Costa Rica vs Dominican Republic: How to Choose The Perfect Adventure for 2024

Costa Rica vs Dominican Republic, which is a better tourist destination?  I’ve been to both countries.  I spent 14 days in Costa Rica as well as the Dominican Republic and loved both trips. 

Both Costa Rica and The Dominican Republic offer beautiful beaches, adventurous activities, and great cultural experiences. Whether you’re a nature lover or more into cultural experiences, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic have something for everyone. 

I’ll give you the full ins and outs of visiting both of these incredible countries so you can pick the perfect destination for you!

sunset over the Costa Rican horizon

Dominican Republic/Costa Rica Quick Facts

Dominican RepublicCosta Rica
Population11.39 million (Worldometer)5.2 million (Worldometer)
Square Miles18,792 square miles19,710 square miles

Climate and Weather in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic

Both Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic have tropical climates with distinct dry and rainy seasons. 

For both countries, the dry season runs from December through April, and the rainy season runs from May to November.  

One difference I noted was that the rain in the Dominican Republic tends to be short and very intense, often followed by clear skies.   

Hurricanes are much more likely to occur in the Dominican Republic.  The hurricane season typically runs from June to November, with the highest risk in September and October.

Because of where Costa Rica is situated, hurricanes are much less likely to occur. 

storm clouds over the ocean in the Dominican Republic

High and Low Tourist Seasons: Costa Rica vs Dominican Republic

When are the high and low tourist seasons in The Dominican Republic vs Costa Rica?  Timing your trip correctly can really make a difference, so here are the basics for both countries. 

For both the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, the high tourist season goes along with the dry season, which runs from December to April.  This will be the busiest time of the year, with even more tourists around the holidays.

However, when Esther and I visited Costa Rica in February, we felt that the crowds were pretty mild. 

overhead city view at night from an airplane

The low tourist season for both countries runs from May to November (the rainy season). While the weather may be less predictable during this time, it also means fewer tourists and lower prices. 

If you don’t mind rainy days, the off-season can be a great time to visit.  I was in the Dominican Republic in June, and we did have a few days where it downpoured, and we had to stay inside, but for me, that was part of the fun of the experience.

Top Destinations: Costa Rica vs the Dominican Republic

Both countries have capital cities with museums and cultural experiences and smaller towns where you can do all kinds of outdoor adventure activities.  Here are the top destinations for both countries: 

Top Destinations in Costa Rica

Here are the must-visit Costa Rica destinations to keep in mind when trying to decide between Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. 

La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano National Park

Known for its iconic, conical shape and surrounding hot springs, Arenal has all kinds of adventure activities like hiking, zip-lining, and wildlife watching.  We spent 3 days in La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano National Park, and Arenal has some of the best hiking in the area. 

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Monteverde is a paradise for nature lovers and bird watchers.  The Monteverde cloud forest ziplining is a one-of-a-kind experience.

hanging bridge in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Our three days in Monteverde were filled to the brim with hanging bridges, wildlife sightings, and incredible food.  

Manuel Antonio National Park

This is one of the best places to see wildlife in all of Costa Rica.  We saw SO many monkeys during our stay in Manuel Antonio and can’t wait to return. 

white-faced monkey in Manuel Antonio National Park

Besides the wildlife-filled trails, Manuel Antonio has beautiful beaches and is a great starting point for a day trip to the stunning Nuayaca waterfalls. 

Drake Bay and Corcovado National Park

Located on the southern end of the country, Drake Bay is a great way to step away from the crowds.  We did an amazing snorkeling tour out to Cano Island and hiked along a secluded trail to Playa San Josesito.

Drake Bay is also one of the main starting points for tours to the famous Corcovado National Park.

San Jose: Costa Rica’s capital city

We weren’t able to spend as much time in San Jose as we would have liked.  But it’s an incredible city with all kinds of museums, such as the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum and the National Theater.

Top Destinations in the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is a vibrant and diverse country located in the Caribbean. It is known for its stunning bea

Santo Domingo: The capital city 

There is so much to do in Santo Domingo, and I loved my time here.  You can visit the National Botanical Garden, go to the Mercado Modelo (a large market with local goods), or just indulge in all the amazing Dominican food. 

Punta Cana

Punta Cana is popular for its beaches facing both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.  You can head out to Saona Island, which is known for its beautiful beaches and pools full of starfish, or do a dune buggy or ATV adventure.

