*This article is the work of Verónica Chavarría Méndez, Jorge Luis Chavarría Méndez, and Susu Gray. It is not AI-generated!
Costa Rica: the country of Pura Vida, a paradise located in Central America, adorned with the best beaches, mountains and volcanoes, ideal for people looking for adventure, for nature lovers, and for those who are simply looking for a place to relax.
But… beyond all the flowery language, packing can be tedious. We are going to help you make it a bit more fun by quickly and concisely answering your question, “What should I bring on my trip to Costa Rica?” If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to Contact Us.
What should I bring on my trip to Costa Rica?
- An unlocked phone with WhatsApp downloaded and activated previous to your arrival in Costa Rica. As an alternative: your regular (locked) phone with an international plan enabled by your provider, in case you need to access data and/or voice when you don’t have wifi. (example: you’re on the road, have no wifi, and need to access a map, or need make a phone call, or have work on the road and need Internet).
- Essential phone apps: Waze (or Google Maps) and WhatsApp.
- Travel insurance. This will help you manage in the event of unexpected cancellations or changes that tour operators, transport services or hotels cannot reimburse you for.
- Passport, of course! And please check the expiration date. I’m sure we all know someone who made the mistake of checking their expiration date too late and, as a result, had to change or cancel their travel plans!
- Name and address of your destination (or, if traveling to several places, the first destination). This is in case immigration asks you where you’re headed upon arrival in Costa Rica.
- Valid driver’s license (if renting a car).
- USB car charger in case your rental car doesn’t have one.
- A hard copy or screenshot of your return flight out of Costa Rica in case immigration asks. (They want to make sure you are not traveling on a one way ticket, which would increase the probability that you might overstay your visa)
- Comfortable, lightweight clothes. Bring layers for different climates. Costa Rica is not only hot and humid. It can also be misty, windy, rainy, foggy, cool, or bone dry.
- Bathing suit!
- Cap/hat for sun protection.
- Sturdy walking shoes. Good walking shoes or cross trainer sneakers are fine. Expensive hiking boots are not necessary unless you are going on a rigorous hike that has very uneven terrain or passes through a quite off-the-beaten-path area. That said, having a second pair of closed toed shoes is helpful in case one of them gets wet or muddy.
- Sandals (flip flops are ok, but something more stable like Teva-type or Chaco-type sandals is better)
- Toiletries such as:
- Sun protection (sunscreen)
- Insect repellent
- Your prescription medications
- Basic first aid kit (though pharmacies are easily accessible and many things are available over the counter, it’s nice to have your own supplies such as acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen, bandaids, antiseptic wipes etc…).
- Small Kleenex packets
- Reusable water bottle. Remember, you can drink water from the tap in Costa Rica!
- Dry bag or Ziploc bags. Ziploc bags are particularly useful for keeping paperwork dry, separating clothes for easy maneuvering in your suitcase, keeping dirty or wet clothes separated, and for storing toiletries.
- Reusable grocery bags. Especially helpful if you plan to do any of your own cooking and need to make a grocery run to a supermarket.
- “Reasonable rain gear” including a rain jacket and poncho. We say “reasonable” because, during a full-on proper Costa Rican deluge, the best thing to do is just wait it out; even a poncho might not keep you entirely dry. So be reasonable; a rain jacket and poncho are extremely useful, but no need to go out and buy expensive rain gear.
- Camera and your favorite electronic devices.
- Device chargers, and adapters if necessary (Costa Rica uses Type A and Type B electrical outlets which is equivalent to plugs found in North America.)
- Cash and credit cards (a “no fee for foreign transaction credit card” is ideal!)
Helpful or convenient, but not essential:
- Water shoes
- Binoculars and field guides in case you want to further your naturalist experience
- Spanish phrasebook (or a translator app downloaded previously onto your phone)
- A small towel or Microfiber towel. Convenient for wiping sweat or other dampness.
- Flashlight or headlamp. Again, convenient!
- Waterproof phone case, if you think you might need it…
- Ear plugs – good to have when your lodging is noisy!
- Extra batteries. Sometimes having some AA or AAA batteries really saves the day!
More info on Identification documents and money
Almost everywhere accepts USD and credit cards. Make sure you alert your bank that you will be traveling. We suggest bringing about $100-$200 USD cash, preferably in smaller bills ($5, $10 and $20) for convenience, or exchanged for Costa Rican colones. You can do the exchanging at the airport, but regular banks will have a better exchange rate. Changing money is convenient but not necessary. And remember: traveler’s checks are no longer used.
Generally, 10% service tax is added to restaurant bills. It’s customary to leave something additional, but not required. Tipping is also customary (but not required) for tour guides and drivers. Consider $10 USD per person for 2-4hr tours, and $10 USD per person for longer haul private transfers that take you from destination to destination. Of course tip (or don’t tip) according to how you feel the service was executed.
Last but not least, bring your best attitude and energy, and you’ll be ready to live your best experience!