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What to Pack for Costa Rica for Women

Sundresses and bikinis might be your first thought when choosing what to pack for Costa Rica. However, there are lots of other things you should have on your packing list that you might not initially think of.

Costa Rica is filled with over a dozen microclimates, which means tons of different weather! The country also has a rainy season and a dry season. And some people visit for adventure while others visit for a resort type of vacation.

Your Costa Rica packing list for women can get a bit complicated. You will need to take into consideration the time of year and area you are visiting.

Have no fear though! We are here to walk you through everything that needs to be in your suitcase.

Alright, let’s get packing!

Clothing for Costa Rica

Before we get into what to pack for Costa Rica clothing, I need to give you a bit of a safety warning. Costa Rica is a generally safe country, but petty theft does occasionally happen. 

It is best to not be overly flashy with your Costa Rica outfits. If you look like you could have a lot of money, you might be more of a target. 

This goes for jewelry and accessories as well. Sometimes the more simple the better.

OK, now back to the topic you came here for, clothing for Costa Rica!

Bikini

I usually pack two bikinis. Typically I bring a bikini that is good for tanning and a bikini with a bit more support for swimming or walking. 

One Piec Bathing Suit

A one-piece bathing suit is always nice to have for water sports. I have this one from CupShe, which I’m really happy with. 

UV Protecting Long Sleeve

Because the sun is so powerful in Costa Rica it is always a good idea to have a fast-drying shirt that can provide UV protection. I like this one that is made for the water.

There have been several times in which Thomas and I have gone on snorkel tours and have worn our UV shirts over our bathing suits while in the water.

At the end of the day, we are always the only people without bad sunburns. 

UV Protecting Short Sleeve

If you don’t want to go full-on and get a long sleeve shirt, you should at least get a short sleeve water shirt to protect you from the sun while in the water. 

Beach Cover Up

If you’re planning on spending most of your trip hanging out at the beach, it is always a good idea to have a nice cover-up to throw on for walking along the beach or for going to grab lunch nearby.

Cardigan

Sometimes it can cool down a bit in the evenings here. I always pack a cardigan to throw over a dress or tank top for dinners. 

Sporty Short Sleeve Shirts & Tank Tops

Bring some shirts that are versatile but not too showy.

I tend to pack solid colored t-shirts or racerback tanks that can easily be paired with shorts or skirts.

A few casual shirts for adventures

Dressy Shirt

A few dressy shirts for nice dinners or days out in town is always a good idea. I like ones that don’t wrinkle easily and are very lightweight.

Long Sleeve Shirt

I suggest bringing at least one or two long sleeve shirts, especially if you plan on heading to the mountains.

I’m a big fan of lightweight flannel shirts that I can easily put on over a T-shirt and leave unbuttoned if I want. 

I also always have a long-sleeve T-shirt  or two.

A Dress

When choosing a dress for Costa Rica travel I consider a few things.

The dress needs to be a material that won’t easily wrinkle with humidity, is lightweight, will roll up small in my suitcase, won’t blow up easily with wind, and can be dressed up or down.

This is one of my favorite dresses that I think works for most people. It hits right below the knees and you can easily throw a cardigan over it for dinners.

Hiking Shorts

This country is made for adventures, and you’ll definitely want some sport shorts for activities that involve moving around.

I really like the Sandy River shorts from Columbia. They are the perfect length, have a breathable fabric, dry quickly, and come in several colors.  

The Nike Dry Fit shorts are another go-to of mine for hiking and day activities. The only downside is that they are a bit short.

So, if you are zip lining or doing something that involves wearing a harness, go for the Columbia shorts. 

Fashion Shorts

I suggest skipping the jean shorts in Costa Rica. It is just too hot and humid here for that. Instead, go for something lightweight.

Linen is great, but it wrinkles easily.

Usually, I just wear thin cotton shorts or board shorts in fun patterns with a solid-colored shirt. 

A Skirt

It’s always a good idea to have a skirt that can be dressed up or down for going to a restaurant. I have this lightweight midi skirt in multiple patterns and love it. 

Lightweight Pants

I suggest bringing at least one or two pairs of pants. The best options are something lightweight.

You really do not need jeans. You most likely won’t wear them at all. 

I have this pair that is breathable and water resistant. I love that they have a drawstring waist (because it’s vacation and my pants always seem to get tighter while traveling).

Plus, I can throw on a pair of sandals and a nice top and they don’t look too sporty for going out.

