Wondering what to pack for Costa Rica? I’ve had the pleasure of visiting this beautiful country twice, and have created this Costa Rica packing guide based off of both my of visits! This guide includes exactly what to pack for Costa Rica for the perfect trip, whether you’re planning to spend the whole time at the beach or want to have some epic adventures.
Costa Rica is one of my favourite countries, and you are going to love it there. If you’re looking for travel tips, check out my Costa Rica travel guides!
I stayed in Manuel Antonio on the first visit, and in Playa Hermosa (near Liberia) on the second visit. This guide of what to pack for Costa Rica is ideal if you’re staying somewhere on the East Coast and are planning beaches and National Park visits.
What to Pack for Costa Rica
Sun hat: a wide-brimmed hat is a must, for anyone and everyone who visits Costa Rica! I happened on a Pura Vida hat (it’s a saying in Costa Rica) before I went on my second visit. It’s no longer available, but this one is similar to mine, and this one is similar to what my boyfriend wore while there.
Quick-dry towel: I bring quick-dry towels everywhere that I go – they’re just so useful! The fold up to be about a fraction of the size of a regular towel and, as the name suggests, they dry fast!
Sunscreen: sunscreen is another necessity, particularly if you’re not used to the strength of the sun in Central America. I love Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Dry Touch for the face, because it doesn’t cause breakouts (it comes highly recommended by dermatologists). Other than that, I stick to Banana Boat sport sunscreen for everywhere else because it’s water resistant (and cheaper).
Travel First-Aid Kit: I took a travel-sized first-aid kit to Costa Rica the second time around because… well, let’s just say I could have used it the first time. There’s a lot of opportunity for adventures and therefore, the occasional injury – and bug bites are a whole other thing! Most travel first-aid kits only come with the most basic materials, so I suggest also tossing in a few ibuprofens in a small baggie, and a small tube of polysporin.
Aloe Vera Gel: despite your best sun protection efforts, there’s a very good chance that you will still get a sunburn if you’re fair-skinned. Pack a travel-sized aloe vera gel because it’s pretty pricey to buy once you’re there.
Beach Bag: bring a good beach bag with you, preferably one that zips up so your things don’t risk falling out.
Rompers: Skip sundresses if you’re going to the beach, or even out for a night! Costa Rica can be extremely windy, and sundresses will blow every which way. Put it this way: I brought a dress, walked out the door and down the street… annnnd when right back to change. I ordered several from SheIn.com before the trip and wasn’t that impressed with the quality, but they were the perfect thing to wear around Costa Rica!
Shorts and t-shirts: your standard short and t-shirt/ tank-top outfits are perfect for Costa Rica. I brought a couple pairs of jean shirt and flowy tops, which were perfect. I suggest not bringing too many straight cotton t-shirts because they just get sticky and sweaty.
Workout clothes: When deciding what to pack for Costa Rica, primarily keep your activities in mind. If you plan to hiking, just bring what you would wear to the gym or a run back home. The same outfits are great for zip-lining!
I suggest taking at least two types of footwear to Costa Rica, and possible 3 depending on what your plans are! At the very least, you need sandals and a pair of sneakers.
Sandals: Choose a pair of sandals that have a heel on them, so they stay on in the sand and water.
Sneakers: I love Keds! They’re my go-to travel shoe if I expect to be walking around in a city or small town, of which there are plenty in Costa Rica.
Hiking shoes: if you’re considering going hiking in one of the National Parks like Rincon de la Vieja or Monteverde, hiking shoes are a good idea. I love the North Face for a hiking shoe that is a little bit lighter and more breathable, great for a hot climate like Costa Rica.
Hiking shoes are mentioned earlier, but there are a couple other things you should know about what to pack for Costa Rica if you’re going hiking.
It’s surprisingly chilly up in the mountains of places like Monteverde, so a light rain jacket goes a long way. If you are staying in the rainforest, you might want a few waterproof options!
I love bringing a different hat for hiking, too. Under Armour and North Face are my favourite brands for breathable sport caps.
With beautiful beaches everywhere, you will definitely be swimming in Costa Rica! Make sure that you have everything you need to go for a swim. Already mentioned but relevant for the beach are sandals and quick-dry towels. Here are a few more suggestions:
Beach wraps and cover-ups: there are a lot of great places in Costa Rica, like Manuel Antonio National Park or Llanos de Cortez that have a combination of exploring and swimming so have a wrap or cover-up to toss on over your swimsuit is really convenient.
Clarifying Shampoo: this is another go-to travel favourite for me if I think there’s any chance that I’ll be in water. Make sure you pack a bit of clarifying shampoo to rinse your hair with after swimming – not every day, because it will dry your hair out, but at least every few days if you’re in and out of salty ocean water. This one is my favourite, and I use it on my hair every few weeks even when I’m not travelling.
Enjoy Costa Rica!