What to Pack for Costa Rica: the ONLY Costa Rica Packing List You Need

Planning a trip to Costa Rica? This Costa Rica packing list includes everything you'll need to pack no matter what the season, plus a guide on what to wear in Costa Rica!

Many people struggle to figure out what to pack for Costa Rica and with good reason: the weather is a bit all over the place. Are there really only two seasons? Just how wet is “wet season?” Do I still need a jacket in the heat? I spent two weeks traveling through various cities in Costa Rica just as rainy season was beginning and I struggled to pack for my trip. I brought items I didn’t need and forgot some important ones. So in order to avoid doing the same, I’ve compiled this complete Costa Rica packing list: everything you need to pack for Costa Rica. Whether you’re visiting during rainy season or dry season, these are the essentials you need to pack.

Weather in Costa Rica: Wet Season vs Dry Season

There are really only two seasons in Costa Rica: wet season and dry season. The temperature is constant year-round, so if you don’t mind a little rain, you can save a lot by visiting during wet season.

December – April: Costa Rica’s dry season is the best time to experience the country to its fullest since the majority of Costa Rica’s sites are outdoors. This is peak tourist season, however, so sites are more crowded and accommodation more expensive.

May – November: If you don’t mind the rain, this is a great time to visit Costa Rica (especially during the shoulder months of May and November) for cheaper accommodation and emptier sites. The tradeoff is that you can’t enjoy the beaches as much.

Note: Be sure to check the weather right before your Costa Rica trip since 1) rain is unpredictable and 2) your packing list will depend on which area of the country you’re visiting, since the weather varies by city. This packing list is based on my experiences traveling to the cities listed in my one week Costa Rica itinerary.


What to Pack in: Luggage and Accessories

Over the years, I’ve somewhat perfected become better at only packing things I need and packing carry-on only (for the most part) for most of my trips. Except for like, months and months of travel, in which case, I like to have options.

If you’re traveling to Costa Rica, chances are you’ll be visiting at least two or three cities which means you’ll be lugging your luggage from place to place (potentially via some mode of public transport if you aren’t driving). I’ve been the person that drags a wheelie suitcase through the streets and it’s honestly just not practical. So even if you aren’t usually a backpacker, I highly recommend bringing a backpack to Costa Rica for ease of transport. Doing laundry is inexpensive anyway, so it’s easier to wash your clothes once or twice instead of bringing two weeks worth of clothing in a giant bag. Trust me on this one.

  • Backpack: If you’re spending a week or ten days in Costa Rica, you can easily pack carry-on only. The Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack is hands down the best carry-on-sized backpack I’ve ever used for travel. Not only is it carry-on sized, but it’s also incredibly comfortable and easy to carry, even for a small-framed person like me. It has tons of pockets and compartments for organization, lockable zippers, and it’s weather resistant. If you don’t think you can handle packing in a carry-on, the Osprey Fairview 70 Backpack is just as comfortable but a lot larger and what I personally used while on my trip. Be sure to get a rain cover if you’re traveling during the wet season!
  • Packing Cubes: I never understood why people needed packing cubes until I got some of my own. Guys, they’re the BEST for keeping organized! I can no longer travel without them. Now I can avoid what I fondly call “exploding suitcase syndrome” – that tendency for all your things to go all over the place every time you need to get one thing from your suitcase. I’m a fan of these ones made specifically for the Tortuga Outbreaker but if you have a different backpack, these compression packing cubes are pretty great too!
  • Water-Resistant Daypack: For days where I’m out all day, I always carry a daypack. This daypack is great because it’s durable, water-resistant, has several organizational pockets, and folds into a tiny pouch. Alternatively, consider bringing a dry bag instead. Not only does it rain a lot in Costa Rica, but the weather is also notoriously humid. Keep your valuables (especially electronics) in a waterproof bag to avoid any kind of water damage. This is especially useful for hiking or water activities.
  • Locking Purse (optional): Costa Rica doesn’t have a pickpocketing problem and I’ve never been worried that someone will snatch something from my bag. However, I’d rather be safe than sorry, which is why I bring this handy lockable purse with me everywhere I travel. Is it the most stylish purse I’ve ever owned? No. Does it keep me from worrying about pickpockets? Absolutely. Plus, it’s surprisingly roomy – I keep my water bottle, camera, wallet, and other stuff in there and they fit no problem. If a smaller purse is what you’re after, check out this one or this oneNote: you probably only need this if you’re spending lots of time in San Jose. If not, you can always keep your smaller valuables in this secret pocket scarf instead.
  • Organizing bags: I learned the hard way on my first solo trip that keeping your bag organized is crucial. Otherwise, you end up repacking your bag every other day, which suuuuucks. Therefore, in addition to your packing cubes, bring along an electronics organizer (especially if you travel with a ton of gear), shoe bags (to keep your shoes away from your clean clothes, of course), a laundry bag (you can also use a separate packing cube if you prefer), and a toiletries bag (liquids spilling on your clothes make for a bad time).
If you're wondering which cities to add to your Costa Rica itinerary, don't miss La Fortuna and Monteverde! CLICK to read the Costa Rica Travel Guide: La Fortuna and Monteverde edition and start planning your trip! | https://passportandplates.com
Long-sleeved clothing in Monteverde, Costa Rica

