Packing for Costa Rica

If you haven’t been to Costa Rica yet, you’re probably wondering about the weather. Didn’t you uncle say it rained all the time there? But didn’t you cousin say it’s sunny and beautiful? Your librarian said you can wear sandals all the time, except in places where there might be snakes—which is where, exactly?

Then you throw up your hands and exclaim, “WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO PACK?”

This is a great question, because gearing up and packing for Costa Rica is kind of an art. Here are some things to consider when you’re arranging clothes for your trip:

  1. What time of year are you visiting? Will it be the rainy season or the dry season?
  2. Do you plan to hang out in the water? (Answer: Yes)
  3. Where do you plan on going? Remember that the cloud forests are much cooler than the beaches, and a few places get downright chilly at night.
  4. Do you plan to go hiking?
  5. Are you a skilled snake handler? Either way, you’ll probably want to bring some sturdy boots.

But here’s my advice: pack light. You may want to clear the shelves at REI, but the lighter you travel in Costa Rica, the happier you’ll be. For example, if you don’t have room for a beach towel, you’ll easily be able to buy one. (And there is a 25% chance it will have a picture of a toucan on it). If you don’t want to take a whole surf board on your plane, you can rent one in almost any beach town for $5-20 a day.

There are two things I do recommend bringing with you: sunblock and insect repellent. Sunblock is shockingly expensive in Costa Rica, and any insect repellent you find is usually cheap and highly chemical. Unlike some other places, you won’t find swarms of mosquitoes everywhere you go (read: Canada), but it is the tropics, and you will want to keep those little buggers at bay.

The rainy season can be tricky, because the mornings are sunny and warm. Then, around 1 p.m., the sky dumps oceans of rain over everything. So this might sound silly to you, but you should probably invest in a decent umbrella. I happen to like the rain, because it’s balmy and beautiful and pounds dramatically on a corrugated steel roof. I still think the rainy season is one of the best times to visit, since the landscape is so lush and green. But you’ll want a paraguas. Trust me.

For more information about Costa Rica, check out my blog and videos at