If you have spent hours endlessly searching for a tropical paradise and narrowed your options to Hawaii versus Costa Rica, then you’re halfway there! Although it’s important to note that they both have their benefits and disadvantages.
Hawaii in North America is an expensive travel destination with sunny weather, outstanding beaches, wildlife, and family-friendly activities. On the other hand, budget-friendly Costa Rica in Central America is less developed and has far more biodiversity, with spectacular wildlife and pristine, untouched beaches.
Although Hawaii and Costa Rica share many similarities in their balmy tropical climates, golden beaches, and spectacular volcanoes, they are vastly different travel destinations in many aspects. So, if you want the best travel destination for your next (well-deserved vacation) – read on!
Traveling To Hawaii Vs. Costa Rica
Due to Hawaii’s isolated location, flights to the island are costly and far longer than those flying to Costa Rica.
A prime example is US flights departing from the West Coast to Hawaii take at least five and a half hours, while flights from Dallas, Texas, to Costa Rica take less than four hours.
However, the advantage of traveling to Hawaii as a US citizen is that you won’t need a passport, or deal with customs, while you will need a valid passport and a return ticket should you travel to Costa Rica.
Ideal Vacation Times In Hawaii Vs. Costa Rica
It’s important to schedule your vacation for the best time of the year, as the climate can easily mean the difference between a great and a terrible vacation that is memorable for all the wrong reasons!
Hawaii’s average daytime temperatures in summer are 85 degrees, similar to Costa Rica’s summer temperatures which range between 80- and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, coupled with heavy rainfalls in the alpine rainforest areas.
However, while Costa Rica is great in winter as it remains warm, with little rainfall, Hawaii’s primary rainy season is in the winter months, although the region is not icy cold during that time.
The best time to visit Hawaii is from Mid-April-December when there is far less rain to contend with, while the ideal time to be in Costa Rica is from December to April, when the weather is deemed to be at its best finest.
Costa Rica is most beautiful during their rainy season, from May until November when the tropical landscape becomes a lush green oasis.
Getting Around In Hawaii Vs. Costa Rica
Hawaii’s roads and infrastructure are far more developed than in Costa Rica, which is still very rural and where you will need a sturdy rental car and an updated comprehensive map to navigate effectively.
While Hawaii’s activities a far easier to access, and less remote compared with rugged Costa Rica, you will need to factor in the (excessive) cost of hiring a rental car and paying for gas.
In stark contrast, while you can rent a car in Costa Rica, it is not a necessity as in Hawaii. Instead, there are several buses and taxis. In addition, Uber operates there, and several shuttles travel along the coastline so you can sit back and relax.
Safety And Cleanliness: Hawaii Vs. Costa Rica
Hawaii is regarded as one of the safest travel destinations in the world, although, as in most countries, there are tourist traps that should best be avoided. Petty thefts, rental car burglaries, and tourist scams are rising.
If you use common sense, avoid going out on your own at night, especially in secluded areas, and keep your wits about you, there’s nothing to be concerned about from a safety perspective.
Hawaii is also incredibly clean and sanitary, especially in areas like Kahului, Wailuku Lahana, and Honolulu.
In that sense, Costa Rica is similar as the country is primarily safe and peaceful, except for potentially dangerous areas where opportunistic crimes are rampant, like in any other part of the world.
Costa Rica also prides itself on being the 5th most sanitary country in the world, with pristine coastal areas like Guanacaste Puntarenas, Parrita, and Limon, with its outstanding natural beauty and wildlife.
Family-Friendly: Hawaii Vs. Costa Rica
Although Hawaii and Costa Rica are great family-friendly destinations with kiddie-friendly activities, Hawaii is better suited to families with young children.
Hawaii’s family activities are far easier to access than in Costa Rica, where you might have to travel miles on bumpy roads to access remote activities and other attractions.
However, Costa Rica is ideal for adventurous families with older kids who want to encounter the region’s outstanding wildlife.
The Best Beaches: Hawaii Vs. Costa Rica
Although there are numerous similarities between Hawaii and Costa Rica’s beaches, there are subtle differences.
