Whether you’re a lover of lists or more laid-back and last minute, packing is a pursuit best approached with at least a modicum of organisation. Even the savviest of packers can benefit from a list, especially when heading to yet unchartered territory. With two distinct seasons and a number of microclimates, you can’t rely on the same clothing items year-round in this pocket-sized Central American nation. So, if you’re wondering what to pack for Costa Rica, our travel experts have done the difficult bit and compiled a list – all that’s left for you to do is chuck everything in a suitcase and tick it off…

General Clothing

  • Casual clothing: Costa Rica is generally a casual country, so it’s worth taking comfortable clothing suited to active adventures. If you’re planning a couple of upscale dinners, simple dresses and sandals are a good option for women, while men can opt for shorts and polo shirts
  • A sweater or cardigan/jacket for cooler mornings and evenings
  • Clothing layers if visiting multiple places across the country (expect multiple microclimates)
  • Raincoat/waterproof jacket: while the rainy season runs from May to November, some regions are prone to rainfall year-round
  • Hiking boots/sturdy trainers and comfy socks: if you plan on hiking or walking, comfortable and durable walking shoes are a must. Trails can get muddy and wet, so waterproof and closed toe are best
  • A sturdy day pack/backpack
  • Swimwear, sarong/beach towel and flip-flops for making the most of Costa Rica’s heavenly beaches

Travel Essentials

  • Passport, driver’s license, travel documents, travel credit card (obvious, but an extra reminder doesn’t hurt)
  • Suncream: buying it in Costa Rica is expensive, so it’s best to bring a plentiful supply. The higher the SPF, the better – the country’s close proximity to the equator means the sun’s rays are particularly powerful here. Aftersun or aloe vera are helpful in the event of sunburn
  • Insect repellent/protective clothing. As with suncream, buying once you arrive can be pricey. Bug spray is essential throughout the country, and unfortunately mosquito-borne illnesses do exist here. Your best bet is covering up in the evenings and applying spray
  • Bite relief cream to help soothe any bites
  • Sunglasses and sunhat: as with suncream, these are key for avoiding sunburn
  • Long trousers/skirts for the evenings (again to avoid bug bites)
  • A camera or GoPro for capturing Costa Rica’s resplendent landscapes and myriad wildlife (don’t forget all necessary chargers)
  • Plug adapter (plug sockets in Costa Rica are the same as in the US)
  • Toiletries (these can also be expensive, so it’s worth bringing some with you)

Other Useful Items

  • Cash and money belt: ATMs are available in most larger towns, but not in more rural regions and some businesses are cash only – ensure you have enough with you when heading off-the-beaten-track. A money belt is a good way of keeping your cash secure and out of sight
  • Rash guard if you plan on surfing, but also for preventing sunburn while swimming or snorkelling
  • Water shoes are helpful when exploring the country’s thundering waterfalls or for white-water rafting
  • Dry bag for keeping electronics safe from the humidity and if you’re a water sports lover
  • Small first aid kit with blister plasters, bandages, basic medicines etc.
  • Reusable water bottle to keep you hydrated and reduce plastic water bottle waste (Costa Rica is the queen of all things eco)
  • Portable battery pack
  • Map: if you’re renting a car, you may wish to have a map handy in case of poor GPS signal and limited signage
  • Waterproof phone/camera case


What to pack for Costa Rica can vary depending on the area you’re venturing to:

San José

Costa Rica’s capital is the exception when it comes to casual dress. You may wish to don clothing other than swimwear and flip-flops when visiting museums or restaurants in downtown San José.

Arenal and La Fortuna

Hot during the dry season but cooler near Lake Arenal. You’ll want loose and comfortable clothing, with some layers just in case.

Cloud Forests of Monteverde or San Gerardo de Dota

The country’s cloud forests see cooler climes than beachy regions, especially at night, so you’ll want to pack some warm layers for stays here. Waterproof walking trousers are also a good idea, as these regions tend to experience the most rainfall.

Osa Peninsula and South Pacific

Humidity is king on the Osa Peninsula; the best course of action for staying dry is to bring waterproof (or quick-dry) clothing and shoes. Come equipped with enough cash as ATMs aren’t widespread here.

Guanacaste Province and Nicoya Peninsula

Blessed with a longer dry season, you’ll want to stock up on suncream when visiting this part of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Temperatures remain around 30°C throughout the year, so prepare to enjoy sunshine sensibly.

Tortuguero and Puerto Viejo

Be prepared for rain along the Caribbean Coast. A flashlight or headlamp is advised given the more remote nature of this region, where lighting is less prevalent and storms can cause power cuts (don’t forget batteries!). ATMs are also not in abundance here, so bring plenty of cash.


Rainy Season

From May to November, the heavens open in Costa Rica. This abundant rainfall has the benefit of making the already lush rainforests even more verdant, but if you opt to travel at this time of year, here’s our rainy season list of what to pack for Costa Rica:

  • Umbrella
  • Raincoat
  • Waterproof shoes that you don’t mind getting soaked
  • Rain cover for your backpack/suitcase (to keep everything inside dry)
  • Insect repellent (mosquitos especially love the rainy weather)
  • Waterproof cases for electronics
  • Extra socks (because no one wants soggy feet)
Contact one of our Costa Rica specialists