Besides "how do I get there?" the second-most-asked question is: "what do I bring?"
1. The Important Stuff
It's a tropical rainforest, so you should expect constant high humidity. So, it’s hard to balance traveling light with bringing the things that you will need to stay comfortable, and keep important things dry (like your camera gear.)
You’ve already heard: a flashlight is an essential part of your visit to Costa Rica. At Ojo del Mar, we use solar, torches and candles to light our paths and buildings, so expect low lighting at night. Having a flashlight ensures that you will be able to find your way around without stepping on rocks, shells, or creatures that may be on the path. You should bring one flashlight per person, along with extra batteries. If you want to see turtles, add a red light to your list.
You'll need to drink a lot of water in the rainforest, in order to avoid dehydration from heat and humidity, so be sure to bring carry a refillable, insulated water bottle.
Take care of your eyes - bring spare glasses, or extra contacts and solution, especially if you need them for reading or driving. You may also want to bring sunglasses. Finally, consider swim goggles or masks if you are going to be in the water often.
We recommend you make digital photocopies of your important travel documents, your identification and any critical prescriptions or medical information. You should fully download the digital copies to your phone or tablet (not just leave them in the cloud.) This includes flight info, reservation confirmations, and contact details you will need (your hotels, transportation, etc) - so you can pull things up without WiFi. (DO NOT include passwords, personal info or credit card info!)
It’s important that you think about how much and what kind of money to bring, and how to carry it:
Safety first! The same rules apply in Costa Rica as in any other country: carry as little cash as possible, and have your money exchanges be quick and discreet.
American dollars are accepted almost everywhere. Euros are more difficult. Either way, having some Colones on hand can be useful.
Exchanging some of your national currency before leaving home might be easier, but you can also do it on your arrival in Costa Rica. (We recommend doing it in a safe environment like the airport.)
Although they take more room, smaller bills are easier to manage and make change for.
We do accept Visa/MasterCards with a 5% fee. You can use both MasterCard and Visa in most hotels and shops.
You can find mostly anything in Puerto Jimenez: there is a bank, ATM, supermarket, and pharmacy. Whether you can find a specific brand or type of product, or if it will be in stock, is less predictable. If you absolutely need something specific - bring it! Otherwise, consider getting what you need when you arrive.
2. What to Wear
You may want to consider balancing natural fibers, like cotton, with microfiber or other “travel” fabrics - they dry fast, are light, and pack down to almost nothing. Athletic fabrics that wick away sweat are great for hiking and on the water - and can serve as a rashguard, too.
On the Beach
Just like most other beaches around the world, your wardrobe will consist mostly of swimwear, or shorts and tank tops. Osa beaches commonly have rocks, shells and bits of wood, so if you don't want to go barefoot, we recommend mesh shoes over flip-flops or slides, especially for kids. The water is usually around 80%, so full-length wetsuits are not needed.
Even if you are visiting in the dry season, a light waterproof rain jacket is a good idea. You can get away with a poncho - but (besides their environmental impact) we don’t recommend the thin disposable ones, as they are not much use as rainwear - but bring one as a quick-cover for your backpack, they can be a low-impact addition to your luggage.
You do not need a lot of footwear, but bring two kinds, at a minimum:
Sandals, flips-flops, or Tevas for walking around the Lodge and stowing in your daybag.
Sturdy, broken-in shoes for hiking. Waterproof boots are best and/or a pair of sneakers; you want something that covers your whole foot and gives support. Plan for them to get wet in the jungle (and stay wet for most of your visit, so bring extra socks!)
Many folks arrive here with new shoes for their trip - and find themselves with uncomfortable feet. Take time before you leave home to get your shoes broken-in - and not just for a few days around the house! Blisters can make your time here more difficult. (We also recommend one adult carry a variety of bandages or a small First Aid kit in your Day Bag, exactly for this reason.)
Sunglasses and Hat
The sun is very bright here near the Equator. Bring sunglasses; a hat, cap or visor is also essential.
Towels and Sarongs
A sarong is a more fashionable (and sometimes more flexible) version of the Turkish or Microfiber towel, but what you are after is a light, large, absorbent piece of fabric - and you will want one for each person in your party, because they are indespensible in the Osa. Beyond drying you off, it can be a beach blanket, meditation pad, a quick outfit, a blanket, a sun-shelter and a way to keep the bugs off. We also sell sarongs here at Ojo del Mar in great selection.
A smaller microfiber towel is good to have, too - for wiping away sweat, using as a fan to cool off, or to cover your things if it starts raining.
3. Personal Care
Sun care is more than just sunscreen - you will want to protect all exposed parts of your body. We’re only about 10 degrees north of the equator, so the sun is very strong. Make sure you bring plenty of high SPF sunscreen, even if you are a sun-lover who doesn’t burn (and ***especially*** if you are someone who usually does.) If you are going to be going in the ocean, look for sunscreen that is reef safe. Don’t forget chapstick with SPF or after sun gel!
You want insect repellent that you know works for your skin type. (Some people seem to attract more bugs than others.) While Ojo del Mar tends not to be too buggy, the rest of the Osa can be. Bug spray can be expensive and hard to find once you’re here, so bring enough for everyone in your group.
Moisturizer, baby powder and any topical ointments you might need for chafed or irritated skin - your body will be adapting to a new climate, and you will be walking quite a bit. We use refillable, airline-sized bottles, but travel and sample-sizes are a good, highly portable alternative.
Any Rx medicines you need (pack 3 days more than your intended visit), and a travel kit with meds for upset stomach, headache or the like. You may want Benadryl or another antihistamine if you’re concerned about or know you react to bug bites. Write down a list of your prescripton medicines and keep where it can be found easily. Try to include the purpose (example: high blood pressure), or find the Spanish name. If there is an emergency, even small details like these can be helpful.
Also, consider a small Do-it-Yourself First Aid kit - with a small selection of Band-Aids, a small tube of healing ointment, and whatever else you think you’ll need for your feet, hands and other exposed parts.
4. What to Put it all In
You’ll want two bags: The Big Bag, that carries “everything,” and one to use as a Day Bag when you are out and about.
Then, you will want ways to organize and carry things as well.
For your Day Bag, a 100% waterproof, lightly-padded backpack is highly recommended (especially for photographers.) You’ll be carrying it a lot, so you want it to fit your body well, not be too bulky, and have loops to attach things to the outside (with carabiners, so bring those too.) Usually, your Day Bag can double as your carry-on luggage.
A travel purse/small passport holder might be useful, if you can double it as a wallet. (You can lock your passport in your safe at Ojo del Mar, and still carry the wallet with you on adventures.)
For things you want to keep dry: There are a few ways to go, but you will want some kind of small, sealable, clear plastic bags.
For things that get wet: Mesh bags are particularly helpful after a day on the water, so you are not putting your soggy things into your Day Bag. Attach with a carabiner to the outside of your backpack.
Costa Rica uses the same voltage as US and Canada, so depending on where you are coming from, you may or may not want an adapter. Please remember that Ojo del Mar can only charge your small devices - camera and medical device batteries, mobile phones, and small tablets.
You may want to bring a small, fully-charged battery pack. Some are charged by USB, so be sure to bring the cord and adapter you need for your unit.
Finally: This is an experience like none other. If you don’t already journal, sketch or otherwise capture and reflect on your day, this might be the time to start!
One last tip: Stay flexible. You don't want to over-engineer your trip, and there will be plenty of spontaneous opportunities and unanticipated challenges no matter how much you plan.