Costa Rica is really all about nature and inland tours, while Aruba is spending more time at the beach, lazing around, or snorkeling.
Still can’t make up your mind on which is better? Thinking about budgets? Weather? Safety? And which destination offers more sightseeing?
Don’t worry, it’s not impossible to choose between Aruba and Costa Rica. Here’s everything you need to know about each destination and what’s a better fit for you.
Aruba is well-known for its soft white sands, luxury villas/resorts, and magnificent beaches. But what you may be hearing for the first time is that Aruba is also popular for its other side, the desert. Cacti everywhere! And iguanas, lizards, rattlesnakes, and sand dunes.
Compared to Costa Rica, Aruba is a lot less green, so to speak. Rainforests and jungles? Nah. Aruba offers a decent number of wildlife tours and outdoor excursions but is nowhere near Costa Rica’s level.
But don’t let that discourage you. Aruba is nonetheless beautiful. Its crystal clear waters easily allow Aruba to be one of the top Caribbean destinations. Not to mention, it also has the most returning visitors.
There are a lot of things to love about Aruba. For one, Eagle Beach was voted as the 3rd best beach in the world in 2019. Read that again.
Second, the Arikok National Park makes up about 20% of Aruba. What can you find in this national park? Well… ATV tours, a Natural Pool, several sightseeing and historical spots, and an amazing landscape overall.
Third, Aruba has something called the Kukoo Kunuku bus. It sounds cuckoo and is really an alcohol tour, except you’re barhopping on a fun bus. The best part about this experience is making new friends and immersing in Aruban culture.
Need a little more info on Aruba? The next section talks about everything that makes Aruba unique.
What Makes Aruba Unique?
Aruba Is Pretty Close to Being Hurricane Free
No country is ever perfectly free of hurricanes but Aruba is one of the few that comes in pretty close. The island’s geographical location lies outside the hurricane belt, making it mostly safe from hurricanes.
Of course, there are a few that have landed in Aruba. The most recent was Hurricane Felix. However, Hurricane Felix felt more like a light nudge than a maniac storm. There have been several occasions where locals had to prepare for a hurricane strike, but thankfully, Aruba is spared, most of the time.
This also means Aruba is one of the safest destinations to visit even during the hurricane season. Want to take advantage of low seasonal deals without worrying about the weather? Go to Aruba.
There’s Never Really a Bad Time to Visit Aruba
The weather in Aruba is mostly dry, sunny, and windy year-round. You might be wondering, “Does Aruba get any rain?” The best way to say it is… not really. On average, Aruba gets about 14 to 18 inches (355.6 to 457.2 mm) of rain per year.
Now, take note. That’s per. Year.
Don’t forget that part of Aruba is also a desert. And while that may make you expect hot and humid weather, that’s not the case at all. Truth is, Aruba is the sunniest destination in the Caribbean. Rather than having a humid climate, there are a lot of trade winds here. Sometimes, it’s so windy that you can get sandblasted while strolling or lounging at the beach.
That aside, Aruba’s sunny weather year-round makes it an ideal beach destination for travelers at any time of the year. But if you must know, January to March is Aruba’s peak season so prices will be higher during these months. Peak season is considered the best time to visit Aruba if you’re after cooler weather and want to spend the holidays in a different city.
April to September is generally the best time to visit Aruba if you’re looking for affordable rates. October to December has fairly reasonable prices, but it’s when Aruba will have the most rainfall too. Thankfully, rain showers only happen briefly.
Aruba’s Calm Waters Make It a Great Place to Learn How to Scuba Dive
Did you know Aruba is the wreck-diving capital of the Caribbean? Not only that but Aruba’s waters are pretty calm throughout the year. This means if you’re still learning the ropes on how to scuba dive, you can learn at any of Aruba’s beaches.
Plus, these are some of the most jaw-dropping beaches you’ll ever find. You don’t get the title of 3rd best beach in the world for nothing. Apart from scuba diving, there are a few snorkeling spots in the area as well.
Lastly, there are several water sports activities you can do on Aruba’s shores, like paddleboarding, jet skiing, and kayaking. Thanks to the trade winds, Aruba is also famous for windsurfing and kitesurfing.
All of Aruba’s Best Beaches Are Close to Each Other
For a Caribbean island with some of the best beaches in the world, surely you’d want to pay a visit. And it’s incredibly easy to do just by walking from one beach to the next. Some are slightly farther, which means having to take the bus or taxi. However, flagging a taxi is easy to do as well, and all are government-regulated.
Buses are also a great mode of transportation to use if you want to save on costs. While in Aruba, you’re most likely going to visit Eagle and Palm beach. But apart from these two spectacular beaches, visit Flamingo beach as well, located at Renaissance Aruba’s private island.
As the name implies, Flamingo beach’s main highlight is being able to interact with the flamingos in the area. You can also feed them and post photos on your social feed to make all your friends envious of your “pink” experience.
