My definitive packing guide for a spring trip to Costa Rica

Pants and sturdy shoes necessary for horseback riding!

A few weeks ago I was here sweating over what I should pack for Costa Rica. Now that the trip is behind me, I can share my experience of what to bring on the trip in a more helpful way. Anyone clicking on this post was probably questioning the veracity of the headline because it left more questions than answers about what to bring on a trip.

I must first do a little bragging that I mostly hit the nail on the head with what I ended up bringing. I made a few notes to myself about what would have been nice to round it out. Here is my definitive list for a week that included San Jose, light to moderate hiking in the rain forest (sans rain) and a couple days of activities that included horseback riding and zip lining.

Here was our seven day itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive in San Jose (we had the afternoon and evening free to explore but most things were closed due to Easter week)

Day 2: Irazu Volcano (near Cartago) and afternoon visit to a hot springs

Day 3: Transfer to Tortuguero (Braulio Carrillo Park and Tortuguero National Park)

Day 4: Tortuguero (jungle walk, tour of small island town)

Day 5: Transfer day – Tortuguero to Arenal area

Day 6: Coffee and sugarcane tour in the morning (kids and I spent the afternoon at the pool while the other adults went into town for shopping and lunch) Horseback riding in the late afternoon

Day 7:  Sky Adventure hiking, hanging bridges, aerial tram and zip lining, transfer back to San Jose for an early morning flight the next day


Clothes for Costa Rica

  • 1 pair of comfy stretch jeans
  • 1 lightweight workout pants
  • 3 long sleeve tops
  • 4 sleeveless tops
  • 3 pair shorts
  • 1 pair long shorts
  • 1 running shorts
  • 2 workout type tops
  • 1 pair pj’s
  • 1 pair hiking sandals
  • 1 pair flip flops
  • 1 pair flats
  • 2 bathing suits
  • 1 pair of underwear for each day we’d be there and a few bras (regular and exercise)
  • 1 raincoat
  • Sunglasses
  • A jungle type hat
  • Large plastic zip lock type bags (these came in handy after leaving the jungle area because all the clothes were heavy with humidity)

Clothes items I wish I had:

  • Warm sweatshirt or jacket (it gets cool at night in the jungle area)
  • Sneakers (for the visit to Irazu volcano and some of the walking we did)
  • More underwear (some days in the jungle required multiple showers)
  • Dressier clothes (I somehow thought this trip would be one endless workout and dressed more for comfort – the evenings could have been a time to dress up a little more)
  • Another pair of long pants for the cooler evenings
  • A bathing suit cover up for our day at the hot springs
  • A few grocery type bags to transport wet bathing suit (we visited a hot springs one day and I didn’t have anything to separate our wet bathing suits from the rest of the stuff
  • An unworn outfit for the plane ride home. We lucked out and there was laundry service at one of the hotels so I had a few things washed for the trip home.

Everything Else

  • A high end camera, low end camera and phones for pictures. I was made fun of for bringing a selfie stick but it was very handy. I bought a cheap one and while it did the trick, I would have upgraded this item.
  • 2 Go Pros (a first generation and a Hero5 which could be manipulated from the phone)
  • Costa Rica travel guide from the library (with map)
  • Binoculars
  • Snacks for the plane and for our picky eater
  • Two backpacks
  • Portable chargers and cords for all our devices
  • Kindle
  • Waterproof cross body bag (I highly recommend this one)
  • Water bottle (This is a must have and I only brought one – there are always places to fill your water bottle. I ended up leaving it there.)
  • A large, waterproof map of Costa Rica (unnecessary as they provided one to us when we arrived)
  • Flashlight and headlight (we used both)
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellent
  • First aid kit (I had a comprehensive first aid kit and only used Aleve for soreness after the horseback ride)
  • Costa Rican cash (colón) We converted $300 US into colónes and that along with using credit/debit cards was fine. Most of the trip had been pre-paid through our travel agent.
  • Travel size toiletries, minimal makeup and Living Proof No Frizz shampoo
  • And last and most importantly, my journal, which I brought everywhere and wrote in my spare time. I almost left it behind on the bus on the next to last day but I had a special angel watching over me and it was retrieved!

So there you have it. I definitely overthink these things but in the end it paid off. I was very comfortable with everything I brought even leaving some of those “would-have-been-nice” items at home. The weather ranged from high 60’s to high 80’s and virtually no rain.

Hopefully I didn’t forget anything essential!



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