What to Pack for Costa Rica: 16 Essential Items You Can’t Forget

Costa Rican Sunset in the best surf town Tamarindo
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If you are reading this post you have most likely already booked your ticket to Costa Rica. Congrats! You are on your way to enjoying the Pura Vida lifestyle. We are here to help you start a stress-free vacation by helping you with what to pack for Costa Rica.

But before you know what you will need to pack, it is good to have a general idea of what activities you would like to do on your vacation.

Planning ahead can prevent you from overpacking.

Most people tend to overpack and bring too much. This is because you always think you need more than what you actually do.

Costa Rica is very laid back, you will most likely not need to bring anything fancy with you.

Unless you plan on spending some time in San Jose, or you are attending an elegant wedding.

Most places will not have a dress code and it is pretty acceptable to go out to dinner in flip flops and a t-shirt.

Knowing exactly where you will be spending your time in Costa Rica and what you will be doing there, can also help you to plan and pack accordingly.

If you need help planning your trip be sure to check out my article on the Ultimate Bucket List for Costa Rica.

Deciding Where to go in Costa Rica?

Let’s face it, you can’t decide what you need to add to your packing list unless you know where in Costa Rica you will be going. If you need help check out the Costa Rica Bucket List

Costa Rica is known for its beachy vibes throughout the whole country. No one tends to overdress as they do in Europe or the USA. Unless you are going to San Jose, there you will see some business attire.

San Jose and the surrounding areas can also get a bit chilly at night, so if you do plan on visiting you might want to bring a pair of long pants and a sweatshirt.

Costa Rica is a beautiful country. Hopefully, you plan on doing some adventure tours while you are here.

In general,  you want to bring casual comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty.

Packing List for Costa Rica

1. Water Proof Sandals

It is a good idea to bring a good pair of waterproof durable sandals. I love Keens. They are great for almost any activity whether it be exploring waterfalls, zip-lining, or even canyoning.

If you are planning outdoor activities that involve water you are most likely not going to want to wear hiking or running shoes.

Keens are great because they are breathable and you are able to get them wet. They also have good arch support and great traction to explore the outdoors.



2. Travel Umbrella

If you are planning on visiting Costa Rica in the rainy season (May- November), you will most likely want to bring a small portable travel umbrella with you.

Don’t worry, just because it’s rainy season doesn’t mean it is going to rain all the time. Your days will still be filled with sunshine, you just might get a little rain in the afternoon.

The rainy season is my favorite time of year to visit Costa Rica. Everything is so green and beautiful, and the sunsets are some of the best of the year.

It is just wise to bring a small compact umbrella with you, for when you get stuck out in the afternoon showers.

They are lightweight and easy to carry around with you when you are out and about.



3. Light Weight Rain Jacket or Poncho

Again, if you’re vacationing in the rainy season, it is a good idea to bring a poncho or a lightweight rain jacket with you. A poncho is great and easy to carry around if you don’t want to carry an umbrella with you.

They are small enough they can normally fit in your pocket or a small bag. I always love traveling with a lightweight jacket that folds up into a little poach so I can carry it in my bag and it doesn’t take up too much space in my suitcase.



4. Reef Safe Sunscreen

This is probably the most important thing you should put on your packing list for Costa Rica. The sun is very powerful in Costa Rica.

Even when it is cloudy out, you can still get burnt. Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and use it throughout the day. The last thing you want to do is ruin your vacation with a sunburn.

Buy plenty before you get to Costa Rica as well.

You will be shocked when you see the price of sunscreen in Costa Rica it is 3x more expensive. So it is a good idea to stock up before you go. You can always leave behind what you don’t use.

Also if you plan on spending a lot of time on the beach it is always smart to get a good and strong facestick sunscreen to protect your face.

Especially if you are a surfer like me, you will want plenty of sunscreen for surfers to ensure you don’t burn while you are catching waves.



5. Surf Suits or Rashguard

Plan on surfing on your vacation? Well, then you need to add a rashguard or a surf suit to your packing list for Costa Rica, especially you ladies out there. Surf suits will change your life.

No more worries about if your boobs are going to poop out when you are trying to catch waves, you can just focus on your surfing.

Not only do rashguards or surf suits protect you from the hot sun and allow you to stay out in the water longer, if you are a beginner and using a foam board you will need one to protect yourself from the board.

If you having anyone if your travel party that is wanting to surf on your vacation, you will want to ensure they have a surf suit before you leave.

Need other ideas for gifts for the surfer in your life.



6. Old Clothes

You don’t have to worry about making a fashion statement in Costa Rica. It is a good idea to pack old comfortable clothes you don’t really care about.

They will get dirty with all the adventures and fun you will be having.

Also when I travel, I always like to bring clothes and shoes that I plan on donating. I leave them behind with cleaning staff from where I am staying.

They are more than happy to take them, and it makes room to take back presents for my family.

7. Diva Cup or Tampoons

Costa Rica is an old-school Catholic country and it is sometimes hard to find tampons. If it happens to be your time of the month then come prepared.

Have you ladies heard of a Diva Cup before? I highly recommend them. I will never go back to wearing tampons. Not only are they comfortable, makes traveling 100 % easier at that time of the month, but they are also great for the environment.

Needless to say, they are life-changing.



8. Stomach Medication

Traveling can do some weird things to our gastrointestinal sytems and can cause some uncomfortable situations. The last thing you want to happen on holiday is be stuck near the bathroom.

