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.”

Be prepared for a wide range of different climates

Costa Rica and Nicaragua with their long coasts of Caribbean and Pacific beaches as well as mountainous highlands, thick rainforests, and abundant valleys both boast a wide range of different climates.

The weather and the amount of rainfall both depend on your elevation. In a town like Monteverde for example you’ll find a cool mist and fog every day of the year. On the other hand, in the area around Guanacaste, thanks to his proximity to the coast, the weather is hot and dry, perfect for the many world-class beaches.

The Wet season

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, the rainy season shouldn’t affect you that much, especially if you head to the Northwest province of Guanacaste. The ocean water is still warm, the 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

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 the line-up.

Waterfall in Costa Rica
Costa Rica Llanos de Cortez Waterfall

The 19 items you should take with you on a trip to the tropics:

1. Bikini/board shorts

Bring with you 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.

2. Rashguard

It’s cheaper to buy at home and you’ve got more choices. Provides SPF protection and will serve as a barrier between you and the board.

3. A Good 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.

4. Hat

It’s the tropics, it’s hot and sunny (even in the wet season). Any wide-brimmed hat will do. The sun is very strong, protect your eyes and your head!

5. 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.

6. Flashlight or a 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.

7. 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.

8. Power banks

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 and battery packs.

9. Hiking shoes

In general flip flops and sneakers should do. But if you plan to go on adventures bring hiking shoes (better if waterproof) and sports sandals.

10. Day pack for hikes

In addition to a large backpack/suitcase, consider bringing a small day pack for hiking trips. Also, to run to town.

11. Waterproof phone case

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.

12. Travel insurance

We hope you won’t need it but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get it. We recommend WorldNomads for all your adventure travel.

13. 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.

14. Sunglasses

Whether you are planning to surf, paddle, sail, or hike in Costa Rica, make sure you bring one pair (better two to be on the safe side) of sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, sun’s glare, wind, and ocean spray.

15. Insulated Flask

With such high temperatures mostly on the coasts, we recommend taking with you some water you can sip anytime you need some refreshment. In Costa Rica you can drink tap water in most places, and taking a water bottle with you will help to reduce the amount of plastic and save money on buying water as you can refill it as many time you want.

16. 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.

Costa Rica Jungle Sunset
Jungle Sunset

Additional items to bring in the rainy season:

17. Sturdy raincoat or poncho 

From May through November is the rainy season in Central America. If you’re planning to travel during those months it’s a good idea to pack a lightweight raincoat or a poncho that covers your backpack too no matter where you’re going. Trust us, when it rains, it pours.

18. Long pants

It’s always a good idea to take with you a pair of jeans or long pants preferably water-proof. A good alternative can be a pair of hiking pants that unzip under the knee.

19. Warm clothes 

If you plan to hike at altitude don’t forget to bring a couple of sweatshirts or sweaters and a warm hat.

The aerial view of the Rapture Surfcamps Nicaragua
Join us in Central America

We can’t wait to show you the beauty of this piece of paradise!

If you have any additional questions about what to pack for Costa Rica and Nicaragua don’t hesitate to contact our team.

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