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Costa Rica vs Hawaii: Which is Better for Your Vacation?

Are you trying to decide between Costa Rica vs. Hawaii for your next vacation? 

Both of these destinations offer beautiful scenery, vibrant cultures, and endless fun things to do. With so many great things to choose from, it can be hard to know which spot is right for your dream vacation. 

In this post, we’ll compare the cost difference between Costa Rica and Hawaii as well as the available activities and attractions so you can make an educated decision on where to go. 

Whether it’s a romantic getaway, family vacation, or solo trip; there will be something for everyone in Costa Rica or Hawaii! 

Hawaii vs Costa Rica Location

A major difference between Costa Rica and Hawaii is their locations. 

Costa Rica is a small country that is part of Central America. It shares a land border with Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. The country has an extensive Pacific and Caribbean coastline. And, despite what people sometimes seem to think, Costa Rica is not an island.

The capital of Costa Rica is San Jose. This city is located in the central part of the country. 

Hawaii, on the other hand, is made up of several islands in the North Pacific Ocean. The eight main Hawaiian islands are; Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, Maui, and Hawaiʻ (which is what the state is named after). Hawaiʻ is often referred to as the “Big Island.”

Hawaii is a state that is part of the United States of America. The state capital is Honolulu which is located on O’ahu. 

Costa Rica vs. Hawaii Weather

Though Costa Rica and Hawaii enjoy mild weather year-round, there are some notable differences in climate. 

Costa Rica experiences wet and dry seasons with temperatures ranging from 66 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. The country also has several microclimates from tropical rainforests to cloud forests. 

During the wet season (May to November), temperatures in Costa Rica stay warm but rainfall is more frequent. Usually, the rain is only for an hour or two in the afternoon, but in the autumn months, the rain can be heavier and last longer. 

The dry season (from late December until early May) is often considered the best time to visit. During this time of year, you will likely experience no rain on the Pacific coast. 

Check out our guide to weather in Costa Rica for all the details of what you can expect throughout the year. 

In contrast, Hawaii has a tropical climate, with temperatures ranging from 52 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The islands experience less rainfall and the temperatures generally stay consistent throughout the year.

Whether you visit in winter or summer, you can count on moderately warm days with plenty of sunshine.

Costa Rica vs Hawaii: Which is Better for Your Vacation?

Just keep in mind that the temperatures vary depending on which island you visit.

I think that Hawaii is the better destination if you want more even and consistent weather. The perk of the rainy and dry season in Costa Rica is that prices tend to go down a lot during the rainy season. 

Hawaii vs. Costa Rica National Parks

Hawaii is home to 9 national parks and 50 state parks. 

Costa Rica is home to 28 national parks. 

Both locations have parks with history, volcanoes, hiking, wildlife, and waterfalls. 

We have explored all of the national parks in Costa Rica, and while they are amazing, I just don’t think they can compare to the natural beauty and great hiking that Hawaii offers in its state and national park systems. 

The Costa Rican national parks are more focused on less strenuous hikes and an abundance of wildlife. 

If you are looking for more intense hikes, Hawaii is a great choice. 

Costa Rica vs Hawaii Wildlife

When it comes to wildlife, Costa Rica and Hawaii are both incredibly diverse destinations for nature lovers.

Costa Rica is home to an array of exotic fauna including monkeys, toucans, sloths, and more. I think the sheer number of species inhabiting the region is impressive!

In Hawaii, sea turtles, monk seals, and humpback whales are just a few of the creatures that call these islands home.

Overall, if you are interested in sea life, Hawaii is the best  bet. The marine life here is unmatched. For land animals, Costa Rica is the best place to visit. 

Costa Rica vs. Hawaii Landscape

Costa Rica is known for its varied terrain. Within the small country, there are several different micro-climates. 

With lush rainforests, pristine beaches, towering volcanoes, and abundant wildlife, the landscape is as diverse as it gets. 

One moment you can be relaxing in the volcanic hot springs in La Fortuna, and the next you could be enjoying water sports off of the tropical beaches on the Pacific or Caribbean coasts.

Hawaii, on the other hand, is made up of volcanic islands each with its unique landscape. The state is known for its dramatic cliffs, waterfalls, tropical foliage, and beautiful beaches, Hawaii offers a more island-oriented landscape. 

From the stunning Na Pali Coast on Kauai to the active volcanoes on the Big Island, there’s no shortage of dramatic vistas.

