What to Wear in Costa Rica

Costa Rica, a tropical paradise filled with diverse landscapes, lush rainforests, and pristine beaches, is a destination that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. But with such a wide range of climates and terrains, packing for your Costa Rican adventure can be quite a challenge. Worry not, fellow traveler! After spending over 20 years in the country, I created this guide to knowing what to wear in Costa Rica for every adventure.

From sun-soaked coastlines to misty cloud forests, this packing list will ensure you’re well-equipped for any adventure while exploring the wonders of this amazing country. So let’s dive in and discover how to make the most of your Costa Rican experience while staying comfortable and stylish.

Best Clothing Recommendations for Costa Rica Tips

  • Pack versatile clothes & the right protective gear for Costa Rica’s varied climates, from lightweight beachwear to waterproof hiking boots.
  • Maximize luggage space with packing cubes and focus on essentials when layering clothes.
  • Don’t forget sun protection, insect repellent & travel insurance for a safe trip!

Apparel for Costa Rica’s Varied Climates

Given the multitude of microclimates in Costa Rica, packing versatile clothing that can adapt to the changing environments is a smart move. Whether you’re basking on the beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park or trekking through the highlands of Monteverde, our Costa Rica packing list will help you prepare for every possibility.

Remember to include the following items in your packing list:

  • Lightweight, breathable clothes for beach and coastal areas
  • Warm layers for higher altitudes
  • Quick-drying, moisture-wicking fabrics for rainforest and outdoor adventures

You never know when an unexpected downpour might occur, even during the dry season, so it’s best to be prepared for all conditions.

Beach and Coastal Attire

When it comes to beach and coastal attire, think:

  • Swimsuits
  • Cover-ups
  • Flip-flops
  • Sun hats

If you are looking for a beach recommendation, I urge you to check out my review of the W Costa Rica. It’s an all-time favorite of mine!

Don’t forget to pack at least two swimsuits, so you always have a dry one to wear. For those planning to explore the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, a sarong can be a versatile addition to your packing list. Use it as a towel, beach cover-up, or even as a blanket on long bus rides. Plus, they’re great for covering your legs at night to keep mosquitoes at bay when relaxing outside.

Beach attire is ideal for sun, sand, and surf, but more conservative clothing is advised for visiting traditional towns and cities near the coast. Local women often wear long skirts, dresses, or pants, so keep this in mind when planning your outfits. For men, a simple t-shirt and shorts or lightweight pants should suffice for casual daytime explorations.

High Elevation Essentials

With temperatures dropping considerably as you venture into higher elevations, packing warm layers becomes necessary. Opt for long-sleeve shirts, jackets, and pants made from moisture-wicking fabrics to handle temperature fluctuations and keep you comfortable. For example, if you’re planning to hike through the cloud forest reserves in Monteverde, closed-toe hiking shoes and a rain jacket are essential items to bring along.

Layering is key when it comes to high elevation dressing. This way, you can easily remove or add layers as the temperature changes, ensuring you stay warm and cozy without overheating. Remember, it’s always better to have an extra layer on hand than to feel chilly during your adventures.

Rainforest and Adventure Gear

If you’re planning on embarking on rainforest hikes or other outdoor adventures during Costa Rica’s rainy season, be sure to pack:

  • Clothing that is quick-drying and moisture-wicking
  • A lightweight rain jacket, as rain can be quite unpredictable in Costa Rica, even during the dry season
  • A hat or cap for protecting your head from both rain and sun exposure, as the weather can change rapidly in the rainforest.

When it comes to footwear for rainforest adventures, opt for closed-toe hiking shoes or sandals that offer protection and support for slippery, uneven terrain. These will ensure you stay comfortable and safe during your explorations of Costa Rica’s incredible natural landscapes.

Footwear for Every Terrain

The footwear you choose for your Costa Rican adventure can greatly affect your experience, so selecting the right pair is vital. Your choice of footwear should be based on the activities and terrain you’ll encounter during your trip.

Whether you’re trekking through the dense rainforests of Corcovado National Park or strolling along the Caribbean coast, having the appropriate shoes will ensure you’re well-equipped to handle any adventure that comes your way. From hiking boots and shoes to water-ready footwear and casual exploration options, we’ve got your feet covered.

Hiking Boots and Shoes

For treks and other outdoor activities in Costa Rica, hiking boots or shoes are a necessity. They provide the support and protection your feet need to navigate the country’s diverse terrain. Consider investing in waterproof options, as Costa Rica’s rainy season can leave trails wet and muddy.

