Below is the ultimate Costa Rica packing list for your adventure.
Costa Rica is beautiful, but you don’t want to be wondering around trying to find items you forgot. Make sure to pack these essential items for your trip. Note, I do not backpack nor am I trying to travel light (less than 15 lbs.) when I go on vacation. I like having what I need and not trying to figure out how to get to the store. For me time is money, so I don’t want to be shopping when I could be exploring. On that note, however, this list is also not overdoing it. I have stuck to what I think are essentials based on my travels to Costa Rica.
Ultimate Costa Rica Packing List
Passport, Drivers License, Money, Credit Cards – Don’t pack this in your big suitcase, make sure it’s on you. Obviously, these are your most valuable items! Some places in Costa Rica don’t have an ATM or banks, so be sure to stock up on cash before you arrive. Many of the businesses are cash only as well, so keep that in mind.
|Travel tip – It’s never a bad idea to have a copy of your passport in another location as well as your driver’s license. This might be useful to speed the process along in case you lose yours. Also, make sure to separate out your cash in different locations, so it’s not all on you at once, and it’s not all in one suitcase.|
Technology – Phone, Tablet/e-Reader, Music player, Camera – You are going to see beautiful things in Costa Rica, and you will want to make sure to capture that majestic beauty on your phone or camera. I use my phone as my music player, so I don’t have to bring and an extra item. I also bring a tablet to read and keep up with emails. Most hotels have WIFI, so it’s nice to have something a little larger than a phone to conduct business. Also, bring chargers with you! Don’t forget them, as most of the time when traveling they seem hard to find or overpriced.
Mosquito Repellent – I can’t stress enough how much this is needed. With the recent outbreaks of Zika, you want to make sure that you are well prepared to keep the mosquitos at bay. I typically bring the strong stuff (Deep Woods) and a lighter provision of repellent. I only use the Deep Woods if we are actually in the jungle, and I try to make sure I’m spraying it on my clothes and not on my skin. Do not get caught outside at night or dusk without it. Believe me; you do not want to wake up with bites so bad it looks like you have chicken pox like I did.
Swimsuit– I don’t need to go into an explanation here, but I like to bring along at least two swimsuits. That way I can use the one off – one on system. I do this especially if I know we are going to be around water for more than a day, which in Costa Rica it’s hard not to do, as most hotels have pools.
Sunscreen & Lipbalm – Keep in mind that the sun is much stronger in Costa Rica, so amp up the SPF number a bit if you’re prone to burn. Even if you are like me and tan rather than burn, I would recommend bringing a higher degree of protection than normal. Reapply this often. Lip balm is such a nice thing to have because your lips will get chapped in the sun. Also, just in case, you might want to include some after sun lotion or aloe vera. I can’t tell you how many tourist I see looking like lobsters because the sun snuck up on them.
Tennis Shoes or Hiking Boots – We have never used hiking boots in Costa Rica, and we have walked miles and miles on trails. As long as you have good comfortable tennis shoe (or Keens – see my other post 8 Essentials to Pack When Going to Costa Rica) for most trails, you will be fine. Plus, this saves you some room in your suitcase. However, if you are going off the beat and path or are an adventurous hiker, I would suggest hiking boots. Trails can get a bit muddy, so they might give you a better grip than tennis shoes.
Flip Flops, Dressy Shoes or Flats – You will want flip flops for the beach and just to walk around town. You might want some dress shoes if you have anything formal to do. I don’t bring dress shoes unless we have an event, or I know we are going to a dance club. Costa Rica is very casual, so unless you know you need them, I wouldn’t bother packing them. Flats or Flip flops will do just fine for most things other than hiking.
Sunglasses and Sun Hat or Ball Cap – Both a hat and sunglasses are essential items for Costa Rica.
Beach towels/mat – I found a great beach mat at Ross not too long ago and grabbed it up. The cool thing about these is that you can roll them up. Also, they stay much dryer than a towel, and they don’t need to be washed as often. The fabric is easy to clean. Plus it comes with a built in pillow! I found mine at Ross for $14.99. The downside is that these are quite large. See my sarong mention in this blog for a lighter weight option.
Mesh bag for wet clothes or a trash bag – We go the cheap route and just use trash bags for wet clothes and then one for dirty clothes.
Lightweight Tops (4-6 for a week) – It’s very humid in Costa Rica, so you are going to sweat. You need fabric that is light and preferably not dark colors.
Shorts (1-2) – For our upcoming trip in June, I will be packing a new item in my case, which is a super cute shorts jumpsuit from Express.
Pants (1-2) – I love these palazzo pants that Stitch Fix sent me. They are perfect for a day at the beach or a night out. I also take my boyfriend jeans that are from Stitch Fix as well. These are great for keeping mosquitos at bay and for cool nights out.
You’re also going to need underwear/bras. I typically don’t pack skirts or dresses mainly because I don’t wear them a lot. You might want to pack a cover-up for the beach, or just use a sarong for light travel.
Other items on my list are make-up, blow dryer (if you have thick hair like me, it’s a must on every trip), glasses/contacts, small emergency kit, hair ties, prescriptions, and your most common toiletries like deodorant, toothpaste, razor, etc.
Side Note: If you are planning on washing clothes as you go, be aware that laundromats are few and far between in Costa Rica. Many mid-range and upscale hotels have laundry services. If you plan on doing your laundry, make sure to bring detergent!
Make sure to check out my other post “8 Essentials to Pack When Going to Costa Rica.”