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Osprey Day Packs on my Costa Rica Packing List
Osprey Day Packs on my Costa Rica Packing List

Costa Rica’s motto is “Pura Vida,” which translates to “Pure Life!” This message of simplicity and relaxation can be found all over the country - but don’t expect to live la Pura Vida if you don’t pack appropriately for your next trip!

Nothing sours a vacation faster than opening your suitcase and realizing you’ve forgotten to pack the essentials. Avoid this inconvenience with my ultimate packing guide, which includes everything you’ll want to take with you to insure a stress-free trip.

Whether you’re planning a family surfing trip in Guanacaste, a hiking excursion through Manuel Antonio National Park, or a romantic couples’ retreat on the beautiful beaches of Puerto Viejo, there are some general as well as some seasonally specific supplies everyone should have with them when traveling to Costa Rica.

This list includes recommendations on what to wear, what kinds of electronics to bring with you, and what sorts of supplies you’ll need for outdoor activities.

The most important factor to consider when deciding what to pack is the Costa Rican weather! This can be affected by the region you’re visiting as well as the time of year. For example, rainfall varies significantly with the two main seasons, these being the dry season and the green or rainy season.

Most vacationers visit Costa Rica during the dry season, which lines up with the winter months in the US and Canada. However, certain regions of Costa Rica actually experience their wet or green season during this time. Refer to our Costa Rica weather chart to get a good feeling for the typical weather in each region on a season by season and month by month basis, so you can pack accordingly.

Interested in learning other tips and helpful packing advice for your Costa Rica vacation?

Read on!

My Costa Rica Packing List: 5 Key Types of Supplies

Your suitcase is your lifeline while on vacation, so make sure to plan how you’re going to use its space most effectively. Different types of items you’ll likely want to pack include electronics, clothing, other supplies, toiletries, and a small medical kit.

Again, keep in mind that you may need different gear and clothing depending on whether you’re visiting during the wet or dry season. Always check the forecast before you visit, and make sure to bring appropriate clothing so you won’t have to cancel an activity you were looking forward to.

Below is my complete list of what you’ll want to pack (including items specific to all seasons) for your next visit to Costa Rica!

Technology / Electronics

You might think that a Costa Rica vacation is a great way to become less dependent on technology, and in many ways this is true, as the lush jungles and rainforests invite quiet reflection and spiritual nourishment. However, getting in touch with nature doesn’t have to mean you leave all technology at home!

Plenty of electronics can even improve your vacation, such as photography equipment and outdoor lights. See what tech items are worth packing if you want to have the best possible time on your vacation.

Nikon Monarch M5 8 x 42 Binoculars
Nikon Monarch M5 8 x 42 Binoculars

1. Binoculars

Whether you’re birdwatching, looking for wildlife in the jungle, or enjoying the view from the cliffs, binoculars are a must for any Costa Rica vacation.

Weight and size are important with a quality pair being well worth the space in your luggage. Pick up a reliable pair like the Nikon Monarch M5 8 x 42 Binoculars. I own and love these binoculars and they are high quality, light and have great magnification.

Nikon Z30 Creators Kit
Nikon Z30 Creators Kit

2. A Quality Mirrorless or DSLR Camera With a Tripod or Gimbal

Commemorate your trip with photos shot on your own personal camera, such as the Nikon Z30 Mirrorless Camera, my personal favorite!

You’ll also want to bring along accessories such as a tripod rated to support the weight of your camera and maybe even a gimbal if you are looking to do video. I love the DJI RS 3 Mini Gimbal that works great with the Nikon Z30 and it is super light.

Don’t forget to also pack an extra SanDisk 256GB Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I Memory Card, at least 2 camera batteries and an external charger for the Nikon Z30; so you’ll always be prepared when the perfect opportunity for a picture or video arises!

