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Winter Surf Destination
Old 11-06-2016, 09:19 AM   #1
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Winter Surf Destination

As a kid (before college), I used to love to surf, but I lived in a place where the waves weren't too good, and I was too broke to have a decent board. I was never too good at it, but probably because I didn't get much practice.

So the calendar is empty after the new year, and coconut oil is already solid, so I'm looking for somewhere nice and warm where I can stay for a couple three weeks, reasonably cheaply, hang out, take surfing lessons, and enjoy being warm. Not Florida in the winter warm either, that ain't warm enough.

I'd like a flight (from Charlotte) that would not break the bank. I have zero desire to stay at a "tourist mecca" in some kind of "resort" thing. Rather just a relaxing place, out of the way. So maybe an airbnb, or the like. Ideas?
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Old 11-06-2016, 09:52 AM   #2
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I know a lot of surfers from here in San Diego (which doesn't meet your criteria since it's not cheap and the water is cold in the winter) head to Costa Rica's west coast in the winter.

Seems to be very popular and not too expensive. I can ask a couple of the old-guys (who surf every day) I see every morning... They'll be able to suggest specific towns.
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Old 11-06-2016, 10:10 AM   #3
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Check out the Pacific coast of Panama.
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Old 11-06-2016, 02:32 PM   #4
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Northwest coast of Puerto Rico--over by Ponce. They have very substantial waves.

We spent last February in Hawaii, and the North Shore of Oahu was pretty impressive some days.
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Old 11-06-2016, 03:20 PM   #5
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Costa Rica Pacific coast. Jaco, and just south of there a small place called Hermosa Beach (not to be confused with Hermosa beach near Liberia in Guanacaste state). It is about 60-90 minute drive or so from San Jose.

Lots of surfing in this area. We have made plans to go back this Feb/March.

We do not surf but saw plenty of great surfing when we were there a few years ago. Wonderful, deserted beaches not unlike Australia.
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Old 11-08-2016, 06:49 AM   #6
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Thanks, All, for the ideas. The thought of staying here all winter is chilling
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Old 11-08-2016, 06:54 AM   #7
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Thanks, All, for the ideas. The thought of staying here all winter is chilling
You can always surf lake Superior here in MN. And when you get back home, it will feel nice and warm in your home state. No sharks either.


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Old 11-08-2016, 10:06 AM   #8
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Looks like the north shore. Even in the SUMMER, Superior is too cold for me!
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Old 11-08-2016, 01:56 PM   #9
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Other than cost, Hawaii might be an option. Right now, tourism is strong so prices are high. But, you might be able to find something on the web. There are grey market places to rent as well as "approved" B&B, etc, though I have no experience. Alternately, you might be able to travel with friends and share costs.

I know nothing about the areas mentioned above (Costa Rica, Panama, etc.) but you can count on Hawaii for two things: It WILL be warm - only avg. 5 degrees cooler in winter. It is part of the USA. if both of those things are a must, Hawaii is your only option in deep winter.

I am not a surfer (never even tired it) but on Oahu, you can "titrate" the waves to your skill level, though I am not aware of significant surfing schools outside of Waikiki. You should be able to find airfare for a grand or less. I have heard of late that scheduling two one-way flights (there and back) can be cheaper than round trip. Check it out if interested. Good luck and always remember, YMMV.
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Old 11-15-2016, 07:32 PM   #10
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Rincon, Puerto Rico. Easy to get to (lots of flights to SJU and then a few hour drive or a 15 minute flight to MAZ), or fly from various mainland US cities to BQN and then a 25 minute drive. Great town, not too expensive, and world-class surfing.
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Old 11-17-2016, 09:59 AM   #11
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We are not surfers but we have spent time in the coastal area south of Jaco, Costa Rica. It is not very far from San Jose.

Beautiful, deserted beaches, very warm weather, and lots of small places to stay. Every other person seemed to have a board. One of the guests from California stayed in the area every for two weeks of surfing every winter. We liked it so much we will be returning in Feb/March.
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Old 11-17-2016, 10:56 AM   #12
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Lots of good ideas! I need to get researching these destinations.
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Old 03-23-2017, 05:11 PM   #13
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Winter turned to spring, but I've got airfare, a car booked, and and a destination in mind.

