Click here to see a comprehensive Costa Rica packing checklist.
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The Essential Items That You Must Remember to Bring to Costa Rica
Valid Passport: United States and Canadian citizens must bring their original and valid passports to enter Costa Rica. Your passport cannot expire before or during your trip. A visa will be issued to you on arrival. Some other countries have different arrangements with Costa Rica and you may need to arrange for a visa in advance. Check with the Costa Rican consulate If you are coming from another country. Photocopies will not work to enter Costa Rica, though it is a good idea to take a copy and keep it on your person while leaving your original in your hotel's safe deposit box after arrival.
Credit cards: If you do not already have one, prepare in advance and get a no-foreign transaction fee credit card. Some of the better cards we have found include Capital One Venture cards and the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Also, keep in mind that Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in Costa Rica but American Express and Discover are rarely accepted. You will also want to bring your debit card as some smaller businesses only accept cash and you'll also need cash for tipping guides and drivers. A word of advice; check your credit card's or ATM card's international fees before visiting Costa Rica to avoid styeep international fees and also to inform them of travel abroad.
Driver's license: If you intend to rent a car, you'll need your original state-issued driver's license. Photocopies will not work!
Return flight ticket or proof of onward travel: You cannot enter Costa Rica without a return flight ticket or valid and verifiable proof of onward travel. Often, immigration officers will require a flight ticket, so be ready!
A copy of your reservations: Costa Rica is currently in a state of change and Pacific Trade Winds is helping to usher this along! Some hotels, tour operators, rental car agencies, and transportation companies require you to provide them with a copy of your reservation, which is often in the form of a voucher. We highly recommend printing a copy of your schedule and vouchers or reservation details to provide to them. We also recommend printing as cellphone or internet outages are quite common. With a printed version, you will always be able to partake in or stay where you have booked. We are working hard to usher the changes to a digital vouchers, but unfortunately, some providers still lag behind technologically.
Trip insurance: Trip insurance is a safety net for your travels in Costa Rica and is highly recommended. Our clients have done well with EKTA Trip Insurance and we have also received positive feedback from those who have purchased plans from Travel Guard, and InsureMyTrip.
Personal Items You Must Pack for Costa Rica
The essential personal packing list for Costa Rica includes everything listed above, practical footwear for where you will be visiting, fast-drying clothing, swimwear if you plan to visit a beach or swim in a pool, socks and underwear, rain jacket or poncho, sunscreen, insect repellant, a hat to ward off the tropical sun, sunglasses, emergency medical kit and any medications you require, your phone and accessories, a good camera and accessories, toiletries, and a good backpack or daypack.
Clothing to Bring and What to Expect
Costa Rica, in general, is a very casual country. Few restaurants have dress codes and that includes some of the most luxurious resort restaurants in the country but be sure to check with any high-end restaurants before leaving your dress clothes at home. Temperatures, humidity, and rain vary significantly across the country, so be sure to study the expected weather of where you will be traveling before you go. Also note that while temperatures do not vary significantly year-round, rainfall does. Typically, the variation of temperatures varies by elevation. Daytime temperatures for nearly all beaches in Costa Rica average around 85-95 degrees F and nighttime temps are usually around 70 - 80 degrees, while high-elevation destinations such as Monteverde, only reach the mid-70s during the day. Also, note that women can show their shoulders in nearly every setting while men should wear pants in the cities (not tourist destinations).
Fast-Drying Or Wicking Clothing
Regardless of where in Costa Rica you will be visiting, fast-drying or wicking clothing is essential for most travelers to Costa Rica. The heat, humidity, and precipitation can take their toll and you don't want to add in another level of discomfort by dressing in non-wicking clothing that stick to you and are simply uncomfortable. Amazon Essentials for men and women offers quality options, though we also wear and sometimes prefer North Face, Columbia, REI, Eddie Bauer, etc. Note that some of these links are to directory pages which may give results that are not wicking. Any wicking or fast dry clothing will detail that in the listing.
Convertible pants may not have the appeal or style you are seeking but may end up being the most practical items in your suitcase! They allow you to unzip the lower legs turning them into shorts or you can add them back on for hikes or cooler weather. We love our North Face convertible pants for men and women. Columbia also offers a more affordable but still high quality version for men and women.
