All-action summer holiday used to mean breaking the bank, but thanks to the budget airline boom there have never been more options for adrenaline jaunts on the cheap. Whether it’s glacier riding, canyonning or kite surfing, Poppy Smith has the insider info on slumming it in style.
LES DEUX ALPES, FRANCE
The action: While most European ski resorts have little to offer when the snow has gone, Les Deux Alpes comes into its own in summer. Not only does it have the largest skiable glacier in Europe with 17 ski lifts, a purpose built snowpark and half-pipe, but there’s also downhill mountain biking, a via ferrata, a climbing wall, rafting, mountain boarding (an all-terrain skate board which allows you to race down the grassy slopes), horse riding, golf, outdoor swimming, ice skating, tennis, archery, trampolining and a luge….phew! And the good news is that it’s much cheaper to go there in the summer than the winter.
Hot ticket: Les Deux Alpes is situated near Grenoble and Lyon airports. If you’re savvy and book in advance you can get a mid-week flight with Ryan Air (www.ryanair.com) to Grenoble for 0.01p plus tax, or take an Easyjet (www.easyjet.com) flight to Lyon. Coaches can also be a good option, with Eurolines doing daily London to Grenoble routes for about £90 return or £55 if you book early (www.eurolines.co.uk). Once there, the cheapest way to get to the resort is by bus. Check out www.satobus-alps.com from Lyon and www.vfd.fr from Grenoble.
Stay: Les Deux Alpes is where all the pro snowboarders head to train in the summer, so do as they do and rent a self-catering apartment for as little as 150 euro a week for four people (or as many as you can squeeze in, just don’t tell them we told you!). Call the booking office on (33 476 79 24 38. Summer rates on B&Bs are also low and, if you’re not staying too long, won’t break the bank. Le Chalet (33 476 80 51 85), which has a large garden and is right next to the Diable cable car, is only 27 euro a night including breakfast.
Eat: The Tribeca Caffe (9 route de champamé, (33 476 80 58 53), near the Mons de Lans tourist office is one of the resort’s best kept secrets. Its fun atmosphere is heightened by the free jacuzzi on the terrace, the amazing (and cheap) pizzas they serve and the free taxis they run. For an upmarket but cut price fast food stop, head to Le Takeaway at the bottom of the mountain. Not your usual tinned sausage in a baguette with stripy mustard job; they serve really good crepes, sandwiches and burgers. If cooking yourself, stick to the Marche U supermarket, it’s cheaper than the Casino!
Party: After hours head for Le Secret (33 476 79 24 33), a favourite with the locals for its live music and DJs, auctions where you can win snowboards and free holidays, happy hours and loads of free nibbles. For good value English grub, Smokey Joe’s (33 476 79 28 97) restaurant and bar is a good pre-evening fill-up and warm-up venue before moving onto the Avalanche club, with specials and happy hours meaning you wont leave sober or empty.
Insider info: Invest in a week lift pass, rather than a day one as it gives you free entrance to the swimming pool, ice rink, tennis, archery, golf range, water sports, summer toboggan, as well as special rates for other activities.
Cheap tricks: Try and get a shaper’s pass for the park. After the day is finished you shape the park for a couple of hours in the sun, get a goggle tan and a free pass for the next day that allows you to jump the lift queue and get into the pool free. Be warned these are hard to come by in the middle of the summer and you have to reserve with the head of the park before the season starts otherwise you have to wait with everyone else when the mountain closes at 12.30pm and hope you get lucky.
Come home with: In the summer the sports shops sell off the previous season’s gear, so save some money to bag a cheap snowboard or new outfit for a fraction of it’s original price.
The action: Fuerteventura (“fuerte” meaning strong, and “viento” meaning wind) has strong off-shore winds, warm waters and year round swells, making it a mecca for surfers, windsurfers and kitesurfers of all levels. The most consistent surf is found on the north west coast where there are some absolute gems for the more adventurous and many unridden spots. There’s great diving with dramatic rock formations, drop-offs, wrecks and reefs; coastal horse riding, downhill mountain biking, off road motorbiking, snorkelling and fishing.
