What to Pack for Costa Rica

When we went to Costa Rica I had never been anywhere tropical before.  I was at a bit of a loss for what we should pack.  I knew that we planned to spend a lot of time basking in the sun but I also knew that we really wanted to get out and explore.

Hummingbird Garden Costa Rica
Jeremy in the Hummingbird Garden

This is what I would recommend for a trip similar to ours:

  • Passport:  Thank you, Captain Obvious.
  • Sunscreen: Before we left I bought some sunscreen that we had never tried before.  It worked well–we never got burnt–but it left our skin feeling chalky so we wanted to pick up something different.  We visited the “convenient” store at the resort and the sunscreen was $47 that is forty-seven United States Dollars.  Pack your own sunscreen, people.  Pack more than you think you’ll need, just in case.
  • After Sun Lotion:  You’ll be so glad you brought this if you get burnt.
  • Ziplock bags:  Bring bags big enough to hold wet swimsuits
  • Swimsuits: at least two per person.  I don’t know about you but I think one of the worsts things in the world is putting on a freezing cold wet swimsuit.
  • Sunglasses: You’ll most definitely be wanting your shades.
  • Rain Jacket:  Thunderstorms pop up out of nowhere.  Most days you’ll want to have your rain jacket stuffed in your backpack and ready to go.
  • A light sweater: Sometimes you’ll just want to protect your skin from the sun.  Many times I was glad that I had brought along this item.  I got a bit too much sun which made the a/c in our room seem extra cold.
  • Bug Spray: This blessed stuff will make your hikes through the jungle much more enjoyable.
  • Hiking boots/trail running shoes:  I was and still am not ready to take the plunge into hiking boots.  I just can’t bring myself to do it.  I went to the store before we left and tried some on and I just wasn’t ready for that step.  Yes, I wanted to hike through the jungle, but I just couldn’t buy hiking boots.  Enter trailing running shoes.  For me, these were a happy medium between a smart choice and one I could stand the look of.
  • Comfortable supportive sandals: I went with Birkenstocks but Olukais would be a perfect choice too.
  • Skirts/Dresses:  A small selection of skirts and dresses is perfect to have for both swim cover-up and going out to dinner.
  • Slacks:  Guys should take at least one pair of slacks for going out to dinner.
  • Sports bras:  Ladies will want/need these on hikes and even on some of the crazy, rough drives.  Seems like a weird thing to say… but seriously… you’ll thank me later.
  • Shorts: duh
  • Camera, memory cards, and charger:  How sad would it be to forget your camera.
  • Underwear:  I can’t believe I’m talking about this but take at least two pairs for each day that you’re away.  You’ll get swampy (if you know what I mean) and you’ll probably take way more showers than your usually do.
  • A backpack: You’ll want something to carry things in while you hike.

Then, pack everything that you usually would: medication, cosmetics, personal hygiene items, etc.  There are places to buy things if you forget something but there is no “I’ll just run out to Target.”  There aren’t any one-stop-shops.  You’ll have to go to a grocery store for food, pharmacy for medicine, etc.

You’ll also save money just bringing along what you need.  One of the oddest things I noticed about Costa Rica was that hygiene items: deodorant, toothpaste, etc is kept under lock and key behind the counter–very similar to the way we keep our cigarettes and lottery tickets in the United States.  You will pay more picking up those types of items there, just and FYI.

Costa Rican Sunset
Costa Rican Sunset

Happy Travels!


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