Sundresses and bikinis might be your first thought when figuring out your Costa Rica packing list, but there are lots of other things you should pack which you might not initially cross your mind.
Costa Rica is filled with over a dozen microclimates, which means tons of different weather! Of course, Costa Rica also has a rainy season and dry season.
Check out our rainy season packing list!
Basically, packing for Costa Rica can get a bit complicated. You will need to take in to consideration the time of year and area you are visiting when choosing the correct Costa Rica clothing.
Have no fear though! I am here to walk your through everything that needs to be on your Costa Rica packing list.
Alright, lets get packing!
Packing Tips by Area & Season
As I mentioned above, the weather can vary a lot depending on where you go in Costa Rica. In general, the weather in the beach towns tends to be hot and sticky. You will very rarely need warm clothes there.
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. In Monteverde and San Gerardo, it is always best to be prepared for rain.
Keep in mind that Costa Rica does have a rainy season. 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 rain proofing items for this time.
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.
Clothing on the Costa Rica Packing List
Before we get into clothing for Costa Rica, I need to give you a bit of a safety warning. Costa Rica is a generally safe country, but crime does occasionally happen. The most common crime is petty theft.
I know you probably want to show off all of your cute tropical clothing, but I suggest not being overly flashy with your Costa Rica outfits. If you are staying in a fancy resort, go for it! However, if you are visiting more local places it is better to dress less fancy.
The reason I say this is because sometimes it’s best not to draw extra attention to yourself. 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!
I suggest bringing at least two bathing suits. They take up very little space, so the more the better! Costa Rica is sandwiched between the Pacific coast and the Caribbean coast. There are countless beautiful beaches and you’ll definitely want to soak up the sun.
I like to bring at least one two-piece bathing suit for beach chilling and one one-piece for water adventure sports. Just remember that you are really close to the Equator here and the sun tends to be strong, strong, strong!
A Dry Shirt
Some kind of quick dry shirt which you can wear in the water is super important. You might not realize it while in the ocean because you’ll be cooling off in the water, but you can get burned very quickly here. I always wear a dry shirt when I go in the ocean because I know my shoulders are always the first thing to get burned.
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.
Short Sleeve Shirts or Tank Tops
Bring some shirts that are versatile but not too showy. I like ones that I can pair with shorts, pants, or a skirt. I tend to pack a few really casual shirts for adventures and a few dressy shirts for nice dinners or days out in town.
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 flannel shirts or cardigans that I can easily put on over a T-shirt and leave unbuttoned if I want. In the rainforest and mountains, it can be really cool even during the day.
Shorts or Skirts
Costa Rica can also be HOT! Definitely bring some shorts and skirts. I’d also suggest at least one pair of moveable shorts. This country is made for adventures, and you’ll definitely want some sport shorts for activities that involve moving around.
I suggest bringing at least one pair of long pants. During the day it is hot, but it can cool off quickly in the evening. If you are planning on hiking in the rainforest or mountains it’s nice to have some comfortable moveable pants.
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.
I’m a big fan of lightweight, no wrinkle, dresses that can roll up small for my suitcase. I love to wear a cute dress out for dinner with a cardigan over it.
During the rainy season, it rains almost every day here. A lightweight rain jacket for your adventures would be useful especially if you plan on doing some hiking.
The sun can get really hot and I highly recommend having a hat. Right now wide-brimmed hats are in style, but if you go that route just remember you have to fit it in your suitcase somehow.
If you plan on hiking you may be wearing some boots of sneakers. I also like to have socks to wear when I am in cooler parts of the country.
I’m such a huge fan of Ex Officio underwear. They are easy to wash, dry quickly, and stay dry. Basically, they are amazing.
Don’t forget to also bring something to sleep in! Most hotels have fans or air conditioning, but not heating. 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.
Shoes for Costa Rica
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.
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.
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 rain forest.
I like to bring a pair of comfy slip-on shoes for going out to dinner, walking around town etc.
Packing Tip: Because of the humidity I try to avoid leather shoes in Costa Rica. I do have some Birkenstocks sandals that I love, but they do tend to get moldy here.
Here are my fave shoes for Costa Rica!
Gear for Costa Rica
Well, with the strong sun you’ll definitely want sunglasses, especially on the beach.
For days when you are off adventuring it is nice to have a backpack to carry all of your stuff. I bring my backpack as my carry-on and then use it throughout my trip
You have to consider that Costa Rica is really close to the equator. That means the sun is really strong. I recommend having at least 50 SPF lotion. That may seem really strong to you, but trust me, you’ll be thankful.
Of course, you can buy mosquito repellent here, but expect to pay a lot more than you would in other countries. That stuff is expensive!
Now with the threat of Zika and Dengue here you really need to bug spray it up. In the rainforest areas, you will likely need it all day. In the city and on the beaches the bugs usually only get worse in the evenings.
Most hotels will provide you with a towel but specify that you are not allowed to bring them to the beach. I suggest bringing a microfiber towel. Things tend to take forever to dry here because and microfiber towels are the only things I’ve found which dry quickly.
A Water Bottle
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 bing a big gallon size jug and then just refill my own waterbottle as I go.
My Tips for Packing for Costa Rica
– If you need to get your clothes washed there are laundromats located all over the country. They are not always the cheap it and might not get your clothes as clean as you’re used to, but if you run out of Costa Rica outfits to wear, they are fine.
– If you are visiting several different places and not renting a car I definitely suggest packing all your stuff in either a duffel or large backpack. It will just make your life easier than trying to roll your suitcase down poorly paved streets.
– I love packing cubes for longer travels with multiple stops. It makes it so much easier to organize everything at each new hotel.
– 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.
– 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 on the off chance your passport is stolen, you really need a backup.
– 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.
-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 adaptor for Costa Rica power outlets.
– I strongly suggest not bringing anything overly flashy with you. Leave jewelry and expensive purses at home. You don’t NEED them and I would always air on the side of caution here.
– If you would like a Costa Rica packing list for men, head on over here.
– Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before heading here. You never know what could happen and I think it’s better to be safe than sorry.
We suggest World Nomads. They are the company we use and love while traveling. You can read about my experience using World Nomads here.
Printable Costa Rica Packing List
We created a printable Costa Rica packing list for you all. It is completely free for our readers (because we kind of like you). 😉
If you would like to grab your copy of our printable Costa Rica packing list, just click here.
As always, let us know if you have any questions about what to bring to Costa Rica. We get it, sometimes you just can’t decide if you should pack something or not. Feel free to ask us! We are always happy to help you out.
Also, if you packed something for your trip Costa Rica that you think is a must-pack item, definitely let us know. 🙂
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