When considering what to pack for Costa Rica, you should not lose sight of the fact that there are many unique climate zones throughout the country. You will have to pack accordingly as weather can change significantly from zone to zone.
Beach and lowland coastal areas are generally hot during the day with daytime averages in the mid-80s to mid-90s and nighttime temperatures in the mid-70s to lower 80s. The Northwest Pacific coast enjoys mostly dry weather from November through August with longer lasting rains during the months of September and October. The South Pacific coast enjoys the driest weather from December through April, good weather through the end of July and then the rains hit hard from August through the end of November. The Caribbean side has a fairly inconsistent rain season, but enjoys the best weather in September and October.
Inland destinations such as Arenal Volcano, Rio Celeste, Sarapiqui, Poas, Turrialba and Pacuare are a little cooler with daytime temps usually around the low 70s to mid-80s and overnight temperatures in the mid-60s to upper 70s. The weather in these areas can be fairly unpredictable in terms of rain, but generally the drier months are January through Mid-August.
Cloud forest destinations such as Monteverde and San Gerardo de Dota can be a bit cooler with daytime temps in the low to mid-70s and nighttime temps in the low 60s. Anyone visiting a cloud forest destination should be prepared for rain at any given time of the year.
The Following is a General Packing List for Costa Rica by Category
Clothing for Costa Rica
- 3-5 short sleeve t-shirts. Quick dry shirts are recommended
- 1-2 long sleeve shirts for protection from the sun or hiking through higher elevation forests
- 1-2 blouses or dress shirts
- 2-3 pairs of quick dry shorts for general use
- 1-2 pairs of dress shorts or tropical weight skirts
- swimsuit and possibly a sarong
- 1 pair of casual dress pants
- 1 pair of long pants for hiking. TIP: Convertible pants are convenient and can reduce your packing as you can unzip the pant legs and use them in place of the general use shorts.
- 6-8 pairs of underwear
- 6-8 pairs of socks
- rain jacket – It should be lightweight and breathable
- brimmed hat for protection from the sun
- nylon mesh bag for dirty/wet clothes
*Packing Tip: Rolled clothing condenses better than folded clothing.
Recommended Shoes to Pack for Costa Rica
- hiking or walking shoes dependent on the level of activity in your vacation
- sandals or flip flops
- dress sandals or light dress shoes
- You may also want to consider amphibian hiking shoes or reef/river sandals depending if you plan on doing land/water activities such as rafting or canyoning.
- toothbrush with cover
- shaving cream
Documents to Pack for Costa Rica
- passport – and possibly visa, depending on your nationality. Click here for the Costa Rica Consulate
- copy of your passport
- drivers license
- money – everybody accepts the United States dollar or you can exchange for Costa Rican colones. $20 bills are best as larger denomination bills are rarely accepted
- credit or debit card
- insurance card along with contact information
- a card with emergency contact information for friends and/or family
- departure ticket – without it, you will not be allowed to enter the country
- any important health documentation
Maps and Books
- map of Costa Rica – we recommend Toucan Maps
- nature guide – we recommend The Wildlife of Costa Rica: A Field Guide by Fiona A. Reid
- Spanish/English phrase book – we recommend Costa Rican Spanish: Lonely Planet Phrasebook by Thomas Kohnstamm
- camera with carrying case, two batteries, charger, two memory cards
- dry bag or a few Ziploc freezer size bags
- water bottle or bag for hiking
- flashlight or headlamp
- container for your prescription or sunglasses
- phone card or cell phone with a Costa Rica brand SIM card if you own an unlocked phone
- phone charger for use in your hotel AND rental car
- light backpack for day trips
- Internet logon information
Health Care and Basic First Aid
- prescription medicine - You should bring the medicine with you as you may experience difficulty finding it here.
- prescription glasses
- contact lenses and cleaning solution
- band aids
- Imodium® for diarrhea
- motion sickness medicine such as Dramamine®
- sun screen – waterproof and at least SPF 20
- insect repellant - Skin-so-Soft® works well for no-see-ums, 95% DEET repellant for mosquitoes.
- pain relievers and or fever reducers such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen, or Acetaminophen
- vitamins if you normally take them
- face mask (personal decision)
- hand sanitizer (personal decision)
So there you have it… Everybody has their own styles and plans, so use this as it is intended; a general packing list for Costa Rica. Take the ideas that apply to you and leave the rest. If you have any suggestions for our list, please send them for consideration.