Whether you’re coming to Costa Rica to lay on the beach, hike up a mountain or embrace your adventurous spirit, which pair of shoes you bring can make or break a trip. Nothing is worse than trekking through the forest and breaking a toe because you only brought flip flops. Or hiking 5 miles in the humid jungle with wet socks and sneakers.
To fully enjoy all Costa Rica has to offer, it’s pertinent to bring the correct pair of shoes to prepare you for all of the elements. Packing for Costa Rica isn’t too difficult, but shoes are always tricky since there are just SO many!
We’ve traveled the corners of the country and have gone on many adventures in the water, jungle and mountains so we’ve learned through experience what kind of shoes work well for what activity and where. If you need advice on the best shoes for Costa Rica, check out our recommendations.
Best Shoes for Costa Rica
Two important things to know: where are you going and what are you doing? These answers will greatly influence the type of shoes to bring.
Other factors to keep in mind when buying the best shoes for Costa Rica are safety, traction and comfort. Waterproofness is also a factor, especially if you’re coming in rainy season. You want to make sure the pair(s) of shoes you bring will protect your feet, give enough support and is comfortable for every activity you do.
So let’s go through the various types of footwear that work for Costa Rica.
This one is pretty obvious. For beach goers, flip flops are the best shoes. Easy to take off and on, lets your feet breathe and can get wet. Downside are the funny tan lines!
I do recommend bringing a sturdy pair of flip flops however. I’ve ripped a pair when I was getting off a boat as it got caught on the side and the strap broke. We’ve also ruined flip flops when walking in in the forest as the sandal got stuck in the mud. Not to mention I’ve slipped a couple times during rainy season since flip flops don’t have good traction.
So when you’re going boating or walking in the forest, be very careful not to get your flip flops caught on anything. A good pair of flip flops aren’t cheap in Costa Rica either, brands such as Roxy can cost up to $70 for a pair!
If you happen to break yours or need a cheap pair, check out the supermarkets, you can buy flip flops for about $5. The quality isn’t the best but it works temporarily. Avoid souvenir shops as they usually increase prices since tourists shop there.
One of the questions we get a lot is “Which is better: open or closed toed hiking sandals?” They’re both great but let me tell you why we recommend closed toed hiking sandals.
Both open and close toed hiking sandals generally give good traction and are very breathable, comfortable and practical for going from water to land and vice versa. Most dry quickly and don’t weigh much, so they don’t take up a lot of luggage space.
However, the difference is in protection. Obviously with open toed shoes, your toes aren’t covered and are vulnerable to getting stubbed and poked. It’s easy to accidentally kick a rock when you’re walking, get a thorny branch stuck between your toes or worse, be bitten by ants. With closed toed shoes, you have a sturdy toe bumper for proection.
Our favorite closed toed hiking sandals are by KEEN. Yeison and I both have a pair of Newport H2 and love them. You can read my Keen’s review or check it out on Amazon. If you buy KEENs, buy a half size smaller as they do stretch out.
Activities for closed toed hiking sandals: Activities for open toed hiking sandals:
- Canyoning Sightseeing
- Waterfalls Walking on the beach
- Ziplining Boating
- Horseback riding Hanging bridges walk
- White water rafting Ziplining
- Hiking in well marked paths River cruises
One downside to these shoes are the little rocks that sneak in there. If you get any, make sure to shake it out because they can cause blisters and be very annoying.
Sneakers are ideal for few conditions in Costa Rica. I’m wearing sneakers in the picture while hiking on a paved road in the hills outside Heredia. I’m not in the jungle, it’s dry season, it’s about 74 degrees and I’m not going in the water.
Sneakers are light and offer protection for your feet, but they’re not one of the best shoes for Costa Rica as many adventure activities involve water, dirt or mud. Since sneakers aren’t waterproof and they don’t normally have the best traction, they’re not the most ideal type of shoes to wear for the rain forest.
They are also not the most comfortable for hot weather such as Guanacaste or the South Pacific as they aren’t as breathable as hiking sandals.
Guanacaste is extremely hot and your feet will be stuffy and stifling in the searing 90-100 degrees heat. The South Pacific like Uvita and the Osa Peninsula is just as hot but it is much more humid, meaning your feet will be muggy and it’ll take forever for your socks and shoes to dry.
Activities sneakers are good for:
- Walking in the Central Valley
- Hanging bridges
- Horseback riding
If you bring sneakers, try to get all-terrain shoe that is light, breathable, protects against mud and dirt and has a good grip. Saloman makes excellent running shoes and they have an all-terrain sneaker that does all of that.
Most hikes in Costa Rica aren’t too intense, but there are a select few where you do need a good pair of hiking shoes and boots.
Cons to hiking shoes/boots are that they are heavier, they take up more space, if they aren’t waterproof you’ll have soggy socks, they take longer to dry and are stuffy.
However, the pros greatly outweigh the cons when you’re hiking places like:
- Corcovado National Park
- Cerro Chato
- Mount Chirripo
- Osa Peninsula
The reason why is that these shoes offer more protection and stability. Some of these hikes include climbing 12,000 feet up mountains such as Chirripo (the tallest in Costa Rica), hiking through unmarked paths in the forest or over large rocks and fallen branches like Matapalo.
And although it doesn’t have complete protection, it does offer some against snake bites. I always wear my hiking shoes when we go birdwatching since we’re usually going into the jungle to find the best viewpoints!
We highly recommend bringing a pair of waterproof hiking boots since many trails still require crossing streams and rivers. Yeison has a pair of KEEN Targhee waterproof hiking shoes (in the picture) which he wore crossing several rivers to a waterfall and his socks stayed 100% dry. It’s almost a must if you plan to hike during rainy season.
Rain boots are the best shoes for Costa Rica for hiking in the muddiest of trails, trekking through the jungle in rainy season and protection against snake bites.
Although it isn’t absolutely necessary to have rain boots for Corcovado National Park in dry season, we wore rain boots at the San Pedrillo station because it poured rain the night before and the trails were incredibly muddy. We crossed several small rivers and streams and the rain boots protected against all of the elements.
We initially were going to wear our hiking shoes but thankfully our hotel, Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge provided rain boots. We were up to our ankles in mud in some places!
Rain boots offer the best protection against mosquitoes and snakes because they go up to the calf. Just make sure you bring a pair of long wick dry socks to protect your skin and keep your feet from feeling too stuffy.
You’ll see most farmers and field workers wearing rain boots for these exact reasons. You don’t need to bring a pair either, you can buy them for cheap at most supermarkets or some hardware stores. Also useful at Torguero National Park, where trails are very muddy when it rains and Rio Celeste also with muddy trails.
- Bring band-aids to cover blisters
- Before putting on your shoes, and shake it out to get rid of any unwelcome visitors. Scorpions, snakes and other critters like to call shoes home sometimes
- If you’re coming in rainy season, see what other essential gear you should bring in our post
- If you’re going to Corcovado NP, ask your hotel if they provide rain boots.
Read more Costa Rica travel tips here!