Whoohoo–packing time for the exciting, ultra-biodiverse country of Costa Rica. If you’ve got an adventurous vacation or a relaxing tropical holiday trip coming up but don’t know where to start when it comes to packing, you’re in the right place.
Welcome to the only Costa Rica packing guide you’ll ever need. For a trip like this where winter coats and other bulky items are not needed, where shorts/bathing suits will be worn almost 24/7, you’ve got a lot more flexibility (and free luggage room)!
This post contains my top packing essentials to ensure you have everything you’ll need to bring with you to Costa Rica (and any other beach destinations, really!) and pack like a pro!
Many of the items in this packing list are considered travel essentials, which means they can be used on many other future trips, too. So if you find yourself needing to buy a lot of things for your Costa Rica vacation, I assure you, you’ll be setting yourself up for success on future trips!
This packing guide will make sure you’re ultra prepared for your Costa Rican vacation so you can spend your money and time worrying about the things that matter—having fun!
So without further ado, let’s dive into everything you need to pack for Costa Rica!
*All of the products listed in this post are my personal tried and true recommendations and may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running. Thanks!
Fashion / Style: What To Expect In Costa Rica
Costa Rica doesn’t have a strict dress code so there is no need to bring extraneous items to fit the local dress code. Comfortable and casual clothing is your best bet for anywhere you go in the country. Even among the locals, there’s not a huge etiquette to follow–most people dress casually in jeans, shorts, t-shirts and comfortable walking shoes.
Women can bare shoulders with tank tops, and there is no pressure to ‘look’ any part.
In fact, the clothes you pack will be more dependent on what you decide to do in Costa Rica. From volcanoes and beaches to massive national parks and getting close to the biodiverse flora and fauna, what you do will dictate what you wear.
At the beach, your wardrobe will likely consist of shorts, tank tops, bathing suits, coverups, and sandals.
In the city, you’ll likely need something along the lines of closed-toed shoes, pants, t-shirts, and a light jacket or sweater. In high elevation cities such as Monteverde, Bajos del Toro, San Isidro de Perez Zeledon, or San Jose, warmer clothes like long pants and a jacket is a must.
Costa Rica is all about the laidback lifestyle. Due to the warm and tropical weather by the coast, shorts, t-shirts, light linen shirts, sundresses, and sandals are all the norm here.
Having said that, it can be surprisingly cool in some areas, especially in the mountains and cloud forests. In these climates, being comfortable and casual is still the best way to go.
Now that we’ve set the stage on what to expect in Costa Rica, let’s get on to the packing details.
Consider The Weather in Costa Rica Before Packing
Before we go any further, it is important to note that Costa Rica has approximately 27 microclimates throughout the country so you can’t just toss bathing suits, shorts, and sandals in your bag and call it a day. Let’s get to know the weather and microclimates a bit better first.
Costa Rica is wonderfully warm all year long, with average temperatures of 80-90°F on the coast and 75-80°F in the countryside and by the mountains. All in all, this is still pretty warm compared to a lot of places in the world.
There might be seasons where there’s more humidity or more rain, and there might be seasons where nights are colder than others. Some regions are rainy all year, and others are very dry and sunny all year. Temperatures vary primarily with elevations, not with seasons.
Regardless of when you visit, you should aim to have all your bases covered with your travel essentials.
Below is an example of what the weather is like in Costa Rica throughout the year.
WET SEASON: The wet season runs from May to October and tends to be actually warmer than the dry season. This heavy rain season is often referred to as the “green season” because this is when the country comes alive with green, lush foliage! Uniquely, there is a dry weather phenomenon in Costa Rica during the months of July and August called veranillo (which translates to “little summer”). This mini dry season is when rainfall lessens, making exploring a bit more bearable.
- Great for: exploring the lush forests, surfing, white water rafting!
DRY SEASON: The dry season is from December to April. These months have little to no rain in most of the country, making it the busiest months in terms of tourism. In places like San José, you can expect temperatures to linger in the 70s year-round, while drier regions like the Nicoya Peninsula and Guanacaste can see 90°F temperatures.
- Great for: visiting the many beaches of Costa Rica!
The takeaway: Along with your warm-weather clothing, bring additional clothing to cover your bases. Bring something for the rain (if traveling during the wet season) and bring something warm for those higher elevation destinations.
Consider Your Costa Rica Activities Before Packing
What activities are you going to be doing in Costa Rica? Will you be doing adrenaline-pumping activities outside of your hotel? Will you be getting onto a watercraft? Exploring around the Arenal Volcano? Getting out to explore the city and rubbing elbows with the locals? Or perhaps staying by the pool and lounging on the beach is all you plan on doing, which is perfectly fine, too!
Your planned activities will influence your Costa Rica packing list.
