Updated on November 6, 2023 by Axel Hernborg

Axel Hernborg

Have you decided to make a trip to Costa Rica? It could well be the highlight of your life. Because this country has a lot of the best the world has to offer.

This small country in Central America has world-famous beaches, great food, incredible national parks, exotic wildlife galore, unbeatable adventure opportunities, volcanoes with hot springs and much more. The country is also warm all year round!

How to pack for Costa Rica – Complete packing lists

A trip to Costa Rica is not something you do over a weekend. It takes a long time to fly to the country. You’ll probably be away from home for at least ten days. This means you should pack some things.

Exactly how much you want and need to put on your packing list for a trip to Costa Rica, however, depends a bit on what you’re doing. For two weeks of beach hanging, your packing doesn’t have to be that extensive.

For other adventures such as jungle treks, surfing, wildlife spotting, rafting and more, you’ll obviously need more in your suitcase. Here in our packing list for a trip to Costa Rica, we’ve taken a broad approach. There’s everything here for relaxation, beachcombing, sightseeing and adventure.

Bags and storage

  • Travel bag
  • Waterproof backpack
  • Dry bag for the beach and boat trips
  • Wet bag
  • Crossbody bag
  • Fanny pack
  • Packing bags/packing cubes

Clothing for sun and bath

  • Blouses
  • T-shirts (Get a discount with a discount code from Zee and Co)
  • Functional sweaters (that dry quickly)
  • Shorts
  • Swimwear/swim shorts
  • Rash guard
  • Dress
  • Beach dress/sarong
  • Leggings
  • Cotton trousers/linen trousers
  • Sun hat/cap
  • Flipflops
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Bathing shoes

Clothing for excursions and adventures

  • Long sleeve sweater in functional material (Get a discount with a discount code from Jack Wolfskin)
  • Long trousers (preferably “garden trousers”)
  • Hiking pants with zipper at the knee
  • Quick-drying socks
  • Thin, breathable rain jacket (with hood!)
  • Hiking sandals/trail shoes (with closed toe!)
  • Waterproof cap/hat

Pharmacy and hygiene

  • Toiletry case
  • After sun
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Oral hygiene
  • Deodorant
  • Razors
  • Skincare products
  • Makeup (maybe not so much!)
  • Face wash
  • Hair care products
  • Hairbrush
  • Hair ties and similar
  • Sanitary products
  • Wet wipes
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Medicines (don’t forget the prescriptions)
  • First Aid Kit (Get a discount with a discount code from Go Outdoors)
  • Melatonin/sleeping pills (for jet lag)
  • Painkillers
  • Pills for upset stomach
  • Axiety pills

Smart gadgets for travel

  • Library book with RFID protection
  • Headphones
  • Reading tablet/Kindle/Surfpad
  • Action camera (e.g. GoPro)
  • SD card
  • Powerbank (Get a discount with a discount code from Robert Dyas)
  • Card game/reset game
  • Universal travel adapter
  • Power strip
  • Microfiber towel
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Water bottle (preferably soft)
  • Water filter
  • Lenses/goggles with accessories
  • Sunglasses
  • Waterproof case for mobile phone
  • Ear plugs
  • Folding laundry basket/washing bag
  • Cameras

Documents and passports

  • Passport
  • Passport case/wallet
  • Copy of passport
  • Bank card or credit card
  • Return ticket (printed or on your mobile phone)
  • Tickets and reservations
  • Travel insurance document
  • Physical Travel Guide to Costa Rica
  • Maps of Costa Rica

Good tips for your trip to Costa Rica

We can’t leave you with “just” a checklist for your packing. We have some bonus tips for you. With these bonus tips, you can make sure your trip to Costa Rica is perfect.

Happy woman packing for a trip

Plan your trip carefully in advance

Maybe you travel with a tour operator who will plan your trip for you with hotel reservations, bus tours and more? Then you are in good hands. If you choose other ways to travel instead, you should plan your trip carefully with hotels, activities, reservations and more.

Why? You travel a long way to one of the most beautiful countries in the world. So why not make the most of it? Do your homework and decide what you want to see, how you’re going to get to the sights and which bus tours you’re going to take.

The better you plan, the better your trip will be. Then you’ll also know more about what you need to pack!

One tip is to buy a really good (and thick!) guidebook to Costa Rica. There are a lot of them, including from Lonely Planet. You may also be able to borrow travel guides from the library. The travel guides are packed with information on destinations, attractions, car rental tips and much more.

So what in particular is there to see in Costa Rica? Travel experts around the world agree that there are four must-sees in Costa Rica, namely:

  • Volcanoes (such as Irazu and Arenal)
  • Waterfall (Rio Celeste, La Fortuna m m)
  • Beaches (e.g. Conchal, Playa Grande)
  • Rainforest (Corcovado, Manuel Antonio m m)

Now you might be wondering if there are tours that can take you to all these natural wonders? There definitely is. Plan ahead!

Costa Rica has twenty different microclimates

A microclimate is a local climate that differs from its surroundings. Different microclimates can have different temperatures, precipitation, humidity and so on. Costa Rica has over 20 distinct microclimates!

What does this mean? That means you have to think when you pack! Let’s take an example. You start the day on the beach with sun and a temperature of 35 degrees. Warm and nice!

Then get on the bus for a tour of the mountains. When you step outside, the rain is pouring down and the thermometer reads maybe 10 degrees. Not as hot and not as comfortable.

If you plan to spend your days in Costa Rica at the hotel and on the beach, full rain gear may not be necessary. If you’re going on an adventure – no matter what – protection from rain and cold weather is a must.

NOTE! Much of Costa Rica has a distinct dry season between January and March. The rainfall is relatively modest, but you can’t escape it completely!

Packing list for shoes – Think like this!

Wearing open-toed sandals in the rainforest is no fun. Walking with heels on pavements full of holes is no picnic. I think you can see where we’re going with this.

Before every trip, it is wise to think about your choice of shoes. We’d say it’s even more important on a trip to Costa Rica. For a week at a resort, a pair of flip-flops goes a long way, but you’ll want to do more than that on your trip to Costa Rica, right?

We would like to recommend the following set of shoes:

  • Flipflops for the beach and short walks in beach and urban environments
  • Waterproof trail shoes (running shoes) or hiking shoes for all kinds of adventures
  • Durable closed-toe sandals for adventures in very hot and humid environments

Fine shoes and men’s shoes? Heels? Costa Rica is a very relaxed country and no one will raise an eyebrow if you walk into a restaurant in a pair of hiking boots.

Pack with mosquito repellent!

Last but not least, we advise you to bring mosquito repellent. Mosquito repellent is a must! The only places in Costa Rica where it is relatively mosquito-free are up in the mountains.

Of course you can buy mosquito repellent on the spot but there are some problems with that. Mosquito repellent in Costa Rica is expensive, not very skin-friendly and not very environmentally friendly.