Costa Rica Packing List

Complete Packing Guide – 2 Weeks in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Vacation Planning

I get a lot of questions from people on how or what are the indispensable items I should put on a packing list for their trip to Costa Rica.

I generally tell them that a good goal for say a 2 week trip to Costa Rica (or anything less) is to only take luggage that you can take with you on the plane. Another words a carry-on and a backpack.

Why? Any mix-ups with checked bags can be become a real issue if it takes a few days to sort out and your hotel reservations or your trip planning takes you outside of San Jose or Liberia where you’ll be landing.

Therefore, you’ll notice that the recommendations here are going to be based on weight as well as likelihood of actual use.

This list is very extensive. The reason I made it this way is because even though Costa Rica  is a small country there is an incredible amount of changes in the climate.

For example, if you are going to just the mountains, then you can probably leave the board shorts at home.  Or if you are just going to the coastal areas of say Manuel Antonio or Tamarindo, I think its safe to say you don’t need to take a sweater.

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.

Backpack and Suitcase:

Packing for a Trip to Costa Rica

Don’t underestimate the value of quality suitcase and backpack when traveling around Costa Rica. If  either of these break or tear its going to be almost impossible to find a decent replacement.

If you can get away with it try to bring just what you can carry on with you on the plane and try to avoid checking luggage because if there are any delays with flights, sometimes you are able catch another flight but your checked luggage probably won’t be able to be transferred in time.

A good quality backpack and carry on suitcase can make your trip significantly more comfortable.

A good quality backpack and suitcase tends to wear better the more you use them and is something you can use again and again.

It would also be a good idea to get one with some features that reduce the risk of theft, like steel reinforced straps or locks on the zippers.

Packing in General:

The key to always having something appropriate to wear in Costa Rica is to pack light, athletic wear layers.

I strongly recommend that you hand-carry your camera, important documents, medicine and other irreplaceable items on the plane if you are checking any luggage.

Once you are in at your first hotel, it is a good idea to separate your gear – packing to what you will need for the next section of your trip in one bag, and the rest in another.

You can divide your packing into coastal, highland and jungle portions.

PRO TIP: If you are taking a domestic flight, they currently have baggage limitations of 25 pounds per person including carry-on.

Packing Clothing

Costa Rica Packing List

If you can bring clothes that are moisture wicking, quick drying, and have features for durability like RipStop.

Traveling and having fun in Costa Rica can put a lot wear and tear on your stuff, so it’s a good idea to bring high quality (cheap is expensive in the end), tough clothes.

There’s nothing worse than destroying some pants when on vaction and then  being short a pair with not alot of options get some new ones.

  • 1 pairs of comfortable light weight walking shoes and/or hiking boots
  • 1 pair of sandals (e.g.Tevas) or all terrain wet shoes (e.g. Keen) (flip flops not recommended for rafting or hiking!)
  • 2 pairs of lightweight convertible pants
  • Maybe a pair of jeans but generally they are heavy and slow drying
  • 6 pairs of underwear (better safe then sorry)
  • 2 long sleeve button up shirt ( for a good dinner and/or date!)
  • 2 pairs hiking shorts
  • 2 base layer athletic t-shirts
  • 2 Mid layer jackets
  • Warm sweater or sweatshirt (San José, Arenal, Monteverde and Highlands can get cold at night and misty during the day!)
  • 2 cotton long sleeve shirt (to protect you from sun)
  • 1 swim suit
  • Wide brim hat or baseball cap for sun protection
  • 3 pairs of quick drying socks
  • Outer Shell and Windbreaker.
  • Water Filter
  • Bandana to help keep the sweat off
  • Medium size quick drying towel

Personal Items & Equipment Check List

  • Passport (bring a photocopy and/or keep one in the cloud)
  • Backpack –  Don’t underestimate this one. ( I like the Datusara)
  • Polarized Sunglasses – Especially if you are going fishing!
  • Camera You’re not going to want to forget this one. There are mountains, volcanoes, waterfalls, jungles, the ocean, wildlife, you name it.
  • Good flashlight –  essential
  • 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.
  • Paperback book or Kindle
  • Money belt or neck pouch
  • Binoculars: Very important and a good quality pair make the difference when your looking at birds and animals.  I would recommend either the  10x40mm or 8x35mm)
  • Insect repellent
  • Personal First Aid Kit (band aids, aspirin, personal medication, calamine lotion)
  • Toiletry Kit (toothbrush, deodarent, Feminine Products)
  • Watch – maybe optional in today’s day and age
  • A few meters of cord ( useful for clothesline and spare shoelaces)
  • Spanish – English dictionary –  Either use a App or go old school and take a book

Clothing & Equipment for Tortuguero and Corcovado

Packing list for Tortuguero

Lightweight long sleeved shirts, pants, and bug spray are a must.

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 limit the amount of luggage that can be taken on them to currently 20lbs.  You can often leave the non essential items at the hotel

If the weight limit is an issue for you, there is the option of going to both of these places overland, however its time consuming and you will need to spend a few of those precious vacation days just to get there.

Lightweight long sleeved shirts, pants, and bug spray are a must.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of how long you’re actually planning on staying here, bring enough clothes for just five days to one week. There are lots of full-service laundromats in Costa Rica.

Often, you can drop off your clothes and pick them up an hour or two later for a couple of bucks or ask your hotel and they will probably be able to help you out.

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