A backpack outside at sunset

Packing List

Before travel, preparing a good packing list is important. Whenever you travel, you should pack everyday essentials like toiletries, toothpaste, prescription medicines, and a small first aid kit. Be sure to bring your passport. And be sure to check that it is up to date. A bottle each of sunscreen and insect repellent is advisable.

Here are some additional items that we consider essential, or at least handy. Add these to your packing list and you’ll be glad you did.

(If it’s not entirely obvious, you can click on the photos to see & buy them over at Amazon.com.)


I use these and love them. There are bigger, better and much more expensive ones out there, but these hit a sweet spot for me:

If you’re looking for something more compact:

I always love to have a headlamp handy, whether for getting to and from the restaurant at a remote lodge at night, or reading in bed when the provided lighting isn’t up to snuff:

These are great for so many uses: white water rafting, walking on the beaches (especially on exposed coral and rocks), gentle hiking, hot springs, and more.

And of course they come in styles for both men and women:

I’m biased towards this next one, as I spent 20 years writing, updating and expanding it before starting this agency. Although I’m no longer listed as the author, much of my work remains:

Costa Rica’s abundant wildlife is one the the main reasons many travel to the country. This is the best all-around field guide I’ve found:

And of course, if it’s just birds you’re after:

Beyond just identifying species, it’s helpful to know a little about the biology and ecosystems you are visiting. This book is by far my favorite book on the subject. It is one of my favorite books of all time, with lively, engaging and often humorous writing:

More and more folks are relying almost solely on their phones and laptops, but for others, there’s nothing like holding a good map in your hands. This is a great map:


Surfers know these well, but they’re the perfect sun protection and water wear for everyone. Great UV protection, quick drying and comfortable:

These are light, cool, keep critters off and dry fast:

I like these, they’re light, quick drying and good for just about any hiking situation I’ve encountered in Costa Rica:

And for her:

I almost never head to the beach without this. It’s light, compact and quick to set up:

These will help you fit more gear in a small space, but watch out for overweight charges:

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