Which Side is Better? Costa Rica’s Caribbean vs. Pacific Coast?

Our reservations agents get this question a lot:  Which side of the country has the best beaches?  Which is the best beach town in Costa Rica?  Is it Santa Teresa, Tamarindo or Puerto Viejo?  Where can you see more wildlife?  Seeing a sloth is very high on the list or course. 

Choosing between the two coasts is not easy.  Both coasts are amazing and we especially like the Central and Southern Pacific Coast.  The South Caribbean Coast is best for those looking for a bit of fun under the sun a bit off the beaten path.  So, the answer really depends on various factors.  Budget, climate expectations, time of the year, and interests. 

The Hotel Aguas Claras in Puerto Viejo is the only five-star luxury hotel in the area.

If you go by what the locals say, the Caribbean coast wins.  Well-traveled Costa Ricans love to visit the area south of Limon with its most famous beach towns of Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, and Manzanillo.  It is less crowded, not as expensive, and known for its great food scene. 

Of course, the Pacific has more choices of boutique hotels, restaurants, and also national parks.  It is a lot more developed in terms of tourism infrastructure.  But the Southern Caribbean coast arguably has more charm and no restaurant franchises or all-inclusive hotel brands have arrived in this part of the country. 

Caribbean Beaches in Costa Rica are seldom crowded.

The Osa Peninsula is the clear winner in terms of wildlife in Costa Rica.  But the Caribbean Coast comes in as a close second.  You are almost guaranteed to see a sloth – or many.  You might see the rare Green McCaw and of course monkeys and Sea Turtles if you head a bit further north towards Tortuguero.  And the snorkeling on the reef of Cahuita National Park is among the best in the country. 

If you are a foodie… the Caribbean Coast is a great choice.  Lots of fruit and fresh vegetables.  Seafood and chicken dishes.  Spices like coconut, ginger, curry, allspice, cinnamon and chili peppers are present in the local’s favorite dishes.

Local Costa Rican Caribbean Dishes at Papaya Restaurant in Puerto Viejo

And the weather is a complex topic.  We recommend not worrying too much…  The rainy season is kind of ‘reversed’ on the two Coasts of Costa Rica.  When it is the wettest on the Pacific Coast from late August to early November, it is “summer” on the Caribbean Coast.  And January is one of the wettest months on the Caribbean coast, which is a dry season month on the Pacific Coast. 

But with today’s more and more unpredictable climate, expect sun, rain and everything in between every day on both coasts.  The good news is that it is always nice and warm and when it rains, it usually does not rain all day – just a few hours.

The preferred way to get around Puerto Viejo are banana bikes.

Our recommendation.  Visit both coasts on your next trip to Costa Rica.  Where else can you watch the sunrise on the Caribbean Coast and have breakfast, take a 40-minute flight and then have lunch and cocktails overlooking the Pacific Ocean? And don’t forget to visit the Cloud Forest of Monteverde.  Ask us how we can make this happen for you at info@cayugaonline.com.  The Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels has properties on both coasts, in the mountains and even in Panama and Nicaragua.

2 Responses

  1. I would like to rent an apartment in this area I can only spend about 1200 to 1300 a month on rent and I would like to be there at least six months fully furnished apartment

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Hans Pfister

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