This work aims to study the influence of protective coatings on the water absorption and mechanical properties of 3D printed poly–lactic acid (PLA) parts. The PLA parts were fabricated with different levels of the 3D printing process parameters, aiming to define samples with distinct strength and ductility/toughness characteristics. Water absorption tests following the standard ASTM D570–98 were performed on uncoated and coated PLA specimens. The effectiveness of two protective coatings based on acrylic and polyurethane varnish on reducing water absorption was evaluated. Both protective coatings have shown being effective on preventing water absorption by the PLA, with polyurethane presenting the best performance reducing water absorption by 38%. Tensile tests were carried out to determine the ultimate tensile strength, elastic modulus, yield tensile strength, fracture strain and toughness of specimens, before and after the application of protective coatings. The polyurethane protective coating also benefits the tensile properties of PLA parts, increasing the strength and ductility/toughness characteristics of specimens up to 24%.