A vibrant population of Spanish speakers living out in the tropics is a well-known feature that both Costa Rica and Puerto Rico claim. With just this in mind, deciding between the two is a challenge. Good thing that the destinations have a lot more to offer than what is visible at first glance.

Puerto Rico stands apart from the rest of the Caribbean with its mix of cultures sourced from separate eras. On the other hand, Costa Rica’s dedication to speeding into the future while preserving its natural beauty has resulted in diverse mindsets and attractions.

UPDATE: 2022/07/27 18:34 EST BY KAT BELLO

Puerto Rico and Costa Rica are places rich with vibrant culture, amazing scenery, and unending natural wonders. To continue helping travelers decide which of these stunning countries to visit first, this article has been updated with fresh information and enticing, beautiful pictures.

Let’s dive into our list to get a look at 20 photos that’ll make the decision between Costa Rica and Puerto Rico much easier to handle.

20 Costa Rica: Peace Is Ingrained In The Culture

Costa Rica has spent seventy years as a pacifist nation since axing its military. The money that would have gone into the army and war has instead gone into improving the education system and providing healthcare for every citizen, according to USA Today. Now citizens and visitors can enjoy the country’s relatively high standard of living in absolute peace.

19 Puerto Rico: Old San Juan Preserves Colorful Colonial Architecture

Changing tastes and times have transformed most of San Juan into a city that its colonial residents would’ve found unrecognizable. However, the little neighborhood of Old San Juan has managed to stay the same. Old San Juan is one of the nation’s most important tourist destinations, so it’s also a key location

for finding souvenirs.

18 Costa Rica: Amazing Volcano Hikes

Volcanoes are usually a highlight of island nations, but it’s Costa Rica that stands out in this category. Several active volcanoes spring up throughout the forest, such as the popular Arenal Volcano. Though it's still considered active, it hasn't erupted since 2010, and it is one of Costa Rica's most popular hiking attractions.

17 Puerto Rico: Access To All The Caribbean

Other Caribbean countries like the Dominican Republic are just a ferry ride away. For a greater change of scenery, take the boat a little further to get to Haiti. These destinations skip over the several uninhabited islands off the coasts of Puerto Rico that the island claims.

16 Costa Rica: Backpackers Can Start Their Central America Trip Here

Costa Rica's borders nearly reach the impassable tip of Central America where dense jungle connects it to the south. Backpackers have a direct path to Mexico through Nicaragua, Honduras, and the other countries that make up the region. Panama is the only country that would require a return trip to visit.

15 Puerto Rico: Contribute To The Island's Recovery With A Vacation

The tourism industry has bounced back stronger than before in Puerto Rico after hurricanes and earthquakes. Yet its wildlife and citizens are still struggling to get back on their feet. Choosing this destination for your vacation helps to support the efforts of the locals.

14 Costa Rica: Vacation On A Budget

The cost of living in Costa Rica is less expensive when compared to the United States, according to Investopedia. Prices don’t dip as low as in other Central American countries, but Costa Rica also benefits from high living standards. Therefore, tourists can be sure that their money is well spent.

13 Puerto Rico: English Speakers Aren't Hard To Come By

In Puerto Rico, every school teaches both English and Spanish. Living In Puerto Rico states that less than a quarter are considered fluent, but within the capital, this number surges. Those who aren't fluent tend to know just enough to communicate with tourists who have little to no Spanish knowledge.

12 Costa Rica: Vacation With A Low Carbon Footprint

A huge chunk of electricity in Costa Rica is produced by renewable energy. Eco-conscious travelers can feel a little less guilty vacationing in Costa Rica as long as they minimize car travel, the one source of pollution still holding the country back.

Related: Puerto Rico's El Yunque National Forest Is Worth Exploring

11 Puerto Rico: Food You Won't Find Anywhere Else

As a tiny territory isolated by the Caribbean, Puerto Rico has developed some unique culinary gems. The savory mound of plantains and potent herbs on the plate on the left image is called mofongo, a marriage of the native Taino and West African cuisines.

10 Costa Rica: Diverse Parks Filled With Exciting Animals

Costa Rica has made a conscious effort to preserve its natural fauna and flora by creating numerous national parks. So far, it’s been paying off. Its forests are filled with diverse species like spider monkeys and coatimundi. As the hummingbird capital of the world, Costa Rica has the skies covered too.

Related: 15 Unreal Jungle Photos Captured By Tourists In Costa Rica

9 Puerto Rico: Easy Destination For New Travelers

Most travelers mean it negatively when they call Puerto Rico “touristy,” but this translates to an effortless trip for families who just want to relax. After years of heavy traffic, the territory is well-equipped. In addition, visiting most major attractions requires a trip to a single city: San Juan.

8 Costa Rica: Happiest Country In The Americas

Costa Rica ranked above every other country in the region in the World Happiness Report’s most recent index. This data backs up what people who have been to Costa Rica already know. That happiness is conducive to a welcoming environment that makes tourists feel like they haven’t even left home.

7 Puerto Rico: Multiple Bioluminescent Bays

The rare phenomenon is one that’s impossible to capture accurately on camera. Curious visitors must visit the location to know what it’s truly like. There are three options available to experience the bioluminescent bays on the islands: Mosquito Bay on Vieques island, Laguna Grande in Fajardo, and La Parguera in Lajas.

Related: Unique & 10 Interesting Things That Can Only Be Found In Costa Rica

6 Costa Rica: More Coast Than Your Average Island

With just two coasts along the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, Costa Rica can’t be called an island. However, that doesn't mean it doesn't have beautiful, tropical beaches to suit any travelers relaxing vacation, with a coastline close to Puerto Rico.

5 Puerto Rico: Seaside Fortresses Guard The Shores

El Morro is one of two fortresses built along the coast of Old San Juan. Its larger counterpart is called Castillo San Cristobal. Both castles loop across the beach, sprouting limestone and sandstone walls that show serious signs of decay. Colors rise up through that corrosion making it even more striking.

4 Costa Rica: Enjoy A Bath In The Hot Springs

Waterfalls follow the path of Costa Rica’s volcanic mountains as they drop through the forests. The heat from lingering magma warms the water enough to form natural hot springs in some places. Near the Tabacon resort’s section of the Rio Chollin, the free pools shown above are open to the public.

Related: 10 Tips For Visiting Puerto Rico (For The First Time)

3 Puerto Rico: Unusual Landscapes

Far from San Juan lies Puerto Rico's most underrated site, the color-changing waters at Cabo Rojo. Minerals are what cause them to run from blue to red. Fortunate visitors can catch the water when the colors are split right down the middle.

2 Costa Rica: This One Lake With Unreal Blue Water

Celeste River leads a glowing, blue path through the forests of Tenorio Volcano National Park. Though images of the water appear enhanced to lure in naive tourists, this river is the real deal. A special blend of minerals and bacteria gives it its shocking appearance.

1 Puerto Rico: Beautiful Shallow Water Caves

At this site in Utuado, Puerto Rico tall cave walls frame Rio Tanama, with mossy rocks and small waterfalls creating an amazing sight. Tubes take guests safely from one end to the other on the lazy river. The popular Ventana Cave is a dry alternative located higher up.