Keep in mind that there are some poisonous critters here. I usually hike in shorts if I am on well-maintained paths, but if you plan to be going a bit deeper into the jungle you will definitely want to wear pants for your hike.

Leggings

OK, I guess leggings aren’t really a necessity. But, I just love my leggings, you know? I wear them on the plane when it gets cool in the evenings when lounging around at a hotel, and sometimes for hiking.

I finally recently invested in some Lululemon leggings, and I have caught onto the hype. They are a game changer and I don’t think I can go back to the knockoff brands.

Underwear

Exofficio makes the best lightweight, fast-drying, and breathable underwear (in my opinion). They aren’t the cheapest by any means, but I feel they are worth the price. 

Socks

Opt for something that is breathable and hits above your ankle. If you are wearing new shoes while on your trip, definitely opt for socks that are not going to hit right at the ankle.

Nobody wants to deal with those annoying new shoe blisters while traveling.

Sports Bras

You’ve got to give the girls some support while participating in all your fun adventure activities.

I typically opt for decent-looking sports bras (like this one from Puma) because when it gets too hot on hikes I almost always just end up taking my shirt off and sports bra-ing it.

Rain Jacket

I have had the Northface Venture 2 rain jacket for four years now and it is still going strong.

I chose it for Costa Rica because it is made with a waterproof and breathable material that repels rain while allowing moisture to escape.

It also features an adjustable hood, adjustable cuffs, and a hem cinch cord, allowing you to customize the fit and seal out any rainwater.

Pajamas

Usually, I just bring a T-shirt and lightweight shorts to sleep in. Hopefully, your hotel has AC, but if not it can get hot (depending on the time of year).  

If you are in a place (like San Gerardo de Dota or Monteverde) where it tends to get cold at night (and even sometimes during the day) you will likely want to bundle up in something warm.

Footwear for Costa Rica

Women’s Footwear At a Glance

Shop The Complete Costa Rica Women’s Packing List

Flip Flops

I suggest bringing one pair of flip-flops for the beach, but not more. If they happen to break or something you can always buy a new pair at any souvenir shop.

I am partial Teva and Reef flip-flops even though they are not the cheapest. I find they are extremely comfy and last a lot longer than cheap flip-flops. 

Plus, sidewalks are not always the most well-maintained here and I hate walking with cheap flip-flops when you can feel every rock.

Just note that I feel like Teva’s tend to run small. I usually have to size up. 

Water Shoes

Do you know the company, Keen? They are my ride-or-die shoes for Costa Rica. I love them because they are great for hiking but also can be used to walk through water.

There are surprisingly a lot of situations in Costa Rica in which you will end up walking through streams or rivers. It is nice just to walk right on through with fast-drying shoes.

They are very breathable and offer great support as well. 

I suggest getting a pair of Newport H2 shoes in a dark color (so the straps are less likely to look dirty quickly). 

Hiking Boots

If you prefer not to bring water shoes, then hiking boots are always a good idea if you plan on doing a lot of exploring the rainforest.

And that is it. Usually, I stick to just one pair of flip-flops and something to hike in. However, if you will be at a resort you may want at least one pair of more dressy sandals or shoes. 

What to Pack for Costa Rica Tip: Because of the humidity I try to avoid leather shoes in Costa Rica. I do have some Birkenstock sandals that I love, but they tend to get moldy here.

Check out our guide to shoes for Costa Rica for more info!

Toiletries

First Aid Kit

Costa Rica is an adventure lovers paradise and that means that occasionally things can happen in which you might need a first aid kit.

Having a compact first aid kit with all the essentials that you can easily transport in your luggage is always a good idea. 

Sunscreen

I suggest SPF 50 sunscreen, always. The sun is very powerful here because Costa Rica is located so close to the Equator.

You can always buy sunblock while in Costa Rica, but if you are bringing a checked bag, it doesn’t hurt to bring some from home.

After Sun Cream

If you happen to get a bad sunburn or just need some skin relief after a bit too much time in the sun, we swear by this Sun Bum Aloe Vera Lotion.

Plus, the tube is small enough that you can bring it in your carry-on if you are not checking a bag.

Also, if you can’t find any after-sun cream, just look for the real thing instead. Aloe vera plants are usually easy to find in Costa Rica. 

Bug Spray

Insect repellant is a must-have in Costa Rica. Once the sun goes down, the mosquitos come out. You can always buy bug spray at any grocery store in Costa Rica.

If you bring your own bottle, just keep in mind that you can not bring aerosol cans on the plane. 