3. GoPro Action Camera

GoPro action cameras are practically made for the lush jungle trails and beaches of Costa Rica. They’re especially great for capturing footage, photos and videos, while hiking, biking or taking part in water sports like surfing or white water rafting. Waterproof and heavily shock resistant, they’re the perfect complement to a day at the beach, a swim in the hotel pool or a rainy day in one of Costa Rica’s incredible National Parks!

The GoPro HERO11 Black is the latest model with the GoPro Hero10 and the GoPro Max being reliable models I have tested out on my many adventures in Costa Rica!

I also recommend bringing along at least 3 batteries with a charger and an extra memory card (or two) with the SanDisk 256GB Extreme microSDXC UHS-1 being an excellent choice.

One thing to know is that GoPro’s don’t float! Be sure to buy a floating hand grip, stick on floaty, and hand strap so you don’t lose your camera and all your pictures and videos as well!

4. Flashlight with Pinpoint Light

If you’re planning any moonlit strolls along the beach, you’ll want to bring along a flashlight. This is also useful for nighttime tours or if you are staying in a eco-lodge.

Models like the Streamlight 74751 Strion LED are also equipped with pinpoint light to make it easier to find your way once the sun goes down.

Black Diamond Equiplment Spot 400-R Headlamp
Black Diamond Spot 400-R Headlamp

5. Headlamp

If you want a more convenient method for lighting the way, try a headlamp!

Costa Rica rainforests feature heavy canopies of lush foliage that can make it get dark much earlier than you might expect. Keeping both hands free while always keeping your field of vision bright is good for both your safety and enjoyment. The Black Diamond Equipment Spot 400-R Headlamp is my personal favorite thanks to its comfort, brightness, and lighting options.

6. Small LED Camp Lanterns

If you’re planning on spending time outside after sunset, you’ll want a few camp lanterns, which can provide some light without ruining the view. Small and compact, some like the MPOWERD Luci Color Essence: Solar Inflatable Lantern is powered by the sun and folds down to a compact size when not in use!

It’s a good idea to pack one LED lantern for each member of your group, so you’re never left in the dark!

7. iPad

While there are countless things to do in Costa Rica, most vacations also include some downtime in the hotel. Keep yourself occupied while you rest up with an iPad or another tablet device.

This is an especially good idea if you want to keep the kids entertained in between activities and also for the flights in and out of the San José International Airport (SAN).

8. Cell Phone and Charger

Don’t forget to pack both your cell phone and its charging cable for your trip!

If you’re traveling from the US, you won’t need an adapter for the outlets in Costa Rica.

However, most travelers from other continents, such as Europeans, will need to purchase the appropriate plug adapter.

9. USB-A Charging Cord for Rental Cars

Keep your devices charged on the go with a car charger if you are renting a car in Costa Rica. Simply plug the USB-A charging cord into the charging port. USB-A is a common plug type that works with many electronic devices, but you can also buy a converter if necessary!

10. USB-A to USB-C Converter

Speaking of a converter, some newer cell phone models and other devices use a USB-C plug for faster charging. Pack a USB-A to USB-C converter so you can charge all your devices with a single car or wall charger. This cuts down on the number of cables you will need to worry about during your trip.

11. Downloaded Entertainment

When I am flying into Costa Rica, I always want to download some entertainment onto my phone or tablet before the flight. Pick a few movies, audiobooks, or episodes of TV shows you can save to your device and play on airplane mode.

Netflix, Disney+ or even a downloaded movie are a great thing to remember to bring, or have ready, for keeping your kids (and the adults) entertained!

Other Packing Ideas and Essentials

Cameras, chargers and other electronics are important, but they’re not the only things you’ll want to fit into your suitcase before your next trip to Costa Rica!

In addition to clothes and a few handy checklists later on in this article, we’ve picked out a few other essential items you’ll likely want to bring with you on vacation. These include hiking supplies, handy tools, and a few comforts of home.

Love Heart My Favorite Stuffed Animal!
Love Heart My Favorite Stuffed Animal!

1. Your Favorite Stuffed Animal

No judgment here! I definitely have my favorite and LoveHeart (my daughter named it) comes with me on all my trips!

