Pick Your Paradise: 10 Surf Trips For Under $2,000


10 Surf Trips For Under $2,000
By Mike Fish

What’s $2,000 over the course of a year? It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To one guy, it can look like an unattainable fortune of epic proportions; to another, it’s just another drop in the bucket.
Regardless of your social or financial status, we can break down the numbers pretty quickly and easily: $2,000 means saving approximately $5.50 a day ($40 a week) for one year. At first glance, that may seem like a lot. But when you really think about it, there are countless lines in our twenty-first-century budgets that can be trimmed. Do you stop for coffee every morning? Do you slosh back a few too many beers with the boys? Do you wine and dine a girlfriend who does nothing but nag you? Forty dollars a week adds up pretty fast. Now ask yourself: do you really need all that stuff in your life? Of course you don’t, especially since that same cash is more than enough to take you on a supreme surf sojourn. Sure, your girlfriend might get bitter, your buddies might make fun of you for staying in, and you might fall asleep at the wheel on your way to work because of caffeine withdrawal. But you’ll also visit one of the following ten places for two weeks, maybe with money to spare, so your life will be infinitely richer in more ways than one.

*Note: All pricing information is approximate and depends on airline carriers and fees as well as lodging (based on split double occupancy here), transportation, and meal choices. All are subject to rapid change… so you better book now!

Puerto Rico
There’s an old saying that claims Puerto Rico is like the East Coast’s O’ahu. And in many ways, it’s true. During the winter months, just like its Pacific counterpart, the breaks along the Caribbean island’s northern and northwest coasts light up with raw power (thanks to consistent swells marching through the Atlantic). From big-wave bravado to rippable reefs, this tropical paradise has tons of quality spots-which explains why so many East Coasters make the two-and-a-half-hour flight every year. Along with the positives, unfortunately, the similarities are also mirrored in heavy local vibes and a prevalence of petty crime. But for the discerning, frugal surf voyager, this is one spot worth visiting-and probably revisiting.

What to know
Go There From: The East Coast.
Prime Season: Winter.
Airfare/Transportation: $250 flight from New York City or Orlando to San Juan; $170 rental car/ $100 gas.
Dollars A Day: $20 for basic food and drink, $30 for lodging = $50.
Water Temp: 79 degrees.
Consistency: Moderate with a handful of large days.
Crowds: Heavy at main breaks.
Local Scene: San Juan is overflowing with attractions and culture, including historic forts, cobblestone-lined city streets, and all-night salsa clubs.
Watch Out For: Theft, as well as some territorial and aggressive locals-especially the bodyboarders.

Cost: $1,120

Oaxaca, Mexico
On Mexico’s southern Pacific coast, there’s a plethora of breaks-from dredging beaches and rifling points to secret reefs. But what it’s really famous for is Puerto Escondido, a beachbreak that punishes by epic proportions (it’s ranked among the most dangerous waves in the world). If you’re looking to score huge tubes during the Northern Hemi summer, there’s no place like it. Then again, if you’re looking for a mellower scene, away from the broken boards and bones, a visit during the winter can yield a surplus of smaller, more playful waves-and some of the cleanest conditions of the year. And it’s cheap enough for any budget.

What to know
Go There From: The East Coast.
Season: Depends what you’re looking for … summer for giant death barrels, fall or winter for manageable surf.
Airfare/Transportation: $430 flight from Miami to Puerto Escondido; $120 rental car/ $50 gas.
Dollars A Day: $20 for basic food and drink, $30 for lodging $50.
Water Temp: 81 degrees.
Consistency: High: three foot in the winter, eight foot in the summer.
Crowds: Heavy at Puerto, moderate at other spots.
Local Scene: Lively, plenty of dive bars with ample patrons.
Watch Out For: Diarrhea, muggings, and petty crime from banditos and federales alike, and breaking every board in your quiver.

Cost: $1,200


Nova Scotia
Not everyone wants to surf balmy barrels in boardshorts. So for the wintry watermen, few trips are as appealing as the Canadian Maritimes. In the northeastern Atlantic, wedged between Maine and Newfoundland, Nova Scotia hosts heaps of cobblestone point breaks, not to mention countless mysto reefs and beachbreaks. Bucolic and rugged, it’s no surf city. And that’s a huge part of its charm. (The minute-long point rides don’t hurt either.) Due to the steady influx of Americans in recent years, the otherwise friendly and welcoming Canadian locals have become slightly surly and protective. But if you visit this place, an unspoiled wilderness frontier with endless potential, you’ll certainly understand why.


