What do I need to pack for Costa Rica? As one of the most common questions we get, this Costa Rica packing list post will help you immensely. The most important thing to know about packing for Costa Rica is that there around 27 micro-climates in the country so don’t just throw your shorts and flip flops in your bag, read our packing list for Costa Rica to find out exactly what you need to bring!
*Click the link to get our free packing checklist to help you stay organized!*
Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post.
Essential items You Cannot Forget to Bring to Costa Rica
- Original passport. No photocopies, no color copies. Must be your original passport that is not expired and will not expire during your time in Costa Rica.
- Original valid driver’s license (if you are renting a car). No temporary licenses, no photocopies, no paper copies. Cannot be expired or will expire while you are in Costa Rica.
- No foreign transaction fee credit card. My Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a fantastic travel credit card with no foreign transaction fees and many other travel benefits. Make sure to bring two with one as a back up. Also AMEX is not as widely accepted so bring a Visa card (the most widely accepted).
- Travel insurance. Highly recommended especially now we know due to the pandemic that anything can happen! Check Safety Wing or Visitors Coverage to find the one that fits your needs.
- Your return flight ticket out of Costa Rica within 90 days of your entry (tourist visas are for 90 days). This can be printed or saved on your phone) to show to immigration if they ask.
- Hotels, tours, car rentals and flight reservations (printed or saved on your phone)
The Essential Things to Bring to Costa Rica
These are the essential items for your Costa Rica packing list: lightweight dry fast clothes, comfortable sandals, swimwear, mosquito repellent, sunscreen SPF 30+, hiking shoes/trail running shoes or closed toed hiking sandals, sunglasses, a hat, battery pack, medical kit, waterproof phone case, camera, day pack, rain jacket and an insulated water bottle.
Costa Rica doesn’t have a strict dress code so comfortable and casual is best for pretty much the entire country. At the beach where daytime temperatures reach up to 95 F (35 C) with high humidity, your wardrobe will consist of shorts, tank tops, tshirts and flip flops. In the city where daytime temperatures are around 78 F (25 C), we recommend closed toed shoes, long pants and a light jacket or sweater. If you’re visiting higher elevation areas (Monteverde, Bajos del Toro, Vara Blanca, Poas, San Isidro de Perez Zeledon, San Gerardo de Dota, San Jose, Heredia, etc.), then long pants, a warm sweater, long socks and a jacket are necessary as I mentioned earlier.
For women, there is no real dress code. You can perfectly wear tank tops and show your shoulders. It is not common for local women to wear leggings as daily wear though. As for the men, no board shorts or short shorts in the city.
Our recommendations: For Costa Rica, clothes that dry fast and wick away moisture are the best. In the city, normal city wear is fine (no beach clothes or just swim suits). For hiking, as a woman, I personally prefer hiking pants rather than leggings due to the intense humidity and most laundromats don’t use dryers. For affordable and good quality outdoor clothes, our closet is full of Columbia.
If you’re doing any activities, hiking shoes/sandals (with straps), sneakers, trail running shoes or hiking shoes are necessary. For the beach, flip flops are necessary. Whenever we travel around Costa Rica, I normally bring one pair of flip flops and one pair of sneakers/hiking shoes or closed toed hiking sandals depending on what we’re doing.
Yeison usually brings a pair of flip flops and his trail running shoes or closed toed hiking sandals. If we’re doing long hikes, he wears waterproof Salomon trail running shoes. I usually bring a pair of flip flops and my KEEN hiking sandals. For hikes, I also have a pair of Salomon hiking shoes.
Our recommendations: We love closed toed hiking sandals. They are amazing for all sorts of outdoor activities and you can go from land to water easily. They dry fast, don’t smell, your feet can breathe and are much more comfortable than stuffy shoes and socks. Waterproof trail running shoes are also amazing for Costa Rica. If you don’t want to purchase closed toed hiking sandals, a pair of sneakers + water shoes will be great for light activities like ziplining, rafting, tubing, snorkeling, boating.
We love our KEEN hiking sandals and you can read our in-depth guide to what are the best shoes for Costa Rica. Remember, many activities require completely CLOSED toed shoes.
**Visiting Costa Rica soon? Costa Rica COVID-19 Travel post for latest travel information*
You have to bring mosquito repellent for Costa Rica as they are present all year round. The coasts are the worst places for mosquitoes and there are a few serious diseases you can catch like dengue fever. There are also other annoying little bugs that bite like gnats. Mosquitoes are not really found in high elevations above 1500 meters (4900 feet) or so however.
Our recommendations: You can find mosquito repellent in the supermarkets but we recommend bringing your own as it is a bit more expensive here. Additionally, there aren’t a ton of natural or non-DEET options. We like this OFF! 20% Picardin and also Avon skin so soft which is DEET free and has SPF.
Repel is another excellent brand that we use a lot (especially me, as non DEET products lidon’t work great for me and I’m a mosquito magnet). You can read about our favorite mosquito repellent products in this Costa Rica mosquitoes post.
Sunscreen is also a must and bring at least SPF 30. If you burn easily, SPF 50-70 is best and do not forget to reapply! Costa Rica is only 8-12 degrees from the equator so the sun is strong! Additionally, after sun care is very important in case you (probably will) burn.
