Is Your Costa Rica Packing List Ready? [Spring 2020]

Updated - September 7th 2020

The pristine natural beauty of Costa Rica makes it one of the most desirable destinations for travelers. Whether you’re trekking to a cascading waterfall or soaking up the sun on the palm-lined beaches, this small but dazzling country is an outdoor wonderland.

Before you hop on your plane to paradise, you’ll need to know what to pack for Costa Rica. Your Costa Rica packing list will depend on a number of factors, like where and when you’re visiting. You’ll also need to consider the different activities you’ll be doing, whether it’s exploring volcanoes or camping in the jungle.

If you’re wondering what to take to Costa Rica, then you’ve come to the right place. We put together this Costa Rica survival guide so you know everything you’ll need to take with you on your trip! From gadgets and toiletries to shoes and rain clothing, we have it all. We also have a list of items that you definitely shouldn’t take with you to Costa Rica.

In addition, we also threw together a few different Costa Rica outfit ideas for both men and women, so you’ll be prepared for any type of adventure!

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s dive in and see all the must-have items to add to your Costa Rica packing list.

Top 21 NEEDS for Costa Rica – Costa Rica Packing List

#1 – World Nomads Insurance

It’s also important to have travel insurance, no matter which country you are visiting. We recommend a comprehensive policy with World Nomads. They protect and reimburse for a variety of travel mishaps, like emergency medication treatments, canceled flights, and lost luggage. Without travel insurance, you could be stuck paying thousands of dollars if you need to see the doctor or if you lose your laptop. It’s simply not worth the risk!

 

#2 – Nomatic Travel Bag

Nomadic Travel Bag

Not only is the Nomatic Travel Bag one of the most innovative backpacks on the market today, but it’s also a must-have item for your Costa Rica packing list. You can easily fit up to 7-days worth of clothes and toiletries, with extra room to carry your laptop and other travel gadgets. However, the coolest feature of this bag is having the ability to wear it like a backpack or carry it like a duffel bag.

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#3 – Active Roots Security Belt

Active Roots Security Belt

Although violent crimes against tourists are rare in Costa Rica, you should still take extra precautions as you would anywhere else in the world. The Active Roots Security Belt is a stealthy way to carry your credit cards and cash. It has a hidden pocket where you can hide your valuables right in plain sight! It’s less obvious (and more stylish) than a money holder or fanny pack.

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#4 – Active Roots Water Bottle

Active Roots Water Bottle
Active Roots Water Bottle (Photo Credit – amazon.com)

Whether you’re trekking through the jungle or lounging on the beach, you’ll need to keep hydrated in the warm Costa Rica weather. That’s why it’s important to bring your Active Roots Water Bottle. Not only is it larger than traditional single-use plastic bottles, but it also keeps your drinks cold for up to 24 hours at a time. When you need a sip of water, you’ll be thankful to have the Active Roots Water Bottle at your side.

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Costa Rica is amazing! And the best hostels in San Jose will blow you away!

#5 – Masterlock

MasterLock

Travel with peace of mind by always locking your bag. Whether you’re staying in a hostel or traveling by plane or train, it’s always a good idea to bring a combination lock. You don’t want any nosey travelers or pickpockets going through your stuff when you’re not looking! This Masterlock combination lock is small and simple and doesn’t require a key like most other locks.

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Will you also visit San Jose? Check out where we like to stay in San Jose!

#6 – Skeletool

Skeletool

A multi-tool like Skeletool can come in handy in multiple different situations while you’re traveling in Costa Rica. If you need a knife, pliers, or wirecutters for any reason, then you’ll have them right in your back pocket. We also love that the Skeletool comes with a bottle opener for those times when you want an ice-cold beer on the beach. You’ll be prepared for any situation that Costa Rica throws at you!

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Editor’s Recommendation! Read our guide is Costa Rica Safe?

#7 – Active Roots Quick Dry Towel

Active Roots Quick Dry Towel

A travel towel is one of the most useful items to have on your Costa Rica packing list. You can use it in a variety of situations, like swimming in the ocean or hiking through the jungle. Or, you can use it for showering instead of those gross, low-quality ones you’ll get in your hostel. Best of all, it dries in under an hour so you can take it with you on all your adventures.

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Heading to Europe? You have to read our Europe packing list!

#8 – Will Fairy Electronic Toothbrush

Will Fairy Electronic Toothbrush

We love the Will Fairy Electronic Toothbrush for travel, but also everyday use! One charge lasts up to 30 days, so it’s easy to take with you to Costa Rica. It comes with three different settings (clean, sensitive, and massage) – all of which are guaranteed to make your teeth sparkling clean! And at roughly the same size as a normal toothbrush, you won’t have to worry about it taking up too much space in your bag.

