So, you’ve booked your flights and the excitement is building. Now it’s time to nail down that itinerary by planning some awe-inspiring things to do in Costa Rica. Whether you fancy hiking through a rainforest or relaxing with monkeys on a white sand beach, this stunning country has it all. We’d like to share our top 3 bases to explore from, and help you work out what to pack for Costa Rica, so you’ll be prepared no matter what adventures come your way.
Things to do in Costa Rica: Our Top 3 Places to Explore
Visit the mysterious cloud forests of Monteverde. Literally translated as green mountains, this unique habitat is home to a variety of plants and birds thanks to the constant haze of clouds and filtered sun. Popular activities include hiking through one of the cloud forest reserves, and exploring some of Costa Rica’s best hanging bridges. Strolling through the treetops is an experience not to be missed and gives you a completely different view of the rainforest and its wildlife.
“Costa Rica is a haven for wildlife and during our travels we spotted everything from hummingbirds, macaws, fireflies, iguanas and sloths as well as the weird, yet wonderful agouti and pizote. We heard the shrieks from the howler monkeys hanging out high up in the trees, watched the cheeky capuchin monkeys swinging from branch to branch and narrowly avoided tripping over the squirrel monkeys which darted across our path.” PR Executive at Explore, Olivia
For adventure-lovers, Monteverde offers a unique zip lining experience letting you cruise through the clouds over the rainforest canopy. And while in the area, take the opportunity to learn about one of Costa Rica’s most prominent crops, with a coffee tour.
2. Drake Bay
Described as the nature lovers’ playground, Drake Bay is so remote that getting there is an adventure in itself. And some of the most scenic spots can only be reached by boat (often followed by a short wade through shallow water to get to shore). But that’s what makes it the perfect place to unplug and get away from it all. It’s the kind of place you can snooze in a hammock all day and still see more wildlife than you would anywhere else in the world.
Stay here to visit Corcovado National Park: 161 square miles of protected rainforest, and home to all four of Costa Rica’s native monkey species. Or take a trip to Cano Island where you’ll find some of the clearest waters in Costa Rica. Look out for schools of colourful fish, as well as dophins, whales or white tip reef sharks if you’re lucky.
3. La Fortuna / Arenal
The charming town of La Fortuna lies in north-west Costa Rica and is dominated by the Arenal Volcano. Perfectly symmetrical, and standing at 1,366 metres high, Arenal is a spectacular sight, and until 2010 was active, regularly belching lava, gas and ash.
While in the area, explore the trails of the Arenal Volcano National Park and bathe in the hot springs, which are naturally heated by the volcano’s thermal energy – surely one of the most relaxing things to do in Costa Rica. Finally, make sure you save time for a trek to La Fortuna’s stunning waterfall. And if you’re feeling adventurous? Make sure you book a white water rafting experience on the Balsa river for an exhilarating, high adrenaline activity that you won’t forget.
What Should I Pack for Costa Rica?
If you’re wondering what to take to Costa Rica, we have plenty of advice. Your Costa Rica packing list will depend on what you plan to do during your stay. But assuming you have a fairly varied itinerary, we can give you the lowdown on Costa Rica travel essentials.
When choosing what to bring to Costa Rica, the right shoes are vital. Some of the rainforest trails can be slippery, especially in the wetter season (May-November), and lowland rainforests in the coastal regions can get very hot and humid. Heed warnings of snakes in the National Parks and choose appropriate footwear to avoid being bitten.
Footwear-wise, Costa Rica essentials are a pair of live-in beach sandals or flip flops (opt for a pair that can double as evening wear), a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or boots, and a pair of cooler hiking sandals.
When thinking about what to wear in Costa Rica, it’s important to consider the tropical climate and the time of year you’re travelling – the dry season lasts from December through April. Outside of this, your kit can get very wet very quickly.
Even in the dry season, the rainforests can be hot and humid, meaning your clothes will get soaked through. When packing for Costa Rica, choose breathable, fast-drying fabrics that wick away the moisture, and carry a change of clothes to keep you comfortable. Zip off trousers work well to give you the option of cooler shorts, or to provide extra protection against the sun and biting insects.
When hiking through rainforests you’re likely to come into contact with more than a few bugs. So, why not add something from our range of Insect repellent clothing to your Costa Rica packing list? Especially if you plan to take one of the popular night time tours of the rainforest. You’ll be glad of the extra protection against those midges.
And always carry your swimmers with you. Many of the most beautiful rainforest trails run down to the shores of beautiful white sandy beaches. You’ll be glad to cool down with a dip (and to give your kit an opportunity to dry) before you make your way home.
When working out what to wear to Costa Rica to relax in, think cool, light and casual. People generally don’t dress up, even in the evenings.
It might be tempting to leave the coats behind when packing for Costa Rica as you can pretty much guarantee the temperatures, right? Well yes, but it can get surprisingly cool in the cloud forest areas, especially early in the morning, and you’re likely to encounter some rain even in the dry season. We suggest taking a lightweight waterproof jacket that is easily compressed and put in your bag, and might just come in handy on your adventures.
Other Items for your Costa Rica Packing List
Take a decent rucksack with you to carry your hiking kit, and consider investing in a dry bag to protect your valuables if you’re travelling during the rainy season. Binoculars and a camera are a must to capture all the jaw-dropping wildlife just waiting to be discovered. And remember bug spray, sun cream, sunglasses and a hat for protection.
To find up-to-date Costa Rica travel advice visit the gov.uk website before you go.
When visiting Costa Rica, what to pack can be tricky due to the wealth of activities you might want to get up to. Hopefully we’ve helped shed some light on how to pack for Costa Rica, but if you need any more inspiration why not browse our men’s and women’s outdoor clothes?