If you’re going to be doing water activities or hiking activities, there’s a lot of stuff you need to consider bringing, like water shoes, snorkeling equipment, hiking boots, waterproof / rain gear, etc.
If beach lounging and eating around town is what your main objective is, you won’t need much other than beachwear and loose, casual clothing.
Shoes are always a tough one for me to pack so I wanted to mention it here–they are so bulky, but depending on what you plan on doing during your trip, bringing extra shoes for their separate functions may be totally necessary.
Here’s an example: Sandals are a must if you plan on spending any time at the beach. If you’re doing physical activity or going on jungle excursions, hiking shoes / strapped-on sandals / closed-toed shoes / running shoes are going to be necessary. And what about those casual sandals for walking around town? As you can see, the shoes can add up.
Whenever we travel to Costa Rica, we will typically bring one pair of sandals and one pair of running/hiking shoes OR closed-toed hiking sandals, depending on the trip’s itinerary.
Packing Gear: How To Carry Your Stuff To Costa Rica
Before you pack anything, it’s important to start with the skin and bones of packing. Having the right bags to put your belongings in is extremely important. The last thing you want is to toss everything for your trip into a bag with no method of organization.
Why? Because you’ll find yourself spending a lot of extra time later on packing and repacking once you’re actually on your trip. Trust me, your life will be so much easier when you actually apply a strategy to how you pack.
You’ve got two options here. Do you want to go with a wheeled case or a travel backpack?
Wheeled carry-ons are awesome in that they are pretty much weightless on your body, you just roll and go.
The other option is a backpack. Travel packs are so convenient when it comes to hands-free commuting. As you’ll likely be needing a taxi, car, or car service to get around Costa Rica and not lugging your bags around on foot, you could really go with either option.
1. Wheeled suitcase
I use my Amazon hard shell carry-on whenever I want something sturdier and can’t be bothered with having weight on my body. It’s roomy and super sleek-looking. Spinner wheel hardshell cases are the future!
2. Travel backpack
Personally, I’m a travel backpack kind of person; I love my Osprey Aura 65 so much. It’s extremely comfortable because of its super intense hip belt (if you get it, you’ll see what I mean) and perfect for those warm travel days due to the ventilation technology.
I actually went backpacking with this pack and can attest to its greatness. Totally worth the investment. If you’re looking for a new travel bag or backpacking bag, GET THIS BAG! You won’t regret it.
3. Packing cubes
You need to get these packing cubes, they are amazing at creating space in your luggage that you never thought you had. However you want to organize your clothes— by day, by outfit, by type—these will be the most useful thing you have in your packing artillery.
Gone are the days where you need to dig through your entire suitcase for that one thing you’re looking for, because you’ll know exactly where it’s at.
4. Day Pack / Everyday Bag
For day hiking, day trips, excursions, and tours where you’re going to be out all day, you should consider bringing a larger day backpack. You can expect to pack excursion essentials such as snacks, water bottles, a towel, change of clothes, camera, and maybe even a light jacket. You’ll want something 20L or greater, and the Osprey Daylite Plus Daypack is a wonderful option.
If you’re not planning on doing long hikes, a casual mini backpack will work just fine. A mini backpack that can fit a water bottle, phone, camera, sunglasses, and sunscreen is a great option for traveling.
And if you’re able to find a bag that folds flat so that you’re able to stow it in your carry-on, even better! I like the Fjallraven Kanken Mini Backpack or my trusty Bellroy Sling for something simple and compressible, so when I’m not using it, I can flatten it and store it in my luggage.
For the guys (and gals too), crossbody shoulder sling bags work really well for traveling! My boyfriend is absolutely obsessed with his Bellroy Sling Bag.
Worried about bag theft? Check out this post: 10 Best Anti-Theft Travel Bags For Your Next Vacation
Clothing: What To Wear In Costa Rica
You really don’t need that many shirts, especially if you choose versatile pieces, allowing them to be multifunctional. You can go with a mix of sleeveless and sleeved for the most part, with one caveat.
Depending on where your hotel/resort is located and what season you visit, mosquitos may be a problem. If you’re worried about mosquitos, pack 1-2 lightweight long sleeves (or bring some bug repellent spray with you).
Planning on hiking? A workout top will do, but if you want that extra protection from mosquitoes, go with an actual hiking shirt like the Patagonia Long-Sleeve Capilene Cool Merino Shirt.
Bring 1-2 pairs of long pants just in case there happens to be a chill at night, if you plan on visiting higher elevation destinations, or if you plan to attend a more formal event. Pants are also great for protecting against mosquitos at night.
To combat humidity, go with loose and light materials like cotton or linen. The Caribbean coastline is the most humid while the Northern lowlands are the driest.