Blister Bandaids

We always carry blister bandaids because after a long day hiking (especially if wearing new shoes) you might need them.

Nail Clipper Set

Because you never know when you’ll need to cut your nails. 

Motion Sickness Pills

If you don’t do well with curvy roads or plan to spend some time out on a boat, I suggest bringing motion sickness pills.

If you forget, you can always buy them at most stores. You likely won’t see them displayed anywhere, but ask at the register.

If they have them they will ask how many pills you need (yes they sell individual pills, not entire packages haha). 

What to Pack for Costa Rica for Women

Pain Killers

I always carry some ibuprofen on me. You never know when you’ll overdo it on an adventure activity and by suffering the next day.

Shampoo, Conditioner, Bodywash

You can always buy these things in Costa Rica if you are not bringing a checked bag.

I recently bought these refillable bottles and they have been great for taking on my carry-on and refilling at hotels with shampoo. 

Other Things to Note:

  • The humidity can be strong here. So, get ready for some crazy frizzy hair!
  • I find that the water here is typically good for showering. It doesn’t majorly dry out my skin or scalp.
  • Put all your liquids in sealed zip lock bags. We have experienced things busting open due to pressure changes when driving between the mountains and lowlands. Thomas was not happy when I recently forgot to do this and my new shampoo leaked all over his clothes. Oops!

Accessories to Pack for Costa Rica

Sunglasses

Because it’s Costa Rica, there is a lot of sun!

Sunglass Strap

Having a strap for your glasses is so helpful for adventure sports such as zip lining or white water rafting.

Hat

I have the Columbia Bora Bora hat and I really like it. It’s a bit nerdy, but the material is very breathable, it folds up small for your luggage, and it provides good sun coverage.

Gear for Costa Rica

Pocket Binoculars

While in Costa Rica, you most likely want to do some wildlife spotting.

Sometimes animals such as sloths and monkeys are so far up in the trees that they appear to be just little blobs.

I always carry a set of pocket binoculars to get a closer view. 

Zip Lock Bags

Zip locks are one of those simple things that you most likely have at home and take up virtually no space in your luggage.

Thomas is always like, “Why are you bringing those?” And we always end up using them.

You never know if clothes will get wet and not dry before moving to your next hotel, if you will have leftover food that you want to bring to your next place, if you have leaking shampoo etc.

Just bring a few.

LifeStraw Waterbottle

You will most likely want to carry at least one bottle of water with you on all your day adventures. The climate is so humid here. You can get dehydrated way quicker than you are probably used to. 

In most places in Costa Rica it is possible to drink the water from the sink. However, if you would like to be a bit cautious it is probably best to buy bottled water.

I like to bring a big gallon-size jug and then just refill my own water bottle as I go.

Pro Tip: Get a water bottle with a filter like Lifestraw for extra safety.

Microfiber Towel

Many hotels will have a towel for you to use for showering, but not for the beach. We like microfiber towels because they roll up small in your luggage and are designed to be quick drying. 

Head Lamp

The sun sets by 6 pm every night. A headlamp is nice for walking around after dark. 

Tech

These items are not necessities, but here are the things we own and use in Costa Rica. 

Canon 90D

The Canon 90D is the camera we use to take good wildlife pictures. Granted, we also have a lot of fancy lenses. 

GoPro

We have a GoPro and I will admit, we actually rarely use it, but it is nice for adventure activities such as zip lining. 

Samsung s22+

The Samsung S22+ is the phone I have and take most of the pictures for this website on. I think it takes really quality shots.

Kindle

It’s nice to read a book on the Kindle by the pool or as a way of relaxing after a long day of adventuring. 

Pro Tip: If you are in the United States, get the free app Libby and download books from your local library’s e-book collection. 

what to pack for costa rica bathing suite

Adapter

Costa Rica has the same outlets as the United States. If you are traveling from Europe you will need to bring an adapter to use your tech.

Luggage

Camping Style Backpack

If it is possible for you, I find it is typically much easier to travel with an oversized camping-style backpack rather than a suitcase when visiting Costa Rica.

The reason for this is that a lot of hotels and VRBO listings are typically not equipped with ramps or easy access.

Sometimes you might have to walk up stairs or park in one spot and walk up steep driveways to get to where your room might be.

Thomas and I just did a three-week trip around the country to update some posts. I used my large backpack and he brought a suitcase. 

Guess who was struggling? Not me! 

If you are planning to stay at only one or two places or are staying at a resort, you’ll be fine with a suitcase. 

