Off-season traveling promises a few things: lower prices, fewer people, and potentially, less-than-ideal weather. But a little rain will be a small price to pay when you’re having an unforgettable experience.
Any “in the know” traveler will tell you: off seasons are the best time to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip. With that said, these tourist-friendly getaways are celebrated as some of the dreamiest locations on earth, year-round. If it wasn’t for the lack of crowds and unusually affordable deals, you probably wouldn’t even notice it was off-season.
Any Hawaiian paradise in its off-season is still paradise. You just need to know where and when to go. The quaint, bohemian town of Haleiwa is famed for its surfing competitions, art, and eye-catching landscape. When the surfing spectacles end, so does heavy tourism. And the best parts remain intact.
From cascading waterfalls to tropical botanical gardens, there’s plenty of local landscape to admire and explore. There’s also said to be no place quite like this little gem, especially during its shoulder seasons. Head to Haleiwa mid-April to early June or between September and mid-December. Rates will be at their lowest, attractions will be crowd-free, and local festivals will be revving up.
Strolling around Florence during its off-season, it can truly feel like no one is there in the most surreal of ways. This unusually quiet period for the typically bustling city begins in November and ends with Easter. With the obvious exceptions of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, prices plummet to about half their usual rate during this time.
This is a real chance to do as the locals do and embrace Italian culture. Ready to fully immerse yourself in history, art, quintessential Renaissance architecture, and world-class cuisine? What are you waiting for? Book that flight!
Weeki Wachee, Florida
Weeki Wachee is an idyllic summertime retreat you may have never heard of. But it’s worth looking into. This enchanting Florida cove boasts the deepest natural springs in the United States. Also, be prepared to be greeted by more manatees than people.
With its glimmering green waters, winding rivers perfect for kayaking, and a mermaid show at Buccaneer Park, it’s a distinctive and buzz-worthy hotspot all summer long. During winter, it goes back to being a tight-knit village, currently home to just 12 residents. In its more temperate off-season, Weeki Wachee offers an understated, yet whimsical holiday escape for those in need of a cool, but not too cool, winter breeze and plenty of sea cow sightings.
Let’s be honest. It’s always tourist season in this utopian dreamscape. With that said, there are certain periods when fewer people frequent Fiji’s 300 gorgeous islands. And that’s definitely when you’ll want to go.
From November through late April, you can catch way cheaper flights to this exotic crowd-pleaser. Lodging rates will be much lower too. Best of all, you’ll beat the swarming crowds whilst soaking up just as much sunshine.
There’s never a bad time to take a trip to Northern California’s wine country. So why not travel to Napa in its off-season? If you’re venturing to vineyards, wineries, and wine tastings, you’ll likely feel like they’ve shut down the whole place just for you. Not to mention, summer valley temperatures are known to reach the 100s. The off-season offers crisp mountain air and some hard-to-come-by solitude.
Following the fall crush (between November and April), the crowds are mostly gone, hotels become more fairly priced, and coveted reservations at world-class restaurants are suddenly available after being booked up for months. You’ll also find better deals at five-star spas, swoon-worthy farmer’s markets, local festivals, and of course, top-notch wine sellers. Cheers, traveler!
New Zealand’s “off-seasons” include June to August (winter time), March to May, and September to November. Considering it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth in every season, it’ll always feel like you’re visiting at just the right time.
Like most low-tourist times, everything is cheaper and less populated during these times. With its mesmerizing blue lakes, friendly “Kiwis,” and breathtaking train rides, New Zealand is endlessly popular and pleasant. However, if you’re a fan of skiing and snowboarding, consider going in winter. In tourist-heavy times, it’s usually advised to book everything in advance. Luckily, off-seasons allow more flexibility and a chance to be more spontaneous in “the land of the long white cloud.” So take the leap.
Grand Canyon National Park
Nothing screams “summer road trip” like a trip to Grand Canyon National Park. Unfortunately, everybody knows that. Due to its reputation as a summertime staple, endless crowds and packed parking lots make it tough to feel at one with nature. In some of the most scenic areas, you’ll be nature-walking alongside herds of other humans all hours of the day.
My advice? Go in the spring or winter. Thanks to off-season downtime, you’ll be able to marvel at the Grand Canyon the way it was meant to be marveled: without others around. You’ll also get to see the Grand Canyon in a new, more natural light.
The sky transforms with each season change, painting the majestic, million-year-old rock bands in colorful hues. It’s a sight most summer tourists never see. In the colder months, stark white snow lays across the ruddy red rocks for a fleeting, but beautiful moment. Notice the crisp clouds mirrored in the glassy streams below as you take in a full breath of fresh air in a way only off-season allows.
From my experience, I’d suggest exploring most national parks during their off-seasons. The Grand Canyon and Yellowstone might make the top two. For instance, nothing undercuts the magical moment Old Faithful finally erupts like 500 people waiting for hours, shoulder to shoulder, then pulling out all 500 of their smartphones to capture it. And nothing feels more unnatural.
National parks are at their most picturesque when there are fewer people around for the photo ops, clogging up campgrounds, and sending entry fees soaring. No matter how big the park, camping space is limited. In busier months, they’re known to reach capacity. If you traveled thousands of miles to sleep in the great outdoors, this can be a real downer. So go anytime but summer. A trip to the Grand Canyon will be priceless no matter what, but nothing should stop you from taking it all in.
