Essential Packing List for Costa Rica: What to Pack for Your Adventure

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Costa Rica ziplining

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Packing for Costa Rica is much like packing for any sunny, beach destination. You know you’ll need all the classic supplies like plenty of sunscreen, a few good swimsuits, and both hands free for sipping on margs.

We already have a guide for you of our favorite beach bag essentials so we won’t harp on the basics too much, however, there are still a few special items we think are necessary to pack for Costa Rica. 

If you’re visiting the Central American gem, you can expect to be outdoors a lot and likely taking part in a few adrenaline-pumping adventures, so you’ll need items that fit that bill. Here are the essentials we recommend packing for Costa Rica:

Waterproof sandals

Waterproof sandals were hands down the best thing I packed with me on my trip. They saved me from walking on hot sand and braving the rocky river when we went tubing. I even wore them on the small catamaran transfer we took one day and when water got into the bottom of the boat, it was no sweat. The sandals dry super quickly too so it’s not uncomfortable to walk around in and no risk of getting a blister. These midform Teva sandals are my favorite because they offer that little extra bit of arch support that makes all the difference.

Cariuma sneakers

You’re definitely going to want to add a solid sneaker to your essentials list of what to pack for Costa Rica.

A good white sneaker goes a long way while traveling both in miles and with outfits. Most days I was in my beach sandals or barefoot on the sand but I’m glad I brought along a pair of closed-toed shoes I could walk around town in. It was far comfier than having my foot fall out of my slides on some of those rockier pathways.

Lots and lots of sunscreen

Obviously, if you’re going to a sunny locale you’ll want to bring plenty of sunscreen, but I felt implored to double down on this recommendation because I was shocked at how expensive a tube of sunscreen was in Costa Rica. Every shop has the same exorbitant pricing because they know that a desperate tourist like me will pay an arm and a leg to not end up looking like a crab, but I felt like $30 for a teeny-tiny tube was a personal attack. 

My favorite face sunscreen right now is by Supergoop! It’s a great option for your essentials of what to pack for Costa Rica because it’s so smooth and creamy and works like a primer for makeup too.

As for body sunscreen, I recommend the Thinksport sunscreen. You’ll be in and out of both the water and scorching heat so you’ll want something that is both water- and sweat-resistant.


If you’re going to Costa Rica, you’re almost certainly going to get in a lot of beach time and a lot of adventurous activities. I’m relieved I added  a ashguard to my essential list of what to pack for Costa Rica because it was a much-needed extra layer of sun protection and came in handy in almost all our activities. While surfing and tubing, it helped protect my skin from both sunburns and any abrasions. I found a stylish, yet fully protective, rashguard by Carve Design and even got the matching swimsuit, as shown above. 

Bug spray

Don’t be like Kyle, our Chief Operating Officer, and get eaten alive by bugs. The first night of our company retreat left Kyle’s back looking like a Connect the Dots game. It was a painful (and itchy) few days after that so we also recommend packing an ointment for some relief.

Waterproof phone protector

When it comes to what to pack for Costa Rica—and any adventurous, water-based destination for that matter—I highly recommend a waterproof phone protector.

With so much time spent on the water, enjoying that #PuraVida, it was a lifesaver to have this essential item, since I wasn’t preoccupied with keeping my phone safe while on boats or hitting the waves.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. This post contains references to products from one or more of our partners and we may receive compensation when you click on links to those products.

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