Nicaragua. Photo: SurfChannel/Devin Perry
Paddling out to an unfamiliar lineup in a foreign country can be intimidating even if your cut back is “Kellyesq.” In Uruguay, there is no need to be scared. It’s not uncommon for the local surfers to welcome you with open arms. The plethora of points, reefs, and beach breaks are enough to satisfy any traveling surfer. A modest comfortable room can be as cheap as the beer you had at the airport in the States.
To keep the cost down even more fly into Buenos Aires, Argentina because airfares to Montevideo can get pricey. The conditions tend to be fickle in Uruguay so it’s best to link up with a local or surf camp. Although Uruguay doesn’t produce the best waves on the planet, your chances to score un-crowded quality waves are more than par. Make sure to bring your best steak knife, because Uruguay is the largest consumer of beef in to world. It might not hurt to pack your wetsuit and booties, too.
9. Puerto Escondido, Mexico
Carlos Nogales, Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Photo: Red Bull
If barrels and coffee are your thing then Puerto Escondido might be your place. Located in the southern region of Mainland Mexico, Puerto Escondido can offer screaming hollow beach break, mellow beginner waves, cheap cervesas, and reasonable lodging. A basic beach bungalow can go for as little as $25 a night in the low season. The slightly more comfortable mid-range hotels with Wi-Fi, orthopedic mattresses, swimming pools, and TV’s, range from $50-$75 a night. Split this between some friends and you’ll save some change. If safety is your concern rest assured that Puerto Escondido is safe. The closet town with reported drug related deaths is San Pedro Mixtepec 10 miles from Puerto. Although this may seem close, 10 miles in Mexico can take a long time on the pothole infested dirt roads. As long as you stay near the coast safety shouldn’t be an issue. Look for Puerto to be best in the summer months as healthy SW swells approach the region.
Thailand is known to have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. What many people don’t know is that those beaches also have amazing waves. Great waves, picturesque landscapes, and dirt-cheap lodging and food make Thailand a safe bet for the budget surfer. The most promising months for swell are from May to September as the Monsoon season swings into full effect generating SW swell from the Andaman Sea. Surf shops are beginning to emerge as more and more surfers are realizing Thailand’s potential.
Charter a boat to the neighboring islands in the Andaman Sea and surf flawless reef breaks with no one out. For an authentic Thai experience, jump in a taxi “tuk tuk” and stop by one of the many local street vendors for some mango and sticky rice, a staple in the Thai cuisine. With playful warm surf, friendly people, world class diving, and a cheap cost of living Thailand is a must visit for any surfer with a sense of adventure.
7. Sri Lanka
Pro surfer Matt Beacham, Nevins Galle, Sri Lanka.
The small teardrop shaped island off the coast of India is steadily gaining recognition in the surfing world. The civil war between the military and Tamil Tiger Rebels is now something of the past and surfers are returning. The world saw Julian Wilson capture the Sri Lankan Airlines Pro last year in more than average conditions at Arugam Bay. A surf culture has emerged over the last decade in the Hikkaduwa and Galle regions. Here lies Main Reef, one of the more consistent and accessible spots with cheap accommodation right on the break. Modest rooms go for $5-$10 a night while and entire meal ranges from $3-$5. Fly into Colombo on Air Lanka (no board bag fees) and take the 3-hour drive to the Hikkaduwa area by taxi or rental car. Visit Sri Lanka while it is still relatively un-crowded because this hidden is soon to be a world-class surf destination.
6. Bali, Indonesia
Night Riders, Bali, Indonesia. Photo: Red Bull
With thousands of miles of surf rich coastline, Indonesia has become one of the most sought after surf destinations in the world. With over 20 top quality breaks on Bali, you’ll be sure to score waves. If crowds aren’t your thing, pay a fishermen a few bucks and he’ll take you to one of the other 18,700 islands in Indonesia. Flights can be pricey if coming from the States, but once there everything is cheap. Some places serve all the Heiniken you can drink for $5. You can get by with spending $5-$10 a night for relatively comfortable lodging. Bring lots of aloe because you’re sure to bounce off the reef more than once.