Our recommendations: If you are going to be going in the ocean, we encourage you to buy reef safe mineral sunscreen. We personally love Raw Elements, SunBum and Bare Republic. If you can, bring sunscreen. If you can’t, you can get sunscreen at any supermarket or pharmacy but it is a bit more expensive with limited options. Don’t forget chapstick with SPF! Also if you’re surfing, make sure you get sunscreen with Titanium Dioxide/Zinc Oxide. Headhunter is our preferred surfing sunscreen.
Toiletries and Medications
You can find all toiletries in Costa Rica like shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothbrush, mouth wash, toothpaste and floss in the supermarkets. There are a few items that I do recommend to bring. These are tampons for women (not always readily available), face wash (expensive), hair detangler spray, wet wipes, a packet of tissues and face wipes. Menstruation cups are becoming more available in Costa Rica and are great for travel. If you wear contact lenses, make sure to bring a couple extra lenses, cases and contact lens solution. They do sell contact lens solutions at most supermarkets and always at the pharmacy.
If you’re taking any medicines, write down a list of them and keep it with you at all times. Try to include the active ingredients in each medicine or find the Spanish name.
For basic medicines, you can find them OTC like cold, flu, sinus, diarrhea and muscle pain at the supermarket. As for other medicines, you’ll need to go to a pharmacy so we recommend bringing any specific medicines you prefer to take.
Pharmacies in Costa Rica are not only for prescription medicines. They sell everything like shampoo, lotion, vitamins, supplements, cold medicine, toothpaste and OTC things like that as well as prescription medicines.
For example, you can buy anti-nausea medicine at the pharmacy (not supermarket). I like to bring non drowsy Dramamine because this brand isn’t available in Costa Rica and motion sickness medicine is only available at the pharmacy (no prescription required). Also the pharmacist may accidentally give you one that induces drowsiness (this has happened to me before). I always bring my own Claritin for my bad allergies because it is difficult to find non drowsy allergy medicine. Cough drops are not readily available OTC either.
A rain jacket is an essential item if you’re visiting during Costa Rica’s rainy season (May to beginning of December). And you want to get a waterproof one, trust me! A poncho can work too but get a good quality one, not those dollar store ones that you throw away after one use which is also very wasteful.
However, even in dry season, we recommend to bring your lightweight rain jacket if you’re visiting the rainforest or mountains as it can still rain. These are places like Monteverde, Poas, Vara Blanca, Bajos del Toro, Dominical, Uvita, Bijagua, Monteverde or Osa Peninsula. Also remember the Caribbean (Tortuguero and Puerto Viejo) follows a different weather pattern and it can rain at any time of the year.
Our recommendations: We love our The North Face Venture Jackets (I grew up in Washington state so I have lots of experience with rain jackets). I also have a Marmot Precip jacket. We recommend to get a lightweight jacket with zipper ventilation pockets to let air flow through.
For day trips, sight seeing and tours, bring a day backpack. Do not bring those flimsy sing drawstring gym bags. If you’re not planning on doing long hikes, you can get away with a 20-25 L backpack to hold all the essentials: snacks, water, hand towel, change of clothes, camera, etc.
Our recommendations: We recommend at least 30 L waterproof backpack if you have camera gear. I have a 20 L Osprey, a 25 L REI, a 30 L Aqua Quest and Yeison has a 40 L REI. In rainy season, you must bring a waterproof backpack. I love my Aqua Quest waterproof backpacks for hiking and our IDRYBAGS for boating. If you don’t have a waterproof backpack, you can get a rain cover or use waterproof spray.
For photographers, Yeison has a Shimodo Explore V2 which is the best backpack he’s ever had for carrying photography and videography equipment. As a content creator, having a good backpack to protect your gear is absolutely crucial.
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Insulated Water Bottle
I never leave home without my insulated water bottle. It’s the best feeling in the world to take a long sip of fresh cold water when it’s 90 F out. Additionally, bringing your own water bottle helps to reduce the amount of plastic water bottles and you’ll save money on buying water. You can drink tap water in most places in Costa Rica or bring a water filter if you have a sensitive stomach.
We both have 40 ounce Hydro Flasks and it keeps our water nice and cold for up to 24 hours. I also recommend to get the boot for your water bottle because it will get banged around as you take it on hikes and adventures.
Micro Fiber Towel
Our second favorite item we never leave without. A micro fiber towel is awesome for wiping sweat off, using as a fan to cool off or to wrap your stuff in if it starts raining. We have a couple from REI and a couple towels from Shandali.
If you’re a surfer, I am in love with my microfiber surf poncho. So comfortable and convenient for changing out of your swimsuit after a surf session.
Sunglasses and Hat
As for the sunglasses, I recommend bringing 2 pairs of sunglasses. You will want to bring one cheap pair so that you won’t cry if it gets lost in the ocean. A hat or visor is also essential to bring to Costa Rica.
Sarong and Swimwear
I love my sarongs. It’s so useful as a towel, beach cover up or even as a blanket for those long cold bus rides. Sometimes I use them to cover my legs at night to protect against mosquitoes when I’m sitting outside. You can buy them in souvenir shops here for around $10-20 USD.
As for swimwear, we recommend at least two pairs. For guys, the swim trunks without the mesh is best and ladies, bring all the bikinis you want!
