Womens Guide to Packing for Costa Rica

Costa Rica is covered largely by rain forest and if you’re going there for holiday, chances are you’re going to be visiting one of the many beautiful national parks.

{Rain Gear}

  • a good rain jacket. Before heading to Costa Rica I read a lot of articles about what to pack and many suggested ponchos, like these cheap ones you can get at Target. I don’t like ponchos because even on holiday, I don’t want to look frumpy. And those short sleeves let water seep through! During one of REI’s sales I found this perfect petite pink jacket.  Yes, it’s kinda bright, but I like the color, so yay!
  • rain cover for your daypack – I didn’t want to buy a new backpack for my trip so I just found a generic rain cover on Amazon and it was perfect. It came with a convenient carrying case, as you can see below.

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    I made sure the rain jacket’s hood was fitted and the lip juts out over my face, not flush with my face.
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    I looked for a jacket with a fitted wrist to stop moisture from seeping inside.

    A lot of blogs also recommended carrying an umbrella. I prefer to be as hands-free as possible when I travel and found the coverage from my jacket, waterproof pants, and backpack cover to be sufficient.

{Photo/Video}

I’m a DSLR person but not a Gopro person. I use my iPhone to capture video. And I also don’t carry a tripod. I’m petite and while I thoroughly love traveling with my camera, comfort is important to me as well and that extra camera gear isn’t something I want to carry around. What I did spend a lot of time on is figuring out how to carry my camera — particularly while hiking.

Dangling from my neck is uncomfortable. If I keep it in my backpack, I’m likely to miss cool shots…the animals in the rainforest are not going to wait for me to whip out my camera. During my Costa Rica, at the risk of looking like a complete non-cute nerd, I wore a Lowepro carrying case attached to a chest harness. I liked this case because I could fit my camera with the zoom lens attached (55-250mm). Additionally it comes with an attached rain cover + has a couple pockets to store a cleansing cloth + SD cards.

I know, I know, this is not cute at all but I was hands-free, comfortable, and captured many moments, I wouldn’t have otherwise. IMG_4336

As for other camera gear, this was the first trip where I decided not to take my Macbook and external hard drive. I just loaded up on a couple extra SD cards. Traveling lighter was nice, though I have to admit, I was nervous about losing or damaging my cards, throughout the trip. I was pretty careful and made sure they were never wet and always safely locked in the hotel room or on me.

Of course I took the chargers, lens cleansing kit and was fully prepared to take my DSLR into a humid climate. (Make sure you click that link. You will be so glad you did!

You might also want to get a drybag for your camera gear and thing else to protect your items. I didn’t get one as I didn’t take my DSLR into situations where I’d need it. But if you are, then def. get one. This is a nice set with a waterproof phone case and a fanny pack.

{Clothes + Shoes}

Before we breakdown the items you’ll need, let’s talk about the climate. Costa Rica is a hot and humid country so you want to wear airy, light clothing. Inevitably you’ll hand wash a few items throughout your trip and things take FOREVER to dry due to all the moisture in the air. I washed items at night in the hotel sink and laid them out to dry inside the hotel room, never outside (unless I wanted a monkey to take them away). They were dry 36-48 hours later.

If your hotel or hostel offers laundry service, it’s possible that won’t include drying, as driers aren’t a thing in Costa Rica. Most people line dry.

Now let’s talk about quantity. That famous saying about laying out all the stuff you want to pack on your bed, and then halve it…is true! So many of us (especially ladies) overpack. My aim is to give you a practical guide but still, make sure you look cute.

For most of your activities it’s best to wear pants or shorts. Skirts and dresses can snag on trees and are just less complicated when getting on/off a boat, sitting etc. That said, def. pack a couple of cute dresses to wear for dinners.

3 pairs of shorts
2 pairs of pants
4 tank tops/short sleeve tops
1 long sleeve top
3 bathing suits
1 bathing suit cover up
3 pairs of shoes
2 hats
2 pairs of hiking socks
1 rain jacket (see detail above)
2 earrings (that you don’t mind losing)

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Pants
NO jeans! You will regret taking them! They’ll be uncomfortable in this climate! They take forever to dry and likely to smell. Not to mention, they’re heavy to lug around.

I have two pairs of hiking pants. These were particularly helpful in Costa Rica as I could roll them up for the water landing at Corcovado National Park. They’re also water resistant and moisture wicking. I got them at REI.

Layering is key in Costa Rica because, as you hike you’ll warm up but may want to wear long sleeves to protect from bug bites. I really like this Columbia shirt. The cut is fitted so it looks feminine, a nice color and I really like the buttons (they’re like the buttons on a baby onesie that are super easy to open/close.

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If you enjoy water activities 2-3 bathing suits is a good idea. Sarongs are light and double as a blanket on the beach. I also took a quick drying microfiber travel towel. I didn’t end up using it as the hotels where we stayed provided towels for the room as well as the beach. But if you do decide to get one, make sure it comes with a mesh bag. If you put wet anything in a non-breathable bag it won’t dry, just capture the moisture and smell horrible. IMG_4944

Shoes
Shoes are important. I took 3 pairs and used all of them. IMO, you shouldn’t take anything with a heel. Flats are the way to go as you’ll be walking on a variety of surfaces. Hiking shoes or boots NOT your regular sneakers. I was so glad I got hiking shoes as they offered the support my feet needed through some of our tough, long hikes. If you like something with more ankle support, go for boots.

I lived in my water shoes. My Keens were my everyday shoes. Comfortable, light and protected my feet as we transitioned from dry to wet.

Cute slippers – I wore these at night after we got back to the hotel, cleaned up and headed out for dinner. They’re comfortable, go with everything and packed easily.

Hats
I took two – a wide brimmed hat and a baseball cap. The wide brimmed hat is super light and would blow off during boat rides but was perfect for hikes and lounging on the beach. It protected my face and was malleable material so easy to pack inside my backpack and daypack. I didn’t want a stiff hat that I’d have to wear or carry in my hand traveling.

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Hiking Shoes
At first I thought I didn’t need specific hiking socks. Plus they’re kinda expensive at REI. I thought my normal socks were fine. But then I talked to a few friends who are avid hikers and they told me to invest in a couple pairs.  So I bought these from Amazon. Much less expensive than REI and really comfortable.

I’m actually glad I bought these as they gave my feet a lot more support than my regular socks do. Plus my regular socks are cotton which absorbs moisture and then makes your feet cold. Merino wool is a better material for wicking sweat and moisture.

Jewelry + Accessories
I left all valuable jewelry at home. I packed a couple pairs of studs and hoop earrings – all things I wouldn’t care if they got damaged or lost. And a necklace or two for the evenings. I basically wore my hair in a bun or pulled back in a ponytail the entire time so I didn’t bother with cute hair clips, headbands or anything – it was just more stuff to pack. The one thing I did take was hair serum to deal with frizzy hair from the humidity.

I’m not going to talk about toiletries and underwear. You know that you need to pack your personal care items. Just don’t forget a basic first aid kit i.e. a travel Neosporin and some band aids. And I will say I ditched my regular bras for sports bras and hallelujah! I was comfortable all day!

ProTip: pack a little VapoRub. After a long day on your feet, rub some VapoRub on your feet before going to bed. Don’t forget to put socks on afterwards – you don’t want that stuff tracking everywhere you walk! Your feet will feel rejuvenated and ready for the next adventure, the next day!


Have a brilliant trip! Please add your comments about what you thought of this list and if you want to add any info or items!

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