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 think of.
Costa Rica is filled with over a dozen microclimates, which means tons of different weather! The beaches tend to be crazy hot and sticky. The mountains are cool and rainy. Of course, Costa Rica also has a rainy season which is different depending on which coast you are on.
Basically packing for Costa Rica means bringing a little of everything, depending on where you are going.
Alright, lets get packing!
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 happen. Most crimes are petty thefts.
I know you probably want to show off all of your cute tropical clothing, but I suggest not being overly flashy. 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 attention to yourself. If you look like you could have a lot of money you might be more of a target. This goes with 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!
Bathing Suits: 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 fast-drying 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 crazy fast here. Covering up is the best way to go.
Beach Cover Up: If you’re planning on spending most of your trip beach hopping 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.
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. 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, but I would stay away from anything that is TOO short. Don’t draw too much attention to yourself. 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 to do a lot of fun stuff in.
Pants: I suggest bringing at least one pair of 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.
Dresses: I’m a big fan of lightweight dresses that can roll up small for my suitcase. I love to wear a cute dress out for dinner with a cardigan over it.
Rain Jacket: During the rainy season it rains almost every day here. A lightweight rain jacket for your adventures would be useful.
Hat: 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.
Socks: Bring a few more pairs of socks than days you are planning on staying. Things have a tendency of getting wet here and never drying.
Underwear: 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 may want to bundle up in something warm.
Shoes for Costa Rica
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.
Hiking 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.
Everyday Shoes: I like to bring a pair of comfy slip-on shoes for going out to dinner, walking around town etc.
Here are my fave shoes for Costa Rica!
Gear for Costa Rica
Sunglasses: Well, with the strong sun you’ll definitely want sunglasses, especially on the beach.
A backpack: 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
Sunscreen: 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.
Bug Spray: Of course you can buy bug spray 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.
Beach Towel: 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.
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 clothes 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.
- 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.
- 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 are still unsure about what to pack I suggest reading our guide to Costa Rica by month to get a better idea of the weather. Also, check out our destination guides for the places you are visiting. Each guide includes a weather break down as well as some suggested packing items.
- 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.
- If you would like a Costa Rica packing list for men, head on over 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 this Cost Rica packing list. 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 Costa Rica that you think is a must-pack item, definitely let us know. 🙂