What to know
Go There From: The East Coast.
Season: Fall or winter.
Airfare/Transportation: $420 from Boston to Halifax; $150 rental car/ $100 gas.
Dollars A Day: $40 for basic food and drink, $45 for lodging = $85.
Water Temp: 40-54 degrees in fall, 34 in winter.
Consistency: Fickle to regular, overhead during solid groundswell.
Crowds: Light with plenty of room to spread out.
Local Scene: Happening college city in Halifax with historic sights of interest, and there’re quite a few bars, too.
Watch Out For: Hypothermia and tough locals at crowded spots.

Cost: $1,690

Barbados
Some claim this tiny Caribbean gem holds the Atlantic’s most consistent surf. Don’t take their word for it, though-see for yourself. This isle in the Lesser Antilles is home to a variety of breaks and is open to swell on all sides. However, its eastern shore receives the majority of attention because of Soupbowl, an epic right-hand reef break that’s almost always rideable and sometimes world class. Nearby are a number of other fun spots, and a short drive will unveil even more. Conditions range daily (and hourly) from onshore and messy or glassy and playful to offshore and tubing. Locals are always out at the ‘Bowl, as are droves of visitors, and the takeoff spot is narrow. But if you visit for two weeks, stay on top of it and show some respect, odds are you’ll return home sunburned, surfed out, and smiling for months afterward.

What to know
Go There From: The East Coast.
Season: Winter or fall.
Airfare/Transportation: $410 from Miami to Bridgetown; $240 rental car/ $100.
Dollars A Day: $40 for basic food and drink, $45 for lodging = $85.
Water Temp: 81 degrees.
Consistency: Plenty, the wind is the real wildcard.
Crowds: Claustrophobic on the best days at Soupbowl, moderate during normal days-other spots are mellower but not as good.
Local Scene: Irie Bajan culture and a true glimpse into the Caribbean, as well as plenty of rum at beachfront watering holes.
Watch Out For: Sea urchins and theft.

Cost: $1,770

Spain
Fine wine, gorgeous women, old-world charm, and six-foot Mundaka … Visit Spain in the fall and you’ll never want to go back home. A hop over the pond (as the Brits call the Atlantic) to a scenic Basque village in the Bay of Biscay lands you at one of the premier left-handers on the planet. There’re a few other nearby spots to check, not to mention the coast of France is just a few hours drive away, but if you travel all the way to this rustic area, Mundaka is definitely the main attraction. And for good reason: a vertical, breakneck takeoff followed by 150 meters of tube time (try an off-the-lip if you dare)-this is a very impressive wave to have on your surfing rà‡sumà‡. So if you’re a goofy-foot who appreciates rich European culture and a siesta after a solid surf followed by a heaping dish of paella-pack your bags and brush up on your Spanish.


What to know
Go There From: The East Coast.
Season: Fall.
Airfare/Transportation: $582 from New York City to Bilbao; $166 rental car/ $100 gas.
Dollars A Day: $40 for basic food and drink, $45 for lodging = $85.
Water Temp: 62 degrees.
Consistency: Breaks only about 50 days a year, but your chances in fall are good.
Crowds: Often a packed house, so check it during weekdays and off tides.
Local Scene: Tasty restaurants with great atmosphere and rural nightlife.
Watch Out For: Set waves and nasty currents-and the bulls of nearby Pamplona if you decide to visit earlier and run with them.

Cost: $1,870
British Columbia, Canada
British Columbia hosts more waves than the surfing population at large has the capabilities, or interest, to capitalize on. Maybe it’s because the weather is usually gray and relatively cold-or the fact that access is limited and others are still relatively uncharted (bring a boat). Or maybe it’s that most surfers are soft and lazy (I know I am) and just gravitate toward warm, easy surf trips. Regardless of the reason, anyone who does choose this road less traveled will be rewarded with one of the most unique waveriding experiences in North America, amongst abundant wildlife and generally friendly locals. The gateway is Vancouver and its surrounding shores (such as Tofino), where miles upon miles of astonishing coastline meet one of Canada’s coolest cosmopolitan cities.

What to know
Go There From: The West Coast.
Season: Fall.
Airfare/Transportation: $360 from San Francisco to Vancouver; $150 rental car/$100 gas.
Dollars A day: $35 for basic food and drink, $40 for lodging = $75.
Water Temp: 45-55 degrees.
Consistency: The North Pacific has no shortage of swell.
Crowds: Happy to see you-but don’t take that as an invite to be disrespectful or a surfing lumberjack will cut you down to size.
Local Scene: If you dig Seattle or Portland, you’ll love Vancouver, and the natural scenery is second to none.
Watch Out For: Bears, bad weather, and getting totally lost in the woods.

