Costa Rica Packing List for Families

Our multi-gen family has been fortunate to have taken several bucket list family vacations to Costa Rica. Some of our group had visited before. And, for others it was their first time to experience Costa Rica. This international destination is fairly easily accessible from the United States and has much to offer a variety of ages. Once you’ve booked that trip you may be wondering what to pack for Costa Rica. While it still requires a bit of preparation, we’ve got you covered with our printable Costa Rica packing list.

From clothing, and shoes to medicines and accessories find all you need to bring to Costa Rica right here!

Costa Rica really has it all — from the rain forest to sandy beaches and turtle hatching to sloth viewing. You will need different items for different areas of the country. Even if you visit Costa Rica during dry season, there will still be a chance of rain. So, this list works for both rainy season and dry season. Whether traveling with just adults, or visiting Costa Rica with kids your packing lists will be similar.

Insider Tip: Spend time both in the rainforest such as the Arenal/ La Fortuna area, and at one of the many beautiful Costa Rican beaches.

Download our printable Costa Rica packing list in PDF format below!

Top Costa Rica Packing Tips

Shoes for Costa Rica

In the rain forest you will want hiking shoes, rain boots or some other form of sturdy close toed shoes. This will prevent you from hopping around like a kangaroo when you spot a tiny little dart frog, like one of our fellow sloth tour members did.

I also brought along my non-slip, quick drying water shoes that transition well between beach and streets. Of course, sandals or flip flops will also work for the beach.

Generally the dress code is casual. If you are in the city, you might want to pay more attention to how everyone else is dressed. But in the tourist areas, people seem to wear what is comfortable to them.

Don’t forget your camera to capture photos of Costa Rica’s amazing wildlife, such as this Blue Morpho Butterfly.

Keeping Dry in Costa Rica

Depending on where and time of year you travel in Costa Rica, you are likely to encounter rain. Be sure to pack quick dry clothing. Bring a lightweight rain jacket! And, we recommend investing in a waterproof bag for camera equipment and anything else you need to keep dry. I purchased a 100% waterproof bag that came with a waterproof cell phone case.

What Else Do you Need for the Rain Forest?

Guided tours for animal watching will provide either a telescope or binoculars. But chances are that you may stay at a resort with animal watching right out of your hotel room. In hindsight, we would bring binoculars for the kids.

Insider Tip: Be sure to include Arenal and La Fortuna on your Costa Rica itinerary. It is the ultimate animal viewing destination.

Wildlife watching is a highlight of Costa Rica with kids. Look closely in the photo and see if you can spot the crocodile in the water!

Light is Limited and Power can be Finicky

Light is limited at night everywhere in Costa Rica. While the flashlight on your phone may work, a more powerful flashlight or headlamp will be your best friend. During our stay on Playa Potrero, our power went out one night. We were lucky to have some friendly expat neighbors who brought us candles and other lights on our first visit. Since we’ve always packed headlamps which are fun for the kids too.

Bug Spray, Sunscreen and Medicines

You will also want to bring powerful Mosquito repellent and sunscreen as these products are limited in Costa Rica and are more expensive. Tap water is safe to drink in all but the most rural areas of Costa Rica. But we still brought along Imodium and Pepto Bismol just in case. We were glad to not need it. It also never hurts to have some Benedryl with you if anyone in your families has allergies.

All of these items can be purchased in Costa Rica, but at a premium. Also bug spray , in particular, is an essential. We went through a couple of bottles and wanted a strong variety.

Women will also want to make sure to bring their feminine hygiene products as you likely won;t be able to find your favorite brands, and again it will be available at a premium.

If you travel with kids, you know that their preferred pain medication may be one of the most important items you pack. Our youngest will only take Children’s Tylenol Dissolve packets. So we don’t leave home without them.

Phone and WiFi Service in Costa Rica

If you have a cell phone that has been fully paid off and you are in good standing with your carrier they are required to unlock your phone with a couple of exceptions. If you bring an unlocked phone, you can purchase a SIM card at a Walmart or local Merkado in Costa Rica. Activate that service and pre-pay for minutes.

