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What to pack for Costa Rica: 50 Plus Must-Have Items

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How to best pack for your Costa Rica trip can be difficult to figure out on your own, but this packing list will help you make sure you don’t forget anything important!

Whether you’re looking to spend time on the beach or explore the rainforest, this list has you covered with all of the things you need to have with you during your Costa Rica vacation.

You’ve booked your hotel and now you are ready to pack your bags for Costa Rica but before you take off you need to figure out what to wear in Costa Rica.   

I created this Costa Rica packing list so that you will have a stress-free trip and to make sure you don’t forget any essentials.

After traveling to Costa Rica several times I have come up with a list of dos and dont’s that is essential for every woman that is traveling to Costa Rica. 

I hope my travel tips will help you pack with ease and NOT make the same mistakes I did as a novice traveling to Costa Rica. 

My packing list for Costa Rica will provide you with complete a list of my top 50 travel recommendations on what to wear in Costa Rica and what to leave at home!

In addition to the packing tips for Costa Rica, I will also provide safety tips to help you feel more secure while traveling.  

costa rica packing list

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Top Packing Tips For Costa Rica

I have broken this Costa Rica packing list up into the categories: Travel documents/cash, luggage, inflight essentials, clothes, shoes, toiletries, makeup, bags, gadgets, and accessories.

You need to think about these four major things when considering packing for your trip to Costa Rica.

  • The time of year you are visiting and the weather
  • How much walking you will do
  • How much luggage do you want to take
  • Your personal style

“Must-Pack” Essentials Before You Depart For Costa Rica

These items are the ones you absolutely must pack for your trip to Costa Rica.

  • Passport –  Is good practice to have at least 6 months validity on your passport. Make sure you make copies of your passport and I also take a picture of my passport and store the image on my phone as well.
  • Visa(s) – Make sure you have read and understood the visa requirements for your nationality.  3 month (90 days) visitor visas are issued on arrival to nationals of the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. 
  • Insurance – Do not forget to organize insurance for your trip. It’s one of those things that you probably won’t use but is essential if something goes wrong on your travels like when I got extremely sick in the Czech Republic which was the one time I didn’t purchase insurance.  Lesson learned!  We use and recommend Travelex online travel insurance because it is easy to organize your cover and claim online.  You can click here to get a quote.
  • Money — I recommend bringing two credit cards (one to use, and one to keep as a backup), and your debit card. Make sure you use credit cards with no foreign transaction fees. For the life of GAWD do not exchange money in the airport we just withdraw from an ATM when we got there), but you can purchase Colones at your bank if it makes you feel more comfortable.

What To Pack For Costa Rica: The Suit Case

Reyleo Hard luggage with USB Port: This carry-on suitcase is perfect for a trip to Costa Rica thanks to its size and material. It has some give for extra souvenirs and most importantly the two USB ports for charging your electronics.

What To Pack For Costa Rica: In-Flight Essentials


What To Pack For Costa Rica: Clothing

When packing, don’t underestimate how hot it can get in certain parts of Costa Rica. The Pacific coast—near Manuel Antonio and Cahuita—gets humid and even a little tropical.

If you’re planning on hitting one of these spots, think of lightweight clothing (like linen and cotton).

This won’t just help keep you cool; it will also allow you to pack fewer clothes overall. Most people pack too much stuff when they travel:

You really only need a few items per day, so why not go light? Not only does carrying fewer bags make traveling easier, but it can be an asset if you want to indulge in some surf lessons or some scuba diving during your trip.

Chances are that your bag isn’t up to snuff with airlines’ new luggage weight rules. That means lugging more than two checked bags could cost you more than just money…


What To Pack For Costa Rica: Shoes

As soon as you land in San Jose, you’ll be fighting crowds and standing in long lines.

Make things easier on yourself by arriving with comfortable walking shoes; whether it’s flip-flops or sneakers, make sure they can take a pounding!

You’ll be glad you did.

