In this study, we present a comparative assessment of simulation-optimization (S-O) models to estimate aquifer parameters such as transmissivity, longitudinal dispersivity, and transverse dispersivity. The groundwater flow and contaminant transport processes are simulated using the mesh-free radial basis point collocation method (RPCM). Four different S-O models are developed by combining the RPCM model separately with genetic algorithm (GA), differential evolution (DE), cat swarm optimization (CSO), and particle swarm optimization (PSO). The objective of the S-O model is to minimize a composite objective function with transmissivity, longitudinal dispersivity, and transverse dispersivity as decision variables. Hydraulic head and contaminant concentration at observation points are the state variables. The S-O models are used to estimate aquifer parameters of a confined aquifer with nine zones. It is found that RPCM-based DE, CSO, and PSO models are more accurate in estimating aquifer parameters than RPCM-GA. However, for noisy observed data, the RPCM-CSO model outperforms other models. The efficiency of the RPCM-CSO model over other models is further established by performing reliability analysis to the noisy observed data set. The comparative study reflects the efficacy of CSO over GA, DE, and PSO.