The following is a guest packing list by Samantha Alvis. See all packing list posts here.
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.
>> You might like this podcast episode on traveling with one bag under 10 pounds to Costa Rica.
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!
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.)
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.
>>Take a look at the best toiletries for carry-on travel.
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 (ditch it if you can).
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.
>>Read through our travel photography packing list here.
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.
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.
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