Jeans can be way too hot for summer travel. Trust me, I’ve experienced my fair share of sweaty legs trapped in jeans. It’s pretty uncomfortable, to say the least.
Planning on hiking? Don’t forget to pack a pair of hiking pants. Leggings will probably cut it, but we prefer to wear hiking pants as they offer better protection against those pesky mosquitoes. Patagonia’s Skyline Traveler Pants are tried and true–I love mine to death!
2-3 pairs will do. If you’re a woman and you plan on wearing more dresses, you can definitely cut out some tops and bottoms and substitute them with dresses.
Leggings are very useful if you plan on working out, hiking, or want something comfortable to lounge in on the plane ride. I love traveling with leggings and can’t really go on any trip without at least 1 pair!
A pair of lightweight leggings like Lululemon’s Fast and Free Tight is a great option if you’re looking for breathability while getting that protection from bugs and the sun’s UV rays. The best part? These have pockets large enough to fit your phone in!
Plan to pack ~3 long dresses for your trip to Costa Rica. Long or flowy dresses/skirts are really great options if you want to save space in your luggage.
If you plan on going out at night, aim for one of the dresses to be appropriate for both daytime and evening looks. Add a nice cardigan (or even a shawl), swap out the flip-flops for your nicer sandals, and be on your merry way! It’s all about versatility!
My rule of thumb: To save room for things I plan to buy on vacation, I’ll always bring ~2 outfits less than the number of days I plan on traveling. I know historically I tend to not wear everything I pack, so I’ve adjusted for this in the packing process. Plus, everything you bring is washable and re-wearable. You should evaluate your situation and adjust for it as well!
10. Underwear and socks
Bring 1 pair of underwear for as many days as you’re going to be traveling. Sometimes, I even bring extra for changing out of bathing suits after a visit to the beach.
I also tend to bring fewer socks than the number of days I’m visiting because I find that I wear sandals more than shoes in Costa Rica!
These items are light enough where overpacking is not a problem.
Depending on your activity level, 2-3 will do. Because I’m pretty active and tend to do a lot of tropical hiking, I typically bring more sports bras than regular bras. (Plus, your swimming suit tops can function as bras too.)
In order to save on luggage space, bring less and just throw them in the wash as needed.
12. Comfortable Walking Shoes
You should at least bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes with good support and traction.
My all-time favorite travel shoes these days are the tried and true Ecco Soft 7 (they’re stylish, comfortable, and have been raved about for decades since they were first created)! The best part is that they have them for both men and women.
When traveling to tropical destinations, sandals or flip-flops are a must. For sandals, I alternate between my Birkenstocks and Oofos Recovery Slides— both allow you to walk miles and miles.
We recently discovered the Oofos slide at our REI store and boy were we sold on it. From the moment we slid them on our feet, maximum comfort! It was like walking on clouds. Not only were they perfect for our vacation in Costa Rica, but we also now plan on gifting this to everyone we know!
For something more active, waterproof and sturdy, you’ll need something more. Check out the below.
14. Water Shoes
If I know I’ll be going on water adventures, I always make sure to bring a pair of water shoes that will allow me to take sure-footed steps while still being able to keep my toes free. I love bringing along my Chaco’s Z1 Classic sandals because they serve as both sandals and water shoes.
Want something more enclosed for that toe protection? Depending on what you plan to do, it could be beneficial to go with a close-toed sandal. In this category, we like the collection that KEEN has. These types of shoes kill multiple birds with one stone–you can go hiking, ziplining, ATV-ing, hop on a watercraft, and more with the same pair of shoes. This will ultimately save you a lot of luggage space!
KEEN Women’s SOLR High Performance Sport Closed Toe Water Sandal
KEEN Men’s Newport H2 Sandal
Pro Tip: Activities such as ziplining, horseback riding, canyoning, and white water rafting all require closed-toed shoes. The above closed-toed sandals are perfect because they qualify for these activities, and have the added perk of being able to handle water (unlike a normal pair of running shoes).
NOTE: If you plan on dressing up or partying in Costa Rica, you may very well need to pack high heels or dress shoes too. In this case, you’ll need to think a bit harder about how to pack all these shoes. If you’re checking a bag, bringing too many shoes may not be an issue. If you’re going with carry-on only, try to prioritize your must-have shoes versus the nice-to-have shoes.
15. Cardigan or lightweight jacket
For those unsuspecting chilly nights at higher elevations, it’s best to have a cardigan or fleece with you. Especially if you run cold! That way, you won’t need to buy anything in case of an emergency of being cold.
16. Rain jacket
Despite its all-around warm weather, Costa Rica (and other tropical destinations) tends to get quite a bit of rain during its wet season. A rain jacket is an essential item if you’re visiting during Costa Rica’s rainy season, from May to November/beginning of December.
