What to Pack for a Costa Rica Surf Trip

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The cat is not a necessary item for your surf trip, although she may think she is.

If this is your first trip or your 50th it is always a good reminder to prepare what to bring to Costa Rica a few days before your flight. You want to make sure your luggage weighs under 50 pounds and you do not have any liquids over 3 ounces or sharp objects in your carry on. Board bag fees are always changing and now a few airlines are accepting them as a piece of luggage and not charging extra. Check the latest surfboard bag fees here.


Airline tickets: Print the receipt from your online order just in case something happens to your phone.

Passport: It cannot expire for 6 months before trip. Take a photo of the front page and your entry stamp after you go through immigration so you do not have to always travel with it. Save the photos as ‘Favorites’ so they are easy to find.

Credit cards: Visa and MasterCard are most widely accepted. Some also accept American Express and Discover cards.

Driver’s license: Your home country’s driver license is accepted in Costa Rica.

Surfboards vs. Renting Surfboards:  Tamarindo, Jacó, Nosara, Dominical, and Santa Teresa all have tons of boards for rent and for sale, from new and used shortboards, fishes to funshapes, longboards, and now even S.U.P.’s (Jaco and Tamarindo)Pavones has one shop with a limited selection and the Caribbean has a few shops with beginner boards to rent. It is your preference to bring your own or rent a surfboard.

Surf Gear

Fins and hardware: If you removed the fins to pack your boards, don’t forget to pack them along with the key or screwdriver for securing them. Bring one extra center fin in case any of the others breaks or gets lost.

Surf Wax: Tropical temperature wax. In Costa Rica wax costs $2-4 per bar.

Extra surf leash: Bring a spare in case you break yours. Comp leashes can snap if it is overhead or bigger.

Ding repair kit: Bring duct tape, stickers, or SolarRez (with some 60 and 220 grit sandpaper)

Earplugs: You will be in the water a lot. An infection will ruin your trip.

Tide chart: Print yours from HERE


Clothing: One long shirt for cold flights, rainy nights, or mosquito defense. Bring pants and shoes/socks if you plan to horseback ride, or hike in the mountains. Otherwise, t-shirts and bathing suits that dry quickly are best. Two pairs of shorts should be plenty for a week. Lightweight dresses are recommended. There’s not many fancy places to go so you don’t need to dress up. In fact, leave your jewelry at home. One idea is to pack clothes you plan to give to charity and leave them for your hosts or new friends. You will lighten your load as you go, not have any dirty clothes to pack for home, and you’ll be doing a good deed.

Bathing suits: Two to three. If you bring only one pair you may rip them or lose them. With a few pairs you will always have dry boardshorts for walking around.

Rash guard: I like the short sleeve ones since it feels cooler in the ocean. A long sleeve rashguard may be helpful for long boat trips. 

Beach towel: Good for packing boards on the roof or separating boards in the SUV. Keep it in the car for drying off if you get stuck in the rain.

Hiking boots: Only if you plan to go hiking. Otherwise a pair of flip flopsand maybe some sneakers for the city will suffice.

Sunglasses: A nice pair and a backup just in case.  

Hats: Two in case you lose one. The sun can be brutal midday and you may also want to give one to a helpful host, surf guide, or boat captain.

Health Needs

Sunblock: Look for waterproof and sweatproof with UVA and UVB protection. I use one with 30 or 50 SPF for 80 minutes of water time. Ideally you can bring a reef safe formula without Oxybenzone. Sunscreen is easy to find in Costa Rica but a lot more expensive. Don’t forget Chapstick for your lips.

Mosquito repellent: Off by Skintastic works well for me and has only 7% DEET, but now I use a mix of 1 part Tea Tree Oil to 9 parts coconut oil. It smells good, is good for your skin, and the tea tree oil repels mosquitos.

Talcon powder: feels great on rashes on your private parts

Aloe:also great for rashes and insect bites

First aid kit

Antiseptic – like Neosporin
Benadryl – or another antihistamine for allergic reactions from stings or who knows what
Waterproof bandages 

Butterfly closures or superglue for the nasty cuts
Gauze and Tape (duct tape if you want to get back in the water quickly)
Aspirin – for pain, fever, or a cardiac emergency
Anti-diarrhea pills 
Hydrogen peroxide 
Antibiotics for ear infections or stomach viruses – the local pharmacy will have these and you should not need a prescription


Swiss army knife: Pack in your checked luggage. Airport Security will not let you carry it on the plane. 

Flashlight or Headlamp and extra batteries: Helps if you ever have a flat tire at night or if a storm causes a local blackout.

Camera: Bring it in a well padded but inconspicuous bag. Never leave it in your car if you go surfing and hide it well in your hotel room. I also recommend an extra SD card for storage or if one fails.

Chargers: For cell phones, etc.  Bring an extra cord, wall socket, and car lighter adapter. These can also be found at most convenience stores in Costa Rica.

Snacks: You should be able to find most items at a larger supermarket like power bars, dried fruit, etc., but if you have a favorite item then bring it.

Books: Just in case you get a flat day, or to pass the time on the bus or ferry. My favorites for a surf trip would be Search of Captain Zero, Barbarian Days, and Surf is Where you Find It (by Gerry Lopez)

Toilet paper: A half a roll kept in the car just in case of emergencies. 

Sandwich bags and trash bags: Trash bags are good for wet or muddy clothes, and double as raincoats or to cover your luggage. Use gallon storage bags to pack sunscreen, shampoo, wax, etc

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