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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Cash, Cards and ID
- Cell Phone (unlocked)
- Hiking Shoes
- 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!