On a recent trip to Costa Rica we understood that the country was a world leader in eco-tourism. “Pura Vida” wasn’t just their catchy phrase and unofficial slogan, it is the country’s way of life.  It also meant living life and respecting the life around us whole heartedly. It’s used a greeting and even a way to say, “thank you.” With that in mind, we were conscious about what we packed to help minimize our impact on the environment.

Costa Rica is also a country with several micro-climates. It can be lush, hot or cool and humid in the rainforest. It can also be hotter and drier in other parts. With a carry on only, we had to be very efficient in what we brought. Handy for anywhere in the world really…

Here’s a packing list tailored to eco-conscious travellers:

Reusable Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is important anywhere and any time of the year. Luckily, the water in Costa Rica is clean and safe to drink even for tourists. Bring a reusable drinking bottle to reduce single-use plastic waste. We washed our bottles daily in the hotel room.

Reusable Shopping Bags: For groceries or souvenirs, opt for reusable bags to reduce plastic usage. We’re already getting use to the concept at home. So, consider the same when travelling. Bring lightweight cotton reusable bags that can also double up as a beach bag and can be washed easily. I actually don’t even carry a handbag anymore while exploring the towns anymore. Instead, using a tote is good anywhere in the world.  Muji’s Canvas Tall Tote Bag is a medium weight made with a cutting design that does not waste fabric. See their site for more options.

Eco-Friendly Toiletries: Pack biodegradable shampoo and soaps to minimize harm to local ecosystems, especially if you plan to swim in rivers or oceans. Check with hotels and AirBnB accommodations to see if they already provide these items for you. Not only will it save you luggage space but they will often have what is best to use for the area.

Clothing Made from Sustainable Materials: Choose clothing made from organic cotton, bamboo, or hemp, and pack lightweight, breathable fabrics suitable for the tropical climate. Kapok is a sustainable fabric made of cotton harvested from the nuts of the kapok tree, a tree that grows naturally in the tropical regions of Southeast Asia. The tree requires little fertilizer and water without pesticides. It’s said to be the highest natural fibre in the world. I found some locally also at Muji Canada.

Insect Repellent: Look for natural insect repellents or eco-friendly alternatives to traditional chemical-based products.If you plan on hiking and concerned about ticks try TICKLESS Chemical-free ultrasonic tick repellent. The device emits ultrasonic waves that repels ticks away without harm to humans or other creatures. They also make a version for dogs that we use at home.

Hiking Shoes or Sandals: Depending on your activities, pack sturdy, comfortable shoes suitable for hiking in rainforests or walking along sandy beaches. The Columbia Drainmaker XTR is a lightweight option.

Columbia Women’s Drainmaker XTR Shoe is lightweight and grippy where water may be around. It will also drain out rain and big splashes.

Biodegradable Wet Wipes or Cloth Towels: Instead of single-use wet wipes, opt for biodegradable alternatives or pack small reusable cotton cloth towels for cleaning up on the go. Soak in water, ring out most of the water, and leave in your hotel fridge overnight. Pack in a small cooler or reusable silicone bags to take with you.

Natural, Reef-Safe Sunscreen: Protect your skin without harming marine life by using sunscreen that is free of oxybenzone and octinoxate, which can be harmful to coral reefs. Brands that are deemed reef-friendly include SunBum and SuperGoop!

Portable Charger: Keep your devices powered up on-the-go. Even better if you have one with renewable energy with a portable solar charger. Many options can be found on amazon — check out the BigFoot brand that is also rainproof and compact.

Digital Guides/Maps: Reduce paper waste by opting for digital guides or maps on your smart phone, tablet and smart watch. I’ve been travelling with my Apple Watch and have recently discovered even more handy features even when travelling off the grid. I found the backtrack feature handy even in busy cities.

Apple Watch Series 9 -  travel

Finally, bring a respectful and mindful attitude towards the environment and local communities you visit. Being conscious of your impact and make efforts to support sustainable tourism practices anywhere you go!

By packing thoughtfully and responsibly, you can enjoy a fulfilling eco-friendly vacation while minimizing your environmental footprint.

What other tried and true travel tips do you have that are eco-friendly?