Wondering what to wear in Costa Rica? Perhaps you can’t decide what essentials you’ll need for your adventurous trip? This informative guide will help you decide exactly what to pack for Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is one of my favourite countries. With volcanoes, beaches and huge national parks, it’s one of the best places to get up close to nature. It’s also one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with thousands of exotic creatures and plants to spot.
With so many types of trip possible in Costa Rica, you’ll need to plan your packing carefully. While some visit for a relaxing holiday, most people enjoy a few adventurous activities too. On my last trip I went white water rafting one day and hiking in a national park on another, while on previous trips I’ve been zip lining, on coffee tours, bathed in hot springs, trekked to waterfalls and more!
In this informative packing list, not only will I share what to wear in Costa Rica, but also a few useful extras you shouldn’t travel without. From bug spray and a reusable water bottle, to sun cream and a camera, there’s plenty to think about before you leave.
Best Time To Visit Costa Rica
While you may think of Costa Rica as hot, hot, hot, it can be surprisingly cool in some areas, especially in the mountains and cloud forests. With two coasts and several microclimates, weather is extremely varied. The Pacific Coast is driest December to April, while the Caribbean’s dry season falls between March and September. It’s a tropical country though, so whenever you decide to go, prepare for rain; it’s part of what makes this destination extra special!
In terms of temperatures, you’re looking at highs around 32, and lows around 15 degrees. It’s can be quite humid, so while it wasn’t always boiling hot, I felt sweaty a lot of the time. Yes, it’s one of those places you wander around with a slightly wet, shiny face!
What To Wear In Costa Rica
Costa Ricans tend to be casual in their style. There’s not a huge etiquette; most people dress casually in jeans, shorts, t-shirts and trainers. It’s definitely not somewhere to ‘dress up’ and baring flesh isn’t frowned upon. A lot of tourists dress for the activities they’re doing, (mostly based around nature) so sportswear and comfortable, lightweight items are best.
What To Wear In Costa Rica: Women’s Clothes
In order to plan what to pack for a trip to Costa Rica, be sure to research exactly where you’re going. Not only do the temperatures vary, but the weather conditions too. It’s a country where rain is frequent, so bear that in mind.
In general, I wore shorts or a midi skirt with a t-shirt or vest top during the day. This was suitable for most activities – from exploring beaches to adventures in the rainforests. I wore short, but comfortable dresses for exploring towns and cities or relaxing at the hotel. For more adventurous hikes I wore leggings with a sports bra and sports vest.
In the evenings I wore jeans or a long skirt with a t-shirt or jumper. As mentioned, there were a few places where I really noticed the cold, so I’d recommend packing a few warmer items. If you’re visiting numerous places in Costa Rica over a few weeks, the key is to pack LAYERS!
Costa Rica has plenty of incredible beaches, so don’t forget to pack swimwear. You might also get the chance to take a dip in the cooling waters of one of the country’s spectacular waterfalls like La Fortuna, or the hot springs in Arenal or Orosi.
A note on mosquitoes in Costa Rica…
There are mosquitoes and other insects that bite in Costa Rica, so if you’re particularly susceptible, you might want to cover up in lightweight trousers or sports leggings.
My biggest piece of advice though? Avoid being outside at dusk. They really come out and feast as the sun goes down, so if you can stay indoors then, you’ll probably fare better.
I didn’t find Costa Rica to be as bad for mosquitoes as some of it’s Central American buddies (Belize was the worst for me!) but it’s definitely something to think carefully about and protect yourself as best you can. I’ve popped a few tips below of other things you could take to help either with protection or relief afterwards.
What To Wear In Costa Rica: Men’s Clothes
Similarly to women, men dress in a casual fashion in Costa Rica. The main thing it to consider the climate and activities you’ll be doing.
Most men I saw wore shorts, chinos or jeans with t-shirts and shirts. In national park areas most wore lightweight cargo pants or shorts, with a rain jacket.
Men And Women’s Footwear For Costa Rica
For visiting towns and cities, I’d recommend flat shoes, trainers or sandals. For nature hikes and mountains, you should wear hiking boots or sports trainers.
