If you’ve decided to visit Costa Rica for your next vacation, you’ve made a fantastic choice.
Between the vibrant city of San Jose, the calm waters of the Caribbean coast, the endless blue of the South Pacific coast, and the surreal cloud forests around the entire country, few travelers will find themselves disappointed by Costa Rica.
Experiencing the quintessentially Costa Rican “Pura Vida,” (the simple life) of this spectacular country is just magical.
This small country in Central America is incredibly diverse and scenic, offering many varied activities to suit all travelers.
Costa Rica can be so much more than a simple beach vacation: you can hike through the rainforests of Corcovado National Park, go white water rafting down the Rio Naranjo, and enjoy water sports like surfing on the famous breaks of Tamarindo, and so many more!
Depending on your plans while there, you may need a lot of different travel gear. Don’t forget that there’s also a wet and dry season, and while days can be sweltering, nights can get rather cold.
Needless to say, many travelers get overwhelmed with what to pack for Costa Rica. As one of our favorite destinations, we’ve put together a Costa Rica packing checklist here to ensure you have an epic time without worries.
See Related: Best Places to Visit in Costa Rica & Things to Do
What to Pack for Costa Rica – Costa Rica Travel Tips
If you are exploring Costa Rica soon, you will probably need a few items more than T-shirts and shorts. Let’s take a look at what should be on your Costa Rica packing list beyond the typical suitcase full of clothes.
First of all, it’s never wise to leave for a trip without a quality travel insurance policy. This is especially true when headed to a foreign country like Costa Rica, where you may participate in water sports, hiking deep in the jungle, or doing otherwise extreme activities.
Not to mention the fact that the US State Department considers Costa Rica to be a relatively risky destination, with an “Exercise Increased Caution” advisory.
It’s much better to be safe than sorry, and you don’t want to find yourself paying out of pocket for any medical care bills from minor to major. We’d recommend a package from SafetyWing, reputable travel, and medical incident insurance provider.
SafetyWing is made for digital nomads and frequent travelers. Ensuring these clients makes them a top-quality provider as they care for those most likely to need it.
Unique and valuable qualities of their offering include the ability to buy a policy even if your trip has already started, children can be included on their parent’s policy for free, and long-term monthly packages.
Long-term monthly packages also cover time back at home, making this an all-around excellent service for travel addicts worldwide.
See Related: Important Pros and Cons of Travel Insurance
The Right Travel Credit Cards
Besides travel insurance, this may be the next most important tool in your wallet! It is essential to travel with a good credit card or, realistically, several credit cards that you can choose from strategically.
One of the easiest ways to save money and get free flights is by using loyalty points and miles. Every time you swipe a credit card, you should be earning those points and miles. You can earn extra by knowing which credit card to swipe and when.
For example, when buying flights and staying at hotels, use co-branded cards for the airline or hotel chain in order to get bonus points and perks like status recognition.
For general purchases or if you don’t have a co-branded card, you can’t go wrong with cards like the American Express Platinum Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Each purchase gets you loyalty points that can be used on virtually any travel purchase.
See Related: Best Travel Credit Cards (Ranked!)
Flip-flops are essential for me when going on a tropical vacation. You don’t want to be stuck having to go to the souvenir shops to find a pair of flip-flops in your size that are most likely overpriced and won’t hold up longer than a few days.
These Reef Women’s Cushion Breeze Flip-Flops are soft, affordable, and high-quality (these Reef Men’s Cushion Phantom Flip-Flops will do just fine for the fellas).
These will keep feet comfortable all day and won’t give you blisters like some cheaper flip-flops. They also hold up through the water, making them a perfect companion on a beach day.
Besides the awesome quality, these flip-flops come in several fabulous colors. They’re perfect for both a day of outdoor activities and casual nights out.
May to mid-December is Costa Rica’s rainy season. It’s also known as the country’s green season because of the breathtaking lush flora you will find at this time of year.
If you’re planning to visit during this time, rain jackets are vital to bringing with you – or you risk having to trudge around in wet clothes! Huge downpours can happen at any time, so even if rain isn’t in the forecast, it’s always a good idea to be prepared.
