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Betsy_B Aug 22nd, 2006 08:13 PM

Costa Rica vs. Belize?
Hi Everyone,

My husband and I would like to plan a trip in Jan or Feb '07 to Latin America and we have narrowed it down to Costa Rica or Belize.

We are 28/29 and have taken two trips to Europe in the past year (Italy and Switzerland/Austria). We are adventurous and independent when it comes to travel. Besides a 2-week trip in '04 to Mexico City, Taxco, Oaxaca with my mother, either of us have experienced Latin America.

Our interests range from nature, art, beaches (maybe 1-2 days), people & places, history, food. We enjoy pretty much everthing.

Our timeframe is 10-13 days (still figuring that out) and are looking forward to getting away from the Euro, in a more budget-friendly country!

Please vote on CR or Belize with some bullets on why you'd recommend each. Also, I'm open to hearing about your highlights! Hope I am not asking too much.

Thanks much in advance.


hopefulist Aug 22nd, 2006 09:32 PM

If it's appropriate to vote having only visited one of the countries, then my vote goes to Belize. Here's a link to our 2003 travelogue; we loved everyplace we stayed and everything we did:;f=10;t=000362

Costa Rica isn't even on my list because it doesn't support some of my main interests: diversity of cultures, indigenous groups, Maya ruins, and great, easy diving. Also, something like 90% of visitors to Central America go there, which isn't appealing to me. Belize was fascinating and Honduras is fantastic; looking forward to a visit to Panamá in the near future.

You'll have a blast whatever you decide if you keep open minds and your senses of humor. Happy trails...

hopefulist Aug 22nd, 2006 09:34 PM

The link messed up - you'll have to cut and paste (sorry).

JeanH Aug 23rd, 2006 03:57 AM

I've been to Costa Rica a couple of times and recently bought property in Belize.

Let's start with Costa Rica. Some of the most stunning views I've ever seen. Beautiful scenery. I loved the cloud forest at Monteverde. We were lucky and saw the volcano spewing rocks and lava at Arenal. Our trip to the Osa peninsula was an adventure in itself, one of those 'getting there is half the fun' kind of trips. We saw lots of wildlife on both of our trips. There are some really beautiful hotels.

On to Belize. It doesn't have volcanos, but it does have Mayan ruins, also fairly easy access to Tikal in Guatamala. I've spent way more time on the coast than the jungle, but the area around San Ignacio is beautiful and I hope to spend some more time there in the future. The beaches aren't as stunningly beautiful as many on the Caribbean, but the sand is white and the water around Ambergris Caye is that wonderful shade of blue. Great snorkeling and diving. Smaller country, easy to get around. English speaking.

You'll have a great time either place. I suspect Costa Rica has become too popular for my taste in the few years since I've been there. If you want something a little more 'out there', you might look at Panama....

Betsy_B Aug 23rd, 2006 04:47 AM

Thank you for your replies! It gives us much to think about. We need to make our decision somewhat quickly so we can book airfare and begin planning!

Hopefulist, your colorful trip report was very fun to read and really whet my appetite for Belize. It sounds very much off the beaten path, with lovely people.

If you had only 10-14 days instead of a month, where would your focus be, based on the highlights? I suppose a short 10-14 day trip would be good for Belize, since it is a smaller country with less travel time between each destination vs. CR.

Thanks, again!

hopefulist Aug 23rd, 2006 06:32 AM

In 10-14 days you could head to the San Ignacio area for 3-4 nights to do some caving, hiking, ruins, and villages, do an overnighter to Tikal, then 3 nights at Caves Branch for a couple of adventures and end on a beach somewhere (most people pick Ambergris Caye, Placencia, or Caye Caulker). 14 days would be better - more time at the end to relax. If 10 days counted your flying there and back you'd have to leave out San Ignacio or Caves Branch from that plan. Keep in mind there are lots of wonderful places I haven't been in Belize. We loved Glover's Atoll but it pretty much requires a week unless you have money to burn.

The Belize Forum is helpful and there are some good guide books: updated Rough Guide and Fodor's coming out, I've heard, and the newish Moon Handbook has received awards, though I'm not familiar with it. Let me know if I can answer questions or if you want contact information. Happy trails!

ewesthoff Aug 23rd, 2006 08:44 AM

Everyone has different likes,dislikes, opinions and so forth, so it all really depends on what you like. I liked Belize, but absolutely love Costa Rica. There is something magical about CR. The people, known as Ticos, are the nicest people in the world and go out of their way to help and make sure that you are taken care of. I did not find that at all in Belize. In regards to diversity, I think that CR has much more to do and see than Belize, but that is my opinion. You can stay near and almost on an active volcano at Arenal, and if lucky, see the nights sky lit up with lava flowing, something you will never forget. The problem I had with Belize is that it was very expensive, hotels, food, etc. compared to CR and the beaches at Ambergris are beautiful, but I could not swim there without walking/trudging through seaweed, which wasn't pleasant at all. Again, either will be great, I recommend going to a book store or finding info like this and read everyones views. Have fun either way.