Waterproof Backpack

This is one of those things that I’m like “why did I not buy a waterproof backpack years ago?” If you are traveling during the rainy season or plan on spending time near water, a waterproof day bag is essential.

We mostly use our dry bag for hiking or longer day trips in which we have a lot of stuff with us. I have this one and it doubles as the perfect under-your-seat carry-on while flying. 

Small Bag or Purse

I tend to alternate between either a Longchamp purse or Fjallraven backpack for going out to dinner and in towns.

I like the Longchamp purse because I can roll it up very small in my luggage and it is easy to clean. Plus, it looks nice without being too fancy, you know?

I like the Fjallraven backpack because it is also easy to pack in my luggage by flattening it. It is also easy to clean and fits a decent amount of stuff in it. 

Packing Cubes

This is not essential, but I find that packing cubes are helpful if you plan to go to several destinations.

Having all of your items in separate “cubes” makes it a lot easier to unpack while traveling.

Packing Tips by Area and Season

As I mentioned above, the weather can vary a lot depending on where you go in Costa Rica.

It may be a small country but there are several different microclimates.

Pacific and Caribbean Coast Packing

In general, the weather in beach towns on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts tends to be hot and humid. You will very rarely need warm layers there.

Mountain Towns Packing

In the mountains (La Fortuna, Monteverde, Alajuela, Cartago, San Gerardo de Dota etc.) the weather can be a bit cooler.

It is good to bring pants and some layers for these areas. Monteverde and San Gerardo are cloud forest towns. It is always best to be prepared for rain there.

Rainy Season Packing

Keep in mind that Costa Rica does have a rainy season.

The rainy season on the Pacific coast tends to run from late April until mid-December.

It is always a good idea to pack a rain jacket and some rainproofing items for this time.

Check out our rainy season packing list! I know this is all a bit confusing. To help you out, check out our Destination Guides for each place you are visiting. Each guide contains a section on the weather by season. This will give you a much better idea of what to wear in Costa Rica for the specific places you might be visiting.

What to Pack for Costa Rica Advice

– If you need to get your clothes washed there are laundromats located all over the country.

– Save your plastic bags when you go to the grocery store here. They are great for putting wet clothes in when it is time to move to your next Costa Rica destination. It’s also never a bad idea to just pack a few gallon-size zip lock bags for this same purpose.

– Definitely copy your passport before coming to Costa Rica and store it in a separate place. I also suggest emailing a copy to yourself. If you lose your passport having a copy makes it much easier to get a temporary one.

– If you want to stay connected with your cell phone you can check what the rates would be from your regular cell phone provider. The other option is to get a SIM card at the airport in San Jose. We have a full post about using your cell phone here

– We created an Amazon storefront with packing lists for every area in Costa Rica if you need more detailed lists.

– The grocery stores in Costa Rica have everything you might need. If you are planning to travel only with a carry-on, have no fear! You can buy travel-sized shampoo, conditioner, etc at all larger grocery stores.

– Don’t forget to save space for souvenirs! We have a complete souvenir guide to help you out with that.

– If you are traveling alone and concerned about your safety in hotel rooms, I’ve heard great things about these alarm door stoppers.

– Costa Rica voltage is the same as the US. In other words, if you are traveling from North America you do not need a special adapter for Costa Rica power outlets.

– If you would like a what to pack for Costa rica list for men, head on over here.

– Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before heading here. You never know what could happen and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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Conclusion

And that is all for the Costa Rica packing list for women! You now know exactly what to pack for Costa Rica for clothing, accessories, footwear, gear, and more.

I hope you are now ready to load up your bags and start your Costa Rican adventures in paradise!

You Might Also Find These Posts Helpful:

Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

🏄🏽 How can I book things to do?

We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.

🍍 I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?

Of course! I suggest joining our Facebook group for specific questions and head to our Start Here Page to get started planning.

✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest Booking.com for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?

The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

📞 What is the best way to stay connected?

An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.

🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi,

    This post is just awesome! Thank you so much for writing it ?
    I’m moving to Costa Rica in about a year (from Scandinavia) and was wondering what you recommend to bring for like a year or two? ? how easy is it to find good clothes there… like shopping opportunities?

    1. Hey! You can definitely find good clothes. The beach towns have tons of cute little shops and San Jose has big malls (check out Multiplaza online. Its the biggest mall in central america) BUT clothes tend to be expensive here. I tend to buy all clothes and electronics when i’m back in the states or in Europe.
      Let me know if you have more questions as you plan your move! Youll love it here. ?