Winner: It pains me to do this because I love Costa Rica, but I think Hawaii wins as far as landscape. Mainly because the views are just so dramatic.

Costa Rica vs. Hawaii Flights

Depending on where you live, your travel time may be a lot shorter to visit Costa Rica. For example, from the east coast of the United States or from Europe, flights to Costa Rica will be shorter.

From the Pacific Coast of the United States, flights to Hawaii and flights to Costa Rica will both take about the same amount of time.

As far as cost. it is sometimes possible to find cheap flight options to both destinations. It really depends on where you are traveling from and the time of year. Often, flights to Costa Rica are a lot more affordable during the rainy season. 

There are two international airports in Costa Rica. These are the Liberia Airport in the northwest corner of the country and the San Jose Airport in the center of the country. 

In Hawaii, the main airport is Honolulu Airport which is located on the island of O’ahu. 

When looking to book a flight ticket, keep in mind that Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a valid passport to visit. If you are traveling from the United States you can visit Hawaii without a passport. 

Costa Rica vs. Hawaii Cost

When planning your vacation, the cost of travel is likely one of the things you are considering. Here is a breakdown of the cost difference between the two places. 

Note: The Us dollar is the currency used in Hawaii. In Costa Rica, US dollars are widely accepted, but the main currency is Costa Rican colones.

Hotel Cost

When it comes to accommodation, Costa Rica and Hawaii offer a wide range of options for travelers. 

In Costa Rica, you can find everything from luxury all-inclusive resorts to affordable hostels. Generally speaking, prices are fairly reasonable and many accommodations offer great value for the money. 

Hawaii is notorious for its high hotel prices, but there are some budget-friendly options too. It is a good idea to book as early as possible to get the best deals.

If you’re looking for luxury hotels, Hawaii typically has more options. There are tons of stunning resorts.

Winner: Overall, if you are looking for the best deal for hotel prices, Costa Rica will be the better option. 

Activity Cost Comparison

Costa Rica is generally much more affordable than Hawaii when it comes to activities.

For example, a day of whitewater rafting in Costa Rica can cost $50-90 per person, whereas the same activity in Hawaii usually starts at around $200. Ugh!

Similarly, zip line tours in Costa Rica are typically around $55-$80 while they may be double or triple the price in Hawaii.

If you’re on a budget, then Costa Rica is a great place for more affordable things to do.

Restaurant Cost Comparison

When it comes to dining out, Costa Rica is also much more affordable than Hawaii.

On average, a decent meal in Costa Rica can be in the price range of $15 to $20 per person while the same type of food in Hawaii can cost around $25+. 

WINNER: The cost of food in Costa Rica is typically lower than the cost of food in Hawaii. 

Fun Activities to Do in Costa Rica and Hawaii

Costa Rica and Hawaii are both great places to explore the outdoors with a variety of activities available. 

In Costa Rica, you can go whitewater rafting on wild rivers, hike up volcanoes, explore cloud forests, or take a zip line tour through the jungle.

Hawaii is also a paradise for outdoor activities. You can take surfing lessons on world-famous waves, go scuba diving in crystal clear waters, or hike to stunning waterfalls.

The Big Island also offers unique experiences like stargazing and lava tube exploration! 

Additionally, each Hawaiian island has something unique to offer so be sure to check out all the different experiences they have.

Winner: I will give this one a tie. I think Costa Rica has more variety in things to do. However, if you want great hiking or water activities, Hawaii is definitely the winner.

Costa Rica vs. Hawaii Beaches Comparison

If you’re looking for beautiful beaches, then Costa Rica and Hawaii are both excellent destinations.

In Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio National Park is known to have some of the best white sand beaches in Central America.

The area is filled with wildlife such as monkeys, sloths and toucans that can be spotted from the beach if you’re lucky!

On the flip side, Hawaii is well known for its picturesque beaches with crystal clear turquoise waters and soft white sand.

Winner: Sorry Costa Rica, but I think Hawaii has the better beaches. They are breathtakingly beautiful.

Costa Rica vs. Hawaii Surf Comparison

No matter which destination you choose, both Costa Rica and Hawaii offer world-class surfing experiences in tropical paradise surroundings.

In Costa Rica, beaches such as Playa Hermosa and Pavones are known for their consistent waves and warm waters that make it perfect for all levels of surfers.