This lovely Columbia Women’s Switchback Lined Long Jacket is perfect for a tropical destination. It’s light enough to not make you feel stuffy but waterproof to keep you dry and warm. I love the gorgeous Icy Morn color, but if blue doesn’t suit you, there are many others to choose from.
The boys will also cut a pretty handsome dash in the Columbia Men’s Oroville Creek Lined Jacket (especially in walnut *shivers*).
See Related: Best Things to do in Playa del Coco, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is filled with wonderful hiking trails, especially if you’re planning to visit one of the beautiful national parks like Arenal Volcano National Park.
Lots of hiking means exposing your skin to the elements, not just the sun but also to plants, dirt, and insects. Mosquitoes can be found in Costa Rica year-round, but they are most prevalent in the summer months.
The best way to protect your skin from these factors is protective clothing like hiking pants.
Honestly, a few years ago, you couldn’t find me wearing hiking pants because the options were limited, and, quite frankly, they were just not cute. I’d usually just wear shorts and end up regretting it because I am a mosquito magnet.
Thankfully these days, there are a lot of cute options like this pair of Capol Women’s Hiking Cargo Pants. These long pants are both stylish and lightweight.
It’s fitted without being constricting, allowing you to have a full range of motion. The nylon fabric is waterproof and offers a great level of sun protection.
The guys can try these comfy, convertible cargo pants from Jessie Kidden. As well as being lightweight and festooned with pockets, it can also be converted into a pair of cargo shorts. Why pack two garments when you can pack one?!
For warmer climates, I prefer to opt for hiking shoes as opposed to hiking boots. Hiking boots can get bulky, and although they can keep you perfectly dry and warm, they sometimes keep you too warm.
Hiking shoes are a great alternative because they’ll offer great foot protection and grip while keeping your feet cool.
These hiking shoes from Adidas Outdoor Women’s Terrex Ax3 Hiking Shoe are comfortable even during long hiking days and have the great quality you’d expect from Adidas. Here are the men’s – also in the same Adidas quality.
They’re perfect for light hikes, like walking through the beautiful Los Quetzales National Park to get to the quaint village of San Gerardo de Dota, located in the southern region of Costa Rica. This village truly highlights the natural beauty of the rainforest.
See Related: Most Stunning, Unique Costa Rica Animals
Whenever I plan to explore a place with rivers and waterfalls, I always have to remember my water shoes. Otherwise, I might not be having a good time.
I have sensitive feet, so walking on sharp, slippery rocks is uncomfortable and can also be dangerous depending on where you are. If you’re anything like me, water shoes are a must.
Costa Rica is home to the most breathtaking rivers and waterfalls, like Corcovado National Park. If you’re planning to visit this park, you’ll want to include water shoes on your packing list.
These SEEKWAY Water Shoes are splendid for exploring such landscapes. They feature a thick, high-quality sole that protects your feet from sharp rocks and hot surfaces while also being lightweight and small enough to fold and fit into any bag you may be traveling with.
Insulated Water Bottle
Personally, I find an insulated water bottle a must for any trip that involves being out in nature for a good amount of time. Whether you’re spending the day at the beach or trekking through dense rainforests, there’s nothing better than taking a sip of ice-cold water from your water bottle.
The Hydro Flask With Wide Mouth Straw Lid is my tried and true insulated water bottle. I’ve been a Hydro Flask customer for over ten years and have never been disappointed by a product.
The straw lid is my favorite feature because it makes it so easy to pop up the straw to quickly quench my thirst instead of having to unscrew a cap.
This water bottle keeps your drinks cold for 24 hours or hot for 12 hours. Hydro Flask also offers a lifetime warranty, so if you ever feel that your water bottle is no longer performing how it should, just register it online and send it back and they will replace it for free.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Packing cubes are a great way to keep your suitcase and backpack organized, especially when you have to pack for different activities and weather. When packing for Costa Rica, I recommend packing cubes to organize your clothing by activity (going out, hiking, swimming, etc.) and to keep dirty clothes separate from the clean ones.
This Vagreez 7-Piece Packing Cubes comes with packing cubes of various sizes, so you can mix and match them to fit into your suitcase or backpack perfectly. Each cube fits an unassumingly large amount of clothes; the smallest size can fit 5-6 shirts, but I find that it can fit more than six smaller tops.