You may also want to bring a rain jacket if you’re visiting areas like Monteverde, Dominical, Uvita, Bijagua or Osa Peninsula even during the dry season.
Consider packing a light rain jacket or poncho if there’s any potential of rain in the forecast. Our top options in the rain jacket category are:
- High-quality investment option: Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Jacket (for men here and for women here)–highly loved for its lightness, simplicity, and breathability
- Mid-priced option: North Face Venture 2 (this one for men and this one for women)–they come in so many colors and is ultra-packable, taking up virtually no space at all
- Most affordable option: is to go with a disposable poncho for the rain, though this won’t necessarily keep you warm
17. Shawl / scarf
One of my must-haves! I’ll always have a medium-sized thin scarf or shawl in my bag.
Not only can you use them for warmth or style, but you can also use them as a coverup after beaching, as a towel, as a mat on grass/sand/dirt, as a quick rain shield, or as an emergency skirt if your bottoms get stained or soaked somehow.
And if you tend to run cold, a shawl will come in handy at the lobby, bars, restaurants in your resort/hotel. Resorts and hotels tend to have the air conditioning on, so while it may be warm outdoors, it can get chilly indoors.
2-3 depending on how much you plan on swimming and beaching. It’s okay to pack extra, in case you need to hit the beach or pool and the ones you wore previously haven’t had a chance to fully dry yet.
19. Sleepwear / loungewear
Yoga pants and a t-shirt or workout clothes are all you need. You can really save luggage space here! These items can be used as pajamas, loungewear, and airplane/road trip outfits.
Clothing To Pack For Costa Rica: For Men
T-shirts, tanks, button-up shirts, shorts, one pair of pants, two pairs of swimming shorts, one lightweight jacket.
Consider a light rain jacket if there’s any chance of rain in the forecast. If you plan on going hiking, bring hiking pants and hiking boots.
If you plan on going out, don’t forget those dress shoes!
What To Pack For Costa Rica: Accessories
Because it can get really bright during summer afternoons.
Bringing a pair of sunglasses straps can also be convenient for putting them on/taking them off in a jiffy.
21. Hat / Baseball Cap
Hats are so necessary for sun protection, don’t forget it! You most definitely should have one if you’re going to be spending any prolonged time outdoors.
22. Jewelry (Optional)
Definitely optional. I tend to skip jewelry on most days (even if I’ve packed it) because either it’s too hot/humid to want to deal with something sticking all over my neck, or I just forget to wear it.
If you do plan on going out at night, you may want to bring more jewelry to complete those going-out looks.
What To Pack For Costa Rica: Toiletries
Sunscreen is absolutely necessary. Even if it’s overcast or cloudy, the UV index can be very high, so be sure to apply whenever you’re outdoors. Whenever we head to tropical destinations with ample marine life, we always go with a coral reef-safe brand, as traditional sunscreens contain chemicals that harm our environment as well as the natural balance of marine ecosystems.
In fact, you may even encounter tour companies and eco-parks asking you to only use sunscreen and sunblock that are biodegradable, containing titanium oxide and zinc oxide only.
And honestly, it’s not enough to just buy any old bottle that has a “reef-friendly” label on it. It turns out many sunscreens claiming to be “reef-friendly” or “reef-safe” actually aren’t!
Products containing the following ingredients are technically NOT reef safe: oxybenzone, avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene or nanoparticles. Always review the active ingredients on the bottle to be sure you’re really getting something reef-safe.
Here are a few travel-sized biodegradable sunscreens you can easily buy on Amazon:
- Badger Reef Safe Sunscreen – SPF 40 Kids Clear Sport
- Badger Reef Safe Sunscreen- SPF 35 Clear Zinc Sport Unscented
- Thinksport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen
- Babo Botanicals Zinc Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
- All Good Sport Face & Body Sunscreen Lotion
And on days where we are just out and about (not getting into the water)–for the face, we are absolutely obsessed with the magical Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen. No white-cast, no greasy film!
24. Insect Repellent
Depending on the season you go to Costa Rica, there may be mosquitoes and you’ll want to protect yourself against bites. Typically the closer you are to trees and jungles, the more prevalent mosquitos are.
Mosquitoes are typically the worst during the rainy season but can also be bad in some areas year-round. If you’re traveling to the Central and Southern Pacific, Osa Peninsula, and/or Caribbean Coast (Tortuguero, Cahuita, and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca), you should be extra aware of the bugginess in these areas.
Why? Because there are some serious mosquito-borne illnesses in Costa Rica like Zika and Dengue so you’ll want to do your best to be protected.
If you plan to go hiking, ziplining, or ATV-ing in the jungle, I would definitely recommend packing an effective insect / mosquito repellent. We recommend the following travel-size options:
- Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent
- Another good option is Sawyer Jungle Juice Pump Spray Insect Repellent –because we love tropical destinations and summer camping/hiking, we always have a bottle of this at home and ready to go!
