What to Pack for Costa Rica

I packed my bag to head out on my first solo journey in over a year! In planning to pack for Costa Rica, I needed to prepare for 2 weeks in Costa Rica plus 2 weeks in my surprise new home (guess where I’m moving here). Here’s how I did it…

Wondering What to Pack for Costa Rica?

What to Pack for Costa Rica

I had three main goals


Pack light

The longest I plan on staying in any one place in Costa Rica was 3 nights, with 1 night at most hotels. Moving from place to place and from hotel to hotel almost everyday (in order to experience as much as possible in a short period of time), means a lot of time hauling around luggage, and a lot of carrying. The lighter, the better, the easier.

Pack with mobility in mind

Just as mentioned above, I’ll be moving around a lot in Costa Rica, so I chose to use a backpack, as usual. A backpack is easier to tote around, and being able to take it carryon (“hand luggage”) versus checking it in at the airport insures that nothing gets lost or delayed, and that I stay on time as much as possible.

Pack multipurpose items

In addition to very active days (trekking up volcanoes, canyoning down waterfalls, and horseback riding), and Jaco/Montezuma/Mal Pais beach days, I’ll also be reviewing hotels and need to look professional. After Costa Rica, I will be spending two weeks with my much-missed fiance after Costa Rica, so I want to have some nice clothes to wear to remind him why he missed me! 😉 The only way to achieve it? Multipurpose items that can be dressed up or dressed down. I kept everything color coordinator, with green/teal, pink, and black. These colors are bright and fun (and flattering on me) but easy to mix and match.

I packed it all in one carryon-sized 40L Kelty backback, my trusted and true companion for over 3 years.

What did I pack?



What to Pack for Costa Rica
For clothes for Costa Rica, I packed:

1 sport leggings – longer pants are required for activities like horseback riding, and also keeping more of your leg covered keeps mosquitos off

sport skort – easier to dress up (paired with a black top) or dress down for activities like hiking

2 pink quick dry athletic tops – quick drying tops are necessary for super wet and rainy weather

1 green ribbed tank top – coordinates with the other pieces and is great for casual wear or for PJs

1 green athletic tank – quick dry – another quick drying top for rain forest exploration

1 black strappy tank – perfect for dressing up with a necklace or dressing down for casual wear with jean shorts

1 printed lounge shorts – for PJs or lazy days

1 pair jean shorts – comfy for walking around town or grabbing a drink

1 pair khaki shorts – can be dressed up yet still casual

1 wireless VS Bra – super comfortable with no poking wires, and packs easier

2 sports bras – 1 heavy duty, 1 light (for yoga) – necessary for all the active activities

7 pairs undies – can be handwashed with the packed laundry detergent

2 swim tops – 1 wired “heavy duty”, 1 light – wear one while the other dries out

2 swim bottoms (1 pink, 1 black) – again, wear one while the other dries out

1 canga – my favorite multipurpose item (read about all the uses here)

1 scarf – great for dressing a black tank up

1 teal beach dress coverup – for going to the pool or beach a bit more covered up yet still casual

1 blue sweater – for cold bus, plane, and boat rides

1 striped travel dress – the most dressy item I packed, for a nice dinner out



What to Pack for Costa Rica


Havaianas sandals – everyday shoes for walking around, beach hopping, and transit

Vibrams – perfect for exploring rainforests, these shoes are nonslip and don’t require socks, so none of that icky wet-sock feeling

Laptop – unfortunately my Lenovo broke and the customer service is awful, so I’ve got this colossal yet reliable beast

Dry bag – when dealing with rain forests and a LOT of rain, a dry bag is your (and your phone’s) best friend 

Writing journal and pen – necessary for taking notes and journaling

Sunglasses and case – when it’s not raining, you’ll want to keep the intense sun out of your eyes

Makeup bag – for keeping your makeup and bathroom toiletries organized, especially when staying in a hostel

Bobby pins – I always lose at least a few, so a big pack is a necessity

Makeup wipes / wet wipes – super easy for removing makeup at night without water, or even just “washing” your hands and skin

Perfume travel spray – smell sweet on the go! These handy devices are refillable and perfect for the frequent traveler

Diva cup – say goodbye to the mess, hassle, and environmental problems associated with tampons!

Travel size Deodorant – I always choose antiperspirant as well, especially when planning intense activities

Conditioner – travel sized – my long long hair needs conditioner

Small bar soap – less likely to spill than regular soap

Beach Defense sun screen – travel sized, of course! This is my favorite sunscreen, it smells great!

Big set of hair ties – like bobby pins, I always lose most of these, so a big chunk is necessary (good ones are so hard to find abroad!)

Power pack – so essential for long bus rides, to keep my iPhone going and my podcast playing

USB for power pack (and Kindle) – I try to bring as few as possible and do double duty when I can

Kindle (not shown) – definitely my favorite device, I load a ton of books with my Kindle Unlimited subscription

AW 1 Camera, bag, and charger – this camera is waterproof and drop-proof, making it perfect for rainy adventures

Travel Adaptor – make sure you can use all of your devices abroad

Charger for iphone and iPhone (not shown) – my essential item for staying connected on the go

Makeup – blush, blush brush, eyeshadow palette, waterproof mascara, waterproof eyeliner, makeup brush – I’m definitely a girly girl and need my makeup, though I try to keep it to the bare minimum while traveling

Jar of laundry soap (powdered) – when you’re traveling light, sink laundry is a necessity

Travel toothbrush and toothpaste – smaller and lighter than my regular electric toothbrush

Bandaids for blisters – when hiking, trekking, and hustling all day, blisters are bound to pop up at some point

Money belt – keep your cash stashed and hidden from thieves


What to Pack for Costa Rica

And maybe the most important item of all to pack for Costa Rica – an Eagle Creek compression bag to squeeze all of my clothes down into an organized, compressed pack almost the same size as my sweetie Mini Pinscher Mickey! This bag also keeps clothes dry and separate from dirty ones….


Since arriving, I’ve realized I made a few errors. These are the things I WISH I would’ve packed:

A rain jacket – it’s rained off and on since I arrived, and in La Fortuna it rained for 3 whole days, almost without end. While I coped by buying an ugly and overpriced plastic poncho, a nice-looking and more comfortable rain jacket would have been preferable

Another pair of quick dry leggings – horseback riding, hikes with a lot of bugs, and anything with a lower body harness are all more comfortable with leggings. I only brought one pair, and I’ve worn them way more than expected. Having a second pair would be convenient, as I could wash one and leave it hang to dry while I wore the other

Hat with a brim – I hate hats. I look stupid in them and don’t find them comfortable at all. But when the rain is pouring down and blurring your eyesight, a hat with a brim (or an umbrella) is about the only option

Small flashlight – I’ve encountered a lot of dimly lit hotels, or completely dark paths or hallways leading to my room. In the interest of avoiding disturbing potentially dangerous animals or touching spiders, it would have been great to have a light. (also for if the power goes out, which it has several times)


What do you pack?

How is your list the same or different from mine?


A short vacation in Thailand turned into a life abroad with a canceled ticket home. Nearly a decade later and after living in Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Puebla, and Puerto Vallarta, Steph is on to her next adventure and living back in beautiful, cosmopolitan Mexico City. She is living, traveling, and working (both as an expat therapist and an international health insurance representative) around the world to find the beautiful, inspirational, and interesting while sharing it with you!

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