The Ultimate Costa Rica Packing List

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Costa Rica beach
Here’s what you’ll need to explore Costa Rica’s beaches and rainforests. Photo credit: Liana Moore

Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful and diverse travel destinations. If you are lucky enough to be making your way to this “Pura Vida” nation, you may be wondering what to pack. From waterproof and fast-drying clothing to sturdy shoes and flip flops to headlamps, this is the only Costa Rica packing list you’ll need.

Surprisingly, it is possible to pack light and still bring everything you need. Certainly no fancy clothes or shoes are needed for a Costa Rica vacation!

Costa Rica Packing List for All Regions

Costa Rica is bursting with beautiful beaches and lush rainforests. We recommend visiting different areas of the country, so we’ve covered packing for all types of adventures in Costa Rica.

From water shoes to rain gear to beachwear, here is the ultimate Costa Rica packing list. This has been compiled based on my experience traveling to Costa Rica on several multi-gen trips. I have included both things that we were glad we packed, and the stuff we wish we’d known to bring!

The landscape of Costa Rica varies greatly, as does the climate. You will want to pack different items for the rain forest than you will want to bring for the beaches.

sunset views near Playa Flamingo Costa Rica
The beautiful beaches of Costa Rica offer fun water activities. Be sure to pack for these fun activities! Photo credit: Liana Moore


Wildlife spotting is a must-do activity in Central America. You don’t want to pass up the opportunity to see sloths, toucans, monkeys, poison dart frogs and the many other animals native to Costa Rica. Be sure to bring along a good camera. Today’s cell phone cameras may suffice for some. But a GoPro may come in handy for ziplining or snorkeling.


American dollars are accepted widely and cash is typically preferred. Of course, you will also want to pack a credit card that doesn’t charge international fees. And, you can get Colones, the local currency, from the ATM with a debit card.

Flashlights or Headlamps

While you can get by using your cell phone light, you will be much better off with a more powerful light. While on the beach in Playa Potrero, we experienced a couple of power outages. Not only is a headlamp or flashlight useful for getting around after dark on the beach or streets without any lights, but they also come in handy when there are power outages.

We love these Black Diamond headlamps for camping, but forgot to pack them. Fortunately we made friends with a family in our beachfront condo building who delivered some extra lights to us one night during a power outage. This Luci Solar Light is one that our friends loaned us that is both easy to pack and provides a lot of light.

coconut stand on playa penca costa rica
At Playa Penca, Ricardo will greet you and cut open a refreshing cold coconut for you for a very reasonable price. Photo credit: Liana Moore

Unlocked Cell Phone

If you own your phone outright, have been with the carrier for more than a year and are in good standing, then your provider is required to unlock your phone.

Once they have done this, then you can swap out SIM cards. We heard that you could buy a SIM card at the airport, but didn’t locate a place to do this at the Liberia airport. San Jose is bigger so it may be available there. Instead, we stopped at a Walmart near the Liberia airport. Activating the SIM card may be more difficult if you don’t speak Spanish. I had to enlist the help of a friendly hotel clerk.

And now, the iPhone 13 and later models have dual eSIM functionality. This means that you can buy an international SIM card online prior to your trip and not have to worry about switching out the physical card.

These options are much cheaper than the international service provided by most US based cell phone providers. But they do require some technical skills.

You can also add international service to your plan. AT&T charged us $10 per day for this.

A cell phone can be indispensable for the maps and GPS when you have a car rental. We recommend using both Google Maps and Waze. Be sure to remember your charger!


With cell phones you may think you don’t need a map. But I was surely more comfortable knowing that we had one in the car. Especially because street signs are limited and cell and WiFi service can be spotty. I was thankful to have this great waterproof map of Costa Rica, and also glad not to need it.

sloth near manuel antonio costa rica
Sloth in the trees at Tulemar near Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Photo credit: Liana Moore

Drybag or Waterproof Backpack

No matter what region you are in, you are likely to encounter water. Waterfall tours, white water rafting and mangrove tours are all popular, as are snorkeling and sunset cruises. And, it can be rainy depending on the region and time of year, as one of our SheBuysTravel contributors discovered during a trip to Santa Teresa. Even if you are visiting one region, you may take day trips to another. Best to protect expensive or important camera equipment. We purchased a drybag that came with a waterproof phone case specifically for this trip.

