You’re going to Costa Rica? You’re going to love it… I’ve been twice and reluctantly left both times. The most important thing to remember? Pura vida… just enjoy a pure life!
Costa Rica is a small country, roughly the size of West Virginia or Denmark, so take advantage of its small size to explore all this wonderful country has to offer-beaches, mountains and rainforest!
One thing to keep in mind is that it can be pretty humid, especially in the rainforest (duh), so while I always aim to pack light, I’d recommend taking a couple more pieces than normal, as clothing doesn’t dry out quite as fast as it may in more arid conditions or invest in some dry-quick options.
Assuming your visit to Costa Rica is 1-2 weeks and that you’ll experience multiple microclimates in your time there, here is my ultimate Costa Rica packing list:
1-2 dresses — Nothing fancy, just a nice sundress or two for low key days or dinners. Make sure to bring one that can double as a swimsuit cover up.
1 skirt — A life saver at the beach resort, where you can’t go in the restaurant in your swimsuit. Just throw on a skirt and tank top and voila, you’re presentable
1 pair under dress/skirt shorts — Ok, I’m just going to be honest here. I’m a big girl and the powers that be did not bless me with thighs that do not touch. If I’m wearing a dress or skirt, you’d better believe that I have a pair of little shorts underneath them. I’ve been wanting to try these out, but haven’t been able to internally justify the investment: Thigh Society. Have you tried them? Are they worth it?
2 bras — I try to pack in one color scheme, which for me is usually a dark one, so I get by with packing 2 black bras, but if you are more colorful, pack one light and one dark.
6-7 pairs of underwear — Ok, so I know that this might seem like a lot, but I don’t like to be unprepared when it comes to my chonies. I pack enough for the first week of my trip, assuming that I’ll either have access to affordable laundry service/laundromat or will be performing some sink laundry action. And if I check my bag, I always pack a spare pare of undies in my carry-on, a lesson learned after I arrived in Scotland and my bag did not.
1-2 pairs of shorts – I couldn’t fathom wearing denim in the humidity, so leave your jeans behind and instead pack a pair or two of shorts that are made for outdoor activities like hiking and zip lining.
1 pair of yoga pants — I was thankful that I had these the day we went repelling. Some of my travel companions had on short athletic shorts and let’s just say, it wasn’t always a pretty sight. Bonus, they can double as PJ bottoms!
4-6 tank tops or T-shirts — Nothing fancy… they’re going to get sweaty and dirty. My trick? I take shirts that I don’t mind leaving behind to help free up space in the suitcase on the way home.
2 swimsuits — Adopt the wear one, dry one policy
Raincoat/poncho — Costa Rica has a rainy season, and even outside of the rainy season, you can expect an afternoon or night time shower, so consider packing a light raincoat or one of those cheap, disposable ponchos if you don’t want to get wet.
Waterfriendly hikers — I lived in my Keens. Great for rappelling & hiking through wet and muddy conditions — just spray them off at the end of the day. (See the exact pair Samantha uses on Amazon.)
Flip-flops — For more casual outings, days at the beach and hostel showers.
I think that you should be able to get by with the above two pairs, but if you’re thinking about a third, consider your activities. Athletic/Tennis shoes for you people who run and exercise might be a must, for others, a comfy pair of flats might round out your list.
Shampoo/Conditioner, Deodorant, Body Wash/Soap, Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Razor, Face wash, Moisturizer
Allergy medication — My allergies went haywire while I was in Costa Rica, so throw in your allergy medicine of choice (mine is Claritin).
Hair thingumajigs — Pony tail holders, bobby pins, you’ll want something to hold your hair back as you rappel over a waterfall or zip line over the canapy. I love my Buff for trips like this. (Headbands are also nice.)
Baby powder – See above reference to my thighs.
Birth Control/Prescriptions – Don’t leave them at home!
First Aid Kit — I make my own for each trip, but it always includes: ibuprofen, anti diarrheal medicine, Band-Aids, Benadryl, moleskin, nail clippers, triple antibiotic ointment, a mini sewing kit, tweezers and tums.
Motion sickness medication — If you’re sensitive to long car rides with lots of twists and turns, you may want to pack your dramamine. I didn’t need it, but better to be safe than sorry.
Lip Balm — One with sunscreen will come in handy at the beach.
Sunscreen — Reapply often, I’m speaking from experience.
Bug Spray — I like the kind that comes in stick, usually found in the camping section. Helps save on liquids.
Hat — Wide brim, protect that face!
Aftersun/aloe vera — Just in case you forget to reapply that sunscreen, like I did.
Unless you have to grade papers (like I did) or do some hard-core work, you shouldn’t need a laptop.
E-reader/Tablet — Catch up on your reads at the beach. Wifi was available, at least in the common areas, of hotels I stayed at, allowing for checking email and Facebook.
iPod/iPhone & Headphones — Sometimes it’s nice to listen to some tunes. Personally, I turn off voice and data on my phone, put it in airplane mode and use it for music and photo taking.
Camera — You will definitely want a camera. I utilized both my iphone and Canon Rebel (with two lenses). To help protect them, I use a Skooba Wrap (Amazon link) and a koozie for my extra lens. It may be overkill, but I also carry two extra batteries for my camera with me.
Chargers — None of the above do you any good if the battery dies.
Febreeze — Did I mention it’s humid and that you’ll probably be sweating? I packed a small travel size bottle, and I think my roommate appreciated the effort.
Water bottle — Stay hydrated.
Jewelry — You may want to pack a few pairs of inexpensive, I-don’t-care-if-I-lose-them earrings and maybe a necklace, just to jazz up your outfits at night, especially if you splurge and stay at one of the many all-inclusive beach resorts.
Towel — If you’re staying in hostels, instead of hotels, be sure to pack one for the beach!
That’s it! By using a combo of space bags and rolling instead of folding my clothes, I fit all of this (plus two textbooks and a laptop) in a backpack and carry-on size suitcase. And don’t forget — Pura Vida!
What do you think of this female packing list to Costa Rica? Add your thoughts and addendums in the comments section below.
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About the Author: Samantha Alvis is currently finishing a Ph.D. in international agricultural development and trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. She’s happiest when she has a trip to plan, and so she tries to do that often. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Wanderlust & Lollygagging, Facebook or Twitter.