Vacation Destination – Costa Rica vs Nicaragua

Many individuals and families planning their next vacation to Central America always debate whether to do Costa Rica or Nicaragua.  

Costa Rica Magazine

They pose their question in online forums and the feed back from other online bloggers is passionate and heated for both countries.  Even expats living in both countries get involved in the discussion.  Costa Rica supporters will point to their track record in the tourist industry and point out Nicaragua’s instability over the years. Nicaragua supporters will point to the affordability of a Nicaraguan vacation and the rich tradition, and history it boasts. The fact is both countries can be a great destination for your next vacation. Here are the pros and cons for both countries.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica MagazineFor all the advances Nicaragua has made in the last decade to advance its tourism industry, it is still well behind Costa Rica. Costa Rica’s Four Seasons Hotel can hold its own against 5 star hotels in any other part of the world. It isn’t coincidence that many celebrities vacation or own property in Costa Rica. Costa Rica also boasts a rich tradition of protecting the environment. There are incentives for tourist businesses to protect everything from the ocean waters to the rivers and the rain forests that cover much of the country. Nicaragua could learn a lot from Nicaragua when it comes to keeping its streets and beaches clean, free of trash. This pursuit to conserving the environment attracts nature lovers from all around the world. Costa Rica has the advantage of being more predictable (less power outages or setbacks to your trip).

Costa Rica pros: accessibility, more attraction options, white water rafting, cleaner streets, Manuel Antonio beach


Tourism in NicaraguaThe fact that Nicaragua isn’t as advanced in its own tourism industry is a selling factor to those that don’t want a “cookie cut” tourist destination. Nicaragua also boasts two of the oldest cities in the western hemisphere, Granada and Nicaragua. With these historical cities and a rich tradition for the arts, Nicaragua boasts some qualities that Costa Rica can never achieve. Both countries have world class surf but Nicaragua has fewer crowds in the water and benefits from year round off-shore winds created from Lake Nicaragua. These off-shore winds result in great waves throughout the year. During this time of economic recession Nicaragua is always great option because of its affordability. On the surface the prices may be similar but in Nicaragua many of the guided tours (volcano hikes, rain forests walks) are a fraction of what they would cost across the border.

Nicaragua pros: Lake Nicaragua, Ometepe, Corn Island, affordability, Granada and the islands,

What do both countries have in common?

Zip-line canopy tours, great surfing, beautiful beaches, kayaking, fishing, volcano hiking, great boutique hotels, golfing, unbelievable wildlife, both are safe countries.


Both are great options. Do your research beforehand and find out which destination is best for what you are looking for.


  1. Xavier says:

    Nicaragua the right move!

  2. Mike @ Farmstay El Porton Verde says:

    Good topic Michael. For my two cents I’d say that a plus for Costa Rica is that it has more variety as far as climates go; the central valley, which is a relatively large elevated area and thus has a mild springlike climate whereas the majority of Nicaragua is a tropical lowland. If you want to experience the Pacific and Caribbean sides it is easier as Costa Rica is not as wide of a country and you can cross in a few hours by land. In Nicaragua most travelers who want to see the Caribbean areas such as the Corn Islands avoid the 12-hour bus/panga/boat ride and instead they end up flying, which of course costs more. Positives for Nicaragua are that subjectively, the cultural aspects of life are stronger such as the folklore, artisans, traditions, etc. whereas in Costa Rica maybe that isn’t so much a part of their lives?..just a guess. And I think the most important for me is that Nicaragua is much less expensive. Given all of that, I would love to go back to Costa Rica and visit, I was there over twenty years ago now and really loved it!

    • Michael says:

      Those are great points. Traveling to the Caribbean side of Nicaragua is almost like planning another trip altogether, arranging transportation and all.


  1. Vacation Destination – Costa Rica vs Nicaragua | Nicaragua Magazine Online | Ecotourism Managua Bed and Breakfast Farmstay El Porton Verde says:

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