surfcitynative Aug 23rd, 2006 03:09 PM

I'm 36, extremely adventurous, have been to 21 countries, and my experience in CR was one of the top 3 in all my travels! I loved it! I went with my husband in Jan 2001 for 3 weeks and we had no itinerary, hotel reservations, or set plans. We landed and rented a 4 x 4 jeep, bought a map, and drove north to Tamarindo Beach, Nicoya Penninsula. We hopped from one beach community to the next relaxing on the beach and surfing while staying in very inexpensive hotels/guest houses--very reasonably priced US$30. When we had seen enough of the Nicoya Penninsula we drove inland to Guanacaste to see the volcanoes and hike. Then we drove all the way down to the Osa Penninsula (Virgin Rainforest). We parked our car in a small town and hired a boat to take us to the bay near the national park entrance at Osa. Osa was beautiful! It was my favorite part of the entire trip!! So much wildlife and the colors are exactly what you see in guide books!! All in all, we had such an amazing experience with the people in the towns, the beautiful scenery, the palm tree lined beaches, and the wonderful fresh cuisine--and unlike some places you can eat the food! Our trip was so awesome that every year since then my husband has returned for his annual surfing trip with his buddies.

As for Belize...funny thing...we're going to Belize/Guatemala for a month over Christmas. Doing the research now as it will be an adventure filled with Mayan ruins, rainforests, and scuba!!

If you're not a diver then you might enjoy CR more than Belize...but I think both are well worth going to and are inexpensive compared to Europe!

Best of luck with your decission.

PS: My sister went trekking in Peru and said it was incredible!!

shillmac Aug 23rd, 2006 05:35 PM

Haven't been to Belize, but Costa Rica has my heart. I enjoy visiting other places as long as I still get my annual month in Costa Rica; BUT if I didn't get to Costa Rica at least that one time per year, I would miss it terribly. Perhaps one day we'll make it to Belize. I'd really like to visit Tikal, also. And a lot of other places.

Costa Rica just takes my breath away. And I can't put my finger on exactly what it is. Yes, it's beautiful; yes, it's diverse; yes, the people are lovely. It's just that when I arrive I'm home again, and when I leave I feel very sad. Strange, because I'm very happy with my "other" life here in the states as well! But after 3 months, I miss CR terribly.

Good luck with your decision. Surely you'll make it to both sooner or later and can see for yourself! :)

Eagle Sep 1st, 2006 08:34 PM

We have been to CR and Belize and I would recommend CR any day over Belize. We stayed in Ambergris CAye and Plaacentia. Beaches were very dirty and you had to trudge through lots of seaweed. I did not like the lagoon at either places. We went to some outer cayes to snorkel and they were fine. the people in both countries are wonderful. The scenery in CR is outstanding and the beaches are great. Most are nearly deserted and they arent dirty. We spent most of our time in the Guanacaste area and liked it very much. Am planning to return in Feb. Have fun.

Suzie2 Sep 3rd, 2006 07:05 AM

I have been to both and between the two really prefer Costa Rica. The waters off of Belize are what really makes that country in my opinion. The diving and snorkeling are just beautiful. We stayed in Placencia for that. We also enjoyed the natural beauty of Rio on pools, Rio Frio etc up in the mountains. San Ignacio was a friendly enough city and a great place to get to Tikal from. There are special things to see and do in both places but I think it is the people that really captured our hearts the most in CR and keeps us going there. It does get more visitors than I like but there are still some quieter places to visit. We have recently visited Guatemala as well and were just stunned by the culture and amazing natural things to see as well as the ruins. We are looking forward to many more visits there. Just mentioned that because it is well worth visiting and should be on your list as well.

Congrats on your property in Belize Jean! We have got the paperwork going with a lawyer in CR for some as well. We will be an hour or so from Dominical on the base of Chirripo by San Isidro. Maybe we can trade off someday.

Did you post a trip report? I love Switzerland (visited once)and Austria(visited twice). Would love to make at least one more trip to Europe but have been a bit nervous with the current problems. I only have just a few countries left to see.

JeanH Sep 3rd, 2006 11:08 AM

Thanks Suzie, I'm really looking forward to being able to spend some real time at our property in Belize. I have big plans to use it as a jumping off point for exploring the rest of Central America. I was planning on Nicaragua next year, but think I will wait until we're in Belize for the winter. Once in Central America, the cost of travel will drop dramatically. It's the international flights that are the killers.

Other than flying to the Osa, I've never been south of Manaual Antonio in Costa Rica. Would love to see your place some day.

Suzie2 Sep 3rd, 2006 11:59 AM

No house yet but thinking about one seen on House Hunters International (HGTV) was in Belize LOL! Lots of porch space. We spoke to some builders last week and they will be ready if we are in Jan.

There is a cloud forest preserve just across a small river from us and the Skutch (as in THE bird man of Costa Rica) place is just down river from us so hopefully hubby will have enough birds to watch.

We too are looking forward to being able to investigate more of CA and possibly more time in SA. It certainly will be cheaper.

You will be welcome any time whether we are there or not.

Pura Vida

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