As excited as you may be for your upcoming Costa Rican adventure, packing can be difficult. In a country as varied as Costa Rica, with 12 distinct microclimates from beaches to mountains, lowlands, rainforests, and volcanic area, packing your suitcase can present a special challenge. Luckily, Costa Rica is a rather minimalistic society, and you won’t need to bring a dozen outfit changes and makeup brands to fit in. This small, tropical country is also the most developed nation in Central America and will probably have anything you accidently left behind at the local grocery store. This makes packing a bit less stressful, but you don’t want to spend too much of your vacation shopping either, so it’s best to be prepared. Do a bit of research on your destination city and pack appropriately for the climate and season. After that, check our list of the 5 most indispensable items for Costa Rican travel. No matter where you’re going or what you’re doing, you will be extremely thankful for having these 5 items in your bag.
- High powered lampIn Costa Rica, it gets dark early. You have a busy schedule planned of hiking trails and amazing restaurants, and you don’t want sunlight to be a factor. Make sure you have a high-powered lamp with you. This can be in the form of a headlamp, book light, or even a good cellphone flashlight, for those who don’t plan to be extremely active after dark. Costa Rica uses less electricity to power lights, and with most buildings sporting an open-aired structure, these lights aren’t even turned on until after sun fall. You’ll want your flashlight to navigate your hotel, find your keys, or read the last chapter of your book before lights out. Bring your light with you when you go to your favorite beachfront bar to watch the sunset. With access to your lamp, you’ll have no problems getting home.
- Wet WipesYou will be eternally grateful to yourself for having included a couple packs of wet wipes in your hiking backpack. Costa Rica can get rather hot, and the salty breeze from the ocean can cause some irritation after a long hike. You will use a wet wipe every time you finish a hike, use a public bathroom, or come back from a dip in the sea. This will also be an easy way to clean your face at night, returning to your hotel from an exhausting day of hiking and swimming. For those traveling with children, buy some extra packs. They’re lightweight and will prove to be the most useful item in your day bag.
- SunscreenCosta Rica is a tropical country, and while the lowlands and mountain regions enjoy mild weather, you’ll still spend more time under the sun then you may be used to. Costa Rican cities are designed for pedestrians, so even those without a hike on their itinerary will find themselves walking more than normal. That, combined with the popularity of outdoor restaurants and open-aired bars, means you will need to lather up with sunscreen multiple times a day. Costa Rica is usually an inexpensive country compared to North America, but as sunscreen is not a product used widely by locals, it can be easily 3 times the price of what you’d find in your home country. Bring a bottle from home, and while you’re at it, bring bug spray, anti-itch cream, and any cosmetics you plan on using.
- SarongForget your heavy, bulky towel and pack a sarong for your trip. This goes for both men and women. While men may not feel comfortable wearing a sarong, women will make this their go-to outfit for beach days. The entire family will enjoy the sarong’s multiple uses as a beach blanket, shawl, skirt, head scarf, towel, picnic tablecloth, and more. The more multi-use items you can pack for your trip, the better. This lightweight item will prove its worth on almost every stage of your trip, from steamy beach days to chilly mountain nights.
- Extra shoesShoes are the bulkiest, heaviest items in your suitcase, but don’t make the mistake of leaving them out. Many people opt for hiking boots and walking shoes, understanding Costa Rica’s active culture. If you don’t pack a convenient pair of slip-on shoes, however, you’ll regret it. Most buildings in Costa Rica are semi-outdoors, so bugs and rocks may be more of a problem than you’re used to. You’ll want your flipflops handy for walking through your hotel, taking showers, and beach outings. Remember to keep a stash of used plastic bags to cover your muddy hiking shoes after a morning excursion and reach for your sandals to enjoy the rest of your day.