Essential Costa Rica Packing List (What to Bring and Wear)

Home » Costa Rica » Essential Costa Rica Packing List (What to Bring and Wear)

While Costa Rica is a rather small country, the terrain and climate vary greatly throughout the country. So, your normal beach or tropical island packing may not work here. On top of that, if you are traveling during the rainy season (May – December), having a detailed Costa Rica packing list to help you organize your luggage is your best bet. That’s what I am here for!

After our time in Costa Rica, there are definitely some items I wish I packed with me and some I could have left at home.

This Costa Rica packing list will help you decide what to wear, what accessories to bring, and additional help for the rainy season. On top of that, I am also including a free Costa Rica packing checklist at the end, so you’re ready to enjoy the beauty of this country with ease!

Costa Rica Packing List - Samantha in a red floral 2 piece looking out a Mt. Arenal

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission at no cost to you.

Clothing

It is a little bit of a mixed bag when packing for Costa Rica. I suggest packing lightweight, breathable shirts and tops. If you plan on doing some hiking (which I highly recommend), workout clothing or hiking clothing is going to be great. When you’re at higher elevations, such as Monteverde, light sweaters, jackets, and long pants will be needed, as you’re at an elevation of over 4,000 ft.

Costa Rica is a very casual place, so getting super dressed up is not necessary. That doesn’t mean you can’t bring a couple of cute dresses for photos because you’re on vacay! But also keep in mind this is an adventure-lovers paradise with rock repelling, white water rafting, ziplining, and hiking. Also, remember you’re in the jungle, and there will be creepy crawlies. Sometimes, being more covered up is not the worst idea.

  • Hiking Pants or Workout Pants (my favorite are Prana)
  • Hiking Shorts (below I am wearing Shein, but also have Prana)
  • Tanks / Light-Weight Shirts (I like Old Navy t-shirts)
  • Sweater
  • Cute Dress / Romper (Shein has a ton)
  • Undergarments (sports bra for the ladies)

Read: Important Costa Rica Travel Tips

Samantha wearing floral romper in La Fortuna with Mt. Arenal in the background - Costa Rica packing list
Samantha looking at Rio Celeste waterfall wearing a white tank top and workout pants in Costa Rica
Los Lagos view of Mt. Arenal Volcano
The View from outside our room

Shoes

Costa Rica’s tropical nature requires a couple of different footwear options. After doing a lot of research, I was so glad I packed my hiking boots with me, especially when we hiked to Rio Celeste (one of the most beautiful waterfalls). We didn’t do a ton of hiking, but the trails were muddy and wet, and my boots are waterproof, which is important in Costa Rica.

If you’re hitting the beach, you will also want waterproof sandals. You could bring sneakers instead of hiking boots, but if you are visiting during the rainy season, make sure they are waterproof.

  • Hiking Boots (I Love REI for this. My boots are Saloman)
  • Sneakers
  • Waterproof sandals (Teva would be your best bet with straps, but for something cuter, maybe the Birkenstock rubber pair)
mistico hanging bridges with woman standing on suspension bridge

Swimwear

Whether you’re hitting the beach or not, you will want to pack swimsuits with you to Costa Rica. In all fairness, most Costa Rica itineraries include the beach at some point, but did you know you could soak at the hot springs in La Fortuna or swim at waterfalls? I suggest adding two swimsuits to your Costa Rica packing list.

Read: Best Things to Do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Samantha wearing a coral bathing suit in Costa Rica hot springs - Costa Rica packing list
La Fortuna Waterfall
La Fortuna Waterfall

Rain Jacket

With the Costa Rica humidity, you may think you don’t need a rain jacket, but this is another item I am so glad I brought. To be fair, we visited at the end of May, which is the start of the rainy season, and it indeed did rain…every night. So, when we went for our rainforest night tour, I was glad I had my rain jacket with me and those waterproof hiking boots.

You could also opt for a poncho, but I think bringing a travel umbrella would be cumbersome, especially in the forest areas.

Frog we saw in the rain at night on a green leaf in Costa Rica
Frog we saw in the rain at night on a green leaf in Costa Rica

Sunscreen

You can totally get sunscreen in Costa Rica, but it is so expensive, so I highly recommend adding it to your packing list. Being so close to the equator, the sun is super strong here. I didn’t pack enough and spent over $15 for a small bottle at our hotel. I always recommend reef-safe sunscreen and have been using Juice Beauty for years. Plus, the normal size is under the oz limit for carry-on luggage.

Bug Spray

The jungle calls for bug spray! This is another item you could buy in Costa Rica, but like the sunscreen, it’s more expensive. I started bringing the wipes with me because they are carry-on friendly.

