Costa Rica is a popular destination for tourists. It boasts of pristine beaches, active volcanoes, cultural museums, and rich biodiversity, among other attractions. If you want to make the country your next destination, you need to pack appropriately to enjoy every moment of your trip. So what should you include in your Costa Rica packing list?
Typically, what to carry on your trip depends on your trip duration and the situations you are likely to encounter.
If you are visiting the country for the first time, I have prepared a list of the essential items you need to pack to take your experience to the next level.
I have visited Costa Rica several times, so I know what you need to carry to enjoy your experience there. Read on to know some must pack items when visiting this gem.
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Costa Rica Packing List
Below is the list of items you need to pack for Costa Rica
The kind of clothing you need to pack for your trip depends on the climate and the nature of your individual destinations.
For instance, if you want to spend most of your time on coastal beaches like Manuel Antonio and Tamarindo, you can pack flip-flops, tops tanks, and shorts.
The coastal regions tend to experience frequent cloud bursts and it would be wise to pack a raincoat. I remember how the rains quenched me and my friend during our last exploration at Manuela Antonio.
Pack long pants and jackets if you want to explore high-elevation areas like Bajos del Toro, San Isidro de Perez Zeledon, Vara Blanca, and Monteverde.
And, if you are interested in exploring the city, consider long trousers and a light jacket or sweater.
If you are more into exploring Costa Rica’s wilderness, I advocate for dull clothes so you won’t scare away the coward animals like spider monkeys.
Do not forget to pack a raincoat if you plan to tour Costa Rica during the rainy season (between May and November).
Note 1: Costa Rica has no strict dress code, and you can feel free in your casuals.
Note 2: On average, the country experiences a tropical climate (hot and wet) throughout the year, and it would be best if you packed clothes that dry fast, like Nike Dri-fit clothes.
Like the clothes, the kind of shoes to pack depends on the nature of the areas you intend to explore in Costa Rica. For instance, a pair of sneakers or closed-toed hiking sandals might be ideal if you want to explore nature through Costa Rica’s hiking trails.
I’m fond of closed-toed hiking sandals because they dry fast and don’t smell even after immersion in water. You can also pack a pair of waterproof closed running shoes if you plan to visit marshy areas.
If you love sandy beaches, pack men’s/women’s thong sandals or any other beach sandals of your choice.
Note: The above shoes are ideal for open and commonly used hiking trails. If you must use the less commonly used trails, I would recommend wearing rubber boots (commonly used by farmers)
or snake gaiters to minimize the risk of snake bites.
Note: You might need to pack multiple pairs of shoes depending on the areas you intend to explore during your stay in Costa Rica.
These are the items you need for self-grooming like toothpaste, toothbrush, hair shampoo, shaving devices, body lotions, Antiperspirants, brushes and comb, hair comb, razors, wet wipes, face wipes, etc.
I recommend you to carry these items from your home country because the chances of not getting their exact copies in costa Rica are high. And, even if you get them, their cost might be too high to interfere with your traveling budget.
Note: You only need to carry the essentials. otherwise, carrying all the toiletries you use in your room might take up too much space in your backpack.
I personally love packing toothpaste, toothbrush, toilet paper, and body lotion for my short-term visits.
When you move to a new destination, your body may develop allergic reactions as it tries to adjust to new allergens. Costa Rica is not an exemption. For this reason, It is advisable to pack antihistamines like Sudafed sinus medication to help you cope with the situation.
If you are on any other medication during the traveling period, ensure that you take the medication with you. Or ask your doctor to prescribe the kind of medication to buy after landing at your destination. Buying medication at pharmacies can be expensive, though.
When traveling for a longer duration, I usually note the active ingredients in all my medication so that I can get a generic medication should I run out of supplies while still on vacation.
Examples of other medical supplies you may need on your trip include:
First Aid Kit
Minor accidents like stings, cuts, and scrapes are prone to happen while outdoors. A first aid kit comes in handy to give you relief from such injuries as you wait for a thorough medical examination.
