Costa Rica has to be one of the best adventure destinations we have travelled to. It has so much to offer in terms of adventures activities such as zip-lining, white water rafting, exploring cloud forests, horse-riding and going on tours to spot the local wildlife. Not only that, it is one of those rare places catering to every type of tourist. Whether you are a beach bum or an avid hiker, Costa Rica has beaches, rainforests, cloud forests, national parks and even a bustling city.
Out of the whole of Central America, Costa Rica is probably the most developed when it comes to tourism and infrastructure. While you should of course try and learn the local language (Spanish) you will be able to get by confidently using English.
Now with this being a place for adventures, we wanted to put together a Costa Rica packing list based on what we had when we visited, and what we wish we had so that you can have the best and easiest experience! We aren’t going to insult you by telling you to pack daily t-shirts, socks and underwear! We have tried to put together the best Costa Rica packing list for all those things you might forget or wish you had thought about!
We hope you find this helpful to make the most of your time in Costa Rica!
Costa Rica Packing List: The Basics for any Trip
Regardless of where you are travelling to, you need a good quality suitcase and carry on. Given our carry on bags contain all our valuables and our suitcases literally all our belongings, we are seriously focused on security!
- Suitcases: Take a look at these suitcases from Antler. They come with built in TSA approved locks and for us, what we love most is that they come in a range of colours including some bright options. This is not just for aesthetics, we chose to buy a bright blue suitcase so no one is going to mistakenly pick up the standard black suitcase every other traveller has!
- Carry on: We both have ‘anti theft’ style backpacks. These usually have no zips that are easily accessible to pick pockets as most zips are against your back instead. They are usually slash proof and splash proof too which is very important for the amount of electronics we carry! Take a look at this backpack for example.
- Packing cubes: These have made our travels so much easier and we are not exaggerating. Especially since we travel for longer periods of time, constant re-packing and mess becomes frustrating very quick. With packing cubes, it is a bit like having a set of 6 draws, and only 6 things to pack. For example, one cube for t-shirts, one for pants, swimwear etc. We have used these packing cubes for our travels.
Costa Rica Packing List: Electronics and Accessories
When you go to Costa Rica, you are bound to want to capture all the exciting activities that you do! Make sure you have the right equipment and make sure it is protected from the elements as well. We recommend you invest in:
- Go Pro: This is perfect for every activity you can think of. We took ours on ziplines, swimming in the ocean and even white-water rafting! The footage and memories we got were incredible. The most recent models are waterproof, dust proof and shock proof, perfect for all those activities. Take a look at the Go Pro Hero 7 Black!
- Go Pro Accessories: The minimum accessories we can’t live without and used a lot in Costa Rica were a strong selfie stick (you do not want to lose your Go Pro!), a spare battery is a must and some extra mounts.
- High quality camera: One of the reasons we wanted to travel to Costa Rica was for the wildlife, it has some of the best biodiversity in the world! As a result, it was very important to have a camera with a good zoom lens. We opted for a Sony camera and this served us well since they offer a lot of high quality compact cameras instead of carrying around one of the larger ones.
- Tripods: We have two styles of tripod. Your standard tall tripod to mount any camera (inc Go Pro) to and a ‘Gorilla Grip’ style small tripod which you can wrap around anything you can grab with your own hands – this one lets you get the really creative photos from places a normal tripod can not go. The standard tripod is important too, as it can be difficult to get any height with the smaller style grip tripod.
- Phone protector: This is something we have always used, a dust proof and water proof case for your phone. This is ideal for the beach, by the pool or in the forests. The good thing is that the plastic used allows you to still use the touchscreen – go ahead and drop your phone in the pool! We used this phone protector.
- Plug Adaptor: This is one that people always forget and end up spending a fortune on at the airport. We just bought a universal adaptor that works anywhere in the world and that is all we need now.
- Power bank: This is a great example of a mistake we made in Costa Rica. We wanted to take pictures of sloths and our battery ran out half way through! Get yourself a power pack, you will be taking lots of pictures for sure!