What beaches should you visit in Aruba? Aside from the ones already mentioned, here are a few worth going to:
- Baby Beach
- Druif Beach
- Arashi Beach
- Surfside Beach
- Andicuri Beach
- Manchebo Beach
- Boca Catalina Beach
Did you know 51% of Costa Rica is forested? About 2,605,000 hectares (10,058 sq mi) of the entirety of Costa Rica is forest terrain. But what does that mean, really?
Well… should you decide to visit Costa Rica on your next vacation trip, just know it’s a jungle out there… literally. A beautiful jungle overall.
A better way of saying it is that Costa Rica is perfect if you’re looking to connect with nature. Sightseeing, inland tours, and rainforest excursions. Not to mention, beautiful volcanoes, waterfalls, wildlife, and thousands of bird species. These all await any traveler looking to visit Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is nature’s playground. You won’t run out of wildlife to see here. And when it comes to any outdoor or backpacker kind of adventure, this is definitely a haven for travelers seeking an active vacation.
Compared to Costa Rica, Aruba offers fewer tours and excursions. Spending a week in this jungle of an island is hardly enough to see even 10% of Costa Rica’s rainforests and national parks.
If you’re wondering what exactly makes Costa Rica one of the best destinations to visit, there are plenty of reasons why. And it all starts with…
What Makes Costa Rica Unique?
There Are More Than 200 Volcanic Formations in Costa Rica
And only 5 out of the 200 are classified as active. Thankfully, none of them are destructive that they’d ruin your vacation.
Speaking of active volcanoes, ever care to visit one? The views and landscapes are beyond breathtaking. Not to sound cheesy, but Costa Rica’s volcanoes are the reason why there’s so much to love about the world.
What’s more, you can go on trekking adventures and hike around the craters and geysers surrounding the volcano. Of the many trekking tours you can do, though, there is one that stands out. And it’s to visit the Arenal Volcano National Park. Why? Because…
- The trails allow you to see the volcano up close
- You can hike through Arenal Volcano’s lava fields
- There’s a rainforest chocolate tour you can do if you’re not too tired from your hike
- After your hike, you can re-energize your body by taking a bath at the Tabacon Hot Springs
Now, mind you. These are just a few of the many activities available to both adults and kids at the Arenal Volcano National Park. Lake Arenal in itself is a grand spectacle with sights-to-die-for vibes.
And if that’s not enough, there are still plenty of volcano trekking tours you can do around Costa Rica. Be sure to visit these volcanoes while you’re there:
- Poas Volcano
- Irazu Volcano
- Chato Volcano
- Tenorio Volcano
- Turrialba Volcano
- Rincon de la Vieja Volcano
You’ll Never Run Out of Wildlife to See
Wildlife and bird-watching are one of the gems of visiting Costa Rica. And with a massive rainforest landscape, how many different species do you think will you be able to see at Costa Rica? A thousand? Maybe a hundred thousand?
Try 500,000 species. A lot of which are endangered and rare animals. And 900 of these wildlife species are birds. Yes – 900 different bird species all living in Costa Rica. You know what that also means, right?
Heaps of bird poop.
Jokes aside, 500,000 species of wildlife is even roughly 5x more than the population in Aruba. How bout that. And if you’re seriously leaning towards visiting Costa Rica this year, here are a few wildlife species worth mentioning that you’ll see:
- Orca whales
- Baird’s tapirs
- Basilisk lizards
- Scarlet macaws
This list is only the bare tip of all the wildlife you’ll see in Costa Rica. Other rare species include White Indian manatees, Scalloped hammerhead sharks, and Blue Jeans Poison Dart frogs.
Costa Rica Is a Great Place to Spend Quality Time With Loved Ones
Because Costa Rica’s landscape is so nature-infused, there’s more than enough space to disconnect from the world and reconnect with the ones that matter. Hotels and resorts are definitely popular choices for lodging but Costa Rica offers their accommodations while still being close to nature.
For instance, there are eco-lodges nestled within the jungle and luxury resorts situated on the edge of the sea. Not only does it add to the island’s relaxing vibe, but it also encourages rest. Deep rest. The kind where you can take the time to appreciate what’s around you, be it how grateful you are for your partner, friends, or family. What’s more, Costa Rica offers several detox and wellness retreats if you truly want to get away from it all.
Outdoor Junkies Will Love It in Costa Rica
You’ve heard a lot about how Costa Rica’s rainforests. That means inland and jungle excursions are definitely one of the country’s main highlights. But did you know its underwater and water sports activities are just as impressive too? In fact, Costa Rica has one of the best waves in Central America.
Whether you’re a beginner or advanced surfer, any of the beaches are perfect for shredding waves. If surfing isn’t your sport, there’s scuba diving and snorkeling too. Prefer something quieter and retreating? There’s fly fishing, too, in Costa Rica, and sailfish is a hot bite when you’re in these Caribbean waters. There’s also paddleboarding, kayaking, white water rafting, and so on.
For inland excursions, you have ATV tours, hiking and waterfall hiking, zip-lining, canyoneering, and so much more. Considering all the activities that Costa Rica has to offer, it is without a doubt the perfect place for an adventurist.
Which Is Better – Aruba or Costa Rica?