What to Wear in Costa Rica: Clothing and Shoes for Wet and Dry Season in Costa Rica

I know that clothing is always the hardest thing to pack because you want to bring clothes that are both functional and cute which is NOT easy. Remember one rule of thumb: wear and pack lightweight. moisture-wicking items. In general, people dress pretty casually in Costa Rica (especially outside San Jose), so don’t worry about bringing formal clothes (just factor in a few nicer sundresses or blouses for the evening and you’re solid). You might want to dress up slightly if you’re spending most of your time in San Jose, but again – more casual than you’re used to. Pura Vida applies to your wardrobe as well.

The weather in Costa Rica is pretty consistently warm, but you’ll still want to factor in both a rain jacket and a warm jacket if you decide to go to a mountain town like Monteverde. Note: if you’re visiting Monteverde,  it gets mildly cold (60s – 70s Fahrenheit). Leave your winter coat at home, but bring a fleece or packable down jacket, especially for the evenings.

Wet season vs dry season: For dry season, think casual, moisture-wicking fabrics that will keep you cool and dry. In the wet season, it gets *slightly* cooler, so your wardrobe will be similar but this is when it’s extra important to pack quick-dry clothing. During rainy season, you should also add the following to your packing list: a fleece or down jacket, a pair of closed-toed shoes, a couple of long-sleeved tops and pants, and most importantly – a rain jacket. 

Tip: Spray all your clothing and gear with Permethrin spray before you leave. It lasts up to six washes and helps you avoid bug bites.

  • Tops

    • Basic temperature regulating t-shirt (3): No matter what the season, you’ll want at least a few basic temperature regulating shirts, like this one (get it on Amazon instead here). This T is specially made to be moisture-wicking, anti-odor, and offer SPF protection so it’s perfect for both the dry and wet season in Costa Rica. Plus, it doesn’t look like an exercise top but still offers a lot of the benefits of high-performance clothing. It’s cute enough to be dressed up with a cardigan or nice scarf. If you decide you love this shirt and want one with similar features, try this one..
    • Insect repellant top (1-2): If you’re prone to sunburns or bug bites, consider getting an insect-repelling top. The mosquitos in Costa Rica do NOT mess around. Alternatively, purchase Permethrin spray to spray on your clothing before you go. It lasts up to six washes, is safe for your clothing, and repels mosquitos.
    • Long-sleeved temperature regulating top (1-2): If you’re traveling during wet season or are prone to bug bites, you’ll probably want more than just one of these tops. Wet season isn’t cold by any means, but it’s nice to have a long-sleeved top for the evenings, temperature variations due to rain, and to protect yourself from bugs.
    • Blouses / Cute Shirts (2): For the rest of the time when you’re out and about, you’ll want to bring along some cute tops (short or long-sleeved depending on your sensitivity to the sun). People dress pretty casually so keep that in mind when choosing clothes. Just make sure whatever you pack is lightweight!
  • Bottoms