Cost: $1,510

Nicaragua
A decade ago, the average surfer was hesitant to visit Nicaragua. Political disorder and recurrent violence made the place unwelcoming. Instead Costa Rica, the neighboring country to the south that was more docile and rapidly developing, was the Central American go-to. But that’s all changed now. A shift toward a slightly more stable government and economy, a speedy rise in tourism, and the opening of countless surf camps in Nica’s southern region have opened the door to this land of steady waves and offshore winds. And it helps that there’s a hefty stretch of top-notch breaks to make the best of the prime conditions (a favorite is the epic A-frame Popoyo and its outside cloudbreak that works on grande swells). These days, many Americans are even buying land in the area. And as Costa’s become slightly overdeveloped and crowded, its northern neighbor has never looked more inviting.

What to know
Go There From: The West Coast.
Season: Summer.
Airfare/Transportation: $590 from Los Angeles to Managua; $70 rental car/$100 gas.
Dollars A day: $30 for basic food and drink, $40 for lodging = $70.
Water Temp: 82 degrees.
Consistency: Going off the chain.
Crowds: Growing with the popularity and publicity, but still very manageable-especially away from Popoyo.
Local Scene: Sea turtle nesting, jungle hikes, and a couple dusty bars.
Watch Out For: A resurgence of Sandinista rebel power, natural disasters, petty crime, and freshwater sharks in Lake Nicaragua.

Cost: $1,600

Baja, Mexico
Baja Mexico is the quintessential quest for waveriders living on the West Coast-particularly in Southern California, where you don’t even need to board a plane. From coastal San Diego County, you can after a solid surf followed by a heaping dish of paella-pack your bags and brush up on your Spanish.


What to know
Go There From: The East Coast.
Season: Fall.
Airfare/Transportation: $582 from New York City to Bilbao; $166 rental car/ $100 gas.
Dollars A Day: $40 for basic food and drink, $45 for lodging = $85.
Water Temp: 62 degrees.
Consistency: Breaks only about 50 days a year, but your chances in fall are good.
Crowds: Often a packed house, so check it during weekdays and off tides.
Local Scene: Tasty restaurants with great atmosphere and rural nightlife.
Watch Out For: Set waves and nasty currents-and the bulls of nearby Pamplona if you decide to visit earlier and run with them.

Cost: $1,870
British Columbia, Canada
British Columbia hosts more waves than the surfing population at large has the capabilities, or interest, to capitalize on. Maybe it’s because the weather is usually gray and relatively cold-or the fact that access is limited and others are still relatively uncharted (bring a boat). Or maybe it’s that most surfers are soft and lazy (I know I am) and just gravitate toward warm, easy surf trips. Regardless of the reason, anyone who does choose this road less traveled will be rewarded with one of the most unique waveriding experiences in North America, amongst abundant wildlife and generally friendly locals. The gateway is Vancouver and its surrounding shores (such as Tofino), where miles upon miles of astonishing coastline meet one of Canada’s coolest cosmopolitan cities.

What to know
Go There From: The West Coast.
Season: Fall.
Airfare/Transportation: $360 from San Francisco to Vancouver; $150 rental car/$100 gas.
Dollars A day: $35 for basic food and drink, $40 for lodging = $75.
Water Temp: 45-55 degrees.
Consistency: The North Pacific has no shortage of swell.
Crowds: Happy to see you-but don’t take that as an invite to be disrespectful or a surfing lumberjack will cut you down to size.
Local Scene: If you dig Seattle or Portland, you’ll love Vancouver, and the natural scenery is second to none.
Watch Out For: Bears, bad weather, and getting totally lost in the woods.

Cost: $1,510

Nicaragua
A decade ago, the average surfer was hesitant to visit Nicaragua. Political disorder and recurrent violence made the place unwelcoming. Instead Costa Rica, the neighboring country to the south that was more docile and rapidly developing, was the Central American go-to. But that’s all changed now. A shift toward a slightly more stable government and economy, a speedy rise in tourism, and the opening of countless surf camps in Nica’s southern region have opened the door to this land of steady waves and offshore winds. And it helps that there’s a hefty stretch of top-notch breaks to make the best of the prime conditions (a favorite is the epic A-frame Popoyo and its outside cloudbreak that works on grande swells). These days, many Americans are even buying land in the area. And as Costa’s become slightly overdeveloped and crowded, its northern neighbor has never looked more inviting.

