You’re leaving for Costa Rica in a week and couldn’t be more excited. But you have a hundred and one things to get done before you leave (deadlines at work, finding a dog sitter, etc.) and the thought of figuring out what to pack is making your pre-vacation stress that much worse.
We’ve all been there.
It can be tough to decide what to bring along with you to a place you’ve never been to before. And even if you have been to Costa Rica, it’s easy to forget everything that you brought last time (not to mention everything you wish you had brought).
But when the whole point of a vacation is to get away, unwind, and recharge, the last thing you want to do is stress out beforehand.
This Costa Rica packing list will make your experience as painless as possible. The majority of people go to Costa Rica for adventure, a bit of nightlife, and plenty of relaxation by the shore/pool. And with the tips below, you’ll know exactly what to bring (and what not to bring) to enjoy all of these things to the fullest!
What to Bring
- Bug spray. No matter where you’re from, chances are that Costa Rica will have more bugs than you’re used to. And the last thing you want is to be itchy and covered in bites head to toe on vacation, so be sure to 1) bring bug spray 2) use it.
- Sunscreen. You’ll likely be spending the majority of your time in Costa Rica outdoors. And while some sun exposure is healthy, too much can be damaging. Using sunscreen or covering up with protective clothing can help prevent sun damage during your trip.
- A swimsuit! I didn’t really need to say this one, did I? Just in case you didn’t already know – bringing a swimsuit/swim trunks to Costa Rica is a must!
- Personal care products. Although some version of most of these items can be purchased in Costa Rica, you’ll save time and hassle on your vacation by bringing this stuff with you. Tampons, in particular, can be extremely hard to find in some remote areas.
- A Map. You’re probably not going to find a very good map of Costa Rica while you’re in Costa Rica. Instead, order this weatherproof and informative map ahead of time. You’ll be glad you did.
- Hiking/adventure gear. If you’re plans include any sort of activities in Costa Rica’s wildlife, you’d better be prepared with the appropriate gear. Comfortable trekking shoes or sandals (or both) are a must. And if you’re going to be spending any time in the bush, lightweight pants will do wonders in protecting against potentially harmful bugs and plant life. A lightweight jacket may even be necessary when traveling to higher elevations such as Poás and Irazú volcanoes, Monteverde cloud forest, and Chirripó peak. Most importantly, bring comfortable clothing that feels good and dries quickly. A water bottle as well as a backpack to store it in (along with your sunscreen, bug repellant, and whatever else you need) will also be a lifesaver out in the bush.
- Beach wear. If you’re anything like the average Costa Rica traveler, you’ll be spending the majority of your time at the beach. Pack accordingly with plenty of cover ups, casual t-shirts and shorts, flip flops/sandals, etc.
- A few nicer outfits. You may want to spend a night or two dining at a nice restaurant or out on the town while in the city. For these occasions, clothing that borders on the nicer side of casual and the laid-back side of dressy will do just fine.
- Lonely Planet Costa Rican Spanish Phrasebook and Dictionary. This resource will help you better understand local phrases and words for easier navigation and understanding of Costa Rica and its people.
- Passports are required for travel to Costa Rica. They’re also necessary for bank transactions, hotel check-ins, and car rentals. If you’re traveling with a partner, it would be wise to exchange photocopies of your passports.
- Money. A minimal amount of cash in addition to a credit/debit card is sufficient for most travelers. Remember to keep these items safe and tucked away with a money belt or non-obvious pocket.
- Medication. Although you’ll probably be able to get just about any prescription drug you need during your trip, it’s easier to take care of this ahead of time and bring your medications with you.
- Sunglasses/hat. Protecting your face and eyes from the sun is crucial – you don’t want to be out in the sun without the proper protection for hours or days at a time!
- A camera! You’ll have the time of your life during your vacation in Costa Rica. Make those memories last even longer by capturing them with a camera!
What to Leave Behind
- Curling irons, blow dryers, and other hair styling tools. Considering how humid Costa Rica’s weather is, these items won’t do you much good. Opt for a more natural and hassle free look during your trip (it will happen whether you fight it or not).
- Mobile Technology. Your cell phone won’t work in Costa Rica (the network doesn’t have agreements with North American or Eurpoean providers) and your iPad/computer will be more of a liability than anything. Besides, don’t you think it will be nice to unplug and get off the grid for awhile? No? In that case, you can check up on business at a local internet café or use a hotel computers if available. And for more cell phone options, click here.
- Most of your wallet/purse contents. You’re not going to need your gym pass, library card, car keys, or in-n-out gift card during your Costa Rican vacation. It’s a hassle to lug around extra stuff and risk losing it in a foreign country – avoid these issues by only taking what you need.
- Electric converters/plug adaptors (for U.S. and Canada). Sorry Europe, you may still need to bring converters if you’re taking anything that needs to be charged.
With these tips in mind, you’ll be more prepared than ever to have the time of your life in Costa Rica’s jungle paradise. Most of all, remember to bring your sense of adventure along with you to Costa Rica – the best memories are usually the ones that weren’t planned ahead of time!