If you’re looking for more natural options, we recommend the following travel-friendly options:
Alternative option #1: Treat Your Clothing – You can also treat your clothes beforehand with Permethrin Insect Repellent Spray for Clothing. This clothing insect repellent spray is a game-changer. If you’re going to be outdoors in areas where mosquitos are prevalent, I’d highly recommend preparing your clothes with this fabric spray!
- How does it work? This is a treatment spray for clothes that adheres only to fabrics, leaving no smell or residue on clothes and doesn’t harm human skin. Permethrin spray lasts for up to 6 machine washes, which is more than enough for most tropical trips. Real life story– I hiked Machu Picchu after treating my hiking clothes with this, and I only got a total of 2 mosquito bites after the 4-day trip, whereas some of my friends got 20+ itchy bug bites. So worth it.
- Pro Tip: Buy and use before you leave for your trip. A few days before departure, spray all of your clothes, plus anything else made of fabric that you’d like treated.
Alternative option #2: Insect Repelling Clothing – Too lazy to treat your clothes with insect repellent? I know, it’s a process. The ExOfficio BugsAway pullover is the next best thing– it’s super lightweight too.
25. Squeeze bottles
GoToob travel bottles are my favorite thing ever. Made of high-quality silicone, they are extremely durable, have never leaked on me, and are super easy to squeeze.
26. Hand Sanitizer
Hand sanitizer gel or hand sanitizing wipes are a must any time you’re going to be in contact with surfaces many other people have touched. Never leave your hotel room without it!
And if you do happen to forget it, remember to wash your hands often, especially before eating or touching your face.
Lots of stores and establishments will also have hand sanitizer in the front for patrons to use.
27. Body Wipes / Feminine Wipes
Feeling a bit gross after a hike, swim, or bike ride but don’t have the time to shower right in that instant? Just whip out one of these body wipes for a quick refresher. The feminine wipes I like are infused with cucumber and aloe.
Trust me, you will feel and smell so much better. It’s always good to have a few handy in your travel backpack when you’re out on a day of excursions.
28. Shower supplies
These are usually provided by hotels. If you are particular about using your own products and brands, then don’t forget to pack them.
29. Dental supplies
Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash. If you happen to forget to bring anything, you can simply ask the front desk or concierge for some.
You’re going to be in the hot sun most of the time, so bring deodorant if you tend to sweat or omit body odor.
31. Makeup (Optional)
Makeup, optional?? Yes, you read that right.
Some women bring a huge collection of makeup wherever they go. I also love to wear makeup on vacations! But it’ll be hot, humid, and your face will be sweaty and oily from the sun exposure. Or, you’ll be beaching so much that you won’t need to wear makeup.
I find that at hotels and resorts in Costa Rica, one of the only appropriate times for makeup is when you’re not doing any water activities such as during dinner, at nightly entertainment shows/events, or if you plan to go out for the night.
Try to pack lighter here and bring only what you need.
32. Dry shampoo (Optional)
I try not to wash my hair every day, but at the same time, Costa Rica can get pretty hot and humid.
A travel-size dry shampoo like this one by amika can come in handy very frequently.
33. DIY survival kit
Make a little bag of the following: ibuprofen, allergy pills, Immodium, ciprofloxacin (or whatever your doctor prescribes for traveler’s diarrhea), bandaids, floss, hand sanitizer, eye drops, lip balm, a sharpie, tape, and extra contact lenses (if applicable).
Think about the ailments you typically suffer from and have to deal with on a regular basis and adjust the contents of the bag as needed!
Pro Tip: Definitely pack some Immodium, Pepto-Bismol, and/or ciprofloxacin just in case. While the food will likely be clean, a lot of travelers’ stomachs are not used to the differences in food (especially if you’re going to be trying street food during your trip).
Don’t feel like making your own? Buy a premade first aid kit instead–we like the simple ones by Welly.
34. Extra plastic baggies
Because you never know, but they always come in handy.
35. Tissue / antibacterial wipes
Sometimes, your hands get dirty. Sometimes, there’s no toilet paper in the public bathrooms.
36. Laundry soap (Optional)
Bring a super-concentrated soap and a handy-dandy travel clothesline so you can do your own laundry if you’re going to be taking a longer trip to Costa Rica.
We usually wash our swimsuits and swim trunks after hitting the pool or beach to prevent them from smelling funky. We try to also do the same if our clothes have gotten rained on hard (rainforest water can be a little weird-smelling at times).
By doing your own laundry, you can save on those insane drycleaning fees hotels charge! What’s even worse–some resorts/hotels charge per article of clothing!
