Costa Rica or Belize?

Apr 30th, 2000, 07:11 AM
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Costa Rica or Belize?

My wife and to children who would be 13 and 14 when we are to go are interested in traveling to Latin America for a summer vacation in 2001. We had in mind either Costa Rica or Belize. We are interested in seeing the ruins and wildlife and possibly go to the beach. Which one would be better or is there another country that someone recomends over both of them? I also heard from a friend that he learned from a tour guide in Guatamala that Costa Rica was mostly just beaches and very touristy while Belize was more forests and wildlife. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Apr 30th, 2000, 08:50 AM
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It's been 9 years since I was in Costa Rica, but I think it has become much more touristy. However it also has a huge amount to offer - there is incredible 'biodiversity' there - you can travel 2 hours and be in a totally different part of the country. They have wonderful beaches, the people were friendly and we liked it enough to go a couple of times. They don't have ruins so if you're interested in that kind of activity, you won't find it there. It's very easy to move around Costa Rica - buses were good, etc. We saw a lot of wildlife and a high percentage of the country is national park. There are 2 coasts - both very different from one another (actually north and south Pacific are also different as well).

We were in Belize about 2 years ago. It's a very small country however we flew most places because the roads aren't very good. People are extremely friendly (I don't think I've been anywhere else where the locals were as friendly) and English is the national language (although there are also a lot of Spanish speaking people there). It doesn't have the amenities that Costa Rica has, but there are incredible ruins to visit. Snorkeling and diving are very good, although the beaches are not good. Placencia (which we heard had the best beaches) didn't live up to my expectations. The country was also incredibly hot even in February. There was no breeze! I have never been that hot and it was actually unpleasant. We were staying in more inexpensive accommodation most of the time, so we didn't have A/C. By the time we hit Belize City at the end of the trip, we decided to spend most of the day indoors in the A/C! Summer might be unbearable there. Apart from the Belize Zoo (which was really fun), I don't recall seeing a lot of wildlife.

What would I recommend? Difficult to say. I'm glad I went to Costa Rica when I did, I'm glad I went to Belize also.
Apr 30th, 2000, 06:32 PM
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If you're are going with a couple of young people I would recommend Costa Rica. Much more for kids of that age to see and do. Go to my website at: I know that you'll have a great time. Dennis
May 1st, 2000, 02:32 AM
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We went to Costa Rica in July 1998 and to Belize in August 1999. It wasn't our first visit to either of this country so we knew what to expect. Nevertheless we did not expect such heat and there were days that we wanted to stay in our A/C room all day long. Think about your children if they are ready for such high humidity. Did you think about South America (it is also Latin America)? We are going this August to Galapagos and it is not more expensive than a family trip to Central America and weather is great during our summer.
May 1st, 2000, 07:46 AM
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I highly recommend Costa Rica. I was there last November and saw TONS of wildlife: toucans, crocodiles, scarlet macaws, iguanas, blue morpho butterflies, boa constrictors, 4 kinds of monkeys, two kinds of tree sloths, coatimundi, etc. etc. etc. Absolutely wonderful. I would say that it depends on where you go, but even in some of the touristy areas you can see amazing wildlife. One of the most highly touristed areas is Manuel Antonio National Park, but that is also one of the best places to see wildlife, and has nice beaches as well (we saw three species of monkeys there, plus tree sloths, dinosaur lizards, and lots of other cool stuff). But the Osa Peninsula, in the southwest corner of CR, is the most biologically diverse part of Costa Rica and is far less touristed. A fantastic place to stay there is Lapa Rios ( -- very pricey but worth every penny for the true "back to nature" experience. Excellent guides, fantastic hiking, incredible food. Costa Rica also has lots of volcanos which are interesting, and not found in Belize. There are no ruins in Costa Rica but other than that I think it meets your criteria. By the way, I have several friends who've been to Belize, and while they raved about the snorkeling and scuba diving there (which is lacking in Costa Rica), they did NOT see much wildlife above the water line -- certainly nothing that compared to what I saw in Costa Rica.
For more about Costa Rica, I posted a trip report back in December which you can find if you do a search -- lots of recommendations for accommodations, restaurants, sights, etc.
May 2nd, 2000, 07:05 PM
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If wildlife viewing is a priority, you should go to Costas Rica. If ruins are, go to Belize. I've been to both. We went to C.R. in August with young kids to Quepos area & stayed near the ocean and the temp. was perfect-not too hot. In Belize staying near the ocean with the breeze shouln't be too hot. Both places inland would be hot.
May 3rd, 2000, 01:59 PM
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Jon--The kids will probably like CR over Belize. See Dennis' web site for a ton of great ideas and info. It is great!! Check out: for a wonderful option the kids will love.
May 4th, 2000, 10:53 AM
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Hi Jon. I have not been to Costa Rica, but I did live in Belize for four months recently. The snorkeling and scuba diving in Belize are unbeatable, but beside that, I did not see very much wildlife--a jaguar on the Hummingbird Highway--but besides that, any wildlife I saw was in Guatemala. The ruins in Belize (and just over the border, in Guatemala) are spectacular, and I would highly recommend going to see them. As for beaches, Placencia is beautiful, as are the offshore cayes. Have a wonderful trip!
May 5th, 2000, 09:09 AM
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Take a look at the Ambergris Caye web site with over 6,500 pages of info on Belize. <A href="">Ambergris Caye website</A>
May 6th, 2000, 09:10 AM
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Beware if traveling to Costa Rica and renting a vehicle. Our rental car company, Poas Rent A Car, arranged by our travel agent, delivered our 4-wheel drive vehicle to us at our hotel in San Jose. Their representative did not warn us of an ongoing robbery scam targeting tourists renting cars. The robbers work as a team; one flattens your tire, in our case at a stoplight, and then notifies their accomplices which direction you are heading. As we were changing the tire, and although we had been told not to let anyone help us, a young woman walked by and started a light conversation with my husband in Spanish. He continued to change the tire and id not let her assist him. She distracted me as he worked, by going to great lengths to examine the flattened tire on the ground, while her accomplices stole our travel wallets and camera, including passports, $200 cash, and credit card from the other side of the vehicle. They managed to charge over $350 in the hour it took us to report the card stolen .The local police in Alajeula (a suburb of San Jose, near the airport) although called twice, refused to come to our assistance or even make a report. After getting directions to the Poas Rent A Car to return the vehicle; upon our arrival we saw warnings posted describing this exact situation. If their representative had not notified us when delivering the car, we could have certainly taken measures to avoid the robbery. When the same representative picked the car up, one week later at our hotel in San Jose, he feigned no knowledge of this ongoing scam, even though it was posted at the Poas Rent A Car office. We talked to another traveler, whose rental company, Dollar, had made him sign a paper that he had been warned of the problem. Another said Alamo had not warned him either. The US Embassy, although familiar with the scam, has failed to post it on their website. They told us they had visited each rental agency and requested they notify tourists. Obviously, this has not been done. If Costa Rica hopes to build their eco-tourism business, the authorities must respond to distress calls and make an effort to stop these robberies. We will spend our dollars in countries that make an effort to protect tourists and will never return to Costa Rica.
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