If you go to Mykonos in March, you’ll be able to experience all that Santorini and Athens have to offer, minus their famed late spring sunsets and sizzling summer nights. But it’s a small price to pay when you think about it. Without the purplest sky overhead that many say they’ve ever seen, prices drop significantly. But don’t feel cheated. Greece is no one-trick pony. Nor is its other-worldly skyline.
With how much you’ll save on airfare and lodging, spend those euros on the incredible food and rich culture. Dance on the beach with the fun-loving locals during the never-not-gorgeous sunset. Gaze deeply into the sapphire blue waters every morning. There’s so much to enjoy, all the time. Greece promises a breathtaking, reinvigorating, and unforgettable trip you’ll likely want to take more than once. So don’t dismiss the often underrated, equally exciting off-season.
Prague, Czech Republic
If you’ve yet to take a trip to Prague, consider visiting in its off-season a must. It’s by far one of the most scenic, special cities in all of Europe. For this reason, it’s also incredibly crowded during the summer months. But winter remains the locals’ best-kept secret and arguably the best time to go. This historic city truly becomes a winter wonderland during the holidays.
If you’re not into a snowy excursion, spring and early fall aren’t bad times to go either. It’ll still be a little chilly, but you’ll get to enjoy clear skies and cheaper hotels as Prague begins to warm up.
Costa Rica’s notably affordable off-season comes with periodic rain and occasionally ominous, passing clouds. The silver lining? Those inevitable shoulder season showers bring beyond vibrant flowers and endlessly lush green landscapes to explore.
Kick back in your hammock and take it all in. Go on a calming, rainforest adventure. For those in need of deep relaxation in the most exotic of locations, move this bountiful, bio-diverse, and budget-friendly getaway to the top of your travel list.
Charleston, South Carolina
For its award-winning, “farm to table” cuisine commitment, Charleston is often revered as the modern food center of the south. It also boasts numerous beaches, historic mansions along cobblestone streets, and one heck of a local music scene. As someone who once lived in downtown Charleston, I’m not sure that a true off-season exists. But as with most tourist-centric cities, there are definitely tourism lulls worth noting.
Travelers from neighboring cities and across the globe flock to this charming peninsula during spring and summer. Spring also means graduation time for students at The College of Charleston and The Art Institute. As you might’ve guessed, hotel prices tend to spike as friends and families fly in.
In contrast, fall and winter offer much better rates, a chance to beat the sweltering heat, and a more local vibe. Not to mention, southern summers are painfully long and southern winters are typically brief. In turn, the first part of fall will often give the happy illusion that you’re in the middle of an unusually temperate summer before it all settles into a pleasantly crisp fall. So don’t miss out.
Cape Town, South Africa
Tourism in Cape Town fizzles out around February. With the crowds’ sudden departure, the gusts of wind leave too. July through September is said to be the perfect period for whale watching along an uninterrupted coastline. This South African gem also boasts some of the most globe trotter-approved, budget-friendly hostels in the world. Of course, that means there are just as many scams. So do your research.
You’ll undoubtedly save a ton of money visiting Cape Town after February. Best of all, Cape Town’s slowest season is said to not feel like an off-period in the slightest thanks to its most enviable weather.
For those who’ve been to Iceland, you know that it’s actually pretty green most of the time. However, temperatures plummet in winter and nightfall comes super early. That’s when most crowds head for the hills. But if you’re not there for the winter solstice, I’d argue that you’re not really seeing all Iceland has to offer.
In Reykjavik, daylight hours last from around 11:30 a.m to 3:30 p.m. But it’s far from pitch black. You’ll find holiday lights wherever there are people amidst the breathtaking backdrop of geysers, waterfalls, and rugged landscapes.
Along with the temperature, winter prices drop starkly as well. Still, the main spectacle during off-season are the northern lights. Aurora Borealis swirl and shimmer most actively this time of year. What could be more magical than a dip in a hot spring surrounded by snowy landscape and beneath dancing clusters of electric blue, pink, and green? Not much, I imagine.
Go to Bali in the off-season and you’ll discover how it became such an obsession-worthy paradise. You’ll also beat the not-so-lovely tourist traffic. Many describe going to a mostly tourist-free Bali as a spiritual experience that allowed them the opportunity to deeply connect with themselves and the one-of-a-kind surroundings with ease.
You’ll also never run out of things to do on this heavenly Indonesian island. Just be sure to bring or buy an umbrella. The off-season promises rain.
If you’re going to Vail, you’re probably going skiing. It’s most heavily visited for its top-tier slopes, after all. With that said, it’s equally famous for being one of the most expensive travel destinations in the country. However, summertime in Vail, Colorado should never be dismissed. It offers a different kind of beauty with its rolling meadows, cliffside wildflowers, and staggering price drops.
Summertime in mountainous Vail is not beach weather, obviously. Yes, it’s sunny during the off-season, with an average high of 70 and a low of 40, but you’ll still get hit in the face with stingingly cold winds from time to time. So dress accordingly. If you’re in it for the action, give your skis a rest and go zip lining, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, or yoga paddleboarding. You won’t be disappointed.
With its volcanic beaches, reef-diving hotspots, and luxury resorts, St. Lucia offers tropical bliss year-round. Its busiest season falls between mid-December through April, so if I were you, I’d avoid that time period at all costs. It can cost more than a pretty penny in popular months. You’ll probably get the most out of your trip and spend the least between June and November. So start keeping your eye on flights.
During low season (which tends to correspond with wet season), plane ticket prices and hotel rates can drop by 50%. Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of a half-priced Carribean vacation to one of the most stunning settings in existence? Your guess is as good as mine.