Wondering what to pack for Costa Rica? 

Whether you’re planning a beach vacation or an adventure-filled trip to the rainforest, this Costa Rica packing list will help you prepare for the varied weather and activities that you’ll find in this beautiful country. 

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Costa Rica is an incredible country filled with lush rainforests, stunning beaches, and plenty of outdoor activities. But it’s also a country with many diverse micro-climates that change from region to region.

The beaches are generally warm and humid while the interior of the country can vary from humid rainforest to cooler weather in the mountains. 

With that in mind, it’s important to pack for the weather you’ll encounter and the activities you plan to do. This comprehensive packing list for Costa Rica will ensure that you’re prepared for everything the country has to offer.

Whether you’re visiting the misty cloud forests near Monteverde, the gorgeous beaches of Guanacaste or the rainforest jungles near Manual Antonio, this Costa Rica packing list is your ultimate guide on what to pack for a visit to this gorgeous country. 

arenal volcano in Costa Rica

What to Pack for Costa Rica: 5 Quick Tips

Clothing: Since it’s a tropical climate, you’ll want lightweight clothes to wear in Costa Rica. And don’t worry about dressing to impress, as the country has a pretty laid-back atmosphere: comfortable and practical clothing is all you’ll need to pack for Costa Rica.

That said, depending on which area of the country you are visiting, you might need different types of clothing.

Below are the essential things to pack for Costa Rica, we’ve also included suggestions on what you’ll need for different areas of the country, as well as different activities and a packing list for Costa Rica in the rainy season.

Shoes: Flip-flops and sandals will be fine if you’re heading to the beach, but if you plan on doing any hiking, you’ll want to bring hiking shoes or sandals. Many places won’t allow open-toed footwear for safety reasons, so be sure to pack close-toed sandals or shoes. 

Currency: Costa Rica’s currency is colones, but US dollars are accepted almost everywhere. When paying with USD, you may get colones back as change.

Power Outlets: Costa Rica has the same electrical outlets as the US and Canada. North American travellers won’t need to bring a travel adaptor, but those from Europe will need to bring an adaptor. 

Meds: Most medication and toiletries can be purchased in Costa Rica, but be aware that it will be more expensive than you would pay at home. Something simple like sunscreen – which is a must in Costa Rica – is easily 2-3x more expensive.

It’s a good idea to bring small amounts of what you need, but don’t worry if you forget to pack something. 

white sand beach with rain forest in Costa Rica

Essential Travel Items 

Before we get into a list of specific things that you need to bring to Costa Rica, it’s worth mentioning some essential items for any trip. Even if you don’t plan to do a lot of activities, these are some items that you won’t want to forget: 

Passports and Documents 

Make sure you have your passport and any other travel documents. You’ll need to have a valid passport if you plan to visit Costa Rica, and your passport has to be valid for at least 3 months after your arrival date to Costa Rica.

When entering Costa Rica, you’ll also need to show proof of accommodation (including the address), as well as a return ticket or proof of onward travel. Customs agents will ask to see this and can deny you entry if you don’t have it. 

Debit and Credit Cards

Debit and credit cards can be used in most places throughout Costa Rica. Smaller shops and restaurants may not accept cards, so it’s a good idea to have some cash on you as well. 

ATMs are readily available in Costa Rica. Some banks will charge an international transaction fee, so contact your bank before you leave to see if they have any special offers for travellers. 

Driver’s License 

A driver’s license is required if you plan to rent a car in Costa Rica. Make sure that your license is valid and up to date before you arrive. It can also be used for photo identification if needed. 

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is always a good idea when travelling abroad. While you might not see the need for it, it’s always better to be protected, just in case something happens!

We haven’t had any major incidents yet (knock on wood), but I’m glad we still have insurance, just in case!

We use and recommend Safety Wing, which along with World Nomads, is one of the most reputable in the travel industry and you can get a free quote below. 


✔️ take a photo of page 2 of your passport and keep it saved on your phone
✔️ have colour copies of your passport; leave one at home with a family member or friend and pack a second copy to keep with you
✔️ keep a copy of your passport, as well as any other important travel documents (travel insurance, accommodation information, health cards, etc) in your travel wallet.