    • Lightweight pants (2): No matter when you visit Costa Rica, you’ll want loose and lightweight everything, including pants. I’m a fan of this particular style for the evening, but for hiking and outdoors, prAna is my go-to brand of choice for pants that are comfortable for all-day travel and outdoor activities without being ugly or looking too much like workout pants (these are my faves). If you’re looking for more ‘technical’ hiking pants, I recommend these pants I used for the Inca Trail (or these if you want the convertible version) – they’re reasonably priced, comfortable, and have lots of pockets.
    • Shorts (2): Tons of people wear shorts in Costa Rica and rightfully so: It’s hot, hot, hot. However, I did not because I’m very prone to mosquito bites and I’m one of those people who doesn’t get warm easily. If you do bring shorts, make sure you pack the quick-dry kind. Note: even if you prefer shorts, be sure to bring at least 1-2 pairs of pants along.
    • Skirts (1): You’ll probably only want to wear a skirt in the evening (unless you hike in skirts, in which case kudos!). I wouldn’t bring more than 1-2 personally. Costa Rica is more of a beach and outdoors destination.
  • Dresses

    • Dresses (1-2): If you’re traveling during dry season, bring 1-2 nicer casual dresses that you can wear both during the day and in the evening. Most opportunities to dress up slightly are for going out to dinner as Costa Rica is pretty casual.
  • Scarves

    • Secret pocket scarf: One of my favorite minimalist hacks for travel is to bring several scarves and several basic shirts and mix and match them to make it look like a whole new outfit. Cool trick, right? My favorite scarf to pack for every trip is this secret pocket scarf. It’s cute and functional and has the added bonus of having a hidden pocket, where you can keep your passport, some money, or any other valuable you’re worried about.
  • Swimwear

    • Swimsuits: Bring at least two! The beaches in Costa Rica are nice and you’ll probably be swimming multiple days in a row. There are usually opportunities to swim during the wet season as well. I don’t recommend anything too flimsy if you’re planning on doing water sports though.
    • Cover-up: People in Costa Rica dress casually, but you won’t see people in their swimwear away from the beach. Out of respect, bring a cover-up and wear it if you’re planning on grabbing a meal or something.
    • Sun hat: Your skin will want a break from the strong Costa Rica sun, especially if you’re prone to burning. Check out your options here.
    • Sunglasses: No explanation necessary.
  • Outerwear, Underwear, and Accessories

    • (1) Bra, (2) workout bras, (7) underwear: I always bring this workout bra for outdoorsy days or if I want to hit the hotel gym because it keeps moisture and smells away. Same goes for this underwear (plus, it dries quickly for easy washing). I also pack a couple of my regular t-shirt bras and voila. Done with undergarments.
    • Moisture-wicking socks (3-6 pairs): These moisture-wicking socks are perfect for all-day wear without making your feet smelly or sweaty. They’re perfect for outdoor activities. Just a few pairs will do.
    • Fleece or down jacket: Even in the dry season, you’ll want to bring a fleece or a packable down jacket for potential early morning hikes or unexpected cold weather. I prefer the jacket because it’s warm but doesn’t take up much room in a suitcase.
    • Waterproof jacket: It rains a lot in Costa Rica – especially if you’re there during rainy season. This jacket is lightweight and breathable but keeps you dry. It also fits into its own pouch to make packing lightly that much easier. Bring it no matter when you visit because the weather is seriously unpredictable.
    • Pajamas: I like bringing leggings and a basic t-shirt to wear as pajamas just in case there’s an off chance I need to wash them and wear them as clothes in a pinch. Or layer with them if I get cold. Either way, don’t forget pajamas.
    • Sun hat: Protect your skin (and your neck) from sunburns. Bring a hat.
    • Mesh bag for wet clothes: The last thing you want to do is put wet clothes in a plastic bag. They’ll start to smell and they’ll never dry. Instead, bring a couple of these mesh bags along so they don’t get gross in the bag.
  • Shoes for Costa Rica