Dressing for the Beaches
Your wardrobe should consist of wicking or fast-drying shorts and tee shirts, long-sleeve sunblocking and wicking shirts for men and women, shorts (and long pants, if you plan to hike in a national park or other. Convertible pants, are great!), bathing suit, flip flop or sandals (closed toed shoes for hiking), and a sarong can have many purposes at the beach.
What to Bring for the Mountains
If you are visiting a highland destination such as Monteverde or San Gerardo de Dota, you'll want to also bring warmer clothing such as long-sleeved wicking shirts, pants (convertibles are great), closed-toed trail shoes, or possibly even boots. You may also wish to bring a sweatshirt or light jacket, though a long-sleeved shirt and a rain jacket will suffice. We dive further into the details later in the article when we discuss recommended packing lists for specific destinations.
What We Recommend: Our closets are full of wicking clothing and convertible pants. While the convertible pants are not exactly the most stylish, they are very practical and can get you through a day of exploring without changing. Some of our favorite brands include Columbia, North Face, Eddie Bauer, REI, and other outdoor wear brands.
Footwear and Shoes
You'll want to bring flip-flops or sandals for the beach but you may also wish to bring them if you plan on visiting hot springs or swimming in the resort pool, below a waterfall, etc. You'll also likely want to bring hiking or trail shoes for any walks in the jungle, national parks, etc. When considering which shoes to buy, look for fast-drying synthetic and waterproof materials. I typically always have a pair of each in my car, ready for any occasion. Remember that you will need closed-toed shoes for any night hike and they are strongly recommended for hiking.
What We Recommend: Merrell, Keen, and Soloman all offer high-quality trail running shoes. Keen also offers high-quality hiking sandals that are great for light hikes, rafting or tubing, ziplining, canyoning, etc. Keep in mind that most activities like this require closed-toed shoes. Your favorite flip-flops will suffice for the beaches but if you'd like a recommendation, I always look for flip flops that contour the shape of my foot, with arch support, and offer cushioning for my heels. Skechers, Clarks, Oofos, and even some of the higher-end Reefs match this description. Note that these links go to search pages, so there may be products that do not offer arch support. All listinghs will mention if there is arch support.
Sunscreen or Sunblock
While you can find sunscreen and sunblock in Costa Rica, it is expensive and you'll often have difficulty finding specific brands. Costa Rica is near the equator, so direct sunlight will burn you faster than at home - at least for most. Bring sunscreen in at least SPF 30 or higher, if you burn easily. Don't forget to reapply often! You'll also want to consider bringing aloe for aftercare as you will likely burn at least a little, especially at the beaches.
What We Recommend: If you plan to bathe in natural areas such as below waterfalls, river pools, natural hot springs, freshwater lakes, or the ocean, we strongly recommend buying reef-safe sunscreens such as Reef Repair, Sun Bum, or Thrive. If we all do our part, it adds up! Also, don't forget your lips! Bring along some lip balm with SPF.
Mosquitoes are present year-round and you will want some form of repellant for all beaches and low and rainforests. Aside from simply being a nuisance, Dengue is present in Costa Rica. Similar to sunscreen, while repellant is available in Costa Rica, it is expensive and often difficult to find, especially for any specific brand.
What We Recommend: I personally use 100% DEET repellants and it is highly effective. You can also select lower-level DEET products such as Repel or Deep Woods OFF. Alternative repellants include Avon Skin So Soft, which works great for pesky beach gnats or products with picardin, such as Sawyer Picardin Insect Repellant. There is also some clothing with built-in insect repellent.
Rain Jackets & Protection From the Rain
Most of Costa Rica is in the tropical rainforest, so matter when or where you travel to in Costa Rica, we recommend being prepared for the rain with either a rain jacket, poncho, or a small collapsable umbrella. Be sure your rain jacket or poncho is actually waterproof and it's still a good idea to treat your jacket with waterproofing spray ahead of your trip. A quality rain jacket can also double as a regular outerwear jacket in cooler areas such as Monteverde. A compact umbrella is a good alternative or addition, especially for photography in the rainforest.
What We Recommend: I spend a lot of time outdoors and love my Gore-Tex rain jackets (women's here), though they are quite costly for anyone who does not spend a lot of time in the elements. Gore Tex is not only highly water and wind resistent but also breethable, which is nearly a necessity in hot tropical climates. I also own a lighter North Face rain jacket that folds down nicely in a backpack. Whatever you choose, be sure to get a jacket with a zipper and that offers ventilation as it can get quite hot and humid when wearing a rainjacket in a tropical climate!
