Traveling to Costa Rica leads to a lot more decision-making than you probably would have initially thought. Yes, you are going to a tropical country, but, there are a few more variables to consider when you start packing.
Costa Rica is an incredibly biodiverse place with different ecosystems and climate influences from several large factors. The country is situated between the warmer, humid Caribbean side and the cooler, less humid Pacific side. You also have several select areas where they converge atop mountains and create incredible biomes called cloud forests. These areas are both cool (-er) due to their altitude and humid due to the amount of rain or fog drip they get.
Dry season typically runs from December to April and rain peaks in September and October. You’ll want to account for a number of things when choosing your luggage and what to fill it with.
Whether you’re exploring a few different areas or getting to know one town intimately, chances are you’ll be cruising around in a 4×4 (or getting shuttles). This allows you a little freedom in what type of bag to take. Slightly more roads than not are unpaved, with considerable potholes and loose gravel. Normally, this would suggest against a rolling suitcase; however, since you’ll have access to trunk storage in a vehicle, it’s perfectly fine.
The amount that you bring will also dictate what type of pack to use. The larger San Jose airport has a notoriously slow customs process, meaning the less you bring, the quicker you can get through. Flying into Liberia, while slightly isolating you to the north-west regions, offers you much quicker entry into the country due to only having six gates.
What We Packed:
- His: Osprey Porter 46 and Tortuga daypack
- Hers: Monos Carry-On
The bulk of your luggage is usually made of clothes. Once you hop on the plane, your wardrobe is limited to what you’ve been able to roll, squish, and stuff into your bag, so the name of the game here is maximizing the efficiency of your clothing choices. Can you mix-and-match pieces into different outfits and are you using the proper fabrics?
Although cheaper and more widely used, opt against bringing cotton when you have a few other (better) options. While wool has a slow absorbency, limiting how much water it takes in and how wet you feel when it is wet, it also takes a long time to dry. I like wool for base layers like socks and underwear as it won’t absorb as much sweat, allowing you to stretch some clothing into multi-day uses. Linen is another natural fiber than provides plenty of great features – it’s very quick to dry if you get wet and it’s very light, letting you wear it as sun protection without getting too hot. Synthetics are decent choices, if you get a wicking material, as they’re durable and dry quickly.
What We Packed:
- Three T-shirts (combination of linen, polyester, and cotton ones.)
- One long sleeve shirt (linen.)
- Tank top
- One Gore-tex raincoat.
- Two pairs of pants.
- Two pairs of shorts (combination of linen and cotton.)
- Three tshirts (wool blend for daytime and cotton for sleeping)
- Two cotton tank tops
- Two long sleeve shirts (one linen and one wool blend)
- Two pairs of pants (one linen and one polyester blend)
- One pair of linen shorts
- A linen blend dress
- Wool blend socks and underwear
- Two bras ( one wool blend and one polyester)
- One raincoat
Unless you’re staying exclusively on the beach during your time in Costa Rica, you’ll likely need at least two pairs of shoes to make your trip enjoyable. A closed toe shoe for hiking and checking out wildlife and a sandal for comfort in the tropics.
Costa Rica is home to 5% of the world’s bio-population and a large amount of that involves very small little bugs and animals that you’ll want to protect against. A sneaker or hiking boot will be just fine as a closed toe option with one being a little more comfortable and one being a little more water-resistant.
Sandals can come in a variety of styles, chiefly among them the thong style flipflop or a hiking sandal. The former is a bit more lightweight and stylish while the latter is more substantial and can be used in rougher conditions.
What We Packed:
His: Pair of sneakers and pair of Teva Hurricane XLT2 sandals.
Hers: Teva Verra sandals, Teva Terra-Float Active Lace shoes, Ryka Kara Trail running shoes (for the plane because “I refuse to wear sandals with socks”- R).
A short list of what else we packed:
- Bug spray
- Mini first-aid kit (incase of bites and blisters)
- Diabetes supplies
- Quick dry towels