People of all ages like to travel with a stuffed animal to keep them company when they’re far away from home. Having your favorite stuffed animal with you is a great way to relax and put yourself in the right mindset for enjoying your vacation.

2. DEET-Free Mosquito Repellent

Itchy mosquito bites can turn a tropical paradise into an uncomfortable experience for your whole family. One way to keep bug bites at bay is to use a mosquito repellent when you go hiking, are exploring the rainforest or are out around sunrise or sunset.

Brands with DEET can cause rashes for some, so to be on the safe side, pick a DEET-free mosquito repellent. My favorite is the Repel Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Mosquito Repellent.

3. Coral Safe Mineral-Based Sunblock

One bad sunburn can completely ruin your trip. Costa Rica is located near the equator and therefore the sun may cause burns quicker than you might expect. Don’t let anyone go outside without sunblock, even on cloudy days, as there’s still a high possibility of getting burned without the proper protection.

My favorite brand is Coral safe mineral-based suncare is environmentally friendly for the tropical waters of Costa Rica.

Osprey Daylite Plus 20
Osprey Daylite Plus 20

4. A Day Pack

Keep all your essentials at your fingertips with a convenient day pack, which you can take on a hike or even into town.

Small backpacks like the Osprey Daylite Plus 20 pack are comfortable to carry on your shoulders and have plenty of space for sunscreen, bug spray, water, snacks, rain gear, and other essential supplies.

5. Passport and Driver’s License / ID

Bring ID with you on vacation so you can explore Costa Rica without any challenges. You’ll need your passport for international flights, plus you’ll need a driver’s license to rent a car.

Either way, having your license or another form of ID is a good idea in the unlikely situation there are any issues.

6. Credit Card(s) / ATM Card

Many Costa Rica tours and activities are prepaid and some accept American currency, but bringing a credit card and an ATM card is also smart in case you need some extra cash.

When in Costa Rica, I always make use of ATMs, as this is an easy way of getting Colones, the local currency. Check with your bank before you trip but know that fees are usually minimal, in the range of a few dollars per transaction to 3% of what you withdraw.

7. Your Vaccine Card

Some airports and hotels may require a COVID-19 vaccination status card, or proof of a negative COVID test. Make sure this card is readily accessible during the boarding process.

Check your country’s current rules and regulations, plus those of the Costa Rica airport you’re flying into, to know if a vaccine card is still necessary.

As of February 2023 the vaccination cards are not required to enter Costa Rica but it is still a good idea to bring one if you have it, just in case.

8. Sunglasses

There’s nothing worse than laying out your beach towel for a day of sunbathing only to realize you’ve forgotten your sunglasses!

Make sure to pack sunglasses with UV protection, or high-quality polarized glasses, to keep your eyes shielded from glare so you can have a worry-free vacation.

9. Aloe Vera Gel

Even if you use sunblock, there’s still a chance of missing a spot, forgetting to reapply and getting a sunburn.

For light burns, you can relieve some of the pain with a quality aloe vera gel, making this a great supply to pack with you for your trip to Costa Rica. Trust me when I say, you’ll be glad you packed some aloe!

10. Your Favorite Books

Whether you’re relaxing in a hammock enjoying the sun and sea air or settling in for a long drive from the airport to your hotel, you’ll likely have some downtime during your trip.

Bringing one or two of your favorite books, either in print or on an eReader such as a Kindle Paperwhite, lets you pass the time with ease.

11. Cheater Readers

If you’re farsighted, you likely have a pair of prescription glasses for reading, but you might not want to bring your expensive eyewear with you just in case they get lost or broken. Instead, pack a cheap pair of cheater readers or reading glasses, which are easily replaced if necessary.

12. Small Sewing Kit

When hiking, there’s always a chance you’ll catch your sleeve on a branch and end up with a hole in the fabric in need of mending. To save yourself some time and aggravation, pack a compact travel sewing kit in your supplies so you can fix your clothes on the spot!


