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Central America Packing List: The Ultimate List With FREE Download

Central America is full of beaches, rainforests, volcanoes and colonial towns; all of which promise a vacation full of relaxation and adventure.

Your Central America packing list must reflect everything in between, from serene relaxation to thrilling adventures.

After spending over a month in Costa Rica, I created this packing list for Central America that you can use interchangeably between the countries (Nicaragua, Belize, Guatemala, etc).

Over-packing is my middle name. I do not like to show up empty handed, usually causing me travel drama, (story for another time).

As a result of this, I assure you this packing list for Central America will have what you are looking for & more!

Keep on reading for all of the valuable packing information.

Some links in this post are affiliate, if clicked, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Grab the FREE Central America Packing List Download here!

Playa Minas, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Playa Minas, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

How to Prepare for a Central America Vacation

Baggage and Luggage for Central America

Keep in mind; depending on your airline ticket you may not have a checked bag included, if you are wanting to bring one, make sure you pay the extra fee.

Baggage Option 1

This is for those who prefer to travel with luggage.

  1. A medium-large sized luggage, that you will fill up until the max weight per airline, make sure you look this up with which airline you are using (usually 50lbs)
  2. Carry on: A backpack that can double as your beach bag or bag for day trips. I usually make sure my carry on has at least 3 outfits in case my checked bag gets lost.
  3. Personal bag: small shoulder bag or cross body bag, for going out on the town
  4. Wallet and/or card holder
  5. Baggage lock: I have this four-pack of locks and use it on my luggage and backpack!

My usual combination of personal bag(s) is a card holder with a cross body bag like this one!

Belt bag and backpack for travel, a necessary on a central america packing list
What I use as a carry-on backpack and cross-body shoulder bag (personal item).

Baggage Option 2

This baggage option is for those who prefer to backpack in Central America.

  1. Travel Backpack: I purchased this Osprey Fairview 55 Travel Backpack (2 backpacks included; 40L large bag, 15L for daypack) for my 6 month Asia travels. It can be checked in OR used as a carry-on (if you detach the daypack).
  2. Carry-On: Can use a smaller daypack backpack for this! (See above)
  3. Personal bag: small shoulder bag or cross body bag, for going out on the town
  4. Wallet and/or card holder
  5. Baggage lock: I have this four-pack of locks.

Visiting during rainy season? You might want to get this rain cover for your backpack!

Travel Documents

  • Passport
    • Do NOT forget your passport, you will definitely need this!
      • Your passport MUST be valid for up to 6 months past your travel return date.
  • Travel Insurance
    • I never travel without insurance, better to be safe than sorry.
    • Although it may not be necessary to show proof of insurance for entry into some Central America countries, it is advised to have emergency medical coverage.
  • Visa
    • Visas are not required unless you plan to stay for extended periods of time
    • Most countries allow up to 90 days of stay without a visa, some Central America countries allow up to 180 days.
  • Activity or Tour documents and tickets
    • This is not necessary, however, sometimes our electronic devices do not work or get stolen!
    • Always great to have backups on paper.

Airport Outfits

You want to wear your heaviest clothing on the plane, helps to save space and weight in your luggage.

  • Hiking shoes or running shoes
  • Rain jacket
  • Sweater
  • Comfy pants or leggings

Packing List for Central America

Weather in Central America

Central America has two prominent seasons. Dry and wet season.

Dry Season (22-35°C, 71-95°F): December to April

Rainy Season (20-30°C, 68-86°F): May to November

The highlights of Central American countries are outdoor.

You will most likely be doing outdoor activities rain or shine and will want a rain jacket, comfortable activewear and swim attire.

I used my rain jacket during dry season, always a safe bet to pack that!

Playa Dominicalito
Playa Dominicalito, Visit here on my Uvita, Dominical Itinerary!

Outerwear

Jacket: (1)

  • Light waterproof rain jacket or rain poncho with a hood
  • Wear on the plane to save space!

Shoes: (2-3)

  • Hiking shoes or running shoes
    • Wear on the plane as these will be your heaviest shoes!
  • Waterproof sandals, slides or flip flops
  • Optional: Nice sandals/dinner shoes for warm weather

I spent a day hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park and only required running shoes for the trip. If you are doing more strenuous hikes, opt for hiking boots.

Hat: (1)

  • Protect your head from the rays!

Clothing

Packing clothing for travel
Tank Tops & T-Shirts

Tops: (5 active/T-shirts, 1-2 nicer tops)

  • If you plan to have a more adventurous trip, plan to bring more activewear and T-shirts.
  • Bring nicer tops for dinners or outfits
Folded clothing for travel packing

Bottoms: (6-7)

  • Active bottoms; leggings, shorts, joggers
  • Shorts and Skirts
  • Jeans or flowy pants; you will most likely only need 1 pair, if having a chillier night

Dresses or Jumpsuits: (2-3)

  • I love to wear dresses day & night; an easy beach coverup or dinner outfit

Sweaters: (1-2)

  • Always good to bring one in case it gets chilly at night
  • Wear on the plane to save space and weight in your bag

Swimwear & Beach Attire

Bathing suits for packing

Bathing Suits: (3-4)

  • If you plan to spend time around Central America’s beautiful beaches and waterfalls, you will definitely need these

Do not skip out on Nauyaca Waterfall in Costa Rica. It is spectacular!