Fast Drying Clothing

Whether you will be in the rain or on the beach, quick-drying clothing is a great option. Here are a few of our favorite items:


While we opt for travel-size products, bring your favorite:

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Shampoo and conditioner.
  • First aid kit.
  • Imodium, Pepto Bismol in case of upset stomachs.
  • Pain reliever.
  • Insect repellent or Bug spray
  • Reef Friendly Sunscreen lotion or spray.
  • Extra set of contact lenses, if you wear them. Contact solution.
  • Aloe in case of sunburn.
  • Water bottle. The water is safe to drink in most developed areas of Costa Rica and a water bottle will allow you to refill without using plastic.
  • Women will want to bring their preferred feminine products.
vibrant orange sunset in costa rica
A vibrant orange sunset captured from Playa Danta in Costa Rica. Photo credit: Liana Moore

Costa Rica Packing List for the Beach

Both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts boast beautiful pristine beaches. These beach areas are the easiest to pack for. For Costa Rican beaches you will need a strong SPF sunscreen, beachwear including swimsuits, sarongs and water shoes or flip flops. And, that could really be all you need.

Though I may get the award for the most unique item on my Costa Rica packing list during our most recent visit. We stayed in a home in Las Catalinas just steps from the beach and waters ideal for stand up paddle boarding. We flew Southwest and since bags fly free, I brought along my inflatable stand up paddle board. I am not suggesting that you do this. But I loved having it handy and being able to take it out at my convenience almost every morning.


  • Bathing suits
  • Beach cover-up or sarong
  • Water shoes. I preferred wearing my Chacos over flip flops. My husband preferred his Keens.
hanging bridges in costa rica, closed toe shoes required here
Sturdy closed-toe shoes are required to explore the Mistico Hanging Bridges in Arenal. Photo credit: Liana Moore

Costa Rica Packing List for the Rainforest and Cloud Forest

The interior of the country offers lush rainforests and cloud forests. Both areas get a lot of rain and can get cold at the higher elevations of the cloud forest. The rainy season lasts most of the year here. For this area, you’ll need mosquito repellent with DEET, rain jackets, hiking boots and fast-drying clothing. A daypack can be helpful for storing layers.

 Rain Jacket or Poncho

You will want a lightweight raincoat. Even during the dry season you may get a rain shower in the rainforest. We are fans of Columbia. But ultimately just make sure it is something light and easy to pack. Believe it or not, it does get cool in certain places like Monteverde Cloud Forest.

poison dart frog in costa rica
Hiking boots or other closed-toe shoes will keep your feet safe from poison dart frogs like this little guy. Photo credit: Liana Moore

Hiking Shoes or Boots

One of our fellow tour members on a sloth tour in Arenal wore open-toe shoes. You should have seen him jumping around when we spotted poison dart frogs. Whether shoes or boots, you’ll want something closed-toe with good traction for muddy paths. Personally, I prefer shoes over boots and like Merrells brand.

Water Shoes

While we liked having water shoes for the beach, they are also useful for the rainforests and national parks. Water shoes are perfect for rafting, which is a popular activity in these areas.

What to Pack for Kids

Our visit to Costa Rica included ages from three on up. Here are the most important things you’ll need for the little ones.

  • While I love my Chaco’s, our go-to water shoes for our kids are Keens and Teva sandals.
  • Definitely don’t forget Children’s Tylenol. We always need it when we don’t bring it. I have a child who hates the liquid Tylenol and recently discovered Children’s Tylenol chewables — even easier to pack! That and bandages should be a part of any first aid kits when traveling with kids.
  • Goggles are a very important part of our swim supplies for kids. And, it is so important to the kids that we bring their nose goggles.
  • As a parent, I am also a fan of swim shirts with built-in sun protection.
  • And of course, hats to block the sun are so important too.
  • Most tours will provide binoculars, as well as scopes to better see the incredible wildlife. But in hindsight, I wish we had brought along a small pair of binoculars for our kids to watch for wildlife at the hotels. There are plenty of incredible birds and iguanas that can be found right off of a hotel balcony in La Fortuna, near Arenal.
Liana Moore lived overseas growing up, attending British public school for kindergarten in London. She then moved to Stavanger, Norway for nine years until age 15, growing up with friends of different cultures. Summers involved camps in Switzerland and Wales, plus USA time in East Texas and Minnesota. Liana sees things from others’ viewpoints, believing those experiences shaped the woman she is today. She’s instilling that empathy in her children, having fun along the way. Currently based in the mountains of Colorado, much of her time is spent exploring the Rocky Mountains. When she’s not marketing a resort property professionally, or traveling and writing, find her trying out new sports with her kids, like BMX biking, or debating with her teenager (and occasionally winning). Follow Liana’s adventures at Insider Families.
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One response

  1. Hi there! We take off for Costa Rica – Paritta – a little town about 40 m in from Manuel Antonio. We’ll be staying on the beach but of course enjoying plenty of rain forest and cloud tours. We are traveling with two boys (7 & 4) and it’s our first International trip as a family. Doing my best to stay organized and only pack what we need, yet still have room for toys, and a smidgen of fashion, cause that makes me happy

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