Are you wondering what the best shoes for Costa Rica are to bring in your luggage?
Costa Rica is a mix of tropical beaches and lush jungles with plenty of hiking and adventure opportunities. That means you often need to pack a few different pairs of shoes depending on what you plan on doing and where you plan to visit.
We are a couple who have lived in Costa Rica since 2016. We know all about what shoes are best for this tropical environment and what footwear is best left at home. Hint: leather gets moldy really fast and cheap flip-flops don’t stand a chance of holding up here.
So, let’s go through all the best footwear suggestions for your Costa Rica vacation!
Flip Flops or Slides
We suggest bringing one pair of flip-flops or slides. These are typically great for when you are on the beach, going to your hotel pool, for short walks in town, and to wear for a relaxed meal at a restaurant.
Our favorite option for flip-flops is the TEVA Voya flip-flops.
I have been buying these for the past five years. I really like them because the sole is very stable and they are waterproof.
The only problem is that I feel like they can start to smell if they get sweaty and take too long to dry.
For slides, we think the OG Adidas slides are always a good option. They are easy to wash, comfortable, and have a good base.
In my opinion, I prefer flip-flops over slides for walking in Costa Rica. I just feel that they provide a bit more stability and keep my feet from sliding around.
- Leave those cheap flip-flops with unstable soles at home. The roads and sidewalks in this country are not always the best. It will be very uncomfortable walking in unstable flip-flops and you might end up with things poking through the ground into your feet. Plus, in my experience, the strap on these flip-flops tends to rip out really easily.
- Any leather flip-flops or slides should be left at home. I have some Birkenstocks that I love, but the tropical climate makes them get moldy super easily.
KEEN are pretty much our go-to shoe and a must have for your Costa Rica packing list. We love them because they can get wet and also have a stable sole for hiking.
If you have never seen KEEN’s before, they are a company that makes closed-toed hiking sandals. There are other companies that make similar footwear, but I haven’t found any that can compete with KEEN.
I have tried a few different pairs of KEEN’s waterproof sandals, and my favorite is definitely the Newport H2 style. They fit the best and are the most sturdy. In my opinion, they are the best style for Costa Rica exploration.
There are a lot of hikes that you might do here which involve river crossings. It is such a pain to have to take your sneakers or boots off each time. Also, during the rainy season or if hiking in cloud forest towns such as Monteverde, hiking shoes that can get wet are a must-have.
Later in the day, we just put them in the sun to dry off so they are ready for the next day’s adventure.
I almost exclusively wear KEEN when exploring now. I find that after a long day they are still comfortable. They offer excellent grip on the soles, which has come in handy several times when traversing slippery rocks and hills. Overall, they are great shoes.
Tip: We do not recommend KEEN sandals if you will be hiking off of paths. In that case, hiking boots with long pants and long socks are better. There are plenty of little critters in this country that you don’t want to be exposed to your legs.
For most activities such as walks in well-maintained national parks, zip lining etc. you can easily get by with comfortable sporty sneakers.
My go-to is the Nike Revolution Running Shoe. I have been buying this same pair of sneakers for about 10 years now. They are breathable for the tropical environment, are super comfortable, have good grip, have flexible soles, and look nice.
I suggest purchasing them in black to hide the dirt better.
I think these are a great option for short hikes. For more strenuous and longer hikes you might opt for hiking boots.
Travel Tip: You could always opt to bring a pair of flat everyday tennis shoes as well. However, we don’t think it’s very necessary. You will most likely spend most of your time either in nature or on the beach and won’t be doing too much walking around in towns or cities.
Some people opt to bring water shoes when traveling to Costa Rica. These can be nice if you plan to swim in rivers or lakes or take on water sports.
However, I don’t find this kind of shoe to be overly necessary.
Instead, I would suggest bringing a pair of KEEN and a pair of flip-flops. They are more versatile in their usage.
If you really want to bring water shoes, you can always opt to get a really cheap pair like these which can easily fit in your luggage.
Hiking boots are not always a necessity, but you may want them depending on your travel style. It really depends on your feet and what you plan to do while in Costa Rica.
