If you have never hiked in a tropical rainforest in your life, please read this before you travel to Costa Rica. As if you are not prepared, the explorer’s dream may become a tourist hell.
To travel to Costa Rica means to hike into some of the most beautiful rainforests in the World.
Amazingly biodiverse, these forests hold many secrets that can be undiscovered if you have the right guide with you. But, they can also show you, while hiking in perfect silence, striking magic that is hard to describe.
To experience a rainforest fully awake to its beauty, you want to be relaxed and comfortable.
One of the most frustrating things that any traveler has lived (If he or she has traveled enough) is to be at a fantastic place with a blister on the foot or shivering because you feel cold and wet or agonizing ridiculous levels of heat and humidity in the surroundings.
You want this to be good? Read these tips of what to bring for your hikes in the rainforests of Costa Rica.
- Check the climate of the places you are going.
Costa Rica has a significant number of different climates for such a small country. So, once you have your itinerary, check the other places with us. We will tell you the differences from place to place.
- Bring the right clothes:
As naturalists, we look for three main words when we talk about what sort of clothes and shoes you should bring to Costa Rica: impermeability, elasticity, and breathability.
Also, remember that any traveler must have common sense and be practical in choosing what to take and what not to take to your vacation in Costa Rica.
A word on adventure gear and why we recommend it:
Wherever you go in Costa Rica, you will find that almost all guides in the country wear adventure gear. It may be Columbia, North Face, Timberlake, or any similar brands. You will see the same fabric, similar kinds of breathing shirts, baggy pants, or hiking boots.
There are reasons for this.
When you are hiking in the rainforest, you will feel the heat getting you. The rainforest is even more humid inside as humidity is coming out of all the plants in the surroundings.
Having fresh, breathable clothes make a difference.
And, chances to get wet in the rainforest are pretty high. Having clothes that can assure you a certain impermeability will make a difference in your hike.
Think about light, quick-drying, UPF protection, antimicrobial, and airflow venting openings.
Desirable with changeable sleeves.
- Bright Colors
Try not to get bright colors for your rainforest hikes. Humans are big animals for the neo-tropical environment. A red shirt moving in the forest may be the best way to warn any possible wildlife about your presence. Monkeys may be curious and poop on you. Certainly, hummingbirds will be attracted, especially the Long Tailed Hermits in the Caribbean lowlands. But also wasps and bees.
- Hiking Boots.
Nothing alternative. No tennis shoes, no moccasins, no flip-flops. Not even strapped on sandals.
In the rainforest, the only thing that may replace a good pair of hiking boots are rubber boots (Wallies), but even those are heavy, hot, uncomfortable, and may produce blisters.
Make them waterproof, and we highly suggest using high ones over the ankle.
Make sure you try them before coming. Use them for a couple of weeks, get comfortable in them.
- No perfume. Not even the slightest.
Mainly because of the same reasons as the red shirt.
I remember once I was in Tortuguero with a group and had bought a new perfume. I wanted to try it, and even though I knew it was not a good idea, I put one drop on each wrist and went for breakfast.
In fifteen minutes, my group table was swarming with bugs! Bees and all sorts of wasps were around our table. I had to go and have a shower for the whole group to eat in peace.
- A bandana or better, three
As unimportant as they may sound, and especially if you wear eyeglasses, getting rid of the sweat on your forehead is a good idea. It pours down into your eyes!
You can use the bandana on either wrist or forehead, whatever is more comfortable for you.
I have used it in both ways. However, I find it better to have a bandana on my right wrist (I am right-handed), and whenever it is too wet, I change it into a dry one.
- Hydrating in the forest
I always carry two bottles. One of them is an energetic beverage mix like Gatorade or similar. And the other one is pure water. I don’t want to risk using all water up and feel thirsty throughout the rest of the hike.
- What to eat on the trails
I usually take granola or nuts bars and chew them throughout the hike. That gives me enough energy to continue in the most strenuous hikes.
Forget about cookies or chocolates.
If you are to bring candy, try to make it with sugar just if your levels come down.
Chocolate is not suitable for that.
And of course fruit! I always chop a full Tupperware container to take on my hiking trips. Fruit is light, tastes amazingly good, is refreshing, and will help you get through if you are going for several hours.
- Long and short pants.
Never jeans, unless they are planned for a nice dinner by the sea or something like that.
Jeans get cold if it’s cold and get to burning temperatures if it’s hot. They are almost impossible to dry when they get wet, and they get stiff! Forget about jeans for the forest!
Go for adventure gear and bring long, short, and convertible pants if possible.
- Short Pants:
Girls, beware of too short! Experiences where you wear harnesses will not allow you in shorts too shorts. And if they do, you will be miserable because of the harness bruising.
Think about disposable stockings. Particularly in the rainy period. But even in the sunny season. You will not care about taking these surviving socks anywhere.
Also, bring two or three pairs of socks for each day of your vacation. There will never be enough socks in a Costa Rican nature vacation.
They will be soaked in water, sweat, and mud in the best-case scenario.
You don’t want to carry a stinking socks bag from one destination to the next.
Think about comfortable and easy to dry. If possible, get some adventure underwear. They are the best.
Again, think impermeability, breathability, and elasticity.
- Jacket or sweater
In the mountains, it gets very chilly, and as it is also humid, it feels in the bones if you are not well protected.
If you are going anywhere near the mountains, ask us about what to bring for these particular regions.
As light as possible, especially for the lodges in the rainforest that often only have roof fans.
If you are into sleeping naked, it’s OK! Just remember that in Costa Rica, there are frequent earthquakes.
For girls, we recommend you bring a relatively comfortable sports bathing suit if you are doing waterfall rappelling, kayaking, rafting, or paddleboarding, or surfing, as you don’t want the straps to be moving around.
At your beach resort, in the swimming pool, you can use anything you like the best. But for adventure, the best is comfortable over sexy.
Get a big and light poncho. Not those that are made of plastic bag material. Find a real one. Something big enough to cover your belongings or backpack if necessary.
This one here is a good idea.
- In the case of long hair:
Bring plenty of ponytail holders. In some of the experiences, like zip-lining, they won’t let you do it if your hair is not tied.
- Repellent and Sunscreen are a must.
Being both: cream and spray. Particularly in a rainforest, when hiking, you will apply the cream following the early morning shower; you have to spray over the clothes.
As you are hiking in the rainforest, you may want to put more because a lot of it washes out with sweat. Then, you use the cream, not to be spreading the repellent all over the surrounding habitat.
- First Aid Kit:
Wherever you travel with us, we have complete first aid kits by law.
But! Bring your own!
Because no matter what, you will never get a capsule in and-kit in Costa Rica. So, please consult your doctor, think about potential headaches (Due to sun susceptibility), stomach disorders (All water in Costa Rica -unless told otherwise- is drinkable, but your intestinal flora might not be ready for it), painkillers, and possible allergies. Think also about the flu.
Sometimes the extreme climate diversity of Costa Rica has undesirable outcomes.