Mexico or Costa Rica? Choosing The Right Tropical Escape

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Mexico and Costa Rica are home to beautiful beaches, mouth-watering food and an extensive choice of things to do. With both countries boasting warm temperatures and crystal blue sea, the decision of which one to visit can be a difficult one.

Both Mexico and Costa Rica boast a Latin American heritage, a trait present throughout their day-to-day culture. With lush green jungles and rainforests, they are both ideal locations for encountering exotic species, with the perfect balance of relaxation and adventure.

There are a number of factors to weigh up when considering traveling to Mexico or Costa Rica. We’ve put together our list of top comparisons to help you make the right decision to suit you. Rest assured whichever country you go for; you won’t want to leave!

Cost

Image of Mexico City
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There are frequent flights to Mexico and the cost of these depends on where you are flying from. During the peak season from December to April tickets may be considerably more expensive. Accommodation can vary depending on whether you are opting for a luxury all-inclusive resort, or a more budget alternative. A mid-range hotel could see you spend between $100 and $200 a night. Food in Mexico is relatively cheap with individual tacos starting at just $1.00. You can also often find happy hours and cheaper prices when looking beyond the tourist hotspots.

In comparison to Mexico, there are slightly fewer airlines that travel to Costa Rica however the number of flights available is increasing with the cost again depending on where you are flying from. The currency in Costa Rica is Colones with approximately 500CRC equalling $1. A mid-range hotel in Costa Rica would set you back between $50 and $100 a night. Cheaper food can be found from the traditional Sodas, but an average meal would cost around $15 per person and whilst it is possible to budget in Costa Rica, you may find yourself wanting to splash out on activities.

Though you of course have to exert caution when traveling to any country, it is worth noting that both Mexico and Costa Rica are often on the Level 2 advisory level. This could have an impact on the cost of travel insurance.

Winner: Mexico

Food

Image of Mexican tacos.
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Mexican food is perhaps one of the most famous and popular cuisines across the world. In Mexico you have the opportunity to taste the authentic origins of dishes such as tacos, enchiladas, and burritos. In Mexico, one of their most famous dishes is Tacos El Pastor. This entails corn tortillas filled with spit roasted pork and topped with pineapple. You can find the best tacos across Mexico in Taquerias; small restaurants selling mainly tacos and burritos. These are often side of the road or street food venues, and many have often featured in international cooking shows, and referred to as making the best tacos in the world, a bold but delicious statement! Wash down your Mexican food with a traditional Margarita.

Food in Costa Rica often incorporates a mixture of comfort food and traditional family dishes, all showcasing a reoccurring theme of exuberant Latin American flavors. These often include a combination of rice and beans; vegetarian food is also widely available. In Costa Rica, the most popular places to eat are known as ‘Sodas’. These are small family-run restaurants, where you’ll often find locals. Sodas are great for trying traditional dishes and are usually a lot cheaper in price in comparison to restaurants. Typically, in Sodas there are no menus but instead food is presented buffet style for you to help yourself.

Winner: Mexico

Beaches

Image of a beach in Costa Rica.
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There is over 6,000 miles of coastline across Mexico and with over 500 beaches there is no shortage of white sand and blue seas.  Perhaps the most beautiful stretch of beaches lies on the popular Yucatan Peninsula; the coastline running down from Cancun through Tulum and Playa Del Carmen. Famous spots include Akumal beach where you can swim with sea turtles and Cancun beach, dotted with an extensive range of bars and restaurants. Many of the beaches on this stretch are bordered by luxury all-inclusive resorts, giving you easy beach access if you choose to stay in one. There is also a selection of beach clubs in which you can enjoy cocktails and Mexican cuisine with your toes in the sand. 

Costa Rica is home to over 300 beaches so you will always have plenty of options when it comes to a dip in the sea. The coastline of Costa Rica is bordered by both the Caribbean and the Pacific sea and is often used as a way to differentiate the beaches and areas. The best beaches can be found in the Northwest as well as down the South Coast of the Caribbean Sea. Manuel Antonio is a noteworthy beach, bordered by the famous national park so beachgoers can enjoy spotting animals in the jungle. The Costa Rica beaches are also popular for activities such as surfing, other water sports and even releasing baby sea turtles back into the wild.

Winner: Mexico

Things To Do

Image of a jungle in Costa Rica.
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Mexico is considered hugely biodiverse with its number of climates and landscapes, and there is therefore a wide and varied range of animals and wildlife to enjoy. Some popular excursions involve swimming with whale sharks, spotting crocodiles, and releasing sea turtles. There are also a series of nature parks that fall under the Xcaret brand. Within these parks visitors can enjoy a series of attractions including snorkelling, swimming in underground rivers, animal sanctuaries as well as shows and displays. Mexico also of course has a great deal of history and is home to thirty-five UNESCO World Heritage Sites including one of the new seven wonders of the world ‘Chichen Itza’. These attractions combined with idyllic beaches, colorful culture and delicious food mean there are always plenty of things to do.

