I get a lot of questions from people on how or what are the indispensable items I should put on a packing list for my trip to Costa Rica. The normal question usually goes something like this:
“We are planning to visit the Osa Peninsula in the south of Costa Rica. I was wondering what the weather would be like for hikes, snorkeling, and other explorations. I would expect it would be on the rainy/muddy side, but was trying to plan on what clothing to bring along?”
So I thought I would put out a complete list of what you should take to Costa Rica. Ok and this may be a bit too much information for some people as the list is pretty extensive.
The reason I made it this way because everyone is different and going to different places in Costa Ric and therefore it will all depend on how you like to travel or where you are going. For example, if you are going to just the mountains, then you can probably leave the board shorts at home. Or if you are staying in resorts or higher priced hotels you will probably not need to bring a pocket knife.
All that said here are my General Thoughts on Packing for Costa Rica so pick and choose what you think will work out best for the type of travel you will be doing.
Note: I have created some links to Amazon for you too take a look at whats out there and what the current prices are on them. I didn’t give any specific recommendations on brands unless I am a HUGE fan of a particular item as you may have your own preference on that.
Packs and Bags: Small lockable suitcases are best which can be used to leave extra luggage in your San José hotel while you are in the country (soft suitcase or duffle bag with full length zippers that works well). Don’t leave valuables behind as hotel security may not be the safest.
Packing: I strongly recommend that you hand-carry your camera, important documents, medicine and other irreplaceable items on the plane. Once you are in San José it is a good idea to separate your gear – packing what you need for the next section of your trip in one bag, and the rest in another which can be stored at your hotel. San José will most likely be your base and you can divide your trip into coastal, highland and jungle portions. Remember that all internal flights have baggage limitations of 25 pounds per person including carry-on.
If you are allergic to mosquito bites and plan to spend time at the beach or in the jungle bring some anti-allergic cream with you. Rubber boots for wet and muddy trails are popular with the local people. Most lodges have them. It is best not to bring them as they are bulky – especially if you are travelling by plane where luggage limitations apply.
- 2 pairs of comfortable light weight walking shoes (tennis or running shoes) or hiking boots (be sure they are well broken in). Bring a pair that you are prepared to get wet and muddy.
- 1 pair of sandals (e.g.Tevas) or all terrain wet shoes (e.g. Keen) (flip flops not recommended for rafting or hiking!)
- 1 to 2 pair comfortable, loose fitting pants (jeans generally are too slow drying)
- 3 to 4 pairs hiking shorts
- 3 to 4 short sleeve shirts or t-shirts
- Warm sweater or sweatshirt (San José, Arenal, Monteverde and Highlands can get cold at night and misty during the day!)
- Light colored cotton long sleeve shirt (to protect you from sun)
- 2 pairs of swim suits ( for ocean, pools, and rivers that you will inevitably be in)
- Belt ( kind of obvious but I am leaving nothing to chance!)
- Wide brim hat or baseball cap for sun protection ( Yankees preferred)
- 2 to 3 pairs of quick drying socks – (bring an extra pair in case your feet get wet)
- Collapsible umbrella and rain gear, essential + windbreaker.
- Bandana or handkerchiefs – this will help keep the sweat off
- Medium size quick drying towel
Personal Items & Equipment Check List
- Passport (bring a photocopy or keep one in cloud)
- Airline tickets
- Daypack – ( I like the Datusara)
- Spare eyeglasses ( you never know, better then banging into walls)
- Notebook, address book, pens and pencils
- Good flashlight – essential
- Plastic quart or liter water bottle
- Pocket knife
- Paperback book or Kindle
- Money belt or neck pouch
- Binoculars. very important, a good quality make the difference when you see birds and animals (e.g. Nikon, Leica, Minolta, Zeiss recommended, 10x40mm or 8x35mm)
- Mask and snorkel (fins are too bulky)
- Insect repellant (containing Deet)
- Reference Guides
- Personal First Aid Kit (band aids, aspirin, personal medication, calamine lotion, insect repellant & Sun block: essential)
- Toilet Kit (toothbrush, personal items)
- Watch, essential that its water resistant and with alarm or travelling alarm clock ( phone)
- Sewing and repairs kit
- A few meters of cord (also useful for clothesline and spare shoelaces)
- Spanish – English dictionary – Either use a App or go old school and take a book
Suggested Clothing & Equipment List for Tortuguero and Corcovado
You will need to limit what you can take with you if you are going to either Tortuguero or Corcovado. The reason is that to get to either one of these places, you will need to take a local airline either Sansa or Natureair. Since these planes are commuter flights they need to limit the amount of luggage that can be taken on them to 20lbs. You can often leave these non essential items at the hotel you will be coming back to on your return.
If the weight limit is an issue for you, there is the option of going to both of these places overland, however you will need to spend a few of those precious vacation days as it take a long time to get to them and I am not sure that its worth it.
Clothes You Should Wear
- Comfortable loose fitting and quick drying pants
- Light weight hiking boots or tennis shoes
- Short or long sleeve shirt
- Wide brim hat – Your close to the equator so keep that sun off you.
Carry – On daypack with
- Passport & airline tickets
- Binoculars, very important, a good quality make the difference when you see birds and animals (e.g. Nikon, Leica, Minolta, Zeiss).. recommended, 10x40mm or 8x35mm
- Paperback book, kindle or similar & notebook
In a duffel bag or soft suitcase
- Rain gear and small umbrella
- 1 pair sandals (e.g.Tevas) or all terrain wet shoes (e.g. Keen)
- 3 pairs socks
- 3 pair underwear
- 2 pairs of hiking shorts
- 3 short sleeve shirts or t-shirts
- 1 swim suit
- 1 good flashlight
- Insect repellent
- Toiletry Kit
What to leave behind in San Jose or at your hotel
- Extra pair of comfortable, loose fitting pants
- Extra pair of hiking shorts
- Sweatshirt or light sweater and windbreaker ( You won’t need them in either place)
- Pocket knife
- Spanish-English dictionary