What to Pack for Costa Rica?

Thinking about taking a trip to the tropical rainforest country of Costa Rica? Here are some things you might want to know before you go, and some suggestions of what to take with you!

1. Lots of sunscreen! I don’t care if you say “Oh I never burn…” Unless you are accustomed to the strength of the equatorial sun, you will burn. I used Hawaiian Tropic450

2. A good, lightweight rain jacket. Because when traveling in a rainforest, it can literally start raining at any moment. Choose something breathable, such as The North Face Venture Rain Jacket.

rain jacket, waterproof jacket
The North Face Venture Rain Jacket

3. Watersport sandals. You will be glad to be wearing shoes that stay on your feet well and you don’t have to worry if they get wet, especially for activities such as ziplining and crawling in and out of boats. I like the ones from Teva.

4. Have lots of colones (the currency used in Costa Rica) on hand in various denominations. Many of the shops don’t except dollars or credit cards, and most locals appreciate it when you have the currency they actually use. Tip: pay attention to how much money you hand over when making a purchase, and make sure you get the appropriate change back. One of the locals we spoke with said it is not uncommon for merchants to try to rip off tourists who aren’t familiar with using the local currency. This never happened to us, but it couldn’t hurt to pay attention when making purchases. Also, do your currency exchanging after arriving in Costa Rica at a local bank or at your hotel. You will get a better exchange rate over there than you will at home or at the airport.

5. Quick-dry clothing. It is crazy humid in Costa Rica, and it is rainy and hot. Your clothes will most likely get wet. So unless you want to be uncomfortable all day and risk horrors such as chaffing, wear clothes that will dry out quickly.

6. Sandals with treads that can get wet. When exploring the city, my best friend wore the squishy foam kind of flip flops and kept slipping on the weirdly slick concrete. I wore a pair that had a firmer rubber sole with slight treads and I was fine.

7. Underwater camera. Whether you are actually snorkeling or going into the water, or just hanging out in the city, an underwater camera is very useful to have in Costa Rica. Obviously it was fun to have at the beach for taking pics out in the ocean, but it also came in handy when it was raining. I use the underwater cameras from Fujifilm.img_main05

8. Multiple bathing suits. Ok, so this one is less of a necessity and more of a personal comfort choice. But seriously, it is so humid in Costa Rica, and nothing ever dries. Putting on a wet bathing suit is one of the worst things ever, so I would bring enough to at least give each bathing suit a couple days off in between uses. Personally, I brought a different bathing suit for each day, because I am addicted to buying swimwear and own more than anyone could ever need.

9. Lots of water. This one is muy importante!! It is hot and humid, and you don’t want to risk heat exhaustion or passing out during your adventures. So drink up! And then drink some more.

10. Tinted BB cream w/ SPF. The heat and humidity and rain can wreak havoc on your makeup, but I know us girls still want to look fabulous! When doing outdoor adventures, I opt for a tinted BB cream with SPF. Doing triple duty as a moisturizer, sunblock, and cover up, a BB cream is easier on your skin than wearing regular foundation, and less heavy and yucky. My personal fav is Benefit’s The Big Easy Liquid to Powder SPF 35 Foundation.s1580885-main-hero

11. A good map of the city, because foreign city streets can get confusing, and GPS will only get you so far. A map that shows landmarks is even better, because sometimes streets aren’t always marked (which was definitely the case in San Jose).

12. A camera with good zoom, or at least a good pair of binoculars. Sometimes spotting critters high up in the trees is difficult. For the life of me, I cannot figure out how the guides can spot them so easily. But for those of us whose eyes aren’t used to finding animals in trees, we need the help of technology.  Were it not for my camera, I never would’ve been able to see the one and only sloth we encountered on our trip.

13. Lightweight clothing. It is hot in Costa Rica, and have I mentioned it is humid? Clothes that are lightweight, breezy, and don’t cling to your skin will be your best friend.

For example:

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14. A small, non-flashy purse that can get wet. This isn’t the place to break out your best designer handbag. It is hot, humid, and can start to rain without notice… the last thing you want to worry about is having your nice purse get ruined. In addition, they say pick-pocketing is a common occurrence in downtown San Jose (though it didn’t happen to us), so having an expensive purse readily visible is like painting a target on yourself. A bag like this roomy nylon shoulder bag from REI is a good choice $65:5a6e4535-c84f-4283-ac55-64e0d09f126b

15. A hat and sunglasses. This one doesn’t have any particulars or require any explanation- it is hot, bright outside, and the sun’s rays are intense. You will be infinitely more comfortable if you have these things with you, both in and out of the city.

Happy travels! Slainte!!

Have anything you feel should be added to this list? Post it in the comments!

Author: Natalie Bates

LA-based freelance writer | Blogger | Craft beer drinker | Rock 'n roll girlfriend | Adventurer | Lover of tattoos, red lipstick, and popcorn | World traveler | Compassionate human | Photography enthusiast | Eco warrior | Celtic babe ❤️

4 thoughts

  1. I’ve been to Costa Rica multiple times and these are great tips. If you’re anywhere but in a resort town, you don’t want to wear shorts though. None of the locals wear shorts. They always wear pants or skirts. It’s ironic because some of their skirts are really short, but they think nothing of it. As soon as you put on shorts the same length, they look at you like your crazy haha! Great post, we will be following along! http://www.ourfoodieappetite.com/traveling-to-dubai-20-things-we-wish-we-knew-part-1/

    Liked by 1 person

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