the beaten path, spend time in nature at Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort. This stunning property sits on 11 acres outside of Manuel Antonio National Park and offers guests ample opportunities to observe the natural flora and fauna of Costa Rica. For the best chance to see turtles, whales, sloths, monkeys, and birds in their natural habitat, plan your visit between May and November. 

Luxury rooms are sunny and bright. The spa-like bathrooms feature rainfall showerheads and private hot tubs are built right into the balcony or terrace. The Playitas rooms are well-suited for families or groups and can comfortably accommodate up to 8 guests. 

There is one restaurant on the property. Along with its regular menu, which features both international and local favorites, the restaurant hosts beach BBQs, street food nights, and tortilla-making classes every week. 

Ylang Ylang Beach Resort

Near Montezuma in the province of Puntarenas, you’ll find Ylang Ylang Beach Resort, a charming and intimate luxury beach resort and 12-time recipient of TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence. Just 23 guest rooms are scattered around the forested grounds, promising seclusion for guests without being far away from amenities. 

There are a few family accommodation options, but the main clientele here is couples and most of the rooms have a maximum occupancy of 2-3 people. The Beachfront Bungalow provides easy access to the beach, while the Garden Bungalow is surrounded by amazing gardens and provides more privacy. 

Coco Joe’s Bungalow is built just outside the tree line of the forest and a few yards back from the beach, offering the best of both worlds. Cabins are more customizable, and you can let resort staff know if you need one king-size bed, a double and a single, or 3 single beds when you make your reservation. 

Breakfast and dinner are included in the rate. The menu is extensive and includes options that accommodate a vegan or raw-food diet, as well as gluten-free items. There is also a separate children’s and sushi menu. 

Secrets Papagayo 

Secrets Papagayo is an adult-only Costa Rica all-inclusive nestled in a secure community along the secluded and unspoiled shores of Playa Arenilla by the stunning Gulf of Papagayo. Rooms and suites are spacious and all have a private balcony or terrace.

Surrounded by nature, this ultra-romantic property is perfect for couples and offers generous vacation packages. A total of 12 restaurants and bars include 4 a la carte options for dinner and a health-food option called Aqua with vegan and vegetarian dishes. 

This resort is known for its tranquility and welcoming atmosphere, and like all Secrets resorts, it offers a range of complimentary activities from leisurely to energetic. There is a swimming pool on either end of the resort grounds. The main pool is near many of the restaurants and bars. A second “relaxation” pool is outside the spa and steps from a picturesque spot that offers amazing sunset views. Between tours, fishing trips, scuba dives, and spa treatments, be sure to take advantage of local wine, coffee, and rum tastings. 

Jamaica vs. Costa Rica: Things to Do

Vacationing in Jamaica or Costa Rica isn’t just about the beaches. Both of these tropical destinations have plenty of other incredible experiences to consider.

Jamaica Activities

Jamaica has a ton of activities available and multiple interesting areas to visit. You can go bamboo rafting on the Martha Brae, do adventure sports like ziplining and ATV tours, go snorkeling and scuba diving, explore historic sites and local towns, and enjoy sunset catamaran cruises. 

Many people spend a lot of their time in Jamaica on the beach. This is a great way to pass the time, but it’s not all just sunbathing and relaxing. Water sports are popular due to the stunningly clear and calm waters.

Snorkeling and scuba diving are excellent here. You can snorkel right off the beach in Montego Bay along thriving coral reefs that are just offshore. Or visit the Montego Bay Marine Park, which allows snorkeling and scuba diving in its protected waters that are home to a wide variety of marine life.

Jamaica also offers a variety of jungle safari tours that take you deep into the lush rainforests, where you’ll get to see some of the island’s abundant wildlife. You can also go ziplining through the rainforest. In the evening, there is plenty of vibrant nightlife to enjoy, especially in Montego Bay.

Costa Rica Activities

There are tons of amazing beaches throughout Costa Rica. Make sure you plan some time to relax on the beach. Costa Rica is a great place to take a surf lesson or go on a sunset cruise.

Costa Rica is also home to tons of zipline courses. Some courses even have you zipline by waterfalls and over valleys with horses walking around. It’s an incredible way to see and experience nature.

There are several places in Costa Rica where you can enjoy white water rafting during some times of the year. This is a fun vacation activity that will be hard to forget.

Costa Rica is also known for many food experiences including coffee and chocolate. You can tour coffee plantations throughout the country and learn about the process of going from plant to your coffee cup.

Jamaica vs. Costa Rica: Safety

All travelers should be concerned about their safety when visiting unknown territory, whether it is big cities or smaller, more secluded areas. Regardless of where you travel, you should always practice common sense travel safety, and be aware of your surroundings.

Recently, many countries have issued new travel advisories and warnings for people traveling to Jamaica. There has been an increase in violent crime across the island, which can make travel there more dangerous. Both the U.S. and Canada have issued “reconsider” travel warnings for those planning on taking trips to Jamaica. 

For more information, check out our article “Is Jamaica Safe?”

Costa Rica is not only safe, but it also hosts some of the friendliest people in the world. Once you are there, their “Pura Vida” lifestyle, perfectly combined with the lovely weather, is intoxicating and instantly makes you feel at home. Also, the Costa Rican government provides additional security resources in most areas frequented by tourists.

However, just like in any other destination, there might be problems. This is why personal safety is very important. So, to be safe, don’t display signs of wealth such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry, and don’t carry large amounts of cash. 

Also, keep your personal belongings close and leave valuables in the hotel’s safe. Use reputable transportation services, and pay attention to your surroundings.

The Verdict: Which Is Better – Jamaica or Costa Rica?

So, which one is best? If you’re looking for an all-inclusive island getaway with plenty of relaxing fun, then Jamaica is a great option. Maybe you want something with a more Central American flair and more rugged outdoor adventures. Then you’ll want to start planning your Costa Rica trip today. Either place will be amazing and provide you with plenty of lasting memories. 

Which do you choose? Let us know in the comments, and if you’d like help planning your trip, feel free to reach out to one of our trusted travel advisors!

Leave a Comment

CAPTCHA ImageChange Image