What to know
Go There From: The West Coast.
Season: Summer.
Airfare/Transportation: $590 from Los Angeles to Managua; $70 rental car/$100 gas.
Dollars A day: $30 for basic food and drink, $40 for lodging = $70.
Water Temp: 82 degrees.
Consistency: Going off the chain.
Crowds: Growing with the popularity and publicity, but still very manageable-especially away from Popoyo.
Local Scene: Sea turtle nesting, jungle hikes, and a couple dusty bars.
Watch Out For: A resurgence of Sandinista rebel power, natural disasters, petty crime, and freshwater sharks in Lake Nicaragua.

Cost: $1,600

Baja, Mexico
Baja Mexico is the quintessential quest for waveriders living on the West Coast-particularly in Southern California, where you don’t even need to board a plane. From coastal San Diego County, you can be getting shacks at Baja Malibu in less than one hour. From there, you’re within striking distance of a number of quality spots in the northern region and a day’s drive to the southern tip. But why do it in a day? Spread the journey out over two weeks (a week down, and a week back) and you’ll uncover countless points and reefs, idyllic campsites, and pastoral towns. And if you need a wild night out in Cabo San Lucas in between the purity, so be it. Regardless, you’ll return home with a new appreciation of where you live and all that’s close to your doorstep.

What to know
Go There from: The West Coast.
Season: Winter for North and Central, Summer for the South and East Cape.
Gasoline: $600 (and make sure your car is in absolute tip-top before departing).
Dollars A day: $30 for basic food and drink, $30 for lodging = $60.
Water Temp: 52-63 degrees in North/Central, 74-80 in South/East Cape.
Consistency: You’ll surf a lot.
Crowds: Fairly light, especially south of Ensenada and north of Cabo.
Local Scene: Miles of desolate coastline and small towns, and then party central in Cabo.
Watch Out For: Theft, flat tires, and running out of gas and food.

Cost: $1,320


Maui
O’ahu’s North Shore is the pilgrimage every surfer must make at least once in a lifetime. But after that amazing initial visit, you might be left yearning for a Hawai’ian experience that’s a little less high-profile and a lot more homegrown-without sacrificing wave quality, of course. If so, Maui is a sweet spot to gain an extended glimpse of unadulterated aloha. Lush tropical valleys and mountains meet deep blue seas and a kaleidoscope of flora. Like O’ahu, Maui’s north shore comes alive during the winter months, while the south-facing coasts see action during summer (although not quite as much, as they’re shadowed by other islands). The waves can definitely be board-breaking, the hold-downs lengthy, and the locals hostile, but not to the same caliber as its famous neighboring counterpart. Long after you’ve paid your respects on O’ahu, Maui is a voyage you’ll want to take again and again.

What to know
Go There From: The West Coast.
Season: Winter for big ‘uns; summer for smaller stuff.
Airfare/Transportation: $390 from Los Angeles to Maui; $250 rental car/$100 gas.
Dollars A day: $35 for basic food and drink, $60 for lodging = $95.
Water Temp: 75-80 degrees.
Consistency: Way more than you’re used to.
Crowds: Heavy to moderate-pick your spots and be respectful.
Local Scene: Dormant volcanoes, windsurfing, mountain biking, whale watching, and partying in Lahaina or Ka’anapali.
Watch Out For: Cleanup sets, locals, theft, and jet skis at Jaws.

Cost: $1,880


Nayarit, Mexico
The fact that this is the third entry for Mexico in this top-ten list says something about the country’s ultimate legitimacy as a surf destination: it’s as diverse as they come. This state, central on the mainland Pacific, attracts those who want a cheap, tropical surf trip with plenty of waves but without all the grit and danger that accompanies other areas. Many spots favor longboarding, while others are very suitable for high-performance ripping. And spots offshore in the Bahia de Banderas house more than a few tubes, too. There’s a lot of development around Puerto Vallarta, which thins out as you head north toward Sayulita, and consistent pockets of American and European expats add to the eclectic vibe. That essentially sums up the country’s undying allure for surfers-there’s something for everyone, and it’s seldom flat.