Hot ticket: If you spend a bit of time looking, you can usually find a flight to Fuerteventura for between £100 and £200 per person. Check www.flightline.co.uk for bargain flights from the UK.
Stay: The cheapest place to stay in Corralejo is the Sol Y Mar surf hostel run by Flag Beach windsurf and kitesurf centre (www.flagbeach.com). It’s five minutes from the harbour and costs 15 euros a night with breakfast. If you’d rather not share a dorm, the next best option is to rent an apartment. Check out Zoco Travel (www.zocoshelter.com) for apartments from £249 per week for two people, plus they also run girl’s kitesurfing camps.
Eat: The cheapest supermarket in town is Hiperdino about 100m from the Sol Y Mar hostel, but most of the food in Fuerte is imported so eating out can work out about the same if you known where to go. Gibsons (Juan Sebastian Elcano) is one of the most popular cheap eats in Correlajo, and for afternoon tea don’t miss the renowned Windy Millers English Bakery (Avenida. Sra del Carmen, 26). Los Pepes (www.los-pepes.com) is a little restaurant worth blowing the budget for. Mains start at 9 euro, but the atmosphere and food is worth every penny.
Party: The famous Corkys Surf Bar (www.corkysbar.com), run by pro windsurfer Corky, is popular for it’s chilled out vibe and daily surf reports. The Blue Rock (La Iglesia), Correlajo’s oldest bar is also a good one – both these bars have happy hours at various times during the night and are all open until 1.00am. Another popular surfer’s hangout is The Green Room where you can kick back after a hard days surfing, enjoy a good pizza and check out the wind and swell forecast on the internet.
Insider info:Visit Lobos, a beautiful and unspoilt island just off the Corralejo coast, great for walking, surfing and just soaking up the scenery. Daily boat trips cost less than 10 euro return. Contrary to popular belief, traveling around Fuerteventura by bus is reliable and cheap. Most buses are on time and if you’ve left your driving license at home and still fancy seeing the island this is a good alternative.
Cheap tricks: If you want to learn to surf, the most cost effective way is to sign up on a surf camp. Zoco Travel (www.zocotravel.com) do one for £285 per person which includes 7 nights self catering accommodation in a surf house, 5 days surf tuition (inc equipment) with a BSA qualified surf instructor, a picnic lunch, transfers to and from the airport and daily transfers to the beach.
Come home with: If you need a new camcorder or a new camera, or anything else electrical for that matter, wait until you’ve been here first. Fuerteventura is a duty-free island and prices are around 20-30 per cent cheaper.
The action: This is the ultimate all-action town, with as much to do in summer as the winter. The mountains are open for glacier riding with loads of great camps like Pro-Ride (www.pro-ride.com), but it’s best known for its amazing mountain biking, with hundreds of trails and the Kona Jump Farm, one of the coolest dirt jump parks in the world. There’s rock climbing on the famous 650m high granite massif “The Chief” and the via ferrata, rap jumping (a face-forward, free-fall rappel from the peak), mountaineering, rafting, mountain top yoga, barbecues by the lakes and the bears are out of hibernation, ready to be spotted.
Hot ticket: Zoom Airlines (www.flyzoom.com) start at £99 one way from London and Paris to Vancouver. Once there, the cheapest way to get to Whistler is to hop on a cab, or a Vancouver city bus, and head to the main bus terminal downtown where a bus to the resort is $20.
Stay: The Shoestring Lodge (www.shoestringlodge.com) on the banks of Fitzsimmons Creek does exactly what it says on the tin – they have four-person dorms from $16 a night or $85 a week. As well as volleyball courts on their scenic grounds next to Fitzsimmons Creek there is The Boot Pub, a lively watering hole, and Gaitor’s Bar and Grill serving mains from $9. If that’s booked, try the Southside Lodge (www.southsidelodge.com) in Creekside. It’s only $25 a night for a bed in one of their 4-6 person dorms plus they have a fully stocked communal kitchen and a free local phone.
