Surface wave exploration plays a vital role in obtaining target detection information by analyzing and retrieving the dispersion curve of surface waves. Although surface wave exploration technology originated in the 1960s, it has experienced significant advancements in recent decades and has found widespread applications in earthquake disaster and volcanic activity prediction, deep geological structure analysis, engineering construction, mining area and goaf assessment, subsidence area detection, and near-surface structure investigation, including celestial bodies such as stars. This paper aims to provide a comprehensive overview of surface wave exploration technology. It begins by discussing two types of data sources, namely active source and passive source, and proceeds to review the fundamental theory of surface wave exploration based on dispersion curve analysis and observations of horizontal and vertical amplitude ratios. This paper also provides a brief introduction to the surface wave inversion method. Additionally, it highlights the various application domains of surface wave exploration, outlines the current development trend, and presents future prospects for this technology.