The car is $6/day!
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Old 03-29-2017, 10:44 AM   #14
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We spent several weeks in Costa Rica this past month. Most of them by the water.

We saw lots of great surfing areas on our way up the cost from San Jose.
Some further towards Carrillo, Tamarindo, etc. though not as good waves. We saw lots of surfers/surfboards.

This was our second trip to Costa Rica. Recommend it. Although we noticed an increase in prices from 4 years ago.
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Old 04-05-2017, 07:39 PM   #15
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I'm going to be "roughing it", since it's just me. The place I'm going has room, two meals a day, surfing lessons, surfboards, and some other activities and stuff, all for a fixed price of less than I pay for the Hampton Inn along I-95!
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Old 04-18-2017, 02:44 PM   #16
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The car is $6/day!
Watch out for that. We had a $~6/day reservation for a car in Guanacaste (close to the airport) last year, and it was a bait and switch. When we arrived at the car rental place the rental fee was indeed super cheap, but all of the other fees totaled up to $50+/day. I'm a pretty relaxed person, have traveled all over the world, dealt with all kinds of people, and I was, uh, not cool with that development. Just double check with the rental firm you're using to make sure that's your "out the door" price for your rental.

Otherwise, the rest of the trip was AWESOME! Loved CR.
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Old 04-18-2017, 06:48 PM   #17
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Watch out for that. We had a $~6/day reservation for a car in Guanacaste (close to the airport) last year, and it was a bait and switch. When we arrived at the car rental place the rental fee was indeed super cheap, but all of the other fees totaled up to $50+/day. I'm a pretty relaxed person, have traveled all over the world, dealt with all kinds of people, and I was, uh, not cool with that development. Just double check with the rental firm you're using to make sure that's your "out the door" price for your rental.

Otherwise, the rest of the trip was AWESOME! Loved CR.
Thanks for the heads up.

This was on Kayak.com and there were many name brand agencies offering similar deals. I went with a name brand...Alamo, I think. They probably sell insurance to most everyone, but I read the fine print and called to confirm​...You need a letter with your name and cc# saying the CDW is covered on the credit card.

I'll report back here and tell you how it went. I hope it's just low demand and not shenanigans!
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Old 05-11-2017, 12:01 PM   #18
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Watch out for that. We had a $~6/day reservation for a car in Guanacaste (close to the airport) last year, and it was a bait and switch. When we arrived at the car rental place the rental fee was indeed super cheap, but all of the other fees totaled up to $50+/day.
Just got back and figured I'd report on the car first.

So, yeah, I got the hard sell on tons of stuff: several kinds of insurance, upgrade to bigger car, roadside assistance, tons of stuff. I just kept saying "no, no thank you, I don't believe so". Scare tactics about how tow trucks won't help. What? If the car breaks down, you don't offer a remedy to your customer? Something about distance from an established road. Like I said, hard-sell. Not a pleasant experience, but not horrific either. This was Alamo, btw.

I had printed a letter from Barclaycard with my name and last 4 of credit card number that said they'd do CDW. They said that if Alamo sold me CDW there would be no arguments, but that the credit card companies will not fulfill their deal sometimes. Whatever, I'll take that risk.

There was one thing they would simply not let me out of the office unless I agreed to it: liability insurance for like $12/day.

The rate of $6/day (rental +taxes) ended up at $7/day, which I didn't argue about. So $19/day, all-in. I kind of expected something like this, so went away about as happy as I could be.

Other expenses with the car: I took the ferry which was $22, and I spent $33 on fuel. Tolls were maybe $5 or so. One toll was $0.18, hehe!

The driving experience was mostly ok on the mainland, even though I got the tiny little manual transmission car. On the peninsula, ah, horrific roads. I was kicking myself for not getting the SUV. I really thought this little car was going to break if I hit a bump too hard, so I took it really, really slowly.