Cameras and Technology
If you want to capture all those awesome adventures, an action cam is the best. GoPro is still the reigning king of action cameras. Another really fun action camera is the Insta360X to capture ALL of the moments!
If you’re a photographer, bring a wide angle for landscape shots and a telephoto lens (at least 300 mm) for birds and wildlife. A sturdy tripod is a must for wildlife photographers (we personally use Manfrotto).
Our recommendations: Make sure to bring the correct accessories for your action camera to attach it to helmets, surf boards, etc. For Gopros, most tour companies will have the part that attaches to the helmet but you need to bring the other part.
Also, bring plenty of SD cards as it is very difficult to find Class 10 SD cards and mini SD cards. Bring a universal power adapter if you need to as they’re not super common to find here. Costa Rica’s power is 110 Volts, the same as US.
Flashlights or Head Lamps
I always bring a small pocket flashlight with me when we travel around Costa Rica. This is because it can be common for the electricity to go out during really rainy days. It is also helpful if you’re walking at night since many streets do not have any street lights or are very dimly lit. Furthermore, there aren’t really sidewalks so you have to walk on the road.
Anti Theft Travel Bag
I have an anti theft travel purse which I absolutely LOVE. I use it all the time and brought it with me to Europe and the US (it saved me in Spain when I almost got pick pocketed). It’s super useful, spacious and handy for everyday use, light hiking and travel.
The brand is Sherpani and many of their travel backpacks are convertible for two styles, has RFID protection, a chain look system, exterior lock system and are water resistant. I have two of their purse/backpacks which are my go to in Costa Rica and during our international travels.
I also have a RFID wallet which I highly recommend!
And because the electricity may go out (especially in Costa Rica’s rainy season), I always have a fully charged battery pack, wall chargers and extra charging cables with me. Super useful when we stay in rural areas or on a long drive!
If you are working while you travel, I highly recommend this USB C Travel Power Strip. Some cheaper hotels have very few outlets so this is super handy to charge multiple devices at once.
Waterproof Phone Case/Pouch
These waterproof phone cases are super useful. You can wear it around your neck and use it during light water activities like tubing, canyoning, etc.
This is also really nice alternative if you don’t have a waterproof camera and don’t want to spend $500 USD on a GoPro. But remember, these are not recommended to take scuba diving or anything like that, just light water activities.
Accessories and Extras
Here are some other items that will be useful.
- Small first aid kit
- Ziplock bags to protect your electronics
- Laundry bag
- Some dryer sheets as your dirty and sweaty clothes will get stinky in your luggage
- Reusable grocery bags
- Lots of hair ties
- Sleeping pills
- Travel hair dryer. Hostels, cheap/budget hotels, some Airbnbs don’t have hair dryers in the room. If you’re visiting a cold area, bring a small travel hair dryer.
- Ear plugs, especially if you’re staying in a hostel or cheap hotel downtown. Also, if your hotel is by the side of the road, you may hear the very loud trailer trucks engine braking all night long.
- Car cell phone holder if you are renting a car (the one that sticks on the window).
- Car power inverter to charge your phone while you drive. Some rental cars do not have a USB port. Planning to rent a car? Get our Costa Rica car rental discount and extra freebies here!
- Spanish dictionary or guide. Download our free survival Spanish pocket guide. Though English is widely spoken since Costa Rica is a touristic country, it is still helpful to know some phrases and words in Spanish.
- Map. I personally love maps and it’s a great souvenir too! The National Geographic Costa Rica map is fantastic. I buy their maps for other countries.
- Binoculars if you are an avid birder or love wildlife. You do not need a super expensive pair, I have this pair of binoculars which have been great.
- Master Lock – this is especially useful if you are surfing. This way you can lock the car key and have a safe place for it, especially if you have an electronic car key.
Things NOT to pack for Costa Rica
- Expensive jewelry and designer clothes. Avoid unwanted attention.
- High heels, stilettos. Costa Ricans sidewalks and roads commonly have pot holes and cracks. Even if you’re going for a bachelorette party or plan to party it up, choose cute flats or sandals instead.
- Expensive purses. Better to have a more low key travel purse or day bag.
- Rainboots. They take up a ton of room and they’re really not necessary. If you do need rain boots, you can buy a cheap pair at the hardware store. Then donate them when you leave.
- Every single credit and debit card you have. Just bring the ones you’re using.
Rainy Season Packing List
Generally around beginning of May – end of November. This is the time of thunderstorms, rainstorms and very windy days. Rainiest months are September and October for most of the country. October is the summer month for the Caribbean coast but still bring a light rainjacket!
It is very important you come prepared in rainy season since Costa Rica weather can be fairly unpredictable. It can go from a hot sunny morning to a crazy thunderstorm in a matter of minutes.
The same packing list for Costa Rica in dry season but if you’re coming in rainy season, add these to your list:
- Rain jacket/poncho.
- Waterproof backpack or rain cover/waterproof spray. This is a must!
- Long pants and long sleeve shirt
- Hiking clothing.
- Hiking shoes. Waterproof preferable. There are waterproof sprays for shoes available too.
We have a complete Costa Rica rainy season packing list with more information.
