Wondering what to wear in Costa Rica? We were too before we landed in San Jose in the middle of the night. Costa Rica may look like a small country, but it’s actually a land of varying climates, terrains, and temperatures. With this Costa Rica packing list you’ll be able to pack the right things in your suitcase so you don’t end up with unnecessary items, or worse, finding you forgot something important.
Our Costa Rica Packing List
Cameron may have laughed at me a few times when we were exploring the waterfalls, but I got the last laugh with my beautiful feet protected by my water shoes. Seriously if you plan on spending time around the waterfalls and going in the water it’s worth it to pick up a pair of cheap water shoes. They will help you grip the slippery rocks and protect your feet from cuts.
You’ll be exploring and walking around some pretty amazing wildlife destinations in Costa Rica, but that also means there will be bugs, and lots of them. Bring a small tube of bug spray to protect yourself.
Our first day on the beach we were out for less than hour and made the mistake of not wearing sunscreen. For the next five days we were burnt. No joke! Don’t do what we did and prepare yourself with sunscreen when traveling to Costa Rica. Most hotels won’t provide this and will charge a premium to purchase so make sure to bring yours from home. We personally choose eco-friendly sunscreen when we are going into the ocean so that we don’t release chemicals into the environment. This is the exact kind we traveled with to Costa Rica.
If you’re going on a jungle trek in Manuel Antonio or Corcovado National Park a pair of binoculars will certainly help you see wildlife better. Binoculars offer you the chance to view wildlife much better than your bare eye – and you’ll likely be seeing lots of wildlife in Costa Rica. There are options that aren’t too expensive online like here.
Proper trekking footwear
Costa Rica is definitely a destination worth a walk in the jungle. We went on many hikes to waterfalls, through the forest, and sloth searching. There is nothing else I would rather be in these environments than a pair of ankle high hiking boots. Seriously, bring proper footwear because there are a lot of critters roaming around. I’m still having nightmares about getting attacked by fierce jungle ants when I mistakenly walked on a trail in my flip-flops.
Depending on the season you travel (dry vs rainy) you may even want to consider boots if you’re going hiking. When it rains in the jungle it gets very difficult to walk and you may ruin your hiking shoes fighting with the mud. If you’re staying at a lodge or guesthouse they may have extra rubber boots for you to borrow. We found this at a couple places but obviously, this isn’t guaranteed. Don’t forget a tall pair of socks for those jungle treks!
Both Cameron and I – and just about everyone we saw in Costa Rica had Tevas or Chacos. In Costa Rica it’s worth purchasing something sturdier than a flip-flop that can get soaked unlike hiking boots. Sturdy sandals are perfect for this.
Flip flops are never a bad idea in tropical destinations. My favorite brand is Rainbow Sandals as they last forever and are super comfortable once broken in.
You’re heading to Costa Rica so I’m guessing you will be going to some of the amazing beaches. Bring two suits so that you have a dry one to always change into. I usually go with prAna bathing suits since they are sturdy, cute, and supportive.
Casual loose clothes
Still curious what to wear in Costa Rica? I bought two pairs of black yoga pants to Costa Rica and I never wore them once. It was simply too hot and humid to wear anything that stuck to my body. Go with light and loose clothing and you won’t be disappointed. My favorite pants are the Mantra Hemp pants that soak up moisture.
I always travel with a rain jacket just in case. If you are traveling Costa Rica in the wet season (May-December), a rain jacket is essential, but I would bring one any type of year just to be safe. The rain is typically short-lived, but you won’t want to get soaked during that time. I have this one from Kathmandu and it has kept me dry for years.
Yoga pants and mat
In Costa Rica you’ll hear the words “Pura Vida” many times. Pura Vida means Pure Life and it is not just a saying but a way of being in the country. You’ll find many yoga studios around Costa Rica and I would highly recommend going to a few. I brought a travel yoga mat and a plethora of light yoga pantsin my Costa Rica packing list so I could practice wherever I was.