See Related: Best Travel Backpacks | Efficient Carry-On Options
If you’re planning to visit Costa Rica between September and November, expect the temperature to dip into the 50s at night. Throughout the year, the temperature can be over 10 degrees cooler in the highlands than it is on the coast, so a light jacket can certainly come in handy.
This Amazon Essentials Long-Sleeve Full-Zip Jacket is super lightweight and easily packable in a backpack for day trips. It is made with moisture-wicking fabric, which makes it very suitable for humid climates like Costa Rica. I love that it’s fitted but still allows for a full range of movement.
This lightweight bomber jacket will do nicely for the fellas. It’ll help keep the wind off and you won’t be sporting the stereotypical tourist windbreaker!
See Related: Visiting Las Catalinas, Costa Rica: Best Things to See & Do
Compact Mirrorless Camera
Cameras are essential for capturing beautiful moments to remember for the rest of your life. I’ve always enjoyed photography, but my passion for it really took off as I started to travel more. There’s nothing like getting the perfect shot of a stunning sunset or a unique scene.
Manuel Antonio Beach is a great spot for photography. Not only is the beach just absolutely stunning, but there are also adorable monkeys swinging from limb to limb in the nearby rainforest.
Mirrorless Cameras are a great option for traveling because they are much more lightweight and compact compared to traditional DSLR cameras while still producing a high-quality image. The Canon EOS M50 Mark II is a great mirrorless camera option that will be perfect for capturing your Costa Rica vacation.
See Related: Best Cameras for Travel Blogging
Waterproof Action Camera
Costa Rica is the best place to travel to if you’re looking for a plethora of outdoor activities.
And what better way to capture these priceless moments than an adventure camera?
Some cameras are made specifically to be used to capture sports and other extreme outdoor adventures, things you’ll definitely be doing in this country filled with natural beauty.
You can’t go wrong with a GoPro HERO 10 Black. The GoPro has been known as the industry leader in waterproof action cameras for over a decade.
I have had several GoPros over the years, only upgrading because their quality keeps getting better and better. Their cameras are super user-friendly and produce crisp, stunning photos and videos.
See Related: Where to Stay in Costa Rica on the Beach
Camera Gear Organizer
If you’re anything like me, your backpack is probably a mess of wires and various electronics.
When I travel, I must have my camera, GoPro, kindle, headphones, and all the charging apparatuses that come with these items. Keeping track of all these electronics can get cumbersome and you run the risk of losing things if you don’t keep them organized.
The OrgaWise Electronics Bag is great for keeping all of your electronics, especially camera gear, in one place. It’ll save you time and space to have all these items organized in a manner that allows you to quickly find whatever you need. Don’t forget to add this to your list to pack for Costa Rica.
See Related: Best Travel Toiletry Bags | Portable Options for Travel
Hopefully, you plan to spend at least part of your Costa Rica vacation outside of a resort. Whether you’re just planning on exploring San Jose or you’ll be venturing into the Corcovado rainforests, a day pack is a must-have.
You can simply use the same backpack you might already plan to use as a carry-on, or you can opt for a separate day pack that is compact enough to fit nicely inside your carry-on.
I’m a fan of the latter because it allows me to get it dirty and potentially damaged without ruining my luggage for the return flight.
My day bag of preference is the 4Monster Hiking Daypack. There are three different sizes and nine different colors to choose from. The best part is that the entire backpack condenses into the size of a wallet- great for saving precious suitcase space!
See Related: Most Famous Landmarks in Costa Rica
A dry bag is not necessarily the same as a day pack – and in a wet place like Costa Rica, it’s not a bad idea to have one of these. This is especially true if you plan on rafting in the rivers or hiking through the jungles of the country.
While the day pack mentioned above is water-resistant, you’ll feel much safer when you get wet with a fully waterproof bag. It would be a real shame to lose a treasure trove of photographs from your camera or phone before your trip even ends.
A dry bag doesn’t have to break the bank, and you can find great ones like the OMGear Waterproof Dry Bag for a very reasonable price. With twelve different colors and four sizes, there’s one for everyone; and it comes with a waterproof phone pouch as well. It’s a good investment for most travelers to Costa Rica.