As I went white water rafting, a pair of water shoes would have come in handy (something I own now but didn’t back then!) Instead I wore my sandals, which had no grip! Not ideal but I learned my lesson.
Unless you’re visiting really smart restaurants or staying in fancy hotels, you won’t need high heels. For dinners, I usually wore sandals while men wore basic leather shoes or espadrilles.
To help you prepare for your trip, save this Costa Rica packing list to your phone.
What To Pack For Costa Rica: Useful Items
If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, you should think about more than just clothing when you start packing. Here are a few items I’d recommend adding to your suitcase…
Insect repellent – Don’t leave home without a decent bug spray. I got quite a few mosquito bites on my first trip, especially in the beach areas around Puerto Viejo. Again, there are plenty of environmentally-friendly options like this one. Quite a few of the hotels and restaurants I visited had spray you could use for free. At Lapa Rios, a unique hotel totally immersed in nature, they made their own chemical-free insect repellent that was provided complimentary in each room.
As bugs love me, I’ve tried a few things over my time, from covering myself in malt vinegar (ick!) to wearing mosquito deterrent bands. I can’t say I noticed anything working that well, so these days I opt for repellent sprays and pack a few things to help ease the itch afterwards…
Bite relief – I usually take an after bite / anti-itch cream like this, that helps to soothe any bites.
Travel towel – A microfibre fast-drying towel like this one will come in handy in Costa Rica. Not only for when you fancy a swim, but also when you want to sit down on the ground or to wipe your sweaty face!
Sun cream – It’s important to apply suncream throughout the day. As Costa Rica is such an eco-conscious country, look for a brand which isn’t too heavy on chemicals, or is almost totally natural, like this one.
Sunglasses – It’s important to protect your eyes when you visit a country like Costa Rica. I’d recommend investing in some high-quality UV protected sunglasses.
Sun hat – Again, a useful addition for sunny days in Costa Rica.
After sun or aloe vera – Don’t forget some soothing cream incase you do burn.
Rain jacket – Be prepared for those sporadic rain showers! As you won’t need to it for warmth, I’d recommend a lightweight waterproof jacket that packs down small. Something like this would be perfect.
Umbrella – I’d also recommend an umbrella for rainy season. I’d been looking for a super compact option for ages, and finally found this one which fits in my smallest handbag and is nice and sturdy.
Backpack – I used a small backpack for day-to-day adventures, which could fit a water bottle, camera, sun cream and bug spray. I also took a small shoulder bag to use for going for dinner in the evenings.
Reusable water bottle – You can drink the tap water in most places in Costa Rica (in fact it’s super fresh and high quality!), so don’t forget to bring a reusable water bottle. I have a Chilly’s bottle that I was given for Christmas last year, and I take it everywhere with me!
GoPro – Costa Rica is an adventure-filled country. The best way to capture it is on a GoPro. They’re great for photos and videos, hard wearing, shockproof and waterproof. Whether you’re snorkelling, hiking, white water rafting, wildlife-spotting or zip lining, it’s the perfect accessory.
Portable battery pack – It depends how much you use your phone on holiday, but I used mine a lot during my trip to Costa Rica, snapping photos and videos along the way. A portable battery pack is a great idea so you don’t have to worry about running out of charge at an important moment.
I have a few made by Anker and they’re great quality and last ages. This is the one I’m using at the moment, which is really small (similar size to my phone) but stores lots of charge, plus it has a fast charging capability.
Plug adapter – Plug sockets in Costa Rica are the same as in the US. The standard voltage is 120 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz. I pack this adapter on all of my travels. It charges multiple items at once, using plugs or USB and can be used anywhere in the world. It’s one of my fave travel gadgets!
Dry bag – Since going to Thailand I’ve invested in a dry bag. They’re made from a thick plastic and are totally waterproof, so they’re perfect for adventures on the water, cave treks, or if you think it’s going to rain heavily. I’d recommend a small one for your phone and camera equipment, or a larger one if you want to use it as your main bag for an activity.
Hopefully this post has helped you figure out what to pack for Costa Rica. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!
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