What to Pack
Tourists are permitted to bring binoculars, two cameras, and electrical items that are for personal use only, like a small radio, a hairdryer, a laptop, a video camera, etc.
The most important thing to remember is that the items should not be in their original boxes and not look too new. The Costa Rican government doesn't want tourists to "import" electronic items for resale.
In San José during the rainy season, people usually carry umbrellas-- brightly colored sombrillas for women and black paraguas for men. In the mountains, a lightweight rain poncho is usually more convenient except for those who wear glasses. You'll be glad to have high rubber boots if you go hiking in the rainforest during the rainy season, especially in Corcovado or Sarapiquí. You can buy good ones in Costa Rica for under $10 at San José's Mercado Central and at provincial supply stores, and many places rent them to visitors or include them as part of a tour. Bring boots from home only if you wear an especially large size.
When you go to the beach or rainforest, bring at least one shirt for each day. You're bound to get sweaty. Lightweight cotton or cotton-mix clothing is best, protected inside a plastic bag in case of sudden downpours. Even if you are going to the steamy lowlands, you often have to pass through high mountains to get there--Cerro de la Muerte on the way to the Osa, Braulio Carrillo on the way to Sarapiquí or Talamanca. You'll be happier if you have a windbreaker, long pants, and socks that can be peeled off as you get to lower altitudes.
Most hotels will let you store excess luggage while you venture off. You can usually fit everything needed for a trip to the countryside in a day pack so bring lightweight daypacks that you can roll up inside your luggage, so you can leave your larger suitcases in storage and travel light. Plus:
- Two bathing suits
- Three pairs of lightweight pants and shorts
- A cotton overshirt
- A cover-up to wear at the beach
- Socks for each day of your trip
- Shirts for each day
- An umbrella or rain poncho
- A lightweight, one-layer, hooded nylon windbreaker, especially the kind that folds up into a handy little pouch made out of the front pocket. If you are traveling during the dry season and not planning to spend a lot of time atop volcanoes, it's all you'll need to keep warm and to ward off occasional raindrops. If you are going to Irazú, Poás, Chirripó, or other high-altitude areas, you'll need a lined jacket and warm socks.
- Plenty of memory, rechargeable batteries, recharger and a waterproof case for your camera
- Pocket alarm clock or watch with alarm
- Valid passports for all members of your party, including children and babies
- Drivers licenses if you plan to rent a car
- Pocket calculator
- Waterproof, lightweight hiking boots or two pairs of tennis shoes with good treads. If one pair gets wet, use that pair whenever you are likely to get your feet wet again; plastic bags to store them in.
- Sandals that won't slide off your feet
- Beach sandals or waterwalkers
- Hats with visors for sun or rain protection
- Insect repellent
- Anti-itch ointment
- Small first-aid kit
- Metal water bottle
- Contact lens solution or an extra pair of glasses
- Toothbrush, toothpaste
- Other toiletries in a plastic bag to comply with airline carry-on regulations
- Birth control items
- Vitamins or medications
- A universal plug for bathroom sinks
- Beach towel
- Your own plastic cup
- Flashlight with rechargeable batteries and extra bulb, or preferably a wind-up self-charging flashlight
- String and clothespins for hanging laundry
- Battery-operated reading lamp if you'll be staying in inexpensive places (be aware that lamps attract bugs!)
- Plastic bags for storing wet clothes and for protecting dry clothes and equipment
- Grapefruit seed extract capsules for stomach upsets (you can also buy grapefruit seed extract drops but they taste horrible!) Grapefruit seed extract is a natural antibiotic that will kill bacteria or parasites that you might have ingested