You don’t have to pack your whole wardrobe when you visit Costa Rica. Warm, tropical weather means you can leave the heavy winter clothes at home, but you just might want a light sweater for the evenings and definitely not want to forget your sandals and shorts!

Check out my list of clothing essentials so you’ll know what you definitely want to make space for in your suitcase.

1. Windbreaker / Rain Jacket / Poncho

Costa Rica’s wet season is characterized by misty mornings and rainy afternoons. If you’re planning a visit during the green season, keep yourself dry while still enjoying outdoor activities by packing a rain jacket or poncho.

A windbreaker is another great idea that is sure to keep you warm during more breezy days as well.

2. A Few Bathing Suits

Whether you’re hitting the hotel pool or a secluded beach, Costa Rica is full of opportunities to get in the water!

You’ll probably want to bring an extra bathing suit or two, so you can try out multiple water sports like surfing, water skiing, and scuba diving all without waiting for your suit to dry.

3. Shorts

An average day in Costa Rica is warm and a little muggy or humid, which means you’ll likely want to wear shorts or capris for the majority of your trip. Pick a few comfortable pairs that are as suitable for lounging on the beach as they are for going on a walk!

4. Lightweight Sweater

Though Costa Rica is typically quite warm, it can get a little cool at night. To avoid feeling chilly during a nighttime tour or while resting in your hotel room, pack a lightweight sweater.

Ideally, you’ll want one you can easily carry or tie around your waist until you need it.

5. Socks and Underwear

Never go on any vacation without enough pairs of undergarments! It’s smart to bring a few extra pairs of underwear, especially if you plan on doing a lot of exercise.

If you hit the beach, you might get your feet wet. If you go for a hike, you might step in a stream. Dry, clean feet are essential so including some extra socks in your suitcase is something you won’t regret!

Darn Tough Darn Tough Hiker Socks are my personal favorites for hiking and outdoor activities! They come in multiple different styles offering cool designs and patterns. They are the highest quality socks we’ve ever seen and they come with a ‘no questions asked lifetime warranty’!

6. Pair of Hiking Shorts / Pants

With dozens of nature preserves, rainforests, jungles, and more to explore, hiking is a must when you visit Costa Rica. Be sure to bring along comfortable hiking pants. Shorts are good during the warmer season, but longer pants can provide better protection from ticks and other insects.

Consider a pair of zip-off pants so you have the best of both worlds, long pants when you need them if it is chilly or to protect your legs and shorts for the rest of your adventures!

7. Plenty of T-shirts

Wear comfortable shirts that won’t get in the way of hiking, biking, horseback riding, and more!

Costa Rica is humid, so visitors can typically wear t-shirts during both the dry and green seasons. However, it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast before your trip and plan accordingly.

8. A Pair of Jeans

While you’ll likely prefer to venture into the jungle while wearing dedicated hiking pants, jeans are a good alternative for boat rides, day trips, and the lower temperatures of more elevated regions.

Warm pants like jeans are ideal for cooler areas like the Monteverde Cloud Forest, especially at night.

9. Nice Button Down Shirt

Men should be sure to pack a nice dress shirt or two, which is a must when dining at an upscale restaurant or taking a formal photo. Dress up with a button down shirt, ideally one that is loose fitting and light so you won’t be too warm.

10. Dress or Blouse

For women’s formal wear, a breezy dress or a stylish blouse is a must-have when traveling to Costa Rica’s finest attractions. Packing at least one formal outfit is always a good idea on vacation, especially if you’re planning on visiting a nice restaurant or entertainment venue.

11. Dress Sandals

Bring along some dress sandals to compliment the rest of your formal outfit. Classy sandals can be paired with any nicer outfit, and they’re the perfect match for the warm weather of Costa Rica, especially if you’re staying in a beach town located along the coast.

