What to Pack for Costa Rica

11 May 2015

Packing for warmer climates and beach vacations has always been difficult for me. Costa Rica in particular was even more of a challenge because I was heading there on the cusp of rainy season, which generally stretches from May to November. So, I needed to make sure I had the proper attire for either type of weather.

To make matters even more complicated, the climate in Costa Rica varies by the region you're in! For example, while I was in San Jose, the temperature hovered around 80 degrees, but it got as hot as 97 degrees in Liberia. Yikes! Because of this, I made my packing list around the different activities I would be doing.

For Hiking:
  • 1 pair Kavu hiking shorts
  • 1 pair Puma athletic shorts
  • 2 tank tops
  • 1 Sports bra
  • 1 pair well-worn Keen hiking boots
  • 3 pairs socks
  • Collapsible water bottle
  • Camelbak 50 oz. HydroBak
  • Patagonia packable rain jacket
  • DEET-free bug repellent (picked from this awesome guide by My Tan Feet)
  • Granola bars
For Swimming or Beach Days:
  • 2 Swimsuits
  • 1 quick-dry Columbia dress as a cover-up
  • Packable microfiber towel
  • Sunscreen
  • Waterproof case for iPhone & wallet
For Flight Days:
  • 1 Chambray shirt
  • 1 pair leggings
  • 1 T-shirt
  • TOMS
For Any Day:
  • 1 pair shorts
  • 3 tank tops
  • 1 short dress
  • 1 maxi dress
  • Pajamas (1 tee and 1 pair cotton shorts)
  • Unmentionables for the week
  • Small cross-body purse
  • Sunglasses

And then, of course, I packed the usual suspects.
Toiletries & Meds:
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Cleansing face wipes
  • Bar soap
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Pure aloe (for sunburns)
  • Hair ties
  • Makeup
  • Deodorant
  • Razor
  • Small hair brush
  • Straightener (I know -- ha!)
  • Tylenol
  • Benadryl (I'm allergic to bee stings!)
  • Travel first-aid kit
  • GoPro & charger
  • GoPro waterproof handle mount 
  • Canon ELPH 3000 
  • Kindle
  • iPhone 6 and charger
  • External battery
  • Headphones

  • PacSafe backpack web
  • Padlock
  • Extra Ziploc bags -- an absolute must!
  • Notebook & pen
  • Passport & copies
  • US embassy information
  • Hostel & hotel information
  • Credit cards and emergency cash
There were a handful of things that I had brought that I could have done without. For example, I never wore the short or maxi dress because I was much more comfortable in shorts and a tank. The straightener was wishful thinking, of course. My hair went up in a braid most days because it was too hot to have it down anyway!
One thing I left back home that I really wish I would have brought was my Teva water sandals. I ended up having to go barefoot in the hot springs in La Fortuna, which wasn't a huge deal, but I would have been much more comfortable in my Tevas. I also regretted not bringing a bigger backpack. The Camelbak had enough space for me to shove my wallet, inhaler and a few granola bars inside, but I ended up having to strap my rain jacket to the outside. 

For photography, I brought my small point-and-shoot Canon, and I relied heavily on the GoPro given the activities I'd be doing, but I really did miss my DSLR. 

Otherwise, I think this is a pretty solid list! What do you think? Is there anything else you might add?

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  1. Hi there!

    I will be going in the rainy season too!
    What did you wear at night in the different regions? I am wondering about the temperature drops and the atmosphere there after dinner time. Thanks!

    1. Hello! I actually found it to still be pretty warm at night. Dresses or shorts and a tee were totally fine!