As one of the top choices for surf vacations, Costa Rica is a great place for anyone wanting to learn the sport of surfing or improve their skills. There are plenty of good Costa Rica surf camps to stay at and many, like Iguana Surf, provide you with surfboards, leashes, wax, rash guards, and almost everything you need to surf. But what else should you bring? And what if you want to bring your surfboard? Read on to discover the best Costa Rica travel tips for surfers.
What to Bring on Your Surf Vacation in Costa Rica
- Surfboard: You certainly don’t have to bring your surfboard to surf in Costa Rica. Practically every surfing beach has surfboard rentals. But for the dedicated surfer, nothing beats riding the waves on your own board.
Of course, you will want to protect your precious cargo and a proper board bag is the only way to do it. Using a board bag with at least 10 millimeters (half-inch) of padding is best for international flights. Many bags come with nose or tail inserts to further protect your board from damage.
Depending on how many surfboards you want to bring, you need a bag with the proper dimensions to fit your boards. It is probably best to buy a bag with board-separating padding if you plan to do this, otherwise, you will have to stack your boards with care. Don’t stack nose to tail. Keep your tails and noses lined up together at the same end. Be sure to use straps, tape, or rope to strap the boards together so they don’t get damaged moving around.
Most damage to the traveling surfboard will be to the nose, tail, or rails, so it is best to provide some additional padding to these areas. You can use bubble wrap or save the Styrofoam packaging from your pre-vacation Amazon shopping sprees, as these work really well.
If your fin doesn’t come off, you will have to get creative to protect it. Try splitting open a tennis ball and putting that over the pointy end. Then pack the fin sides with the foam inserts you’ve been saving and wrap it in tape to keep it all in place.
Another travel hack for your surf vacation in Costa Rica is using your clothing as additional padding in your board bag. Just roll it up neatly and stuff it into any empty spaces. The less your boards move around, the better.
Fees: If you are traveling on American Airlines, your surfboards are considered standard baggage and will be charged as such, as long as it is not over 50 pounds or exceeds 320 centimeters (126 inches). This will cost you either $30 or $40, depending on if it is your first or second checked bag.
Air Canada charges $100 for each surfboard and does not permit anything other than packing material, meaning using your clothes or towels to pad your board is out.
For all airlines, these fees will apply both ways and you must inform the airline of your intention to bring your board bag at the time of your flight reservation.
Costa Rica Travel Tip: Bring a roll of tape just in case airport security decides to search your bag and ruin all of your hard work.
What Else Should You Bring?
- Sunscreen: Costa Rica is in Central America, which means it is very close to the equator. This means when you are here you are physically closer to the sun than most places on Earth. Even if you’re a sun worshipper, you need sunscreen!
Since you will be spending a lot of time in the ocean on your surf vacation in Costa Rica, you will want to get reef-safe and waterproof sunscreen. Many surfers opt for a zinc-based sunblock to protect their skin from the reflective water.
Read more about surfer sun care HERE.
If you are particular about skincare brands it really is best to bring your sunscreen as it will not be easy to find everything you are looking for once you get to Costa Rica. If you do find your special brand, the import fees will ensure it costs more than it would back home. If you forget the sunscreen don’t fret. The Iguana Surf Shop has a locally made sunscreen called Sea Element, which is completely natural, reef-friendly, and works great. It’s a favorite of our surf instructors.
- A few swimsuits: Bring a few different swimsuits just in case you have to throw on your swimsuit before it is dry. Also, they will likely get dirty and possibly damaged. At Iguana Surf camp, we will give you your own rash guard to protect your swim top, so not to worry. Nevertheless, you will practically be living in your swimsuit here so it’s important to have more than one!
- Beach towel: Don’t forget to bring a towel (thanks Towelie)! Not only to dry off but sometimes you need a towel to protect your board during a last-minute surf trip!
Another great thing to have at the beach is a sarong. You can throw it over your shoulders if you’re getting too much sun, wear it as a cover-up, or sit on it as sand will not stick to it as much as a regular towel.
- Beach bag: Try to find a beach bag with a zipper or a separate compartment with a zipper to keep the sand out. This will be a good place to keep your phone or wallet.
Costa Rica Travel Tip: Do not leave your valuables unattended, even in a locked vehicle.
- Sunglasses and hat: Remember, the UV here is crazy high! Protect yourself.
- Bug spray: The mosquitos can get bad at night, especially around sunset. Some people have a strong reaction to bug bites in tropical countries, so bring a tube of hydrocortisone or After Bite just in case. There is also a very small chance of contracting a virus called dengue fever carried by certain mosquitoes in Costa Rica. While uncommon, it is better to be safe than sorry.
- Reusable water bottle: Unlike some surf travel destinations, it is perfectly safe to drink the tap water in Costa Rica. And between the exertion from surfing and the heat, you will be drinking a lot of water! There’s no need to buy plastic water bottles at the store throughout your surf vacation in Costa Rica. It just adds to the mounting plastic problem and could end up in the ocean. If you’re worried about the tap water, you can refill your bottle at Iguana Surf where we offer filtered water at both the surf shop and the hotel.
Costa Rica Travel Tip: Bring an insulated water bottle to keep your water cold and a bottle washing brush to keep it clean.
- Warm weather clothes: The temperature rarely dips below 20 degrees Celsius (68 F) in Costa Rica, even in the cooler mountainous regions. If you plan to stay at the beach, expect temperatures from 33 C to 26 C (91 F to 79 F) at all times of the year. Pack mainly warm weather clothes as you may find that you bring a lot of stuff you won’t dare wear because it is just too hot. When choosing your wardrobe, think light and breezy!
- Appropriate footwear: Beach towns in Costa Rica are not known for their smooth surfaces. You may encounter dirt roads and bumpy sidewalks (if you find one at all!). Basically, a surf vacation in Costa Rica is not the best place to break out the four-inch heels, ladies. Most people live in their flip-flops during their time at the beach. If you plan to do some hiking, however, bring tennis shoes or a sport sandal with adjustable straps. Heavy hiking boots are not likely required unless you plan to do some serious hiking during your vacation.
- Go Pro or Camera: Bring home some awesome memories of your Costa Rican surf vacation! A good camera is nice to have if you plan to go on some sightseeing tours, like the Tamarindo Estuary Tour or Palo Verde River Tour.
Costa Rica Travel Tip: If you choose one of the surf camp packages at Iguana Surf you will be treated to some professional shots of yourself on the waves!
Packing for your surf vacation in Costa Rica is a breeze when you make a plan. That’s why one of the best tips is to make a list of the items you want to bring and check it off while you’re packing. If you have questions, you can rely on our Iguana Surf crew to help, whether you are planning your trip or you’re already here and realize you forgot something. Don’t worry, everything is replaceable, but try to hang on to that passport!