Costa Rica Packing Checklist

Costa Rica Packing Checklist

The full annotated list is available here


  • amphibian hikers or river/reef sandals
  • hiking/walking shoes
  • beach sandals/flip-flops
  • dressy sandals or light-weight dress shoes


  • 3-5 T-shirts, one or two long sleeved for bushwhacking and to protect your sunburn.
  • 1-2 dress shirts or blouses
  • 3-4 pairs of shorts. One or two pairs of quick drying nylon and one or two pairs of dressy cotton shorts or tropical weight/length skirts.
  • active/sports swimsuit and a tanning suit You may also want a sarong or other casual beach cover-up.
  • 1-2 pairs of long pants. Something dressy and something for the bush. If you can find a pair you like, convertible pants (zip-off legs) can serve as shorts and long pants.
  • underwear.
  • socks.
  • PJs or a long T-shirt
  • Jacket- It is the tropics, but you will need something to keep you warm at higher elevations, or on the open ocean.
  • bandana
  • baseball cap or brimmed hat
  • mesh bag for wet clothes


  • razor
  • toothbrush with cover, and toothpaste
  • shampoo and conditioner
  • brush or comb
  • antiperspirant
  • towel
  • washcloth
  • tampons
  • toilet paper
  • cosmetics

Books & Maps

  • Nature Guide
  • Spanish/English Phrase book
  • Bird Book
  • Serious naturalists might want Janzen’s “Costa Rican Natural History.”


  • money belt or passport pendant-somewhere to carry your documents.
  • passport
  • drivers license
  • money, credit/debit card, traveler’s checks.
  • insurance card and contact information.


  • Plastic bags
  • A photo of your home or family
  • Your Internet logon information
  • address book
  • Clothesline
  • Water bottle or bag
  • Flashlight
  • A drinking cup.
  • binoculars
  • Croakies® or other glasses retainer system for your prescription or sunglasses.
  • pocket knife
  • mp3 player
  • gifts
  • zip ties


  • Personal prescriptions should be filled before you leave home.
  • sunglasses
  • Tampons – hard to find
  • Contact lenses and cleaning solutions
  • If you wear prescription glasses, pack a spare pair


First Aid Kit (Basic)

  • band aids® Butterfly closures are useful to close deep cuts.
  • eye drops- Artificial tears (e.g. NeoTears®)
  • Imodium® OTC or Lomotil® (by prescription in the US) to treat diarrhea
  • Dramamine® or other motion sickness prevention
  • neosporin® (over the counter) or terramycin® (by prescription in the US) to prevent infection of small cuts, scrapes, and insect bites
  • tweezers- needle point/surgical
  • tape- waterproof, flexible, breathable surgical tape
  • insect repellent- > 95% DEET for mosquitoes.
  • pain relievers/fever reducers (Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, and/or Aspirin)
  • sun screen- at least SPF 20, waterproof
  • $US 20 bill (if you want more emergency cash carry more twenties.. fifties and hundreds are regarded very suspiciously)
  • vitamins- what ever you normally take
  • whistle

First Aid Kit (Advanced)

  • alcohol pads & benzalkonium sterile wipes
  • Aloe Vera gel- 100% pure, no perfume or color added; relieves the pain and speeds the healing of sunburn.
  • anti-histamine tablets- there are all sorts of new pollens to react to, and these can help control the swelling and pain from insect, spider and scorpion stings.
  • anti-bacterial soap
  • anti-fungal cream
  • codeine and/or valium
  • Dramamine® or other motion sickness remedy
  • electrolytes- to ease dehydration due to diarrhea or vomiting.
  • erythromycin
  • hemostat
  • mole foam- to prevent and protect blisters
  • peroxide based water purification system
  • scissors
  • sutures
  • scalpel or razorblade
  • sterile surgical gauze
  • stainless steel nail file
  • super glue- emergency repairs of equipment and an alternative to sutures
  • tampons- for the obvious reason, and they also work well in a pinch as relatively sterile absorbent wound packing (o.b.®, no applicator).
  • thermometer
  • waterproof lighter

Other things to have handy in your first aid kit

  • micro led flashlight- in a night time emergency it might be the only light you have
  • eyeglass screws- we fix our own after experiencing the Big Screwdriver
  • 100 lb. test braided nylon line
  • spare contacts
  • emergency contact information (our names, addresses and phone numbers- in case we’re unconscious, and those of our parents, and physicians in the U.S.)
  • nylon sewing thread and needles
  • crimp on snaps
  • phone card
  • ear plugs- the compressible foam ones are by far the best
  • compass if you know how to use it.

Unpacking List – things to leave home

  • Cell phone, it probably won’t work
  • There is no point in carrying all of your keys.
  • Wallet contents- If you’re going to carry your wallet, you can probably remove ¾ths of the contents.
  • Purse-Look at what’s in yours to decide if you want to lug it around, and if there is anything you don’t need to risk losing.
  • Copies of your documents.  Minimally a Xerox of your passport, drivers license, credit cards, airline tickets, and any reservations that you’ve prepaid. You need to leave a set at home in case of emergency.
  • An itinerary.
  • Sheets/Sleep sack-great for hostels in Europe, but not necessary in Central America.
  • If you’re visiting from the U.S. or Canada you can leave the electric converters and plug adapters at home.  The current and plugs are the same and your appliances should work just fine.