Medication and Toiletries
You'll want to bring all the toiletries you use at home but you can save space and weight by packing some things that are easily available here in Costa Rica. Some of the easier items to find include toothbrushes and toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, and soap. Do keep in mind that specific brands are often difficult to find, so if you are particular about the brand, consider bringing it with you. Items we recommend packing, that are difficult to find include tampons or pads for women, any kind of hair gel or detangler, bandaids and antibiotic ointment, face wipes, and tissues.
If you wear contact lenses, be sure to bring extras (you'd be surprised at how many requests we have from clients who lose them in the ocean or during travel), contact lens solution, and cases. Disposable lenses are not common in Costa Rica and you will have difficulty finding them or the solution.
Consider bringing a form of anti-nausea medication for the long and windy drives or if you plan to go fishing or out at sea. If you forget to bring it or learn the hard way that you should have, you can usually find it at most farmacias.
Be sure to bring sufficient medications for your entire trip but also a few extra day's worth as delays can occur. You'll also want to write down a comprehensive list of all medications, and if possible, the active ingredients as there are often different name brands in Costa Rica.
Where to Find Toiletries and Medications in a Pinch
Pharmacies (or farmacias) can be found in nearly all medium to large size villages and cities, though are not common in smaller villages. You can buy most toiletries and over-the-counter medications there. While we strongly recommend visiting a traditional doctor if you are sick, farmacias also often double as a makeshift clinic, and often, the pharmacist can prescribe some basic medications and antibiotics.
For basic aspirin, cold or flu medication, or diarrhea, you can often find options in local supermarkets, though we do not recommend passing by a farmacia, if one is available.
Additional Considerations and Things You Should Bring to Costa Rica
Day Bags or Backpacks
While a quality day bag or backpack is not as essential as your clothing, they are not too far behind if you plan on doing anything outside of a resort. Do not make the mistake of underestimating and bringing a low-quality drawstring bag, as you will likely regret it! A quality backpack will allow you to take a day trip without returning to the hotel and bring extras such as water, snacks, a change of clothes, a camera, etc..
What We Recommend: You can get away with a 20-25 liter backpack for short day trips and light hikes. For longer hikes or simply longer days away from the hotel consider a 30 - 40 liter backpack. I personally love my Osprey 30L backpack for day trips carrying my own gear, while I prefer my Osprey 40L when I carry my family's load. The thing I love about Osprey is they are high quality and lightweight, ideal for hiking. If you are traveling during the rainy season, you will want to either bring a rain cover for your bag or bring a waterproof backpack. I personally love my Columbia Convey 30L waterproof backpack.
Photographers will want to bring a specialty backpack that fits your camera and all of your gear. I love my TARION Pro Camera Backpack as it allows me to compartmentalize everything snugly and I can also strap my portable tripod, which I also love and highly recommend, onto the side.
An anti-theft bag is also a practical investment if you plan to visit any of the cities. Sherpani offers several bags to choose from.
We also love the new AiRunTech Waterproof Pouches for storing phones, wallets, keys, and the small valuables you can't leave the hotel without, but are difficult to hold onto when you are swimming or partaking in other simiar activities.
Hat and Sunglasses
The tropical sun is stronger than most visitors realize and due to that, we highly recommend bringing a good pair of sunglasses and some cheapies for the beach. We recommend the cheapies for the beach as lenses tend to be created in the sand or even in the saltwater. While it's not a necessity, I personally prefer polarized, anti-glare glasses.
A broad-brimmed hat or visor is also a sound investment to protect your face and neck from the tropical sun. They are also nice to have in the rain.
Technology & Cameras
Don't make the same mistake I made many years ago on my first trip to Costa Rica - not bringing a good camera. I thought that with all of the adventures, a good camera would just be ruined, and I ended up with a bunch of lousy pictures after many amazing experiences... I should have brought the camera and formulated a plan to protect it and use it. I previously mentioned that you will want a good camera bag, regardless of what kind you have. Consider the camera itself, the accessories, protection, and how you will use it.
A GoPro camera is practically a necessity if you'd like to record action videos. Also, consider mounting brackets for whatever use you have in store. AKASO offers an affordable alternative to the costly GoPros.