Eat: For the biggest breakfast menu in town head straight to the Wild Wood Pacific Bistro (Whistler Racquet Club, 604 935 4077), voted best value by Pique readers, Whistler’s news magazine. The Alpine Café & Catering Co (604 935 4663) is a don’t-miss spot just outside town, with a fantastic atmosphere and scrumptious three course homemade meals for only $16. Try the mushroom soup with whole-wheat bread and a side of fresh corn salad. If oysters are to your taste but not your budget, look out for special deals in higher end restaurants such as the Bear Foot Bistro (604 932 3433) where you can get a dozen for $9.95.
Party: For the cheapest beer in town go to Boston Pizza (604 932 7070) in Creekside, or Joey Chan’s (604 966 0966), also in Creekside, for cheap highballs on Tuesday nights. For a relaxed Sunday evening, The Crystal Lounge under the Crystal Lodge (www.crystal-lodge.com) has jam sessions and drinks offers. Fancy dress is big in Whistler and Local’s nights often have the cheapest drinks, so pretend you’re a local and head to Buffalo Bills on a Wednesday night.
Insider info: Buy an Uber Pass for $36 which is an all activity pass that allows you to bike in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, hike via the Peak Chair on Whistler Mountain, and ski or ride on Blackcomb Mountain, all on the same day. Bus rides are $1.50 in one direction, but if you are in Whistler for a week or longer it’s worth buying a wave card, available from most shops, and the fare drops quite a bit.
Cheap tricks: For deals and offers the golden ticket to Whistler is reading the Pique Newsmagazine. Local companies are always running deals like 2 for 1 massages, 30$ four course dinners, or free 10 minute internet coupons. It also has the town classifieds and rental options.
If you want to try kayaking, do it on a Wednesday with the Whistler Kayak Club (604 905 2925) at Wayside Park when it’s only $5.
The action: Lagos is the budget surfers’ paradise. A cheap hop to Faro airport and you’re in one of the European regions that receives the most swell in summer, where the surfing has been likened to that in southern California. But all’s not lost if the surf goes flat; there’s wakeboarding, diving and, with year-round consistent winds, Lagos is also a great place for kite and windsurfing. Out of the water there’s horse riding, mountain biking, paragliding and micro light piloting, not to mention the nightlife…
Hot ticket: Faro airport has a lot of cheap charter flights including Ryanair, BMI Baby, Tap Portugal, Air Berlin and Condor. Once there, buses to Lagos cost 4.35 euros from the main bus terminal at Avenida da República 106 (www.eva-bus.com).
Stay: Lagos is well known for backpacker travel and the hostel aptly known as The Rising Cock (www.risingcock.com) is an excellent and stylishly run hostel right in the centre. There are two campsites in Lagos; the main one, situated near Praia Dona Ana, is simplistic and reasonably priced, but the cheapest is the Parque de Campismo da Trindade (Rossio da Trindede Tel: 282 763893). If your shoestring is a bit longer, then the Vila Valverde (Estrada da Praia da Luz, Valverde) is a swanky budget hotel, converted from a 19th century manor house into a modern design country house overlooking the bay of Praia da Luz.
Eat: The food in Lagos is both excellent and cheap, just remember the golden rule: “plastic seating means cheaper eating”. If you’re staying at the Rising Cock, they run full American breakfasts and dinners at affordable prices. You’ll never go hungry at The Casa Rosa (Rua do Ferrador, 351 282 180 238) with all you can eat for 5 euro special nights. They also do cheap drinks at the bar with happy hour specials and have a large selection of free table games and free internet. Then there’s secret local spot, Casinha Do Petisco (Rua da Oliveira) divulged by the guys from Surf Experience, offering traditional and delicious seafood dishes at great prices.