Hawaii is home to some of the best waves in the world ranging from mellow beginner breaks to challenging advanced reefs. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced surfer, Hawaii has something for everyone!

Costa Rica vs. Hawaii Surf Comparison

Winner: I am giving this to Costa Rica. I think Costa Rica is a better surf destination mainly for the cost. See, both places have great surf beaches that I think are very comparable. However, because Costa Rica is cheaper, you can spend less money taking lessons, renting boards, enjoy surf retreats, etc.

Costa Rica vs. Hawaii Transporation Comparison

When it comes to transportation, Costa Rica is pretty straightforward. There are two international airports and from there it is possible to rent a car, take a public bus, take a private shuttle etc.

In Hawaii, most international flights land at the Honolulu International Airport. From here you can take a domestic flight or boat between islands. You can also rent a car.

Winner: Transportation in Costa Rica is easier and better than Hawaii. Mostly because the multiple islands of Hawaii add some struggles when getting between locations.

Costa Rica vs. Hawaii Safety Comparison

When it comes to safety, both Costa Rica and Hawaii have a good track record as far as crime.

However, visitors should still take caution and be aware of their surroundings.

In Costa Rica, visitors should avoid walking around at night and be cautious of their belongings. Petty theft can be an issue.

Hawaii is also generally considered safe for tourists. However, there are also certain areas that can be dangerous.

Winner: Hawaii is overall safer than Costa Rica. I say this mostly because Hawaii is a US state. The same laws that you are likely used to are enacted here. If a crime is committed against you, you can expect it to go through the typical US judicial system. In Costa Rica, the government is secure and cares a lot about keeping tourists safe, but it might not be up to the standards you are familiar with.

Costa Rica vs. Hawaii Language Comparison

Both Costa Rica and Hawaii are multilingual countries.

Spanish is the primary language in Costa Rica.

English is the primary language in Hawaii.

Winner: If you are a native Spanish speaker, Costa Rica will be easier for you. If you are a native English speaker, Hawaii will be easier for you.

Costa Rica vs. Hawaii Culture Comparison

Costa Rica and Hawaii are both incredibly diverse places with a rich culture.

Costa Rican culture is heavily influenced by Spanish colonization, while Hawaiian culture has been shaped by native Hawaiians (also known as Pacific Islanders) for centuries.

In Costa Rica, visitors will experience a laid-back and relaxed attitude towards life. The motto for life here is Pura Vida, and locals take that to heart. You can expect things to move slowly and peacefully. 

Hawaii has a unique mix of local traditions, customs and cultural practices that are deeply ingrained into the fabric of the islands.

Winner: Tie! Both Costa Rica and Hawaii offer visitors an abundance of culture to explore. Regardless of which country you visit, you’re sure to experience something new and exciting!

Costa Rica is Right for You If….

When it comes to deciding between Costa Rica and Hawaii, it really depends on the type of experience you’re looking for. 

If you’re looking for a more adventure-filled vacation with plenty of activities like zip lining, whitewater rafting and waterfall rappelling, then Costa Rica is the destination for you. 

If you are looking to stick to a budget, it will be easier to do that in Costa Rica. 

Additionally, if you enjoy exploring different cultures, immersing yourself in the local language and trying out new cuisine, then Costa Rica may be the perfect place for you.

Hawaii is Right for You If….

On the other hand, if you’re looking to relax on some beautiful beaches, take part in water activities, and do more intense hiking, then Hawaii is the perfect place for your getaway. 

You can also spend time exploring each island’s history and culture, taking part in local festivals and discovering hidden gems that you won’t find anywhere else.

Hawaii offers a more traditional beach vacation with lots of opportunities for surfing and whale watching.

Plus, Hawaii is part of the United States, uses US dollars, and it is not required to have a passport to visit here.

Conclusion: Costa Rica or Hawaii

In conclusion, both Hawaii and Costa Rica are popular travel destinations. I think that no matter where you visit you will have a great time filled with warm weather.

If you have any questions about planning your trip to Hawaii or Costa Rica, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out!

You Might Also Like:

Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

🏄🏽 How can I book things to do?

We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.

🍍 I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?

Of course! I suggest joining our Facebook group for specific questions and head to our Start Here Page to get started planning.

✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest Booking.com for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?

The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

📞 What is the best way to stay connected?

An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.

🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.