Costa Rica a Packing List

When I first stated looking at Costa Rica as a destination, I really knew very little about the country. Also, this trip was going to be a very active trip where we’d be doing everything from hiking through the jungle, to rappelling, to white water rafting. I knew that packing smart for this trip was going to be important and I got straight to work researching.

Here is what I brought:

  • 3 t-shirts
  • 2 tank tops
  • 1 fancy top for going out (which I never wore)
  • 2 dress (one short, one maxi) and 1 skirt
  • 2 pair of athletic shorts (one short and one knee length)
  • 1 pair of quick dry trousers
  • 1 micro fleece hooded sweatshirt
  • 1 bathing suit cover up (that I used occasionally an additional dress)
  • 2 bathing suits (wear one, dry one method)
  • 5 x panties and socks, 2 sports bras
  • 3 pairs of shoes: Converse Chuck Taylor high tops, flip flops, and water shoes
  • Rain jacket and summer weight scarf
  • My standard toiletries kit (full details here!)

I never wore my fancy top for going out–every where we went was pretty casual. This night we went out to a bar to salsa dance I and wore my long trousers, t-shirt, and flip flops.

Over all it was a pretty good list. The closed toed shoes were an absolute must for a lot of the walking we did, and in terms of shoes the only thing I actually wished was that my water shoes were a bit more sturdy. Really they are just designed for walking out past the rocks when you’re on the beach and I wore them rappelling down a canyon. I would have been far more comfortable wearing something more like Crocs. Still good in the water but with far more sole. The best things I ended up bringing were the fleece sweater (because it was way colder than expected) and the longer athletic shorts that I usually only wear when I go running. Having something longer and tighter really helped with all the harnesses that we wore.

Extras that I brought along with me

  • Camera with extra batteries (seriously bring the best camera that you have available to you)
  • Waterproof phone case
  • e-reader (which saw very little use)
  • Camping towel
  • Bug spray & high spf waterproof sunscreen (absolute musts! Especially the sunscreen)
  • Hand wash laundry soap
  • Smaller day pack
  • Small reusable water bottle
  • A couple large size Ziplock freezer bags

Water proof and quick dry were absolute essentials this day!

The camping towel was an excellent buy and one that I’ve taken with me on many other trips now too. If you’ve never seen one, these towels are paper thin but highly absorbent. They can range in size from hand towel to full beach towel, but most importantly they dry really fast. Folded up it is actually little bigger than my cell phone. I bought it on impulse at the camping store before this trip because we were going to be in the rainforest and it is called a RAINforest for a reason. I got the waterproof phone case for the same reasoning. Usually I keep a couple Ziplock freezer bags with me when I travel so that if it’s threatening rain I can zip up all my electronics for safe keeping. But I knew on this trip I’d be using my phone as a camera, so I wanted to having something a little more hard core. This case was inexpensive and fully submergable under water (yes, I have tried). You can fully operate the touch screen through the plastic and even shooting pictures through plastic didn’t effect the over all image quality.


A rather cold and rainy day out in the jungle. Thank god for the hot chocolate they were giving us!

There were a few things I wish I had known before I went. One was that in the mountains it can be really quite cold. I had the clothes for it, but other people in the group really weren’t that prepared for the temperature drop. I wore my fleece sweater most days on the trip and was very grateful for it. Another thing that I hadn’t prepared for was how hard it is to dry things in that kind of humidity. Seriously, by the end of the trip just about everything I owned was slightly damp (yeah, eeew). Quick dry fabrics really are a must and even then, those don’t dry all that fast either. Also, you may want to toss a small bottle of Febreze into you luggage, or dryer sheets, or possibly both. Your close will smell like the jungle, and the longer they sit in your suit case, the more concentrated that smell becomes.


Not always the smoothest of paths

I’ve mentioned it before, but I am a carry on only type of traveler. I hate waiting for luggage at baggage claim–it comes from usually flying out of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport which has one of the most inefficient baggage claims I have ever encountered. So for this trip I brought an international sized rolling suitcase, a 25 liter backpack as my personal item, and I had a smaller day pack inside my suitcase for when I got into Costa Rica. For the most part, the rolling suit case was fine, but there were a couple times where the terrain made me wish I had gone with a backpack instead. The carry on back pack and day pack combo actually worked really well–so well that I followed the same system when I went to Italy. If it was a day in transit, I could have my main suit case under the bus, my day pack for when we stopped (containing camera, water bottle, sunscreen, and wallet), and then I could leave my carry on backpack on the bus with the things I’d want when we were driving but didn’t want to carry around with me (like my e-reader or extra sweater).

If you were just sticking to the beach the entire trip, you could probably go with even less. However, if you are having an active holiday like we were, you really need to look closely at which activities you will be doing and plan accordingly. I found this list worked really well for me, is there anything you would add?