    • Cute Sandals / Flip flops: I love these Keen sandals because they’re cute and super comfortable to walk in all day. I bring them with me everywhere and they haven’t failed me yet. I wore these whenever I wasn’t doing hiking / outdoors activities because the hiking sandals are more practical than fashionable. Alternatively, you can bring a cute pair of flip flops (I personally prefer the security of sandals though).
    • Hiking sandals: I wore these hiking sandals in Costa Rica for most of my outdoors activities and to the beach and they were perfect (even during wet season). I also wore them while swimming because a lot of the beaches have rocks (like in Manuel Antonio). I did see plenty of people who had water shoes but eh, I prefer my items to be multi-purpose whenever possible.
    • Hiking shoes (optional): I only wore hiking sandals while I was in Costa Rica and was totally fine. However, if you prefer hiking shoes instead, then I recommend this pair. Not only are they durable and supportive, but they’re also waterproof – very important for Costa Rica (even during dry season).
Due to an unexpected change of plans, we found ourselves in Alajuela, Costa Rica (near the San Jose airport) for 3 days. If you find yourself in the same situation, don’t worry! CLICK to read the best things to do near San Jose Airport, Costa Rica!
I had to buy a poncho in San Jose because I forgot my rain jacket like a dummy.

What to Pack for Costa Rica: Toiletries and Accessories 

  • Oral care: Don’t forget to pack your toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss sticks along. Your favorite brands might be a little more expensive so it’s easier to just bring your stuff with you.
  • Deodorant: Obviously.
  • Razors: I like to avoid looking like I just shaved my legs for the first time so I never use crappy hotel razors. Instead, I use the ultra-compact yet powerful Venus Snap for shorter trips. If you don’t have sensitive skin, you can easily pick up a razor at a pharmacy in Costa Rica.
  • Shampoo, Conditioner, Leave-in conditioner, and Soap: Word to the wise – your favorite hair and skincare brands (especially if you use ultra-niche or expensive brands) might not be available in Costa Rica or might be really expensive. I personally bring solid shampoo and conditioner bars because they’re lighter, last way longer, and don’t spill on your stuff. I like this shampoo bar and this conditioner bar, but of course, buy/bring whatever suits your hair type. Leave-in conditioner is a must because you’ll be spending a lot of time in water. I like this one and this one. As for soap, I bring along the miraculous Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap, which you can use to clean yourself, clothing, dishes, and more. I learned about it from some traveling friends a few years ago and now it’s my go-to travel soap!
  • Hand Sanitizer and face wipes: Costa Rica is hot and nature-y so having face wipes or baby wipes will help you stay refreshed and cleanish, while hand sanitizer is useful for general…er, sanitizing. Especially if a bathroom isn’t handy or it doesn’t have soap.
  • Makeup: I’ve never been much of a makeup queen and generally get by with tinted moisturizermascaraeyebrow pencileyeliner, and lipstick both on the road and at home. You won’t need more than this in Costa Rica since you’ll be sweaty and doing a lot of outdoor activities while you’re there. Either way, remember that anything that’s prone to melting (in the case or off your face) probably isn’t best to bring anyway.
  • Chapstick: Use it often and buy the SPF kind. Sunburned lips are the worst (spoken from experience).
  • Sunscreen: Even if you’ve never burned before, don’t test your luck and pack some good sunscreen. It’s expensive in Costa Rica and not always easy to find because locals don’t use it. For everyday use, I use Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen because my skin is prone to acne. The original Neutrogena sunscreen is just as good if acne is a non-issue. Neither will leave your skin feeling gross and greasy. For the rest of me, I use the solid body stick, which works well. My friends who dive told me that the chemicals in sunscreen are really bad for the ocean though, so if you’re going swimming, they recommend All Good Sunscreen, which is safe for reefs and the planet. The more you know!
  • Insect repellent: The mosquitos in Costa Rica are absolutely relentless and I know this because I made the mistake of bringing wimpy repellent with me when I visited. Don’t be like me! Nowadays, I only use this insect repellent. Not only was it specifically voted number one in consumer tests but I can vouch for that fact that I’ve gotten fewer bites using it in other tropical destinations. Plus, you can use it on your skin and it doesn’t make you feel or smell gross!
  • Chafing gel: The only time I ever wish for a thigh gap is when it’s hot and I’m wearing a skirt or dress. Chub rub, that uncomfortable rawness you get between your thighs from them rubbing together, is very real, especially when it’s hot out. I used this anti-chafing balm and my only disappointment is how long it took me to figure out that it’s a thing that exists.
  • Menstruation things: If pads are your period weapon of choice (and you don’t want to pack some), you can easily find your favorite brands in Costa Rica. However, tampons and menstrual cups choices are limited so do yourself a favor and pack some along with you.
  • Skincare: As much as I’m a makeup minimalist, I’m somewhat of a skincare maximalist. I use a variety of products, which I pack into these teeny travel containers. What I don’t skimp on, though, is face moisturizer, and neither should you. Your skin will dry out from the heat and all that sun. I love the Cerave PM moisturizer (shout out to my dermatologist for introducing me to it!) and the bottle comes in a 3 oz size, which makes it TSA-friendly. Don’t forget to pack a good body lotion too. Your body needs hydration as well.
  • Miscellaneous: In terms of jewelry, I usually bring 3 pairs of earrings plus what I’m already wearing, and a few cute and matching bracelets and necklaces. Not necessities but I gotta be cute, ok? I also pack a waterproof phone pouch (more for keeping my phone dry than taking good underwater photos), a comb / brush, a loofah, and this perfume bottle atomizer so I can bring my favorite perfume along.
Due to an unexpected change of plans, we found ourselves in Alajuela, Costa Rica (near the San Jose airport) for 3 days. If you find yourself in the same situation, don’t worry! CLICK to read the best things to do near San Jose Airport, Costa Rica!
In most places in Costa Rica, like at this volcano outside San Jose, packing quick-dry hiking clothes is the way to go!

