A Packing List for Costa Rica

By patrick on

You have your plane tickets booked and reservations made. As you come closer to the departure date, you start to wonder what to bring. Beach wear? What sort of stuff do you need for hikes in the rainforest? What about the mountains?

It depends on what you plan on doing in Costa Rica but the following suggestions should cover a two week trip with zip-lining, horse back rides, rainforest hikes, boat rides, birding, and the beach:


Footwear: Bring sandals if you like but don’t only bring sandals. River shoes and cross trainers are also handy.



  • Tee shirts: Three to five should do it with two of them being nylon shirts that wick away sweat. These are especially good for hiking in hot and humid areas.
  • Long-sleeve activewear shirt: At least one or two long sleeve shirts made of nylon or other materials that help you cool off in hot weather. Very handy for outdoor activities.
  • 2 dressy shirts: When you go out to dinner or dancing.
  • 3 pairs of shorts: Ideal for hot weather of course but not so much for exploring the forest.
  • Sarong: To cover up on the beach.
  • 2 lightweight trousers: Nylon travel pants are ideal, especially the ones with zip off pant legs. Jeans aren’t as useful because they aren’t so comfortable in tropical weather.
  • 7 or more underwear
  • 7 or more pairs of socks
  • A light jacket: You will need this if visiting Monteverde, Savegre, or other highland sites.
  • A bandana, cap, or wide brimmed hat: All of these keep the bugs away from your hair and head and can shade your eyes. Always useful.
  • A mesh bag: Not to wear but to hold your wet clothes.


Toiletries: The same as you would bring on any trip. bring extra toilet paper just to be prepared. Also, pack high strength sunblock and use it!


Books and apps:

  • Your favorite guide book.
  • A good map or GPS app.
  • A new novel for the plane and other reading times.
  • Field guides for birds and other wildlife in Costa Rica.
  • Spanish/English phrase book.
Gear: Depends on what you plan on doing in Costa Rica but everyone will probably need at least some gear.
  • Mobile device: Make arrangements with your server for the phone to work if you plan on making calls. If not, bring it for useful apps.
  • Camera: Lots of photo opps in Costa Rica! If you want more pictures than the ones from your mobile device, bring a camera of your choice.
  • Memory cards and batteries: Extra ones for the camera and whatever else.
  • Binoculars: The small travel binos aren’t going to be much use for birdwatching and checking out sloths. Be prepared with waterproof, quality binos.
  • Headlamp: For night hikes!
  • Flashlight: A really bright one if you plan on looking for night birds, a small one if not.
  • A small umbrella and/or a poncho: A raincoat is too hot for most of the country, bring a small folding umbrella and a poncho for the highlands.
  • Sunglasses: Look cool, mysterious, and shade your eyes from the bright sun.
  • All purpose tool: As in a Swiss army knife or Leatherman thing. It could come in handy.
Other stuff:
  • Plastic ziplock bags: Useful for keeping so much of your stuff dry. very handy!
  • Drybag: This is for people who plan on carrying camera gear in the rainforest for several days.
  • Bug repellent.
  • Money belt or something to keep the passport safe and sound.
  • Cliff bars as emergency snacks.
  • Favorite water bottle or camelback.
  • Several $20 bills in hidden compartment as emergency cash.


Some First Aid stuff: You don’t need to bring a medical bag but should be prepared for basic situations.

  • Some small bandages.
  • Motion sickness medication if needed.
  • Something for diarrhea (just in case).
  • Neosporin.
  • Alcohol gel and or/wipes.
  • Surgical tape.
  • Acetaminoophen to reduce pain and fever.
  • Ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Aloe Vera gel is also good to have.
  • Foot powder to keep your feet dry .
Important documents and money:
  • Passport valid for at least 6 or more months from the time of your trip. You can’t get into Costa Rica with a driver’s license.
  • Driver’s License: Bring it in case you want to rent or drive a vehicle.
  • Visa if needed: An Indian friend of mind went all the way to Costa Rica and was turned back because he forgot to get a Visa!
  • Credit card: Most hotels and many restaurants take them but smaller places often don’t.
  • Debit card: It should work at ATMs and other places but be very careful about skimming scams and other types of fraud.
  • Cash: Bring American dollars. Get Colones too in advance if you can. You can also exchange dollars for Colones at the airport but it’s a rip-off. Exchange dollars at the service desk of the nearest Walmart or a bank for the best rate (will probably have to wait and will need your passport).
  • Insurance card.
  • Photocopies: Keep copies of the passport, license, and credit cards separate (leave them at the hotel), in case you lose those important documents.


What not to bring: Stuff that you just aren’t going to need in Costa Rica.

  • Keys for home and car: No point in potentially losing these. Leave them with a reliable, trusted family member or friend if possible.
  • Anti-bacterial soap: Everyone in the world needs to stop using anti-bacterial soap. Who knows how it affects waterways and regular soap and alcohol gel work just as well.
  • Heavy hiking boots.
  • Winter clothes.
  • Travellers checks– hardly anyone uses them anymore and hardly any place takes them.
  • A machete: No, you won’t be hacking your way through the jungle.

Pack light and keep in midn that although you can buy a lot of this stuff in Costa Rica, it will cost much more than your home country. Have a great trip!

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