Aruba is better if you’re looking for a relaxing vacation to spend most of your time lounging under palapas or lazing at the beach. Put simply, if you’re not after an active trip, you should definitely visit Aruba.
You could spend one day for sightseeing, another for snorkeling, diving, or water sports, and the rest of your trip at the beach. There are a lot of hotels that are minutes away from award-winning beaches like Radisson.
Aruba has just the right amount of sightseeing and tours but wins by a landslide when it comes to beaches. If beaches and island getaways are your kind of vacation, Aruba may be the better option for you.
Costa Rica has excellent sightseeing, a wide variety of activities, and is one of the best places for surfing. If nature and sightseeing excite you – volcanoes, hot springs, rainforests, and a lot of wildlife – Costa Rica suits your needs better. Overall, Costa Rica is better to visit if you want a highly active vacation; whether it’s hiking, waterfall rappelling, surfing, white water rafting, and so on.
Which Is Safer – Costa Rica or Aruba?
Both Costa Rica and Aruba are safe places to visit with family and kids. When traveling to Aruba, you hardly have to worry about violent crime. Not to mention, the tap water is very safe to drink. Solo female travelers will also feel comfortable and safe visiting Aruba.
In Costa Rica, the same is true, but there are a few precautions to keep in mind. The safest areas to be in Costa Rica are Puerto Viejo, Tamarindo, and Drake Bay.
Although Costa Rica and Aruba are safe destinations, it pays to stay alert and cautious still. For solo travelers, keep in mind the following travel tips when visiting any country:
- Make sure to bring mosquito repellent
- Don’t wear expensive or flashy accessories
- Don’t walk alone at night and avoid sketchy places
- Never leave your belongings or valuables unattended
- Carry a small amount of cash. Don’t stuff all of it in one bag or money purse
Finally, look confident when walking around the city. Looking lost or confused attracts unwanted attention. If you don’t know where you are, walk to the nearest shop or café and ask for directions
In case you’re also wondering, Airbnbs and hostels are safe in Costa Rica and Aruba. However, make it a habit to inform the hostel manager where you’re going just in case.
Is Aruba Cheaper Than Costa Rica?
Costa Rica isn’t an expensive destination but it can be if you go for luxury resorts. And if you consistently eat at international cuisine restaurants. Getting around can be fairly reasonable as well, but alcohol can be costly.
Overall, you may enjoy Costa Rica more than Aruba if you want economical options and more options to save on costs.
Compared to Costa Rica, Aruba is expensive. After all, it’s also a popular choice for honeymooners and travelers seeking a luxurious vacation. But for a midrange traveler, you can spend about 468 AWG (USD 260) per day. If you’re on a budget, you can get around Aruba spending 207 AWG (USD 115) a day.
That said you can save more by buying groceries from the supermarket in Aruba. On average, one week of groceries costs around 130 AWG (USD 72).
Transportation costs aren’t that expensive in Aruba either. For example, hopping from one beach to the next doesn’t require a lot of transportation. Even better, booking a hotel near the beach might cost more but you can simply walk from your hotel to the beach and save on costs.
What’s great about Costa Rica though is you have more budget-friendly options when it comes to lodging and food. Needless to say, food isn’t so expensive that you’ll have to spend meagerly throughout your whole trip. You’re on vacation, after all, so even splurging on some days is to be expected.
The only time food can be costly in Costa Rica is when you dine at international cuisine restaurants often. The import tax in Costa Rica is quite steep, so any imported food will be expensive. Thankfully, there’s a Walmart there so finding good supplies like you would back home shouldn’t be too hard.
Is Costa Rica Close to Aruba?
Costa Rica is quite close to Aruba since both share the same Caribbean sea.
How Far Is Aruba From Costa Rica?
The distance from Aruba to Costa Rica is 954 miles (1,536 km), so traveling from one location to another isn’t too far. A direct flight from either destination should take at least 4 to 5 hours.
How Do I Get From Aruba to Costa Rica?
You can travel to Costa Rica from Aruba either by boat or plane, however, there are no direct flights from either destination. Although taking the ferry might be a suitable option, the quickest way to get to Costa Rica from Aruba is by plane.
Aruba to Costa Rica Flight
There are several airlines that offer flights from Aruba to Costa Rica and vice versa. Some of which include the following:
- Air Canada
- Copa Airlines
- United Airlines
- JetBlue Airways
- Avianca Airlines
- American Airlines
If you book early, you may be able to get cheaper rates. Some flights offer roundtrip tickets for 920 AWG (USD 511), whereas one-way tickets can already cost upwards of 630 AWG (USD 350).
How Far Is Costa Rica From Aruba by Plane?
A direct flight from Costa Rica to Aruba takes about four to five hours, and in some cases, seven. But because there are no direct flights from either location, expect at least one or two layovers. Layovers can be as short as an hour to as long as 11 hours.
In some cases, booking a flight from Costa Rica to Aruba will amount to a total flight time of 25 hours. These flights will usually have a long stopover – about 22 hours before taking off again.
Fortunately, there are times when you can find a 5-hour flight, despite having a layover. Overall, it depends on the timing, airline, and dates you plan to travel.