Suppose you love a custom first aid kit like me. In that case, you can include items like:
- Plasters of different sizes and shapes
- 3 Sterile gauze dressings in small, medium, and large sizes
- Safety pins
- Disposable gloves
- Adhesive bandages
- Triangular bandages
- A pair of tweezers
- A pair of scissors
- Cleansing wipes (alcohol-free)
- Sticky tape
- Medication (pain killers, anti-histamines,
- Skin rash cream, etc.
- Distiller water
- Hydrogen peroxide for cleaning wounds
Note: Making a custom first aid kit can seem time-consuming, but that is the only way to ensure you have all your emergency essentials onboard.
If you don’t have time to assemble the above items, you can get a ready-made first aid kit in your neighboring pharmacy or order online.
Whether hiking or exploring the various attractions in costa Rica on a ride, small elements, including insects and sharp objects, may enter your eyes. You need sunglasses to prevent injury that you might sustain from the entry of such elements.
The sunglasses also protect the eyes from the harmful sun’s UV rays reflected by snow and ice.
While a single pair might be enough, I prefer carrying two pairs so that I don’t suffer if one of them slips into the ocean.
Costa Rica is approximately 12 degrees from the equator, so the temperatures are extremely hot. That said, you need to apply sun cream on your skin to avoid damage by the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
The type of sunscreen to apply to your skin will depend on its sensitivity to the sun. More specifically, SPF 30 is ideal for less sensitive skin, while SPF 50 and 100 are great for more sensitive skin. Assess your skin to pack the ideal sunscreen for your sensitive skin.
If you don’t know which sunscreen to use, then I recommend you try COOLA Organic Face Sunscreen, which dermatologists recommend for daily skin protection.
Insect Repellant Spray
Insects like mosquitoes can bite and enter your eyes or even your ears during your exploration. Luckily, you can use insect repellants to keep off these annoying insects. All you need is to apply the chemical to your clothes or backpack and the bugs will stay away.
The Repel 94109 HG-94109 Lemon Eucalyptus Natural Insect repellant is a good example of insect repellent to include in your pack.
Sarong/ Beach Towel
Sarong is a garment that you can use to cover the lower body from cold or as a changing towel. To use it, you need to tuck it around the waist or the area around the armpits.
I personally pack two sarongs, one for changing clothes on the beach and another for covering myself during the cold bus trips.
A beach towel also offers a comfortable place to lie in case you want to save the money you would otherwise use on hiring a seat on the beach.
Traveling documentation entails all the information you need to enter and stay comfortably in Costa Rica. The following are the essential documents to carry with you.
A Valid Passport
You need a valid passport to board a plane to Costa Rica, check in hotels, transact in banks, rent a car, and board a plane back home. You might also need a passport to access parks and other facilities in Costa Rica.
A Valid Driver’s License
You need a driving license to hire a car and drive in Costa Rica.
Note: the Costa Rica government authorizes the US, Canadian and European licenses only.
During your visit, you might need to buy local art and jewelry, local cuisines, wooden crafts, or Cacique- Costa Rica’s national brew for a take home. A debit/credit card offers a convenient way of paying for these items instead of carrying cash everywhere.
Before I depart, I always ensure that my credit cards are loaded with 20 days worth of cash to avoid running out of money while in a foreign country.
Laptop/ Login Information
If you have a portable laptop where you have saved all your passwords for various sites, I would recommend you pack it in your backpack for convenience.
If you don’t have one, then the best bet will be to prepare a list of login credentials for all your important sites to access the sites using a hotel computer.
I find it super convenient to save all the logins in my email account and then master the login credentials for my email.
Though the email is always active on my smartphone, I’m quite aware that the device can crash or get lost, so I keep the email credentials separately for quick recovery should the worst happen.
The Duo Authentification Factors
If you use the two-factor authentication to secure your email and other sites, ensure you carry all the factors with you. Otherwise, you won’t be able to access the subject accounts.
During my last visit to Costa Rica with my family, I packed a waterproof travel map in my elder son’s backpack, and he asked, “ why do we have to carry a physical map when we can navigate our way via google maps or navigation apps like WAZE?”
By then, the young chap couldn’t believe that a map could help us navigate our way until all our devices ran out of power. I think the experience gave him the perfect answer.
Similarly, you should carry a waterproof map to help you navigate your way should the other navigation options fail you.
