The big day is just around the corner. You’re finally going to visit Costa Rica! A dream come true for most of us.
But then that dreaded moment arrives. The unavoidable reality that all travelers hate above all else – PACKING!
Trying to figure out what clothes to bring to Costa Rica when you’re from a place like New York or Cleveland can be challenging.
We at Adobe Rent a Car are the oldest, locally owned rental car agency in Costa Rica. And pretty much all of us are Costa Ricans. So – we know the country inside and out. We especially know what you’ll need to be comfortable, dry, safe, and relatively bug-bite free when you visit.
Things to bring to Costa Rica
We’ve compiled the following list of must-haves for your upcoming trip.
This isn’t your typical packing list of clothing and toiletries. We’ve done some thinking, and we believe it’s best to start with–what we consider to be–the most important items.
Items like the ones that most people forget (and then panic over the minute they step onto the airplane).
Start with the following top essentials, and we guarantee you’ll have the most important bases covered. Anything else you can easily be found in the country.
Top essentials to pack for your trip to Costa Rica (or anywhere for that matter)
Your passport: Yes, it’s true. More people than you’d imagine forget their passports when they pack. It’s mostly because folks from big nations like the United States, Canada, or even the European Union aren’t required to carry a passport when traveling in their own countries.
You won’t be able to enter Costa Rica without one, so pack your passport first. And don’t forget to make sure it’s valid (not expired).
You’ll need your passport (valid) to rent a car, too.
We also recommend making copies of all important documents like your passport, credit cards, vaccination card, insurance policy, and a list of any important medications you take.
Likewise, it’s a good idea to make a list of important passwords and leave it at home with a trusted relative or friend. If your phone or computer are lost or stolen you’ll still have access to your accounts.
Medications: How often have you gone on an overnight and forgotten the essential basics like your daily meds? Well, you’re not alone.
Make sure to pack your medications, including extras, if your trip is extended for unforeseen reasons. Some travelers have serious medical conditions that can be life-threatening if not medicated.
If this applies to you, make sure to find out where you can buy the same medication in Costa Rica – just in case.
Over-the-counter staples like aspirin, Tylenol, antihistamines, bandaids, antibacterial ointment, and bug-relief creams are highly recommended. Costa Rica has plenty of pharmacies, but they may not carry your preferred brand.
If you’re going to partake in frequent outdoor activities (most people who visit Costa Rica do), we recommend bringing along a small First Aid Kit. You won’t regret it.
Prescription glasses: Accidents or misplacing a pair of readers happen, so make sure to pack a couple of inexpensive extras.
Travel Insurance: Let’s face it. Costa Rica is a foreign country famous for its extreme adventure tourism. Even if you’re not planning to rock climb on an active volcano, accidents and injuries do happen.
Play it safe and purchase travel insurance for your trip. There are plenty of affordable options out there that won’t affect your budget too much. A good place to compare and purchase a travel insurance plan is travelinsurance.com.
Virtual Private Network (VPN): Times are changing. And even though most hotels, restaurants, and even grocery stores now provide open Wi-Fi connections, they’re not always safe.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are not only affordable these days; they’re small and easy to transport.
Traveling with your own internet is not only convenient, but it can also protect you from getting hacked and adds an extra layer of encryption against cyber thieves or other threats. It’ll also come in handy for reading or watching a movie during those long transfers between destinations.
Don’t have a VPN? Don’t worry. We do!
At Adobe, we offer our clients portable Wi-Fi Hotspots for a small daily fee. Our hotspots are tried and tested and can connect up to five devices simultaneously.
Binoculars and a waterproof camera or GoPro: Face it, you’re going to Costa Rica to sightsee as well as get a tan.
Costa Rica is home to over 5% of the world’s entire biodiversity. There are some really cool plants and animals that you should see and photograph if possible.
What’s more, you can WOW your friends and family on social media with your pictures.
Why waterproof? A couple of reasons: #1 it rains a lot in Costa Rica (it’s full of rainforests). #2 there’s 1,228 km (763 miles) of coastline, meaning you’ll probably be doing some snorkeling, surfing, sailing, swimming, scuba diving, or other water-related activities while you’re here.
Underwater pictures are awesome.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
At a mere 10 degrees north of the equator, Costa Rica receives a high percentage of direct sunlight. This means that most visitors from northern or southern climates are not accustomed to such powerful rays.
So pack a high SPF sunscreen and work on that tan gradually. A bad sunburn can take the fun out of any vacation – quick. Since you’ll likely spend considerable time frolicking in the ocean, buy reef-safe sunscreens, if possible.
Items such as sunscreen and insect repellent tend to be more expensive in Costa Rica. If you’re determined to pack light, buy some travel-size bottles for your favorite creams and lotions.
Costa Rica is a tropical country. Even if you’re visiting during the dry season, you’re likely to encounter high humidity and even rain in some locations. Bugs are an ever-present reality.
Not all of them bite, but it’s best to be protected. Some mosquito-borne illnesses like Dengue and Zika are present in Costa Rica and can be quite serious. Mostly during the rainy season, but nonetheless – stay safe.
Apart from Guanacaste Province in the north, most of Costa Rica is covered by forests. Cloud, transitional, and rainforests are the most prevalent. And they’re all prone to rain and bugs. Travel and Leisure has a good guide for choosing the best insect repellent.
Everything else for Costa Rica – what to pack
Now that we’ve covered the essentials, here’s a list of the top ten additional items you should definitely pack for your trip to Costa Rica.
- You’re going to want a day bag on trips and tours. If you’re bringing a suitcase, choose carry-on luggage like a backpack that can also be used for your Costa Rica adventures.
- Dry bags are indispensable! Keep your stinky shoes and wet clothes separate from the rest of your luggage by packing several of these lifesavers.
- Quick-drying shorts and long pants are great for hot, humid, and rainy weather. Convertible hiking pants (that unzip into shorts) are a great choice and offer extra protection from rough terrain and insects.
- Dry wick short and long sleeve shirts. If you’re not out to dinner or staying at a swanky resort, you’ll be dry, cool, and comfortable with the sporty dry-wick version as your daily tops.
- At least two sets of “dress-up” attire. You’re on vacation, so you’ll want to pamper yourself once or twice. Make sure to pack something nice for those romantic seaside nights. The capital city, San Jose, tends to be more formal than at the beach. Dress like the locals do and you won’t stick out as a tourist.
- Good shoes! Footwear is important, so make sure you have a good set of walking shoes or hiking boots. You’ll also need a pair of easy-on flip flops as well as a pair of water shoes or strap-on sandals like Tevas or Chacos. One pair of dress shoes is a good idea for nights out on the town.
- A light waterproof jacket or rain jacket. Layering is your best option for all of Costa Rica’s climates. It can get chilly at higher elevations and in mountain towns. A lightweight jacket will not only protect you from the elements but keep you cozy when needed.
- Plenty of socks and underwear. Nothing says comfort better than a good pair of socks and clean underwear. Pack different types and plenty of both, and you’ll be prepared for whatever the climate throws at you.
- Your favorite water bottle. Costa Rica’s tap water is potable, so try to avoid buying bottled water if you can. Most visitors are sensitive to the water, nonetheless. Try bringing a bottle with a built-in water filter just in case.
- Your favorite toiletries and makeup. We all want to look and feel our best on vacation. Don’t shirk your everyday essentials – but go light on the quantity. And remember, Costa Rica is hot and humid, so less is generally more, especially for makeup. Don’t worry, you’ll be glowing from within out of sheer holiday happiness.