See Related: Best Beach Bags With Cooler
Contact Lens Supplies
If you wear contact lenses, be sure to pack extra supplies with you, especially if you’re traveling to an international destination like Costa Rica.
There are fewer things worse than losing contact and not having a backup pair, or realizing you’ve run out of contact solution and not being able to find an open pharmacy.
Believe me; been there, done that.
This Renu Contact Lens Solution pack comes with two large contact solution bottles, two travel-size contact solution bottles, and two contact lens cases. Everything you could possibly need in a pinch! I also like to keep at least two pairs of contacts with me while traveling.
See Related: Is Costa Rica Safe to Visit? (A Guide for Travelers)
Don’t make the mistake of hitting the trails in Costa Rica without some headlamps for everyone in your group!
While it’s essential for night hiking, the best-prepared explorers might even choose to bring some of these on day hikes for the off-chance if something goes wrong, and they end up out in the sticks later than expected.
It’s best to go with a battery-powered lamp like the Energizer LED Headlamp Flashlight because it’s super-duper bright. Think about packing spare batteries too!
Early mornings are a great way to get some of the most beautiful beaches like Tamarindo all to yourself.
I’m a morning person, and I love waking up before the sun and getting the reward of watching a beautiful sunrise on the beach. If you’re visiting in the winter or rainy season, mornings in Costa Rica can get a bit chilly, so it’s nice to have a few items to keep you warm.
This Carhartt Men’s Wool Blend Cuff Beanie is cute and functional. Anyone can wear it, and the wool blend makes it a lovely warm hat to have during those cool mornings. It will definitely keep your ears warmer than your beach baseball cap if it’s chilly.
See Related: One-Week Costa Rica Itinerary – See & Explore It All
A bathing suit is an absolute must for any trip to this tropical paradise. There are so many activities to be done on the beach, from swimming to surfing to paddle boarding, that you’ll definitely need to bring at least two pairs of swimwear.
Whenever I travel on a beach vacation, I always like to have one more sporty bathing suit and at least one cute bathing suit, but honestly, probably more like three or four cute ones. This Nike Women’s Hydrastrong Fast Back One-Piece is the perfect blend of cute and functional. It’s comfortable and supportive for all-day movement while also giving off that Baywatch vibe.
If your man won’t look too shabby in these handsome Nike trunks either!
Reef-Safe Sun Protection
You’ll be having tons of fun in the sun when visiting Costa Rica, but it’s important that you protect your skin while out in the elements.
And when you’re traveling to beautiful destinations with natural landmarks like reefs, it’s important to educate yourself about the environment you’ll be in and how to cause the least amount of negative impact while still enjoying the natural beauty.
Reef-safe sun protection is made without chemicals that are known to poison the coral reef and other marine wildlife. My favorite reef-safe sunscreen is the Sun Bum Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen Spray. It’s water-resistant and won’t leave you with that sticky feeling that many spray sunscreens do.
See Related: Best Beaches in Costa Rica (Top Spots Ranked!)
Due to the general humidity of Costa Rica, you can typically find mosquitoes and annoying pests at any time of the year, no matter which part of the country you are visiting. Like sunscreen, bug spray is just as important to bring to protect yourself against the elements.
It’s best to bring these two items with you as you will probably spend double the amount or more if you were to buy them in Costa Rica.
OFF! Deep Woods Insect Repellent is my go-to against various bugs and mosquitoes. It dries pretty quickly and also protects against tick bites. The smell of this one isn’t as strong and bothersome as some other brands I have tried.
Running shoes can serve multiple purposes when it comes to the world of travel. They’re great when you have a long day of walking planned and are also a comfortable option when transiting through different airports and travel hubs.
I love wearing running shoes when I’m exploring a new town or tourist destination, like the Monteverde Cloud Forests Reserve.
Running shoes are the perfect choice for various outdoor activities. Trail runners also make a terrific, versatile addition to your packing list because you can use them in various situations, and they are usually lightweight and compact.
Everyone has their preferred brand of running shoes; mine is Adidas. These Adidas Women’s Cloudfoam Pure 2.0 Running Shoes are the absolute most comfortable running shoes I’ve ever worn.
They are super comfortable to wear on long walking days outdoors and are the perfect travel shoes to wear while rushing through airports.
The same can be said for these Lite Racers, also from Adidas.
