These Off-Season Destinations Are Still Great in the Summer
These Off-Season Destinations Are Still Great in the Summer
With summer in full swing, now is a great time to plan a vacation. Whether you’re looking for a wallet-friendly trip, hoping to knock some European landmarks off your bucket list, or just looking to take a much-needed break, it can be tough to decide just where in the world you should go. One of the many mistakes people make when planning their summer vacation, however, is sticking to the usual hot spots full of the top beaches and swaths of tourists.
There are plenty of destinations that don’t get the love they deserve in the warmer months. The savvy traveler knows to look to these in order to score cheap flight tickets and great hotel rates. Even better, you’ll find that these spots have beaches that are less crowded by tourists and historic sites that you don’t have to wait in a long line for; many even still have good, if not bearable, weather. If you’re looking for a summer getaway that’s a bit further from the crowds and perhaps easier on your wallet, we suggest looking past the top summer spots, because these off-season destinations are still great in the summer.
Antigua and Barbuda
With 365 beaches, Antigua and Barbuda offers affordable photo opportunities for every day of the year but cheaper rates from May through November. Summer is the low season in the Caribbean, so it’s the best time to get a great hotel deal or have a beach all to yourself. If you’re not feeling up for a swim, the island also has colorful architecture and the ruins of forts left behind by the British. Antigua and Barbuda is also much more affordable than most other European-influenced islands in the Caribbean. While there is a small risk of hurricanes, the weather is consistently in the 80s, so it doesn’t get too hot. Make sure to make a visit to Shirley Heights Lookout, a historic hilltop military complex with stunning views and a restaurant and bar known for its Sunday Barbecue party, at which live music and delicious food are featured every week.
The Grand Canyon State has a lot more to offer than, well, the Grand Canyon. Arizona is the perfect destination for nature-lovers and adventure travelers, which makes it quite affordable by definition, but it’s also got quite a bit going on in its many arts and food scenes. The state is full of cities and towns that you can add together for a road trip tour or visit individually for a wonderful weekend getaway — for instance, sunny Tuscon with its Southwestern and Mexican cultural heritage. One of this year’s best value vacation spots, it’ll cost you little to nothing to see such sites as Tucson’s Sabino Canyon and Saguaro National Park and culture-heavy towns like picturesque Sedona, home to almost 100 art galleries and multiple cultural events as well as stores selling local native arts and crafts. Go closer to the Utah border to see the bit of Lake Powellthat stretches into Arizona, a sight so out-of-this-world that it’s been used in 45 films and television shows depicting other planets or universes.
Winter is off-season in the Bahamas, and while it’s also hurricane season, hurricanes are quite infrequent here, so it’s best you take advantage of lower flight and hotel rates. It’s also worth checking out thanks to its rising food scene, particularly in Baha Mar and Nassau, where visitors can enjoy the best of junkanoo, sky juice, rum cake, and more. Next year will also see the debut of a direct flight from Chicago as well as a four-hour ferry ride to Freeport from Miami-Fort Lauderdale.
Thailand has some of the best cuisine, palaces, massage spas, and cultural performances in the world, and you can get all of that right here in its capital. One of last year’s top destinations, Bangkok is great year-round, but peak season is between November and March, so summer’s a great time to explore and take advantage of cheaper rates. Go on one of the city’s many tours by bicycle or tuk tuk (Thailand’s version of the rickshaw) or take lessons in muay thai, a martial art, for a more physical experience.
The renowned biodiversity of Costa Rica is not only an ecology geek’s dream, but it also makes for a beautiful destination. The country’s national parks and protected areas cover over 23 percent of its land, which accounts for only 0.03 percent of Earth’s landmass but approximately 5 percent of its biodiversity. Tickets to get there are cheap, and once you are there, public transportation is super-affordable as well. Costa Rica provides an entire array of accommodations to fit any budget, from hotels to the less expensive condos, hostels, vacation rentals, and cabinas. Food is cheap, too; you can easily get a good local meal for under $5.
A tiny island where you can step back in time, Rapa Nui, or Easter Island as it’s popularly known around the world, is located in the Southern Hemisphere. As a result, June through August is the winter season there, but temperatures still average in the low to mid-60s — the perfect climate to enjoy its famous moai, the large-headed figures that populate the island, as well as Anakena Beach, one of the best beaches in the world.
La Paz, Bolivia
La Paz is a destination that’ll make both your wallet and your taste buds happy. It’s winter here during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer months, so temperatures are brisk with an average in the 40s. However, it should cost you less than $10 for a restaurant meal, and street foods are even cheaper and possibly even more delicious, with just a few bucks getting you fantastic Bolivian cuisine that brings together flavors from Spain, Argentina, Russia, and indigenous traditions to result in treats such as salteñas — baked savory pastries stuffed with meat in a sweet and spicy sauce. Boutique hotels with affordable prices give you great options for places to stay, and the high-altitude environment also has plenty of free natural wonders for you to take in.
Lake Tahoe, Nev./Calif.
Nearly 3 million people annually make it out to the border of California and Nevada to visit Lake Tahoe, one of the biggest, clearest, and deepest freshwater lakes on the planet. Lake Tahoe is a year-round destination with offerings that vary with the seasons. While it’s known as one of the best winter destinations for skiing and snowboarding, it’s still a great place to be in the summer with plenty of opportunities for hiking, golfing, boating, and other watersports. Get some of the country’s best waffles at the Red Hut Café. Dining, shopping, and nature sightseeing are all worthwhile endeavors to pursue in this beautiful getaway spot.
One of this year’s top travel trends, New Zealand is a destination that provides both a gorgeous landscape and a rich cultural experience. Here you’ll find diversity both geographically and culturally, with natural attractions from glaciers and fjords to glowing caves and geothermal lakes. Summer in the Northern Hemisphere, of course, means winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and New Zealand is a fantastic destination for winter sports, plus the lengthy flight is much cheaper in the off-season. Visit Auckland for some casual sophistication and Queenstown for a truly exciting destination full of extreme sports, and make sure you experience some of the country’s indigenous Maori culture too.
South Africa offers everything from safaris to cosmopolitan city life to beaches to historical sites. Being located in the Southern Hemisphere, the summer months of the Northern Hemisphere are actually wintertime here. Tourism is at its lowest and the weather is at its coldest — which actually isn’t too cold, with high temperatures averaging in the upper 60s and low temperatures rarely going below the upper 30s. Enjoy iconic street food like bunny chow, hit world-class beaches like Camps Bay Beach, and stay in affluent hotels in the Western Cape. Hotel rates drop by as much as 40 to 50 percent, and safaris and tours are much cheaper as well. And if you really are a safari buff, South Africa’s winter is the best time for one; as it’s dry season, animals are more likely to be found at water sources and are also easier to see with shorter grass and barer trees.
If you’re not ready to be done with winter just yet, head to Canada’s premier ski destination: Whistler. Home to one of the largest ski resorts in North America and located on Whistler Mountain, Whistler is a great destination for skiing, snowboarding, ski jumping, tobogganing, and snowshoeing, even in the summer. However, there’s more to Whistler than just skiing, as the resort town also offers opportunities to explore the area with activities such as riding their Peak 2 Peak Gondola, hiking trails surrounded by snow walls, throwing axes, and enjoying the local cuisine and spas – all part of what makes this a magical mountaintop town worth the trek.
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