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.
If there’s anything I tell my friends or family who come to visit me to watch out is for the sun. You really don’t want to get badly sunburned your first day here and spend the rest of the week in agonizing pain!
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 (read about the best bug repellent for your trip here), we’ve tested out a ton of different products
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
This applies to the whole country so even if you’re not planning on going to the beaches, you will still need sunscreen. Don’t be fooled even if it’s cloudy out! However if you are going to the beach areas, especially in the Guanacaste province, it’s pertinent to pack it.
Why do I suggest packing sunscreen? Well 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.) For example, a bottle of 180ml Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration SPF 50 in Costa Rica costs 10,200 colones which is roughly $19. On Amazon this exact bottle costs $9.99
However, if you don’t have room or are staying for a long period of time, it’s good to read up about the different sunscreens you can find here and how much they cost which is in this post.
So how does sunscreen work? The organic and inorganic chemicals in sunscreen filters ultraviolet radiation: UV-A (wrinkling, leathering, etc.), UV-B (burning) and UV-C so they don’t penetrate your skin as deeply.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor which basically tells you how long you can be under the sun without getting burned. Skin naturally has a SPF determined by your melanin so to see how long a sunscreen will work for you, multiple the SPF factor by how long it takes for you to get burned. For example if it takes you fifteen minutes to get burned and you use SPF 30, multiply 30 by 15 to get 450 minutes.
There are tons of sunscreens out there, here are some of our favorites.
This is my all time favorite face and neck sunscreen. It was recommended to me by my best friend (thank you!!) before I moved to Costa Rica and two and a half years later 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.
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 since I use the Kiss my face sunscreen, 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.
And yes, it actually was very water resistant. It didn’t seem to have run off at all!
We love this sunscreen. It rubs in well, it works great against sweat (doesn’t run) and it’s not too thick or greasy. We’ve only used this on beach days where we’re pretty much just wearing swimsuits but I have read some reviews that people said it stained their clothes so be careful. We use this only for our body and not for our face.
This is a common sunscreen brand you’ll find in the supermarkets in Costa Rica so if you buy one here, this is one of the options. You can find a bunch of different types of Banana Boat in case you want a lower SPF, a sport one, for baby, spray or other choices.
I have to say SPF 100 is a pretty intense sunscreen, it’s super thick so you have to rub it in really well and it definitely makes you feel like you’re wearing something. But on the plus side it doesn’t have a smell and we didn’t even get slightly red using this one. Compared to the other ones, I felt like the Banana Boat sunscreens stayed on better in the water which is important since we’re swimming at the beach often.
We’ve also tried some of the spray ones and they have a yummy coconut smell.
This is another sunscreen brand you’ll find in Costa Rica and we recently discovered this one. We were trying to find something cheaper than Banana Boat and this one was a tad cheaper at 6,725 colones ($13). If you see on Amazon or Drugstore.com it costs only $7 so this is why I recommend buying it online or well, not in Costa Rica. However, we really love this sunscreen. It rubs in easily, is light, moisturizing and I love the smell. It doesn’t feel greasy at all and we didn’t get red, have any peeling or burn with this one.
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 and sprays, 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. We wrote a dedicated review to my O’neil rash guard here.
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 of these last time I was in the US and they have helped prevent any dryness or burn on my lips.
Yeison has this exact 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. 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. It does run a bit big so you can even go a size down if you’re ordering it online. Yeison got a large and he could have definitely worn a medium.
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.
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.
Which one 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. There are a ton of sunscreen/sunblocks out there but there isn’t a huge selection in Costa Rica. Like I said before, it is more expensive here (nothing cheaper than 5-6,000 colones) so bring the one you like.
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.
Lately, we prefer natural sunscreens that uses zinc oxide or titanium dioxide instead of chemicals. Unfortunately you can’t find many in Costa Rica so we like to bring it down so if you prefer natural sunscreens like us, make sure you bring the one you like!
Want more posts about traveling in Costa Rica? Here you go!
This post has affiliate links. If you buy through our Amazon links we get a teeny tiny commission at no extra cost to you.