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What if ...

Adventure Guide to Costa Rica

Never a ship sails out of the bay But carries my heart as a stowaway ~ Roselle Mercier Montgomery, writer, 1874-1933

Everyone does it. It starts with “what if?” – “What if it rains?” “What if it’s cold?” “What if we go out to a fancy place?” “What if you spill ketchup on your shirt and my dress gets caught in a taxi door?” Then we wind up packing too much.

So here’s the scoop – pack light, then take all your stuff back out and cut the quantity in half. The idea is to bring only enough clothes to last until you get to a laundromat, washing machine or store. Try to take no more than four to five days’ worth of clothes, no matter how long your trip. In San José you’ll find a number of self-service and drop-off laundromats (lavanderías) that will take care of your clothing for you.

AAuthor tip: Take older clothes that you won’t miss if you stain them or the laundry fades or shrinks them. You can always buy more there. Toiletry needs depend on what you’re doing and where. The better hotels have shampoo and soap – just about everything else is readily available in stores and supermarkets, so don’t bring a gallon. Leave any open toiletries and unwanted clothes in Costa Rica.


  • comfortable walking shoes with non-skid soles
  • several pairs of cotton socks
  • underwear
  • sandals
  • one/two pair no-iron slacks (great when jeans are too heavy).
  • one/two pair shorts
  • women: two modest lightweight dresses or skirts
  • two shirts or blouses
  • three T-shirts
  • swimsuit (carry it with you everywhere)
  • sleepwear
  • light cotton sweater or sport jacket
  • water-resistant windbreaker
  • hat and sunglasses
  • fanny pack and money belt
  • umbrella
  • flip flops for use on slippery bathroom floors
  • shampoo
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • prescription medicine
  • comb/brush
  • women: make-up as desired
  • personal hygiene products
  • sunscreen, UVA/UVB protection SPF 30+
  • good insect repellent, a must for back country travel
  • aloe gel for sunburn
  • Imodium AD and aspirin
  • triple antibiotic cream
  • Band-Aids
  • facecloth If you’re roughing it, also bring
  • bar soap
  • hand towel
  • toilet paper
  • small size sink stop
  • resealable plastic freezer bags (multiple uses)
  • antiseptic towelettes
  • handheld calculator
  • small flashlight
  • sharp penknife (be sure to pack this in luggage you are checking)
  • notebook and two pens
  • sun shield (stick-on dark plastic or round pop-open type), if renting a car
  • camera, film and extra camera batteries
  • Spanish-English dictionary or phrasebook
  • sports watch
  • earplugs
  • passport, ID, driver’s license
  • paperback novel (exchangeable at many hotels)
  • sewing kit with small scissors (packed in baggage being checked)
  • laundry bag
  • address book
  • credit cards and an ATM card
  • phone card
  • this book (very important)

  • Live, Retire, Relocate to Costa Rica Book by Christopher Howard

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