Why A Low-Season Trip Might Be Just The Summer Adventure You Need

When we think of the word “season,” our minds naturally leap to summer, fall, winter, and spring. But for the frequent traveler, the word brings forth an entirely different association: high season and low season — with the high season of any travel destination being known for big crowds and the low season for its tranquilo days.

High season in any country is usually that way for a reason. The weather may be nicer, the activities more bountiful, and the nightlife more bumping. But it’s also when you’ll pay the highest prices for your adventure, and have to fight the most people for that unobscured selfie in front of a famous monument or a little space to spread out your beach towel. Weeks or months when everyone flocks to the same paradise may still result in a great time, but your trip will also end with emptier pockets, more carryover stress, and less of a sense of the culture of the place you visited. It’s hard to get a real feel for a country’s vibe when everyone around you is from Des Moines.

For Central America, high season is generally in the US winter and spring. That’s when the weather is the dryest. Plus, many travelers come from areas with cold winters, and so the people looking for an escape from harsh, freezing conditions flock to the region from December to March. There’s really no bad time to visit these beautiful countries, but I’ve spent many months throughout Central America. And I have to tell you that it’s the low season that keeps bringing me back again and again.

Here are the five reasons why you should rethink that winter getaway to Nicaragua, and start considering it for your summer and fall travel.

1. Three words: money, money, and well…money.

One of the biggest factors in travel is money, that’s undeniable. Having the finances to make sure you can afford a room, eat comfortably and possibly extend your trip are very important. Businesses respond to the trends of travel; plane ticket prices rise during the peak seasons and negotiating for a cheaper price on a hotel or hostel is not an option.

The Hotel Tamarindo prices from February 6th-February 13th, 2017.
And the exact same hotel prices May 8th-May 15th, 2017. It’s almost dropped by half.

Last year, I spent the entire summer in Central America and stayed at this beautiful resort directly on the beach. The key word being: resort. Where room I stayed in is usually $150 USD a night, but since I had built a relationship with the management, and I’d be staying for over a month, I was given the rate of $15 USD a night. It’s simple math, really. Had I not stayed there for that lower rate, they wouldn’t have been making an income at all. They just couldn’t fill the room. When I think about it now, I’m still grateful.

If you want to get the most bang for your buck, taking a trip in the low season is the best option, especially for those that prefer to backpack and extend their travels as long as possible. Somewhere known for being affordable, like Central America, has potential to be even more affordable than you originally expected.

2. You’ll avoid the crowds.

People are a huge part of your experience when you travel, but sometimes larger crowds can be a bit overwhelming. For a lot of people the quantity over quality is the better route to ensure an enriching time. If you prefer to be immersed in the culture of the local area, traveling in the low season opens up space for you to be involved in the community and to be thought of as more than a tourist. This is a great time for you to practice another language or learn how the area functions.

If you enjoy activities like surfing or hiking up volcanoes, a smaller population will make learning a new activity or enjoying an old one more accessible and more enjoyable. The popular surf spots are more likely to be populated with locals, giving you an opportunity to learn the proper etiquette or be amongst the true surf culture. The volcanoes and trails won’t be crowded with tourists, allowing you to fully admire the natural beauty. I say these specific activities because these were the activities I was learning and participating in during my Central American summer. Being a beginner surfer isn’t easy for maybe more than a million reasons, but it makes it so less intimidating if the local surfers remember you as the only “Chica Rubia” in town and yell, “Yeeeewwwwww!” when you finally ride your first wave on your own.

3. There are different opportunities influenced by the environment.

For many places, the high season and the low season are that way for a reason. In Central America, travel spikes during the colder months of North American states, and when the weather or conditions in the area are better. But really that doesn’t mean low season is a worse or better time to visit, it’s just different.

For example, El Salvador’s high season is from November to April. It’s an attractive time for those enduring cold winters in their hometowns, and there’s less of a chance of rain on your trip. But while those things make winter travel more appealing to some, you miss out on the huge benefits of the environment from May to October. In El Salvador’s low season, or rainy season, lush vegetation is brought about by those rainier months which is a huge draw for hikers and nature enthusiasts. And on the water, larger waves are more consistent, making it an appealing time for experienced surfers looking for a rush on Central America’s best break, Punta Roca. This break was entirely too risky for a beginner like myself, but watching a professional women’s competition was both inspiring and breathtaking. I drank coconut after coconut and was able to see the entire competition clearly from any spot. There were no overwhelming crowds, just big waves.

Obviously, it’s always worth looking into the conditions of the area and why its seasons are separated like they are. That way, you can find out what exactly is best for your desires, interests and personality.

4. Your time will be spent that way you want it.

If you’ve traveled in the high season, you might have noticed the difficulty of finding accommodation on a whim. Oftentimes, planning ahead is necessary to ensure a private bathroom or a room with AC. The low season is obviously less populated; making it easier to take on a spontaneous trip. Rather than having to plan everything out months in advance and being forced to choose a hotel or city without having been there or getting advice from locals, you can decide your route day by day, knowing you’ll have the most satisfying bed or room wherever you go, whenever you want. Tours and adventures are way less likely to be sold out too, so you can wake up and follow your mood.

I’m someone who has never like liked to be constricted by time and plans. What’s so nice about Central America is the culture of going with the flow. Waking up, surfing, eating a breakfast of eggs, beans, avocado and plantains and falling back asleep in a hammock – all before noon. The ease of this lifestyle is definitely compromised during the busier times of the year.


5. There’s the opportunity to be a part of a community.

People have different reasons for traveling; some are looking for the biggest waves and some are looking for the biggest party. For me, I prefer to get to know the local community and feel a part of it in some form. I’d rather sit at a restaurant where the waitress knows my order or the local children greet me with eagerness rather than hesitation.

Last summer I spent my time in the tiny town of El Zonte in El Salvador. The town is decorated with houses converted into convenient stores or restaurants during the day and early evenings. At night, they shut their doors and are where full families call home. During this time, I was one of the only travelers in the town and making a relationship with these families and businesses was quick and inevitable. A cook at one of the only restaurants knew exactly what I wanted for breakfast each day and that I didn’t like sugar added to my fruit smoothies. I’d hitch a ride with one of the manager’s of the resort to the grocery store. He’d buy supplies for the business, and I’d get my reliable jar of peanut butter. He’d let me keep it in their fridge.

In areas where high season and low season determine the income of a large population, the workload is increased significantly in the busier times. Friends of mine will begin their days at 6 in the morning teaching surf classes throughout the day and working at a bar in the evenings, allowing them to only get a few hours of sleep a night. They’re reasonably exhausted, leaving their interest of socializing with travelers low on their list of priorities. When there is more space in their schedules, you’re more likely to be a part of a genuine conversation or be thought of as more than just a tourist. For me, it was over some rum and beer and playing endless games of ping pong. If you’re into that sort of chill, low season might just be the secret.

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