Hawaii is renowned for its beach sand that varies between white, green, red, and black, its tropical aqua-tinted water, and the gigantic waves that make it a surfer’s paradise.
The island’s beaches are well-maintained and developed, but most are crowded as they are open to the public, except for a few serene coastal areas.
Costa Rica’s beaches feature white to grey-hued sand and gentle water, and while they are open to the public, accessing them can be difficult at times as some are incredibly remote.
Although Costa Rica’s stunning beaches are natural and have not been overdeveloped, they are far less crowded, and you could even have an entire beach all to yourself, which is always a treat!
Wildlife And Biodiversity: Hawaii Vs. Costa Rica
Hawaii and Costa Rica are renowned for having outstanding wildlife, and densely forested areas with well-developed sightseeing areas, although they are vastly different.
Although Hawaii’s wildlife mainly consists of marine life, such as turtles, dolphins, and whales, Costa Rica has so much more to offer regarding the country’s rich abundance of land and marine animals.
Don’t be surprised if you happen to see a few naughty monkeys and sloths hanging over your head, including numerous other indigenous wildlife that frequent the region and wander around in developed areas, including hotels. However, none of them are considered dangerous.
Costa Rica is also a prime destination for budding ornithologists with nearly 900 exotic bird species and numerous water-based animals around the shore, so it’s a true nature lover’s paradise!
Costa Rica is also world-renowned for its outstanding biodiversity, with far more accessible and less crowded habitats than Hawaii. For example, you can drive to Poas Volcano and its magnificent cloud woodlands ecosystem, which is far easier to access.
Nature trails are also much less crowded in Costa Rica, so you will be less likely to queue for ages like on Hawaii’s Diamond Head Crater Hikes.
Costa Rica has spectacular mangrove canals, Sierpe-Terraba, Tortuguero, and Tamarindo, with thriving native communities. While Hawaii has mangrove estuaries, they pale compared to the grandiose scale of the canals in Costa Rica.
While Hawaii is incredibly beautiful, with stunning rainforests and beaches, Costa Rica has so much more to offer in terms of its range of biodiversity.
So, while Hawaii has nearly 100 beaches, Costa Rica has a staggering amount of 300 untouched beaches that are just waiting to be explored.
The Best Activities: Hawaii Vs. Costa Rica
Hawaii and Costa Rica both offer a wide range of great outdoor activities ranging from snorkeling, diving, and surfing to outstanding hiking nature trails with refreshing waterfalls and volcanoes.
Avid hikers are spoilt for choice with stunning waterfall forest hikes like Cota Rica’s Bajos del Toro Waterfall path or the famous Oahu Manoa Falls Trail in Hawaii.
Although you might battle to access some of the great outdoor activities in Costa Rica, unless you have a rental car, must-see destinations include the idyllic Monteverde rainforest town, including the incredible Sky Walk Suspension Bridge.
Hawaii is also famous as the film location for the famous Jurassic Park movie. The island is perfect for an action-packed vacation with several outdoor activities, spectacular landscapes, ocean parks, and greenways, including Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano in the world!
The Most Budget Friendly: Hawaii Vs. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is hands down your best option for budget-friendly vacations; as the country is less developed than Hawaii, you can get far more value for money and spend far less on food and accommodation.
It’s important to note that while you will spend less in Costa Rica for hotel accommodation, it does not mean that their amenities or level of service is below par compared to those in Hawaii.
In stark contrast, Hawaii is incredibly expensive, not only because it is a prime travel destination but also because of its remote setting, which means that everything needs to be transported by sea, or air which adds to the region’s exorbitant import costs.
So, even basic hotel accommodation is pricey, coupled with food purchased from local grocery stores, which truly chips away at your entire vacation budget.
You could be forgiven for struggling to decide between vacationing in Hawaii versus Costa Rica; they are both tropical islands with all-year-round sunny weather and outstanding natural beauty. However, these regions are vastly different regarding travel times, getting around, biodiversity, and value for money.