Photographers with DSLR cameras will want at least a 300 mm lens for birds and wildlife. A 600 mm or even higher is not unheard of for catching beautiful, detailed pics. This is an affordable and popular package. Note that warranties are unavailable for some package deals, so be sure to do your homework before purchasing.
We love our Nikon Coolpix P1000 as a point-and-shoot, with a 3000mm super-telephoto lens. It's quite versatile and easy to pack along. We take thousands of photos for our content every year, ranging from hotel pics to monkeys leaping through the canopy to gorgeous resplendent quetzals, and everything in between. We've found the P1000 to be our go-to camera for most scenarios. This is a popular package deal fior the same camera.
Whatever you do, be sure to bring plenty of extra batteries, SD cards, and any accessories you may need. Many people underestimate the need for a tripod when shooting wildlife pics, especially for birds. I absolutely love my TYCKA 56” Camera Tripod, which can easily be packed for day trips and is quick and easy to fold down or set up.
Electrical Adaptor (if coming from a country other than the US): Costa Rica uses the same 110 volts as the United States but if you are coming from another country that uses a different voltage,. you will want to bring a universal power adaptor.
Battery Bank & Charging Cables: Power outages are common in Costa Rica, as are long drives. A battery bank will get you through some of those moments when you want or need power, especially to charge up a cell phone or laptop. I also always have extra charging cords as they can be difficult to find here and are often forgotten at hotels.
Headlamps and Flashlights: As previously mentioned, power outages are frequent in Costa Rica, so even if you are not going on a night hike, you should consider bringing a headlamp or flashlight. If you plan to go on a night hike, bring a headlamp with a red beam. The red beam is a requirement for all turtle nesting tours (at least if you plan to use a light) and they are easier on the eyes of animals when you are viewing them.
Waterproof Phone Case: Waterproof phone cases are a great alternative to costly GoPro cameras, though we recommend getting one with a strap and impact absorption as (I can assure you) wet phones are easily dropped. Note that these cases are often only good up to around 10 feet and are not recommended for scuba diving.
More Ideas for Things to Bring to Costa Rica
Some of the following may be necessary for you or not applicable at all, but we wanted to provide a comprehensive Costa Rica packing list that everyone can use.
A small first aid kit that includes band-aids, antibiotics, aspirin or pain reliever, and medication to treat diarrhea.
Ziplock bags! This is one of my favorite Costa Rica travel hacks as it allows me to separate what I pack and the freezer-size bags are ideal to keep in my backpack in case you get stuck in the rain.
Collapsable hiking poles if you intend to hike. I love my poles that double as a monopod for a camera.
Makeup, a travel-sized hairdryer, and hair ties. Keep in mind that most Costa Rican hotels do not offer hairdryers.
Laundry bag and dryer sheets: You'll want to keep your dirty clothes well separated and with the tropical, humid climate, use dryer sheets to minimize the smell...
Sleeping medication, ear plugs, or visors: Little things like this can easily be forgotten and quite difficult to find in Costa Rica. If you normally use them, don't forget to bring them.
Costa Rican Spanish phrasebook or app: This will help you communicate and while most tourism professionals speak English, a phrasebook can get you through a pinch when the unexpected, such as a flat tire occurs.
Insulated water bottle: Tap water is safe to drink in most areas of Costa Rica. By using a reusable water bottle, you'll not only save money but will also reduce the impact of discarded plastic water bottles. I love my Hydro Flask for the aforementioned reasons and also because I load it with ice and can have cool, refreshing drinks, all day long. Trust me, that is a luxury on a 90-degree day!
Phone accessories: Don't forget to bring your charging cords for both walls and in the car. Additionally, if you plan to rent a car, bring along your car cell phone holder. These things are all difficult to find in Costa Rica.
Wildlife guide: The Costa Rica Wildlife Guide by Rainforest Publications is great! It covers all of the popular animals and most that you will find on your own. We always bring along an erasable marker for checking animals off each trek.
Map of Costa Rica: Toucan Maps publishes the best map of Costa Rica! It's not only great to have for navigating but also an indispensable planning tool.
Microfiber towel: A microfiber towel is not only great for wiping yourself off but also a great cooling tool to wrap around your neck in hot weather.
