What To Pack For Costa Rica In Rainy Season
I’ve become a master at packing for beach trips, and have a foolproof packing list for chill beach vacays. But now having returned from a second trip to Costa Rica—both during the rainy season—I realized that this type of trip requires a slightly different packing list.
So after some trial and error, here is my ultimate list of what to pack for Costa Rica in rainy season. The thing with Costa Rica and other similar locations is that you’ll want to be prepared for more active/adventure-y things than if you were just chillin’ at a resort on the beach. So this list takes that into account, and pairs well with the other packing list.
Here’s a packing list for desert travel, if you’re headed there instead
Should you visit Costa Rica during rainy season?
In general I’d say yes. I went both times in late May, which is still very early in the rainy season. The first time it was great…overall a little cheaper and less crowded. We had some clouds and a few showers but plenty of sunshine too.
The second time it rained literally all but two hours of our week there. Just bad luck, there was a low-pressure system just sitting on top of Costa Rica and Nicaragua and it was very unusual. Not something you can plan for, and generally you’ll be okay going around that time.
If you’re planning a Costa Rican adventure, here are some tips to help!
Just a note before we dive in—I don’t work directly with any of these brands, but I may make a small affiliate commission from any Amazon sales that come through clicks from my links (which I greatly appreciate, and at no extra cost to you). All opinions are, as always, completely my own!
Packing list for Costa Rica
THE DAMP IS REAL!!! The biggest thing to know is that getting anything to dry will be hard, and you’ll be hot and damp quite a bit. Welcome to the tropics! So it’s important to plan ahead for that and make sure you have the right clothes and gear, including the right fabrics and an appropriate amount of different things.
Swimsuits (yes, plural)
You always want at least one extra when one gets wet. ‘Nuff said. Make sure you consider bathing suits that are comfortable for wearing around under clothes for hiking and other active itineraries. I like tankini tops like these and these, which I pair with various Athleta bikini bottoms.
Anytime I go to a beach or tropical destination, I carry a microfiber towel with me. You’ll still probably want a beach towel for laying out, but this is just for helping when you get wet unexpectedly.
The important consideration for what to pack for Costa Rica in rainy season is that you want something compact and light, but that will dry super quickly whenever you need it. This microfiber towel fits the bill, and has its own nifty little carrying pouch.
Quick-drying tennis shoes
I’m always pretty impressed by my Nike Pegasus tennis shoes, the ones I wear literally every day to run. I keep like 3 pairs on hand and rotate through them. A big part of the shoe is mesh, so they’re lightweight and dry pretty quickly, but also give me the support I need. No matter what you choose, keep it synthetic and lightweight so they’ll dry in a flash.
I did just find out that they’ve fairly significantly changed the design of the Pegasus so I may be on the hunt for new running shoes. Also, don’t forget other quick-drying clothes as well…think light, synthetic fabrics and stay away from things like cotton and jeans.
It’s not a great idea to go sock-less in tennis shoes when it’s this damp, but you also don’t want wet socks sitting on your skin (trenchfoot, AMIRITE??). These thin merino wool socks are perfect for providing that barrier, but breathe really well and dry very quickly.
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These Rockport Cobb Hill ones are the bomb, so comfy and can be walked in all day (what I’m wearing in the pic below). I wear these on any warm-weather city trip as well, if it requires me to walk around on cobblestones all day (and tramped all around Israel in them).
They cushion super well, don’t give me blisters, can even be worn comfortably when it’s raining and wet, and are cute (from the front at least…from the back they are a bit more athletic sandal).
For more of a “walk around, head to dinner and look cute, etc” sandal that’s not for all-day walking, Aerosoles are my #1 go-to, though they annoyingly discontinue the specific styles constantly…a style like this for instance. Other great brands I’ve found are Naturalizers (like these) and Vionics (like these), and these more affordable Auras are really good options.
I literally don’t go on any trip anywhere without these stuck in the outside pocket of my suitcase. I’ve worn these Havianas for years and love them.
For me, I don’t walk a ton in flip flops due to plantar issues, so it’s more about having something easy to slip on, walk around your hotel in, walk down the street to grab a coffee, etc. They’re affordable and last FOREVER, and provide really good cushioning and traction. They come in a billion colors and styles too, if that’s your thing (I love basic black).
This isn’t on my normal beach packing list, but considering what to pack in Costa Rica, these are definitely something to think about. Now, I cheated here on my most recent trip, because I knew that I wouldn’t be doing any activities where I’d need a *true* river sandal. I still almost talked myself into it, and definitely have for other Costa Rica and tropical trips.
Given the amount of waterfall hiking available, river sandals can be your best friend, and these Tevas are sturdy and not butt-ugly (I have a true hatred of most river sandals or even non-cute walking sandals). My only complaint with this particular pair is that I have very wide feet at one point and they tend to squeeze right there, but otherwise they’re super comfy and reliable.
