Caribbean Vs. Pacific Coast: Which One Is the Best Side of Costa Rica?

You’re lounging on a sun-drenched beach, with palm trees swaying in the gentle breeze and waves lulling you into a state of pure relaxation. Sounds like heaven, right?

Costa Rica has something for everyone. Whether you love boisterous nightlife or stargazing on calm sand beaches, there are many activities on both sides of this slice of paradise. Here’s the million-dollar question: which side of Costa Rica offers the ultimate tourist experience?

What is the Best Side of Costa Rica?

Best Side of Costa Rica

Grab your sunscreen, slip into your favorite pair of flip-flops, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. It’s time to settle the score once and for all.

The Pacific Side of Costa Rica

Costa Rica's Pacific coast

Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is definitely its wild and most adventurous side. You’ll find jaw-dropping landscapes and tourists engaged in wildlife watching in every corner.

The Osa Peninsula

This remote cape is a haven for nature lovers, with its dense rainforests, pristine beaches, and unrivaled biodiversity. It’s an eight-hour drive from the peninsula to Puerto Jimenez.

Imagine waking up to the symphony of howler monkeys and the vibrant hues of scarlet macaws flying overhead – it’s like something out of a dream!

However, the real magic of the Osa Peninsula lies beneath the surface. Dive into the crystal-clear waters of Drake Bay or Corcovado National Park. There, you’ll discover a kaleidoscope of marine life.

Whether hiking through the lush jungle or snorkeling along the coastline, the Osa Peninsula will leave you spellbound.

Northern Guanacaste

Next stop: Northern Guanacaste, home to some of the most gorgeous beaches in Costa Rica. From the bustling surf town of Salinas Bay to the serene shores of Playa Conchal, this region offers a little something for everyone. Grab your board and catch some waves, or simply kick back and soak up the sun.

You can also head to the Gulf of Papagayo from the Liberia International Airport in under 30 minutes. Head inland, and you’ll discover dense jungles teeming with wildlife, hidden waterfalls waiting to be explored, and charming towns where you can immerse yourself in the local culture.

Also, you can zipline through the canopy or sample traditional Costa Rican cuisine. Northern Guanacaste is a playground for adventure seekers.

Southern Guanacaste

As we journey south, we arrive in Southern Guanacaste – a paradise for luxury travelers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Picture yourself lounging by the pool of a five-star resort, with views of the Pacific stretching out before you. However, luxury hotels aren’t the only attractions in Southern Guanacaste.

Strap on your hiking boots and explore the rugged terrain of Rincon de la Vieja National Park, home to bubbling mud pots, steaming fumaroles, and cascading waterfalls. As you’re ready to cool off, head to the beautiful beaches for some world-class snorkeling and diving.

The Central Pacific Coast

Next on our itinerary is the Central Pacific coastline – a mecca for thrill-seekers and beach lovers. You’ll find iconic destinations like Manuel Antonio National Park, stunning beaches, abundant wildlife, and adrenaline-pumping activities here.

Whether ziplining through the jungle or kayaking along the popular beaches, the Central Pacific is a place you should not miss visiting.

It’s also famous for some of Costa Rica’s most luxurious resorts and spas. Treat yourself to a massage overlooking the ocean, or indulge in a gourmet meal with fresh, local ingredients.

When the sun sets, expect the party to start – with bustling beach towns like Jaco offering vibrant nightlife and lively entertainment.

The Southern Nicoya Peninsula

Lastly, we arrive at the laid-back paradise of the Nicoya Peninsula. If you board a ferry, it will take you five hours to reach the destination from San Jose International Airport. This bohemian utopia is famous for its surf breaks, tranquil yoga retreats, and breathtaking sunsets.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned surfer or a beach bum in training. The Nicoya Peninsula has waves for every skill level. Plus, it’s also a hotspot for wellness and relaxation.

Unwind with a yoga class on the beach, rejuvenate your body and soul with a spa treatment, or simply soak up the peaceful vibes of this idyllic paradise. Hungry tourists can enjoy fresh seafood at a beachfront restaurant with expansive ocean views.

The Caribbean Side of Costa Rica

Costa Rica's Caribbean side

We have Costa Rica’s Caribbean side on the other end of the country. This part of the destination is comparatively cheaper than the Pacific coast because of the more all-inclusive resorts.

While Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is flush with luxury hotels and gorgeous beaches, the Caribbean side teems with rich culture and natural beauty all year round.

Tortuguero (Little Amazon)

Our first stop on the Caribbean coast is the legendary Tortuguero – also known as the “Little Amazon” of Costa Rica.

This isolated forest is a godsend for nature lovers, with its winding canals, dense jungles, and abundant wildlife. Hop on a boat and cruise through the waterways, where you’ll spot exotic birds, playful monkeys, and maybe even a rare jaguar if you’re lucky!

However, the star of the show in Tortuguero is the sea turtles. Thousands of these magnificent creatures return to the beaches yearly to lay their eggs, creating one of nature’s most spectacular events.

Join a guided tour and witness the magic of turtle nesting season (April to October) as these reptiles travel from the sea to the sand beaches and back again.



