This Is Your Ultimate Costa Rica Packing List

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The ultimate list of Spanish phrases for Costa Rica with kids.  

Costa Rica Packing List – What To Know

Packing for any international trip can be overwhelming, but packing for your Costa Rica vacation can be especially difficult. Even though it’s a small country, there are a wide variety of climates, activities, places to go, and types of transportation to take into consideration.

You should consider your type of transportation when planning your Costa Rica packing list. For example, if you are planning to rent a car in Costa Rica, you may have a little bit more leeway in your packing as you can take suitcases that are a bit bigger. (Do keep in mind that cars, in general, are smaller in Costa Rica, and that includes the trunk space.)

If you are planning to take private transportation, you can pretty much plan to pack as much as you want. However, if you are taking the public bus, you can plan to pack extremely light, as your bags will either be on your lap while you travel or under the bus if you are comfortable.

You should also consider how many climate zones you are visiting in Costa Rica. For example, if you are only visiting the beach, you will not need as many clothes as you would if you are visiting La Fortuna or Monteverde, where the weather gets cooler at night. Make sure to do your own research about the weather in Costa Rica for your specific area when you think about packing.

Finally, you should consider local customs when visiting Costa Rica. Generally, people in the city dress nicely for every day. Think dresses, black or khaki pants, closed-toed shoes. If you are going to dinner or a local’s house in the city, you should not wear shorts. Going to a local’s house on the beach you might wear shorts, but they would be on the dressier side.

Depending on activities you may need closed-toed shoes, a dry bag, or even fancy clothes if you have a special event such as a wedding.

You may visit Costa Rica only for the beaches and not need some of the items on this list. You may only visit the rainforest and not need some of the items on this list. The most important thing to remember is to try to pack light and to do what you need to feel comfortable depending on your situation.

This is a comprehensive Costa Rica packing list, but by no means do you have to bring everything on this list. Tailor it to your specific situation.

When packing with kids, there are some additional packing tips, which I have included here as well. Let’s get started with the ultimate Costa Rica packing list! Pura vida!

RELATED POST: 7 Days in Costa Rica – With Kids!

Clothing For Costa Rica

Considerations- it is very hard to get clothing to dry in the tropical climate of Costa Rica, especially cotton. You can dry items on the airconditioners if your hotel room has them, but make sure to either take lightweight non-cotton fabric or enough clothing to have a change of clothes for your entire trip. Unlike other Latin American countries, laundry services are not widely available in Costa Rica.

  • tank tops
  • short sleeve shirts
  • long sleeves (only need one, can protect from mosquitos better than mosquito repellent )
  • light jacket (if visiting the Central Valley or higher elevations)
  • shorts
  • long pants (especially for horseback riding or for hiking in the forest to protect your legs)
  • bra/underwear
  • socks
  • swimsuits
  • cover-ups (I like to rash guards with SPF already built-in)
  • hats
  • sunglasses
  • shoes (read our complete guide to shoes in Costa Rica)
  • rain jacket (in the rainy season)- you can also just buy $1 ponchos at the grocery store which is what I do
  • contact lenses and glasses

RELATED POST: Costa Rica With Kids- The Complete Guide

Join the Costa Rica With Kids Facebook Group. Ask all the Costa Rica Travel questions you want- we will answer them!

Baby Gear- Costa Rica With Kids

We all know that traveling with kids brings a new set of Costa Rica packing list issues. After having both lived in Costa Rica and traveled there with my kids for the past 10 years, I’ve got you covered. I started with my kids in Costa Rica at 3 months old!

Note- in the larger metropolitan areas of Costa Rica (such as San Jose and Liberia) there are Wal-Marts where you can buy many of the things we have in the US. Once you determine the specific area to which you are travelling, you can often get onto Facebook groups and find locals who are renting or lending baby equipment.

  • Stroller (you may not need one if you are not going to an area that has decent sidewalks)
  • Baby carrier– my preference for holding babies in Costa Rica as you tend to do a lot of walking on uneven surfaces. The Baby Bjorn is my all time favorite.
  • Car seat or booster seat– these are not the same quality in Costa Rica and the heat can really break down the plastic so we always bring our own.
  • Things to do– we like to bring these wildlife guides and use them as a scavenger hunt
  • Diapers and wipes– you will need these for your trip there and away. Diapers and wipes are available extremely widely across Costa Rica for really cheap. I also like Costa Rican diapers better as they are made for the climate in Costa Rica and don’t get so hot for the kids. Diapers in Costa Rica are about the same price as the US.
  • Closed-toe shoes – I think it best for kids to have closed-toe shoes so that they avoid bug bites and fire ants. I also take water shoes for the beach.
  • Ziplock bags/plastic bags– all the ziplock bags. I use them for everything from waterproof bags to snacks to wet clothing
  • Speaking of snacks, there are tons of delicious snacks available across Costa Rica so we pack just what we need for there and back. I do always take a whole box of granola bars though as the granola bars in Costa Rica aren’t really that filling. There is tons of good fruit in Costa Rica, and I bring a paring knife and cutting board so I can just cut up fruit that I buy on the side of the road.
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Face masks
  • Toilet paper (you can easily get rolls of this in grocery stores, but always have some with me)
  • Kleenex
  • Hand sanitizer