OK so by now, you might be wondering what specific items to bring for your destinations. Read the section below to find out!
Packing List for Costa Rica: Different Destinations and Activities
Arenal and La Fortuna
This area gets pretty hot and humid during dry season with temperatures in the high 80s F (29 C). If you are staying around Lake Arenal or Nuevo Arenal, it is cooler. In La Fortuna, it gets hot and you can wear shorts, t shirts and sandals.
Hiking: Running shoes or hiking shoes will be fine for most hikes in Costa Rica. In rainy season, I recommend a pair of waterproof hiking shoes or hiking sandals.
Ziplining: No flip flops or loose shoes.
Other activities such as horseback riding, canyoning and white water rafting require closed toed shoes. Closed toed hiking sandals work amazing or water shoes for rafting.
Monteverde sits around 1500 meters (4900 feet) in elevation so it is a lot colder up there. Dry season temperatures are around high 70s F (25 C) and at night, it gets down to the 50s and 60s F (14 C).
You need to bring a warm sweater/jacket and long pants for Monteverde. Also expect to run into spring showers even during the dry season months of March and April.
Waterproof equipment and clothing is a must for rainy season in Monteverde.
Hiking the cloud forest reserves: Bring a rain jacket and wear closed toed hiking shoes. Some of the reserves have rain boots for rent.
Osa Peninsula (Corcovado National Park, Puerto Jimenez, Drake Bay) and Costa Ballena (Uvita, Dominical, Ojochal)
The Osa Peninsula and Costa Ballena are very humid all year long. Closed toed hiking shoes are a must for the national park. Trails are well laid out in Corcovado National Park but if you’re doing the walk from Leona to Sirena station, you will have to cross some rivers and walk on the beach. Some hotels have boots for rent or you can buy boots in Puerto Jimenez.
If you are visiting in rainy season, I recommend solid waterproof hiking shoes. If you are bringing camera equipment, you need waterproof gear since this area is SO humid and rains hard. Bring 100% waterproof backpacks and ziploc bags.
Must bring items: A micro-fiber towel, a hat, a flashlight, good pair of hiking shoes, lots of mosquito repellent, battery pack, insulated water bottle, quick dry clothes workout clothes, waterproof backpack and an open attitude. You will run into lots of bugs and be hot and sweaty!
The same goes for Sarapiqui. This area is super humid!
Jaco and Manuel Antonio
Both Jaco and Manuel Antonio have similar weather and are hot and fairly humid. Bring all your beach clothes, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, sunglasses, a hat and swimsuit.
Guanacaste (Coco, Tamarindo, Conchal, Samara) and Nicoya Peninsula
The Guanacaste province is extremely hot with a longer dry season. Temperatures are consistently in the low 90s F (33 C) throughout the year. You must bring tons of SPF 50 sunscreen, mosquito repellent, sunglasses, hat and after sun gel. Protect yourself from the sun! An insulated water bottle will be super useful so you can always have cold water.
In dry season, the Nicoya Peninsula, particularly Santa Teresa is extremely dusty. If you plan to rent an ATV, make sure to bring something to cover your face like Buff Headwear because the dust is incredibly bad there.
The Tenorio Volcano National Park where Rio Celeste is rains often so bring a rain jacket, even in dry season. When we visited in April, it poured almost all 3 days we were there.
A waterproof backpack is highly recommended (especially for photographers) and hiking sandals or waterproof hiking shoes is also recommended. The national park has rain boots for rent.
Tortuguero and Puerto Viejo
Since The Caribbean coast can rain almost all year long, be prepared for rain. The dry season month is October but believe me, bring your rain jacket still. It’s extremely humid in Tortuguero and Puerto Viejo so fast drying clothes is necessary. If you plan to hike in the national park, you can rent boots as it can get muddy.
A battery pack is highly recommended as Puerto Viejo can get very stormy and the power can go out. You will be fine with hiking sandals or sneakers in addition to flip flops.
Free Costa Rica Packing Check List
Click here to get our FREE packing checklist with an abridged version of the notes above so you can print it out and refer back to it while you’re preparing for your trip!
Costa Rica Vacation Checklist
- First time to Costa Rica? Read our First Time in Costa Rica guide.
- Not sure how to move around Costa Rica? Read our How to Get Around Costa Rica guide to find the best transportation method for you.
- Do not forget to purchase Travel Insurance for your trip to Costa Rica.
- Stay connected by purchasing a prepaid SIM Card in Costa Rica.
- Save money with Mytanfeet Deals for tours and hotels. Save more money with our Costa Rica Car Rental Discount.
Jan Nicholls says
Hi. This is really useful. Especially the hiking shoe/boot and closed/open sandals advice. Normally I would have my 40L travel rucksack and a 25L daypack and that would be fine. But the baggage restrictions on internal flights is so restrictive, I am not going to get away with that. How do you cope with the packing and baggage where you have to take an internal flight? I don’t want to risk a situation where I cannot take my bags on the flight. Many thanks, Jan
You can bring more luggage on the domestic flights but you will have to pay the fee for the extra weight
Janae VanMaanen says
What’s the best tour to visit/waterfall that isn’t a huge drive from The Westin all inclusive hotel?
