Coming to Costa Rica: Tips for packing to fit your trip

ATV

Planning your first Costa Rican vacation? It’s time to think about packing! Before you begin filling your bag, though, it is important to ask a few important questions:

 

Where will I be staying?

Due to its impressive biodiversity, Costa Rica has multiple climatic zones in the span of a small area. Therefore, it is important to first think about where you will be staying. Prefer the mountains? The Central Valley/San Jose, Monteverde, and Chirripo can be quite cold, with temperatures dipping down into the 30s (especially in the case of Chirripo). While they never get exactly freezing, it is advisable to pack some warmer weather pieces, such as jeans and a light jacket. The beach areas, such as the Nicoya Peninsula, The Central Pacific, Osa Peninsula, and Caribbean Coast, however, are almost always hot, and better suited for warm-weather gear, such as shorts and t-shirts (and swimsuits, of course!).

When will I be staying?

Once you have determined where you will be staying, it is important to think about the time of year in which you’ll be staying. While Costa Rica doesn’t have the traditional four seasons, it does have a rainy period (roughly from April 15-November 15) and a dry period (roughly November 16-April 14). As the name may imply, the rainy season can bring with it large amounts of rain. While this is normally in the afternoon for most of April-August (with a “mini dry season” usually occurring sometime in June and July), September and October often sees entire days of downpour. The dry season, on the other hand, is (you guessed it!) very dry and hot. The Nicoya Peninsula, which is already drier and more desert-like on average than the rest of the country, can be especially sweltering, and it is not uncommon for San Jose to look quite brown and dry when flying into the main airport. January, February, and March are the hottest months on average, so make sure to pack lots of sunscreen in preparation!

What will I be doing?

Another big factor when it comes to packing for your Costa Rican vacation is the tours you are planning on doing. Going white water rafting? Clothes/shoes that you don’t mind getting wet are a must. Fishing? Light, long-sleeved clothing that breathes well, but keeps the sun off, is a must. And for ziplining? Shoes that won’t fall off, of course! If you have any questions about what to wear on a specific activity, most tours will include a list of suggestions on their website/brochure, and will be happy to advise you if you contact them about it.

Will I be bringing only a carry-on, or checking a bag as well?

Airlines should also play a factor in determining what you will bring on your vacation. Only toting a carry-on? Make sure all liquid are less than 3oz., and can all fit in a quart-sized plastic bag. Also, anything that could be considered a “weapon” is a big no. If you’re checking a bag, you have more freedom to bring bigger liquids, but be sure to not bring any aerosols. This includes spray-on sunscreen and bug spray, so lotion is your best bet!

Finally, an important thing to keep in mind is souvenirs. Do you need to bring something back for a friend or family member? Want to pick up a little keepsake of your time in paradise? Make sure to leave plenty of room in your suitcase to accommodate, and that whatever you bring back is compliant with airline regulations!

 

 

With these tips in mind, getting ready for your Costa Rica vacation will be a breeze!

Exploring the Zones of Costa Rica

costa rica rainforest mountain

When you think of Costa Rica, what do you imagine? For many, the words rainforests, beaches, and volcanoes come to mind. While all of those things can be found here, there’s so much more to be explored!

As home to 4% of the world’s biodiversity, found in an area smaller than the state of West Virginia, Costa Rica is comprised of many different climatic zones (12, to be specific). These zones range from tropical dry forests to mountain ranges, and can vary greatly in temperature and rainfall, as well as wildlife and flora and fauna. Here is a basic rundown of the different zones you can expect to find, and some popular areas where you can find them:

Rainforest

A staple of Costa Rica, rainforests are characterized by dense vegetation, with a thick canopy that does not allow much light to arrive to permeate down below. Rainfall is common here, and can be very heavy depending upon the time of year. Often rich in flora and fauna, although dense enough that fauna can sometimes be difficult to spot. Generally hot and humid.

Where to find it: Central Pacific Coast (Manuel Antonio), South Pacific Coast (Uvita and the Osa Peninsula), Northern Lowlands (Arenal), Caribbean Coast (Tortuguero and Limón)

Tropical dry forest

This climatic zone is a little more surprising, but takes up a large portion of the Costa Rican landscape. Found in the northern part of the country, this area is characterized by a hot, dry climate, and a much less dense forest. While it does not have quite as big of a range of biodiversity as its rainforest counterpart, the thinner vegetation often leads to easier spotting of the wildlife that is around.

Where to find it: Guanacaste (Tamarindo) and the Nicoya Peninsula (Nosara and Malpaís)

Cloud forest

Similar to a rainforest, a cloud forest is found at higher altitudes, resulting in overall cooler (and sometimes cold) temperatures. Often foggy and rainy, cloud forests are home to dense vegetation, as well as a large variety of flora and fauna. It is the only zone in which you can see the Resplendent Quetzal.

Where to find it: Central highlands (Monteverde, Tilarán)

Tropical beaches

The beaches of Costa Rica, characterized by hot, humid weather. These beaches can be surrounded by rainforests or tropical dry forest.

Where to find it: Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula (surrounded by dry tropical forest), Manuel Antonio, Dominical/Uvita, the Osa Peninsula, and the Caribbean Coast (surrounded by rainforest)

Mountains

The highest points in the country, characterized by cool (often cold) temperatures, and sparse vegetation. While the biodiversity may not be as heavy as lower level forests, the views are absolutely spectacular, and certain bird species thrive only in these climates.

Where to find it: Cerro de la Muerte, Chirripó

Volcanoes

Characterized by its volcanic activity, volcanoes can be found in varying climates around the country. Picking which volcano to visit is often dependent upon which climate zone you want to visit.

Where to find it: Arenal (rainforest volcano), Irazu (high level rainforest), Miravalles (dry tropical forest)