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I got this assortment and loved it, though they change up the colors every so often (you can see in the first pic at the top of the post that one of mine has some fun pink in it).
I’m not usually a headband person solely because I can’t keep them on my head to save my life. Between head shape and super fine silky hair, it’s annoying…but they’re cute and very practical in wind, especially at the beach.
And if your hair gets beach-y (read: gross and salt-encrusted) enough, staying on isn’t as much of a problem 🙂
Cute sundresses and swimsuit coverups
You don’t need to go fancy on this, but finding something cute is nice. I am particularly in love with this one, which can be both a dress or swimsuit coverup (it’s what I’m wearing in the pic above). The bright pattern made me happy and was very flattering (it’s become my new go-to beach trip dress). I have it in solid navy as well (which I wore literally my entire trip to Caye Caulker).
Here’s another dress/coverup that I’ve used frequently…I like the v-neck and v-back, looks cute (but if you’re wearing a halter neck swimsuit it can look a little weird so more of a dress than coverup).
Overall from a clothing standpoint, you want something breathable and loose. Personally, I’m a dress girl so went that route. I’ve had excellent luck with StitchFix in the past few years (the dress below is from them), though prefer to pick my own out vs. use the personal shopper option.
Amazon is where I get a lot of my dresses these days. Some good styles would be a t-shirt dress, a tank dress, or something flowy with fluttery cap sleeves (I wore this all over Oia). You can get away with flowy skirts (like this) or long flowy dresses (like this, this and this) as well.
This bad boy goes EVERYWHERE with me. I’ve used it for years and it always does exactly what I need it to do. It packs flat, so I can throw it in my suitcase and then pull it out as needed. It’s super roomy, water-resistant, cleans up easily, and the strap is really comfy. I’ve taken it hiking, all around cities, to the beach—where I go, it goes.
I wrote a whole post about how much I love it, if you want to know more. It’s an eBags brand purse but they’ve recently discontinued them, but you can also get it here on Amazon (and know that the price fluctuates so you can snag it for like $35 there if you keep an eye on it).
Backpack for day hiking
Ugh, guys, I hate backpacks. I get that they’re a necessary evil but I just find them super uncomfortable. But for a Costa Rica trip they are something I’d strongly encourage, especially if you plan to do any hiking.
I have the Osprey Celeste but it looks like they’ve maybe discontinued it, so this one is very close (this is more of a daypack but less intense and heavy for hiking anyway).
I’ve written an entire post about the 9 sunscreens I love most for travel, and then more recently have fallen in love with Korean moisturizers and sunscreens. I hate having to wear sunscreen, but it is an absolute must, so I tested out a ton til I could find things I liked and my skin didn’t hate.
A beach or tropical destination is about the only time I ever check a bag, and that’s specifically so I can bring enough of the sunscreen I love (plus spray sunscreen…if you’re a solo traveler, SPRAY SUNSCREEN IS YOUR FRIEND!!!).
The two posts linked above have all your needs covered, from best high and lower SPF face sunscreens, my favorite sprays, lotions, reef/coral-safe ones, and even for lips (my lips are the one part of me that burns sooo easily). Plus I’m completely in love with Korean face sunscreens because they don’t make me greasy, so if you haven’t tried those they’re worth testing out!
Anti-Chafe glide to prevent heat rash
Thigh rub is real!! I’ve tried both BodyGlide’s and Gold Bond’s, and I’m perfectly happy with both/either. This works great not only for your inner thighs, but also for under-boob, underarm, feet, and more.
Not everyone may need this, but I find it extremely helpful to have on-hand. All the damp and heat can make things like eczema flare up, plus then you factor in things like bug bites or heat rash. Yes, you could find a pharmacy, but having a tiny tube of this has saved me time and discomfort over many trips.
I realize it’s dumb to have to say that, but it’s easy to skimp on simple jammies/clothes for lying around. Make sure you bring comfy tank tops and shorts so you can chill in a hammock and have something fresh to change into when you sweat through it or get rained on…
A camisole can do double-duty with sleeping as well. This one from Pact (made from organic free-trade cotton) is my absolute fave, both for sleeping and wearing around all day. I get a lot of my sleepwear from Old Navy as well.
Protect that phone! This one is a good, affordable option that should still get you good photos if and when you take it into the water with you. And will definitely protect you from rain.
What *not* to pack for Costa Rica
- Jewelry (especially anything valuable); be careful about valuables in general
- Jeans – they will never dry and you’ll be uncomfortable the whole time
- Too much cotton – same reason, it just is really hard to get dry
So there you have it…a detailed list of what to pack or Costa Rica during rainy season, everything you need to have a comfy and fun adventure! Anything I missed?? Hit me up in the comments with recos and questions!
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