Cameras and Technology
Touring Costa Rica is fun. Since you will only be touring the various attractions for a limited time, you want to create memories by recording videos or capturing snaps.
That is why you need a quality camera for capturing your images.
Personally, I’m fond of the Panasonic LUMIX FZ80 4K Digital Camera, because it gives me 4K QFHD videos and high-resolution photos (at 4X the resolution (3840 x 2160) of the normal Full HD) for my travel website.
In addition to the camera, be sure to bring with you a high-capacity SD card to store as much media as possible. If you don’t have money to spend on storage devices, you can transfer the media to your laptop’s hard storage or upload them to your private cloud storage.
Like in any other country, Costa Rica experiences regular blackouts during the rainy season. And since all hotels don’t have backup generators, I would advise you to pack some lighting accessories to illuminate your room should you experience a blackout in your residence.
I advocate for accessories like:
A flashlight can act as an emergency light, to help you locate and put up your lighting accessories like LED lanterns and candles. It can also help you safely navigate your way in the dark.
Fully Charged Battery Pack
If you are more into camping in outdoors, then you must work on your lighting to illuminate your tent. I find it convenient to carry my YELOMIN 20000mAh Portable Waterproof Solar Power Bank for Cellphones, due to its lightweight and compact design and the ability to light LED bulbs.
Over and above that, the power bank can recharge fully using solar power, so you don’t need to connect it to electricity. Evaluate your power needs and choose what works for you.
Special Considerations: Touring Costa Rica With Kids
If you plan to tour Costa Rica with kids, you need to prepare a separate backpack for them. And, given their special needs, their packing list might slightly differ from yours. Below are the essentials you need to pack for your toddlers.
You want your kids to be able to explore nature, even from your private balcony or from your ride, without straining their eyes and neck. The binoculars can also magnify small organisms and objects for better viewing, offering your kids a great way to capture small insects like butterflies.
Just like you, your kids will need valid passports to enter and stay in Costa Rica.
Life Jackets (Optional)
If your kids love going waterborne, then packing life jackets is one way of ensuring their safety while in the water. Be sure to get well-fitting jackets so that they don’t interfere with their maneuverability in the water.
Kids have short attention spans. And packing them their favorite toys is one way of ensuring they have a blast while at their home away from home. My three sons are fond of SwimWays Toypedo Bandits Pool Diving Toys and so I get a pack for them on our every trip.
Portable Fans (Optional)
Kids are very sensitive to heat. Packing a battery-powered fan can save you from their complaints. I remember how Hellen-my second born and my only daughter would complain whenever we visited Costa Rica’s coastal regions until I got a TriPole Mini Handheld Fan for her.
Kids have a higher metabolic rate due to their increased activity. As such you need to feed them at regular intervals to help them refill between main meals. That’s why you should carry snacks with you to Costa Rica or get them from the local outlets.
My kids would feed on zbars so well and I don’t think of changing the snack anytime soon. I also love the way zbars hold their shape and freshness for a long time.
The other items you need to pack for your kids include:
- First aid kit
- Bug repellant
Consideration 2: Items To Pack When Travelling For A Long Period
Planning to stay in Costa Rica for more than two weeks? If yes, then you need to pack sufficiently on the following items:
As mentioned earlier, Costa Rica experiences a hot and humid climate all year round. It would be wise to pack clothes that wick away moisture and are fast drying. Also, make sure to pack enough to minimize the wash times.
Pack your shoes based on the areas you intend to visit in your destination. For instance, flip-flops would be ideal if you intend to tour the costa Rica beaches. You may have to pack several pairs depending on your needs.
Costa Rica is known for experiencing unexpected downpours, especially in coastal regions and rainforests. A raincoat can be a lifesaver if you intend to spend considerable time in these regions.
Costa Rica can become extremely hot from February through May. If you plan to explore the country during this period, you should apply sunscreen on your skin to protect it from sunburns.
You need a passport, driving license, and credit and debit cards to make your stay in Costa Rica comfortable.
The other items you can pack for a long trip include:
- Bug repellent
- Sunglasses and Sun Hat
- Beach Towels
- First aid kit
- Lighting accessories
- Sufficient cash
- Any other important items you may need during your stay