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Our Mexico packing list is a MUST READ

#9 – Sunscreen

Sunscreen

Nobody wants a painful sunburn while they’re on vacation. That’s why it’s crucial to bring protective sunscreen with you to Costa Rica. We recommend wearing one that’s at least SPF 30, although a higher coverage is probably better for the intense Costa Rican sun. And don’t forget to reapply every few hours or after going swimming!

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#10 – Mosquito Repellant

Mosquito Repellent

If there’s one thing you can expect from hot, muggy weather – it’s mosquitos. If you want to avoid itchy bug bites all over your body, then it’s important to wear mosquito repellent. It also protects against a variety of mosquito-borne illnesses that can be lurking in mosquitos that live in tropical climates. When you’re spending the entire day outdoors, you’ll be thankful that you have mosquito repellent to protect you.

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#11 – Waterproof Dry Bag

Waterproof Dry Bag

You’ll likely be participating in a few water sports while you’re in Costa Rica. And unless you want to leave all your valuables at home, you’ll need a dry bag to take with you. It forms an airtight seal so you won’t have to worry about your money, cell phone, or camera getting wet. It’s also made from durable PVC so it can take a beating if you’re doing something more rugged.

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#12 – GoPro Hero8 Black

GoPro Hero8 Black

Whether you want to capture the beautiful scenery or your thrilling bungee-jumping adventure, a GoPro Hero8 Black is a must-have for your trip to Costa Rica. It’s a little bit more expensive than other point and shoot cameras, but the quality of the photos and videos are of much higher quality. It’s also completely waterproof, so you can take some epic shots while you’re swimming.

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Travel Camera Tip: We believe in being totally honest with our audience. That’s why, although the GoPro travel cameras are our personal favourite brand, we want you to be aware of the other options out there. Currently, the number one alternative to the GoPro are the FujiFilm Travel Cameras – check them out!

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#13 – Packing Cubes

Eagle Creek Packing Cubes

Ever feel like you’re rummaging through your bag, but you still can’t find that one shirt or sock? Well, packing cubes are there to help you stay organized while traveling. Not only does it make it easy to find what you’re looking for, but they also make packing and unpacking a breeze. If you tend to be a little disorganized when it comes to packing, then you’ll definitely want a set of packing cubes.

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#14 – Travel Pillow

pillows

Between all the adventures and activities you’ll be doing, getting a good night’s rest is crucial. But it’s hard to catch those restful Zs when you don’t have the comforts of home with you. That’s why we recommend always traveling with a small travel pillow. It’s much more comfortable and better for your neck than those flat ones in the hotel or hostel. You can also use it camping or on the plane.

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#15 – RayBan Sunglasses

RayBan Sunglasses
RayBan Sunglasses ( Photo Credit – ray-ban.com)

You probably have a pair of old sunglasses with you, but don’t you think it’s time to upgrade to something cooler? A pair of RayBans are perfect for your trip. We love the classic Clubmasters, although you can’t go wrong with any of their styles. Not only are they trendy, but they also have polarized lenses to help fight off the sun. You’ll be a Costa Rica fashion icon with these bad boys!

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#16 – Hand Sanitizer

Hand Sanitizer

While you’re traveling in Costa Rica, you might not have access to a bathroom every time you need to wash your hands. Protect yourself by bringing a bottle of hand sanitizer. If you get dirty or need to clean up before you eat, then you’ll be able to wash your hands even without soap and water.

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#17 – Portable Charger

Portable Charger

A portable battery charger is something you should always have with you when traveling. There’s nothing worse than watching the battery drain from your phone before you’re even halfway through the day! A portable charger gives you your phone the extra bit of life it needs, so you can continue taking pictures or checking your email while you’re out and about.

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#18 – SkyRoam Solis

Skyroam Solis

If you’re traveling to Costa Rica, chances are that your current phone plan won’t work. If you want to stay connected during your trip, then you’ll want the compact SkyRoam Solis by your side. It provides unlimited cellular data in over 130 countries for up to 10 devices at a time! With the Solis, you’ll never have to rely on hunting for dodgy Wifi spots every again.

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#19 – Flashlight

Flashlight

A flashlight is one of those emergency tools that you’ll be glad that you packed with you. Some streets aren’t well light at night, and if you’re returning from the beach or going out to the bar, you’ll need a flashlight to see. It’s also possible that the power might go out during a torrential rainstorm. If you’re staying somewhere besides a hotel, then a flashlight can come in handy in those desperate times of need.

