Pack for Any Surf Trip: The Ultimate Checklist!

I know that feeling all too well – the excitement of booking a plane ticket for a surf trip is unmatched. The anticipation of riding the waves, exploring new destinations, and immersing yourself in the surf lifestyle is truly unbeatable. But as the reality sets in, you start to stress about what you should bring. You scour the internet for packing lists, only to find articles written by people who’ve never actually been on a surf trip. Or, the lists are filled with so many unnecessary items that you’d need to hire a porter just to carry it all.

And that’s exactly why we wrote this blog. We’re here to help you pack for your next surf trip, no matter where it takes you (but if you’re considering Costa Rica, we highly recommend Witch’s Rock Surf Camp!). The following sections outline what we consider “essentials” for any surf trip.

Travel Documents

I guess I shouldn’t have to bring this up but without these items on your checklist you’re not going anywhere. Passports, travel visas, and a valid driver’s license can get overlooked in the packing, so put it on the top of your list.

Once you arrive, credit cards are often used when renting equipment or vehicles. Most places support a banking system with plenty of ATM’s so don’t forget your ATM card. Cash is king. US dollars are accepted around the world, but not always, so always try to have some local currency on hand. Smaller bills will make it easier for you to use and be aware of the local exchange rate when dealing with local shops and vendors.

  • Passport
  • Travel Visa
  • Driver’s license
  • Credit card
  • ATM card
  • Cash

Surf Gear

Without the right gear, you might be sitting on the beach looking for shade rather than looking for shade in the barrel. There are many variables when it comes to surfing, so checking local weather systems and the type of surf conditions you might be faced with will ultimately determine what goes in the back pack.

If you’re bringing your own surfboard, make sure it’s properly packed and protected during travel. Alternatively, consider renting a surfboard at your destination to save on baggage fees. If local surf shops are not in abundance make sure you bring surf wax, fins, leash with lanyard, and a fin key. If you have enough space in your luggage bring multiple sets of each. It could be the difference between getting the waves of your life or mind surfing waves until you get to the next surf shop.

  • Surfboard
  • Wax (appropriate temperature)
  • Surf fins
  • Leash w/ lanyard
  • Fin key
  • Wetsuit (spring suit, full suit, neoprene top, etc)
  • Wetsuit boots / reef booties (if surfing cold water and/or sharp reef breaks)

Clothing and Accessories

As Spicoli was told “No shirt, no service. Make sure to pack rash guards, boardshorts, swimsuits, and surf bikinis, so you can be prepared for hot, hot central american beach break sessions or something to keep the chill off a dawn patrol! Or if you’re surfing a colder destination, bring the hoodie, the heavy flannel, the comfortable sweat pants, or whatever other warm clothing you’ll need when you’re in the water. Bring a hat and sunglasses. Make sure you have comfortable footwear (hiking shoes to explore that waterfall), and don’t forget a rain jacket if you’re traveling during the rainy season.

Pack some lightweight and versatile clothing that can be easily layered. This will help you stay comfortable during different weather conditions. And a good pair of flip-flops or sandals is a must-have for almost any surf trip.


  • Swimsuit
  • Surf Bikini
  • Hoodie / jacket / flannel / pants (for colder destinations)
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Comfortable footwear


Sun Exposure

We all dream of surfing in warm water with the sun on your back but too much of a good thing can be harmful. Always use high-quality sunscreen. Make sure to use reef-safe sunscreens if you’re in a location with coral reefs. For extra protection, try zinc-based and tinted sunscreens.

It’s important to reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more often if you’re sweating or swimming. Don’t forget to protect your lips and nose with lip balm and zinc oxide. UV rated sunglasses and a brimmed hat will keep that blazing sun off your face and protect those peepers. Too much exposure to weather, surfing, or just waiting for the next bus can be really damaging so make sure to keep to the shade or stay covered up.

High quality reef-safe sunscreen

  • Zinc-based sun block (use as a 2nd layer to ensure protection from brutal sun)
  • Lip balm
  • Eye drops


Health and Safety

With regards to your health you can never be too careful. So be prepared for any health issues that may arise during your trip. If you have allergies or other health problems then bring your own medicine or treatment. Bring insect repellent and pack a mini first-aid kit with basic essential items. If applicable, have local health providers contact details on hand. In case of any medical situation, the quicker you can receive medical attention and get help can make the difference between a dream surf trip or a travel nightmare.

  • Personal medication
  • Insect repellent
  • Small first aid kit
  • Make sure you know where to find quality local medical treatment if needed



Technology and Entertainment

We are constantly bombarded with technology these days, and surfing should free us momentarily from the grips of the matrix, but leaving your phone at home on this surf trip isn’t really an option anymore these days…… So make sure you bring your smartphone, phone charger, a travel power adapter, and a power bank so that you have the option to keep your devices charged when there is no reliable power source. Download travel apps to stay connected and navigate to your destination and local information. Phones and e-readers can be great on the airplane, when you’re waiting for the tide to come up, or if you’re on your way to a post-surf siesta in the hammock.

  • Phone + phone charger
  • Power bank
  • 110V/220V travel power adaptor (not required in Costa Rica)
  • Travel apps (airline app, Surfline app, Windy app, Google maps, Spotify, Netflix, etc)
  • Tablet / Kindle

Don’t Forget To Pack Your Pura Vida

This is not a heavy item to pack but it is essential for a successful surf trip. Pura Vida is a wonderful travel companion. It helps you to remember to be relaxed with a positive mindset, to be patient and compassionate when visiting new places. Embrace local cultures, customs, foods and the local way of life.

In summary, packing for a surf trip can seem overwhelming, but hopefully this packing list will make it easier for you to travel with confidence and ease. And if you’re looking for an authentic Costa Rican surf experience, Witch’s Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo might be the perfect destination for you. With world-class surf instruction, beautiful accommodations, and a vibrant local surf culture, our surf camp offers an unforgettable vacation for surfers of all levels. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions. Pura Vida!



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