Your Costa Rica vacation will dictate a slightly different packing list; here are our top ten must have items
You’ll pack differently for an adventure vacation in Costa Rica than you will for two weeks in Paris, New York or Rome. Personal requirements vary but regardless of your Costa Rica destination—Guanacaste, the cloud forests of Arenal and Monteverde, the Central Valley or the Central Pacific or Caribbean coasts, there are a several important things to pack for your vacation.
Some items on the list seem obvious; these are the 10 things we think are essential.
1. Patience and a good sense of humor are must for any travel—foreign or domestic. Murphy’s Law may have global jurisdiction but it doesn’t have to ruin your vacation. Cultural and language differences can be an adventure; adjust your expectations and go with the flow. After all, you’re in Costa Rica to experience more than the landscape; with the right attitude it will all become a grand exploration.
2. Sun protection means more than a good sunblock. Remember, Costa Rica is close to the equator; the tropical sun is punishing, especially for those from more temperate climes. A brimmed hat is always a good idea; it keeps the rain out of your eyes and shades your face. Sunglasses are also important. Consider wearing cotton, lightweight long-sleeved shirts and trousers, which are better than shorts and tank tops in the tropics. Cotton breathes well and dries quickly; longer lengths will help block the sun’s harmful rays.
3. Waterproof backpacks and ponchos are indispensible in the green season unless you want to stay indoors or look like a drowned rat for your entire vacation. However, if you plan to visit the rainforests and cloud forests of the Costa Rican highlands, expect heavy showers almost daily at any time of the year. They’ll pass quickly, but you won’t have missed a thing.
4. A lightweight sweater or jacket will ward off an evening chill, as well as offer protection from the sun, rain and bugs. In a pinch, you can sit on it or use it as a carryall.
5. Footwear will depend on your travel plans, but comfortable and sturdy walking shoes are a must-have. If you’re planning to hike, be sure to pack quality hiking shoes that can handle muddy trails and river crossings. A quick Google search for “hiking water shoes” will give you an abundance of great choices that will be perfect, everyday wear while on vacation in Costa Rica. Flip flops are good poolside and typically quite acceptable in any restaurant, so they make a great, versatile, multi-use addition to your vacation wardrobe.
6. Invest in a basic, small, portable first aid kit that includes bug spray, sunscreen, antiseptic and anti-itch creams, Band-aids and bandages, tape, scissors and tweezers. A few alcohol or disinfectant wipes and aspirin or NSAID anti-inflammatory tablets will come in handy too. Customize your kit to meet your needs. If you take daily medications, keep two or three days’ supply in your kit (in addition to what you keep in your luggage). Don’t try to include everything you could possibly need; this is for minor stings, scraps and scratches, tummy issues or headaches. The good news is that, except for narcotics, psychotropic medications or antibiotics, you don’t need a prescription for most medications at pharmacies in Costa Rica, and there is always a doctor on staff that you can talk to.
7. Almost as important as sunblock; water is a vital necessity. In the tropical heat, it’s all too easy to overheat or become dehydrated. Tuck a water bottle in your pack for shorter excursions; consider a Camelback if you’re out trekking. By and large, tap water in Costa Rica is potable; you don’t have to rely on bottled water. Drink water early and often, about a liter an hour per person.
The last three items on our must-pack list are so obvious that they are almost self-explanatory.
8. A smart phone can provide GPS directions, help you locate medical facilities, or summon help. Costa Rica has 3G service and 4G is becoming more widespread. You can pre-arrange global access with your regular provider or save money and invest in a pre-paid version from a Costa Rican carrier.
9. Keep your passport (or a good photocopy, along with a copy of your entry stamp) with you at all times for reliable identification. If you opt to leave the original at the hotel, be sure it’s in a secure place.
10. The right mix of cash and credit cards is also important. Keep enough cash for several days’ of small purchases and incidentals such as cabs and tips. You can make cash withdrawals from most ATMs, but outside of towns and cities, they aren’t as ubiquitous as in the U.S. To minimize bank charges and conversion fees, take enough out for several days at a time. Use credit cards for major purchases, tours and restaurants; you can often choose whether to charge as colones or dollars.
Travel Costa Rica with our list of essentials and you are prepared for most circumstances. No doubt, you’ll have can’t-live-without-it additions for your vacation. Key here is to be prepared for the unexpected and enjoy your visit.