I also keep a set of copies in an envelope in each of my kids’ backpacks, as well as a copy in my carry-on bag, just in case.

white sand beach with waves on rocks in Costa Rica

Travel Gadgets & Electronics 

SIM card

While you can add international data plans to your existing plan, sometimes it’s easier – and cheaper – to have a local SIM card.

We’ve used physical SIM cards in the past and now use the Airalo eSIM card, which saves the hassle of trying to find a SIM card when you arrive.

We can load the eSIM beforehand and have data as soon as we arrive. This definitely makes it easier when you’re trying to find your transportation pickup at the airport and need data to contact them =). 

Multi-Plug Outlet Extender 

Another good travel gadget that we carry EVERYWHERE is a power strip with an extension cord.

Since you can never guarantee how many outlets your accommodation will have, and most people travel with multiple electronic devices now, this power strip is handy to charge all your devices at once. I love that it includes USB ports as well. And the extension cord is great when there’s no plug beside the bed. 

Power Bank

We also travel with this power bank which is helpful to charge your phone when you’re on the go and not near an outlet to recharge.

I shouldn’t admit this, but before I started travelling with a power bank, there were a few times when I had to conserve the phone battery and not take photos so that we could use the online map to get home.

Door Stopper Alarm

Travelling as a single parent, this door-stopper alarm makes me feel so much more secure. But I’d recommend it even if you’re not travelling solo.

While we usually stay in hotels, the alarm still comes in handy (before we had the alarm, someone tried to open our door at 6 am, so glad we had a deadbolt latch), but it’s also great for peace of mind when we stay in apartments or an Airbnb.

These door stopper alarms let out a high-pitched noise when something presses on the stopper, and the stopper itself prevents the door from being opened.

For me, the double security is worth the hassle of packing something extra. And yes, it’s come in handy at least once!

Essential Things to Pack for Costa Rica


What to wear in Costa Rica will depend on which area of the country you are visiting and the type of activities you plan on doing. Below, we’ve listed the essential clothes for Costa Rica, no matter where you are going in the country or which epic family adventures you plan on doing. 

Costa Rica is known for its tropical climate, so you’ll want to pack lightweight and breathable clothing that will keep you cool and will dry fast.

What you wear in the city will be different than what you wear at the beach. Swimsuits and flip-flops will be fine at the beach, but you will need a tee or tank and shorts or pants to walk around the city. 

A lightweight long-sleeved shirt and lightweight long pants are good to pack to protect against mosquitos, especially if you are doing any hiking. 

In places at higher elevations, such as Monteverde, Poas or even San Jose, you might want long pants and a sweater or thin jacket. 

You’ll also want to pack a few shorts and tees or tank tops, no matter which area of the country you are in. 

And don’t forget underwear! Usually one per day is a good estimate, but if you are staying more than a week, pack for one week and plan to do laundry.

You’ll also need to pack socks if you are doing any hiking in Costa Rica. 

open suitcase with flip-flops on top, camera and clothing


Flip flops are fine at the beach, but you will want close-toed shoes for any hiking that you plan on doing.

Some activities will require close-toed shoes, whether they are sandals or shoes – we were told it was for safety reasons as they are snakes and other creatures around, but it could also be for the uneven trails you are hiking and walking on. 

We love Keens sandals, as they’re comfortable and breathable, plus you can throw them in the washer when needed!

In addition to sandals, we also bought these hiking shoes from Decathlon before travelling to Costa Rica. We used them for almost all the activities we did in La Fortuna, as well as when we hiked in Manuel Antonio National Park.

Mosquito Repellent 

Mosquito repellent is a necessity for Costa Rica. Mosquitos are around year-round, especially on the coasts.

While you can find mosquito repellent in Costa Rica if you forget to bring your own, it’s expensive so it’s best to bring some from home.

We like the Badger brand, as it doesn’t have DEET and is a more natural option. It works well, smells great and is available in 4oz or 2.7oz sizes, the latter of which is perfect if you’re travelling with carry-on only.   


Another essential thing to pack for Costa Rica is sunscreen.

Costa Rica is close to the equator, which means that the sun is strong, no matter what time of the year you visit! Even if it’s a cloudy day, sunscreen is a must, and be sure to reapply it throughout the day (we learned that lesson the hard way). 