Layers for the cloud forest
For the most part, we found Costa Rica hot and humid. That is with the exception of the cloud forest. Around Monteverde, it is mountainous and therefore very cool, especially at night. We actually found ourselves bundled up with sweatshirts and slippers a few nights. If you are planning on visiting the cloud forest pack a comfortable fleece and fleece socks to stay warm.
Bugs away shirt
There’s a lot of little critters around the islands, and you’ll be walking around the islands exploring almost every day of your trip. For trips like this is I would recommend the ExOfficio Breez’R Shirt. It’s 100% nylon and has “Insect Shield” technology repelling all those creepy crawlers (and mosquitos!) We traveled all over Africa on safari with them and avoided many bites.
Sun hat and sunglasses
A sunhat or baseball cap is never a bad idea when traveling to tropical destinations especially if you are prone to sunburn or have sensitive eyes.
Beach travel towel
I always travel with a microfiber travel towel just in case I find myself in a situation without any towels. Unless you are camping or staying in a hostel most accommodations will provide you with bath towels, but they won’t want you taking those bath towels to the beach and ruining them. The Youphoria travel towel is quick dry, antibacterial, and doesn’t hold on to sand like a regular bath towel. Plus it packs up light and small!
We found that most Ticos could speak English very well, but it doesn’t hurt to practice your Spanish while in Costa Rica. Here’s a small pocket sized one.
Dry bagDry bags are greatif you’re going to be spending time at the beach. They will protect your phone and any other electronics from the ocean, or more importantly if it starts to rain.
After camping in Africa we learned that a headlamp is never a bad idea. Our Black Diamond headlamp came in handy when we did nightwalks in the jungle searching for frogs and again when we were staying at a treehouse community completely off the grid and without power.
Costa Rica is certainly an easy place to lounge around and do nothing. A travel hammock that you can string up between trees or railings is great for those times when you want to relax.
Just in case you run out of juice having a backup charger is never a bad idea.
Mosquito repellent wristbandsGood to wear on hikesas an alternative to bug spray!
Beach cover up
A beach cover-up or sarong is great to have in Costa Rica. Most of my cover-ups come from Pitusa. Pitusa only uses Peruvian and Indian cotton and employs women from Peru, Bali, and India to make the products. As a fan of fair trade, I love that these are made in ethical work environments. These Pitusa dresses are also so beautiful they double as a night out dress (but are sheer so wear something underneath).
Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Costa Rica. Our favorite pocket sized point and shoot camera for quick trips is the Sony RX100V. It takes fantastic photos and video and is the size of your palm. Check out our other travel cameras here.
Every day we were chasing a new waterfall, hiking through the rainforest, or enjoying the beach. For all our excursions we had theOsprey Daylite to carry our knicks knacks and snacks for the day. You can also get a cheap foldable backpack that will do a good job at securing your things too. Here’s a review of all of our favorite backpacks.
Most the tap water in Costa Rica is actually okay to drink. However just in case you are hesitant about the water consider grabbing a Lifestraw Go. These waterbottles filter 99% of bacteria out through the straw. Purchasing a travel water bottle will also keep you from buying plastic water bottles and adding to the worlds plastic problem.
Plan Your Visit to Costa Rica
We rely on a few trusted websites that help save us money and time when booking hotels, flights, and car rentals. Check out some of our preferred partners below:
- Accommodation in Italy: We chose to stay in a few Airbnb’s around Costa Rica. Read more about choosing a good Airbnb here. Here is a coupon for your first stay with Airbnb!
- Car Rental: Renting a car is one of the best ways to get around the country. Compare rental prices here.
- Travel Insurance: We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. Natasha is a bit of a worry wart and would rather stay safe than sorry. World Nomads is ideal for flexible and great plans!
- Water: We found most of the water in Costa Rica fine to drink, if you want extra assurance then we love traveling with our Lifestraw Go Waterbottle.
- Guide Book: You may not have internet to do research in all of Costa Rica. For wireless nights we typically turn to Lonely Planet.
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