5. Puerto Rico, West Coast
William Sue-A-Quan, Puerto Rico. Photo: Red Bull/Stilo
Puerto Rico’s northwest coast is surprisingly inexpensive and littered with great waves. It’s almost weird that this surf paradise doesn’t get more hype. The crystal clear water accompanied with white sand beaches and palm trees will leave your island itch more than satisfied. Although a passport is not necessary for Americans, bring one because the neighboring islands are known to produce epic waves. Food is reasonable in the Rincon area. You can fill your stomach for around $6 a meal, which is cheap if you compare prices to Oahu. To keep the cost to a minimum it might be smart to camp. There are various campsites to choose from on the island and it is not uncommon to pitch a tent in an undesignated area. Just make sure your well hidden between a few bushes. Check the forecast and get on it quick because East coasters rush to Puerto Rico at the first sign of swell.
Southern Morocco campfire, 1974. Photo: Craig Peterson
Morocco is the land of the right hand point break, but unlike California, it’s not crowded nor expensive. Located just south of Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar, Morocco is littered with un-crowded waves. Water temperatures are similar to southern California so a wetsuit is required most of the year. Agadir is the most well-known and consistent region, but anywhere from Tangier south you are guaranteed to score. Don’t be alarmed by the hooded gowns and lack of women, it’s a Muslim country with a rich history and culture. Embrace it.
From December to February the surf is best, but it can also fire in the fall. Lodging can be relatively inexpensive if you’re willing to haggle a bit. While the waves are reminiscent of California, the sight of camels cruising the beach will make you realize you are far, far away.
3. Baja California
Bret Pursuit enjoying a winter swell in Baja, Mexico. Photo: Surf Channel/Shannon Quirk
Many tales are told of surfers being held up by gunpoint and left stranded on some dirt road with nothing but their underwear. While this has probably happened, it’s unlikely. As long as you rush through Tijuana and drive only in the day, safety shouldn’t be a concern. Baja California is what California surfing was 60 years ago, un-crowded and untouched. Take the quick one-hour drive from the boarder and surf world class Salsa Puedes. If that’s not working enjoy the 775 mile drive to Cabo San Lucas where you’ll stumble upon of endless point, reef and beach breaks.
It’s common to have an epic un-crowded session in Baja. Bring a tent and some canned food because civilization is scarce. Be sure to venture into the few towns that you do stumble upon and taste the incredibly cheap lobster and tacos. Be advised not to drink the water, and bring a few extra dollars to pay corrupt police.
Nicaragua has everything a traveling surfer could ask for; warm water, consistent surf, cheap lodging, and year round offshore winds. Lake Managua, a giant lake that encompasses most of southern Nicaragua creates offshore winds that blow all day every day. This means you can surf sun up to sundown if there’s swell. These “Papagayo Winds” are reason enough to pack your bags. Once arrived, the cost of living is cheap. Fly into Managua, rent a 4×4 and take the 3-4 hour drive into the Popoyo area. There are plenty of surf camps that know the area well as it can be hard to find the best waves due to poor roads and infrastructure. Remember to bring a board a few inches longer than normal because the howling offshore winds can make it hard to get into waves.
1. Northern Peru
Chicama claims to have the “longest lefts in the world,” in Puerto Malabrigo, Peru. Photo: Tumblr
People tend to think Chicama is the place to be when visiting Peru. While it remains one of the longest lefts in the world, it’s located in the less consistent and colder southern region. Travel farther north from Chicama and you’ll find the surfing paradise of Northern Peru. Countless reef, point, and beach breaks absorb Mother Nature’s swells year around. Located just south of the Equator, the Northern Peruvian states of Piura and Tumbes flourish with both North and South groundswells year around. Unlike central and southern Peru you can generally leave your wetsuit at home with water temperatures reaching the mid 70’s in summer.
In Mancora, there are several cheap places to rest your head after a long un-crowded session. Spend only $40 and you’ll relax in style at the Punta Ballenas Inn right on the water. Grab a beer and some ceviche made from fresh fish caught that morning and you’ll spend less than $6. To the Westerner everything seems cheap in Peru. Brush up on your Spanish because English can be scarce in the coastal towns of Northern Peru.