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The Ultimate Costa Rica Surf Trip Packing List

Planning a surf trip to Costa Rica? After deciding where and when to go, the next step is to actually pack for your surf trip. 

And packing for a Costa Rica surf trip is definitely different from packing for a more general trip to Costa Rica.

There are a few things to consider, like:

Will you bring your own surfboard?

Will you check luggage or only bring a carry-on?

What do you actually need to bring vs what can you rent/ buy there?

After a few surf trips to Costa Rica myself, I’ve figured out by trial and error exactly what to bring on a Costa Rica surf trip

And I’m excited to share it with you! 

Starting with..

Should you bring your own surfboard?

Costa Rica surf trip packing list
Loading the surfboards up in the rental car

While planning my first Costa Rica surf trip back in 2020, I was really torn up about bringing my surfboard. I was traveling on a backpacker’s budget, and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to take my board with me on public transportation! 

I ended up bringing it, and I’m SO glad I did. 

Basically, here is my advice in a nutshell:

If you are an experienced shortboarder, you should bring your own board. I had no issue taking my 5’6” Firewire in taxis, on buses, and in public shuttles. High-performance rentals are a little less common in Costa Rica, and the ones that are there are expensive and/or beat up.

If you are a beginner surfer going to Costa Rica, I’d recommend renting a board there! There is a pretty good selection of beginner boards for rent in most beach towns in Costa Rica, and you also don’t want to lug around an 8’+ board on public transportation- I’m not sure if most buses will let you do that. 

I actually wrote a whole post about traveling with a surfboard in Costa Rica, so if you’re interested in more about that, check it out here

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Should you check luggage or just bring a carry-on?

Costa Rica packing list
The Osprey Fairview is my go-to for backpacking and surf trips

My recommendation is to always bring a backpack only, and to not check carry-on luggage. 

Especially in Costa Rica- it’s so hot that you should only bring thin clothes and layers, so a carry-on size backpack should provide you with more than enough space.

If you don’t have a carry-on size backpack, I always recommend the Osprey Fairview

It’s 40L which is carry-on size for most airlines, has supportive hip and sternum straps, and is overall a great traveling backpack. 

Is this your first Costa Rica surf trip? Check out the 7 best beaches for beginner surfers in Costa Rica

What to pack for a Costa Rica surf trip

Travel Essentials

  • Passport

Your passport will need to be valid for at least 6 months upon arrival in Costa Rica. 

  • Driver’s license

If you plan on renting a car in Costa Rica you will need your driver’s license. Even if you’re not planning on renting a car, I recommend bringing it in case you change your mind! 

  • Travel Insurance

You’ll want to be sure you have travel insurance before you leave, and be sure that it covers watersports, and whatever else you want coverage for. 

  • Credit Cards

Most places in Costa Rica accept credit cards, and it’s always a good idea to bring an extra you can stash in a safe place in case one card gets lost or stolen. 

  • Cash

Even though most places in Costa Rica accept cards, it’s a good idea to have some cash on you. Especially for things like if you need to pay a taxi driver, or for any side of the road/market shopping. 

The USD is widely accepted in Costa Rica, but you’ll likely get change in colones. 

Packing Essentials

  • Travel backpack

For surf trips, and any trip for that matter, I always bring a big, 40L carry-on backpack for the majority of my belongings. 

Like I mentioned earlier, my go-to is the Osprey 40L Fairview. It’s spacious, comfortable, durable, and it also comes in some nice color options.

Here is a link to the women’s version, and here is the men’s version, which is actually called the Osprey Farpoint.

  • Drybag

Having a little drybag in Costa Rica is super convenient. You can use it as your daybag, throw your wet surf stuff in it, and it’s a NECESSITY if you plan on going on any boats or waterfall trips. 

  • Packable daypack 

I don’t go anywhere without my packable daypack. It doesn’t take up any room in my main backpack, and I use it pretty much every day in Costa Rica to store my beach towel, water bottle, phone, change of clothes, and more.

  • Passport neck pouch

If you’re nervous about pickpocketing and keeping your valuables safe, I recommend this passport neck pouch

It goes under your shirt, and has room for your passport, wallet, and some cash. Costa Rica is pretty safe so odds are you won’t really need this, but it gave me some peace of mind in places like the bus stations in Liberia, Quepos, and San Jose where the area is a little more seedy.

Surf trip gear for Costa Rica

Costa Rica surf trip packing list
Much needed ding repair in Costa Rica
  • Fins

If you’re planning on renting a surfboard in Costa Rica, you can probably ignore this one. However, if you’re planning on bringing your surfboard to Costa Rica, you’ll definitely want to include fins in your Costa Rica surf trip packing list.

  • Fin key

This is a pretty easy one to forget- you’ll definitely want to bring a fin key for a Costa Rica surf trip. 

In fact, this is one of the best surf accessories!

  • Solarez ding repair kit

Definitely bring a tube of this stuff on your Costa Rica surf trip if you’re bringing your own board, because it can end up being a lifesaver! 

You CAN buy it there, (at least I’ve seen it at a surf shop in Nosara) but it’s much more expensive than if you just order a ding repair kit before you leave. 

  • Tropical surf wax

Tropical surf wax is another one of those things you can buy in Costa Rica, but it’s better to just bring some because it’s cheaper, you’re guaranteed to have the kind you want, and if you’re trying to catch an early first thing in the morning surf when you get there, the surf shops probably won’t even be open yet.

  • Reef-safe sunscreen

This is a big one. The sun down in Costa Rica is pretty scorching, and you’re going to want some solid sunscreen to protect yourself there. I always recommend getting some zinc-based reef safe sunscreen, so you can protect yourself and the oceans while you’re at it. 

