Hiker sitting on rock in river at Corcovado National Park
Hiker sitting on rock in river at Corcovado National Park

I frequently welcome people from all over the world to Costa Rica. Some greet me warmly while others scream and run away (I’ve never understood why), but one thing that strikes me most is the variety of people who travel here. Some come well-prepared for the humid climate while others don’t pack the right items.

As a tree frog, I have the luxury of hopping about without worrying about wearing the ideal clothing or bringing the right supplies. However, if you want to fully enjoy your experience here, it’s essential to pack properly. Whether your travel itinerary includes backpacking or enjoying nightlife on the beach, here’s a brief guide for what you should pack before coming to Costa Rica.

Daypack Equipment
Daypack Equipment

What To Put in Your Daypack

One of the things I love most about Costa Rica is the wide variety of insects I have to choose from. Fine flying cuisine is literally everywhere, which means I can quickly eat lunch on-the-go. However, I know you humans aren’t quite so fond of insects (although I can’t comprehend why). So, I recommend packing insect repellent in your daypack. This is especially important if you plan to spend any time in the jungle or near the water.

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Here are a few more items you should put in your daypack, whether you plan to spend the weekend hiking or ATV-riding along sunny trails:

  • Coral Safe Sunscreen
  • Small first aid kit
  • Waterproof smartphone case
  • Poncho
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Extra cash in USD
  • Photocopy of passport or take a photo of it on your phone
  • Snacks
  • Water

Some vacationers leave sunscreen behind because they want to return home with a nice tan. However, Costa Rica sunshine can be intense and could leave you sunburned within an hour. While visitors love to admire my beautiful red eyes, this particular shade isn’t very flattering on human skin. Protect your outer layer by bringing waterproof sunscreen with you and applying it frequently.

A miniature first aid kid is a great thing to bring with you on your outdoor adventures. While no one wants to think about getting hurt during a Costa Rica vacation, it’s always a possibility. If you pack a few bandages, over-the-counter pain medications and moleskin, you’ll be able to quickly deal with common human problems like scrapes, headaches and blisters.

If you’re like most humans, you probably plan to bring a smartphone with you to document your adventures. Make sure you protect it with a waterproof case! It rains a lot here in Costa Rica, and you’re bound to get wet if your day hike involves waterfall rappelling or ATV tours. Protect your cell phone and camera with waterproof bags so you can continue taking pictures of beautiful wild creatures like me! While you’re at it, bring a poncho or light raincoat to keep yourself dry as well.

Even the most well-planned day trips can go south if you get lost or encounter inclement weather. It’s always a good idea to bring a flashlight or headlamp with you in case your adventure continues after sundown. You should also bring a little bit of cash with you in case you need money to purchase snacks, drinks or tip a parking attendant for keeping your car safe while you hike.

You may not need it, but I recommend bringing a photocopy of your passport with you wherever you go. Laminate it or put it in a protective pouch to keep it safe from the elements. Sometimes travelers are asked to show their passports when they enter national parks in Costa Rica.

Finally, pack a few small snacks and water bottles so you’ll never feel hungry or thirsty during your day trip. Normally, I would recommend stashing a bag of small, fresh insects in your backpack, but tourists don’t seem to like that recommendation. So, just bring along whatever you normally like to eat. A good balance of protein and carbohydrates will help keep your energy levels up while you hike.

View from above Playa San Josecito, South Drake Bay
View from above Playa San Josecito, South Drake Bay

What To Bring on a Wildlife Adventure

Plan to spend as much time with Costa Rica wildlife as you can during your upcoming vacation. We’re pretty fun to hang around with. Whether you’ve made a reservation to tour Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge or you’re getting ready to hike through the Osa Peninsula Rainforest, you need to be properly prepared. Your packing list for any wildlife adventure should include the same things as the previous daypack packing list. However, you might also want to add an extra battery and memory chip for your camera. Trust me, you’ll want to take a lot of pictures when you see me and my many colorful cousins! I hear other types of wildlife in the area can be pretty impressive, too.

The Endangered Blue-sided Leaf Frog (Agalychnis Annae)
The Endangered Blue-sided Leaf Frog (Agalychnis Annae)

What To Pack for Nighttime Activities

When it comes to enjoying nightlife in Costa Rica, there are only a few essentials you need to bring with you:

  • Extra change
  • Flashlight
  • Insect repellant
  • Fun attitude!

Only bring enough change to buy drinks, dinner and participate in any planned activities. Leave the rest of your cash somewhere secure (like a locked hotel safe). A flashlight can be very helpful if you leave the well-lit streets to join a party on a beach. Bring your insect repellent along, since my favorite meals on wings love to come out at night. Oh, and don’t forget to bring a fun-loving attitude with you! The nightlife in Costa Rica is full of energy and excitement, so be prepared to have a great time.

Girl leaning on a post on the beautiful Punta Leona beach
Girl leaning on a post on the beautiful Punta Leona beach

What To Pack for the Beach

No Costa Rica vacation is complete without spending plenty of time on the gorgeous beaches. After an adventurous day backpacking or observing Costa Rica wildlife on a guided tour, relaxing on the beach feels like heaven. Here are a few must-have items to pack in your beach bag:

  • Sunscreen
  • Sun hat
  • Extra cash
  • Beach towel
  • Drinking water

Just remember to keep all of your belongings within eyesight at all times. A few unsavory characters (of the human variety) sometimes stroll the beaches in search of unattended items they can snatch.

Now that you know exactly what to pack for Costa Rica daytrips, nightlife and lazy beach days, it’s time to plan your perfect Costa Rica vacation. Get ready for the experience of a lifetime! Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of me while you’re here.