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This comprehensive Costa Rica packing list includes everything you need for your Costa Rica trip with kids, plus advice on what you don’t need.
Packing For Costa Rica
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 type of transportation to take into consideration.
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 bus, you can plan to pack extremely light was your bags will either be on your lap while you travel or under the bus if you are comfortable.
As for climate, the time of year can be important if you are in the wet season or dry season. However, even in the dry season, you can plan for a bit of rain, and even in the rainy season, you can plan for some dry weather, especially at the beach.
Related post: Costa Rica Weather
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 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!
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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.
- 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)
- long pants (especially for horseback riding or for hiking in the forest to protect your legs)
- swim suits
- cover-ups (I like to rash guards with SPF already built in)
- shoes (read our complete guide to shoes in Costa Rica)
- rain jacket (in rainy season)- you can also just buy $1 ponchos at the grocery store which is what I do
- contact lenses and glasses
Packing For Toddlers and Kids in Costa Rica
We all know that traveling with kids brings a new set of packing issues. After having both lived in Costa Rica and traveling 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.
- Stroller (read about strollers in Costa Rica here- you may not need one)
- 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 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)
- Hand sanitizer
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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
- 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)
Gear For Costa Rica
These are the day-to-day essential items you will need as you go on excursions, to the beach, and walking throughout town.
- Diaper bag (if applicable)
- Day pack
- Water bottle for each member of the family (read more about drinking water in Costa Rica here.)
- 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
- Security belt
- Face masks (yep, they are required!)
- Hand sanitizer
- Travel umbrella
- 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)
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)
- memory card
Documents For Costa Rica
- Passports (please make sure your passport does not expire within 90 days of the
- Debits cards and credit cards– if you want to know more about currency in Costa Rica read this post
- Health Pass to get into the country
- Travel insurance docs (if you choose to purchase)
- Vaccine record (currently required to get into a lot of indoor places)
- Boarding passes/flight information (you may be required to show retunr flight info at immigration)
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
You might also like:
- San Jose Costa Rica Airport Guide
- Best San Jose Costa Rica Airport Hotel
- The Complete Guide To Costa Rican Slang
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.
Welcome! I’m Christa, a former high school teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. I love all things Spanish and bi-cultural, (especially travel and food!) and you’ll find my observations on life here. Thanks for stopping by