Storm on the Beach in Costa Rica

Costa Rica and Nicaragua are tropical countries located slightly north of the Equator. Depending on whether you are visiting in the dry or wet season you would need to consider what to pack for Costa Rica and Nicaragua somewhat differently. As James Kaiser, a travel photographer and guide books writer, puts it: “Located at 10 degrees latitude, the sun shines brighter and the rain falls harder here.”

Wet vs. dry season in Central America

Wet season (also known as “green” season) is from May to October and is more noticeable at higher altitudes where it can get colder and much wetter. The tops of the mountains get a lot more rain than the beach so if you are planning on hiking volcanos or exploring the jungle, maybe you’d prefer to visit in the dry season. If you are looking to spend more time by the beach, rainy season shouldn’t affect you that much, especially if you head to the Northwest province of Guanacaste. The ocean water is still warm, beaches are uncrowded and the surf is amazing! Sure, you may experience a downpour in the afternoon but you are already wet from swimming and surfing in rain is the coolest experience anyways! The dry season is from November to April, which coincides perfectly with the chilly weather in the US, Europe, and Canada. Expect more tourists and some popular beach areas such as Jaco, Santa Teresa and Manuel Antonio may be overpopulated. Playa Avellanas right outside of Tamarindo, Guanacaste is still very secluded and you get to enjoy empty surf breaks even when everyone else around the country is waiting in line up.

What to pack for Costa Rica and Nicaragua – the essentials:

  • Bikini / board shorts – bring all the pairs you’ve got, even purchase some new ones upon arrival. There will be very few times that you’ll be living outside of your beach gear.
  • Rashguard – cheaper to buy at home and you’ve got more choice. Provides SPF protection and will serve as a barrier between you and the board.
  • Sunscreen – 50 SPF water-resistant sunscreen for the beach and zinc paste for surfing. Bring double the amount of sunscreen you usually need as your favorite brand may not be available here. In general it is at least double the price. Zinc you can purchase at camp, we’ll explain why/how to use it.
  • Hat / sunshades – it’s the tropics, it’s hot and sunny (even in the wet season) 🙂 . Any wide-brimmed hat will do, the sunshades should be polarized if possible or with very dark lenses at least. The sun is very strong, protect your eyes!
  • Mosquito repellent – some sources recommend DEET, others mentioned mosquito repellent wristbands. At Rapture Surfcamps we’ve got our own home-made natural lemongrass oil repellent. You are welcome to use as much as you need. Tried and tested by everyone at camp, it sure doesn’t let the bugs bug you 🙂
  • Flashlight / headlamp – you may need it to light the path for you if you venture out at night. It may come handy if you stay in a dorm and don’t want to bother everyone else sleeping when you come back late at night.
  • Sarong for girls (or just a light towel for guys) – you can use it as a beach dress / towel. Bath towels are provided at camp.
  • Power banks / battery packs – if the electricity goes out or if you are on a long bus trip, you don’t want to be caught up without your electronics fully charged. Plugs are 110 Vt, US/Canada standard, plan accordingly and bring your adapters.
  • Hiking / water shoes – in general flip flops and sneakers should do. But if you plan to go on adventures bring hiking shoes and sports sandals/water shoes.
  • Day pack – in addition to a large backpack / suitcase, consider bringing a small day pack for hiking trips. Also, to run to town.
  • Waterproof phone case (cord that hangs on your neck) – if you’d like to use your camera while adventuring on land and water, buy a waterproof case and a cord hanging off your neck. You don’t want to drop or soak your phone while rafting, horseback riding, or going on boat trips. For surfing you need a special case for your GoPro.
  • Travel insurance – we hope you wont need it but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get it 🙂 We recommend WorldNomads for all your adventure travel.
  • First aid kit – we’ve got you covered at camp with basic wound treatment and illness prevention but you may want a kit if you plan to venture on your own and do volcano hikes, camping trips and other adventures.
  • Visas – visitors from most countries can get a 90-day tourist visa to Costa Rica and Nicaragua upon arrival. Have a round trip ticket, you may be asked to show a return ticket at entry (and pay ~$10 in Nicaragua). Check your country’s exact visa requirements before you travel.
Waterfall in Costa Rica
Rapture Surfcamps Costa Rica Llanos de Cortez Waterfall

Additional items to bring in rainy season:

  • Sturdy raincoat or poncho that covers your backpack too – trust us, when it rains, it pours
  • Long pants – preferably water-proof if you have such or hiking pants that unzip under the knee
  • Warm clothes – one sweatshirt / sweater, pair of jeans / long pants. Also a warm hat if you plan to hike at altitude

We can’t wait to show you the beauty of this piece of paradise called Central America. Don’t hesitate to ask us questions on what to pack for Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Costa Rica Jungle Sunset
Jungle Sunset