Laundry bag: You will definitely want to keep your dirty clothes separate!
Binoculars or monocular: You'll want to see the faces of the sloths and monkeys on the trees. I found a monocular to be easier to use on an African safari and found it to be just as good for the wildlife of Costa Rica. The added benefit to a monocular over binoculars is that it is much more compact in your day bag.
Large Bags & Checked In Luggage
We travel throughout not only Costa Rica but also to many countries across the globe. Over the years, we've fine-tuned our luggage to the SwissGear brand. They are rugged and dependable. We have both hardside and softside bags. If you are new to the travel game, be sure to get (checked bags) bags with 4 rollers as they are much easier to maneuver. Amazon Basics offers a good, affordable alternative.
Similar to our checked bags, we love the SwissGear carry-on bags as well. Be sure to get a larger carry-on. We only take carry-ons on shorter trips and always appreciate the space allowing us to pack them tightly. For most airlines, the limit is a combined length, width, and thickness measurement of 45 inches. This often comes in the form of a bag that is somewhere around 22 inches long, 14 inches wide, and 9 inches high or a 1 or 2-inch difference off of those measurements. Check with your airline for their measurement thresholds. Amazon Basics offers a good, affordable alternative.
As you may already suspect, we recommend SwissGear luggage sets. Amazon Basics has upped its game in recent years and is worth a look as well.
Things You Should NOT Bring to Costa Rica
Fashion or designer clothing unless you have planned a special event or arranged for a formal dinner.
High heels unless you have a special event planned
Flashy jewelry - and also, do not ever leave jewelry out in a hotel or Airbnb. Always be sure to use your room safe if you are not wearing your jewelry.
Flashy or designer purses - you'll wish you went with something more practical.
Heavy hiking boots - they get bogged down in the jungle and often become more of a nuisance or hindrance. Check with your guide first and most will recommend trail runners or hiking sneakers.
Rain boots - they are easy to find, cheap down here, and you can donate them to a local when you're done. Save the space for what you will really need.
Large laptops unless you must. Most room safes will not accommodate a laptop with a monitor over 15 inches. Some cannot accommodate anything larger than an iPad. Be sure to check with your accommodation before bringing your laptop. Many unprepared travelers have unfortunately lost their laptops due to not being able to store them properly.
How to Pack For Costa Rica's Rainy Season
The rainy season on the Pacific slope of Costa Rica typically runs from May through November, though do keep in mind that September and October are the months with heavy rain. The Caribbean slope of Costa Rica has opposite weather patterns and September and October are actually the driest time to visit this region.
Packing for the rainy season is actually quite similar to the dry season, though be sure to bring a good rain jacket or a quality poncho, long pants (wicking convertibles are great!), a sweater or sweatshirt and a jacket (a quality rainjacket and a sweatshirt is a great combination), long sleeve wicking shirts, wicking outdoors or hiking gear, good trail or hiking shoes (lightweight waterproof is better and consider bringing an extra pair if you plan to do a lot of hiking), extra socks as they will get wet, a waterproof backpack or a waterproof cover for it.
How to Pack for Costa Rica by Popular Destinations
Packing for La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano
This region can be fairly hot (often daytime temperatures reach the mid to upper 80s in the dry season and upper 70s to lower 80s in the rainy season) and humid, with readings in the upper 90s. The Nuevo Arenal and Lake Arenal region, while close by, is usually cooler by 5 - 10 degrees, and windier. Many do not realize this, but this region is on the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica but right next to the middle. It can be affected by weather patterns from both the Caribbean and Pacific slopes but is more reliably affected by Caribbean weather patterns. Still, for both regions, you can nearly always get by with shorts and tee shirts but be sure to have brands that wick. Hiking sandals or regular sneakers are ideal footwear for going around town but you'll want different shoes for various activities. I love my convertible pants for this area and regularly remove or add back the legs.
Ziplining: Closed-toed shoes are recommended. Most will permit sandals with straps but flip-flops are not permitted. Wear wicking, adventure clothing.
Rafting or canyoning: Closed-toed hiking sandals or water shoes are best (and often required), such as Keens or Tevas. Always wear wicking outdoor gear for these adventures as you will get wet!
Hiking: Trail running or hiking shoes are ideal for hiking. Waterproof is better year-round but an essential in the rainy season. Whatever you do, be sure to have closed-toed shoes for any hikes but know that they are required for night hikes.