Party: There are a whole host of bars, but the best to head to are 3 Monkeys (Rua Lançarote de Freitas) where they play great rock music, the popular RedEye (Rua Candido dos Reis) offering 2 for 1 cocktails for serious party people and Eddies (99 Rua 25 de Abril), a well established bar with an eclectic array of music which is usually packed with travelers.
Cheap tricks: Sometimes it can work out cheaper to book with a surf camp rather than build a holiday yourself and using a local company means they’ll know all the best surf spots, maximising your time there. We love The Surf Experience (www.surf-experience.com) where accommodation, breakfast and lunch and transport to the beaches costs £279 a week.
Come home with: Vinho Verde is the thing to bring back. A very light, slightly fizzy white (or green) wine made with very young grapes, it’s wonderful served very cold, and you can pick it up in the supermarkets for about 2 euros. You can also get Cachaca (Brazilian sugar cane rum) used to make Caiperinhas and mohitos for about 7 euro.
VERDON GORGE, FRANCE
The action: The wild and impressive Gorges du Verdon, just above Toulon, is the deepest and steepest canyon in Europe. Considered by many to be the ultimate canyoning and multi-pitch climbing destination, it has over 1,500 limestone routes ranging from 20m to over 400m encompassing cracks, pillars and seemingly endless walls. In the rapids of the Verdon River you can go rafting, canoeing, kayaking, white water swimming, tubing and hydrospeeding (check out www.provenceweb.fr). For a more mellow time, head to one of the lakes for a spot of sailing, windsurfing and swimming or go biking and pony trekking in the hills.
Hot ticket: Nice or Marseille, serviced by lots of budget airlines, are the nearest airports. Or you can get the train (www.raileurope.co.uk) easily and cheaply to Toulon. Buses run from both airports to the village of La Palud sur-Verdon, at the food of the gorge.
Stay: La Palud sur Verdon is the base camp for climbers. There’s one hostel, l’Immense Botte de Paille (Départementale 23, 33 492 77 38 72) and numerous campsites. A favourite amongst climbers is the Camping Bourbon (Route de Moustiers, 33 492 77 38 17), if that’s full try Camping Municipal (Route de Castellane, 33 492 77 38 13). For 20 euro a night you can stay at the wonderful Chalet Le Refuge (Les Bondils, 33 492 83 68 45), a gite on a goat farm in the depths of the Verdon Regional Park, located at the bottom of the famous rock face ‘La falaise de l’Escalés’.
Eat & party: For those intending to stay in the Verdon for more than a few days it’s best to buy all your supplies (apart from fresh goods) from shops before reaching the gorge. However, Pepino’s Pizza Van (Le Village), in the centre of La Palud sur-Verdon, is a taste sensation not to be missed. Le Perroquet Vert (04 120 La Palud sur Verdon, 33 492 773 339) right in the middle of the village has a traditional restaurant serving meat, vegetables and grilled sea food and a shop specializing in climbing and camping equipment, stocking brands like Arcteryx, Prana and La Sportiva. There are a few bars throughout the village. Try Le Bar-Restaurant De La Place (33 492 77 38 03) where the wine is cheaper than the water!
Insider info: Thunderstorms are frequent, check the weather forecast at the “Bureau des guides” before going. For those frustrating periods of endless rain, there is a small outdoor, under-cover, training wall in the centre of La Palud sur-Verdon.
Cheap tricks: There’s so much to do in the Verdon Gorge and it’s lakes that doesn’t cost a penny, but the way to make the most of it is to hire a car. It’s safer to rent from a reputable company like Avis (www.avis.co.uk) or Budget (www.budgetrentacar.com), because you can get stung for unseen costs. Book online to save money and time.
Come home with: La Palud was once a potters’ village, and the tradition for local products has continued. Pick up some wonderful lavender honey and truffles to take home.
