One of the most important things to pack for your trip to Costa Rica is sunscreen. Costa Rica is a tropical country and it’s not too far from the equator – in fact it’s only 8 to 12 degrees north of the line so the weather here is hot and the sun is strong.
There are a ton of products for sunscreen/sunblock/sun protection out there and we’ve done our fair share of experimenting with them. Like we did with the mosquito repellent which is a must in Costa Rica, we’ve tested out a ton of different products to see which one worked for us and which one didn’t.
Here are our thoughts about the best sunscreen for Costa Rica (or any tropical/sunny destination). You can also see which sunscreens you’ll find in Costa Rica.
Best Sunscreen for Costa Rica
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Our Tip: Pack Sunscreen in Costa Rica
Why do I suggest packing sunscreen? Well first, sunscreen here is one of the more expensive items in Costa Rica so if you can fit it in your case, bring it. (If you’re only bringing a carry-on you can only pack tubes less than 3.4 ounces.)
Second, I also prefer natural or organic reef safe sunscreens as much as possible because most sunscreens use Oxybenone, which is not only harmful to coral reefs but to humans as well.
Below are my favorites you can buy online for easy shopping.
Kiss my face
Kiss my Face is my all time favorite face and neck sunscreen. It was recommended to me by my best friend before I moved to Costa Rica and I’m still using it to this day.
I love it because it feels light, it’s moisturizing and it’s created as naturally as possible with no parabens, no artificial fragrances, no Oxybenzone and no animal ingredients or testing. It seriously feels like you’re putting on a regular moisturizer instead of a sunscreen and you don’t feel like you’re wearing anything at all.
Trader Joe’s SPF 30 Face and Body Sunscreen
I love Trader Joe’s and their sunscreen, especially for dry skin. My skin gets pretty dry here in Costa Rica and though I don’t use this on my face, the Trader Joe’s one moisturizes the rest of my body and protects it.
I don’t suggest using this one if you have oily face skin since this one feels a bit greasy. This one has no smell, it’s light and it’s easy to rub in.
They actually sell this tube for a lot cheaper at the store than on Amazon but I’ve seen it sold only in the summer months. Trader Joe’s also has a SPF 15 sunscreen for the face which I love and is my daily face moisturizer sunscreen.
And yes, it actually was very water resistant. It didn’t seem to have run off at all!
Raw Elements is non-nano, organic and non GMO so if you’re concerned about using harmful products or chemicals, this is the best. It’s been rated the #1 sunscreen by the EWG and I wish I discovered it earlier!
They also have tinted sunscreen sticks and and a facial moisturizer.
Coral Safe Sunscreen
If you plan to go in the ocean with sunscreen, PLEASE use coral safe sunscreen (mineral based). Many sunscreen ingredients such as Oxybenzone actually bleach and damage coral reefs.
Cylcopentasiloxane/Cyclomethicone are 2 other ingredients in beauty products that has been proven to be toxic to the ocean organisms. In fact, there are some places in the world that actually ban the use of these harmful sunscreens and only allow mineral sunscreens. (I wish Costa Rica would too, hopefully one day).
The mineral sunscreens we like that are reef safe are Kokua Sun Care, Raw Elements, Stream2Sea and Sunology, none of them uses Oxybenzone. You will not find them in the grocery stores here in Costa Rica so bring them.
Other Sun Protection Methods
So as you can see Yeison and I use a lot of sunscreen since it’s a necessary item where we live. Besides lotions, we also have a couple other items to help protect us from the sun whether we’re sightseeing, surfing, laying by the pool or having a beach day.
I love rash guards and they’re great for more than just surfing. We wear ours when we’re snorkeling (to protect from the annoying stinging jellyfish), swimming or boating.
We bought rash guards with SPF 50 in it and even after a year+ of use and washes, it is still protecting us from the sun. When we take it off, we can even see the lines!
This is a great option for those who are out in the ocean a lot and it saves from having to reapply sunscreen every so often. Just make sure you put sunscreen on your hands, back of your neck and other places the shirt doesn’t cover.
Chapstick with SPF
Have you ever burned your lips? It is really painful and it hurts every time you talk, eat or drink so be very careful to protect the skin of your lips which is much thinner than the rest of your body’s skin.
I bought two SPF chapsticks last time I was in the US and they have helped prevent any dryness or burn on my lips. You can find SPF chap stick at the pharmacies, not the supermarket. They sell a Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic SPF 15 one.
Yeison has this exact SPF shirt which he bought on Amazon and he loves it. It’s light, comfortable and a pretty good price for Columbia.
This particular shirt has the Columbia Omni-Shade UV protection and protects against both UVA and UVB. He ended up buying 5 more of these exact shirts in different colors! Perfect for hikes in the jungles of Costa Rica.
It’s great because it’s basically sunscreen that you don’t need to reapply, it’s built in so all you have to do is put sunscreen on the areas that aren’t covered.
I have a visor with SPF 30 which gives extra protection to my face. Mine is Marmot which I absolutely love but many of the outdoor brands have one.
Banana Boat After Sun Soothing Gel
Oh no! You got burned! If you didn’t bring anything for burns, you can find some after sun gels at the supermarket. They have gels and cooling creams to soothe your skin.
Yeison and I use this stuff like it’s crack even when we get slightly red. We love aloe vera products and the gel is soo soothing. We prefer gel than lotion since we like how it feels and it dries nice and fast. There are also after sun gels from Bioland and Ocean Potion. The aloe vera gel from Bioland is amazing, not just for burns but for moisturizing your skin.
Which sunscreen is the best?
It’s hard to say which is the best sunscreen for Costa Rica since everyone has different preferences and skin types but these are ours. We’ve used them all and love them. We’ve never burned using them, they are safe without oxybenzone or other chemicals and we like knowing that it’s not harmful when we go into the ocean. We try to be as eco-friendly and responsible as possible and we encourage you to do the same.
Buying Sunscreen in Costa Rica
If you need to buy sunscreen in Costa Rica and want to get a natural reef safe one, you can go to the macrobiotica stores and purchase a Costa Rican brand called Sombra. It is reef safe, not tested on animals, SPF 40 and for face and body. It’s water resistant, made in Costa Rica and uses natural ingredients like cacao butter, coconut oil, sunflower oil and avocado oil. We love this one and use it for our face and neck.
It costs $15 per tin.
Sunscreens in the supermarkets
You’ll find these sunscreens in the supermarkets in Costa Rica: Hawaiian Tropic, Banana Boat, Ocean Potion, Neutrogena, Bioland, Nivea, Australian Gold, NO-AD, California Tan, Bioland and Jergens.
Want more posts about traveling in Costa Rica? Here you go!