You’ll find a charming small town called Cahuita between the lush jungle and the sparkling sea. It offers a unique blend of natural beauty and laid-back vibes.

Take a stroll along the beautiful beaches of Cahuita National Park, where you can snorkel among vibrant coral reefs and swim alongside colorful tropical fish.

Cahuita’s all-inclusive resorts are also a melting pot of cultures, with Afro-Caribbean, Indigenous, and European influences blending to create a vibrant culinary scene.

Sample traditional dishes like rice and beans, coconut bread, and spicy jerk chicken. Wash down the delicacies with a refreshing glass of fresh fruit juice or a cold beer.

Puerto Viejo

Known for its boisterous nightlife, colorful street art, and renowned surf breaks, Puerto Viejo is the ultimate destination for fun in the sun.

Grab a board and catch some waves at Salsa Brava, one of the most famous surf spots in Costa Rica, or simply relax on the golden sands of Playa Cocles. The party doesn’t stop when the sun goes down – in fact, it’s just getting started!

Head to the beachfront bars and restaurants of Puerto Viejo, where you can dance the night away to the sounds of reggae, calypso, and salsa.

However, if you’re like us and need a break from the action, retreat to a cozy beachfront bungalow or hammock. Drift off to sleep to the soothing sounds of the ocean.

Things You Can Do on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast


Are you ready to soak up some sun and catch some waves on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast? Get ready for the ultimate beach adventure because we’re about to explore all the fantastic things you can do in this tropical paradise.

From visiting pristine beaches to participating in adrenaline-pumping water sports, there’s a lot you can do on Costa Rica’s Pacific side.

Pristine Beaches

First things first – let’s talk about those beautiful beaches that Costa Rica is famous for. The Pacific coast has everything you can ask for.

  • Manuel Antonio

With its crystal-clear waters, powdery white sands, and rainforest backdrop, it’s no wonder why Manuel Antonio is consistently ranked among the best beach towns in the world.

Spend your days swimming in the turquoise waters, sunbathing on the shore, or exploring the nearby hiking trails.

  • Jaco

Just 1.5 hours away from San Jose, Jaco is a playground for surfers and party animals. Catch waves in the morning, sip on a cold drink at a beachfront bar in the afternoon, and dance all night to the booming sounds of reggae and salsa. It’s all possible in Jaco.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park

If you’re craving a dose of nature and adventure, look no further than Manuel Antonio National Park. This ecological gem houses lush rainforests, popular beaches, and a staggering array of wildlife.

Take a hike through the park and keep your eyes peeled for sloths, monkeys, and exotic birds – you never know what you might encounter.


Calling all anglers – Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast is a paradise for fishing enthusiasts! From being a seasoned pro to a novice angler, there are plenty of opportunities to reel in the big one here.

Head out on a deep-sea fishing charter and try your luck at catching marlin, sailfish, and tuna, or cast your line from the shore in hopes of landing a shoal of sea bass and see what bites. With the Pacific Ocean as your playground, the possibilities are endless!

Scuba diving

Did you know Costa Rica’s Pacific coast offers some of the best scuba diving activities in the world? You can explore vibrant coral reefs, mysterious shipwrecks, and abundant marine life waiting to be discovered.

Dive into the crystal-clear waters of Isla del Caño or the Catalina Islands and swim alongside majestic manta rays and even the occasional shark. It’s a world like no other.


If you want to do something more adventurous to get your adrenaline pumping, look no further than kitesurfing.

The Pacific coast offers ideal conditions for this exhilarating sport: strong winds, warm waters, and plenty of open space to ride the waves.

Whether you’re a seasoned kitesurfer or a beginner looking to learn, plenty of schools and rental shops along the coast help you get started. Strap on your harness and unfurl your kite to soar across the waves.

Things You Can Do on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast

Surfing & Snorkeling

If you want to ditch the expensive hotels and stay at a more humble resort with palm trees on all sides, visit the Caribbean coast. Like the Pacific side, this end has many amazing beaches and a few globally renowned national parks.

Gorgeous Beaches

From secluded coves to lively surf spots, this stretch of coastline has everything you need as a tourist.

South of Tamarindo, we have the hidden gem of Playa Negra. Tucked away from the crowds, this stretch of black sand is a sanctuary for travelers seeking peace and tranquility.

Playa Negra is the perfect spot to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The black sand is unique and something you won’t get on other beaches in Costa Rica.

  • Playa Cocles

Known for its golden sands and vibrant atmosphere, Playa Cocles is a favorite among locals and tourists.

Spend your days soaking up the sun, swimming in the clear waters, or trying to surf – the waves here are perfect for surfers of all skill levels. Feast on fresh seafood and tropical cocktails with your toes in the sand.

  • Vargas

Visit Vargas if you’re craving cool waters, swaying palm trees, and soft, white sands under your feet. Our favorite activity was to watch the sunset from the beachfront hammock.

The rays perfectly reflect off the waves, displaying a kaleidoscope of colors. Vargas will leave you feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.