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#20 – Rain Jacket

Rain Jacket

If you’re going to Costa Rica during the rainy season, you’ll need a durable rain jacket. You’ll want something light and packable in case you get stuck in the middle of a downpour. We love clothing made by Columbia, especially their watertight breathable rain jacket. It’s made from waterproof nylon that will keep you dry even in the wettest storms.

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#21 – Slip-On Water Shoes

Slip-On Water Shoes

If you’re wondering what to pack for Costa Rica to see waterfalls, then make sure to bring a pair of slip-on water shoes. The rocks around the waterfalls can be very slippery, and you don’t want to fall or cut yourself. Water shoes are also handy if you want to do any other water sports, like kayaking or snorkeling during your visit.

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What to Wear in Costa Rica

What to Wear in Costa Rica

Deciding what to wear in Costa Rica isn’t as hard as you think. However, there are some things to keep in mind when organizing your Costa Rica packing list.

The weather is divided into two distinct seasons – rainy and dry. However, the weather will still vary depending on what part of the country you’re visiting. If you’re visiting the Caribbean side, you can expect it to rain all year long! For this reason, you should always carry a rain jacket with you.

What you pack for Costa Rica will also vary depending on your plans. If you go hiking, you’ll need specific clothes like boots and moisture-wicking shirts and pants. If you’re staying near the beach, then you can pack casual summer clothes like shorts, tank tops, skirts, and flip flops.

Bigger cities like San Jose tend to be more conservative. Beachwear is not acceptable, and wearing something too short or revealing is considered disrespectful. Long pants, blouses, and long skirts are good options. We also recommend leaving your flip flops in the hotel and exploring the city in closed-toed shoes.

The northern part of Costa Rica can be chilly at night, so it’s also recommended to bring sweaters and pants to keep warm.

Seasons in Costa Rica (And how to pack for them!)

Seasons in Costa Rica

Summer – Summer falls right in the middle of the rainy season, which lasts from May to December. But don’t let that deter you! This is the chance to see the lush green side of the country. Since this is the low season for tourism, you’ll also score big discounts on flights and hotels.

Rain typically falls in the late afternoon, which means there’s a high chance you’ll have sun for most of the morning. The weather is also reasonably warm, with temperatures peaking anywhere from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll still have plenty of opportunities for swimming and lounging on the beach!

For the beach, make sure to pack clothes that you can wear in warm weather, like shorts, t-shirts, skirts, and dresses. You’ll also need moisture-wicking clothes and rain jackets for the afternoon and evening. We also recommend heading inland to take advantage of “the green season,” but make sure to bring breathable athletic clothes and hiking boots with you.

Fall – If you’re visiting Costa Rica during the fall, then you’ll see the country at it’s rainest. The Oso Peninsula sees steady rainfall all day, which means you’ll find fewer attractions and activities to do. However, you can still escape to some parts of the country that tend to be drier than others.

For a few days on the beach, head to the Caribbean coast. You’ll still have warm weather and hours of sunshine to go swimming or sunbathing. The Caribbean coast is drier than the Pacific coast, although both places are always good options for a tropical vacation. The lush green mountains near the Pacific are the perfect setting for a hike (as long as you don’t mind mud).

The weather in fall is still warm, so you can bring lightweight clothes if you’re heading to the Caribbean coast. Anywhere else, you’ll need water-resistant clothes and shoes, especially if you’re spending time in nature. A rain jacket is also a must-have Costa Rica packing essential for fall.

Winter –  Winter is one of the best times to visit Costa Rica. You’ll have warmer temperatures and longer hours of sunshine. However, it’s also the busiest time for tourism, which means you can expect high prices and large crowds, especially on the coast.

Heading into the dry season, rain becomes less frequent, although possible considering Costa Rica’s unpredictable weather. Bringing a rain jacket and few waterproof Costa Rica outfit ideas won’t hurt. You’ll also need warmer clothes if you’re traveling to the northern cities or spending a few nights in the mountains.

At the beach, temperatures will be around 80 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit. You can pack what you usually would bring to a beach vacation, like shorts, tank tops, dresses, etc. It can get chilly at night, so you should always have a light sweater or long pants for backup.

Spring – Spring is still considered the dry season, although it starts to rain more towards the end of May. On the other hand, the weather is still relatively warm, which means it’s still a busy time for tourists. Prices and crowds aren’t as high as in winter (with the exception of easter and spring break), making spring a great time to visit Costa Rica.

