Your bags aren’t packed and you’re not ready to go. In fact, you feel like you’re scrambling a bit: What do you need to pack for Costa Rica? Is there a specific Tamarindo packing list you should know about? (Yes! Hi there! Welcome!)
Do you need a raincoat? How much sunblock should you bring? Will your favorite insect repellent do the trick? Do you need any special shoes? And, even more importantly, what are you forgetting completely? Because you know there’s something. Definitely something. You just have no idea what.
Breathe. Packing for your Costa Rican vacation is pretty straightforward. We’re going to assume you already know the basics: shirts, shorts, pants (yep, a least a nicer pair for going out to dinner), travel toiletries, and a digital camera, to start. These essentials depend on you and your family.
So, let’s move on to the stuff you may not know you should bring (like a dry bag), or don’t know exactly what kind you should bring (waterproof sunblock, for sure!). From rain-resistant wildlife guides to floating camera straps, we’ve compiled our very own Tamarindo packing list, packed (please don’t hold our puns against us!) full of all the things you don’t want to forget and a few extras you might want to bring along on your trip to Costa Rica, depending on your travel style.
If you think guidebooks are old school, think again! Even if you’re handing your Tamarindo vacation planning over to Cris, our in-house concierge (who will help plan your trip for free!), guidebooks can help you get a handle on what’s most important to you: What do you just have to see? Where might you like to take day trips?
What’s more, there are plenty of bookish add-ons for your Costa Rican vacation, like field & wildlife guides and waterproof maps – bring-with-you books that will add to your experience while in the country.
Here are a few of our favorite Costa Rica guidebooks, field guides, and other books:
These don’t quite make our Tamarindo packing list, but they definitely top our prep list: tell Cris what you want to see, do and visit, thanks to these excellent guides.
- Frommer’s Costa Rica: This full-color guidebook offers plenty of in-depth travel information on Costa Rica and, of course, Tamarindo!
- DK Eyewitness: Costa Rica: With gorgeous photos and an included 48-page field guide, this book helps you plan and doubles as a field guide while you’re here.
- Lonely Planet Costa Rica: Lonely Planet is no longer a backpackers’ / budget travel guide only; this full-color book offers plenty of up-to-date info, color photos, and even 50+ color maps.
- Fodor’s Costa Rica: With plenty of maps, day trip ideas, and magazine-style features, this full-color guide is another mainstay of Costa Rican guidebooks.
- A Kid’s Guide to Costa Rica: Family vacation to Costa Rica? Pick up this kid-friendly guide to Costa Rica, packed with high-interest text that’ll help your kids make informed decisions about what they want to do.
Several of these books do make our Tamarindo packing list – as in, pack them and bring them! They’ll be your constant companions on hikes, afternoon sales, backroad drives, and other adventures.
- Waterproof Travel Map of Costa Rica: This rugged travel map will see you through thick and thin, even if a downpour catches up to you in the rainforest!
- Pocket Naturalist Guides: Speaking of waterproof, we love these small, folding, and waterproof guides to Costa Rican nature. There are guides to Costa Rica Wildlife, Costa Rica Birds, Costa Rica Tropical Flowers, Costa Rica Reptiles, Costa Rica Tropical Fruits, Costa Rica Pacific Coast Marine Wildlife, Costa Rica Mammals and Tracks, Costa Rica Orchid Identification, and more.
- The Wildlife of Costa Rica: A Field Guide: If you’re looking for a robust wildlife guide, this is it. And we mean It – this is the wildlife guide to Costa Rica. Look no further!
- The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide: Serious birders can’t miss this excellent guide to Costa Rican bird life. Pack in your suitcase!
- The Mammals of Costa Rica: A Natural History and Field Guide: Yes, there’s a theme here: nature! Costa Rica is known for its nature, so it should come as no surprise that there’s a field guide for everything. This one’s for our mammals.
- Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica: Love red-eyed tree frogs or want to identify a lizard on your walks? This is the book for you.
- Tropical Plants of Costa Rica: A Guide to Native and Exotic Flora: We’ll round out our list with this guide, which is a perfect choice if you love flowers, trees, or other flora.
- Lonely Planet Costa Rican Spanish Phrasebook & Dictionary: Last but not least, a Costa Rican Spanish dictionary! You’ll find standard phrases and vocabulary here, but it’s rounded out by Costa Rica-specific expression. ¡Pura vida!
Let’s fast-forward through standard clothing fare: shorts, shirts, sandals, bathing suits, etc. etc. – you know what you need, and you know what works for your family. Once you have those items set aside, circle back here because we have a few things you may not know you need but definitely don’t want to forget for your trip to Costa Rica.