Hornet on top of brown leaves on the ground. Blue, green and black in color.
Stinging hornet in Costa Rica

Underwater Phone Case

Whether you are heading to the beach, white water rafting, or swimming in waterfalls, you will want to make sure you add a waterproof phone case to your packing list. This is the one I use.

The Springs Resort hot springs waterfall

Quick Dry Towel

I also always love to travel with a Quick dry towel, which is travel-friendly and acts as a squeegee for your body. I use Dock and Bay.

travel towels

Dry Bag

I always pack a dry bag for beach destinations or vacations that involve watersports. This adds extra protection for your valuables and can help during the rainy season as well.

Universal Charging Adaptor

You also won’t want to forget to bring a universal charging adaptor for your electronics. I have been using this Conair adaptor for years and used it while in Costa Rica.

Travel Converting adaptor

Reusable Water Bottle

Costa Rica is at the forefront of sustainability. Therefore, bringing a reusable water bottle helps them reduce plastic waste. It is safe to drink the water in Costa Rica, but those with sensitive stomachs might want to use a filtered water bottle.

Backpack

I have always used a backpack as my personal item on the plane since it allows me to fit a lot of extra items. It also works well in Costa Rica to hold additional items while making your way through the rainforests and beaches.

Hiking Rio Celeste Trail

Battery Pack

I am certain you will be spending some time away from the hotel, so make sure to pack an external battery pack with you to charge your cell phone. These have saved me from a dead phone too many times to count.

Motion Sickness Remedies

Even if you are not taking any boat trips, packing some motion sickness medicine is a good idea for Costa Rica. This is because the roads are very windy, so people prone to car sickness may feel the effects. I like using the Seabands. I feel like they really help.

EarPlanes and Sea Bands

Vacuum Packing Bags

I packed for my 10-day Costa Rica vacation with just a carry-on suitcase and my backpack. I did this by using these vacuum packing bags. The bags also help you by keeping bugs out of your stuff.

Travel compression bags are a essential

Essentials to Pack for Costa Rica

Let’s not forget about the other essentials you need to bring with you to Costa Rica.

  • Passport
  • Driver’s License (especially if you are planning on renting a car)
  • Travel Insurance (we got Covid in Costa Rica and were so glad we had it. I use Allianz.)
  • Medicines from Home (in case you get sick, bring the things you would want from home because you probably won’t find your brands in Costa Rica).
Mt. Arenal Volcano
Mt. Arenal Volcano

Other Items You May Want To Add to Your Costa Rica Packing List

  • Travel Snorkel Gear – For beach areas in Costa Rica.
  • Sunglasses – I never travel without my sunglasses.
  • Sunhat – Perfect for beach spots or even hiking.
  • Belt – My husband used to always forget this.
  • Socks – I love my Darn Tough hiking socks that wick moisture.
  • Zip lock baggies or plastic shopping bags – I always bring a couple. It works well for separating shoes.
  • A Whistle – I have this in case of an emergency.
  • Carbon Monoxide Detector – Not all hotels are equipped with them.
  • A zoom lens for capturing all the wildlife. My 70-200mm was not as zoomed as I would have liked. You can see my camera gear here.
  • Leave valuables at home (think expensive jewelry).
  • Small beach bag if you’re heading to the beach.
  • Mini travel hair brush.
  • Headlamp – if you plan on hiking alone or in the dark.
  • Sunburn Cream like aloe.
Toucan in the trees in La Fortuna

Additional Costa Rica Tips

If you don’t read any of my other Costa Rica guides, although I hope you do, I want to leave you with some additional things to do before visiting Costa Rica.

  • Download both Google Maps & Waze.
  • Download Google Offline Maps, so your phone will work with no internet.
  • Download Whatsapp
  • Using a Mobile Sim like Holafly gives you service when you land.
  • Don’t touch the plants & trees since there are a lot of venomous snakes and animals.

Costa Rica Packing List Wrap-up

That wraps up what to wear and pack for Costa Rica. Now, you’re prepared with everything you need to have the best time in one of the most beautiful and tropical countries.

If you found this helpful, have any questions about this Costa Rica packing guide, or noticed I am missing something, let me know in the comments below!

As promised, here is your free printable Costa Rica Checklist.

Costa Rica Packing List

Did you find this Costa Rica packing list helpful? I would appreciate it if you could share it below to help other travelers!

Costa Rica Packing List
Photo of author

Samantha Oppenheimer

Samantha Oppenheimer (Sam Opp) quit her corporate marketing job in 2018 to travel the world and become a travel writer, blogger and content creator. She loves experiencing authentic travel experiences, photography, and nature. Sam shares helpful travel itineraries, travel tips, budget tips, and travel advice from her personal experiences. You can also find Sam's words featured in large publications including Mirror, Thrillist, and Well + Good.

Leave a Comment

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