- Memory cards: This falls in to the same category as the power bank, running out of memory can be just as frustrating and having to decide which memories are worth keeping. Just get a memory card with a huge storage in the first place, even if this takes a long time to fill.
- Hard drive: We won’t be the first or last people to lose photos by not having them backed up. Now we have a 2TB Hard Drive which should last a long time!
Costa Rica Packing List: Outdoor Gear
You can go from beach to rainforest in as little as 30 minutes in Costa Rica. There are so many different climates and ecosystems that you need to be prepared. We suggest getting ready for your adventure with these items:
- Camelbak: This is a must if you are a hiker. Even if you aren’t a hiker, the likelihood is that you will be doing a lot of walking and exploring. A Camelbak is a pack you can put into your backpack full of water with a mouthpiece just draped over your shoulder. No more stopping and unloading to get water out your bag.
- Hiking boots: We destroyed a pair of trainers before realising that in some parts of Costa Rica, it was a lot easier to wear our hiking boots. I actually bought my first pair for a 150km hike in Patagonia, I loved these Salomon boots because I was a badly prepared hiker and even though I did not ‘walk them in’, they were still very comfy!
- Hiking socks: You will thank us later, a good thick pair of hiking socks like these are needed.
- Blister plasters: On my first hike I started to get a blister, these blister plasters worked perfectly, make sure you get some of various sizes.
- Water shoes: These Speedo Mens Surfwalker water shoes were useful for pedal-boarding, white water rafting and basically anything that involved getting wet!
- Binoculars: This is something we wished we had. We kept using our camera to zoom in and look at all the animals but a small pair of binoculars would have been ideal.
- Raincoat/Waterproofs: Some days we sunbathed, some days we found ourselves drenched in the rain-forest. Get a light waterproof to keep you covered.
- Dry bag: We used a dry bag in the rain-forests but also on boat trips out to sea. We could store all our valuables without worrying about them getting wet or the bag getting splashed. You can get ones like this bag that fold up quite small.
- Head torch: We carried this with us thinking we would never need it, until we went on a night tour and then it was very useful indeed. Get a good quality one like this.
Costa Rica Packing List: Other Practical Items
Maybe not the most exciting section, but if you forget any of these items you might end up paying a premium for them.
- First aid kit: Safety first! You can get small compact first aid kits for a good price.
- Sarongs: We use sarongs for the beach instead of towels as they dry much quicker, or sometimes when it is crazy humid, as something light to wear around the hotel. Check out these sarongs.
- Insect repellent: Do we really need to explain this one? Insect repellent is a must!
- Long pants that aren’t jeans: This is specific to trekking. We did one tour where they showed us bullet ants, you do not want these anywhere near you, have some long pants that are comfy and can be tucked into your boots for this type of walk.
- Spanish phrases: Don’t be that ignorant tourist that just expects to speak English, even if you try and fail, the people of Costa Rica will appreciate it. Get a basic phrasebook like this one.
- Sun screen: We won’t have been the first or last, but you can burn even through the clouds. We prefer the mist style sun screen because it is so much easier to apply.
- Bandanas: Humidity is not your friend. Don’t waste time doing your hair when you are going to be flying through the jungle, rafting through rivers or exploring forest. Of course, we still want to look good and right now, we are all about these paisley bandanas.
There you have it! Hopefully our Costa Rica packing list has given you some inspiration and now you won’t forget that one important item! Of course, don’t forget the obvious things like passports, but we didn’t need to remind you about that, right?
We highly recommend Costa Rica as a destination, we can’t say enough good things about it. Try out the trip planner below and see what it comes up with for you!
For more about Costa Rica, make sure you check out:
- Gay Guide to Costa Rica: San Jose, Manuel Antonio and Puerto Viejo
- The Ideal 10 Day Costa Rica Itinerary: Destination Costa Rica
- Gay Costa Rica: Local Gay Stories
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