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Costa Rica Packing List: 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 your Costa Rica packing list.

We will help you with what you should bring to Costa Rica and what you should leave behind.

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.

In most of the beach towns, it is likely you will see people eating breakfast and lunch in their swimwear.

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 plan on spending the whole time on the beach, you can forgo some of these items that will be more for Arenal and the rainforest.

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. Full of nature and adventure.

So hopefully you plan on exploring and embracing the Pura Vida lifestyle.

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

Must Do Activities in Costa Rica

  • Surf Lessons – If you have ever thought about it, Costa Rica is the place to learn
  • Zip Lining – See the jungle from a different perspective
  • Sunset Cruise – Enjoy a day on the water and hopefully spot some whales and dolphins

Costa Rica Packing List

 

1. 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.

They 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.

Last thing you want is to lose all your vacation photos because your phone decides to go swimming.

 

 

2. 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.

If you like to travel light and don’t plan on checking luggage. Try buying sunscreen sticks as you can carry them on.

 

 

3. 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 the 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.

4. 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.

If you don’t want to carry around a book with you, try using an app like Duolingo before you go.

Costa Ricans always appreciate if you try to speak Spanish.

 

 

 

5. 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.

 

 


6. 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.

 

 

7. 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 that 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 pouch so I can carry it in my bag and it doesn’t take up too much space in my suitcase.

This is also a must if you are planning on spending any time in Arenal or the rainforest.

If you are just coming to Costa Rica to hang by the beach, you can leave this one out.

 

 

8. Surf Suits or Rashguards

Plan on surfing on your vacation?

Well, then you need to add a rashguard or a surf suit to your Costa Rica packing list, 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.

Also, if you are a beginner and using a foam board you will need one to protect yourself from the board.

If you have 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.

They also make great gifts.

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

 

 

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. 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, they make traveling 100 % easier at that time of the month, but they are also great for the environment.

No more worrying about having to change your tampoons on long flights or out in public.

Needless to say, they are life-changing.

 

 

11. Stomach Medication

Traveling can do some weird things to our gastrointestinal systems 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.

 

 

 

12. 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.

 

13. Day Bag

Let’s hope that if you are coming to Costa Rica that you are planning on going on some adventures. This is something that you will for sure want to pack for Costa Rica.

It is a lightweight bag that is perfect for taking out for day trips. It is also the perfect size to use as a carry-on when you are traveling.

Great for fitting in all your necessary items for the flight.

 

 

14. Reusable Water Bottle

The water is safe to drink in Costa Rica, it is not Mexico. So go ahead and bring your reusable water bottle down and drink the tap water.

You are going to want to stay hydrated while on holiday. The hot sun, extra activities and most likely the extra drinks. It is a good idea to stay on top of drinking water.

 

 

15. Liquid IVs

While on the topic of hydration. Liquid Ivs are great items to add to any vacation packing list. As most of us tend to drink more on vacation, these are great for the day after.

They are super easy to throw into your Costa Rican carry-on bag and have with you at all times. Even if you are not a big drinker they are full of electro lights to ensure you don’t get dehydrated.

 

 

 

16. 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.

 

 

17. 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.

Go ahead and leave the bug spray behind and just carry the wipes and the bracelets.

 

 

18. Waterproof Camera

You can’t head to Costa Rica without bringing a waterproof camera.

Especially if you plan on doing any water activities, snorkeling, diving, surfing, hot springs and even waterfalls.

You are going to want to capture those moments.

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.

 

 

 

19. Sun Hat

Still, wondering what to pack for Costa Rica? If you plan on spending any 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.

 


20. Face Sunscreen

Ok, I know I mentioned sunscreen before, but it is so important when you are in Costa Rica.

Take care of your skin, especially your face. A good quality face sunscreen can help to prevent premature wrinkles and will keep your pores from getting clogged.

 

 

21. Sunscreen Diversion Safe

This is a great cheap item to help keep your valuables a little bit safer. Yes, it is not a foolproof method, but it certainly can help.

You should never leave valuables on the beach unattended, but this diversion safe can help disguise them. Not only does it work on the beach, but also great for any items in the car or even back at your hotel room.

 

 

22. Polarized Sunglasses

Ok, this one is probably a given, but remember to protect your eyes. 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. Expensive, yes, but worth every penny.

 

23. Battery Pack

Last, but not least. Battery packs or portable chargers are great to add to any packing list. They are lightweight and almost always come in handy.

Whether you use it on your long travel days or just when you are out exploring all day.

The last thing you want to have happen to you is have your phone die and not be able to get the photo you wanted.

These are great insurance to ensure your phone will never die.

 

 

 Costa Rica Packing Essentials

Ok, we have talked about what to pack for Costa Rica, but let’s not forget the essentials.

  • 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 Costa Rica Packing List

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 attendant to watch your car.

If you must bring valuables with you, it is best to leave them in your safe at your Costa Rican 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

Comments:

  • 11/14/2022

    Excellent list! I also pack one of those water proof cellphone bags. Last time I was in Guanacaste I got some amazing underwater videos while snorkeling.

    reply...

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