While Costa Rica is only a small country, packing for its many seasons and climates can be tricky for first time visitors.

If staying in one area with little sightseeing then adapt accordingly, but, if planning on seeing more of the country and visiting a few different locations here is a generalised packing list which you can adapt to your specific requirements.

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General –

Except for a few higher end restaurants and attractions in the San Jose area the rest of the country is pretty casual. Leave the tux and ball gowns at home and pack light, comfy shorts and dresses instead.

When going out think dresses and skirts with sandals/flats for the ladies and dress shorts, polo shirts and sandals/flip flops for the blokes.

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Clothes –

Anything lightweight and quick dry. Laundromats are few and far between in Costa Rica but mid to high end hotels will have laundry service for a price. If this doesn’t appeal then hand washing in the shower is always a cheaper option.

“Dry season” is also a loose term in places like Arenal, Monteverde, the southern part of the country and on the Caribbean side so be prepared for occasional rain and higher humidity.

2 pair bathers (Wear one, dry one)

Sundress/skirt and blouse or nice “going out” outfits

2-3 pair shorts (general use and dress shorts)

2 pair pants (one older pair to hike/sightsee in and another for around town or going out)

1-2 long sleeve shirts for sun & bug protection, cool evenings or hiking through higher elevations

3-5 short-sleeve shirts (nice shirts & t-shirts) (Tank tops are okay)

1 sweatshirt/light fleece

Raincoat – lightweight and breathable

4-6 pairs of underwear

2-3 bras (include 1 sports bra)

2-4 pairs of socks


Shoes –

Flip Flops/Thongs or whatever you usually wear in Summer

Closed toe shoes for hiking (sneakers or lightweight hiking boots)

Sandals or dress shoes

Consider a pair of water shoes depending on sightseeing activities

Toiletries –

Toothbrush & toothpaste

Travel-sized shampoo & conditioner

Travel-sized soap

Comb/hair brush

Bug spray & bug bite treatment like AfterBite or Spray Benadryl


Hand sanitiser

Razors and shaving cream

Vitamins and/or prescribed medication

Glasses/contacts/cases/saline solution

Feminine products (they have them there, but it is nice to have the kind you normally use)


Hairbrush / Hair Ties


Miscellaneous –

Travel towel / Sarong (for beach and adventure activities; hotels provide bathroom & pool towels)

Hat & sunglasses

1-2 plastic bags / ziploc bags for wet cloths and/or shoes. Also handy for protecting electronics.

Reusable water bottle

Basic First Aid Kit

Electronics (camera, laptop, ipad, ipod, phone, chargers, travel adaptors, spare batteries, SD cards etc). Electrical outlets are the same as in the US.

Flashlight or headlamp

Light backpack for day trips

Bandana / Buff


Pocket Knife

Jewelry (make sure it’s the “I don’t care if I lose it” kind)

Documents –

Passport – and possibly visa, depending on your nationality.

Copy of your passport, drivers license & credit/bank cards

Drivers license

Money – everybody accepts the US dollar or you can exchange for Costa Rican Colones.  $20 bills are best as larger denomination bills are rarely accepted

Credit or Bank card

Travel Insurance details

Emergency contact information of friends and/or family

Departure ticket – without it, you will not be allowed to enter the country

Spanish/English phrase book

By using space cubes I manage to fit all this in one backpack and a carry on bag.

Everyone has their own style and needs, so use this as it is intended, as a general packing list for Costa Rica.  Take just the ideas that apply to you and disregard the rest.  If you have any suggestions for what else should be included on this list, please comment below.

Carry On,


I’m Anna Kernohan, an Adventure Consultant. I use my 17 years of travel experience and my background in Paramedics and Safety to provide professional advice and travel companion services to those wanting to travel but not in a tour group or alone. You’ll never have to worry about being alone in a foreign country again.

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