Catarata Llanos de Cortes is about a 1.5 hr drive from the resort
Grant Moore says
Leave tomorrow for a month really appreciate your list be my first time there and will be renting a suv for abit as well. All the tips and info are great
Hi! Your blog was super helpful in planning our recent trip to Costa Rica. I wanted to thank you so much for all the wonderful tips and information! Your blog is awesome. 🙂
Thanks San for the kind words and for reading the site, we’re glad it’s helpful!
I’ve been sent back to this blog over and over and I’m very happy I have because y’all provided the most helpful information for our trip for literally everything! Thank you.
Glad to hear it 🙂
Question: can you explain the masterlock? Where do you attach it to while surfing? I’m the most concerned about protecting our valuables while at the beach
The masterlock is attached to the bed of our pick up truck, we keep our car key in there while we are surfing. If you don’t have a pick up, a lot of people lock it to the thing on the bottom of the car that has a loop, or to the door handle
Is there a place in Manuel Antonio to buy life jackets or floaties for my kids who are not strong swimmers? They are too big and bulky to bring from home.
You can check supermarkets, usually they may have something. Also the Marina Pez Vela has lots of swim/surf/fish/dive shops they would most likely have some.
Traveling to Guanacaste, Costa Rica in April 2023. Occidental Papagayo. What to take for trip?
Hello Pat, please check our packing list post for tips!
Amy colvin says
Hello and thank you so much for your suggestions I’ve already bought a few things on your packing essentials
Hoping you could maybe help me we’re going to be in dominical from October 20 and checking out on the 27th we have some family that know that area pretty well. Our second place is we will be taking a drive from dominical too Playa Hermosa From the 27th through the 31st and would love some suggestions on either places to stop along the way or some things to do that are close to Playa Hermosa there’s going to be myself my two daughters and their significant others we’re all pretty healthy and we can do hikes but not real strenuous hikes but we would love to know some may be hidden gems either along the way or in that area I love white sandy beach is and chill time and then I was thinking maybe at least one night go out do a little partying one or two of the nights while we’re there
I would really appreciate any help thank you in advance
Hi Amy, there are actually several Playa Hermosas in Costa Rica so I don’t know which one you’re going to, but you can check all our posts on the 4 Playa Hermosa beaches in CR (Guanacaste, Santa Teresa, Jaco and Uvita): https://mytanfeet.com/?s=playa+hermosa
Been reading your blog so much in the run-up to our trip in Oct-Jan! First we are in San Jose for 4 nights, San Manuel Antonio 1 week and then we do 1 week of turtle volunteering at Reserva Playa Tortuga – first week of Nov. It’s about 1 hr south of Uvita, on a beach/nature area. We will be doing walks on the beach at night and out at all hours. I originally was going to bring yoga tights to wear at night rather then shorts, for mosquitos but I’m worried that they’ll bite through my tights. So am now wondering what the best pants to get for hot humid weather that are better protection from mozzies? I know you recommended the Nike Dry-fit clothes, would they be suitable for this area? Are there any lightweight hiking pants that are good for the really humid areas? If you could link some of the Nike ones or Hiking pants, that would be very appreciated! After this, we will be spending the rest of the time in Samara/Nicoya peninsula. Thanks for your help, Pura vida! 🙂
For nighttime on the beach, definitely wear hiking pants, with leggings I did find mosquitoes can still bite through and you want to be as protected as possible because mosquitoes are aggressive on the coasts especially this time of year being rainy season. I have a pair of Arc’Teryx Parapet Pants and Columbia Saturday Trail Pants – the Arc’Teryx ones are super light but I would also recommend to check for some water resistant pants due to the rainy season
Some of the Amazon items you’ve linked are no longer available.
Thanks for the note – I just went and updated this post with new info and recommendations
Should I bring money? Or use my credit card everywhere? Do they take US dollars?
Yes, USD is accepted, you can use both cash and credit card in Costa Rica, here are more things to know about handling money in Costa Rica
Carol Robinson says
My husband (82) and I are going to CR in June. He has mobility issues due to injuries and surgeries. I thought a river raft would be a good way to explore without walking, but not if he has to sit in the bottom . What do you think. Also what would you suggest with minimal walking around Arenal and Puerto Viejo. Our hotel has hot springs.
With mobility issues I would definitely not do a river rafting tour. I’d go for a river safari on a motorized boat as the boat is covered, has firm seats and floor (not like a raft) and doesn’t really require any physical activity except walking up and down the boat launch
Thanks for this great list! It was very helpful for my trip to Costa Rica last month. The only thing I would add to this list is binoculars!!! I didn’t bring mine and ended up borrowing some other traveller’s a few times to get a look at a sloth or monkey. Thanks again XX
This post is so helpful! We’re headed to Costa Rica next week. This detailed post is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks so much!
You’re welcome 🙂
Hello! Thank you so much for your site, its very helpful. My husband and I will be coming for a month in June/July 2022. I am trying to get us some proper rain jackets. I’ve read on a couple sites to be careful to wear muted colors when going wildlife watching. Do you agree? And what exactly is “muted?” Is a muted yellow alright, or do you think it really means neutral colors only?
Usually if you plan to go birding or something, then colors like black, brown or dark green are better (think camo colors). If you are going to go on a nighttime turtle tour, you have to wear black.
