Wave attenuation by coastal vegetation has attracted coastal engineers' wide attention. This study reviews present investigations and latest advances in typical approaches in laboratory experiments as well as theoretical analysis, as well as the analytical methods on micro and macro scales. Firstly, the governing parameters in vegetation modeling and theoretical models are summarized, such as those of vegetation, hydrodynamics and experiment setup in a laboratory experiment. It is revealed that the analytical methods can be classified into method of reduction in wave height and method of dissipation of wave energy, respectively. Finally, this paper points out that the scale effect in vegetation size and wave parameters is the main reason that limits the universal applications of analytical solutions, only applicable in 2-D flows. The further problems, coupling of multiple factors such as seasonality, motion of vegetation, wave breaking, the randomness and nonlinearity of waves, tidal currents, are desirable to be addressed.