Best Shoes For Costa Rica – What To Pack

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best shoes for Costa Rica
jungle trekking, group of hikers backpackers walking together outdoors in the forest, close up of feet, hiking shoes

TL:DR

  • The best shoes for Costa Rica are the ones that match the activities you are doing
  • If you want to pack less, it is easy to find shoes in Costa Rica
  • When in doubt, wear rubber boots for muddy hikes

Best Shoes For Costa Rica – Considerations

The #1 question I get from travelers to Costa Rica is regarding shoes. (Car rental, currency, and drinking water are all a close second.)

I think the reason so many people stress about shoes in Costa Rica is that, upon initial consideration, it seems like everyone needs multiple pairs of shoes because everyone is doing so many different activities. And since shoes are bulky, it starts to seem like you may need to check a bag, and not everyone wants to do that. I get it!

Over the many years I’ve been traveling to Costa Rica, I have learned a lot about the best shoes for Costa Rica- including what works, what doesn’t work, and how not to break the bank when packing for your Costa Rica trip. This is a no-nonsense guide with what you actually need.

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Seasons: Which Shoes To Pack For Which Season

There are two seasons in Costa Rica- rainy season and dry season. You can read more specifics about Costa Rican weather to see in which season your trip falls. But generally, your choice of footwear has more to do with the activities you are going to do than with the season. The only exception to this would be if you are in heavy rainy season- you would need rubber boots for many excursions. But more on that in a minute.

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Best Shoes For Costa Rica: Kids

Packing shoes for kids is a whole other ballgame. I know- I’ve done it a million times! The first thing you need to know is that kids’ shoes are going to get super dirty. Like, insanely dirty.

It’s impossible to keep kids from exploring mud puddles and going into the dust, so you most likely don’t want to take brand-new shoes for the kids. Since we almost always visit Costa Rica in June and July, I just send the kids in their worn-out shoes from the end of the school year. Then, on our way home, we just toss or donate them.

Also know that cheap kids shoes- tennis shoes, water shoes, and flip-flops- are really easy to find in Costa Rica. So if you even want to just buy the shoes when you get there, that’s an option too. We have literally purchased rubber boots on the way to a messy hike we hadn’t planned on going on. Then we just gave the boots away to a family before we left for home.

One consideration for kids- I recommend closed-toed shows almost exclusively for young children as it is so easy for them to get into ants when hiking and playing around. The fire ant bites are killer. The only exception to this would be at the beach, or around town.

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Where To Buy Shoes in Costa Rica

In metropolitan areas, you can find shoes of all kinds on almost every street corner. If you want tennis shoes especially, it’s really easy to find them.

If you are looking for hiking shoes, specialty shoes with something like Gore-Tex, or name-brand shoes, be prepared to pay a much higher price than in the United States. I would highly recommend bringing that kind of gear with you. You would only find those shoes in San Jose at bigger malls.

If you just want some shoes to get you through the trip, you can find tennis shoes in almost every town. Almost every grocery store or Pulpería (a small shop with a little of everything) will sell rubber boots and flip-flops for really cheap.

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Open Toe Shoes For Costa Rica

Note that you may not be able to wear open-toed shoes for some activities in Costa Rica, such as on the zip lines or the hanging bridges. Make sure you check with your tour operator before you leave.

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Flip Flops

I love to wear my Havianas at the beach, they are comfortable, nice enough to wear with a dress, and reasonably priced. They go from day to night really well. Havianas are easy to get in Costa Rica in most tourist areas.

I almost always wear my Chacos in Costa Rica as the bottom is very sturdy and they wash up really well. Especially if I have a dark-colored pair. You cannot get Chacos in Costa Rica.

The Costa Rican national brand of flip flops is Kam Lung. They are super cheap (like $8) and are a nice way to support a national brand if you need flips when you are already in Costa Rica.

Keen Water Shoes

Many people thnk the best shoes for Costa Rica are Keen water shoes. These are a combination of open and closed-toed shoes. I think they are fine, but on cement trails, they are pretty slippery. Because of this, I almost never recommend Keen water shoes for Costa Rica- especially for kids. The only exception would be at La Leona Waterfall I think they would be great.

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Closed Toe Shoes

Tennis Shoes

Local Costa Rican pretty much wear tennis shoes when working out. If you are planning to spend extended time with a Costa Rican family or time in the cities, I would say don’t plan to just bring running shoes. But if not, and you generally wear your running shoes, you will be fine wearing your running shoes around town for a week.