Similar to Mexico, there are plenty of animals to see in the Costa Rica jungles. Manuel Antonio and Corcovado National Park are both areas in which people have spotted species such as monkeys, sloths and even jaguars. Costa Rica is often referred to as the Adventure Capital of the Americas. Popular activities include kayaking, ziplining, white water rafting, exploring volcanoes and horse riding. Due to the consistent climate, light winds and abundance of beaches, Costa Rica has also become known as one of the best places in the world to surf. It is also an ideal spot for beginners with plenty of surf camps and places to rent equipment.

Winner: Costa Rica

Nightlife

Image of a nightclub in Mexico.
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Wherever you stay in Mexico there is sure to be plenty of nightlife to keep you entertained from cocktail bars to live music venues. The types of nightlife you’ll see will vary depending on your location. Mexico City for example is famous for Mezcal bars. These are often small, dimly lit venues with a menu focusing on Mexico’s famous beverage.

Areas like Cancun and Playa Del Carmen are home to their respective strips of nightlife with buzzing bars and clubs. Coco Bongo is a well-known collection of clubs in Mexico. Guests can expect a night full of music, dancing, confetti and performances. Tickets also include unlimited drinks. In April places like Cancun play host to Spring Break celebrations, a popular holiday that sees thousands of college students head over from America for non-stop partying.

Costa Rica nightlife offers something for everyone with a huge selection from reggae nights to karaoke bars. San Jose is the capital city of Costa Rica and a popular hotspot for sampling nightlife. In San Jose most of the streets and nightlife venues are within close proximity of each other and therefore easy to move between without driving. Le Loft is a club situated in Joca, and has been ranked Costa Rica’s best nightclub for 12 consecutive years with regular DJ’s and events in the day through to the night. In Costa Rica it is worth noting that a club is a dance club and a nightclub refers to a strip club!

Winner: Mexico

Weather

Image of a sunny beach in Mexico.
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Due to its size, Mexico experiences a variety of climates depending on the region within the country. In general the temperature tends to increase as you move from North to South and the whole country enters into its rainy season from May through to October. The popular Yucatan Peninsula has a tropical climate and sees average high temperatures of 90° Fahrenheit with temperatures remaining humid throughout the year. The best time to travel here is between December and April but beware of a crossover with the notorious Spring Break festival. It is also worth noting that Mexico can often be affected by hurricane season. This is usually between the months of July and October.

Costa Rica has built itself a reputation for year-round warm weather with an average annual temperature of between 75° and 90° Fahrenheit. This temperature can differ based on whereabouts you are within the country, with the coast often slightly warmer in comparison to the inland jungles. The reason for this continuous heat is due to Costa Rica’s proximity to the equator. It is therefore the rain that influences the seasons. December to April is the dry season and therefore the most popular time to visit Costa Rica. May to November is the wet season. Throughout the wet season however it may just rain once a day, and the month of July is even often referred to as Costa Rica’s ‘Little Summer’.

Winner: Costa Rica

Relaxation

Image of a swimming pool in Costa Rica.
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Mexico is home to some of the most famous and recognizably beautiful beaches in the world. On many of these beaches sits a luxurious and grand hotel, the perfect place for peace and relaxation. Some of the most popular resorts include Rivera Maya, Playa Del Carmen, Tulum and Cancun, with many of these being destinations that couples choose for their honeymoons. Many hotels in these areas boast amenities such as infinity pools, lazy rivers, Bali beds and private beaches. There are also options for villas with private swimming pools, and in house spas for luxury treatments. Staff are on hand to cater to your needs and you can relax knowing you won’t have to lift a finger.

Costa Rica is home to the Nicoya Peninsula. This region is known to be one of the original areas in what is now referred to as ‘The Blue Zone’. People who live within Blue Zone areas are said to be happier, healthier and live longer. It is likely for this reason that Costa Rica emits a sense of calmness and relaxation. To the people of Costa Rica, things like face-to-face conversations and spending time with family are highly important. Contributing to this, there has been no military presence in Costa Rica since the 1940’s creating an even greater sense of calm. This makes it an ideal location for truly switching off and relaxing. You may also find it relaxing to know that Costa Rica has an impressive portfolio of healthcare facilities if you were to encounter any health issues on your trip.

Winner: Costa Rica

Mexico or Costa Rica: The Conclusion

Mexico and Costa Rica are both beautiful and exciting countries in their individual ways. The one you pick will depend on you and what you’re looking for from your trip. Keen to surf? Costa Rica is the place for you. Hungry for authentic tacos? Head to Mexico.  Either way, you’re guaranteed to enjoy an extraordinary adventure with good food, sunshine and heaps of culture.

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