We are coming to Costa Rica from the US this Dec- Feb/’22 and will be staying in the Osa Peninsula area. I am so glad I ran across your blog since I am going a little crazy thinking of all I need to pack for our family of 5- your list is very helpful and I will definitely be checking out your links for items we need to purchase! Thank you for sharing your experiences and tips!!
Hello! We have rain jackets but debating rain pants. We have quick dry pants. Will be in Monteverde early August. Thoughts? Thanks!
Sounds perfect. If you guys plan to do a lot of hiking rain pants is very useful but quick dry pants will be great. We don’t have 100% waterproof pants (just like water repellent) and they’ve been great for us each time.
Tracy Weddle says
Thanks for the great list!
For those who recently traveled or are traveling soon…..
After reading our documents, we want to make sure we understand the two things we need (besides regular id and such)to travel into Costa Rica in regards to COVID.
1. fill out Health Pass
2. Buy Travel Insurance
Hi Tracy, you can read the details of the entry requirements in this post: Costa Rica COVID travel
I am planning to bring closed toed sandals on my trip in a couple weeks, specifically the Keen Whisper sandals. Do you know if that is okay to wear while horseback riding?
Those are great!
We love all the info in your posts! We always travel with our keen sandals but wondering about the ant situation. Are we better off with waterproof hiking shoes? I have 2 boys 7&9 so more concerned for them. We prefer keens because I don’t have to worry about river crossings and drying out sneakers but certainly don’t want an ant situation!
If you’re going to hike somewhere that doesn’t have as well maintained trails, I would go with the hiking shoes if you’re worried about ants.
Is there a reason you recommend KEEN over Merrell or is it just personal preference? I have a high arch and my daughter gets blisters so easily and I am trying to decide which would be best vs. the Keen newport H2 ( more open) and the Merrell Choprock.
KEENS are just my preference 🙂 I actually have a pair of the KEEN hiking sandals and then Merrel normal hiking boots.
Expecting to visit Costa Rica in April 2021… How travel with COVID, Airline etc? Just kind of nervous in not being able to return or getting stuck.
Hello, we have written two posts regarding Costa Rica and COVID. HEre is our Costa Rica COVID travel and our Costa Rica COVID-19 which are updated often.
Im thinking of going this August and your blog is amazing. I greatly appreciate all the time effort and details you’ve put into this. You’ve answered every question i had and ones I hadn’t thought of. I think you’ve helped me make my decision.
If your going to be off the beaten path and may or won’t have good cell phone reception, you might want to consider getting an actual GPS and have it fitted with a map of Costa Rica. After getting lost multiple times and being let down by google maps many times, I went with a company called Navsat. It was $89 for a map of Costa Rica. It works very well. The map is customized for your specific make and model of GPS. Also has a feature that shows where banks, restaurants, hotels and places of interest are. Since Navsat, I have only been lost once in country. If you vacation there, you only have a limited amount of time. I really don’t want to spend my time lost hoping that Google maps downloaded the map I really needed. Free updates for one year on the maps.
Tom Griffiths says
Google Maps is often wrong in Costa Rica but WAZE app has always been great for us. Even when our rental vehicle comes with GPS we end up using WAZE.
Wonderful information packed blog! Any insight into the drake Bay Area? Thanks!
Yes! Here is our guide: Drake Bay
patricia kuhling says
Hello. Thank you so much for this comprehensive information about CR. Do you know of any great snorkelling where it can be accessed by shore? I am recovering from a back injury. I did snorkel last week from shore in Bonaire with my husbands help, however not sure how confidant I would be off of a boat in deeper water.
Thanks so much!
There are some beaches like Ocotal, Costa Rica and Playa Conchal in Guanacaste where you can snorkel from shore.
Hi Sammi! I was wondering what you’d recommend bringing to wear in the evenings around the beaches. I have been planning to bring various sleeveless knee length casual dresses, but should I consider something else due to the mosquitoes?
It is still really hot in the evening and night, if you’re worried about mosquitoes you can just apply bug spray.
Hi Sami! Thank you so much for the information! This is great! Do you have any recommendations on places to stay near arenal? And any suggestions on things to do around Puntarenas?
You can read our La Fortuna guide that has hotel recommendations and our Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Great list. Just wanted to add sleeping pills. I found out first-hand that they can be very expensive in CR. If you think you might have trouble sleeping (think about time zone adjustment, jet lag, noises that you are not used to, sleeping in a jungle or busy urban area) then you might want to bring your own. Doesnt take up much room in the suitcase either.
Great tip! Yeison always uses melatonin here but we buy them in the US because it is $$ here!
We are visiting in December from Alaska. I am debating whether to bring my higher hiking shoes or whether the the lower ones would be better. I am terrified of snakes, and don’t know how much of difference footwear might make 🙂 We are planning to stay on the main trails around the national parks, hanging bridges, La Fortuna, Arenal, Tenorio, and the pacific beaches. Thanks!
Hi Liz, it’s not really common to run into snakes unless you’re going deep into the jungle on a non maintained path. The trails are well maintained at those places. Just make sure to stay on the trails and don’t touch any of the tress, leaves or branches.
Hola Sammi! Somos de Washington state tambien. Thank you for writing this packing list. It is very helpful.
Glad it’s helpful!