Altra Timp 4 Trail Shoes
Altra Timp 4 Trail Shoes

12. Gore Tex Hiking Shoes

You’ll have a much easier time traversing the jungles of Costa Rica if you wear a sturdy pair of hiking shoes. The Merrell Men's Moab 3 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots, the Hoka Speedgoat 5, and the Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex Hiking Shoes are all quality choices you can use on your trip to Costa Rica and for many trips to come.

My personal favorite is the Altra Timp 4 Trail Shoes, even though these are not waterproof they dry out faster in the humid climate.

Alternatively, you can wear some old tennis shoes you don’t mind ruining!

13. Sandals

If you’re planning to kick back on one of Costa Rica’s beautiful beaches, you’ll want a nice pair of comfortable shoes.

Sandals are ideal, as sand won’t get trapped inside. They’re also great for giving your feet a break as you’re lounging by the hotel pool after a long day of hiking.

14. Baseball Cap

Avoid painful sunburns on the top of your head with a baseball cap or another sporty hat. Keep in mind that it’s still possible to get a sunburn on a cloudy day or under the jungle canopy, so no matter what the weather is like, wearing a hat is a good idea!

15. Bandana

Costa Rica can get humid during the wet season. A bandana is a convenient tool for keeping your hair out of your face, as well as keeping you protected from the sun and wind. Bandanas can also be tied around the neck to soak up sweat on hotter days.

Bathroom Essentials (Cosmetics / Toiletries)

Some of Costa Rica’s best hotels have complimentary toiletries and other bathroom supplies for guests. However, you might still prefer to use products you’re familiar with, and it never hurts to come prepared in case the hotel you’re staying at doesn’t have the supplies you need.

Pack your usual cosmetic products and other essentials to ensure you have everything you need. Use this checklist as you pack your toiletry bag.

  • Shampoo / conditioner
  • Hair cream
  • Nail clippers
  • Nail file
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Body moisturizer
  • Feminine hygiene items
  • Hair bands for long hair
  • Small bands for braids

Small Medical Kit

Accidents happen, especially when you’re trekking through the jungle and exploring the beautiful vistas of Costa Rica. If you happen to step on a shell while walking along the beach, or catch a cold while at the airport, you’ll want to be prepared.

Traveling with a medical kit makes it easy to treat minor injuries and illnesses when they happen, so you can get right back to your vacation as soon as possible. Here are a few emergency supplies you’ll want to keep on hand.

  • BandAids
  • Neosporin
  • Waterproof tape
  • Thermometer
  • Extra medication
  • Tweezers
  • Gauze
  • Lodine packets

The Most Important Things to Know Before You Finish Packing

By now, you should have a good idea of what items you’ll need to find space for in your suitcase, and what you can stand to leave at home. But that’s not the only information you’ll need to make your trip a success.

Here are some of my top tips for your packing list.

What’s the Weather Like in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is warm year-round, with sunny weather during the dry season and rainy weather during the wet season. Make sure to pack appropriately for the time of year you plan on visiting. This means bringing ponchos and rain-resistant shoes if it’s likely to storm during your visit, so you can still enjoy all your planned activities regardless of the ever changing Costa Rican weather.

Should You Bring Cash?

It’s a good idea to have some cash on hand for tipping and impromptu purchases. Many local vendors only accept the local currency, colones, though many also take USD.

Note that the exchange rate is typically between 550-625 Colones to 1 USD, I usually bring about $200 USD per person in cash for emergencies.

I always use my ATM to get cash, especially when I arrive at the San José International Airport (SJO). There is an ATM at baggage claim and it is a very easy way to get Colones. It is really nice to have Colones for buying small things especially at roadside stands.

What Shouldn’t You Bring?

There are a few things you should leave at home. These include anything expensive or unable to be replaced, such as family heirlooms, jewelry, and unnecessary tech that could get lost or damaged.

Also avoid bringing anything that will get confiscated at Costa Rican customs, such as any plants, fruit, or vegetables. Don’t worry, there’s plenty to eat at local restaurants!