Ultimate Guide: Shoes to Pack For Costa Rica

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Everything you need for your family (kids included!) to pack the right shoes for your next trip to Costa Rica.

Shoes in Costa Rica: Overview

There are so many activities that it can be hard to determine what to pack for Costa Rica. And if you are a family with young kids– it can be really hard!

Shoes are generally the bulkiest item that people pack, and packing a bunch of pairs can take up most of the space in a suitcase. If you are trying to pack light, shoes can be the biggest barrier.

This post will go over many of the shoe types you can take to Costa Rica- depending on your activity choices, the number of people you are packing for, and if you are traveling in the rainy season or dry season.

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Packing for Dry Season vs Rainy Season

The dry season in Costa Rica is generally characterized by hot weather and dusty terrain. Especially in the Guanacaste region, you will have a lot of reddish dust, which is not ideal if you are wearing, say, flip flops.

Don’t be fooled though, the rainforest can still receive rain during the dry season. Rainforest floors are also often muddy and damp all year round, so you will still want a good pair of sturdy shoes for hiking, etc.

The rainy season gets wet. You’ll find mud in a lot of areas that you might want to visit for excursions. Walking through cities can also get extremely wet, even if you have an umbrella.

If you are only visiting beach areas, however, you can pretty much slide by in flip flops during the rainy season if you want to pack light.

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Considerations: Costa Rica Shoes for 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 dust, so you most likely don’t want to take brand new shoes. In fact, we usually leave our shoes in Costa Rica when we are on the way home since they get so gross.

The advantage to the shoes getting so dirty is that it is relatively easy to find really cheap kids’ shoes even in small grocery stores, so if you need replacements or just really cheap shoes, they are easy to find.

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.

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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. In fact, 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 pulperia (small shop with a little of everything) will sell rubber boots and flip flops 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.

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 down there.

Keen Water Shoes

Many people wear Keen water shoes, which are a combination of open and closed-toed shoes. I think they are fine, but on cement trails they are pretty slippery so I actually don’t recommend Keen water shoes for Costa Rica- especially for kids. The only exception would be at La Leona Waterfall I think they would actually be great.

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Closed Toe Shoes

Tennis Shoes

Tennis/running shoes in Costa Rica are generally worn when working out exclusively. This is especially true in metropolitan areas.

For tourists, it is expected that we will wear tennis shoes if we are not wearing hiking boots.


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.

Hiking Boots

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

I like to wear the new version of Keens with the Vibram sole and the non-rounded toe.

Columbia hiking boots are also popular with ticos.

You’ll want waterproof hiking boots if you are really walking deep in the forest during the rainy season. Otherwise, I would say not to buy them special for the trip if you aren’t planning on using them when you get home.

Water Shoes

For rafting, waterfall chasing, snorkeling and even hot springs, water shoes can protect your feet from rocks and other rocky surfaces- especially underwater. These are also easily purchased in Costa Rica, even in the countryside.

Rubber Boots

Rubber boots are the preferred footwear of choice among Costa Ricans who work in the country. There is so much mud, and the boots are easy to hose off. If you do want to wear rubber boots, take high socks. You can 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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  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!