Costa Rica Blog
Costa Rica Blog

Packing Tips for Your Costa Rica Vacation

Thinking about travel essentials for your upcoming Costa Rica vacation? Whether embarking on a whirlwind beach holiday or epic backbacking adventure, our best advice is to pack light and leave some extra room for souvenirs like delicious, shade-grown coffee. In truth, most forgotten items and misplaced sundries can be purchased for a song in local shops, but things like quick-dry clothing and electronics are best brought from home. Here’s a short list of “must-pack” items to help you make the most of your vacation.

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Packing tips for your Costa Rica vacation offered by our travel experts
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Cameras, iPhones, and other electronics

While the latest cameras, tablets and electronics are available for purchase in Costa Rica, their price tags are often described as pure extortion! Import taxes are steep, making it much wiser to bring your gadgets from home. And if you own a smart phone, just make sure it’s carrier unlocked before you arrive. Kolbi sells prepaid SIM cards right in the San Jose airport, allowing cheap local calls, text service and Internet access for the duration of your stay. The following gear is recommended for any visitor to Costa Rica:

  • Camera with charger and extra batteries
  • Headlamp
  • Day pack for tours
  • Factory unlocked smart phone for local calls
  • USB flash drive
  • Waterproof binoculars
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Quick dry clothing and other clothing essentials

If you plan to enjoy some of the country’s renowned adventure activities – be it waterfall rappelling, horseback riding or canopy tours – your best friend lies in lightweight, quick-dry clothing that can be worn and washed multiple times. This especially applies if you plan on touring during the rainier months of May through October. Most hotels offer laundry service for a nominal fee, and if you stay in a fully-equipped vacation rental, a washer and dryer are usually onsite. Brand name clothing from outdoor manufacturers like Columbia, ExOfficio or Timberland can be extremely pricey in country, so be prepared with:

  • 2 long-sleeve quick-dry shirts (perfect for whitewater rafting or rappelling!)
  • Breathable, cotton shirts
  • 2 swimsuits
  • Chacos or Tevas (or other type of water sandal)
  • Lightweight hiking boots
  • 1 or 2 pairs of quick-dry pants (recommended for zip-line adventures)
  • Quality hiking socks

Forgot the bug spray and aspirin? No worries…

You’ll find several well-stocked pharmacies in just about every town and city, and in many of the major tourist locales such as Manuel Antonio, Arenal, Tamarindo and Jaco, an English-speaking pharmacist is on hand to dole out advice along with certain prescription medications. By law, Tico pharmacies are not allowed to dispense antibiotics without a valid prescription, but in practice, many will sell these medications when it’s obvious a patient is suffering strep throat or another common ailment. In addition, you’ll find all the accessories and toiletries listed below, though they may be slightly more costly.

  • Insect repellent (both natural and DEET based)
  • Broad spectrum sunscreen
  • Pain medications like Advil or Panadol
  • First-aid items like antibiotic ointment, band aids and Benadryl
  • All bathroom toiletries
  • Select vitamins and supplements

Don’t forget to pack a broad-rim hat to help protect against sunburn, and a travel-size pillow can be invaluable for those long road trips.