Check out some of Punta Cana’s best beaches, such as Playa Bávaro, Cap Cana, Macao Beach, and Juanillo Beach. 

at Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic

Puerto Plata

Located on the north side of the island, Puerto Plata is a hub of outdoor adventure activities.  You can take a cable car ride to the top of Mount Isabel de Torres, where you can visit the statue of “Christ the Redeemer” and enjoy panoramic views of the ocean and the city

Or you can head out on an adventure to the 27 waterfalls of Damajagua, where you basically slide down a series of waterfalls with pools at the bottom.  This was one of the coolest (and craziest) activities I’ve ever done. 

Samana Bay 

Samana Bay, also on the north side of the island, is the gateway to beautiful waterfalls, scuba diving, and whale watching. 

Samana Bay also has incredible beaches, such as Cayo Levantado Beach, Rincon Beach, Playa Bonita, and Coson Beach

Costa Rica vs The Dominican Republic: Outdoor Adventures

Both the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica have incredible outdoor adventures. If you want hanging bridges or volcanoes, choose Costa Rica. If you are more into spelunking or water sports, choose the Dominican Republic.

Top Outdoor Activities in the Dominican Republic

  • Hiking: The Dominican Republic has so many great hiking opportunities, like trails in the Jarabacoa and Constanza regions, as well as at Pico Duarte, the highest peak in the Caribbean.
  • Water Sports: If you like water sports, The Dominican is the place for you.  There are tons of opportunities for snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, kiteboarding, and windsurfing at popular spots like Cabarete and Punta Cana.
  • Whale Watching: Samaná Bay is a great location for whale watching, especially during the mating and calving season from mid-January to mid-March.
  • Canyoning and Waterfall Rappelling: There are tons of places to go canyoning and rappelling in Jarabacoa and the Cordillera area. 
  • Caving and Spelunking: If you are into spelunking (we aren’t), The Dominican Republic has caves in the Los Haitises National Park and near the town of Hato Mayor.
  • Golf: The Dominican Republic is a popular spot for golf lovers.  They’ve got world-class golf courses in areas like Punta Cana, La Romana, and Puerto Plata.
short hiking trail, tourist posing with a large green gourd

Top Outdoor Activities in Costa Rica

  • Ziplining and Canopy Tours: Costa Rica is famous for its ziplining and canopy tours, especially in Monteverde and Arenal. 
  • Surfing: With its Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, Costa Rica is a popular spot at places like Tamarindo, Jaco, and Puerto Viejo.
  • Wildlife Watching: Costa Rica is an incredible place to see wildlife, including birdwatching in places like the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and Tortuguero National Park, as well as getting to see monkeys, sloths, and other animals.
  • Hiking and Trekking: Costa Rica’s national parks have so many hiking trails for all difficulty levels.  We loved trekking through Arenal, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio. 
  • Volcano Exploration: Costa Rica has several volcanoes, such as Arenal, Poas, and Rincon de la Vieja.  While Arenal is not currently active, we loved walking over the old lava flows. 
  • Snorkeling and Diving: Costa Rica is a great spot for snorkeling and diving, with popular spots like the Catalina Islands, Cano Island, and the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge.
two tourists in front of Arenal volcano

Beaches in the Dominican Republic vs Costa Rica

Which country has better beaches, Costa Rica or Dominican Republic? Both places have incredible beaches to explore.

Costa Rica Beaches

The cool thing about Costa Rica is that it has beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides. 

The Pacific beaches have longer coastlines and are closer to more wildlife preserves and national parks (like Manuel Antonio). 

The Caribbean beaches like Puerto Viejo and Cahuita are known for their laid-back vibe and reggae music.  

With Costa Rica, you can choose between the two!

overhead view of Costa Rican beach

Dominican Republic Beaches

The Dominican Republic, on the other hand, is more known for its beautiful white-sand beaches with turquoise water (like Punta Cana), great for a laid-back beach vacation. 

The north coastal areas of Playa Dorada and Playa Grande are great spots for water sports. 

Both countries have secluded beaches (Samaná Peninsula in the Dominican and Drake Bay in Costa Rica).

turquoise waters of Dominican Republic Beach

Bottom Line: Costa Rica’s beaches are better if you want to choose between the Pacific and the Caribbean side or if you are more interested in wildlife encounters or rainforests.  The beaches of the Dominican Republic are better for white sand beaches and turquoise water. 

