Costa Rica Packing List

What to pack and what to expect

Be prepared for a safe and fun vacation

Whether you’re going over seas or around the corner, it can be intimidating to visit an unfamiliar place. We have compiled this list to help you plan your trip, stay safe and comfortable, and get the most out of your experience in Costa Rica. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Packing List (Hint: Pack lightly)

Suggested items and Starred * items we consider essential:

  • *Lightweight, sturdy high top hiking boots (protection for ankles) with a good tread suggested for hiking.
  • Walking or athletic shoes with a good tread suggested for walks
  • *Sturdy waterproof sandals or river shoes
  • *Insect repellant – with DEET
  • *Sunscreen – with high sun protection factor, such as SPF 30-40
  • Hat or cap rain and sun protection
  • Sunglasses NOTE: If you wear glasses remember to bring a croakie so you won’t loose them during activities.
  • Binoculars (being in Costa Rica without good binoculars are like snorkeling without a mask)  
  • *Flashlight
  • Pocket knife
  • Extra socks
  • Check batteries in camera – the most often heard complaint from our guests is that their camera batteries don’t last through the day.
  • Shirts and pants made from light weight, natural fibers. At least one outfit made of high tech fast drying material.  Several pairs of shorts.
  • A Compass or compass app – see our website for driving tips.
  • If you have an open phone, you can buy a pre-paid chip at the airport and put it in your phone, the cell signal is pretty good here as is the data system. Waze works the best for navigation. 
  • One or two swimming suits
  • Poncho or rain gear Light weight, a poncho in a little pouch is fine.
  • Light jacket or sweater for higher elevations and chilly nights
  • *Day pack (For valuables/camera/passport-so you can carry these items with you).
  • *Container for drinking water. In most of Costa Rica it is not necessary to buy bottled water. The water in our area is pure spring water.
  • Plastic bags – for keeping books, binoculars and other items dry and for wet clothing.
  • Money in small demonations-$20’s, 10’s, 5’s and 1’s. It is hard to cash $100 bills in some places, and travelers checks are becoming a nuisance to use most places do not take travelers checks. ATM machines are commonly found in any city with a bank. Bring a back up bank card if possible. Notify your bank that you will be in traveling in Costa Rica so you won’t have trouble using your cards out of your home country.
  • *Easy to carry healthy snacks, energy bars.
  • Small first aide kit with moleskin for blisters from hiking boots. Ear plugs
  • Spanish/English dictionary and calculator for figuring currency exchange.
  • *Map of Costa Rica. Plan your route in advance, even if you plan to use a GPS
  • Some of our guests want to include items for donation on their packing list. If you would like to bring things to donate that would be terrific. Books for the new local library would be appreciated! 
  • *If you plan to tip, please bring cash for tipping. 

FOR EPONICITY retreats: 

  • A Zippered Horn bag for your saddle is handy. We have a few, but they seem to disappear!
  • *Snacks (Cliff bars or nuts are great) for times when we may not be eating on schedule if we are on ‘horse time’! 
  • A riding helmet if you want to bring your own, that  is fine, we do have riding helmets it is not necessary to buy one. 
  • Riding shoes with pointed toes or tennis shoes are fine too if the toe is not too wide. 
  • All participants must carry travel insurance with emergency coverage for medical care. 

What to Expect

  1. You probably have some pre-conceptions about what your trip will be like. You may have seen documentaries, read books or articles on the flora and fauna of Costa Rica. Remember those films have footage from months of tramping through the forest in the best circumstances. A good guide is essential to get the most out of your time in the rain forest.
  2. Part of the fun and at times the difficulty, of traveling to new regions of the world is trying to adapt to various environments and situations. Try to look at it as a positive, interesting and exciting experience. Observe and appreciate how the people of Costa Rica have adapted to their particular environment.
  3. The “Tico system” was inherited in part from their mother country, Spain, and as many “Ticos” will quickly tell you, it is even less efficient now. Try to understand and make the most of it.
  4. Mother Nature may affect your travel plans. Be patient and calm, everything eventually works out just fine.
  5. Part of the fun of traveling is trying to communicate with the local people. Whatever Spanish you know, use it! In any case smile, smiles are a major means of communicating everywhere in the world.
  6. More people have to change their vacation plans because of sunburn than any other reason. The sun’s ultraviolet rays are direct and stronger in Costa Rica because of its close proximity to the Equator (10 degrees north). Please bring sun block and use it.
  7. Bluejeans frog

    Blue Jean Poison Dart Frog

    Costa Rica has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but not all are safe for swimming. Before you take the plunge ask a local!

  8. Cars do not yield to other cars or pedestrians! Be careful crossing the street.
  9. Make every effort to have a minimal negative impact on the natural and human environment that you encounter and to conserve natural resources both during your stay in Costa Rica and when you return home.
  10. Traveling in Costa Rica can be tiresome. Allow 3 hours to cover 100 miles (160km). Try to plan in an extra hour for road delays. ALWAYS plan to arrive at your destination before dark. Plan to arrive before 5pm at any destination. Become familiar with Spanish street signs. See the Leaves and Lizards website for more information about driving in Costa Rica.

Be a safe traveler

Statistically, you are probably safer from crime in Costa Rica than in your home country. On the other hand, tourists are better targets for petty theft than local citizens, in part because their attention often is focused on new sights and sounds rather than personal security.

  • Leave your valuable jewelry at home.
  • Wear your day pack on your chest when walking around San Jose.
  • Don’t flash large amounts of cash.
  • Make copies of your passport before leaving home, leave one copy at home, and take one copy with you. If possible scan your passport and email it to yourself, so you will always be able to access a copy on line in an emergency.
  • Keep your passport in a safe place while traveling.
  • Don’t leave any valuables in the car-ever.
  • Do not accept any unsolicited help. Generally you will be fine if you are the one that asks for help. Costa Ricans are generous people always willing to assist a person in need.
  • Beware of bargain guides or bargain tours. You get what you pay for. That bargain tour or guide can put you in an unsafe situation with poorly maintained equipment, unsafe, poorly cared for horses or even in the hands of a criminal.
  • The Costa Rican government has a new police force specifically dedicated to tourism. They are there just to assist tourists and assure our tourists are safe and protected. Their presence in areas heavily traveled by tourists lets criminals know that crimes against tourists will not be tolerated by the Costa Rican government.
  • Most of all just use common sense.
  • There is a kiosk at the airport, KOLBI, that you can purchase cell phone cards, and/or an inexpensive cell phone for use while in the country. If you have an unlocked phone, you can put a Costa Rica chip in it and it will work.
  • Finally, one of the justifications for travel is that cultural exchange leads to understanding and brotherhood. Please remember that things that are different in Costa Rica, not necessarily better or worse than those in your country, they’re just different. There are ideas and attitudes in all societies that might be beneficially adopted by others. Look for them!