Costa Rica vacations are quite popular with couples and families wanting to make the most of their time. The best part about a Costa Rican vacation is that you can relax and enjoy the sandy beaches and turquoise blue waters or you can head up to one of the volcano areas like La Fortuna and do adventure activities. When planning to head to Costa Rica for your upcoming holidays you would want to pack right to optimize your time and experiences.
Table of Contents
Having the right documents is crucial for a hassle-free Costa Rica vacation. Your passport, along with a photocopy, is essential for identification and emergencies. Travel insurance information offers peace of mind, covering unexpected events during your trip. During Covid, Costa Rica was requiring travel insurance but that requirement has been lifted.
Flight tickets and hotel reservations confirm your travel plans. Make sure to check and secure any necessary visas in advance to avoid travel complications. These documents collectively ensure smooth travel, safeguarding you against uncertainties and helping authorities verify your identity and intentions while exploring the beautiful beaches and sights of Costa Rica.
- Insurance cards
- Travel documents
- Cash & Credit Cards
- Travel Insurance
- Vaccination card (if applicable)
For the Beach and Swimming Pool
Beach gear for a Costa Rica vacation includes essentials for a great time by the ocean. Beach towels dry you off and provide a comfy spot to relax. High SPF sunscreen shields your skin from harmful rays, while after-sun lotion soothes any burns. Regardless of what sunscreen you use just be sure to use some, it’s likely the Costa Rican sun rays are not the same as where you live. If possible use reef-safe sunscreen, especially in areas where there’s an actual reef.
While you are enjoying your beach holidays, harmful UV rays and harsh sunlight can damage your skin. This is why you need to carry an after-sun lotion that allows you to maintain the elasticity of your skin and retain that beautiful tan. While there are plenty of after-sun lotions available you need to look for the ones that have the right SPF ratio.
A spacious beach bag carries your gear, and snorkeling equipment lets you explore underwater wonders. A waterproof phone case safeguards your device from water and sand, letting you capture memories without worry. These items ensure a comfortable and enjoyable beach getaway while protecting you from the elements and enhancing your aquatic adventures.
The gorgeous beaches in Costa Rica ensure that a substantial part of your trip will be well spent at the beach. Here are the essential items you will need for this.
- Bathing suit aka swimsuit
- SPF shirt
- Bronzing lotion
- Snorkel set
- Sun hats
- Water shoes
- Flip flops
- Beach bag
- Inflatable life jacket
- Wide-tooth comb
- Book to read
For Outdoor Activities
I always carry a small backpack so I can use it as a day pack when we are out and about doing activities.
An action-packed beach day can be exhausting and you need to replenish your body constantly with water. For this, you can carry your water bottle which allows you to stay hydrated and ensure better beach holidays. If you are planning to hike in Costa Rica you need water to stay fresh and hydrated throughout the trip.
It is hard to imagine life without smartphones these days. When you are heading for a beach vacation in Costa Rica you want to safeguard your expensive smartphone from ocean water, sand, mud and dust. For this, you need to carry along a waterproof phone case which would allow you to manage your mobile device the right way.
When you are packing for Costa Rica beach holidays you would also want to pack the right head gear like sun hats, caps and sunglasses. Costa Rica is not only popular for its pristine beaches but also for its natural biodiversity. Hence, you can find plenty of national parks and reserves here like the Arenal Volcano National Park. Here you can hike the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park as you explore nature and some unique birds.
Beach holidays are all about shedding all those formalities and doing what you want. Hence, when you are heading to Costa Rica, pack lightweight and comfortable clothes you can wear all day long. Packing breathable linen pants and shorts and printed beach shirts and t-shirts would do the trick. The goal here is to look great without a lot of fancy clothes. You would also want to add cover-ups after taking a plunge in the ocean or your pool at the hotel or resort.
Beach destinations usually demand easy footwear like flip-flops and sandals. However, you need to ensure that these sandals and flip-flops are waterproof and easy to wash. Also, you can look for various beach shoes which are ideal for water sports activities. If you are planning to hike national parks and reserves in Costa Rica you can pack hiking shoes that would offer you superior comfort and protection and grip over unstable surfaces.
- Workout clothes like tank tops
- Shirts with collar
- Linen pants
When you are heading to the beach be assured you’ll get plenty of Vitamin D through your skin. However, it is also essential for you to safeguard your skin with a moisturizing and hydrating face cream. When you are at the beach for hours your face and body skin are likely exposed to excessive sunlight and heat which can suck away the moisture. Always replenish your skin with the best hydrating skin creams and SPF-added moisturizers to ensure you look great in those Instagram pictures.
- Lip balm
- Face wash
- Fingernail clippers
Specifically for Women
If you are like me and your hair at the beach is a nightmare you will need items you most likely don’t need outside of a tropical environment. For me, that means I can’t get a brush through my hair so I have to have a hair pick on hand. Also, throughout the trip, my hair will get more curly each day. That’s where a headband comes in handy.
- Hair ties
- Hair pick
- Sun Dress (multi-purpose as a cover-up or a night out)
- Hair pick
- Light cardigan
- Curling iron
For Rainy Season
- Light rain jacket
- Baseball cap
On your Costa Rica vacation, health and personal care items are essential.
- Insect repellent safeguards against bothersome bugs and ensure a more enjoyable stay.
- Prescription medications
- Band-aids, maybe even a first aid kit.
These essentials provide peace of mind and allow you to explore worry-free. Whether it’s a sudden headache or minor injury, you’ll be equipped to handle it. Taking these precautions underscores your well-being and ensures that your journey is as smooth and comfortable as possible amidst the stunning beaches and vibrant landscapes of Costa Rica.
Things You Do Not Need
- Toilet paper
- Towel Clips
- Umbrella (the resort will have one)
- Hairdryer (the resort will have one)
Printable Packing List
I have a handful of printable packing lists. This one isn’t beach-specific but covers a lot of what you will need.
Things like your hairdryer, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and soaps are often offered by the hotel you are staying at during your visit. So, if you need to save space, leave those items behind and use the provided products during your visit.
Your trip to Costa Rica doesn’t have to be boring. Make sure you pack the essentials we have mentioned to have a nice trip to a beautiful beach or up into the volcano area.
Get Travel Insurance
I use Skyscanner to find flights. I use it so much, I wrote an entire guide to finding cheap flights with Skyscanner! My second favorite site to find flights is Momondo, another great site for finding cheap flights.
Book a Place to Stay
If you prefer staying in a vacation rental instead, I recommend VRBO.
Rent clothes for your trip with Travel Style Expert for only $50 a month!
Choose Activities and Tours
To find great activities in any area I use Get Your Guide and Viator. If we are visiting a city with lots of popular attractions I always check CityPass and GoCard to see if they have discount cards available.
When I want to book a full-on multi-day tour I use TourRadar. They’ve got fantastic weekly deals.