Packing for Costa Rica

04 Feb Packing for Costa Rica

Packing for Costa Rica? our country is undoubtedly one of the most amazing to explore for a variety of reasons. First off, it’s incredibly beautiful with active volcanoes, stunning rain forests, gorgeous beaches and a huge array of wildlife. Secondly, it’s extremely tourist-friendly so if you want to explore a foreign country with relative ease, Costa Rica is hard to beat. Thirdly, Costa Rica offers literally something for everyone–river rafting, jungle kayaking, surfing, rainforest hikes, bird watching, mountain biking, hiking volcanoes, hanging out, etc. So once you’ve decided on Costa Rica, the question becomes “What do you pack?”


Will you be rafting the Pacuare? Just one of many adventure options in Costa Rica.

Whether you’re a hardcore adventure enthusiast who travels light and fast or a casual adventurer who wants to bring a few extras and doesn’t mind a bigger bag or backpack, here are a few universal tips.

  • Ditch the cotton. Costa Rica is a very humid country and even in its “dry” season, a spontaneous downpour can happen. It’s best to bring only quick-dry clothing–including (and especially) your socks and underwear!
  • Grab an adapter. Even though Costa Rica’s electric grid is AC (just like the U.S.), not all places have the grounding prong so bring an adapter to keep your camera, music player or tablet charged. Or go unplugged…
  • Meet your bungee buddy. A personal favorite, this little guy lets you hang anything to dry anywhere, which is really handy if you don’t have access to a laundromat. Available at most travel stores.

This twisted bungee hangs anywhere and its braided design eliminates the need for clothespins. Sink stopper usually included.

  • Get zipped. Convertible pants are a must. Wear as pants when it’s cooler or you need more coverage and then–zip!–shorts for the warm weather.
  • First aid at hand. Bring your own mini first aid kit so you have what you need for blisters, bug bites, sunburns, etc.
  • Multipurpose items rule. Anything that you can use for more than one activity is an asset. For example, the aforementioned convertible pants or a sarong that can be used as a beach towel, dress/skirt or wrap. It really helps streamline your packing!
  • Use that towel. If you happen to be staying at a hotel that supplies towels, you can reuse them to help dry out wet clothing, even after you’ve showered. Check out the photos below.

Lay the wet piece of clothing on an unfolded towel and then roll them up together.


With nice clean feet, step around on the rolled towel for about 30 seconds. Unroll and your clothing item is a lot drier!

Activities Dictate Clothing

Base your clothing on what you’ll be doing. Some sort of river shoe (Teva or Chaco) is a good call because you can hike, raft and kayak in them. Biking shorts are only necessary if you’ll be riding a lot, for example. Below is what I took for an 11-day trip to Costa Rica, but also on a 27-day trek around Central America! Packing for two weeks is like packing for a month!

  • 2 long-sleeve, button-down shirts ( insect, plant and sun protection)
  • 1 pair light hiking boots, preferably with some ankle support and waterproofing
  • 2 swimsuits
  • 1 convertible pant
  • 1 pair river shoes/sandals
  • 1-2 quick-dry shorts for hiking or mountain biking
  • 2-3 quick-dry tank tops or short-sleeve shirts
  • 1 sunhat with chin strap (stays on in the river or lake)
  • 1 baseball cap or other hat
  • 3 pair quick-dry hiking socks
  • 4 pair quick-dry underwear
  • 1 rain jacket (lightweight, compressible)
  • 1 pair flip flops

For the women:

  • 1 sarong
  • 1 sundress or skirt w/blouse
  • 1-2 sport bras or tanks with built-in support

When I pack, I tend to roll items because it helps reduce wrinkles and increase available space, but you can also use packing squares to compress items into smaller packages. I use small ditty bags to keep items separate and organized.


Packing squares keep items organized and compressed for more space.

Let’s Get Personal–Toiletries

Obviously, this list varies widely by individual. We’re focusing on the items you might not think to bring as opposed to the basics such as soap, toothpaste and shampoo or special items like prescriptions. While Costa Rica certainly has a number of brands available for basic toiletries, if you’ve got a favorite or are really picky, bring it along.

  • Insect repellent–DEET if you’re really worried, but the natural alternatives work just as well IF you remember to apply frequently
  • All-purpose, biodegradable liquid soap (wash clothes and your body!)
  • 1 shower towel (quick-dry)
  • Facial or baby wipes
  • Portable hand sanitizer

Specialty Items

Most people know to bring their camera, extra batteries and memory cards so we won’t get into that. However, with all the incredible wildlife and adventure opportunities, there are some specialty items that we recommend you bring along to enhance your visit.

  • Binoculars
  • Flashlight/headlamp
  • Small umbrella
  • Ear plugs
  • Dry bag for books, important documents or camera
  • Waist pack or small daypack
  • Water bottle

Are you ready for Costa Rica? It’s definitely ready for you!


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