If you’d rather save money, simply use the soap or body wash gel provided by your hotel to wash your clothes.
37. Quick-drying travel towel
Travel towels are probably one of the best inventions for efficient travelers. They are light, super packable, and quick-drying. Definitely very useful if you plan on going on water-related excursions or having beach days but don’t have access to a beach towel!
This one is a great option if you’re in the market for one.
What To Pack For Costa Rica: Electronics
38. Waterproof Phone Case
While most new phones are waterproof to some extent these days, they aren’t meant to stay submerged for prolonged periods of time without protection. With an actual heavy-duty waterproof phone case, you’ll have peace of mind bringing your phone with you when participating in water activities.
On our last trip to Costa Rica, we forgot to bring our waterproof phone cases and our GoPro camera. We totally missed out on a bunch of awesome underwater photo ops during two snorkeling trips!
These phone cases provide excellent waterproof performance housing for underwater photos and videos. They’ve been tested more than a thousand times, and the case enables you to dive to 50ft/15m of depth in water for 60 minutes without leaks.
Pro Tip: This is a great alternative if you don’t have an actual waterproof camera and don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a GoPro.
39. Camera (DSLR or GoPro)
iPhones are typically good enough, but some higher-quality pictures definitely wouldn’t hurt. For longer vacations, I typically go with my Nikon D5500, which produces great photos that I’ll cherish forever.
If you plan on doing a bunch of adventurous activities (ziplining, skydiving, kayaking, paddling, ATV-ing) and/or want some underwater footage when surfing or snorkeling, you should definitely go with the waterproof GoPro.
GoPro’s are perfect for underwater and jungle adventures in Costa Rica. As I mentioned above, had we brought our GoPro, we totally would have captured some really cool ATV and snorkeling footage! Learn from our mistake–don’t forget your camera!
40. External battery
You’re probably going to be out all day, snapping away taking pictures… the last thing you want is to be on the go with no phone battery!
A portable power bank is a must-have, and Anker’s ultra-light, ultra-portable power bank is tried and true by so many travelers! I never embark on a day of exploration without it.
41. Smartphone UV Sanitizer and Charger
Our phones gather all the grime and bacteria we touch throughout the day, and then they are stored in warm, dark places like purses and pockets, which make for great breeding grounds for bacteria to grow. They are the third hand we never wash, but should!
Using a UV sanitizer such as PhoneSoap on a regular basis will help keep germs and illness at bay.
42. Travel adapter
Necessary for many international travelers. This one here is tried and trusted. It allows for a normal plug and has two additional USB ports.
NOTE: If you’re from the United States or Canada, you won’t need a travel adapter as the outlets are the same as in the USA / Canada. Costa Rica uses 110 volt / 60 cycle electricity. Plugs are typically the 2-pronged flat type.
Bring multiple phone cords since they are light (and easy to misplace).
With all the pool and hammock-lounging opportunities, you’ll have a lot of time to get through that book you’ve always wanted to start.
Go with the Kindle e-reader over actual physical books if you plan to read a lot– it eliminates a lot of potential weight (and waste) from actually carrying books. What better way to spend some time poolside or sunbathing at the beach?
45. Portable Bluetooth Speakers
We love listening to music when we’re relaxing in a hotel bed in the morning or getting ready for the day. The JBL Flip Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker is our go-to whenever we’re traveling domestically or internationally.
This speaker is always perfect for our tropical vacations because it’s waterproof, meaning you can bring it poolside or beachside without having to worry about protecting it from the water!
What To Pack For Costa Rica: Documents
46. Travel belt / money belt
A travel belt is a smart traveler’s best friend. They are the best thief-proof tool for airplane travel, public transportation travel, walking around abroad, and just about everything else in between.
I always, always use a Flip Belt to carry around identification, important documents, and money that I want to keep safe and right by my side.
Another benefit of the Flip Belt? It’s supposed to be a running belt. I swear, this thing doesn’t budge or jiggle at all when I run, plus it’s super comfortable!
47. Cash Money
The Costa Rican Colon (CRC) is the currency of Costa Rica.
While most resort areas in Costa Rica take card, it’s always good to carry around a mix of local currency and your home currency for emergencies. If you go to more rural areas (smaller villages and mountain towns), ATMs and banks are not widely available.
We recommend picking up local currency from an ATM when you arrive in a larger town or even at the airport (avoid foreign exchange kiosks, look for the hidden ATMs).
48. Tickets and travel documents
Passport, student ID, medical card, proof of travel insurance, printed documents of your flight/hotel bookings, visas if you need them.
49. Travel cards
Don’t forget your foreign exchange fee-free credit cards, debit cards, airport lounge access cards, and visas.
50. Journal or book
‘Cause everyone could use a little alone time.
