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Iceland vs Costa Rica – Compare these two epic getaway destinations

Are you planning your next epic getaway? Iceland vs Costa Rica is both exceptional destinations. In fact, they are both rather exotic, unusual, and so very different from each other.

Regardless, you can be in a situation where you are thinking of choosing between the two. Although they offer different experiences we don’t think there is a wrong choice here.

However, you must consider. What do you want from your next getaway? Maybe you are not ready for Iceland right now. Or maybe you’ve seen all the tropical destinations in the world already and you want something totally different.

It’s up to you which of the two is better as your next getaway so we’ll help with this little comparison article.

Iceland vs Costa Rica: A tourist’s comparison

Of course, we do have to note this here. We are doing a comparison from the perspective of tourism. If you are looking for the ‘moving and living there’ experience you need to look further.

Also, we mainly speak from the standpoint of couples or family travelers. If you are a solo traveler keep in mind that we will have a section at the bottom dedicated just for you.

Scenery and Nature

The first item in our comparison of Iceland vs Costa Rica is the scenery. Needless to say that both of these places present extremely beautiful sights to behold, however, they are quite different.

Iceland Scenery

Iceland Waterfalls
Amazing waterfalls in Iceland

Iceland must be one of the most unique places you can visit on earth. From mountain ranges to desolate ‘wasteland-like’ areas it’s got everything that seems otherworldly.

Most people who visit Iceland come home and won’t stop talking about the beautiful natural sights they’ve seen. Iceland is definitely one-of-a-kind on this little rock we live on.

If you are after the most epic scenery on Earth then Iceland is the place to be.

Costa Rica Scenery

Hidden Waterfall Costa Rica
Costa Rica has epic waterfalls too!

That being said, Costa Rica fares very well when it comes to beautiful scenery. The country is full of amazing rainforests and a shoreline that’s straight out of a romantic movie.

Of course, if you love beaches then the incredible tropical beaches of Costa Rica will take your breath away. The fine sand and the crystal clear water are almost dreamlike.

Go further inland and you are treated to hidden waterfalls, jungle hikes, and amazing mountainous landscapes full of green and lush nature.

It is not a question that Costa Rica is extremely beautiful and there’s plenty of discovery. Costa Rica is like walking into a National Geographic program while Iceland is like walking into a science fiction landscape.

Both are very beautiful but they are different. If we had to pick one, it would be Iceland, purely because it’s just so unique.

Beaches and Swimming

Now onto our next point which is usually pretty important for a holiday. That’s the available beaches and swimming.

Swimming in Iceland

Hot Spring in Iceland
Hot Spring in Iceland

Well, we have to say, Iceland is not your beach destination. If you want sunshine, hot weather, and epic beaches you’ll have to pick Costa Rica.

However, it would be a mistake to leave your swimming gear at home when you travel to Iceland. There are multiple hot springs around the island that you can experience.

These are natural pools of water that are hot even during the coldest months. Yes! You can jump into one of the hot water springs and enjoy a natural phenomenon during winter. Once again, this is kind of a unique experience reserved mostly for Icelandic travel.

Iceland is known for amazing hotels and there are a number of unusual hotels in Iceland. However, if you want to stick to something classic there are hotels with swimming pools. So that’s also an option if you miss the water.

Once again though, swimming is not the main attraction in Iceland.

Costa Rica beaches and swimming

Costa Rica Beach
Iceland stands no chance vs beaches like this one in Costa Rica

When it comes to Iceland vs Costa Rica beaches there’s a clear winner. It’s Costa Rica. Being located in Central America is almost a guarantee for some amazing beaches.

It’s definitely the case for Costa Rica. Great weather, beautiful sand, and perfect water are what you can expect from the beaches of Costa Rica.

If you are someone who likes to lay in their sunbed, enjoy the crashing waves on the sand, and get into the water for relaxing then Costa Rica will be a great vacation spot for you.

Getting around

Getting around is another question when you decide to pick between Iceland vs Costa Rica. The available options here can drastically affect the budget.

Getting around Iceland

After you arrive in Iceland you’ll probably head to the capital: Reykjavik. There are multiple options here including public transport and for exploring the capital city you’ll similarly get a lot of options. It’s not a big city so even walking will do.

However, seeing Iceland is not about seeing Reykjavik. Seeing Iceland is about experiencing the desolate landscapes. It’s about taking epic photographs. Also, it’s about stopping your car at next to a hot spring, jumping out of your car, quickly putting on swimming clothes, and jumping into the water.

All this is not possible without a rental car. If you want to experience Iceland you must rent a car. There are simply no better options.

Getting around Costa Rica

When it comes to getting around Costa Rica you have a much greater choice of options. First of all, you get public transport between the big cities. This means it’s easy to go sightseeing even if you don’t want to rent.

Then you get shuttle buses which take you between popular tourist attractions as well. Add to this the many available guided tours that include transportation and you have a plethora of options without even renting a car.

And then again, if you pick a nice hotel you might stay on the beach all day and only explore the surrounding area of the hotel. It’s a totally different experience from Iceland and you can approach it in multiple ways.

Cost of vacation

Piggy Bank

Finally, let’s think about the cost of a vacation in either of these places. Even if you say it’s not important it can be one of the decisive factors in the end.

Simply put a vacation in Iceland will usually cost more. It already starts with airplane tickets. Usually, ticket prices for Iceland are around 30-50% more expensive than they are for Costa Rica. If you are traveling as a family this can seriously affect your budget.

Then comes the hotel prices. They are also 20-30% more expensive in Iceland. Or if you look at it another way you can get a better hotel for the same price in Costa Rica.

Add to this the necessary car rental cost for Iceland and you are at least 50% over the budget of Costa Rica if not more.

Then the final thing to consider: everything is more expensive in Iceland. From food, through coffee, to restaurants you are expected to pay way more than you would in Costa Rica.

We estimate that you will end up paying around 60-75% more for an Icelandic vacation.

What are they like for solo travelers?

Okay, now we’ve weighed all our options there’s one more thing to look at: what if you are a solo traveler?

Solo Travel Iceland
Solo travel in Iceland is very lonely

Iceland for solo travelers

Iceland for solo travelers can be quite a sentimental experience. For the better part of your journey, you will be alone. Driving your rental car alone, hiking alone, and exploring the epic landscape alone.

It will almost feel like going on a mini ‘El Camino’. A very lonely experience where you can connect with your inner self and connect with nature.

We only recommend Iceland for those solo travelers who are okay with a lonely travel experience and won’t miss talking to other humans.

Costa Rica for solo travelers

Costa Rica on the other hand can be a much more sociable experience. First of all, when you choose Costa Rica you’ll hardly be alone. Whether it’s the bus you take to the next town, or it’s the others on the beach there are people nearby.

You can still relax and connect with nature but it’s definitely not as lonely as Iceland. Costa Rica is actually pretty good for solo travelers.

Final Opinion

Stating the facts are one thing but we also want to give you our final opinion. Although we absolutely love Costa Rica, we are of the opinion that everyone should see Iceland in their lifetime.

If you have the budget, the mood, and they want to explore the unique landscapes of Iceland then go for it. It’s so different from anything else that it’s really hard to draw comparisons.

So meanwhile Costa Rica is a lovely place where you’ll definitely have a great vacation, it’s also very different from Iceland.

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