If you plan on doing a lot of intense hiking, you may want to bring a pair. There are some hikes, especially in remote areas, that involve rugged terrain.
I didn’t even own hiking boots for the first few years we lived here. And, even now that I do own them, I rarely actually wear them unless doing long hikes.
However, I am also fortunate that I can do almost any hike with just sneakers or Keens and feel completely fine after. If you have problems with your knees or feet, you might want to go for boots if you plan on doing much hiking.
Our favorite hiking shoes for Costa Rica for women are:
Our favorite hiking boots for men are:
Depending on your travel plans and style, you may want to bring a pair of slightly nicer-looking sandals or boat shoes.
These are good for dinners at mid-range to high-end restaurants and if staying at a resort.
If you have a more relaxed travel style, you can definitely skip this.
For women, there are four pairs of dressy sandals I love for Costa Rica. These are all comfortable, easy to clean, and have a stable bottom.
Travel Tip: Leave the high heels at home. You will probably break an ankle wearing them here.
Our Opinion on What to Pack
If you are trying to pack as minimally as possible I would suggest a pair of flip flops and a pair of sporty sneakers or KEENs.
Footwear By Activity
Here are our type of shoe suggestions by Costa Rica activity.
Hiking at Manuel Antonio National Park: For hiking in Manuel Antonio National Park we suggest sporty sneakers or KEEN. The trails are all well-maintained and most of the main pathways are flat. A good pair of hiking boots isn’t necessary, but something stable and breathable is always helpful.
Zip Lining: For zip-lining the best options are sporty sneakers or Keens. You will need to wear close-toed shoes for this activity.
Walking at a Hanging Bridge Park: For outdoor adventures at hanging bridge parks we suggest sporty sneakers or Keens. Most of these places have decent paths. However, you might be climbing up and down metal stairs to get to various bridges in the rain forest.
Visiting Waterfalls: For waterfalls, KEEN is an excellent option. They provide the best structure for hiking and can also get wet if you plan to swim under the falls. Plus, at the base of most waterfalls, you will likely find slippery rocks. Having shoes with grippy soles is going to be really helpful in these situations.
Visiting a Hot Spring: When visiting a hot spring park we suggest wearing flip-flops. This is the best option to easily slip off and on as you get in and out of pools. The only thing is, be careful when walking from one pool to another. The surfaces can get wet and slippery. We recently watched a guy completely wipe out (I’m pretty sure he got a concussion) because he was walking too quickly on the wet hotspring paths.
Taking a Catamaran Tour: For catamaran tours, we suggest flip-flops. Most boat captains will ask you to take your shoes off upon getting in the boat. We also suggest bringing a dry bag to put your flip-flops and other belongings in so they don’t get wet.
Exploring a Town: For exploring a town or city like San Jose, we suggest wearing your sneakers. Most towns don’t have great sidewalks or often any sidewalks at all. Often flip flops are not the most comfortable for this.
Hiking in Corcovado National Park: When hiking in Corcovado National Park we suggest hiking boots. The hiking trails here are much more rugged than places like Manuel Antonio National Park. We don’t suggest closed-toed hiking sandals because there is a lot of wildlife here that could potentially bother your feet. Long pants with hiking socks are also a good idea.
Going to a Nice Restaurant: For nice dinners at more formal restaurants, we suggest dressy sandals or footwear like boat shoes.
For Travel Days: For your travel day we suggest wearing whichever pair of shoes is the bulkiest to give yourself the most extra space in your luggage.
Packing Your Footwear for Costa Rica
When considering your footwear, you first need to think about what will fit in your luggage. If you plan to only bring a carry-on suitcase it is probably best to wear one pair of shoes and bring one other pair.
If you are checking a suitcase you will have a bit more flexibility with fitting more footwear.
We like to stuff smaller items into our shoes so they take up less overall space in our bags.
Other Things to Note
Here are some other tips about footwear for Costa Rica.
Rent Rubber Boots
I don’t really suggest bringing rubber rain boots (even if traveling to Costa Rica during the rainy season) because they are just so bulky. However, it is often possible to rent rubber boots at some national parks if the rain has been very bad and there are muddy trails.
