Our multi-gen family just took a bucket list family vacation 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. 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 turtles to sloths. 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.
Top Costa Rica Packing Tips
Shoes for Costa Rica
In the rain forest you will want hiking boots, 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 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.
Keeping Dry in Costa Rica
Depending on where you travel in Costa Rica, you are likely to encounter rain. Be sure to pack quick dry clothing. Bring a 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.
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 out 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. Cell phone lights weren’t much help.
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.
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.
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.
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. Both were wring 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.
Ultimate Costa Rica Packing List
- Cash, Cards and ID
- Cell Phone (unlocked)
- Hiking Boots
- Rain Jacket
- Fast Dry Clothing
- Beach Essentials
- Basic First Aid Kit
- Chargers & Power Banks
- Flashlights or Headlamps
- Waterproof Bag
- Waterproof Cell Phone Case
- Toiletries including feminine hygiene products for women
- Bug Repellent
- Imodium, Pepto Bismol, Pain Reliever
- Beach Essentials
Let us know in the comments below if this printable packing list is helpful!