Reef-safe sunscreen is a smart idea if you’re planning to be in the water, and with Costa Rica’s extensive coastlines, you’re probably going to visit a beach at some point.

I like the Green Beaver brand from Canada or the Badger Mineral sunscreen for kids, but any brand that’s reef-safe works.

If you forget to pack some, you can buy sunscreen at the supermarket or stores in Costa Rica, but like mosquito repellent, it’s more expensive than you would find it at home. 

After Sun Care 

And while we’re talking about sunscreen, after-sun care is also a good thing to add to your Costa Rica packing list.

Even with sunscreen, chances are that sometime during your time in Costa Rica, you may get a sunburn, and aloe gel or other after-sun care will help minimize the discomfort. 

white sand beach with blue green water and rain forest at edge of the beach in Guanacaste Costa Rica

Toiletries and Medications 

Again, you can find most of the toiletries you would use at shops in Costa Rica, but they will be more expensive than you would find at home. 


While you can buy most medications in Costa Rica, like toiletries and sunscreen, they are usually quite a bit pricer than you could find at home. 

We always carry Benadryl (great for reactions to bug bites or any other allergic reaction), Tylenol and Advil for pain relief, but be sure to pack whatever you need.

It’s always a good idea to carry a travel first aid kit, which includes among other things, bandaids, gauze and a thermometer.

Day Bag 

You’ll want a day bag for any activities and hikes that you plan on doing in Costa Rica.

Something lightweight is ideal, but also something that holds snacks and water, as well as a bathing suit and towel if needed.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just something comfortable and practical.

My boys each have a 10L Bag from Decathlon which works great for short hikes, and I carry a small Ultralight Osprey Backpack or use the zip-off daypack from my 55L Osprey.

Quite often I just carry my camera bag though and love that it has a waterproof cover to keep everything dry during those frequent rain showers. 

Water Bottle 

Wherever you travel, a water bottle is always a good idea to pack. But especially in Costa Rica, which is such an eco-friendly country, a reusable water bottle is important.

You can drink tap water in most areas of the country, and many places prohibit single-use plastic water bottles.

We always carry our own anyways and found that we could refill it almost everywhere in Costa Rica.

I use a standard Nalgene bottle, which holds enough for myself and the boys, but on long hikes, or when we’re spending the whole day hiking, both boys also carry their own water bottles.

Over the years, they’ve been through quite a few water bottles, but we are loving these ones right now. The quick-release carabiner-type clip on the top makes it easy to attach to a backpack (or mom’s camera bag) and the button on the cap pops up the straw for quick and easy drinking.

Rain Jacket 

A rain jacket is an important thing to pack if you’re visiting Costa Rica in the rainy season (which is from May to the beginning of December).

But even if you’re visiting outside of those months, the chance of encountering rain during your time in Costa Rica is pretty good, especially when you’re visiting areas in the rainforest, like Monteverde and Arenal. 

Extra Items to Pack 

Reusable Shopping Bag 

Costa Rica is a very eco-friendly country and there are laws in place to help protect the environment, so you’ll find that most supermarkets and stores don’t offer single-use plastic bags.

If you’re planning on doing any shopping, whether for groceries or souvenirs, it’s a good idea to bring a reusable shopping bag with you.

I like these ones that fold up small and take next to no room in my luggage. 

Packing Cubes 

I’m not sure how we travelled without these, to be honest, they are game-changers!

Not only do packing cubes help to keep you organized, but they also take up less space in your luggage and help you pack a bit more efficiently.

The ones we have come in a set of three sizes. We only tend to use the medium and small sizes when we travel with carry-on only, and the compression part helps compress everything even smaller.

In fact, we spent 10 days in Costa Rica and only took personal-size carry-on bags, thanks in part to these compression cubes!

Check out the full post on why you should use packing cubes.

Travel Journal and Pen 

Whether or not you’re travelling with kids, a travel journal is something you won’t want to forget.

It’s a great way for you or your kids to document your travels, and also helps to keep memories alive for years to come.

Travel Clothesline 

Chances are you’ll have wet clothes in Costa Rica, whether from being at the beach, hiking in the rainforest or just from those random rainstorms.