Hi. Thank you for the incredibly helpful blog. The checklist is wonderful. I was wondering if you had a plain list as the colors are not printing for me. The gray boxes are coming out black so I can’t see the items. Thanks again.
Hi Alexandra, I don’t have it in black and white but you can select that option when you print (grayscale).
MAURIECE HOOKS says
Hi, i will be in Manuel Antonio next week and am a first timer to the country. Any reccomendations of what to bring along with me on this trip?
Hi Mauriece, you can read our tips for what to bring to Costa Rica during rainy season here: Rainy season packing list Costa Rica
we are visiting CR from Europe with only Hand luggage. So I wanted to ask how expensive is a Moskito repellent and a sun screen? And is it possible to buy an adapter in CR?
I’m not sure how much they are in EUrope or your home country but in CR, it is about $20-25 USD depending on which one you get. Adapters are not super common in CR so make sure you bring your own
Hi there! So glad I stumbled across your site, it has been super helpful. 🙂 Quick question, if that’s ok – I see that Costa Rica uses the same voltage and plugs as US and Canada from your response to another reader’s comment, and this may be a dumb question, but am wondering if this applies to the whole country, or just a particular region?
Hi Jessee, it is 110 V throughout the whole country 🙂
Hi, yes you will definitely need your rain jacket but it is best to bring a rain jacket shell, you don’t need a rain jacket that has fleece lining or anything like that. We like our North Face Venture Rain Jackets, they are light and have zipper shell pockets that you can open to let air flow through for ventilation so it doesn’t get super hot and humid.
Hi. I’ll be in Costa Rica next week (June 25). I’m not sure I should take my rain jacket or not. I heard it’s too hot to wear it. Can anyone help me with this?
Jane B Bonner says
Hi, I am planning a Girl’s trip the second week in July for 7 days. We are flying into LIR and renting a car. We are staying in Flamingo closer to Potrero. What are some fun things to do and visit while we are there including nice places to eat. We will be celebrating my birthday as well. No ziplining. Thanks.
Hi Jane, here is our guide to Flamingo: Flamingo beach Costa Rica Have fun!
Hi Yassie, I wrote tips for what to wear in our post on Buena Vista you can read here: Buena Vista combo tour.
I have never done the beach/pool crawl but I would assume you’d need a swimsuit, shorts, a shirt and flip flops 🙂
Hello, I am going with friends to Liberia May 18th and we will be staying in Tamarindo and doing the Buena Vista Combo Tour . We are trying to figure out what we should bring and wear. Also do have any information how the Beach and Pool Crawl is and what to wear/bring?
You can check the rainy season details here in this post: Costa Rica weather.
It will be the transition month from dry to rainy so do come prepared for rain. You can read this post for our favorite mosquito repellent: Best mosquito repellent
Hi Sammi- I am so glad I found your blog. It has been so helpful. We will be down May 7. We are visiting Grecia, Arenal Observatory Lodge, and Jaco. We are planning hiking, waterfalls, and beach. I am confused what to bring for Grecia and Arenal area besides a rain jacket and boots! Will it be a bit chilly for shorts or too hot for pants and long sleeves? I am trying to keep out bags to a minimum. What do you recommend?
If you get cold, it’s recommended to bring a sweater or jacket and long pants for night, it does cool down in Grecia and Arenal at night time especially if it rains. In Jaco, you won’t be cold at all, it’s very hot and humid there. But when you’re out during the day, it will still be pretty hot in all those places. It has been raining in the Central Valley so I do recommend bringing long pants and a sweater.
Thanks! That is more helpful that you can imagine. I was feeling like I needed to pack so much and I am trying to keep it down to a carry-on. I love Mytanfeet!
You’re very welcome! Glad it’s helpful 🙂
Going to Arenal this June and am not sure what to wear on the hikes. Do I need hiking pants or can I wear leggings and do I need a specific type of shoe or do my regular gym shoes work out?
It depends which hike you’re doing, but for the most part you can wear shorts (it’s hot over there right now since April is the hottest month) or leggings. The hardest hike is Cerro Chato so if you’re doing that one, you can wear shorts or leggings and closed toed hiking shoes. Your regular running shoes will work too but for more traction and support, hiking shoes are better. But if you’re going to Arenal Volcano National Park, you don’t really need hiking shoes since the trail is well laid out and you won’t be walking through mud.
Hello! We will be staying at the Dreams resort in Guanacaste region next week. I had a question on what to wear while touring the rain forest and national parks in that region. Would you recommend wearing long pants and long sleeves? I was thinking of wearing light long pants and a tank top.
Enjoy your blog! Thank you!
Hi Dana, light long pants and a tank top will be perfect. It’s dry season right now and the rain forest is actually pretty hot (if you’re going to the Arenal area) so you won’t need long sleeves. If you’re going to Monteverde, I recommend bringing a jacket as it gets cold at night.
Are mosquitos worse during specific times of the day (e.g. dusk, evening) along the Pacific coast in late June? I notice from videos I’ve seen that some resorts have mosquito netting surrounding the beds and wonder if we’ll need to wear bug repellent 24 hours a day.
