What do I need to pack for Costa Rica? This is a very common question we receive. This Costa Ricca packing list will help you prepare for your adventure, and will help you plan what essential items to bring.
All packing starts with a good, sturdy suitcase. Hard shelled suitcases, such as ones with rollers, are highly recommended.
If you are backpacking through Costa Rica, there are many great brands of backpacker backpacks that you can use throughout your entire journey. We love the ones from Rei and Columbia; they are made for multi day hikes and rugged terrains.
Many people who travel to Costa Rica, especially if traveling from countries with long or connecting flights, wonder if they should check a bag or bring a bag on the plane with them.
If you have connecting flights or multiple stops, it’s always advisable to bring a carry-on suitcase if you can.
The one “must bring” bag to Costa Rica is a dry bag. Dry bags prevent water from leaking on to valuable items, especially electronics such as phones and cameras. Dry backpacks are ideal, but sometimes they aren’t large enough to fit all your items.
Earth Pak is a great brand of dry bag. They are comfortable to wear, and include waterproof phone cases. You will definitely want a phone case to protect your phone from the water or the rain.
Flip Flops are the best shoe for the beach. If they get lost, you can easily replace them at a local supermarket; most supermarkets in Costa Rica sell flip flops and sandals in all sizes for men and for women.
We also recommend closed toed hiking shoes. Specifically, you will need hiking boots if you plan to go to Chirripo. This is the tallest hike in Costa Rica and the mountain goes up 12, 000 feet in elevation so you need a sturdy pair of hiking shoes.
Any brand that fits comfortably will do, but waterproof trail running shoes are great for Costa Rica, especially during the rainy season.
KEEN closed toe sandals are a great brand that won’t break the bank. If you are going to Corcovado National Park, and especially if you plan to hike to Sirena station, Leona or San Pedrillo, then you will be grateful for waterproof shoes in this area for sure.
The dress code for Costa Rica is super casual. Even in nicer restaurants, you will find mostly everyone dressed in board shorts and flip flops.
Comfortable clothing such as t-shirts and jean shorts are acceptable almost everywhere. Costa Rica has tropical warm year round weather, so you’ll often be more than fine in your typical summer clothing.
But, some areas of Costa Rica can experience cooler temperatures, especially at night. A windbreaker jacket or reversible waterproof jacket will come in handy, especially if you are exploring the mountains or higher altitudes.
It often rains in Costa Rica year round, especially in Monteverde and other elevated areas. The weather can be a bit unpredictable, so a rain jacket or waterproof jacket is a must bring accessory.
If you plan on going horseback riding, bring a pair of comfortably fitting jeans and closed toed shoes. If you plan on going surfing, bring a rash guard or a well fitted one piece swimsuit (for women) for comfort and coverage on your surfboard.
Other Essential Items
Mosquitos are an unfortunate reality in Costa Rica year round. There are also small biting insects on the beaches that can cause some discomfort.
Although many places sell insect repellent, it is often more expensive than other countries, so we recommend bringing your own from home. Long lasting brands that are made for the deep woods often work best.
You will 100% want a camera with you when you visit Costa Rica. Smartphones do offer easy and great photo options, especially the iPhone 13 Pro. It is by far our favorite for videography, due to the cinematic effect and excellent bokeh for photos.
But, there are some great cameras made specially for the adventurous. GoPro cameras have become well known for their durability and ease of use. We recommend the GoPro Hero 10. It is the latest model with some stunning options, including 23MP photos and 5.3K video resolution at 60fps.
As we mentioned, the weather in Costa Rica can be a bit unpredictable, so it’s best to bring a camera that is either waterproof, or a camera that is placed inside waterproof housing.
The Nikon Coolpix W300 is an awesome digital camera that is perfect for travelers. It is light, compact, and waterproof up to 30 meters. For its size and specs, it takes great pictures that definitely beat even the latest phone models. And, they are highly affordable!
For experienced photographers, definitely bring that telephoto lens to capture birds and wildlife from a distance. Keeping your cameras secured in a dry bag will help prevent anything getting damaged.
We cannot stress enough the importance of using sunscreen here in Costa Rica. We recommend an SPF of 50 or higher, and don’t forget sunscreen Chapstick! There are some excellent local brands of sunscreen, such as Pura Vida Sunblock and Las Olas Sunscreen. These locally made sunscreens contain cocoa butter, and do not wash off even in the ocean.