What To Pack For Costa Rica: Other Travel Essentials
51. Travel pillow
The turtl Pillow is the only one you need to consider for easy airplane sleeping! It comes highly rated because it has so much support, almost like a neck brace (there’s a chunk of flexible plastic in there to prop your head up). It’s warm and super packable too.
And if you’re looking to level up, the trtl Pillow Plus is even more high-tech than the original.
52. Water bottle
Instead of spending your money on plastic water bottles, bring a reusable water bottle and a rechargeable Steri-Pen (the way more environmentally friendly option). While you can drink tap water in most places in Costa Rica, we recommend bringing a Steri-Pen or a water filter if you have a sensitive stomach.
Go with a collapsable bottle like this so when it’s not filled, you can easily pack it away in your travel bag. For something more durable that keeps your water cold for hours upon hours, Hydroflasks are my favorite for everyday use.
53. Foldable tote bag
Great for doing groceries or carrying your belongings in a pinch. Since a lot of countries are now charging for plastic bags, you should bring a bag of your own to save money and save the planet at the same time. This option is very compactable and can fit right in your carry-on.
54. Laundry bag
Keep your worn clothes separate from your clean ones, especially when traveling to high humidity climates. When it’s humid, you’ll definitely be sticky by the end of the day. All that stickiness will transfer to your clothes. And even if you don’t get sticky/sweaty, you will inevitably have dirty socks and undies to toss in here.
I have this laundry bag set, and it’s great because it includes many size options.
55. Emergen-C packets
Emergen-C packets or Liquid I.V. Hydration Packets are a must for travel. These are a great way to support your immune system and overall health on a trip. They are light, take up no space, and are very easy to pack!
56. Sand-free beach mat
Did you know that these days there are high-tech beach mats for sale? Oh yeah, they definitely beat your average beach towel, that’s for sure!
There are actually beach mats that are quick-drying, waterproof, and sand-proof, making setting up on the beach super, super easy. This amazing beach mat is all those things, plus it has sand anchor pockets and 6 ground stakes so that your beach mat is wind-resistant even when you’re not laying on it!
57. Seasickness wristbands
If you’re prone to motion sickness or seasickness and plan on doing boat excursions or sailing trips, you’re going to want to pack a few seasickness wristbands for your trip. These babies work by applying acupressure to just the right spots on your wrist.
As Sea-Bands are totally natural, they’re a great alternative when you don’t want to take oral medications.
58. Portable Neck Fan
For travelers who, like me, do very poorly in high humidity destinations, this one is for you. If you can’t stand the feeling of stifling, breezeless air, do not forget to pack a portable neck fan!
A constant and enjoyable breeze makes all the difference and will allow you to stay comfortable being outside in the heat for hours on end. I personally own a bladeless neck fan, but there are other more affordable fans with fan blades available too.
If you know it’s going to be hot and humid and are not good with hot weather, I beg you, pack this in your travel bag!
59. Cooling towel
For something simpler than a neck fan, you can consider a Chill Pal cooling towel to stay cool. Trust me, it will save your life from the heat and make exploring the outdoors more bearable.
60. Eye mask / Earplugs
There is a good chance there will be families traveling by plane with young children and/or babies. I would highly recommend bringing earplugs or headphones for your plane rides to drown out any potential crying babies! These earplugs by Mack’s are my absolute favorite.
If you plan on sleeping on the plane ride (or if you like your privacy whenever you sleep), don’t forget your eye mask!
61. Travel Insurance
I never used to buy travel insurance, but these days, after all the pandemic-related canceled trips I encountered, I don’t travel internationally without it. Not only does it cover you for canceled trips, but if you get sick in a foreign country, your normal health insurance most likely isn’t going to cover you. But travel insurance will.
Travel insurance from WorldNomads is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travelers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
Costa Rica Packing Tips By Region / Activity
Here are a few high-level packing tips to help you out:
- Traveling between May to early-December? The weather is unpredictable but you can expect wind, rain, and occasional thunderstorms. Bring some rain gear and some layers with you.
- Going to the Osa Peninsula or South Pacific? Bring hiking boots. If you are visiting during the wet season, bring waterproof hiking boots. You may even need to bring a waterproof cover for your daypack and/or a dry bag to keep your belongings in.
- Going to Arenal and La Fortuna? This area gets pretty hot during the dry season, so make sure you have light, loose clothing with you.
- Going to Monteverde? Plan to pack a few layers with you. Because Monteverde sits a lot higher in elevation, the temperature is a lot cooler up here. You can even expect spring showers during the dry months of March and April. And if you’re traveling here during the rainy season, make sure you have waterproof gear!
- Going to Guanacaste? Expect it to be extremely hot and dry here, so be sure you apply (and reapply) sunscreen often.