Costa Rica Packing List: Travel Safety and First Aid

  • Travel Insurance: Yes, you need travel insurance for if things (hopefully don’t but often do) go wrong. I’ve been sick, needed stitches, crashed a rental car, had cash stolen and have dealt with luggage delays. Let’s just say I’ve learned my lesson about travel insurance the hard way. My go-to insurance is World Nomads cause they’re awesome and easy to deal with. Be sure to check out the different plan options to pick one that’s right for you!
  • Luggage Locks: Your stuff can definitely get stolen from your suitcase, whether you’re going through airport security, taking a bus or train, or staying at a hostel (or hotel, even). I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but I’m a worrywart and like to prepare for the worst. So I bring a couple of these small TSA-approved locks with me whenever I travel. Sure, I can’t stop someone from running off with my entire bag, but at least I can stop pickpockets in their track, heyyyy!
  • Anti Diarrheal: I have a fairly strong stomach and found that I had no issues with food and water in Costa Rica (unlike my misadventures in Peru). However, everybody’s stomachs react differently so I recommend bringing anti diarrheal with you just in case. Imodium is every traveler’s favorite treatment for travel diarrhea. My doctor tells me that you shouldn’t stop whatever is making you sick from leaving your system. However, I totally get that there are times where “better out than in” just doesn’t work (like on a hiking trip, for example). So bring Imodium if you’d like, but use it only when you need to.
  • Rehydration Salts (optional): Costa Rica is hot and if you’re out and about all day, it’s easy to get dehydrated. These rehydration salts are perfect for electrolyte replenishment, especially when you can’t keep anything down or drink water fast enough.
  • Advil: I always bring some pain reliever with me in case of body aches, cramps, etc. It’s just good to have.
  • Dramamine: I’m thankful that my motion sickness only warrants medication when I’m on a boat, but I totally get that others are more sensitive. If you end up on a camping trip of some sort, drive up the windy roads, or take long-distance public transportation, chances are high you’ll be in for a bumpy ride. I prefer the non-drowsy Dramamine so I can still be a functioning human being during the day (not that naps aren’t nice too).
  • Travel First Aid Kit: I love that this travel first aid kit is small enough to stick in your bag but still has tons of items in it. I’d remove the scissors if you aren’t planning to check your luggage, but otherwise, this is incredibly handy, especially if you’re going to be doing outdoorsy things.
The Perfect Costa Rica Itinerary: 7 Days of Pura Vida: Planning a week long trip to Costa Rica? Look no further - this is the perfect one week costa rica itinerary that includes adventure, beaches, and wildlife. Click to read and start planning your trip! | https://passportandplates.com
You’ll likely spend a fair amount of time swimming in Costa Rica. Photo: Playa Manuel Antonio

