Oh the places we could go...
June 10, 2013 4:00 PM   Subscribe

My friend and I are trying to decide on a vacation destination (August '13), and we're looking at Puerto Rico or Costa Rica. We backpacked around Vietnam a few years ago and enjoyed the historical/cultural sights. Neither of us is a resort-loving tourist, so we're definitely looking for some destinations which are less sitting on the beach and more checking out some neat stuff. Can you help us decide?

Any stories about places you've enjoyed in either country, or cool things we could check out would be very much appreciated!
posted by nerdcore to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
We had so much fun in Puerto Rico. One cool thing about the island is just how small it is, so that everything is a pleasant drive from everything else. Old San Juan is just beautiful and fascinating and easy to spend hours wondering around looking at historic stuff and weird shops and eating great food. El Yunque National Forest is an amazing place to hike and explore. We also took a ferry from Fajardo and spent a day on the fascinating little island of Culebra, including a lovely snorkeling trip to a coral reef. We only got to spend a day in each of those places (I was attending a conference in San Juan in between), but I think they each deserved a lot more time. I've also heard Vieques is really fun, like Culebra but bigger and with more to do.

I have several friends from Costa Rica, and it sounds amazing, too.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:53 PM on June 10, 2013

Costa Rica has active volcanoes, cloud forests, and a zillion nifty animals. Despite being a geographically small country, there is a lot of environmental and cultural diversity so you can travel just a couple of hours and feel like you're in a totally different place.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:32 PM on June 10, 2013

There are sloths in Costa Rica.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:24 PM on June 10, 2013

This is probably going to be of limited help, since you specifically asked for historical/cultural sights and off the top of my head I'm having trouble coming up with either, other than museums and such in the main cities (I'm sure there are others). My guess is that in Puerto Rico you're going to have old Spanish forts and other artifacts of colonialism if that interests you.

I will say this--between San Juan and San Jose, I found San Juan to be more appealing. Mostly because I thought the old city had some charm and hanging out watching/flying kites at the El Morro lighthouse is a great way to spend an afternoon. that said, I went to Costa Rica specifically to cycle with my dad and he was openly mugged in a marketplace, so that definitely soured us, and perhaps unfairly.

El Yunque is a nice little rainforest, but if that's your interest, the flora and fauna are going to be more spectacular in Costa Rica (tortoises, monkeys, birds, etc). It is a very common tourist destination, so expect to be charged appropriately. Neither place is inexpensive. Puerto Rico has the bioluminescent bay, which was as cool as advertised to me.

The one thing that struck me and others I've talked to, is how difficult and expensive it is to move around the country in Puerto Rico. When I went (and my understanding is it's essentially the same), there was no national bus system. Getting around on public transport is much cheaper in Costa Rica.

Ultimately I think Costa Rica is more interesting, but I'm sure there are others who could argue better for Puerto Rico.
posted by SpicyMustard at 4:47 AM on June 11, 2013

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