To begin with, strategic packing is a chore that will pay off in the long run. If you’re anything like me, it’s inevitable that you’ll end up over packing (and even possibly having to shift items around at the airport to meet the weight limit…)

But while we all want options, I suggest sorting through what makes up your essentials, perhaps a mix of casual, dressy, and workout attire, or better yet, clothing that can be dressed up or down to fit any occasion.

And by any occasion, I also mean to take into account the weather. It is very important to know if you will be here during the rainy or the dry spell. Costa Rica does not experience all four seasons and only distinguishes its seasons by the amount of rainfall it receives since the temperature does not change much year-round. The dry seasons runs from about December to April and the rainy season from May to November then.

That being said, I should mention that while San José experiences much warmer temperatures than a typical winter in the States, pants are still a “must” on the packing list. I have been quite surprised to find that I feel a bit chilly here at times, particularly at night, and that the tropical temperatures I was expecting are really more common along the coast. Furthermore, shorts are not very commonly worn in public by the locals, especially the women. Pants seems to be much more acceptable, so I would definitely recommend bringing a few pairs.

And now for a quick vocabulary lesson to bring you all up to speed on some important terminology here in Costa Rica. First of all, locals are referred to as ticos and ticas (difference is for male/female), and they tend to run on “tico time,” possibly due in part to their “Pura Vida” lifestyle.

Back in the USA, many people would probably agree that arriving exactly at a scheduled time is actually late, however, here in Costa Rica there seems to be no such agreement. Since there isn’t an exact amount of time considered acceptable, nor does it apply to all situations, tico time can make things a bit frustrating for us gring@s (one can use the @ symbol in lieu of choosing ‘a’ or ‘o’ as a more inclusive way of referring to both genders).

The phrase “Pura Vida” is more or less the key to survival here in Costa Rica. Translating to “pure life,” it’s used to describe just about anything:

  • ‘How was your day?’ – ‘Pura Vida’
  • About to take a jump off a Tarzan swing – ‘Pura Vida’
  • As a greeting or farewell – ‘Pura Vida’ (with a hug & peck on the cheek as well)

It’s practically guaranteed to put a smile on any Tic@’s face and essentially sums up their happy-go-lucky lifestyle. It’s no wonder Costa Rica has been called the happiest country on Earth!


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