*Sarapiqui has similar weather patterns as La Fortuna, though it is usually a few degrees warmer.
What to Bring to Monteverde and Other Cloud Forest Destinations
Costa Rica's cloud forest destinations sit at higher, cooler, and damper areas. They are in the clouds after all! These areas are much cooler than the sea-level beaches. daytime teams are usually in the 70s, though it is not uncommon for temps to not exceed 65 degrees, especially during the rainy season. Often, nighttime temps are in the 50s and 60s. Also, keep in mind that these areas can often be windy, so you'll want to bring long-sleeve wicking shirts, sweatshirts or sweaters, a good rain jacket or poncho (not the cheap brands), and pants. Similar to the Arenal region, I love my convertible pants in this area.
Popular Activities: For ziplining, you'll want closed-toed shoes. For hiking in the reserves or at the hanging bridges, you'll want waterproof and closed-toed trail or hiking shoes. Some reserves offer rental rain boots. Be sure to check with the reserve you will be visiting as you do not want to make a mistake with footwear.
The Central Pacific Coast (Manuel Antonio & Jaco)
This area is hot and humid with daytime temps usually in the upper 80s to lower 90s and humidity in the upper 90 percentile. You'll want to bring all of your beachwear, sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, and insect repellent. Adjust your packing to the activities you will partake in as well as your dining (nearly all restaurants in these areas are informal but be sure to check before coming).
The South Pacific and Osa Peninsula (Drake Bay, Puerto Jimenez, Corcovado, Dominical, Uvita, Ojochal)
This area can be extremely hot and humid (usually in the upper 90 percentile) so be prepared with quality wicking clothing. It rains often, even in the dry season, and rains during the rainy season can be heavy, though often limited to the afternoon. You'll want to bring waterproof bags, especially for your camera gear, phones, etc. Some of the must-have items to pack include quality trail or hiking shoes, wicking clothing, extra socks, a waterproof backpack, insect repellent, a microfiber towel, sunscreen, a battery pack, swimwear, and a good sense of adventure! Many lodges on the Osa Peninsula do not have a reliable source of power and run periodically on generators. These lodges discourage using anything that requires power, so bringing that battery pack will allow you to keep your cell phone powered up.
*Keep in mind that mountainous areas near the South Pacific coast, such as Platanillo, will be cooler than the coast, even if they are just a few kilometers from the coast as the crow flies.
Bijagua and Rio Celeste
This area is extremely rainy, even in the dry season. Be prepared with good waterproof hiking shoes, wicking clothing, and if possible, a waterproof backpack, especially if you have a camera. This area is also usually fairly hot, with daytime temps often reaching the mid-80s, though it can be cooler at times, especially in the rainy season. A good rainjacket can double as a coat. The Tenorio National Park ranger station offers rental rain boots.
Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula (Rincon de la Vieja, Papagayo, Conchal, Tamarindo, Nosara, Samara, Santa Teresa, etc.
This region is in the tropical dry forest and is very hot but not as humid as the rainforest regions of the Central and South Pacific. The further north you go, until you reach Papagayo, the drier it tends to be. While the rainy season is considered to run from May through November, the heavier rains are usually limited to September and October. Often rains in the other months of the rainy season are limited to overnight or late afternoon. Of course, there are exceptions and it can rain at any time, inclusive of the dry season. Be sure to pack your beachwear, sunscreen, insect repellent, sunglasses, and a hat. Protecting yourself from the tropical sun is paramount!
Packing For the Caribbean Coast (Tortuguero, Cahuita, Puerto Viejo)
The Caribbean coast has opposite weather patterns of the Pacific. September and October are the driest months, though it can rain at any time. No matter when you visit this region, you'll want rain gear, wicking clothing, swimwear (you can't swim on the beaches of Tortuguero but most lodges have pools), insect repellent, and sunscreen. Flip flops or sandals are great for walking around but you'll also want closed-toed shoes, especially if you plan to hike. You will also want a battery pack to charge your cell phone as power outages are common.
Abbreviated Packing Checklist for Costa Rica
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
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
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 and/or a few Ziploc freezer size bags
binoculars or monocular
flashlight and/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. If your phone is unlocked, get an eSIM
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.
contact lenses and cleaning solution
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.