I have a whole guide on the best reef-safe sunscreens for surfers you can read, or you can check out my top picks which are Kokua Suncare and SurfDurt

The one thing you need to keep in mind about sunscreen is the carry-on liquid allowance. If you’re checking a bag, you don’t need to worry about it. If you’re checking a surfboard, you can throw it in your board bag. 

If you’re only taking a backpack, you’ll need to bring a sunscreen that is under the airline allowance of 3.4 oz.

  • Spare leash 

It’s always a good idea to add a spare surf leash to your Costa Rica surf trip packing list. Just in case your leash snaps while you’re surfing, it’s nice to have a replacement one in your pack you can grab. 

You can definitely buy leashes in Costa Rica, but they’re also pretty expensive, depending on where you are. 

For example, a leash you could buy in the United States for $35 might cost $55 in Costa Rica. And then of course you run into that issue of if something happens early in the morning, or in a more remote area, you won’t be able to easily go buy one.

  • Surf watch

To keep track of the time, you’ll want to bring along a surf watch. You can either go simple with a little waterproof Casio, or get something sweet that’ll track everything from waves caught to calories burned. If you’re curious about surf watches, check out my guide to the best surf watches on the market.


Clothing for women to pack for a Costa Rica surf trip

Costa Rica surf trip packing list
Happy for rash guards in Playa Camaronal
  • Surf Bikini 

When it comes to surfing, not all bikinis are created alike. Having grown up surfing in Pismo Beach & Morro Bay California, I was used to surfing with a 4/3 wetsuit where I could wear whatever I wanted underneath it. 

That was not the case in Costa Rica. The ONLY one of my bikinis that would stay on in the surf was my Jolyn

I know there are plenty of surf brands that probably make great surf bikinis out there, but I just haven’t gotten the chance to try them yet. 

But Jolyn is AWESOME, and they stayed on in everything from little waves to a couple of feet overhead. 

I got seriously trounced in the surf, and that thing stayed on. I highly recommend one for your Costa Rica surf trip.

I will say, the sizing runs a little small for Joyln, so I’d recommend trying them on first if you can, or ordering them enough in advance before your trip so you can swap sizes if need be. 

  • Shorts

I recommend adding at least one pair of shorts to your Costa Rica surf trip packing list. 

  • Linen pants

Since it’s so hot in Costa Rica, it’s also nice to have a pair of linen pants with you. 

  • Tees & Tanks

A few light and breathable tees & tanks are also a necessity for your Costa Rica surf trip packing list.

  • A sundress or two

It’s also nice to have a sundress or two! They’re particularly nice to wear if you’re going out to a nice dinner, or to slip on over your swimsuit. 

  • Jeans

This one might be a little controversial, but I like bringing jeans with me to Costa Rica. I wear them at night if I’m going out when it’s a little cooler, and they’re nice to have if you plan on riding on a motorcycle or quad at night. 

You don’t need them, and plenty of people claim it’s totally unnecessary, but I love having a pair of jeans to wear at night in Costa Rica. 

  • Rash guard

This one is also a necessity. If you’ve never surfed in warm water without a wetsuit before, you’re going to need a rash guard

I brought one on my first surf trip to Costa Rica, and it saved my stomach, but I still got surf rash all over my legs! 

If you’re concerned about surf rash, head on over to my post on how to prevent (and treat!) surf rash

  • Sandals

A good pair of sandals absolutely must go on your Costa Rica surf trip packing list. I ended up bringing an expensive pair of Chacos on my surf trip… and they ended up tearing up my feet. I also didn’t want to leave them on the beach while I was surfing because they’re so expensive! 

So, I ended up buying a $10 pair of sandals from a local market and literally wearing them EVERYWHERE. It’s funny how those things work out sometimes. 

Since then, I’ve gotten a pair of Tevas, and they’re way more comfortable, and softer on my feet. 

I recommend bringing something like a pair of Tevas you can wear around town, as well as a cheap pair of flip flops you don’t mind leaving on the beach while you’re surfing. 

  • Lightweight rain coat

If you’re visiting in the rainy season, you absolutely need to bring a lightweight rain coat on your Costa Rica surf trip! 

If you’re visiting in the dry season, you don’t really need one, but it does still occasionally rain so I recommend bringing one anyway. 

Clothing for men to pack for a Costa Rica surf trip

Costa Rica packing list
  • Board shorts

You’re going to need at least one pair of board shorts on your Costa Rica surfing vacation. I recommend ones with a solid drawstring that’ll stay on during the surf, and bonus points if they have pockets!

  • Rash guard 

A rash guard is another essential item. It’ll not only protect you against pesky surf rash, but it will also protect you from the sun which you’ll need, especially if you go for a midday surf. 

  • Shorts

In addition to board shorts, you’ll definitely want a few pairs of lightweight, breathable shorts. 

  • Tees & Tanks

A few tees and tanks are about all the shirts you’ll need for a Costa Rica surf trip. You can also throw in a long sleeve, linen dress shirt to dress up at night if you plan on any nicer dinners. 

  • Sandals

You’ll definitely want a nice pair of sandals on your Costa Rica surf trip. I recommend a cheaper pair that you don’t have any qualms about leaving on the beach during surf sessions.

  • Lightweight rain jacket

If visiting in the rainy season, you’ll need a lightweight rain jacket. It’s not as necessary in the dry season, but it’s still a good idea to bring one just in case, as it does still occasionally rain in the dry season. 

Costa Rica surf trip packing list: final thoughts

That’s a wrap on this Costa Rica surf trip packing list! If you bring along these surf trip essentials, you should be more than prepared for your upcoming surf trip. 

If you have any more questions on what to bring, or any recommendations on what to bring, feel free to drop a comment below! 

In the meantime, check out these guides on some rad Costa Rica surf spots:

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