Cuisine in Costa Rica vs the Dominican Republic

One of the highlights of any vacation is trying the food, and both Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic have so many unique dishes to try. 

Top Foods in Costa Rica

Casado: Casado is a plate with a small portion of each of the following: rice and beans, a portion of meat (such as chicken, beef, or fish), plantains, and a cabbage salad.

plate of Costa Rican casado, cuisine is one thing to consider when deciding on Costa Rica vs Dominican Republic

Arroz con Pollo: a plate of rice and chicken cooked together with vegetables and herbs.  

Olla de Carne: a beef stew made with chunks of beef, tubers, and vegetables.  Sometimes, it has corn, plantains, and yuca. This is a popular comfort food in Costa Rica.

Gallo Pinto: This is A classic Costa Rican dish made from rice and black beans, sautéed together with onions, bell peppers, and spices.

Top Foods in the Dominican Republic

  • Mangú: Mashed plantains typically served for breakfast, often served with fried cheese, eggs, and salami.
  • Sancocho: A stew made with meat, tubers, and vegetables; this is a pretty typical Dominican comfort food.
  • La Bandera Dominicana: Literally translating to “The Dominican Flag,” this dish has rice, red beans, and meat (such as chicken, beef, or pork).
  • Mofongo: Mashed, fried plantains mixed with garlic and pork cracklings, often served as a side dish or stuffed with meat or seafood.
plate of Mangú in the Dominican Republic

Cost of Living and Travel Expenses in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

In terms of the cost of hotels, both countries really have affordable options, especially compared to other Caribbean destinations. 

However, Costa Rica tends to be slightly more expensive overall. This is partly due to its popularity as a tourist spot, which has driven up prices for accommodations and activities. That being said, there are still tons of budget-friendly Airbnbs and Hotels. 

Prices for hotels, meals, and activities tend to be a little lower in the Dominican Republic.  But again, this all depends on where you stay and what activities you do. 

view of planes on the runway through airplane window

Both countries have everything from luxury, all-inclusive resorts to budget hostels. 

Both Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic have international airports. Depending on your location and the time of year, flight prices can vary a lot.  We always recommend Skyscanner for finding cheap flights. 

Safety and Security in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic

We always think about safety when traveling.  Both Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic have been given a level ‘2’ safety rating (‘Exercise Increased Caution) by the U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory.

In general, Costa Rica is considered a little safer than the Dominican Republic and is one of the safest countries in Central America. But it’s hard to make generalizations because it very much depends on where you stay. 

We always recommend just using common sense; don’t walk alone at night in unfamiliar areas, and keep an eye on your stuff.  We also always check travel advisories for any country that we visit before planning a trip. 

Petty theft and scams can happen in both countries, especially in crowded tourist areas.  We always try to avoid showing off any valuable belongings.

With transportation, always use registered taxis (not pirate ones), and agree on a price before getting in the car (or make sure that the driver is using the meter). 

We think both countries can be safe to visit as long as you follow the safety basics. 

Costa Rica vs Dominican Republic: The Bottom Line

When deciding between the Dominican Republic or Costa Rica, which one is better?  That all depends on what is most important to you. 

For wildlife watching: go to Costa Rica

For white sand beaches with turquoise water: choose the Dominican Republic

If you like to golf: choose the Dominican Republic

For hanging bridges and cloud forests: go to Costa Rica

For whale watching: choose the Dominican Republic

For caving/spelunking: go to the Dominican Republic

For volcanoes: go to Costa Rica

Costa Rica vs Dominican Republic FAQ

Where is Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic?

Costa Rica is a country located in Central America, between Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the southeast.
The Dominican Republic is on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. It shares the island with Haiti to the west and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Caribbean Sea to the south.

Why is the Dominican Republic so special?

The Dominican Republic is known for its stunning beaches like Punta Cana and Puerto Plata and its cultural history.  The Dominican Republic is a combination of Spanish and African influences, which is reflected in its unique music and cuisine.

Why is Costa Rica so special?

Costa Rica is known for having a huge diversity of ecosystems, including rainforests, cloud forests, and beautiful coastlines.  It’s also home to a huge variety of wildlife, including birds, monkeys, sloths, and tapirs. 

Similar Posts