  • Tory Burch Napa Leather Sandal: Great for dinner or casually strolling around the hotel 
  • Women’s Gazelle sneakers: Comfortable sneakers are a must if you’re packing for a trip to Costa Rica. Between snorkeling. hiking you’ll need a sturdy and comfortable pair.
  • Waterproof Hiking Shoe: For hiking or off-the-beaten-track jungle, mountain or rain forest exploration
  • Tory Burch Flip Flops: Pack your favorite pair of flip-flops for the beach, of course.
  • New Balance Sneaker: These breathable sneakers are great for any day excursions that might be on your itinerary and for days when you’ll be walking a lot. 


What To Pack For Costa Rica: Hiking

One of the best ways to explore Costa Rica and its diverse habitats is by hiking. Being on foot allows you to be truly present and immersed in your surroundings.

First, pack sunscreen. It’s probably obvious that you need to protect yourself from burning at a beach, but many people forget their sunscreen until it’s too late.

Sunburn is an enormous bummer and makes enjoying your vacation far more difficult; if you burn badly enough, it can take days to recover.

To avoid any nasty surprises (or worse), pack plenty of sunscreens before you leave. You should also pick up some aloe vera gel, which will help speed up recovery if you do happen to get burned.

If a bad sunburn happens anyway, make sure you apply the aloe often and remember that soaking in a warm bath may help relieve pain.

Make sure you have packed the right tools for hiking in Costa Rica:

  • Collapsible Trekking Pole  Trekking poles are great not only to keep you from ending up face down in the jungle while hiking but can be used to poke things like a log across the trail just in case you thought you saw a snake.  
  • Water Bottle – I recommend bringing a water bottle from home because it can use not only during your excursions in Costa Rica but you can also use it in the airport and on the plane etc.
  • Straws – Help the environment and replace plastic drinking straws with metal ones that you can take everywhere you go. 
  • Binoculars –  Are a great option for casual wildlife and birdwatching so don’t forget to grab a pair.
  • First Aid Kit –  As an absolute minimum you’ll want a headache remedy of choice, Imodium, tweezers, antihistamine but we recommend and always carry a full first aid kit.
  • Aloe Vera – in case you don’t use enough sunscreen – it really helps sunburns.  Get 100% gel without any additives or fragrance.


What To Pack For Costa Rica: Beach Essentials

When it comes to packing beach towels, less is definitely more. Even if you’re heading somewhere tropical, think twice before packing your full-size towel—it will take up too much space in your bag and chances are good that your hotel will provide one anyway.

Instead, pack a small beach towel (or sarong) so you can always have a little extra room in your luggage.

In any case, remember that you can also buy beach towels on arrival at most destinations—they’re usually cheap and often surprisingly good quality.

  • Swim Cover of Caftan – A swimsuit cover is perfect for the beach or taking a boat tour to explore Costa Rica.  While Costa Ricans are not shy about their bodies I need mine covered up because I am not that fione! 
  • Water Shoes – The beaches in Costa Rica can have a ton of rocks so make sure you pack a pair of slip-on mesh beach shoes that will protect your feet especially if they are sensitive.  These shoes pictured come in a range of great colors – click here for more information.
  • Beach Towel – I recommend packing a light beach towel that will not take up lots of space and one that dries fast.  Check out this cute and chic beach towel. 
  •  Snorkel Set – My husband loves to go snorkeling and if you are staying near the beach you will need a good quality snorkel kit. We have our own and it packs in our luggage perfectly. Check out these bestseller snorkel set from Amazon here.
  • Floating Device – Who doesn’t want to be Instagram famous?  Bring along one of these super cute gold Pegasus Float. Check out this one from Amazon here.
  • Beach Bag  – You will need a beach bag to put all your sunscreen, shades, beach towel, and other items in. Check out the KEHO Canvas Beach Bag here.
  • Underwater Camera – Take an underwater camera for those underwater shots especially if you are going snorkeling.  Click here to check out the GoPro Hero 7 Camera.
  • Waterproof Pouch – iPhones take excellent videos and photos and if don’t want to spend money on a GoPro just use your mobile phone. Check out this best seller phone pouch here. 


What To Pack For Costa Rica: Toiletries

With all of its lush rainforests and beaches, it’s no surprise that Costa Rica is home to many species of biting insects, like mosquitos and sand flies.

Repellent is a must-have on your packing list when you travel here. While there are lots of repellents out there on store shelves, some are better than others.