The average temperature during the day is around 80 degrees, which is ideal for getting out and exploring the outdoors. At night, it dips to the mid-60s and possibly even lower in the northern towns.

A combination of lightweight casual clothes and rain gear is essential if you’re wondering what to pack for Costa Rica in spring. You’ll also need a few warm items to keep you comfortable in the evening. But generally speaking, you can expect lots of sunshine and warm weather when visiting at this time!

What shoes to pack for Costa Rica

What shoes to pack for Costa Rica
What shoes to pack for Costa Rica (Photo Credit – booking.com)

The right shoes can either make or break your trip. Fortunately, there are a few options when deciding what to wear in Costa Rica.

If you’re spending any time at the beach or by the pool, you’ll need a pair of flip flops. You might also consider bringing slip-on water shoes if you’ll be in the water. Some places might be rough or slippery, so these are the best shoes for Costa Rica if you want to protect your feet. Another option is to bring athletic sandals like Tevas.

Outside of the beach, you’ll need a comfortable pair of sneakers or walking shoes. Keep in mind that it will probably rain during your trip, so something waterproof or water-resistant is best. Costa Rica is not the place to wear your expensive white Nikes!

And if you’re headed to the jungle or mountains, then make sure to bring durable hiking boots. You’ll want something breathable in the warm weather, but also something that provides traction for climbing up those steep hills! And don’t forget that they’ll probably get wet and muddy.

Want to know what to wear in Costa Rica at night or in the city? Closed-toed shoes or a nice pair of sandals will work. Costa Rica street fashion is a little more conservative in the city, so leave your flip flops in your bag. If you’re doing a lot of walking or exploring, you’ll be thankful that you have something comfortable on your feet!

Females – What to Pack for Costa Rica

Females - What to Pack for Costa Rica
Females – What to Pack for Costa Rica (Photo Credit – pinterest.com)

Ladies, we understand that it can be challenging to know exactly what to pack for Costa Rica. But don’t worry – we’re here to help you decide what to bring!

Most of the time, you’ll be fine wearing casual clothes in Costa Rica, especially at the beach. Think of summer clothes like dresses, skirts, and nice shirts and blouses. If you’re out in the sun, then make sure to pack a good sun hat for protection. You’ll also need your favorite pair of sunglasses (you know, the ones that make you look like a celebrity!)

Don’t forget your rain jacket or light shell, as it could start pouring anytime during your trip. Even if you’re going in the dry season!

You might also consider bringing a few dressier outfits if you plan to go out to dinner in the city. A maxi dress paired with some nice sandals is always a good option. Don’t wear shorts, mini-skirts or bikinis while you aren’t on the beach. Not only does it draw unwanted attention, but it’s actually considered disrespectful in Costa Rican culture!

Clothes

  • Bikini or swimsuit
  • Beach coverups, sarongs, or shawls
  • Blouses and tank tops
  • Waterproof shell or rain jacket
  • Thin sweater or long sleeve shirts (inland or winter)
  • Light cardigan
  • Shorts and skirts
  • Jeans
  • Tights or yoga pants
  • Sundress
  • Maxi dress
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Bra and bralette

Shoes

  • Sneakers or walking shoes that you can wear all day
  • Flip Flops
  • Nice flats or sandals for going out
  • Waterproof shoes for water activities (snorkeling etc.)
  • Hiking boots for the mountains

Accessories

  • Sunhat
  • Sunglasses
  • Belt
  • Daypack or small backpack
  • Purse
  • Beach tote bag

Toiletries

  • Shampoo, conditioner, other hair products
  • Hairbrush
  • Sunscreen
  • Chapstick
  • Body soap and lotion
  • Tampons and pads
  • Face wash and moisturizer
  • Razor
  • Contacts or glasses
  • Medication (birth control, vitamins, allergies meds, etc.)
  • Sunscreen
  • Deodorant
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tweezers
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
  • Makeup (eye shadow, lipstick, foundation, mascara, eyeliner, etc.)

Males – What to Pack for Costa Rica

Males - What to Pack for Costa Rica
Males – What to Pack for Costa Rica ( Photo Credit – caminotravel.com)

Guys, packing for Costa Rica doesn’t have to be complicated! Besides bringing a few basics, there are some must-have items that you won’t want to forget at home.

At the beach, you’ll be fine wearing swim trunks and graphic shirts. You should also pack flip flops and water shoes, depending on what activities you’ll be doing in the water.