First Aid Kit
It used to be that first aid kits would come in bulky hard plastic cases and be kept only in your home and car, but now you can find them in all sorts of sizes and take them with you on the go.
Personal first aid kits can often be overlooked, but once you get a large scrape or perhaps a thorn stuck in your hand, you may find yourself wishing you had the tools with you to fix yourself up.
This Mini First Aid Kit fits in the palm of your hand but holds over 110 pieces, including bandages, gloves, gauze, and even an emergency foil blanket. It’s the perfect size to keep in your suitcase at all times so that you’re never without it.
See Related: Best Activities in Costa Rica: Top Outdoor Adventures to Consider
Cell Phone Power Bank
This item is an important one for any trip and should most definitely be on any Costa Rica packing list. No one enjoys running out of battery, and besides missing out on some of the most beautiful Caribbean coast photo ops on the continent, being phone-less can be a safety hazard.
My number one choice for a power bank is definitely the Anker PowerCore 13000. I have used one of these for years, and it is seriously impressive. I’ve gone days without charging it and have still been able to get more than a few full recharges.
It seems to charge phones even faster than a traditional wall outlet, and it doesn’t stop at phones – my GoPro and Kindle have been refueled in a jiffy by this lifesaver as well!
Hopefully, it doesn’t rain on your trip to Costa Rica, but it certainly might, especially if you are visiting between May and December. It’s easy to prevent getting caught in the rain by coming prepared with an umbrella that’s easy to travel with.
Besides keeping you dry, a good travel umbrella can double as a source of shade on remote beaches where you may not be able to find any.
You probably won’t be traveling with a full-sized beach umbrella, and as unorthodox as it may be, you’ll appreciate a little bit of relief from that Costa Rican sun.
Don’t make the common mistake of going cheap on an umbrella. They are way too easy to break during their first use. Something like the Repel Umbrella is of good quality, large enough for lots of protection, small enough to stash in your bag, and sold at a good price.
See Related: Essential Women’s Travel Accessories
Commonly Needed Medications
If you’ve been there, you know. It’s never fun to need medicine while on vacation. And it’s way less fun to need it, not have it, and not be able to find it.
Some people laugh at me when they see the pharmacy that I travel with, but I don’t regret it one bit. Whether I get hit with a migraine, have to get on a ferry on rough seas, or, especially in Central America, suffer from food or waterborne illness, I’m prepared.
Your list of medications might include more, but a good starting point is to include painkillers such as Advil, motion sickness prevention tablets, Imodium, antacids like Tums, and others.
If you have a bunch of these like me, consider an organizing case like the StarPlus2 Large Padded Pill Bottle Organizer to make sure you can keep track of it all.
Wet Suit or Rashguard
The waters of Costa Rica are usually not super cold. However, a rash guard or wetsuit can serve multiple purposes. They also look great on everyone!
Rash guards help protect against sunburn, and many of them actually have an SPF rating. They are also great for creating a barrier against your skin and a surfboard, scuba gear, or other water sports equipment you might use in Costa Rica.
For the ladies, the Roxy Whole Hearted Long-Sleeve is a high-quality and great-looking rash guard that will help travelers get the most out of their Costa Rica adventures. A great option for men is the Quiksilver Standard Solid Streak Long Sleeve.
See Related: Best Surfing Spots in the World
What are the most important things to pack for Costa Rica?
Without a doubt, make sure you pack a travel insurance policy that is right for you!
We recommend SafetyWing to be sure you get a good level of medical coverage, especially in the potentially extreme conditions of Costa Rica.
Besides that, be sure to bring a good pair of hiking shoes and, of course, a bathing suit.
What credit card should I use for a Costa Rica trip?
Always choose your credit cards wisely when paying for travel.
You can rarely go wrong with cards like the American Express Platinum or the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which offer no foreign transaction fees and great protections for things like luggage and trip cancellation. Every time you use them, you’ll be earning points for your next trip.
What is the best time to travel to Costa Rica?
Costa Rica’s rainy season lasts from May through December, and its dry season is from January through April.
The peak tourist season is during the dry season, but also around Christmas and the new year. January and February are great choices to capture the lush, green vegetation that the rain brought, but also miss some of the largest crowds.
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