For trips to beaches, tropical rainforests and microclimates in between, here are the essentials to put on your packing list for adventure travel in Costa Rica.
Just bringing flip-flops is one of the biggest mistakes many visitors make when they embark on an adventure in Costa Rica. While flip-flops are fine for the beach and strolling around coastal towns, the inland terrain makes hiking shoes an advisable addition. You’ll be glad you chose fast-drying Gore-Tex shoes over leather after you splash through a stream on a waterfall tour. Water sandals are a good alternative, useful on both the beach and along nature trails — but keep in mind that only closed-toe shoes will protect your feet from ants or any other insects you might encounter in the wilds.
It’s best to leave your hard-side luggage at home. While a durable carry-on may seem like a strong choice to take on an adventure, a soft duffel is more versatile. A cylindrical kit bag or top-loading backpack are both simple to sling over the shoulder and can easily get smashed into nearly any transportation mode. You’ll also want to bring a daypack. Consider a 20 to 25-pound waterproof rucksack that can carry day-trip essentials such as a water bottle, a camera, snacks and a change of clothing. A mesh bag will also come in handy when you slip out of a wet swimsuit and don’t want it to get moldy in the tropical clime.
While Costa Rica’s rainy season runs from May to November, the country can see brief showers at any time of the year. A lightweight waterproof rain jacket is advised. If you want to go with a poncho, know that it can double as a backpack cover in a pinch. No matter the month, the sun is strong in Costa Rica and at some point, you’ll want to cover your head. A baseball hat will do, but something with a wider brim is better. Consider going the Indiana Jones route with a packable safari hat or fisherman-chic with a foldable bucket hat.
Except for in high-altitude areas, much of Costa Rica has some mosquitos and it’s a good idea to bring repellant. It's readily available in supermarkets, but you can often find better prices at home. The same is true of the sunscreen you’ll want to have on hand, and best if it has an SPF of 30 or more. As Costa Rica lies close to the equator, rays can be strong even in cloud forests. Speaking of sunshine, bring two pairs of sunglasses — a good pair for tranquil times and a cheap pair you can afford to lose while splashing in the ocean or flying down a zip line. A small flashlight can come in handy on a dark road and a waterproof phone case can save your trusty device.
Most of Costa Rica is casual — like flip-flops and shorts casual. While you can enjoy nightlife dressed down, it's a good idea to up the outfit a bit for a nice dinner. Bring a pair of good sandals or casual shoes. Women will be glad they brought a simple dress, while men will feel the same with a nice polo shirt. If you spend any time in the capital, you’ll want to up your wardrobe another click. While San Jose isn’t exactly Milan in terms of style, locals generally don’t go around in beachwear. Long pants such as a good pair of jeans are more appropriate. You may also want to bring a jacket or a light sweater for cool evenings and mornings.
Above all else, planning a trip to Costa Rica should be fun, so be sure to add a healthy dose of excitement to your packing checklist.