After exploring this part of the world several times I am convinced that Costa Rica and Panama excel at producing two things: oxygen and sweat. The oxygen part is great because breathing. The sweat part though? Yeah, I know the body’s natural cooling system is a gift, but wow if you don’t receive that gift in abundance some days. My cruise packing list will help you plan accordingly.
This cruise packing list is great if you are planning on being active during your travels in Central America. If you are doing a small boat adventure cruise like the one I did with UnCruise you WILL be active every day. As always, use what works for you and your particular travels, discard what doesn’t.
Temperatures range from warm to hot to very hot and they’re always served with a thick slice of humidity. Light layers with moisture-wicking fabrics are key.
Expect to wash your clothes out in the sink almost every day. Also, expect to wonder if there is a point to that deodorant you keep using. I suggest bringing a bar of laundry soap and a travel clothesline.
Pro Tip: If you are going on an adventure cruise, please remember that cabins can be on the compact side unless you upgrade. Be decisive about what you’re wearing before you leave – don’t overpack. You can read more in-depth about what to expect on an adventure cruise here.
Here’s Your Cruise Packing List for Central America
- 2-4 lightweight long-sleeve shirts for sun protection and air-conditioned spaces. I wear my Ex-Officio Insect shield shirt a LOT. It’s similar to this one.
- 4-6 tanks and short sleeve t-shirts, shirts or blouses (think moisture-wicking or anti-stink for activities, a few cute/comfy tops for dinners)
- 2-3 sundresses – I really like this dress from Prana because the moisture-wicking, almost swimsuit-like material dries really quick; it has a built-in bra, AND it’s cute and breezy.
- 1-2 extra bras – I like pretty sports bras as well, like this one.
- 1 set of pajamas
- 1-2 pair lightweight hiking pants
- 1-3 pairs of jeans, khakis or other light and comfortable pants or skirts
- 2-4 pairs of shorts – I bought a pair of these shorts right before the trip and they were my favorite for hot days because they were so lightweight.
- 4-5 pairs of wool socks: you’ll want thin or ankle pairs for trainers, and thick pairs for hiking. I’m always a fan of SmartWool, winter, spring, summer, or fall.
- 7-10 pairs of underwear
Outerwear, Sun Protection and Swim Gear
- 1-2 lightweight hoodies, jackets or cardigans for night and air-conditioned spaces. This Coolibar jacket also has UPF 50+ sun protection, which you really need in this intense sun.
- 1 light rain jacket or poncho with hood
- Brimmed sun hat that covers ears/neck. I loved this hat that allowed me to keep my hair off my neck. Plus you can get it in a two-pack. There’s also this hat if you want extra neck protection.
- 1-2 Buffs to cover your neck, head and anything else you want protected from the sun. Try one with insect shield and rated for UV protection.
- 2 -3 swimsuits – you’ll be in the water almost every day, so rotate suits to make sure you always have a dry one.
- Swimsuit cover-up – look at brands like Cabana Life or Coolibar for UPF 50+ sun protection.
- Waterproof earplugs from Mack’s
- SPF-rated long-sleeve swim shirt/rash guard for snorkeling. Trust me on this one, you NEED it in these waters for both sun and biting sea critters
- SPF-rated full length swim leggings for snorkeling. Look for something with UPF 50+ sun protection. “Reef safe” lotions are not reef safe – chemicals don’t belong in the water. Understand also that water + intense equator-adjacent sun will burn your skin without this kind of full-body protection. I’m not kidding.
Pro Tip: Look at tutublue, cabana life, or your favorite sports apparel brand.
- 1 pair of close-toed hiking boots. I preferred ones that covered my ankles – I have a pair of Merrills that I’ve been wearing for years.
- 1 pair of rubber wellies if you’re traveling in “green” season
- 1 pair of water socks, or sports sandals for wet landings. You definitely need these for beach landings. I really like my pair of footwear, Keen water shoes with toe protection, plus you can hike in them if you want.
- 1-2 pair of comfortable walking shoes
- 1 pair of sandals. I wear my NAOT sandals everywhere. Ev-eh-ree-where.
- 1 pair of flip flops
Additional Items and Gear
- Foldable daypack. Something I never travel without. My current favorite is the Venture Pal backpack that zips into itself.
- Dry bag for your camera gear.
- Camera gear – see this post for my recommendations on camera types and lenses specifically for this type of trip.
- Waterproof smartphone housing so you can use your video, or a waterproof pouch for pictures while kayaking, etc.
- Sunscreen and lip protection
- Bug spray
- Waterproof reusable containers for small items (instead of plastic sandwich bags)
- Wet/dry bags for damp clothes
- Sunglasses – I never ever leave home without them. Except for that one time I accidentally did. Which resulted in me buying this pair in the picture at the airport Sunglass Hut.
- US Cash for buying items on the beach at stops. Bring lots of small bills for buying jewelry, bowls and molas. For more info on what kind of authentic souvenirs to buy in Costa Rica and Panama, read more here.
Do you have any other items to add to the Central America cruise packing list?
Is there anything you won’t travel without?
Disclosures: Brands linked in this post are my personal recommendations and have been tested/worn during my travels. I have not received any products in exchange for a mention, nor compensation for inclusion.
As an Amazon Affiliate, I do receive a commission for anything purchased from the links in this post within 24 hours of clicking. I do not recommend anything I, or someone I trust, doesn’t personally use.
I was hosted by UnCruise Adventures on my cruise through Central America and this post is part of a collaboration with them. All opinions are entirely my own.