Here’s our list:
- Hiking Boots: If you plan on hiking through the rainforest, cloud forest, or dry forest, you’re going to want some good hiking boots, preferably of the water-resistant variety.
- Quick-dry Socks: Whether you’re splashing through puddles, hiking the rainforest or just sweating, a few pairs of moisture-wicking, quick-dry socks (like these for men and women) are all you’ll need. Just wash in the sink and hang dry for the next hike!
- Rain Jacket/Parka: If you plan to visit rainforests, or are traveling during Costa Rica’s green season (May-November), make sure some lightweight (read: not too hot) rain jackets (see these men, women & kid versions) make their way into your luggage.
- Poncho: If you’re not the raincoat type, grab some super compact, unisex ponchos for adults and kids.
- Water Sandals: Waterproof hiking sandals are a great choice for hiking and walking Costa Rica’s rugged coast, rocky beaches, and cool rivers. Keen is a top brand, with choices for men, women, and children.
- Sun Hat: Sun hats don’t have to look silly. What’s more, many have built-in SPF, making them a great choice when you’re out and about. There are fashion-do choices for men, women, and kids (boys and girls).
Gear + Goodies
You don’t need to be outdoorsy to need some rugged travel gear: Costa Rica practically begs you to get active, whether you’re surfing on Tamarindo Beach or taking a dip in Rincon de la Vieja’s hot springs. For all your Costa Rican adventures, you’ll want to gear up with extras that are either rugged or designed to keep your existing gear safe, even if you take a dip outside your whitewater raft. (Oops.)
- Shockproof, Waterproof Camera: Costa Rica is an adventure, so you’re going to need a camera that’s adventurous, too. Both ETTG and Kingear make digital camera models that are waterproof, drop-proof and Costa Rica-proof.
- Extra Memory Cards: There’s nothing worse than not having enough space to store your vacation photos, so be sure to pack a few extra memory cards. Be sure they’re compatible with your camera!
- Floating Camera Strap: There’s no better accessory for your waterproof camera or waterproof smartphone case, than a floating strap. Whether you’re surfing in the sea or chilling in the hot springs, you’ll always know where your camera is.
- Waterproof Electronics Bag: Chances are, your phone is coming on your adventures – into whitewater rivers, onto canopy tours, and through tropical forests. Keep your phone safe with a waterproof universal case.
- Dry Sack: If you want to keep more than your phone dry, look no further than a waterproof dry bag, which you can pack full of the day’s supplies, including a change of clothes for post-snorkeling, after whitewater rafting, and throughout other water activities.
- Travel Surge Protector: Protect all your electronics with a travel surge protector. We like this linked version, which has three outlets and two USB chargers – enough for all your gadgets.
- Travel Binoculars: Bird or wildlife watching? You’ll appreciate these waterproof, fog-proof, and compact travel binoculars.
- Collapsible Water Bottle: Save packing space and the environment, with a collapsible bottle you can refill anytime, anywhere.
- Lightweight Daypack: Stash all your gear in an ultra-lightweight daypack.
Health & Safety
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. From must-have sunscreen to you-probably-won’t-need-it first aid, these compact and easy-to-pack items keep you and your family healthy and safe while on vacation.
- Sunscreen: Costa Rica is just 9º north of the equator, and the sun is strong here! Pack some high-factor water-resistant sunblock, facial sunblock, and spray sunblock to reapply, even when your skin is wet. And then, reapply (seriously) every 90 minutes.
- Insect Repellent: Protect yourself from tropical insects with a strong defense. We prefer to use a natural repellent for everyday use, and a DEET-based repellent as a backup. Repellent bracelets and stickers are also a great preventive measure, especially if you’re traveling with kids.
- After Bite: Pack this just-in-case ointment, and ditch the itch.
- Travel First Aid Kit: Better safe than sorry, right? A travel first aid kit packs in the necessities without taking up space.
Accessories + Extras
For all our recommendations that don’t fit another category, we give you Accessories & Extras: Costa Rica packing musts and would-like-to-haves that will make your trip a little more comfortable and convenient.
- TSA-approved Luggage Locks: You can’t get around the TSA but you can get around broken locks, thanks to these TSA-friendly versions.
- Vacuum-seal Packing Bags: Compress your clothes with these vacuum-seal (no actual vacuum required!) packing bags. Who knows? You may even make it down with just a carry-on!
- Packing Cubes: Don’t want to compress your clothes into plastic bags? You can at least stay organized with these excellent packing cubes.
- Travel Pillow: Fly, drive, and overall stay comfortable with this superb travel pillow with chin support.
And there you have it – our Tamarindo packing list, full of the things you didn’t know you needed but once you’re here, will be thankful you packed. Happy travels!
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