Many non-DEET bug sprays contain citronella oil which not only wears off more quickly than DEET but also can irritate your skin and make you smell funny.

And while they may smell good, traditional citronella candles don’t provide any lasting protection from biting insects.

  • Mosquito-Repellent Bracelet: Yes, Costa Rica has mosquitos that are as big as rats so you will need a repellent – Avoid chemicals and the smell of DEET bug spray by just wearing a bracelet.
  • Good Vibes Only Sun Kit: Sunscreen, after-sun lotion, lip balm, and face sunscreen all in one convenient, travel-sized kit. If you travel to Costa Rica during the dry season please remember the sun is brutal! 
  • Hand Sanitizer: I am not a germaphobe but I prefer not to be sick while traveling so please use hand sanitizer as often as possible.

Makeup Essentials For Costa Rica

What To Pack For Costa Rica: The Purse

What To Pack For Costa Rica: Gadgets

  • GoPro Hero 7: This camera is great to take on your travels, as it’s small, durable, and allows you to capture pictures and videos of your entire journey, both in the water and out.
  • Anker Portable Phone Charger: Pack a portable charger to keep your phone charged after taking all those amazing Costa Rica Instagramable photos.
  • Selfie Stick with Tripod:  You should make sure you have a selfie stick with a tripod to take all of those awesome selfies.  

What To Pack For Costa Rica: Accessories 

  • Caftan: A caftan does double duty on a trip to Costa Rica. Use it as a blanket or shawl on a boat excursion or at dinner, and use it as a bathing suit cover-up at the beach or poolside.
  • Chloe Sunglasses: This pair is both stylish, practical, and fashionable. 
  • Fedora Hat: This is essential for sun protection. A crushable style means you don’t have to worry about it when stuffing it into your suitcase.
  • Zippered Canvas Reusable Tote: I was happy to have a reusable tote on my Costa Rica packing list for the beach to store my things.


What Not To Forget To Pack For Costa Rica

  • Pain Relief: you know what works best for you, bring your favorite products from home for headaches, joint, and muscle pain
  • Constipation Relief: Travelers’ constipation is real and you don’t want to be uncomfortable while on vacation.  
  • Pancho: Any sort of thin layering piece is ideal for rainy nights in Costa Rica.
  • Laundry detergent Sheets – Keep your clothes smelling fresh and you will be able to wear certain items more than once.
  • Sea-BandsNon-Drowsy Dramamine — If you’re prone to motion sickness I strongly recommend adding Sea-Bands to your Costa Rica packing list especially if you are taking excursions around Costa Rica.  Take some Non-Drowsy Dramamine and wear the sea band so you will not become seasick. 
  • Umbrella – You never know when a torrential downpour will happen so be prepared


What Not To Pack For Costa Rica

I am not one of those people who can pack for two weeks in a carry on but after years of traveling, I have learned to leave some things behind. 

Leave items you will probably not use will be extra heavy or can be found easily at your destination.

  • Valuables: Leave anything that’s flashy at home to avoid being a target for pickpockets.
  • Warm Clothing: This one’s a given, but you don’t really need any warm clothing items for Costa Rica
  • Full-sized shampoo and conditioner – too heavy and take up too much room and will weigh your luggage down.
  • Guidebooks – You don’t need to walk around with a guidebook in your hand. Read them before you go or download Costa Rica Essentials ebook
  • Hairdryer – most hotels provide hairdryers
  • Books– I am on the fence about books because I am old school and I love to hold books or magazines in my hand but some are extremely heavy so you can invest in a Kindle or download the books to your iPad or phone

Packing For Costa Rica – Weather

Remember that it rains in Costa Rica. Not every day and not every time you visit, but there’s a good chance that you’ll need your rain gear at some point in your trip.

Pack a lightweight rain jacket with a hood and pants or slacks that can be layered under your waterproof rain gear.

The important thing is that you want to pack clothes that can be layered – something comfortable and easy to throw on during a downpour, but also layers well underneath a short-sleeved shirt or jacket when it stops raining.

Here is a guide to the average conditions – do check the forecast for the different regions you are visiting.  

Average Temperatures in Costa Rica

The temperatures in Costa Rica do not really vary from one month to the next.  

