In The Suitcase: The Costa Rica Packing List

(Apologies for the small hiatus in between blogs; we had to re-route ourselves to Chicago for a family emergency and are now back in the quiet sanctuary of our home in DC. Pictures from Costa Rica coming soon!)

Costa Rica is a beautiful, sandy, muddy, wet, breezy, sometimes cool, sometimes hot and humid country with much to see and enjoy. Here’s our list of packing essentials that we were thankful for bringing and/ or wishing we had.

1. Hiking shoes with excellent tread. I had some aging trail runners that fared okay, except for the extremely muddy areas. Galoshes and wellies can be rented at some parks, if you don’t feel like dragging them on your trip.

2. Travel towels. We like these quick-drying MSR PackTowl Ultralite from REI. You’ll want to wash them between uses because the odor of ocean, beach, swimming hole, river and whatever else you’ve been submerged in starts to fester if you don’t. Which brings me to:

3. Extra socks. And…

4. Laundry detergent. It’s nice to have a little fresh-clean scent even if you’re just handwashing out of a hotel sink.

5. Travel locks. Everywhere in Costa Rica emphasizes not leaving your luggage in your car and to watch your belongings, your pockets, your backpacks; even in hotel rooms and especially campsites. And after our little visit to the police station in La Fortuna, we began locking everything – besides our suitcases, we also wrapped cables around them and locked them to ring attachments in the trunk of our 4×4. In more questionable, open hotels, we locked them to furniture. Yes, we could be called paranoid, but it also gave us a better peace of mind. The PacSafe WrapSafe  can also double as a bike lock and takes up little room in your suitcase. 

6. Binoculars. We took a pair that came from the Sharper Image that double as opera glasses and fit into Jon’s cargo pockets; if you’re a real bird watching enthusiast, you’ll already own field glasses suitable for war. But even if you’ve always thought you were too young to be a bird watcher but are a rubbernecker (like on a highway), you’ll find yourself craining your neck upwards in curiousity to see what everyone else is staring at.



7. Raingear. It will rain sometime (after all, it is a rainforest) so stick a couple Sierra MicroLight Jacket in your backpack. The anoraks come in their own little pouch and do well with wind or cooler temperatures, too.

8. Flashlight. I’m a big fan of the headlamp (see entry here about Yuppie Backpacker Gear) which came in handy during our night hike, dimly lit paths around the hotel, and during the power outtage in Quepos that left the entire town in pitch black.

9. Hydrocortisone. The mosquitoes here work backwards: Unlike the bugs we know which bite and make us itch immediately and scratch until the bites bleed, these first they make you bleed, but not itch; then about 24 hours later you’ll discover itchy welts and start scratching. The power for them lies in not being detected immediately, so they can feast away on you all night, which they did and left very red bumps on most tourists we saw.

10. Lastly, some other helpful items: a first-aid kit, flip-flops, a hat (of course), sunscreen, multiple swmisuits, a sweatshirt (it gets quite cool at night in mountain areas, such as Monteverde), drybag and watershoes (if you’re rafting), and cold-weather clothes if you decide to hike to high peaks like Chirripo where the weather can dip to freezing temperatures. And of course, personal entertainment: deck of cards, frisbee, and a book.


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Filed under In The Suitcase, South/ Central America

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