Packing for Monteverde, Costa Rica isn’t like packing for destinations in the tropical country. The Monteverde Cloud Forest sits inland at over 1330m in elevation so it can make for cooler and wetter days. A cloud forest is characterized by a persistent, frequent or seasonal low-level cloud cover, usually at the canopy level, which makes for a lot of moss, ferns, and orchids. It can also make for an uncomfortable visit if you’re not prepared.
Monteverde is a laid back region for nature lovers and adrenaline seekers. You’ll see a lot of hiking pants and Birkenstocks here. Whether you’re bird watching at 5am, zip lining at an adventure park, or dining in a treehouse, a comfortable mix ‘n match capsule wardrobe will make packing a breeze.
Using my 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 packing list method, I’ve put together a capsule wardrobe that will take you from ziplines to cloud forests and back again.
Monteverde Packing Essentials
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all of Costa Rica is hot all of the time. The inland location and higher elevation of Monteverde means that mornings and evenings can get down into the teens, which can feel quite chilly. I highly recommend packing at least one pair of long pants and a cozy top. A crewneck or light sweater or even a long sleeved top and your rain jacket would suffice.
It’s very common to have a few showers in Monteverde, even in the dry season. Bonus: rainbows! But even when it’s not actively raining it can be wet in the cloud forest since fog condenses on the taller trips and drips down to the forest floor. Having a light, packable rain jacket is essential for your guided hikes. While you likely won’t need a full rain suit, having a water resistant day bag and shoes will keep you and your gear happy.
Beyond the Clothes
So we’ve got the clothes figured out, but what else will you need for a successful trip?
Bug Spray and Anti-itch Cream
Costa Rica is home to over 300,000 different types of insects so you know that mosquitos are something you need to prepare for. Like in many tropical countries, mosquito bites are at best annoying but at worst can make you very sick. Mosquitos can carry diseases like zika, malaria, and dengue so it’s best to arm yourself. The best defense are products containing DEET. When applied correctly it forms a vapour barrier at the skin surface that deters mosquitoes from landing on the skin. Basically, it throws off their landing gear so they can’t get at you. When shopping for bug spray know that the percentage of DEET doesn’t indicate how protected you are, only how long the protection will last. A 7% DEET solution may need to be reapplied every two hours, while a 100% DEET solution can last up to 10 hours. I personally use Ben’s 30% DEET Tick & Insect Repellent.
And just like sunscreen, despite your best efforts, finding yourself itchy with bug bites is a real possibility so be ready by packing some anti-itch cream. My pharmacist recommends a hydrocortisone cream since it’s also helpful for other skin irritations that might pop up.
Waterproof Phone Case
When you’re in a place that is pretty consistently wet, having a waterproof case for your phone makes good sense. You can go advanced with something like a Lifeproof case or you can go basic with a waterproof pouch, but you don’t want to leave your phone completely unprotected. Bonus: a waterproof case will also keep out dust and dirt. No one wants their vacation ruined by a busted phone.
With so many people using their phones to look up information and document their travels, battery life on vacation just isn’t the same as it is at home. Be sure to pack a portable battery pack so you can charge on the go. Look for one that has at least 2000mAh in order to get a full charge. The higher the mAh on your battery pack, the more times you’ll be able to charge your phone before having to recharge the battery pack.
First Aid Kit
No need to go wild here but having a small kit that includes some band-aids, blister pads, antibacterial cream, antihistamines, anti-diarrheals, and a few pain killers is always a good idea. I have a bad habit of beating myself up on trips so I’m always glad I had a few basic supplies right at hand.
I wouldn’t recommend drinking tap water in Costa Rica but continuously buying bottled water can add up and also create a lot of plastic waste. So what’s a girl to do? Bring along a reusable water bottle that will filter the water at the same time! I really like the LifeStraw Flex for this. The filter is so good you could even drink directly from streams or waterfalls without fear of getting sick. Since staying hydrated is so important when you’re active, I would put this high up on your Costa Rica packing list.
Even if you’re only travelling for two weeks you may find that you want to wash a few items like socks or underwear or freshen up your sweaty shirts. Instead of packing yet another liquid, I like to throw a couple laundry soap sheets into my bag. They provide just enough suds to sink wash the few items you’ll have.
In a humid country like Costa Rica, a travel clothesline can come in handy when you want to dry your recently washed socks or hang up a wet swimsuit. My preferred one can be strung up with by hooks or suction cups and doesn’t require clothespins.
In the case that your wet clothes don’t dry before you have to pack up, having a dedicated wet bag will keep them from making anything else in your bag damp. A repurposed plastic shopping bag is a breeding ground for mold and mildew so I’d recommend a bag better designed to hold wet items. Tip: check the baby aisle for pouches designed to hold wet cloth diapers. Works just as well for your wet bikini.
Whether you need to dry offer after a dip in a waterfall or just want something to sit on, a travel towel is key. While hotels will provide you with towels for your shower, they really don’t want you taking them off the property. Plus, a regular towel is bulky to pack in your day bag. If you don’t like the traditional microfibre travel towel, try a lightweight Turkish towel instead.
This one is more optional since many people will use the flashlight function on their phones, but it’s good to know that the sun sets by 6pm in Costa Rica and many streets aren’t well lit. Power outages in more rural areas are not uncommon so if you have the space in your bag, include a hands-free lighting system, aka a headlamp.
The most important thing to remember? Pura Vida! Enjoy your visit to Costa Rica!
Shop the Guide