While casual clothing is acceptable at the beach or pool, it’s probably not what you want to wear to hit the town. Consider dressing up and bringing a few nicer outfits for drinks and dinner. Button-up shirts and long chinos or khakis work well for evening wear. As it tends to be colder at night, you won’t have to worry about getting too hot in covered clothing.

If you’re planning any adventure activities, then you need to make sure to pack the right clothing. Hiking or running shoes are great for the outdoors. Moisture-wicking pants and shirts can also be helpful if you’re in the mountains or jungle. Most importantly, you’ll need a light rain jack in case you get caught in a torrential downpour.

Clothes

  • Swim trunks or board shorts
  • T-shirts
  • Button up shirts (flannel or casual)
  • Midlayers like sweaters
  • Thin windbreaker, rain jacket, or packable down jacket
  • Jeans, black chinos or khaki pants
  • Shorts
  • Underwear
  • Socks

Shoes

  • Sneakers or walking shoes that you can wear all day
  • Flip flops
  • Waterproof shoes for water activities (snorkeling etc.)
  • Hiking boots for the mountains

Accessories

  • Baseball hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Belt
  • Daypack or small backpack

Toiletries

  • Shampoo, conditioner
  • Hair gel or mousse
  • Hairbrush or comb
  • Sunscreen
  • Chapstick
  • Body soap and lotion
  • Moisturizer
  • Disposable razor and shaving cream
  • Contacts or glasses
  • Medication (vitamins, allergies meds, etc.)
  • Deodorant
  • Tweezers
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss

What NOT to Pack for Costa Rica

Now that we’ve covered the items you’ll need to bring to Costa Rica, let’s talk about the things you should leave at home.

  • Expensive jewelry – Wearing cheap costume jewelry is fine for going out, but don’t bring any pieces that are expensive. Costa Rica isn’t immune to crime, and pickpockets and thieves could be lurking anywhere. If you wouldn’t want to lose it, then don’t bring it.
  • Bulky clothing – Costa Rica is warm most of the time. Bulky items take up too much space in your bag, and you might not end up wearing them at all. Instead, pack light clothes that you can layer if you need to stay warm.
  • Unbreathable clothing – The weather in Costa Rica is often wet and muggy, which means you should wear cotton or water-resistant clothing. Don’t bring clothing made with unbreathable fabrics like polyester.
  • Heavy books – Sure, it’s tempting to bring a few of your favorite novels to read on the beach. However, books are cumbersome and take up a lot of space in your bag. Instead, invest in an e-reader so you can bring thousands of titles with you wherever you go.

The Best Backpack to Pack for Costa Rica

The Best Backpack to Pack for Europe

We already mentioned this in our top 21 things to bring to Costa Rica, but it’s so important we decided to talk about it in more detail. We think The Nomatic Travel Bag is one of the best bags on the market today. It’s ideal for most trips, whether you’re going camping for a few days or on vacation to Costa Rica for the week.

The main reason we like it so much is that it has space to fit everything you need. There’s a sleeve for your laptop, a pocket for your shoes, and even a holder for your water bottle. The bag even has a built-in RFID security pocket, which adds an extra layer of protection if you’re storing your passport and credit cards. You don’t even have to worry about your dirty clothes because it also comes with a laundry bag!

It’s also one of the most versatile bags we’ve seen. The innovative strap system allows you to wear it like a backpack, or convert it to a duffel bag for easier carrying. If you tend to overpack, you’ll be thankful that you can spare your back from pain by carrying it with your hands instead.

Finally, the bag is waterproof, so you won’t have to worry about getting your clothes wet during those infamous Costa Rica rain storms!

Give it a try and tell us it’s not the coolest bag you have ever seen!

Final Thoughts on What to Pack for Costa Rica

We hope you feel a little more prepared to start packing for your awesome trip to Costa Rica. Make sure to bring those 21 must-have items, especially your sunscreen and your rain jacket! We think you’ll probably be wearing both of those for most of your trip!

It’s also important to do some research about where you’re headed. Costa Rica weather can be unpredictable, and you’ll want to be prepared for whatever mother nature throws your way. It might be hard to pack for both sun and rain, but with a little preparation (and the right bag), you should have no problem bringing all the items you need.

Finally, don’t forget to have fun. Costa Rica is an amazing country, and we guarantee that you’re going to have a memorable time no matter what!

Aaron Radcliffe

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Today, I went to the beachfront with my kids. I found a
    sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed
    the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched
    her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off
    topic but I had to tell someone!

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