Beach Bag: (1)

  • My daypack or backpack doubles as my beach bag to save space

Beach Towels: (1)

  • If you are staying at vacation rentals in Central America, they typically do not provide beach towels
  • I pack these micro-suede towels with me on all my holidays. They pack small and dry fast! A perfect travel essential.
Protex Micro suede towels for travel
Micro-suede travel towels, look how compact!

Bathing Suit Cover-up: (1)

  • This is not a necessary item, listing it in case you would like to pack!

You can use one of your vacation dresses to double as your bathing suit cover-up.

Miscellaneous Beach Items:

  • Goggles (my husband does not go anywhere without his goggles, it’s my fave thing about him)
  • Snorkel Gear (not necessary), but if you plan to snorkel and don’t want to share, check this snorkel set!

Underwear and Pajamas

Underwear: (as many as your heart desires).

  • I bring ~double the amount for the days I am staying
    • If you will be staying longterm in Central America and have access to laundry, pack about 10+ days worth.

If you are in a pinch, pack this SinkSuds liquid detergent to quickly wash your smaller garments in the tub or sink! (It is safe for delicates).

Bras: (2-3) *if you need them*

  • Sports bras (1-2)
  • Regular (1-2)

Socks: (6-7 pairs)

  • You probably won’t need to pack as many socks if you are doing more beach days
    • You can wash your socks if you are staying longterm

Pajamas: (3 pairs)

  • Pack a few pairs, wash them when you need more
  • Or simply sleep in a large T-shirt and underwear (my preference)

Toiletries

Get these travel sized bottles. You can put them in your carry-on and get through security, or can pack them in your luggage.

My trick is to go from head to toe so I don’t forget anything.

  • Hair:
    • Shampoo, conditioner, brush/comb
  • Eyes:
    • Contacts, glasses & sunglasses
  • Face:
    • Cleanser, moisturizer, SPF (very important), any other products used for skin care (vitamin C, retinol, etc)
  • Mouth and teeth:
    • Tooth brush, tooth paste, floss, mouth guard, chapstick
  • Body:
    • Deodorant, body soap, moisturizer, razor
  • Makeup:
    • Anything you want or use regularly.
    • I would bring minimal amounts on a trip like this as it will be mostly active.
  • SPF:
    • I said it above for face, but bring enough for your whole body

Medications & First Aid

This list is NOT to be interpreted as medical advice. Take what you are comfortable with or prescribed.

  • Prescription medications:
    • Do not forget to pack any prescription medications you take!
    • Pack them in your carry on ALWAYS, in case losing your checked bag
  • Pain: ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Antihistamines: diphenhydramine (Benadryl) for allergies
  • Nausea: Dimenhydrinate (Gravol, etc).
  • Injuries and First aid:
    • Polysporin or other antibacterial creams
    • Bandaids, medical tape, gauze
    • Saline (to clean wounds)

Check out this travel sized first aid kit.

Electronics

  • Phone:
    • I am sure you have one, can also double as a camera!
  • Waterproof phone case:
  • Camera:
    • I thought my phone was enough, until my husband convinced us we needed this camera, and I never looked back.

I am not a photographer, but this is a great user friendly camera that does not need particular skill. Check out the Sony camera here!

  • Kindle:
    • I do not travel anywhere without my Kindle, no joke.
    • If you are a reader it helps to keep space in your luggage for travel and you can download MANY books for the same trip.

The Kindle Paperwhite is amazing value for money.

  • Headphones/AirPods: so you can look out the window of the plane or car and pretend you’re in a music video
  • Chargers/batteries: If you don’t want your stuff dying on you within a day bring your chargers for all electronics. Also, bring extra batteries for your camera.
  • Adapters:
    • Make sure you check up on the power outlets of the countries you plan to visit.
    • Power outlets in Costa Rica many Central America countries are Plug Type A and B.
    • Double check before you go!

Miscellaneous Items

  • Water bottle:
    • Bring a reusable water bottle to fill up on the go, Costa Rica’s water in tourist areas is safe to drink, make sure you check the specific town and country before you drink tap water
  • Jewelry:
    • Only bring what you plan to wear, leave anything valuable at home!
  • Games:
    • I always bring a deck of cards in case of a rainy day!

Pin the Central America Packing Checklist for later!

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Final Thoughts on your Central America Packing List

Central America is a destination full of adventure, serene nature, surprising wildlife, pristine beaches, amazing culture and delicious food.

Whether you are doing a 10 day trip or a 2 month trip, whether you are surfing in Jaco or looking for the whale’s tail in Uvita, you will have all the essentials in this Central America packing list.

Don’t forget to grab my free download, print it out and start packing!

Happy travelling!

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