Be sure to travel with something that can help the situation. Like they say it is better to have it and not need it than to not have it and need it.



9. Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is a must these days. You never know what is going to happen or when the world might shut down again. Getting travel insurance helps to protect you from the unexpected, whether it is lost luggage, canceled flights, or an unexpected medical emergency.

Again, its better to have it and not need it, than to not have it and need it. There are super flexible plans these days that you can modify to fit your vacation needs.



10. Dry Bag

Bringing a dry bag can help keep your things, including your cell phone, safe. Especially if you are planning any boat tours while you are in Costa Rica, this could be a lifesaver. T

hey are great for beach trips and waterfall trips as well. They are super cheap on Amazon and you can normally pick them up for under $20. This is totally worth the investment if it saves your phone from being damaged.


11. Travel Towel

I absolutely love my travel towel. It has come in handy so many times and hardly takes up any space at all. I can throw it in my purse and always have it on me.

This is great because you don’t have to carry big bulky towels around everywhere. They are great for sitting on at the beach and they dry super fast, so if you are moving around you don’t have to worry about carrying a wet towel along with you.

They also make great hair towels when you are not traveling because they are lightweight and don’t pull the hair down.


12. Sunglasses

Your eyes are important and it is a good idea to keep them protected from the sun. Not just in Costa Rica, but in everyday life.

If you have not already invested in a good pair of polarized sunglasses it is well worth it. The sun can be very intense and if you are near the water you’ll want to keep your eyes protected.

Polarized sunglasses is sunscreen for your eyes. We only get one pair of eyes, so it’s best to protect them. If you are going to invest in anything to protect yourself, it should be a good pair of sunglasses.

I love my Maui Jims, they are top-rated and give my eyes the best protection around.


13. Spanish Phrase Book

Pretty much everyone speaks English in Costa Rica, but it is always a good idea to try to learn the language while you are there. Not only is learning a second language good for your brain, but it can also be a lot of fun. It is a skill that you can not only use in Costa Rica but other Spanish-speaking countries as well.

I highly recommend the Easy Spanish Phrasebook it will easily get you through your trip and make it sound like you are fluent in Spanish.



14. Bug Spray

Bug Spray is probably the second most important thing to bring to Costa Rica besides Sunscreen, once again, can make or break your trip. Nobody wants to be covered in bug bites. It is best to practice preventative measures to ensure you don’t get eaten alive.

Mosquitos tend to be the worst around sunset, but if you are doing day trips zip-lining and are spending a lot of time in the jungles of Costa Rica they will be bad all day. It is a good idea to come prepared, especially if the mosquitos tend to love you.



Bug Repellant Bracelets

I absolutely love these things. No more need to put on smelly and horrible bug spray. Put one of these bracelets on and you don’t have to think about applying bug spray. I tend to place them on one of my ankles, as that is where I tend to get my bites, and I no longer need to think about applying any spray. But I always keep some around just in case.

The bracelets say they protect for 72 hours, but I normally find I get about a week from them if you take them off when swimming and showering.



Bug Spray Wipes

These are great and convenient. I always have a couple of extra on me, so when the bugs are really bad you have extra protection. They are easy to travel with and convenient to carry around. You can even bring them in your carry on so you can always have them with you.



15. Waterproof Camera

You can’t go on vacation without bringing your camera. Yes, they are a little outdated these days and your phone works just as well. However, if you plan on doing adventures and exploring you will most likely want to pick up a gopro before you go.

They are amazing, durable and can take great photos and video without taking up any space in your suitcase. Are you more advanced in your underwater picture taking and looking for something a little better than a gopro? Here are some of the best underwater cameras available today.



16. Sun Hat

If you plan on spending in time on the beach you are going to want a good foldable sun hat to keep the sun off your face.

The sun is much stronger in Costa Rica and you wouldn’t want to ruin your vacation with a sunburn. Here are some awesome foldable sun hats for travel.



Essential Items not to forget for Costa Rica

  • Passport – You can not enter Costa Rica without your passport. So don’t forget at home or leave it on the plane
  • Driver’s License – Costa Rica is a beautiful country. You should plan on renting a car and seeing more of it if you have the time.
  • Credit Cards/Money – Don’t forget your credit card at home. It is always smart to travel one either to use to get awesome travel rewards or to have as a backup in case anything happens
  • Ticket out of the Costa Rica – Costa Rica will not let you enter unless you have proof of a ticket leaving the country. You are only allowed to stay 90 days on your visa. At which you either have to leave via air or land.

What Not To Add to Your Packing List for Costa Rica

Women in High Heels

Now that we have talked about what you should bring to Costa Rica, let’s talk about what not to bring on your trip to Costa Rica. Unless you are planning on visiting San Jose, leave your high-heels or wedges at home. Stick to comfortable shoes that are easy to walk in.

The roads are not the best in Costa Rica. They are not always paved and the potholes can get pretty bad. Stick to comfortable shoes that are easy to walk in.

It is also a good idea to leave any valuables at home that you won’t be needing. Costa Rica is a safe county to visit, but there can be some petty crime.

Rental cars have been known to be targeted. DO NOT leave valuables in the car, even if you are paying the parking attended to watch your car.

If you must bring valuables with you, it is best to leave them in your safe at your hotel or Airbnb. It is always better to be safe than sorry. You wouldn’t want to ruin your vacation by having your valuables stolen.

Need help planning where to go in Costa Rica?

The Ultimate Costa Rica Packing List

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