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.
Here are a few specific items of women’s clothing I’d recommend for Costa Rica:
Women’s sundress – Something strappy, pretty and not too short for everyday use.
Women’s maxi dress – I quite liked having a longer item or two, especially for when insects were out.
Women’s midi skirt – I live in items like this in warm countries and have them in multiple colours and patterns. They’re comfortable and not revealing.
Women’s shorts – I packed a few pairs. I’d recommend something loose and comfortable like these shorts, and then perhaps some classic denim shorts too.
Women’s summer top – I wore a lot of things like this. Neutral colours work best as you can mix and match with shorts and skirts. Plus, you can dress them up or dress them down!
Women’s bikini – You’ll need to pack a couple of items of swimwear. There are so many cute bikinis out there to choose from!
Women’s rash guard – Not essential, but if you burn easily (or plan to surf) I’d recommend one of these. This one is great as it has a built-in bra and comes with a pair of matching shorts.
Women’s sports vest – I’d recommend one or two sweat-absorbing vests like this for adventurous activities.
Women’s sports bra – Ideal for sporty or adventure activities. I prefer sports bras like this Under Armour one which has some built in padding for extra support.
Women’s leggings – You might prefer sports shorts, but depending on the activity you’re doing, you might want a pair of leggings for a bit of extra protection. These Under Armour ones are great as they’re very lightweight.
Sarong – A really useful item for any travels in warm countries! Use it as a towel, a cover up, to sit on, to lie on or for a cute addition to an outfit!
Sun hat – You’ll definitely want a sun hat to protect yourself.
Sunglasses – I’ve owned a pair of these Ray Bans for a few years now and love them!
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.
Here are a few specific items of men’s clothing I’d recommend for Costa Rica:
Men’s casual shorts – I’d recommend several pairs of comfortable shorts for everyday use.
Men’s T-shirts – Pack a few options of t-shirts too.
Men’s shirts – A few shirts (long or short sleeved) are a good idea. I personally love these linen shirts. They look very cool!
Men’s vests – If you sweat a lot, you might find vest tops more
comfortable in the heat.
Men’s sports tops – For active days, something like this is really useful as it’s super-absorbent.
Men’s sports shorts – If you’re doing some adventurous hikes or activities, you’ll want shorts you can move freely in.
Swimming trunks – The more fun the pattern, the better! These ones have pockets and are quick dry too.
Baseball cap – Look for one with a mesh back like this one, so it’s more breathable.
Sunglasses – You can’t beat a classic pair of these Ray Bans!
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.
Here are a few specific items of footwear I’d recommend for Costa Rica:
Birkenstock sandals – Really durable, ideal for men or women and come in multiple colours. There are a few different styles to choose from too.
Teva trekking sandals – Really durable, great for travel, easy to take on and off and they come in lots of colours and patterns.
Skechers lightweight trainers – Really comfortable and they dry quickly too, so are useful for all sorts of travel.
Havianas flip flops – Male or female, everyone should own a pair! These ones for men are fun too.
Cute women’s sandals – Something like this is great for beach clubs, hotels and restaurants.
Tom’s flat loafers – A nice casual shoe for men, easy to slip on and great for exploring or going to restaurants.
Hiking shoes – Only necessary if you’re planning some big adventures. These ones are great as they’re lightweight and breathable.
Water shoes – Again, not essential, but can be useful for rocky areas or hiking around waterfalls.
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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. 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.
There are plenty of really good insect repellants like this one. If you’re travelling with kids you might want to buy a specific children’s insect repellent too. Some hotels and restaurants spray a mist of repellent each day across their grounds, while others offer sprays you can use for free.
Bite relief – I usually take an after bite / anti-itch cream like this, that helps to soothe any bites. I also swear by this amazing Bite Away Pen, which sends a small electric shock to the itchy part of the bite. It takes a bit of getting used to at first (and sometimes hurts a tiny bit), but it does work. I’ve done a full review of the item (as it goes everywhere with me!!) so feel free to read more here.
Travel towel – A fast-drying microfibre towel like this one will come in handy in Costa Rica. These are great 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 on a humid day!
Sun cream – It’s important to apply suncream throughout the day. I’d recommend finding a brand which isn’t too heavy on chemicals, or is almost totally natural, like this one made by Sun Bum.
Sunglasses – It’s important to protect your eyes when you visit a holiday destination like Costa Rica. I’d recommend investing in some high-quality UV protected sunglasses. I’ve owned a pair of these Ray Bans for a few years now and love them!
Sun hat – You’ll definitely want a sun hat to protect yourself on all of those sunny days in Costa Rica.
After sun or aloe vera – Don’t forget some soothing cream incase you do burn. I really like this one made by Ultrasun. It’s lightweight and feels lovely on your skin.
Rain jacket – Be prepared for those sporadic rain showers in Costa Rica’s rainy season. As you won’t need 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.
Daypack 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. If you’re looking for something nice and small, lightweight, water-resistant and that will fit all your essentials, I’d recommend this daypack. It’s got some very handy zip-up pockets too!
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. Personally I’d recommend the Chilly’s water bottles. I’ve got a few in different sizes and they are excellent quality!
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. Don’t forget to take out travel insurance that covers your gadgets too.
Power bank – 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 have lasted for a long time. This is the one I’m using at the moment, which is really small (similar size to my phone) but stores lots of charge and 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 universal travel adapter for 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 like this. It’s made from a thick plastic and is totally waterproof. These dry bags so they’re perfect for adventures on the water, visiting waterfalls, or if you think it’s going to rain heavily. I’d recommend a small one for your phone and camera gear, or a larger one if you want to use it as your main bag for an activity. They really do keep your gear safe and dry.
Waterproof phone case – Similarly, if you want to take your phone out and about in the water, I’d recommend getting a waterproof phone case. There are quite a few to choose from, but I’d recommend reading the reviews! You need this to protect your phone and be 100% watertight after all! I bought these Moko cases myself and my partner and they’ve been great. We’ve used them on several trips snorkelling and to waterfalls now, and no leaks!
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!
Looking for the biggest and best plan for your holiday? Don’t miss my guide to spending two weeks in Costa Rica. It’s the ultimate itinerary filled with highlights from across the country!
Or, learn more about the country before you get there with 34 fascinating facts about Costa Rica.
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