What better way to kick off a new year than with a last-minute surf trip? 2017 was about as gnarly a year as they come, and we’ve got no idea what horrors or, hopefully, pleasures 2018 will bring, so may as well get this year off to an international start. We crunched some numbers, browsed Kayak and Airbnb, and found five trips you could swing in the next couple months for less than $1,500, all in spots that tend to fire in January and February. Some leave from the East Coast, some from the West. If you didn’t max out your credit cards over the holidays, well, you might not have to here, either. All these prices were current as of this week.
Bocas del Toro, Panama
New York City (LGA or JFK) to Panama City, from $455-550 (Copa or Spirit Airlines) in late January. Airbnbs and hostels available from $40/night
Ah, Bocas. Panama’s charming slice of the Caribbean is there for all your barrel riding, partying, or relaxing needs. Plenty of grunty reefbreaks dot the Bocas archipelago, with a heaving beachbreak or two available as well. Board rentals are available at a couple surf resorts, so you can travel light and free if you’d like. Food is cheap, the nightlife is lively, but there are also plenty of empty stretches of sugar-sand beaches to completely forget other people exist. You’ll have to fly into Panama City (plenty of waves there too) then catch an inexpensive jumper flight to Bocas, but a five or six-day trip can be had for a relative bargain.
Los Angeles (LAX) to Lisbon, from $560 (multiple airlines) in early February. Airbnbs and hotels/hostels from $40/night
Portugal’s coastline from Ericeira to north of Nazaré is a rugged, wave-rich heaven. Supertubos in Peniche fires fall to winter, Nazaré gets windy in late winter but has more swell than you can handle with plenty of untouched beachbreaks nearby, and Ericeira is a wonderland of reef setups. Lisbon to the coast is a quick, cheap car rental ride away, and the food—my god, the food! And the wine is refreshingly inexpensive. You could spend a week cruising up and down the coast on the excellent freeway system, feasting on beachbreak barrels by day and incredible seafood all night, without coming close to breaking the bank.
Orlando, Florida to BGI airport, from $422 (multiple airlines) last week in January. Airbnb and hotels available from $58-70/ night
The cold winter storms that batter the U.S. Atlantic coast light up the points and reefs of Barbados, including the often-intimidating Soup Bowls, one of Slater’s fave waves on earth. The island is roughly 15 miles wide by about 20 miles long, so nothing is a long drive away. The surf is consistent on the south and east coasts, the water is warm, the beers are cold, and the rum is plentiful (and terrific). Crowds aren’t too bad either. A near-perfect winter escape. It can be a little pricey for food and drink, but nabbing a cheap flight over makes it worth it.
The Canary Islands
New York (JFK) to Tenerife, from $498 (Iberia Airlines) last week in February. Hotels available from $40/night
The Canary Islands are absolutely bursting with quality waves, with breaks that like pretty much all seasons. The islands’ north coasts light up during big winter swells, so bring boards that can handle heaving reefs. Tenerife, the biggest island, has lots of winter potential, as do Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura. Water in the winter can be in the pleasant mid-high 60s, the food is magnificent, and the landscape jaw-dropping.
Just get in your truck/van and drive.
Doesn’t really get any more budget than a trip to Baja. Gas up, fill up a cooler or two with food and beer, and hit the road. You can stay as close to the border as you like, or roam southward for spots near-ish to Guerrero Negro and the border between Baja Sur and Baja Norte. Points and reefs abound in central Baja Norte, you just have to find them, often down unmarked dirt roads that take hours to cross from Highway One. Take care to have enough gas, a good map, great tires with spares, and preferably four-wheel-drive, though it isn’t always necessary. Still plenty of adventure to be found south of the border, and the rest of the winter will serenade you with swell if you heed the call.