- Going to the Nicoya Peninsula? In the dry season, the Nicoya Peninsula (particularly Santa Teresa) is extremely dusty. If you are going to be ATVing, bring a face mask or a Buff to keep your nose and mouth protected.
- Going to Drake Bay, Puerto Jimenez, or the Caribbean Coast? These regions are extremely hot and humid so bring lots of lightweight clothes. Anything quick-drying or moisture-wicking will be great.
- Planning on hiking in the national parks? Trail running shoes or summer hiking boots will do in the dry season. Waterproof hiking boots or hiking sandals will be better during the rainy season.
- Planning on hiking the cloud forest reserves? Pack some layers like pants, long sleeve shirts, lightweight rain jackets, and hiking boots/shoes. Temperatures are a lot cooler in these areas compared to the beach, especially at night.
- Not trying to get bit by mosquitos? Be sure to pack actual hiking pants and hiking shirts. We recommend pre-treating your clothes before your trip with Permethrin Insect Repellent Spray for Clothing — see above section on insect repellent for more details.
- Planning on rafting, riding ATVs, or ziplining? You cannot wear flip-flops or other loose shoes. Closed-toed shoes are your best option.
What To Pack For Costa Rica: A Complete Packing Checklist
To wrap up, let’s review the ultimate packing checklist for extended travel:
- Wheeled Suitcase or Travel Backpack
- Packing Cubes
- Laundry Travel Bag
- Daypack / Everyday bag
- 4-5 Tops
- 1 pair of pants
- 2-3 pairs of shorts
- 1 pair of leggings
- 2-3 dresses
- Hiking clothing (optional)
- 5 pairs of undies
- 5 pairs of socks
- 3 bras
- 1 pair of comfortable shoes
- 1 pair of sandals
- 1 pair of closed-toed water sandals (optional)
- 1 pair of hiking boots (optional)
- 1 cardigan or lightweight fleece
- 1 shawl or scarf
- 2-3 swimsuits
- Sunhat / baseball caps
- Jewelry (optional)
- Hand sanitizer
- Body wipes / feminine wipes
- DIY survival kit
- Extra plastic baggies
- Quick-dry travel towel
- Phone sanitizer
- External battery
- Travel adapter
- Travel belt / money belt
- Tickets and travel documents
- Credit /debit cards
- Journal or book
- Travel pillow
- Water bottle
- Foldable tote bag
- Laundry bag
- Emergen-C packets
- Seasickness wristbands
- Ear plugs / eye mask
- WayAway | This site compares flight ticket fares from hundreds of agencies. You’re going to get the best prices on the market, at least $10 lower than those on Skyscanner, Kayak, and Priceline.com. The best part is? The WayAway Plus membership. With the membership, you’ll get up to 10% cash back on airline tickets, hotel bookings, car rentals, and other travel services.
- DEAL ALERT! Use code ‘travelswithelle’ for 10% off WayAway Plus.
- Booking.com | Honestly, this is my go-to accommodation booking site. This site has free cancellation and no prepayment required on reservations which is huge for me. It also has amazing abilities to filter accommodation options by rating and price. Honestly, it’s shaved off so many hours of endless research for me and has made booking hotels and other accommodations a breeze.
- Viator | Viator is a huge online marketplace for all things tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, ATV tours, sailing trips, walking tours, hot air ballooning, and more.
- Go City | Go City offers great value-for-the-money attraction passes in various destinations around the world. Whenever I want to play tourist in a city, I always check to see if Go City operates in that city. The money you can save with this pass is unreal (as opposed to buying admission tickets for various attractions separately).
- Bookaway | This is my go-to transportation resource when I’m traveling to lesser-known destinations and need to figure out how to get from point A to point B. Bookaway is super useful when you have absolutely no idea how to get around between cities or even between countries! Just type in your starting point and destination and it’ll show you options on how to get there by train, bus, ferry & more – as well as allow you to book your transportation right then and there!
- SafetyWing | SafetyWing is by far one of the best travel medical insurance for travelers as they’ve got a large network and offer both short-term and long-term coverage. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those heading abroad.
Need a rental car for your Costa Rica trip?
Use Discover Cars to quickly compare your car rental options.
Their rental car comparison tool does all the homework for you, so there’s no need to have a million tabs up trying to figure out which company provides the best price. Oh, and did I mention no cancellation fees? Amazing.
Now you’re ready for your Costa Rica vacation!
If you get nothing else out of this post, at least take this with you:
When packing for Costa Rica, pack light, be prepared for unfavorable weather (if it’s in the forecast), and try to save room for souvenirs and local snacks to bring home! Alright, you’ve got a lot to look forward to and a lot of trip to pack for!
Looking for more travel resources? Read next:
Brilliant Travel Hacks That Will Make You An Expert Traveler