THE NORTH SHORE, HAWAII
The action: The North Shore of Oahu Island is the Mecca of surfing, and the whole history of the sport unravels right before you: the lush valley of Waimea Bay, suicidal Pipeline and majestic Sunset Beach. You can rent boards from the surf shops in Haleiwa or along the Kamehameha highway at Planet Surf or Liam McNamara’s shop, the famous North Shore charger ($8-10 per day). Choose a surf spot that suits your level. You can probably cross the overcrowded, barrelling waves of Pipeline, Rocky Point and Off the Wall off your list – leave these to the pros. To get your bearings, if the Volcom house is to your left and Gerry Lopez’s house is on your right then that’s the infamous Banzai Pipeline right in front of you. Better options are spots like Ekuhai Beach park, Pupukea, Kammies or even Velzyland. If you’re unsure, ask one of the lifeguards for advice. The guys in yellow know all the spots and currents off by heart.
Hot ticket: Avoid the US holiday season (December and January) and you’ll get the best deals. Flights vary hugely in cost, but start at around £600. Delta, Northwest and Continental offer some of the best deals, flying via San Francisco or LA, then on to Honolulu. Flying via Paris with Air France/KLM is another option that often comes in cheap.
Stay: The best deal on the North Shore is Sharlyn Foo’s place, widow of the legendary surfer Mark Foo (www.backpackers-hawaii.com, 59-788 Kamehameha Highway, 808 638 7838). There’s also rooms, dorms and camping at the Surfhouse (www.surfhouse.com, 203 Lokoea Place, Haleiwa, 808 637 7147). Renting a house or a bungalow is a pricier option ($250 a night for a beachfront location), but is worth considering if there’s a few of you.
Eat: You’ll find small, cheap restaurants along the Kam highway, including Ted’s bakery, Kammies and Island Shack (meals for less than $10). In Haleiwa the Waialua Bakery serves a great organic menu and excellent smoothies, Pizza Bob has generous portions, Coffee Gallery is the one for great breakfasts and Cholos for fantastic Mexican fare. At Foodland supermarket prices are high, so ask for the Lakai card for a 15-20 per cent reduction on certain items. Prices are a tad cheaper at the Haleiwa supermarket. If you want to treat yourself to a big lunch, try Lei’s Lei’s at the Turtle Resort. It’s not cheap (approx $25) but the fish specialities are amazing. If you’re really broke, try the line of local fruit stands on the side of the road.
Party: Apart from when the surf contests are on and surf brands host various beach parties, good nightlife is practically non-existent on the North Shore (hence its nickname the Bore Shore). The lack of nightlife goes hand in hand with the simple, quasi-monastic lifestyle of this surfing Mecca. When the conditions are going off, make sure you get to bed early for the amazing dawn sessions.
Insider info: Don’t miss the free world class contest events like the Triple Crown of Surfing, Haleiwa, Sunset and the Rip Curl Pipeline Masters. If you time it right, check out the Eddie at Waimea Bay. The competition only runs if surf is a minimum of 25ft and it’s one of the true pillars of Hawaiian culture with the whole island coming to a halt when the Eddie is on. Also visit the valley’s Waimea Falls National Park ($8). The park is the cradle of Hawaiian religion and boasts more than 6,000 species of plants, all named and labelled! Continuing north, just before Foodland, you’ll come across Pu’uomahuka Heiau, a sacred sanctuary where royalty came to give birth.
Cheap tricks: The bus is the best option for getting around (and hitchhiking is common practice in Hawaii). But, rent a bike ($10 a day or, if you’re staying a while, buy a second hand one) and you’ll get a better feel for the place and spot the turtles who rest on the beach during the day before disappearing back into the sea at night. Come home with: A surfboard. Don’t take one with you – you’ll be stung up to $120 per flight to carry it. Instead buy one out there for about $300. It will be designed for the powerful Hawaiian surf.