Packing for Costa Rica is not always the easiest. You’re dealing with a variety of microclimates here. Get ready for the rainforest, cloud forests, beaches, and different rainy seasons depending on where you are traveling. Ugh! For such a small country, it sure doesn’t make it easy! Here is our list of must-have gear for Costa Rica which we think all travelers will benefit from bringing.
1. GEAR FOR COSTA RICA – Keen Sandals
Costa Rica is made for adventure. We often find ourselves wading through rocky rivers or hiking on rainy days. I absolutely love these sandals (or would you call them shoes?) for adventure in Costa Rica because they are stable but still allow air flow and dry quickly.
2. GEAR FOR COSTA RICA – Snorkel
Have you guys seen these snorkel masks? I think they are pretty much the coolest thing ever and totally worth the price. I always suggest bringing some snorkel gear because although you can rent a snorkel mask at several beaches, it adds up fast. Plus, you won’t find someone renting snorkels at every beach, so you are much better off bringing your own.
There are many places in Costa Rica where the water is too choppy to snorkel, but there also a lot of spots we love. We’ve snorkeled up on the northern Guanacaste beaches, Playa Biesanz in Manuel Antonio, and on several other small beaches on the Pacific coast.
3. GEAR FOR COSTA RICA –Binoculars
If you plan on skipping the guided tours (which we suggest skipping to save money) having your own binoculars will allow you to catch some of the hard to spot wildlife at various national parks. It is normal to see sloths and monkeys way up in the trees at Manuel Antonio National Park, Cahuita National Park, Monteverde reserves and more! To get a good look at these animals, binoculars are a must. Also, if you are interested in birding, we love the San Gerardo del Dota area. Binoculars will definitely come in handy there.
4. GEAR FOR COSTA RICA – Rain Jacket
A rain jacket is definitely a must-have gear item for Costa Rica. Even during the dry season you will find heavy rains if you are traveling on the Caribbean coast. We like to always be prepared. I suggest buying a very lightweight rain jacket for Costa Rica. The humidity can be a killer. I have a rain jacket with zipper down the armpit area so I can get a little more airflow. It’s an absolute lifesaver for rainy hikes in the rainforest.
5. GEAR FOR COSTA RICA – Bug Spray
Guys, the mosquitos here are the real deal. In most areas of the country once the sun goes down these little jerks come out in full force and will try to make your life miserable. With concerns about Zika and Dengue on the rise, you really need to protect yourself. We have a full post about mosquitos here if you’d like to get some more tips on safety.
Bug spray is sold in Costa Rica but it is often a lot more expensive than it would be to purchase it in your home country. In fact, we tend to stock up every time we are in the US or Germany.
6. GEAR FOR COSTA RICA – Sunscreen
Sunscreen is another product we stock up on when we are in our home countries. The amount of sunscreen we have is a bit ridiculous, but hey when you live in a country that is not far from the equator I think it is necessary. The sun is strong here. It’s no joke. I get tan easily and even I have to wear SPF50 or I’ll be burned if I’m in the sun for more than 30 minutes.
7. GEAR FOR COSTA RICA – After Sun Lotion
I hate to say you will get burned because I really hope you don’t but with the crazy strong sun you never know! We like to always have some kind of cooling lotion which contains aloe just in case. You can, of course, buy a product like this in Costa Rica but as with sunscreen and bug spray, this is more expensive in Costa Rica.
8. GEAR FOR COSTA RICA – GoPro
We have a GoPro which is a few years old and we absolutely love it for Costa Rica adventures. Our GoPro is an older model so we had to buy a waterproof case, but the HERO 5 is waterproof up to 33 feet deep. Yeay!
We love the GoPro to film adventure activities such as ziplining or for capturing all the cool underwater life when we go snorkeling or diving.
9. GEAR FOR COSTA RICA – Waterproof bag
If you ignore everything else on this list, don’t ignore this! Having a dry bag is a must for the rainforest and for the beach. You never know when it is going to start raining here and I like to have all my belongings safely protected.
We also often find ourselves wading through rivers and crossing other various waterways. There has been more than one occasion where I have lost my balance and fallen into the water (my coordination is not really the best 🙂 ) Having a dry bag has saved me from ruining my camera and phone on multiple occasions.
Also, at the beach, we find everything gets wet. Just bring a dry bag and save yourself from stressing about it.
10. GEAR FOR COSTA RICA – Microfiber towel
We recently bought microfiber towels after having several friends here rave about them. Honestly, I don’t know how we didn’t buy them earlier. The material is a little strange to dry off with at first, but you get used to it.
The really great thing about microfiber towels is that they dry fast. Costa Rica is a country where once something gets wet it never seems to dry. The humidity can be a bit much here at times. If you leave your microfiber towel in the sun it will be fine to use not much later.
11. GEAR FOR COSTA RICA – Dry Shirt
I don’t literally mean a dry shirt. I mean a shirt which dries quickly that you can wear in the water which will block the sun. I never ever did this before moving to Costa Rica, but because the sun is so strong here, it has become necessary. While you are in the ocean, please wear a shirt to protect yourself. In the water, you might not feel like you are getting a lot of sun, but you are.
12. GEAR FOR COSTA RICA – Filtered water bottle
Great news! You can drink the water from the sinks in Costa Rica. Just ask at your hotel first because sometimes water in the bathrooms is not potable. The only places I don’t drink the water is remote areas of the country. Anyway, even though you can drink the sink water I still like to filter it with something like this Brita water bottle. It is not a “must have” but it does make me feel a little more secure that the water I’m drinking is purified.
13. GEAR FOR COSTA RICA – Money belt
We feel pretty safe in Costa Rica but we think it’s always best to be a bit cautious especially if you are in busy areas. To keep our money, passport, and credit cards secure we like to use a money belt like this one. I think these are also a must-have for travel days on buses or when flying.
14. GEAR FOR COSTA RICA – Travel Insurance
Clearly, travel insurance is not “gear” but we consider it a “must have” for Costa Rica. You have to remember that while traveling here you are in a totally unique environment which your body is not used to. I’ve had some strange reactions to things here which have turned out fine, but you never know. Also, in a country with a lot of action/ adventure, it’s always best to lean on the side of caution.
You can read our complete post about travel insurance and see a terrifying picture of me here.