Hi Kathy, yes sunset rolls around, the bugs are worse. There are these little gnats at the beach that come out during sunset too that bite hard. Mosquitoes are worse in rainy season so bring plenty of repellent! We have actually only been to 1 hotel that had mosquito netting because we were staying in the middle of the jungle in the Osa Peninsula, you don’t really need mosquito netting in normal hotels.
tammy C Gamble says
We will be in Arenal May 31 thru June 2 then to Tamarindo, will it be rainy season then?
What is the best non DEET repelant.
Hi Linda! We use the High Sierra carry on backpack one and it’s awesome!
Need to know what wheeling backpack you use….thanks!
Clothing and shoes can get musty smelling if you can’t wash items during your trip. I recommend bringing a few dryer sheets. You can separate your dirty from your clean and keep your clean clothes smelling fresh while traveling home. This can save you from having to do extra laundry upon your return home. I have done this a few times and it works great. Just bring 1 or 2 drawstring bags to place your dirty clothes in.
That’s a great idea! Thanks Yancy!
Hi Deena, there’s no vaccination against malaria, there are only pills that can help treat it if you get infected and you must start taking them a certain number of weeks before your trip and after – it’s best to ask your doctor about it. However, malaria pills aren’t really needed here and I recommend reading this post for more info about diseases/vaccinations: Vaccinations for Costa Rica.
As for preventing diseases from mosquitoes, we recommend using plenty of repellent. Here are our picks: Best mosquito repellent
DEENA GREENSPAN says
DO you think we sh ould get pills to take against malaria or the other virus you mentioned? i guess we can take them while there then stop when we get home or maybe just get a vaccination?
we will be arriving in 1 week
You’re very welcome! Don’t forget to check out our packing list for rainy season since it’s well under way right now 🙂 Rainy season packing list Costa Rica
Thanks so much! I leave in a week for Costa Rica and this list was so helpful!
I would also recommend a printed list of all medications and your home contact information, and HAVE IT LAMINATED! It costs only a dollar or little more at an office supply store! I will have mine and my husband’s on a 4 x 6 card. We are senior citizens and I am violently allergic to wasp, bee, and fire ant stings, so this is mandatory for me. I make business card-size versions for us to carry in our wallets – not just our own, but we carry one for our spouse, too. As an RN/paramedic, I can’t stress enough how important these are. They can be lifesavers in an emergency. I would recommend them done in both English and Spanish for travel to costa Rica!
Very true and very important for those taking medications!
Can Epi-Pens be bought over the counter in costa Rica?
I am pretty sure they aren’t, I always advise people to bring one if they have severe allergies.
Alyssa @ Uneven Sidewalks says
Awesome list! It’s so good to know these things before you leave! Our favorite travel hack for Landon was the new style hybrid board shorts. Have you seen those? You can use them as regular shorts and swim trunks at the same time! It’s so awesome! We always pack a money belt too! Great tips!
That sounds pretty awesome. I am sure Yeison would love that! How convenient
My husband and I are going to Peru the first week of June and I have found your blogs to be so helpful.Thank you so much!
Heidi Marquisette says
Why the OTC and anti-nausea medicine? My son and I are visiting for the first time end of May, and I was wondering what this would be needed for. I have been told that the water is okay to drink, even though I will drink bottled, but want to make sure I was informed correctly. We’ll be staying in Cahuita.
Thank you for this list, this will make my packing much easier!!! 🙂
I recommend bringing anti-nausea medicine if you get carsick or sea sick (if you plan to go sailing/boating). Some of the roads here are pretty windy and curvy not to mention bumpy on the unpaved roads so I have to take anti-nausea medicine since I get carsick easily. One example is the route from Guanacaste to Arenal. I like stocking up on OTC medicine in the US because it’s brands I’m familiar with and it’s just much easier to know the names in English than in Spanish. Also fyi, in CR they don’t sell medicines at the supermarket, you have to go to the pharmacy. Water here is safe to drink but it’s easier to drink bottled since the minerals and stuff in the water is different so it may still give you some tummy issues.
Hope this clears things up a bit and have a great trip!
Heidi Marquisette says
Thank you!!! We surprised him last night about the trip and have been talking about it all day today!! We’re very excited! Thank you for documenting life there, it really has made planning this trip much easier, and makes me feel far more prepared!! Thank you again!!!
How exciting! I’m sure you guys will have a great trip here, let us know if you have any other questions!
Heidi Marquisette says
Hey guys… Me again! I was wondering, friends and family are worried that our standard electric items may need an adapter to work… Can you tell me if we need to get adapters to plug our electronics in? Thanks!!!
If you are coming from the United States or Canada you will not need an adapter, we use exactly the same voltage and plugs 🙂
I’m really hoping to make it to South America in the new year after doing a little more travelling her in Europe, at least now I can come back and use this list to feel a little more prepared!
Awesome! Hope you make your way over here and glad this list helps 🙂 Been enjoying reading your travels in Europe!
Costa Rica is in Central America, not in South America
The mosquitos are bad in Costa Rica especially along the coast. Can’t stress the repellent enough. Bring some from home because it is expensive in tourist areas.
Yes they are! Especially in Nicoya is the worst. One minute outside and 5 bites already. Annoying things!
Yes it definitely is! Surfboards are a bit big to bring and I don’t have my own so I just rent. But for hardcore surfers, for sure!