What to Pack: Electronics

  • VPN: For those of you who don’t know, a VPN (virtual private network) is a service that allows you to securely and privately route your internet through a server. Basically, it makes your internet think you’re in one place when you’re in a different one. Why do you need this? Well, if you want to access your bank account or any secure online account, the sites get super sketched out when you’re in a foreign country. NordVPN is my go-to because it works even in countries where VPNs are blocked. Yay for internet security!
  • Power bank: I don’t know if I’m a phone addict or what (jk, the answer to that is an unfortunate but resounding yes) but I legit don’t understand how people can travel without a power bank. You’re out and about all day and using your phone to navigate, take photos, and who knows what else. I always carry my Anker PowerCore while I’m out. It’s light, holds multiple charges, and charges phones quickly. Win!
  • An eSIM: Once upon a time, I used to collect SIM cards like 90’s kids collected Beanie Babies. I had one for each country I visited and multiple phone numbers I could never remember. Why? So I could always have internet (I’m an addict and I know it). Nowadays, I use an eSIM. I get internet pretty much everywhere and can use it for multiple devices. Bonus: NOT having to deal with the hassle of getting a SIM card in a foreign country and you can use it for Google Maps (instead of renting a GPS).
  • Universal travel adapter: After accidentally bringing the wrong plug for a country multiple times, I learned my lesson and bought a couple of universal travel adapters. You can use them in every country and never have to worry about plugs again, yay! This one also has USB slots, which is super handy if you are mainly charging phones, cameras, and tablets. I usually pack two just in case and charge all my stuff with a power strip (linked below). Note: the plugs in Costa Rica are the same as they are in the U.S. so this is an optional item if you’re traveling with North American electronics.
  • Travel Camera(s): I know all the cool kids are about that #iPhoneOnly life, but I still like taking photos with a camera. Does that make me old? Whatever, I’m embracing it. Anyway, for adventure footage and photos, the latest GoPro is seriously the best, especially for Costa Rica. It’s waterproof, image stabilizing, and has a bunch of other cool features. Plus, you can use it to capture all your crazy activities like ziplining and canyoning. If you’re looking for a nice digital camera that doesn’t involve complicated lenses, I personally use the Sony RX100 II, which I’m obsessed with. This is the older model (I think they’re on the 6 now) but it works great. The Carl Zeiss lens takes spectacular, high-quality photos but the camera is small enough to fit in a purse. Make sure you bring protective gear for your electronics though – the humidity and rain can seriously damage your stuff.
  • Kindle: Confession: I’m low-key a book fiend and chances are high that I’m currently in the middle of reading something. As a traveler, I don’t have the luxury of taking up precious space in my suitcase with a book or three. I was uncertain about buying a Kindle initially, but it’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. Not only can you keep guidebooks on there, but it’s also nice to be able to read at your leisure on those long distance trips or at the beach. This particular Kindle magically blocks sun glare somehow (sorcery, I tell you!), which is why I prefer it to reading on a tablet.
  • Portable Travel Strip (optional): If you’re one of those annoying people charging your phone, laptop, and camera at the same time (read: me), bringing a small travel strip along makes powering your devices that much more efficient. I know I’m extra. Sorry, not sorry.
  • Headphones: There are a lot of things that suck about planes, but bad headphones don’t have to be one of them. The small Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones do a pretty good job of blocking ambient sound on airplanes (and everywhere else). They’re small and they’re wired, making them much more practical for travel than the bulky over-ear headphones.
  • Laptop/Tablet (optional): I work online for a living, so I always bring my MacBook Air with me. I don’t like or use tablets personally. However, you might want to bring along a lightweight laptop or your tablet just in case. Travel planning is hard to do on a smartphone (which you should also bring by the way).
If you're wondering which cities to add to your Costa Rica itinerary, don't miss La Fortuna and Monteverde! CLICK to read the Costa Rica Travel Guide: La Fortuna and Monteverde edition and start planning your trip! | https://passportandplates.com
Misty and chilly Monteverde