In addition, now that the new iPhones offer dual eSim, you can just sign up for a second eSim online without having to purchase a physical card. But you do still have to have an unlocked phone to use this feature.

If you don’t have access to an unlocked cell phone you can still put your phone on Airplane Mode and access WiFi to use most features other than calling.

And, some car rental place will also rent or even include a local cell phone.

There are plenty of options.

ziplining at Buena Vista del Rincon Costa Rica
Comfortable shoes, quick dry clothing and swim wear were important for our day of ziplining, horseback riding, water sliding and more at Buena Vista del Rincon.

Maps for Costa Rica

One of our top tips for traveling in Costa Rica if you rent a car, is to also rent portable WiFi. With this we were able to run both Google Maps and Wazee off of two different cell phone. Wazee is more accurate. But both were wrong at different times, so by using both you will likely be able to find your destination. You will not pack this, but rather rent it from the car rental company. But it was a life saver. And, when the power went out in our condo, our portable WiFi still worked.

But we did also purchase and pack a waterproof map, just in case.

Sturdy, close-toed shoes are important in the rain forest. You will have to sign a liability waiver if you wear open toed shoes on the Arenal Hanging Bridges.

Insider Tip: For an upscale luxury beach town experience, be sure to check out Las Catalinas, even if just on a day trip. It is a cute walking town with a beautiful beach, delicious restaurants and even upscale shopping.

paddleboard off of Playa Danta and Las Catalinas Costa Rica
Heading out on my own inflatable paddle board was one of the many joys of our visit to Las Catalinas Costa Rica.

Most Unique Item Packed

Our last trip to Costa Rica was to Las Catalinas which is a beach town know for paddle boarding. As we flew Southwest where bags fly free, I actually packed my inflatable SUP and brought it along. I was so happy to have been able to just head out on it whenever I had some down time. Of course, staying on one place for the week was key. I wouldn’t have brought it along had we been traveling around the country.

Ultimate Costa Rica Packing List

If you stay in a villa or rental with a washer and dryer, I;d recommend not over packing. Bring the essentials. But don’t be afraid to do a load or two of laundry.

  • Passports
  • Cash, Cards and ID
  • Cell Phone (unlocked)
  • Swimwear
  • Sandals
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Rain Jacket
  • Fast Dry Clothing
  • Sunglasses
  • Toiletries
  • Beach Essentials
  • Basic First Aid Kit
  • Camera
  • Chargers & Power Banks
  • Flashlights or Headlamps
  • Waterproof Bag
  • Waterproof Cell Phone Case
  • Undergarments
  • Toiletries including feminine hygiene products for women
  • Bug Repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Imodium, Pepto Bismol, Pain Reliever
  • Beach Essentials
  • Binoculars

Download our printable Costa Rica packing list PDF here!

Let us know in the comments below if this printable packing list is helpful!

Costa Rica Packing List for Families

Liana Moore

Liana Moore is a third-culture kid with a hangover from those days that is a severe case of wanderlust. She is more comfortable driving the cliffs of Amalfi, Italy or the dirt roads of Costa Rica or attempting to decipher the street signs of Osaka, Japan than navigating the theme parks of Disney World. But she loves it all. She doesn't believe a vacation is complete without an adventure. Her husband and kids know well that "adventure" often is code for mishap or challenge and it usually results in a good story. They seek outdoor experiences whether in the mountains, on a beach or in the jungle of a tropical country. Her favorite vacation is... all the ones she hasn't yet taken, as well as those she plans on taking again. And, that list is so, so long. But she continues to extensively explore her home state of Colorado, spends lots of time wandering Texas, California, New Mexico, Costa Rica, Mexico, Norway and has even explored Kazakhstan.

One thought on “Costa Rica Packing List for Families

  • January 2, 2023 at 1:36 pm

    Great tips, particularly rain gear to protect your phone.


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