Costa Rica is a rather small country, and we may get the wrong impression thinking that because of its size, clothes will be pretty much the same throughout the trip.
Some visitors even think that because Costa Rica is in the tropics, it will automatically be hot. Actually, no. Not everywhere in Costa Rica, at least.
One of the wonders of Costa Rica is, that, as small as it seems, it is a giant, with an incredible sort of climates, and traveling across it may seem, sometimes, a magical enigma.
From sweaters to swimsuits, long warm pants to fresh shorts, if you are here long enough, you will probably use them all.
Remember that when we are dreaming about our trip, we throw everything from our closet into our bags, with the magical spell: “Just in case…”
However, and depending on the goal of your trip and what you want to experience and see, you may not want to carry huge bags in the narrow rainforest lodges trails.
Plus, some of the most fantastic places in Costa Rica are comfortably accessible mainly, or only, by plane or boat, and these have sensitive weight limitations.
So, when we talk about packing for your trip to Costa Rica, the best words to use here are “practicality” and “common sense.”
Either t-shirt (Pure cotton) sports, polo or button up. Long sleeves in light fabrics are a good idea. Mosquitoes are a substantial part of the rainforest experience, as well as sun exposure.
1-2 Long pants and a couple of more formal trousers.
Convertible pants are a great idea when in the wilderness.
Formal trousers are mainly used in some of the hotel restaurants at dinner.
3-4 Pairs of Shorts:
Girls, if thinking about going for adventure experiences, such as ziplining, waterfall rappelling, etc. avoid short shorts. Harnesses will make your rides awkward and uncomfortable.
Windbreaker or light sweater/jacket
Even by the beach, it may get chilly at times. Plus, sometimes, the tour buses put the A/C at low temperatures.
Sweater or Jacket:
If you go to higher elevations, a thick solid jacket can be a blessing. In some of the Costa Rican mountains temperature may fall to 30°F (0°C)
Bring as many as possible! And think about them as disposable. At least one per day, but consider two, one for the daily activities and the other for when you come back to the hotel. (You will want to change!)
Think about ultra-quick-drying garments
PJs or similar.
You are going to be in an unknown place, and although they are not usual, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, and floods happen in Costa Rica and the remote case that one of them occurs where you are, you will want to have something on.
You will want them nearby, clean your hands, your phone or your glasses, or just to dip them in cold water and put it on your head.
In the times of smartphones, and with a risk of unpredictable rains, you will want a small dry bag with you at all times.
Think at least about two styles of swimsuits. One for adventure and the other one for the comfort at the swimming pool of the hotel.
Girls: Adventure swimsuits are usually athletic and one-piece and will be used for rafting, surfing or kayaking.
Try a poncho. Something that will be light, comfortable and that may cover your backpack in the case of a sudden pour. Umbrellas can be used in the cities, but not in the rainforest or open boats.
Walking. You will do a lot of walking. Tennis shoes at least. Ideally, hiking boots.
Think about strapped sandals and water shoes. For rafting, rappelling or tubing.
Flip flops for the hotel.
Some more formal shoes might also be needed for hotel restaurants.
If your hair is long:
Enough ponytail holders. In some activities, like rainforest zip lining, they won’t let your hair loose.
Plus, sometimes, it is merely hot.
Bring both: Cream and a spraying one.
When you are in a rainforest environment you will want the cream right after the shower, and the spray over the clothes.
Also, if you are hiking in the forest, the cream is best not to spray your travel companions and the ecosystem around. (Some naturalist tour guides will be very upset if you scatter in a rainforest trail.) Avoid deet (diethyltoluamide), it is terrible on the skin and the ecosystem.
Think higher degrees, these are the tropics, and your skin may be painfully affected.
First Aid Kit:
Tour guides, tour buses, and hotels have first aid kits. However, you won’t find a pill in any of them. However, they won’t give you any medicines. So, it’s a good idea to bring one yourself. You may be able to find them in any supermarket or department store.
Don’t forget about tweezers for possible splinters.
An important note about jeans: Jeans are the worst when it comes to the tropics, they turn red hot when the weather is warm and freezing when is chilly. And if they get wet, they become oppressive and uncomfortable and are very hard to dry. Think about them for more sedentary activities, like a casual dinner or a walk by the city.