Ankle-high boots are recommended for hiking in Costa Rica, offering additional support and protection for your ankles on various hiking trails. Top brands like Salomon and La Sportiva provide highly rated hiking boots designed for challenging terrain, ensuring your feet stay comfortable and protected during your adventures.

Water-Ready Footwear

For beach and water activities, closed-toe hiking sandals, water shoes, or secure sandals are ideal options. These types of closed toe shoes provide protection from rocks and other rough surfaces while still being lightweight, breathable, and quick-drying. When selecting water-ready footwear, look for features such as sturdy construction, closed-toe design for added protection, and good traction for slippery surfaces.

This type of footwear is perfect for exploring Costa Rica’s stunning beaches, rivers, and waterfalls, ensuring you can fully enjoy the country’s aquatic wonders without worrying about your feet.

Casual Explorations

When exploring Costa Rica’s charming towns and cities, casual shoes like sneakers or comfortable sandals are ideal. These types of shoes provide a laid-back look that fits in with the local culture while offering sufficient grip for walking or light hiking.

For evenings out or more formal occasions, it’s a good idea to pack a nicer pair of shoes. This will ensure you’re well-prepared for a night out at a resort or upscale restaurant in San Jose or other urban areas without sacrificing style or comfort.

Accessories for Comfort and Convenience

Accessories can greatly enhance your comfort and convenience during your Costa Rican adventure. From protective gear like sunglasses and hats to hydration solutions and practical add-ons, these items can make a world of difference in ensuring your trip goes smoothly. Knowing what to wear in Costa Rica is essential for a successful journey.

Packing a variety of accessories is recommended, as each can serve a specific purpose and enhance your overall experience. Here are the various categories of accessories you should consider including in your packing list.

Protective Gear

Sun and rain protection are essential when visiting Costa Rica. Sunglasses, hats, and visors will shield your face and eyes from the sun’s harmful rays, preventing sunburn and eye damage. Consider bringing a spare pair of sunglasses, as you never know when you might misplace or break your primary pair.

A sun hat or baseball cap will also help keep you cool in Costa Rica’s hot and humid climate. Opt for materials like cotton or straw that allow air to flow and keep you comfortable throughout the day.

Hydration and Dryness

In Costa Rica’s tropical climate, staying hydrated is of utmost importance. Bring an insulated water bottle to ensure you always have access to cool, refreshing water during your adventures. Insulated water bottles made of stainless steel are BPA-free and do not have other potentially harmful chemicals found in plastic bottles.

>> My Personal Favorite Travel Water Bottle

A microfiber towel is another must-have accessory for drying off and wiping sweat in humid conditions. These lightweight, quick-drying towels can absorb large amounts of water, making them perfect for beach days or after a refreshing dip in a waterfall.

Practical Add-Ons

Practical add-ons that can greatly enhance your overall experience in Costa Rica include some essential Costa Rica travel tips:

  • Headlamps or flashlights for navigating dimly lit areas or during nighttime excursions
  • Waterproof phone cases to protect your phone from water damage
  • Anti-theft travel bags to keep your belongings safe

These add-ons can make your trip more convenient and enjoyable.

Waterproof phone cases are essential for water activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, or simply enjoying the beach. These cases will protect your phone from water damage, ensuring you can capture memories without worry. An anti-theft travel bag adds an extra layer of security, providing peace of mind while you explore this amazing country.

Smart Packing Strategies

Packing smart is key to making the most of your Costa Rican adventure. This means employing strategies like layering clothes, using packing cubes to maximize space, and leaving unnecessary items at home. By focusing on essentials and items that serve multiple purposes, you’ll be able to pack lighter and more efficiently.

Here are some smart packing strategies to make your Costa Rica packing list streamlined and effective.

The Art of Layering

Layering clothes is a key technique for adapting to changing temperatures and conditions during your trip. By packing versatile pieces like a light jacket that can be mixed and matched, you’ll be able to easily add or remove layers as needed.

Choose clothing made from materials like wool, polyester, or silk, which provide insulation, wicking, and drying properties to keep you comfortable in varying weather conditions. Avoid cotton, as it does not work well with layering. By employing the art of layering, you’ll be prepared for any weather situation while exploring Costa Rica.

