7 Things You Must Pack When Traveling to Costa Rica

January 1, 1970

by Deia Sunshine

Costa Rica, with its vast coastlines and rolling hills, is a must see destination for any traveler. With 5% of the world’s biodiversity residing in Costa Rica, and over 20% of the country’s forestry reserved as National Parks, for any nature lover and enthusiast, spending time in Costa Rica is essential.

The Fortuna Waterfall near Arenal

The Fortuna Waterfall near Arenal

Before planning any travel venture, it’s important to plan out your itinerary. What do you want to do? Where would you like to see? Do you want to be in the capital San Jose, or in the country? What kind of places would you like to stay? All of these factors are extremely important in deciding what it is you need to bring. If you are resort hopping, you are going to require a completely different array of items than you would if you are going on a surfing trip.

Either way, whether you are planning on staying in hostels, the capital San Jose, the Hilton, or camping, these are 7 items that you simply must bring with you on your Costa Rican adventure.


  1. (Biodegradable) Sunscreen

Everyone knows that when traveling to a tropical place, sunscreen is one of the first things to pack. Costa Rica is around 9 degrees latitude which means that it is very close to the equator. This makes the days long and hot! Even if you are staying in the city, you are going to want to apply before you head outdoors. The sun actually feels stronger down here than your average beach vacation, believe it or not! Most of Costa Rica’s manufactured products, however, are imported and therefore are pretty expensive. So be sure to pack you sunscreen ahead of time to save yourself a few bucks.

Accurate example of sunburn from Google Images

Accurate example of sunburn from Google Images

Costa Rica takes their ecological conservation very seriously, and new studies have shown certain chemicals in sunblock damage coral reefs. If you are planning on doing any snorkeling and scuba diving along Costa Rica’s famous coastlines, then you might want to consider switching to a more “ocean friendly” alternative to avoid hurting our fishy friends out there.

Plus, if regular sunscreen is bad for the ocean, then it’s probably just as bad for our skin…. food for thought! Although biodegradable sunscreen can be hard to find in your average supermarket, there definitely are some excellent brands out there that can be purchased on Amazon.

2. (Biodegradable) Bug Spray

I hope that this is self-explanatory but if it isn’t, let me go into detail. Costa Rica is a tropical country, composed of both thick jungle and dryer, forest expanses. The perfect place for mosquitos, biting flies, sand fleas, and all those other critters that we love so much. Bug spray, much like sunscreen, is full of harsh chemicals that can be damaging to Costa Rica’s delicate ecosystems. Safe and effective bug spray can be easily found on online.

Although none of the common insect species are particularly poisonous, depending on your skin’s sensitivity, foreigners have been known to have some pretty nasty reactions to insect bites, and even have been hospitalized for allergic reactions.

It’s better to just bring your bug spray than to wish you had.

3. Good Walking Sandals

Exploring a Costa Rica second growth forest.

Me exploring a Costa Rica second growth forest.

It may be tempting to bring you wedge heels, but trust me, if you are going to be exploring Costa Rica, whether it be in San Jose, countryside, or jungles, you are going to need a good strong pair of shoes to get you through.

It’s important to look at the weather before you travel anywhere, but generally, Costa Rica’s dry season is January through June, and the wet season is July through December. During the dry season, only sandals are necessary, but during the wet season, some more heavy-duty footwear is in order.

Even the sidewalks in the cities are just as uneven as the forest floors (okay maybe I’m exaggerating a wee bit, but still!), so make sure whatever footwear you decide to bring are equipped to take you through whatever adventures you are planning.

4. A Guide Book

Normally, I wouldn’t condone a guide book. I personally am a much more, “off the beaten path” kind of traveler, and rarely use the guide books my parents and friends so often give me.

However, I did found that in Costa Rica, many museums, restaurants, tour companies, and even hotels, didn’t have their information on the internet. Having a guide book with me helped me find different attractions and things to do in different towns that I visited, that would have been otherwise missing from the internet.

image from Google Images

5. A Lock

Now, I almost always travel with a padlock or a combination lock of some variety, but I found it particularly useful when traveling in hostels. Often times, checking out of a hotel or a hostel requires you to have all of your things out of the room sometimes as early as 11 a.m. If you are planning on activities, having to carry your suitcase with you, this early check out can definitely throw a wrench in the plans. Image from Google Images

Many hotels and hostels have lockers where you can store you luggage for the day until you are ready to ship out. They don’t, however, provide locks and if they do, you usually have to pay for them. Having a lock with you while you are traveling can prevent you from shelling out sometimes up to $15 bucks for a padlock.

6. A Water Bottle

It’s important to stay hydrated no matter what, but under that Costa Rican sun, it is extremely important. I can’t tell you how many times I was cursing myself for not remembering to bring a water bottle with me on my adventures.

My favorite SandCloud glass water bottle.

My favorite SandCloud glass water bottle.

Depending on where you are, bottled water can be expensive, and unless you have cash on you, very difficult to buy. The tap water in San Jose is drinkable and is generally potable throughout the countryside of Costa Rica, so bringing a good water bottle with you on adventures can not only keep you from being dehydrated but help you save a few extra bucks here and there.

Plus, once you have a water bottle with you, many restaurants and stores workers are more than happy to fill your water bottle up for you.

7. Spanish

Although in the capital city San Jose and many touristic areas of Costa Rica, people certainly do speak English, you will gain infinitely more respect from the Ticos (Costa Ricans) if you can shuck out a few Spanish phrases. It shows respect towards their country and their culture when you at least try to speak the language.

image from Google Images

Not to mention the fact that there is a large percentage of Costa Ricans who do not speak English. Brushing up on your high school Spanish before you head down to Costa Rica can be the difference between getting charged $30 or 30 cents for a cab ride (no joke).


With these things in your luggage, you’ll be prepared for whatever Costa Rican adventures your travel has in store you for!

Good Luck!


Deia Sunshine

By Deia Sunshine

Hi! I'm Deia /day-uh/ DeMarco, but lots of people call me Sunshine! I am currently studying at Ithaca College and will be graduating the December. I am fluent in French, Spanish and am obsessed with exploring the different countries and cultures around the world. I love traveling and aim to see as much of the world as possible. I've studied in France, Costa Rica, and am excited to see where my life will take me once I graduate university. I love the great outdoors and am an avid, hiker, surfer, kayaker, basically anything that involves being outside. I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list!

Read more at deiaroundtheworld.com

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