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:
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!).
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!
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.
Yes! Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, full of spectacular landscapes and unique wildlife. You’ll definitely want to document it! A waterproof camera designed for outdoor activities (such as a GoPro) is a good option if you plan on spending your trip doing activities. Want to shoot some Instagram-worth animal pics? A camera with good zoom capabilities is going to be your best friend. Most smart phones have the ability to take high-quality photos as well, so if you have one don’t forget to utilize it too! If you’re concerned about getting your camera wet while tromping around the rainforest, there are several inexpensive options online for waterproof backpacks (many of which conveniently fold up into small pouches, thereby taking up barely any space in your bag) that you can use to tote your gear.
Airlines should also play a factor in determining what you will bring on your vacation. Only toting a carry-on? Make sure all liquids 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!