Maximizing Space with Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are a traveler’s best friend when it comes to organizing and compressing clothes in your luggage. These handy bags help you make the most of the space in your bag, keep everything tidy, and find items quickly.

travel cubes

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Use packing cubes to organize your clothing for your Costa Rican adventure:

  1. Sort your clothing by type, such as tops, bottoms, and undergarments.
  2. Roll your clothes tightly to fit more in each cube.
  3. Compress the cubes to save even more space.

By utilizing packing cubes, you’ll be able to fit everything you need without overpacking.

Choosing What Not to Bring

One of the keys to packing smart is leaving unnecessary items at home. Focus on essentials and a few items that serve multiple purposes to keep your luggage light and manageable.

For example, leave behind heavy winter clothing, excessive makeup, and high heels, as they are not necessary for a trip to Costa Rica. Instead, concentrate on packing versatile items like a sarong or a multi-tool that can serve as several items in one. By choosing what not to bring, you’ll be able to travel lighter and more efficiently during your Costa Rican adventure.

Health and Safety Considerations

Health and safety should be prioritized when traveling, including on trips to Costa Rica. Beyond the practical items previously mentioned, considerations should also include sun and insect protection, and travel insurance for emergencies.

By taking these health and safety considerations into account, you’ll be well-prepared to fully enjoy your adventure when you visit Costa Rica, staying protected and secure among the friendly Costa Ricans.

Sun and Insect Protection

To protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays and pesky insects, pack sunscreen with SPF 30-70, insect repellent, and after-sun care products. Sunscreen not only prevents sunburn but also protects against premature aging and skin cancer. Opt for eco-friendly sunscreens to avoid harming the environment.

Insect repellent is essential to ward off mosquitoes that can transmit diseases like Dengue Fever. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Choose a reliable brand that offers lasting protection
  • Apply the repellent regularly to exposed skin
  • Take precautions to minimize the risk of sunburn and insect bites during your trip

By following these steps, you can ensure a safer and more enjoyable experience.

Costa Rica Travel Insurance

Securing travel insurance for your Costa Rica trip can provide peace of mind during your adventure and is a recommended step. Travel insurance can cover medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and lost or stolen belongings.

Research different insurance providers to find the best coverage and price for your needs. Some recommended policies for Costa Rica include the Pandemic Plus Plan and the Safe Travels Voyager plan. By securing travel insurance, you’ll be prepared for any unexpected events that may occur during your journey.


In conclusion, packing for your Costa Rican adventure doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By focusing on versatile clothing, appropriate footwear, and essential accessories, you’ll be well-prepared to fully enjoy this incredible destination. Remember to consider health and safety aspects, such as sun and insect protection, as well as travel insurance for added peace of mind.

So, grab your bags, pack your essentials, and embark on the adventure of a lifetime in Costa Rica. Pura Vida!

Frequently Asked Questions

What can you not bring into Costa Rica?

You cannot bring plants, seeds, vegetables, or fruits into Costa Rica, so make sure to check your luggage before departing.

What do you wear on a night walk in Costa Rica?

Wear closed toed shoes, long pants and a jacket on your night walk in Costa Rica – it gets cool and can be windy or rainy. Keep in mind that you’ll be walking for 2 hours, so it may not be suitable for those with mobility issues.

What should you wear in San Jose Costa Rica?

When in San Jose Costa Rica, dress comfortably and casually – think shorts, tank tops, t-shirts and flip flops! It can get quite warm with daytime temperatures reaching 95 F (35 C) and high humidity.

Should you wear pants hiking in Costa Rica?

It is advisable to wear long pants while hiking in Costa Rica, as they can offer protection from unruly brush and other elements on the trail. Make sure to also bring along hiking boots/shoes, sunscreen, bug spray, hat, and a swimsuit and change of clothes/towel.

What type of clothing is best for Costa Rica’s varied climates?

For Costa Rica’s varying climates, lightweight and breathable beachwear, warm layers for higher altitudes, and quick-drying moisture-wicking fabrics are recommended – ideal for both relaxing on the beach and outdoor adventures.

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Tim Schmidt is a 20+ year Entrepreneur and Digital Marketer. A Fort Lauderdale-based "Digital Nomad," he enjoys traveling as much as possible with family and friends. AllWorld is his escape to document all of his adventures, including being a hardcore "foodie." He has property in Costa Rica and visits several times each year and is happy to offer his expert advice for planning your trip.

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