What to Pack for a Hiking Trip in Costa Rica

hiking in Costa RicaWhen my dad and I traveled to the Arenal region of Costa Rica earlier this year, one of our primary goals was to hike … a lot. That’s exactly what we did. During our one-week trip we spent:

* A full morning hiking in the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Preserve.
* A night exploring the forest in Monteverde under the darkness.
* A day hiking on private land near San Luis.
* A afternoon wandering the national park trail along the Rio Celeste.
* Nearly a full afternoon exploring the area around Arenal Volcano.

Let’s just say that we did a lot of hiking.

Despite the differences in our variety of hikes, there were similar needs for every one of them. If you’re thinking of spending a lot of time hiking in Costa Rica as we did, here are a few things I suggest you consider and pack in order to make your trip as enjoyable as possible:

Expect rain. I was told that Costa Rica has two seasons: wet and very wet. Prepare for rain regardless of the season by carrying a rain jacket or windbreaker. It also helps to have a hat or hood to keep your head dry.

Hiking near Arenal Volcano Costa RicaCarry water. Even if you’re in a national park or some other established area, don’t expect to find water fountains or vendors selling water at every turn. Take the responsibility to carry your own safe drinking water.

Keep an extra camera battery. The scenery is stunning and wildlife makes frequent appearances, so make sure your camera is fully charged and you’re ready to pull it out at any moment. Keeping a back-up battery with you is a good idea.

Dress in layers. The sun is out. The sun is behind a cloud. It’s raining. It’s hot. In Costa Rica, you will be most comfortable if you’re dressed in layers. Peel off and put them back on as needed.

Wear sturdy shoes. The ground you walk on will likely be uneven, and, if it’s rained at all in the last couple days, chances are it will be muddy and slippery too.

Slip on a swimsuit. There are hot springs in surprising places, and more than a few waterfall pools that you can slip into after a long hike. Be prepared to enjoy them if you have a swimsuit with you. If you have a small microfiber towel, you’ll be able to dry off easily too.

Light the way. Though the majority of your hiking will probably be done during the day, don’t get caught after dark without a flashlight or headlamp. There aren’t lights marking trails, so take the initiative to get back safely.

A map and a plan. Don’t try to squeeze too much into too short of a time. Make the decision to linger and enjoy, and do so smartly by keeping your hikes confined to a time you know you can manage. Getting too far out without the right supplies can be dangerous, so even though it might be tempting to wander a few miles down an unknown trail, it might not be the best choice.

All photos were taken by my dad.

10 Responses to “What to Pack for a Hiking Trip in Costa Rica”

  1. Rachael Sena

    Thank you for these tips! I’m not an experienced hiker so I found these really helpful. In December, I will be traveling to Belize so I suspect I will be doing some hiking while I’m there!

    • JoAnna

      Enjoy your trip to Belize!

  2. jade

    These are great tips- I hike in my bathing suit too- especially if its raining and hot.

    • JoAnna

      I’ve never hiked in my bathing suit, but that’s a really good suggestion, Jade. I’ll definitely keep it in mind.

  3. Jenna Vandenberg

    I like that tip about a microfiber towel. I’m always drying off from a mid-hike swim with a sweatshirt or something. Those towels would be much lighter to hike with 🙂

    • JoAnna

      Microfiber towels are much, much lighter, Jenna. Definitely worth investing in.

    • JoAnna

      It’s always important to be prepared, regardless of where you are hiking. The best thing about hiking in Costa Rica is the variety of places and ways to experience hiking excursions. I hope you have the opportunity to go someday.

  4. Samantha

    Great tips! Definitely thought about my experiences as I read through them. Dressing for hiking in CR especially in La Fortuna definitely can be a bit tricky with unpredictable weather, especially during rainy season. I found that hiking sandals are usually the best because a lot of times you’re hiking through mud, rivers and to waterfalls and it’s pretty hot to be wearing hiking boots.

    • JoAnna

      Great tip about hiking sandals, Samantha! Hiking boots can be pretty bulky, and I agree that having something a bit lighter and flexible is a good idea.


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