The truth is - most people interested in a Costa Rica travel vacation are primarily drawn to the country for one or two reasons: beaches and/or rainforests. With those two things in mind, you really can pack light, even if you’ll be here for awhile. There’s really no need to pack an evening dress or a three-piece suit (ok, a marriage ceremony, but that’s about it), keep the jewelry and flashy accessories at home. Trust on this. Besides your passport, your airline ticket, and money in various forms, pack as light as possible. Buses, flying in small planes with luggage restrictions, in and out of rental cars and switching hotel rooms, you’ll be less stressed if you don’t have to pack up five large suitcases every time you change locations.
Obviously, what you pack depends on how you are planning to travel, length of stay, and your personal preferences. Some people would just throw a couple t-shirts, a few swimsuits and some flip flops and be on their way, but here at TravelCostaRicaNow, we’ve traveled extensively around the country and would just like to offer some considerations.
A few things to remember:
Laundromats are few and far between in Costa Rica, and when you do find them, can be quite pricey. Hand washing isn’t the worse thing, but some items can take forever to dry here.
Popular destinations like Irazu and Poas volcanoes, Monteverde, and Chirripo peak are at higher elevations where it’s cool enough that you’ll be glad you packed a jacket or sweater. Also, rental cars and hotel rooms do not have a warm setting on their thermostat, as heaters are virtually unheard of here.
Pack quick-drying garments
In San Jose, you rarely see locals wearing shorts, although younger people have started to change this tradition somewhat.
3-5 t-shirts, at least one long sleeved for exploration and to protect your sunburn.
At least 1 dress shirt or blouse
A few pair of shorts- the quick drying nylon type and at least 1 pair of dressier cotton shorts.
1-2 pairs of long pants. Something decent and something for exploring. Those convertible pants (zip-off legs) can make for a great option. We like wearing long pants for exploring and adventure as the rainforest can be unforgiving for a variety of reasons- trust us on this.
If you wear underwear, bring mostly ‘older worn out’ pairs as you can throw them out.
Ditto for socks. Socks can often get soggy due to tropical perspiration or precipitation, so if you’re a sock wearer, bring a few extra. We recommend sports sandals without socks for typical Costa Rican day wear.
Jacket- as mentioned it can get cold in higher elevations or out in the ocean. A lightweight pile jacket, and a water and wind resistant jacket that can be tucked away in a daypack are your best bet.
Hat with a brim- for sun protection. Costa Rican sun IS intense.
Mesh bag for wet clothes is a better choice than a plastic or dry bag.
A few swimsuits.
When considering shoes, think breatheability, quick drying, easily washable, comfortable and light weight. But depending on your needs, here are some considerations:
Toothbrush w/ cover and toothpaste
Towel/washcloth- in many backpacker hostels or low end hotels towels are usually not provided.
Tampons- in some more remote places, these can be hard to come by.
Toilet paper- trust us on this
Contacts- don’t forget extra pairs, or cleaning solution
Just as a Reminder- Documents
Money, credit/debit card
Insurance card and contact information
Spanish/English Phrase book
Travel Guide book such as Lonely Planet or Frommers.
A good map
Plastic bags- Ziplock bags of various sizes to protect things from humidity or rain.
Flashlight and extra batteries
All the cables you’ll need for your computer
A First Aid Kit
Eye drops- Visine will work but NeoTears is better.
Imodium or something to treat Travelers Diarrhea
Dramamine or something for motion sickness
Neoporin for small cuts and scrapes as well as insect bites
Tape- waterproof, flexible, breathable surgical tape is best
Insect repellent- 95% DEET for mosquitoes, and Avon’s Skin-so-Soft for the pesky no-see-ums.
Aspirin/Acetaminophen/Ibuprofen for pain and/or fever
$20.00 bill for emergencies- $50’s and $100’s are not liked here and they’re hard to pass off