The roads on the Nicoya Peninsula are just plain horrific. There are a few paved highways, but that nice smooth continuous yellow line on the map can go from paved to gravel. Sometimes the paved roads were worse than the gravel roads because the potholes were so numerous and severe that you'd need to go about 10mph to navigate around them.

Here's my most interesting Costa Rica driving story: I ended-up driving at night on the Nicoya. Bad idea, but my plane was diverted to Panama City (weather), and I flew to San Jose the following morning, which gave me a later start than planned. I couldn't get the earlier ferry, so there I was, driving off the ferry at night. Followed trucks for a long time, but farther away from the ferry terminal, traffic dwindled to just me. No problem, I'll just follow the blue line in Google maps. Well, I start down a hill and the road disappears into a black abyss! The road went through a river! In the day, I might have waded through to check depth, but it was pitch black except for my headlights. So I had to turn around. Luckily only had to backtrack about 10 miles.

When planning a trip, I say "ah, 6 hours, I can drive that", but when I get there I realize it's a royal pain. The alternative was public transport plus taxi's. The folks that went that route were not real happy with their ordeal either. And out at the beach, some people wanted to go somewhere and they rented an ATV, but it cost them $70/day! I was glad to have the flexibility of the car, and despite having to drive the bad roads, and despite the upsell by Alamo, it was still cheaper and better than any other alternative.
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Old 05-11-2017, 04:00 PM   #19
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Just got back and figured I'd report on the car first.

So, yeah, I got the hard sell on tons of stuff: several kinds of insurance, upgrade to bigger car, roadside assistance, tons of stuff. I just kept saying "no, no thank you, I don't believe so". Scare tactics about how tow trucks won't help. What? If the car breaks down, you don't offer a remedy to your customer? Something about distance from an established road. Like I said, hard-sell. Not a pleasant experience, but not horrific either. This was Alamo, btw.

I had printed a letter from Barclaycard with my name and last 4 of credit card number that said they'd do CDW. They said that if Alamo sold me CDW there would be no arguments, but that the credit card companies will not fulfill their deal sometimes. Whatever, I'll take that risk.

There was one thing they would simply not let me out of the office unless I agreed to it: liability insurance for like $12/day.

The rate of $6/day (rental +taxes) ended up at $7/day, which I didn't argue about. So $19/day, all-in. I kind of expected something like this, so went away about as happy as I could be.

Other expenses with the car: I took the ferry which was $22, and I spent $33 on fuel. Tolls were maybe $5 or so. One toll was $0.18, hehe!

The driving experience was mostly ok on the mainland, even though I got the tiny little manual transmission car. On the peninsula, ah, horrific roads. I was kicking myself for not getting the SUV. I really thought this little car was going to break if I hit a bump too hard, so I took it really, really slowly.

The roads on the Nicoya Peninsula are just plain horrific. There are a few paved highways, but that nice smooth continuous yellow line on the map can go from paved to gravel. Sometimes the paved roads were worse than the gravel roads because the potholes were so numerous and severe that you'd need to go about 10mph to navigate around them.

Here's my most interesting Costa Rica driving story: I ended-up driving at night on the Nicoya. Bad idea, but my plane was diverted to Panama City (weather), and I flew to San Jose the following morning, which gave me a later start than planned. I couldn't get the earlier ferry, so there I was, driving off the ferry at night. Followed trucks for a long time, but farther away from the ferry terminal, traffic dwindled to just me. No problem, I'll just follow the blue line in Google maps. Well, I start down a hill and the road disappears into a black abyss! The road went through a river! In the day, I might have waded through to check depth, but it was pitch black except for my headlights. So I had to turn around. Luckily only had to backtrack about 10 miles.

When planning a trip, I say "ah, 6 hours, I can drive that", but when I get there I realize it's a royal pain. The alternative was public transport plus taxi's. The folks that went that route were not real happy with their ordeal either. And out at the beach, some people wanted to go somewhere and they rented an ATV, but it cost them $70/day! I was glad to have the flexibility of the car, and despite having to drive the bad roads, and despite the upsell by Alamo, it was still cheaper and better than any other alternative.
Awesome story!

Glad your experience was better. I'll do Alamo next time we're down there. Our ordeal was with a local brand can't remember who they were.
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