Paradise on a Budget in the Canary Islands

When you think of holiday hotspots to take a summer vacation to, what comes to mind? Beaches, sun, and fruity drinks? Of course, because nothing says vacation like a coconut filled with rum and topped with a slice of pineapple and an umbrella. Do they hand that to you when you get off the plane on Richard Branson's Necker Island? Nonetheless, along with beaches, sun, and fruity drinks probably comes images of money symbols. A suite here, a few (or 100) margaritas there, and three meals out per day, and you're looking at a lot of hours you have to put in at the office to save up. However, if you're anything like me, whose toilet is gold plated travel style is one of balance, and therefore neither an extreme budget traveler nor plush luxury traveler, then you may like what I've got to tell you about the island of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands.

You can spend less then $50 per day at the European vacation hotspot of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. There, I said it. Yes, $40 a day, including your accommodations, and not in a dorm room of 15 backpackers. "What's the catch Spencer?" For five easy payments of $19.99 you can find out how to spend $40 a day on a Canary Islands vacation. The catch is this: Trade the plush green rainforests of many tropical destinations for semi-desert landscape that looks like Mars and substitute sex on the beach for red wine - that is, the cocktail. You won't even have to give up the laid back vibe, long sandy beaches, and water sports, such as surfing, kiteboarding, and windsurfing.

First of all, let's start with one of the most important considerations of a trip like this: accommodations. You could very easily spend well over $100 on accommodations. Since the town I was staying in, Corralejo, is considered a resort destination for Europeans, there's no shortage of  luxury hotels. However, if you look beyond the hotels you'll also find some budget options, such as where I stayed, at the Fuerteventura Surf House. The accommodations were just the basics, which included a private bedroom, with my friend and I both getting a bed, shared bathroom, kitchen, washer and dryer, free WiFi, and a rooftop that looked over the city and the beach just a few blocks away. The price: $20 (Which is cheaper then many hostel dormitories in Europe). Take a quick look on Homeaway and you'll see other properties at a similar price point.

With the biggest expense of a trip like this out of the way, that brings us to a total of $20-$25 per day if you play your cards right.  Much to my surprise, eating in Corralejo, Fuerteventura is both cheap and good. A group of us staying at the surf house went out one night for Spanish tapas and for a full table of tapas and a couple drinks per person, the final bill came out to $8 per person. That was before the waiter brought over several bottles of liquor for us to enjoy. Some people spend $8 at Subway. Folks, you can't get paella and fried octopus at Subway. However, as good and cheap as the food was, I ate out only a couple of times, choosing instead to go to the local market and prepare most of my meals back at the surf house. Grocery store prices were similar to what I would pay in San Francisco, with many things being cheaper. No day saw me spending any more then $15 on food.

After accommodations and meals, you're looking at approximately $35-$40. For some people, that may be enough, substituting some of that lunch and dinner budget for more alcohol. However, I'm not one who can just lounge around on a beach every day. I want to see the city, travel to outerlying areas, and get lost. Thus, you'll incur fees, such as public transportation, taxis, and tour guides. Transportation will likely be your highest fee, as buses and ferries can run anywhere from $5 to $25, depending on where you're going. The cheapest ferry from Corralejo takes you to Lobos for $15 round trip, with the price of ferries to the other Canary Islands going up from there. Surf board rentals run between $5-$15 per day with lower prices for week rentals.

With round trip airfares from the U.S. to the Canary Islands as low as $800, you could be traveling in Europe for less then $1,250 per week. See it and believe it. With a budget that small, you may find yourself even splurging for a couple meals or trying something you've never done, like what I did by attending a surf camp. The price for a six-day surf camp and accommodations for 10 days was less then $600. Now that's something to write home about.

What destinations have you found to be surprisingly cheap?

This blog post was written under the influence of Mumford & Sons new I Will Wait For You. And yes, I am still waiting for you. I was also under the influence of melted chocolate praline from Holland and a bottle of Tempranillo from Spain. If you go to Fuerteventura and come back complaining that you didn't have a meal under $15, I'm going to respond with this: "Stop going to waterfront restaurants where all the tourists congregate in insert name of every resort town in the world." If you do in fact take a surf camp and ride your first wave on day one, I will snarl and give you the stank eye, as it took me six days.