A travel clothesline is an essential item for us whenever we’re on the road and we really made use of it in Costa Rica. It comes in its own little bag and takes up minimal space in the suitcase.

Travel Towel

A regular beach towel is bulky and takes up too much space in your luggage. But a quick-drying travel towel fits into almost any bag, takes up very little space and dries quickly.

We love this travel towel which comes in a variety of sizes and fits into its own carry bag. It’s also really soft and absorbent, and quick to dry. 

My guys also have the kids’ hooded ponchos, which are awesome and make changing at the beach pretty easy!


Sunglasses are definitely an essential item on your Costa Rica packing list.

Unless you’re in the cloud forest, the sun can be quite strong, so a pair of sunglasses are a must to protect your eyes.

And when you’re at the beach or playing in the waves, the glare from the water can be quite intense, so it’s a good idea to have a durable pair that you can wear anywhere.

First Aid Kit

Don’t forget to pack a small first aid kit when you’re heading to Costa Rica, or anywhere you travel for that matter.

It’s always good to have some basic supplies on hand, just in case of minor scrapes and cuts.

We carry a small travel first aid kit that includes items like bandaids, antiseptic wipes, pain relief medication, tweezers, anti-itch cream and a thermometer. You never know when you might need it!

waves crashing on a sand beach with two large rocks surrounded by rain forest in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Packing List: Essentials for Kids

While a kids’ packing list will look similar to the items listed above, there are a few must-have items you’ll want to bring specifically for your kids. 

And of course, anytime you travel with kids, you’ll want to pack some snacks. But when you’re travelling to Costa Rica, keep in mind that it’s a hot climate and you should pack snacks that won’t melt (or anything with chocolate chips…). 

It’s also a good idea to pack a few small travel toys, which will come in handy when you’re hanging out in your accommodation during an afternoon rainstorm, or even during the middle of the afternoon to beat the heat.

Here are some suggestions of travel toys for 4 & 5-year-olds and travel toys for 2 & 3-year-olds

a child standing in the shallow water at manuel antonio national park in Costa Rica


What type of luggage to carry tends to be a personal preference.

I’ve used rolling suitcases, rolling duffel bags and backpacks over the years. Now as a mom with young kids, I prefer a backpack, which helps to keep my hands free.

I started with the old backpack that I used when travelling through Europe in my 20s, but have upgraded to the Osprey Fairview now and wouldn’t go back.

And in Costa Rica, I found using a backpack was easier, as many of the surfaces were uneven, which would have been hard to manage with roller suitcases.

Even though we had transportation to each of our accommodations, some of the paths to our rooms were gravel, which would have been tricky with rolling suitcases.

But really, whatever luggage you have will work.

That said, the lighter you can pack, the easier travel will be. You won’t want to be trying to lug a large suitcase up a flight of stairs to your room or down a long gravel path.

And travelling with carry-on has its advantages; it’s less expensive, as most airlines now charge for checked bags and there are no worries about losing luggage.

If you’re looking in the market for some new luggage and looking for some recommendations, here are our suggestions for the best carry-on luggage for families

Packing List for Manuel Antonio

What to Pack for the Beach

Manuel Antonio is one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica, and for good reason – it’s spectacularly beautiful. There are so many things to do here from hiking in the National Park or just relaxing on the beach. Here’s a quick packing list for Manuel Antonio:

And for hiking in Manuel Antonio National Park:

  • Hiking sandals or shoes
  • Binoculars 
  • Day bag (you’ll want to bring your swimsuit to the National Park)

Packing List for La Fortuna

What to Pack for the Rainforest

La Fortuna is known as the adventure capital of Costa Rica, but its climate is very different from the beach areas like Manuel Antonio. Here’s a quick packing list for La Fortuna:

hanging bridge in the rainforest in Costa Rica

Packing List for Monteverde

What to Pack for the Cloud Forest 

Monteverde is a  beautiful cloud forest town situated high in the mountains of Costa Rica. The climate is cool and misty, so you’ll need different clothing than what you’d pack for the beach or rainforest areas. Here’s a quick packing list for Monteverde:

  • Long pants
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Light sweater or jacket
  • Rain jacket
  • Close-toed sandals or shoes for any activities
  • Water Bottle
  • Binoculars
  • Camera
  • Shorts and tees for adventure activities
the cloud forest in Costa Rica - trees and vines are shrouded in mist

Packing List for Costa Rica Beaches

Costa Rica’s beaches are amazing and if you spend your time at the beach, you’ll need different items than what you’d pack for areas like Arenal and Monteverde. Here’s a quick packing list for Costa Rica beaches:

Packing List for Costa Rica Hiking 

There are plenty of hiking opportunities in Costa Rica, and even if you’re not up for strenuous hikes, easy trails are available as well. And hiking is one of the best ways to get out in nature to see the incredible wildlife. Here’s a quick packing list for Costa Rica hiking:

  • Close-toed hiking sandals or shoes 
  • Quick dry long sleeve shirt 
  • Lightweight long pants 
  • Mosquito Repellent
  • Day Bag
  • Water bottle  
  • Binoculars 
  • Rain jacket or poncho (just in case!) 
wooden boardwalk leading through the rain forest in Manuel Antonio national park in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Packing List for Rainy Season 

By far, the most important thing on a packing list for the rainy season in Costa Rica is a good rain jacket!

The rainy season in most areas of Costa Rica is from May to November. If you’re visiting during those months, you’ll want to bring a good, waterproof rain jacket.

While a poncho will work, I prefer an actual rain jacket with a lining, as it’s more comfortable than the plastic feel of a poncho, plus it’s a bit warmer. And make sure you bring one that’s waterproof, not just water resistant, as you can expect pretty heavy rains some days. 

You could also bring a travel umbrella, but they’re not ideal for hiking, so I’d leave them at home unless you plan on spending your time in Costa Rica in a city.

It’s also a good idea to bring a rain cover for your day bag or camera bag, so it stays dry while hiking or on excursions. 

You’ll also want to include mosquito repellent, as the rainy season brings out more mosquitoes. 

What NOT to Bring to Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a tropical climate, so even during the winter season, it won’t be too cold.

You won’t need any warm clothes, other than a sweater for chilly nights. You probably won’t need to bring any jeans either, unless you’re spending time in San Jose or Monteverde, where it’s higher elevation and not as tropical. 

Also, it’s a good idea to leave jewelry and other expensive items at home, as they are not necessary for a Costa Rica trip. 

sloth climbing a tree in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Travel FAQ

Are the plugs in Costa Rica the same as in Canada? 

Yes, the plugs in Costa Rica are the same as those in Canada and the United States, so you won’t need to pack a converter or adapter if you’re coming from North America.

If you’re travelling to Costa Rica from Europe, you will need to bring a travel adapter. 

Do I need vaccinations for Costa Rica?

Other than normal vaccinations, no special vaccines are needed to enter Costa Rica.

Can you drink tap water in Costa Rica?

Yes,  you can drink tap water in Costa Rica and it’s readily available in most areas of the country. Be sure to pack a reusable water bottle so you can fill it up as needed.

Can you use Canadian dollars in Costa Rica?

No, Canadian dollars are not accepted in Costa Rica.

One thing to know before going to Costa Rica is that you will have to exchange your money for Costa Rican Colon or US Dollars or withdraw money from an ATM when you arrive.

If you’re looking for an idea of how much money to bring, this Costa Rica Travel Budget will give you an idea of how much 10 days could cost.

Can you use US Dollars in Costa Rica?

Yes,  US dollars are widely accepted in Costa Rica and it’s the preferred currency in many tourist areas. However, some smaller, local restaurants and shops may only accept Costa Rican colones. 

Can you flush toilet paper in CR? 

For the most part, no, you can’t flush toilet paper in Costa Rica. The septic systems can’t accommodate toilet paper without clogging. Toilet paper should be disposed of in the trash can next to the toilet. 

Final Thoughts: The Essential Costa Rica Packing List

Costa Rica is an amazing destination with a wide variety of activities and attractions. To make the most out of your trip, be sure to pack according to the weather and the activities you plan on doing. 

But packing for Costa Rica doesn’t have to be complicated, and hopefully, this list has given you an idea of what to bring and what not to bring to Costa Rica.

Happy Travels! Pura Vida!

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