What You Need in your Costa Rica Packing List

Costa Rica is one of the most adventurous and diverse countries in Central America. From leafy rainforests to swells at the beach, it’s more like packing for multiple trips versus just one. One day, you could be high up in the cloud forest hanging out with sloths and monkeys, and the next, you’re catching some waves and only need your swimsuit and some sunscreen.

That’s why I’ve created the ultimate packing list for Costa Rica, whether you’re headed there during the rainy season or dry season, this guide will help you navigate all the essential must-brings and even give you some tips on what not to pack.

So let’s dive into what to bring on a trip to Costa Rica and why you’ll need it.

Volcan Arenal dominates the landscape during sunset, as seen from the Monteverde area, Costa Rica.

In a hurry and need help quick?

Making last-minute plans for your Costa Rica itinerary. We’ve got you covered. Our recommended hotels and tours for a getaway are listed below.

Recommended hotels:

Recommended tours:

Other Helpful Links

This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy. You can also read our content/editorial policy here.

Essentials

While you may get by with not bringing your toothbrush, these essentials are non-negotiable when it comes to packing for Costa Rica.

  • Passport/Travel Documents: This one is pretty straightforward, but always double-check that you have a valid passport and any other necessary travel documents before leaving for your trip. Your passport needs to be valid for at least six months, or they might not let you into the country.

You can check out a more in-depth guide on all the things you need to do before traveling to Costa Rica, from visas to vaccinations.

  • Cash/Credit Card: While most places take credit cards, cash is still king in Costa Rica. I highly recommend opening a Wise account, as they are the best for international travelers. They don’t charge ATM fees and reimburse you for any that are charged at the end of every statement period (it’s saved me hundreds!)

Some places in the bigger cities will take credit cards, typically Visa and Mastercard, but I would leave the Amex at home.

  • Travel Insurance: Not something you pack, but something you NEED to have. Whether it’s a medical emergency or lost luggage, travel insurance can save you from having to spend an exorbitant amount of money in case something goes wrong. I personally use Safetywing, but there are plenty of other reputable companies out there.
  • Travel Adapter: Costa Rica uses the same outlets as the US, so there is no need for an adapter if you’re coming from America. For everyone else, it’s the two-pronged flat pins, so make sure to pack an adapter if you need it.
Silhouette woman travel with luggage looking without window at airport terminal international or girl teenager traveling in vacation summer relaxation holding suitcase and backpack

Clothing and Footwear

You can easily fill up a whole suitcase with all the different weather-dependent items you think you might need in Costa Rica. But trust me, you don’t need that much! The weather is pretty consistent year-round, with high temperatures and humidity. But here is a brief guide to give you some clarity on what you should pack for Costa Rica.

  • Lightweight and Breathable Clothing: The weather in Costa Rica is warm and humid, so pack light clothing made of breathable materials like cotton, linen, or quick dry-wicking fabric. This will help keep you comfortable in the heat. I recommend a few t-shirts, tank tops, shorts, some long pants for hiking and a couple of lightweight dresses or skirts for women. For men, pack a few t-shirts, tank tops, long pants and shorts as well.
  • Bathing Suit: With numerous beaches and water activities, a bathing suit is a must-have item when visiting Costa Rica.
  • Rain Jacket or Poncho: This is a BIG one! Rain is very common in Costa Rica. Like I don’t care if the weather app says 0% chance of rain—you still need to bring one. Even during the dry season, it gets a bit misty up in the cloud forests, and this will help keep you dry. A lightweight rain jacket is the best option, but a cheap poncho will do the trick as well. (You can even buy the poncho in CR.)
  • Hiking Shoes: If you plan to visit any of the National Parks or hike the Arenal volcano in La Fortuna, a broken-in pair of hiking boots will be your best bet. If you don’t want to pack heavy boots, a sturdy pair of sneakers will also work, but they can get slippery if the ground is wet.

Another option is closed-toe hiking sandals, like Tevas or Keens. They have fantastic shoe grip and are also great water shoes that are perfect for visiting and swimming in the waterfalls. Personally, I wear my Tevas everywhere. They look cute with little dresses and hiking pants.

  • Flip-flops or Sandals: When you head to the coast, you’ll want a pair of flip-flops or sandals to wear on the beach and around town. (Again, I also just wear my Tevas, to free up space in my luggage.)
  • Hat: Once you get out of the cloud forest, the sun will be beaming, and even on days that are a little overcast, you can still get burnt. A hat is my favorite accessory to keep cool and shaded from the sun.
  • Sunglasses: Don’t forget the sunnies!
Travel and vacation concept, happiness woman packing stuff and a lot of clothes into suitcase on bed prepare for her travel and journey trip.