The average annual temperature in Costa Rica is between 70° and 81°.

February to April are the hottest months in Costa Rica so be prepared for the heat if you decide to go during those months. 

September through November are the colder months and I use the word colder loosely. 

Check the current extended forecast for where you’re actually going just before you leave so you can find out in advance if it’s unseasonably cold and you will need a light jacket or a trench coat.

Visiting Costa Rica in Winter

December, January, and February is the beginning of Costa Rica’s dry season which brings tourist from all over the world. 

The dry season is popular because travelers would like to avoid Costa Rica’s daily rain showers which can happen at any time so be prepared for some of the loudest and hardest rain you will ever experience.  

In addition to the dry season being overcrowded remember prices go up and it is normally more expensive during this time of the year.

Visiting Costa Rica in Spring

March, April, and May are still Costa Rica’s dry season but you will start to experience showers around late May so again you need to be prepared for rain showers.  

If you plan of visiting Costa Rica for Spring Break I suggest you begin planning well in advance because hotels book up pretty fast. 

Deciding what to wear in Costa Rica during the spring months is easy peasy.  A lightweight jacket, shorts and t-shirts, and swimwear should be on your packing list for Costa Rica. 

Visiting Costa Rica in Summer

June, July, and August are Costa Rica’s rainy seasons or green seasons. Be prepared for sunny mornings and rainy afternoons if you visit in the summer months.

The rainy season is my favorite time to visit Costa Rica because of the lush forests, white water rafting, and the large-swell surf.

This is also the low season, so there will be fewer crowds, hotels will offer better prices and the temperatures in Costa Rica stay between 70-80° F.

If you are traveling to Costa Rica during the summer months make sure you pack lightweight clothing, dry-fit material, cotton t-shirts, shorts, and a rain jacket.

The mosquitos in Costa Rica during the rainy season are literally as big as monsters so you will need to keep bug spray in your backpack and keep your arms and legs covered. 

Visiting Costa Rica in Fall

September, October, and November is the highest level of the rainy season. Be aware that many hotels shut down during these months because of the excessive rain. 

If you decide to visit Costa Rica during the fall you will barely see any tourists because most people stay away from the country during this time.  

I suggest packing light gear for fall as well – lightweight material, dry fit, rain jacket, waterproof pants, and cotton long-sleeve shirts. 

Rainfall in Costa Rica

The amount of rainfall in Costa Rica does fluctuate fairly drastically.

From May to November, the rainfall is quite heavy, with the most rain coming in September and October

Opposite of that, December through April has very little rainfall if any.

Nationwide, the country averages around 100 inches per year, with some specific areas receiving up to 25 feet of rainfall per calendar year in mountainous areas.

The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, much like other portions of the country, has its own microclimate. It rains quite often and there is no true rainy season.

Safety Tips While Traveling To Costa Rica

While you should be alert no matter the destination Costa Rica is one of the more stable countries in Latin America, but crime happens everywhere especially theft and pickpocketing in high-tourist areas.

The best way to keep your belongings safe is to keep them hidden on your person like a Fanny pack or travel scarf to keep your money and credit cards safe. 

Professional thieves can pick tourists out in their sleep.

If you don’t want to look like a tourist I suggest packing a sturdy leather purse that hangs in the front of your body and not on the sides or back. 

Keep important documents like passports, visas, money, and credit cards in a money belt, or try an anti-theft diversion kit.  Keep thieves at bay with hairbrushes, deodorant, hair spray, or other items that look like the real deal! 


Conclusion of What To Wear In Costa Rica:

When it comes to packing for a trip, there are two key things I always keep in mind: 1) How easy is it going to be to transport my bags from point A (my home or office) to point B (the airport)? and 2) How likely am I going to crush something under all that weight?

With those two things in mind, you can pretty much guarantee your vacation will go smoothly. 


Don’t forget your travel insurance! Click here for more information.

Ready to plan your trip, grab my FREE  Vacation Planner to help you plan your trip in the time it takes to watch your favorite TV show!

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12 Comments

  1. Fantastic list! A cross-body is a MUST when traveling for sure. I also cannot travel without a power charger for my phone.
    I hope to visit Costa Rica soon, it’s on my bucket list!

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