What to Pack: Travel Accessories

  • Insulated water bottle and water purifier or water purifying bottle: I always bring a water bottle with me when I travel because single-use plastic sucks for the planet and buying lots of bottled water is expensive and inconvenient. You can technically drink the tap water in Costa Rica, but if you’re a bit worried or have a sensitive stomach, purify it first. I bring along a Steripen, a UV water purifier that gets rid of 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, and use it in combination with my CamelBak Insulated Water Bottle. This bottle is particularly awesome because it holds 20 oz and keeps water cold, which you’ll want in a hot country like Costa Rica. If you’d rather purchase an all-in-one solution, Grayl’s water filtering bottle is a great alternative so you can fill directly from the tap and drink almost immediately.
  • Microfiber towel: Pretty much all hotels will have towels for use on hand, but I find that it’s always nice to have a towel I can use when I travel, whether I’m on the beach, get caught in the rain, or stay at a hostel. This Wise Owl Camping Towel dries super quickly, takes up almost no room and comes with a bonus face/hand towel for hikes and outdoor activities. I always bring it with me when I travel, whether I’m staying in a hostel or not.
  • Travel pillow: First of all, if you don’t already use a travel pillow while you’re on a plane, I’m seriously impressed because I can’t board a flight without one! In Costa Rica, you’ll definitely want to bring one along, not just for the plane but also for sleeping on long-distance buses (if you take public transport). Best believe I’m recommending that dorky but ultra comfortable Trtl travel pillow. It’s super comfortable and designed to hold your head in a proper sleeping position. Plus, it’s easy to just attach to your backpack when you aren’t using it so you don’t have to worry about bending the brace.
  • Eye mask and earplugs: I have the hardest time sleeping pretty much anywhere that isn’t a bed, which I know is ridiculous considering how often I travel. I find that making my environment as quiet and dark as possible helps, which is why I travel with both earplugs and this funny-looking eye mask. Costa Rica has a fair amount of nature noises, which may interrupt your sleep if you’re sensitive to noise. I highly recommend bringing earplugs just in case, even if you don’t sleep with them normally.
  • Travel toilet paper: I’ve been caught in a public bathroom without toilet paper enough times to always bring some along in my purse when I’m out and about. You can always buy toilet paper in Costa Rica or take some from your hotel, but I like to keep some of these small toilet paper rolls in my purse and not worry about it. Toilet seat covers are 100% not a thing (like at all outside of North America from what I’ve seen) so if you’re particularly worried about hygiene, there are also travel toilet seat coversNote: don’t flush anything down the toilet in Costa Rica, not even toilet paper. The pipes can’t handle it. 
  • Sleeping bag liner: I’m not a germaphobe by any means but have camped and stayed in hostels enough times to know that sometimes the bedding is…questionable. Or just plain uncomfortable. This silk sleeping bag liner will make you feel ultra-luxurious and put a barrier between you and your bedding, which has made me feel better while camping and staying in budget hotels.
  • Travel clothesline (optional): This travel clothesline is super handy for hanging swimwear, towels, and other gear to dry. Not only does it come with built-in clothespins, but it’s also easy to hook both indoors and outdoors.
  • Waterproof driving map (optional): If you’re driving in Costa Rica and want to reference a physical map in addition to using Waze / Google Maps. This one is popular.
  • Costa Rican Spanish Phrasebook: This Spanish phrasebook is more of a nice to have than a necessity. However, you might find it particularly useful if you’re traveling through Costa Rica independently, especially if you’re not at tourist sites.
  • Lonely Planet Guidebook: I’m one of those people who uses blogs to plan my trip but brings along a guidebook when I’m in another country. I know it’s weird, but I like having a reference along. Totally not a necessity if you’ve done proper research and/or have internet access.
Planning your trip to La Fortuna / Arenal in Costa Rica? Then check out this list of the best things to do in La Fortuna for first time visitors!
Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

What to Pack: Travel Documents

  • Passport and copy of your passport
  • Departure ticket: you can’t enter Costa Rica without having an exit flight
  • Travel Insurance: very, very important.
  • Driver’s license if you’re planning on renting a car
  • Credit card and / or debit card
  • Cash: USD is widely accepted but you can also exchange your dollars for colones (this saves you a bit of money). Bring smaller bills ($20 and less).

More Costa Rica Resources

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Planning a trip to Costa Rica? This Costa Rica packing list includes everything you'll need to pack no matter what the season, plus a guide on what to wear in Costa Rica!
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