National Parks

National Parks

When you think of Costa Rica’s natural beauty, you might immediately conjure images of lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and exotic wildlife – and you wouldn’t be wrong. Next to beach areas, you will find heavily dense national parks just waiting to be explored.

Walk along the scenic trails, where you’ll find towering trees and breathtaking ocean views. You might also spot a few sloths and monkeys if you tour the canals by boat.


With its diverse ecosystems and abundant wildlife, this region is home to various avian species, from toucans and parrots to hummingbirds and herons.

Grab your binoculars and head to the nearest national park or nature reserve, where you can spot these colorful creatures in their natural habitat.

Surfing & Snorkeling

Head to Playa Cocles or Salsa Brava and catch some barrels. You can also get lessons from one of the local surf schools and learn the ropes from the pros.

However, if you want a closer look at the underwater world, don your snorkel and mask and dive into the calm waters of the Caribbean Sea.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast?

Costa Rica’s Pacific coast enjoys a tropical climate year-round, with warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine. However, there are two distinct seasons to remember: the dry and rainy seasons.

Dry Season (December to April)

If you’re craving sunshine and blue skies, the dry season is the perfect time to visit the Pacific coast. From December to April, you can expect clear days, minimal rainfall, and temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to 90s Fahrenheit (around 24 to 35 degrees Celsius).

It’s the ideal time for beach days, outdoor adventures, and exploring the region’s stunning national parks and wildlife reserves. Just be sure to book your rooms and activities in advance, as this is also the busiest time of year for tourism.

Rainy Season (May to November)

Costa Rica’s rainy season can be a fantastic time to visit the Pacific coast, especially if you want to beat the crowds and save some cash.

May to November experiences occasional afternoon showers and thunderstorms, typically lasting for a few hours before giving way to clear skies.

Temperatures during the rainy season are slightly cooler, ranging from the low to mid-80s Fahrenheit (around 27 to 30 degrees Celsius), making outdoor activities more comfortable.

Plus, the lush rainforests come alive with vibrant greenery, and you’ll have the chance to witness spectacular displays of wildlife, including migrating humpback whales.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast?

When it comes to weather, the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica boasts a tropical climate with warm breezes on hot days. Still, there are a few things to keep in mind when planning your trip:

Dry Season (October)

The dry season in Costa Rica’s Caribbean side is unlike anything on the Pacific coast. You can expect light rainfall, warm temperatures, and sunshine throughout the month. It’s also really humid on the Caribbean coast during this season.

Daytime temperatures usually range from the high-70s to the mid-80s Fahrenheit (around 20 to 26 degrees Celsius) – ideal for lounging on the beach and exploring national parks.

Transition Months (March to April)

As the dry season leads to the rainy season, March to April is considered a transition period on the Caribbean coast.

While you may experience some afternoon showers and thunderstorms, the weather is still generally pleasant, with warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine. Plus, you’ll have the bonus of fewer crowds and lower prices on hotels and activities.

Rainy Season (July to November)

The Caribbean coast experiences its rainy season from July to November, with frequent showers and thunderstorms.

While the rainfall can be heavy at times, it typically doesn’t last long and is followed by clear skies and sunshine.

Temperatures during the rainy season remain warm, ranging from the mid-80s to the low 90s Fahrenheit (around 29 to 33 degrees Celsius).

Final Words: Which Side of Costa Rica Is Better?

Pristine Beaches

Even after diving deep into the wonders of Costa Rica’s Pacific and Caribbean coasts, you might still wonder – which side is better after all? Don’t worry. We’re here to help you make the ultimate decision.

Pros of Costa Rica’s Pacific Side

  • Great Surf: If you’re a surfing enthusiast, you’ll find some of the best waves in the world on the Pacific coast.
  • Abundant Wildlife: With its diverse ecosystems and protected national parks, the Pacific coast is a haven for wildlife.
  • Stunning Landscapes: From towering volcanoes to clean sand beaches, the Pacific coast is home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes in Costa Rica.

Pros of Costa Rica’s Caribbean Side

  • Relaxed Atmosphere: If you want to unwind and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, the Caribbean coast is the place to be.
  • Vibrant Culture: From Afro-Caribbean cuisine to bright street art, the Caribbean is a cultural hubspot.
  • Spectacular Snorkeling: With its vibrant coral reefs and clean waters, the Caribbean shore offers some of the best snorkeling in Costa Rica.

The Pacific coast might be the perfect fit if you’re seeking adventure and adrenaline-pumping activities. On the other hand, if you’re craving relaxation and laid-back vibes, the Caribbean coast could be your tropical paradise.

Both sides of Costa Rica offer something special. No matter which one you choose, you’re guaranteed to have the vacation of a lifetime.

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Tim Schmidt is a 20+ year Entrepreneur and Digital Marketer. A Fort Lauderdale-based "Digital Nomad," he enjoys traveling as much as possible with family and friends. AllWorld is his escape to document all of his adventures, including being a hardcore "foodie." He has property in Costa Rica and visits several times each year and is happy to offer his expert advice for planning your trip.

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