Gear and Gadgets

If you’re headed to the adventure capital of Central America, you’ll want to bring some things to document it, as well as some gear to help you along the way. Here are a few recommended items:

  • Camera: Personally, I just use my iPhone for most photos as it’s super easy to carry and always on hand. But obviously, if you have a nice camera, bring it! There are so many stunning sights and also being able to zoom in with a big lens will give you incredible shots for you to bring back home!
  • GoPro: If you don’t have one and you have it in your budget to buy one, then this is the perfect opportunity to use it! These cameras were made for adventurers and those who are constantly on the go, and what better place in the world to put it to the test than Costa Rica? Get epic views of you on the hanging bridges, zip lining, or surfing and snorkeling. It will be awesome pics and videos for you to always look back on.
  • Portable Charger: For long days of being out and about exploring, you’ll want a portable battery pack to keep your devices charged up. I promise you, no matter how “good” you think your phone is, after 500 pictures of a volcano, it’s gonna crap out, so make sure to have your backup charger ready.
  • Waterproof Phone Case: While many phones are now water resistant (whatever that means Apple) the best way to ensure your phone is safe while you’re making your way through waterfalls, hanging out at the beach, and honestly just existing in the tropical climate of Costa Rica is to have a waterproof phone case.
  • Hiking packs: One of the best investments you can make for traveling in Costa Rica is getting a smaller backpack to use while hiking and exploring. Get one that’s waterproof, has compartments to keep your items organized, and is comfortable to wear on long hikes.

I personally like the ones with hip straps, even though it’s still smaller than my backpacking bag, I don’t like having too much weight on my shoulders for long periods of time.

  • Reusable Water Bottles: Costa Rica is one of the more eco-friendly countries in the world, and one way to contribute to that is by using reusable water bottles instead of plastic ones.

Many hotels and hostels have a refillable station where you can fill up your bottle at no charge. While technically the tap water is drinkable, I don’t really recommend it. During the rainy season, there can be a lot of run-off and contamination, so I would stick to filling up with purified water.

  • Binoculars: If you’re birding or planning on going on a wildlife tour, having a good pair of binoculars is essential. Many tours will have at least one pair for the group to share, but then you better hope that whatever animal you’re spotting doesn’t decide to fly or run away before it’s your turn. Bringing your own pair is the best way to make sure you get to see all the amazing animals.
Belkin Active Pro Backpack (aka the Best Laptop Bag Ever!)

Health and Safety

  • Sunscreen: Sunscreen is a must when traveling to Costa Rica, especially if you’re planning on spending a lot of time outdoors or at the beach. And while I’m a big believer of “I can just buy it there” getting good sunscreen is hard to come by in CR. And when you do, prepare to pay at least double what you would in the States.
  • Insect Repellent: Most mosquitos are on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, but it’s still a good idea to bring insect repellent with you regardless of what area you’re headed to.

You never know when you might be caught outside during sunset or in a particularly buggy area. Plus, many tours and hikes recommend using insect repellent, as dengue fever is still present in some areas.

  • First Aid Kit: This isn’t the highest item on my list of what to bring to Costa Rica, but having some band-aids or Neosporin on hand can be helpful—especially if you’re breaking in your hiking boots.

If you don’t have room in your toiletries, don’t stress too much. Pharmacies are everywhere, and you can get pretty much anything you need at a cheap price.

Activities

  • Water Gear: Costa Rica has some of the most beautiful beaches, and depending on where you stay, whether a luxury accommodation with all of the snorkel gear you could want or a budget-friendly hostel that has next to nothing (don’t worry, I’ve been there), you might consider bringing your own. Bringing your own gear also allows you to go snorkeling whenever you want instead of having to rent it out for an hour or so at a time.
  • Surfboard: Definitely not a must, but if you’re an avid surfer and you’re headed to Santa Teresa or Tamarindo, it might be worth considering bringing your own board. Rental prices can add up if you plan on surfing every day.
  • Dry Bags: One of the best things I ever bought was a dry bag. When you’re hiking to waterfalls or spending the day at the beach, a dry bag will keep your valuables safe from water damage. I love taking it on boat trips so I don’t have to worry about my stuff getting knocked around or drenched if a big wave comes.
Manuel Antonio Costa Rica - SUP Stand up Paddle boarding in blue bay with empty beach Central America

And there you have it, my in-depth guide to packing for Costa Rica. Every day is an adventure, so the packing might seem sporadic, but trust me, pack everything on this list, and you’ll be ready for rain, sunshine, and everything in between.

And plus, if you get to Costa Rica and realize you are missing something, I can just about guarantee you’ll be able to find it in a store or Costa Rican market nearby. So don’t stress too much; a swimsuit, a rain jacket, and a sense of adventure will take you a long way in this beautiful country.

Read more:

Costa Rica Packing list

Author

  • Samantha King

    Sam, a seasoned traveler across four continents and 49 countries, is a leading authority in travel planning. Her website, Travelling King, offers tailored itineraries and expert guides for seamless trips. Sam's expertise in luxury travel, fast travel, and destination guides keeps her at the forefront of the travel community.

    View all posts https://www.tiktok.com/@travellingkng

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.