I notoriously always think, “it will be fine. I don’t need rubber boots.” And then I almost always regret it. If they are offering rubber boots for rent, it is usually for a good reason.
We made this mistake once at Tenorio Volcano National Park. We opted not to rent boots during the rainy season while hiking the trails to Rio Celeste. It ended up being so so muddy!
We definitely wished we had used common sense and spent the extra few dollars for boots. Our shoes ended up completely covered and mud.
If you rent rubber boots, I suggest wearing thick socks that go up high. We have all likely been in a situation where you are wearing rubber boots and your socks roll down until they are basically off.
Ugh! I hate that.
Shoes for Rainy Season Versus Dry Season
Keep in mind that your shoe packing choices might vary depending on the time of year that you are traveling.
Making sure your shoes are waterproof or fast drying is much more important in the rainy season versus the dry season.
You Can Always Buy Shoes
I’m sure you would prefer not to have to buy new shoes while in Costa Rica, but if you get in a situation where you are desperate, it is always possible to buy shoes.
There are several Payless shoe stores throughout the country if you are looking for something cheap.
Alternatively, most souvenir shops have flip-flops.
Bring Blister Bandaids
These blister bandaids are life-changing and will save you from some serious foot pain.
I find that with the humidity you might discover your shoes don’t fit exactly as you are used to.
Or, you may be visiting Costa Rica with a new pair of shoes that you haven’t broken in yet.
If you end up with bad blisters, the best way to combat that is with some excellent blister bandaids.
I have been in several situations in which my trip would have been ruined without these. They are the best things you can pack to aleviate blister foot pain.
Bring Some Bug Spray
I don’t know if you have the same problem, but mosquitos love my ankles and feet. Insect repellent is a must-have especially once the sun goes down especially if you are wearing flip flops.
Dont Forget Good Socks
Having good socks can make all the difference when doing a lot of walking or hiking.
When hiking we usually opt for slightly higher socks to block the wildlife a bit more.
I’m partial to Smartwool because it is moisture-wicking and provides full cushion.
For day-to-day use with basic sneakers, I tend to opt for sporty ankle socks. I suggest purchasing black socks because white will get dirty really fast here.
Travel Tip: The humidity can be really high here and nothing ever dries. I suggest bringing enough socks for your entire trip so that you won’t have to do laundry or attempt to wear a pair twice.
Bring a First Aid Kit
A few years ago we bought travel first aid kit and it has been so helpful!
There have been several times where Thomas or I have rolled an ankle, cut our feet, etc. and having a first aid kit with a brace, bandaids, medical tape etc. is always great.
We have this first aid kit if you are looking for one that can easily fit in your luggage.
Don’t Stress About Your Style in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a very relaxed country. You do not need to stress about looking good with your Costa Rica outfits or footwear.
In fact. it is best not to wear overly nice footwear or clothing. Costa Rica is safe but petty theft sometime happens. Dressing in a more relaxed style will keep you from drawing attention to yourself as a potential target.
Instead, it is all about focussing on function here.
Bring Plastic Bags
Plastic shopping bags take up almost no room in your luggage and can be so helpful when traveling here.
As I have mentioned, nothing ever dries in Costa Rica due to the humidity. Plus, your shoes might get muddy or dirty.
We find that having a plastic bag to put our shoes in before loading them in our suitcase is always helpful.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is always a necessity when going anywhere in the world. It covers things like lost luggage, delayed trip plans, and injury.
So, if your suitcase with your nice footwear is lost, travel insurance will help offset those losses.
If you twist your ankle while hiking and need medical attention, travel insurance has your back!
Our go-to travel insurance in Costa Rica is a company called Heymondo. They are great!
Conclusion: Shoes for Costa Rica
In conclusion, having the right shoes is so important when traveling in Costa Rica to ensure you have the best experience.
However, you might be limited on luggage space, so it is necessary to limit the amount of shoes you bring based on what you will absolutely need.
If you have any questions about the best footwear for your trip, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out!
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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.
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🏄🏽 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?
✈️ 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?
🗣️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.