Sneakers

Sneakers (such as Nike Air, Puma, Adidas court shoes, etc) are a huge fashion statement in Costa Rica. You will find many ticos wearing them with jeans even in a more dressy situation. If you are in a metropolitan area, sneakers are a great way to express your personality. If you are not in those areas, you can easily follow the current fashion trends as far as sneakers are concerned. You’ll fit right in!

Hiking Boots

Merrill waterproof hiking boots are the shoes worn by the majority of Costa Rican nature guides.

In my opinion, the best shoes for Costa Rica are the newer version of Keens with the Vibram sole and the less-rounded toe.

Columbia hiking boots are also popular with locals.

You’ll want waterproof hiking boots if you are walking deep in the forest during the rainy season. Other places you’ll want to wear good hiking boots are if you are in Corcovado National Park or Monteverde Cloud Forest. And of course, if you are off the beaten path for a hiking tour, you’ll be glad you have some good hiking boots.

Otherwise, I would say not to buy special hiking for the trip if you aren’t planning on using them when you get home. If you do buy new boots before your trip, do make sure they are broken in before you get there.

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Water Shoes

For white water rafting, waterfall chasing, snorkeling and even hot springs, water shoes are really the best shoes. They protect your feet from rocks and other pointy surfaces- especially underwater. I had some good water shoes when I went to Nauyaca Waterfalls, and I was so glad I did because the rocks were really slick and rough.

You can easily buy water shoes in Costa Rica if you aren’t sure if you need them. They aren’t that pretty, but they’ll get the job done if you just need them once.

Rubber Boots

Costa Ricans wear rubber boots when they know they are going to get really muddy. These black rubber boots are very similar to what locals wear. The reason that rubber boots are some of the best shoes for Costa Rica is that when they get muddy, you can just hose them off.

When we stayed at La Carolina Lodge, there were rubber boots available in all sizes for when we went hiking around the farm. If you are staying at a similar farm or resort in the rainforest, you can call the hotel and ask them if they offer the boots so you don’t have to buy them ahead of time. You can also buy a pair of rubber boots in Costa Rica for about $20.

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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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8 Comments

  1. Hi, thanks your your post. Going in January to CR, I was wondering if it’s recommended to get mid rise or high boots (e.g. because of snakes) or if that’ll be too hot. Going to Monteverde; Manuel Antonio and Cahuita. Hope you’d have a tip here.

    1. Hi Anja! I would say that it depends on how much hiking you plan to do. If you are hiking a good amount, I’d do mid-rise boots for comfort and a bit of added protection. If you are hiking a ton, get the best boots that will make you comfortable. You will be hot no matter what, so get what will make you most comfortable! Pura vida! ~Christa

  2. Hi, we’re visiting Costa Rica now during the rainy season. I have a pair of Sperry’s Saltwater boots & my husband has a pair of Sperry’s Duck boots. Would these shoes fit the trip?

  3. You give lots of good advice and options for shoes! But what if you could only bring ONE pair of shoes and you knew you were going to go kayaking, zip lining, water falling, hot springing, and market scavenging? I’m taking a group of high school students to Guanacaste, Arenal, Sarapiquí, and San José for an 8 day trip. What shoes should I tell them to bring?

    Thanks for any tips!

  4. Hi Christa,
    Love your story. I visited Nosara a couple of years back and fell in love with Costa Rica. I found a pair of flip flops in a local grocery that have been the absolute best pair of flip flops I have ever had. These are Kam Lun and they must be made out of leather because the straps are not plastic. Unfortunately, my 2 little puppies got a hold of them recently and chewed part of the straps apart so I am on the search for a pair of these. Although I would love to come back to Costa Rica just to buy a pair of flip flops (boy wouldn’t that be great), I am not able to do so. Can you recommend a legitimate place in which i can order a pair of these? Really hoping you can help.

    1. I love this. The Kam Lung flip flops are LEGENDARY! I have never seen them outside of Costa Rica, but I have an idea. I am wondering if you can get into an expat group on Facebook from Samara, Nosara, or even San Jose. Ask someone if they would be willing to get you some and ship them- and you can pay them an extra fee. It’s just an idea, but it might work. There are a lot of helpful and kind people in those groups. And keep me posted on what happens! ~Christa