RELATED POST: Guide to Planning a Trip To Costa Rica For Your Family

Medicines For Costa Rica

Pharmacies in Costa Rica generally do not require prescriptions for many of the meds that we need scripts for in the USA, but if your kid gets sick and pharmacies aren’t close by or open, it can be good to have a few of the meds you need in with you.

  • First aid kit
  • Insect repellent (dengue fever and malaria are minor concerns, you can read more about mosquitos in Costa Rica here)
  • Any of your prescription medications
  • Allergy medicine
  • Anti-itch cream
  • Ibuprofen- for some reason, it is really easy to get acetaminophen in Costa Rica, but I have trouble finding Ibuprofren
  • Cough/cold medicine (if you forget make sure to buy Tusilexil in Costa Rica it is the BEST cold med- I bring it home when every trip!)
  • Anti-diarrheal (if you are worried your child has gotten a bacterial infection you can ask for Diacort at the pharmacy and it will clear right up)
  • COVID tests
  • Antibiotics (I do not take antibiotics with me. I ask my pharmacists for the dosing for my kids and I write it down. If I need an antibiotic I take the dosing to the pharmacy there and ask for what I need)

RELATED POST: Top Places to Stay in Costa Rica with Kids

Gear For Costa Rica

These are the day-to-day essential items you will need as you go on excursions, to the beach, and walk throughout town.

  • Diaper bag (if applicable)
  • Day pack
  • Reusable water bottle for each member of the family. You CAN drink the tap water in Costa Rica, so bringing a reusable water bottle is a great idea. We like the double-walled ones.
  • Sunscreen (try for reef-friendly please.) Note that sunscreen in Costa Rica is extremely expensive so bring it from home, and bring the highest UV protection possible
  • Bug spray – this is more widely available in Costa Rica in recent years, but it is usually the DEET. We use these natural repellent bracelets and love them.
  • Security belt
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Travel umbrella
  • Physical Costa Rica map (just in case you don’t have internet and need to find out where to go. Plus it’s fun for the kids to look at)
  • Guidebook (see our guidebook recommendations in this post.)
  • Earplugs (between the birds chirping, the muffler-less cars and the weed whackers, you will want some if you are a light sleeper)

RELATED POST: Top Family Activities in Costa Rica

Technology For Costa Rica

There are different levels of comfort with what technology you will need in Costa Rica, and I’ve written a complete guide to cell phones in Costa Rica here. Technology is more expensive in Costa Rica, so do take care of it so that it doesn’t get stolen.

  • An unlocked cell phone (load Google Maps AND Waze)
  • SIM card (if you want to buy one ahead of time)
  • camera
  • memory card
  • drone
  • headphones

RELATED POST: Costa Rica Safety Guide For Families

Documents For Costa Rica

  • Passports (please make sure your passport does not expire within 90 days of the return date)
  • Debits cards and credit cards– if you want to know more about currency in Costa Rica read this post
  • Travel insurance docs (if you choose to purchase)
  • Boarding passes/flight information (you may be required to show return flight info at immigration, and I like to have mine printed just in case)

What Not To Pack

  • Jewelry – you most likely won’t need it and if you don’t take it you don’t need to worry about it
  • Lots of diapers – you can buy them there
  • All the snacks you possibly can – you can get them there and you can explore new cuisine
  • Tons of cash– you can get cash at the ATMs- see the Costa Rica currency post here

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If you would like to talk to me about a customized itinerary or specific Costa Rica travel advice for your family, (zero sales- just advice!) check out my “Ask Christa” page for more information on custom Costa Rica trip planning geared towards families.

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Christa Jimenez

Welcome! I’m Christa, a Spanish teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. We’ve spent over 25 years living in and traveling to Costa Rica with our daughters, and this website is my love letter to all things Costa Rica- and to bilingual parenting too. You can read my full story here. Thanks for stopping by!

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