What to know
Go There From: The West Coast.
Season: Summer.
Airfare/Transportation: $278 from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta; $190 rental car/$50 gas.
Dollars A day: $30 for basic food and drink, $30 for lodging = $60.
Water Temp: 75-80 degrees.
Consistency: Always rideable but seldom really big or consequential like other Mexican regions.
Crowds: Yes, but fairly laid back. Spots reachable by boat are often empty.
Local Scene: Touristy and active in Puerto Vallarta and chill and artsy in Sayulita.
Watch Out For: Sand gnats, theft, Montezuma’s Revenge.

Cost: $1,240

getting shacks at Baja Malibu in less than one hour. From there, you’re within striking distance of a number of quality spots in the northern region and a day’s drive to the southern tip. But why do it in a day? Spread the journey out over two weeks (a week down, and a week back) and you’ll uncover countless points and reefs, idyllic campsites, and pastoral towns. And if you need a wild night out in Cabo San Lucas in between the purity, so be it. Regardless, you’ll return home with a new appreciation of where you live and all that’s close to your doorstep.

What to know
Go There from: The West Coast.
Season: Winter for North and Central, Summer for the South and East Cape.
Gasoline: $600 (and make sure your car is in absolute tip-top before departing).
Dollars A day: $30 for basic food and drink, $30 for lodging = $60.
Water Temp: 52-63 degrees in North/Central, 74-80 in South/East Cape.
Consistency: You’ll surf a lot.
Crowds: Fairly light, especially south of Ensenada and north of Cabo.
Local Scene: Miles of desolate coastline and small towns, and then party central in Cabo.
Watch Out For: Theft, flat tires, and running out of gas and food.

Cost: $1,320


Maui
O’ahu’s North Shore is the pilgrimage every surfer must make at least once in a lifetime. But after that amazing initial visit, you might be left yearning for a Hawai’ian experience that’s a little less high-profile and a lot more homegrown-without sacrificing wave quality, of course. If so, Maui is a sweet spot to gain an extended glimpse of unadulterated aloha. Lush tropical valleys and mountains meet deep blue seas and a kaleidoscope of flora. Like O’ahu, Maui’s north shore comes alive during the winter months, while the south-facing coasts see action during summer (although not quite as much, as they’re shadowed by other islands). The waves can definitely be board-breaking, the hold-downs lengthy, and the locals hostile, but not to the same caliber as its famous neighboring counterpart. Long after you’ve paid your respects on O’ahu, Maui is a voyage you’ll want to take again and again.

What to know
Go There From: The West Coast.
Season: Winter for big ‘uns; summer for smaller stuff.
Airfare/Transportation: $390 from Los Angeles to Maui; $250 rental car/$100 gas.
Dollars A day: $35 for basic food and drink, $60 for lodging = $95.
Water Temp: 75-80 degrees.
Consistency: Way more than you’re used to.
Crowds: Heavy to moderate-pick your spots and be respectful.
Local Scene: Dormant volcanoes, windsurfing, mountain biking, whale watching, and partying in Lahaina or Ka’anapali.
Watch Out For: Cleanup sets, locals, theft, and jet skis at Jaws.

Cost: $1,880


Nayarit, Mexico
The fact that this is the third entry for Mexico in this top-ten list says something about the country’s ultimate legitimacy as a surf destination: it’s as diverse as they come. This state, central on the mainland Pacific, attracts those who want a cheap, tropical surf trip with plenty of waves but without all the grit and danger that accompanies other areas. Many spots favor longboarding, while others are very suitable for high-performance ripping. And spots offshore in the Bahia de Banderas house more than a few tubes, too. There’s a lot of development around Puerto Vallarta, which thins out as you head north toward Sayulita, and consistent pockets of American and European expats add to the eclectic vibe. That essentially sums up the country’s undying allure for surfers-there’s something for everyone, and it’s seldom flat.

What to know
Go There From: The West Coast.
Season: Summer.
Airfare/Transportation: $278 from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta; $190 rental car/$50 gas.
Dollars A day: $30 for basic food and drink, $30 for lodging = $60.
Water Temp: 75-80 degrees.
Consistency: Always rideable but seldom really big or consequential like other Mexican regions.
Crowds: Yes, but fairly laid back. Spots reachable by boat are often empty.
Local Scene: Touristy and active in Puerto Vallarta and chill and artsy in Sayulita.
Watch Out For: Sand gnats, theft, Montezuma’s Revenge.

Cost: $1,240

Crowds: Yes, but fairly laid back. Spots reachable by boat are often empty.
Local Scene: Touristy and active in Puerto Vallarta and chill and artsy in Sayulita.
Watch Out For: Sand gnats, theft, Montezuma’s Revenge.

Cost: $1,240

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