The 11 Best-Ever Off-Season Travel Destinations
Want to see more of the world—and it's countless wonders and views—but can't afford it? Good news: you definitely can, if you go on the off-season.
January: Sao Miguel Island, Portugal
Even seasoned travelers are surprised to learn about the Azores, a collection of mountainous islands in the Atlantic, a mere two hours away from Lisbon, Portugal. Inma Gregori, travel blogger, suggests making the trek to San Miguel, the largest island, during the winter season, where you might experience more rainfall but less foot traffic. “We traveled there last January and were blown away by its otherworldly landscapes and lack of tourists. A rain jacket is enough to keep you dry and if it gets chilly, you just need to jump into one of the many thermal baths of the island,” she shares. Find out 12 more European islands you never thought to visit—but totally should.
January: Andalusia, Spain
While seeing the larger metros of Spain, including Madrid and Barcelona, is definitely a must, there’s a certain charm about visiting the smaller towns and regions that define the culture of the country. Gregorio suggests a road trip during the wintertime through Andalusia in the southern part of the country, where you can venture through Granada, Sevilla, Ronda, Tarifa, and more. “Once the crowds are gone, the prices get back to normal, and the heat ceases, it’s the perfect time to visit the beautiful, lively and full of history Southern part of Spain,” she shares. Find out the 13 underrated European cities worthy of a detour.
Made up of more than 170 islands, this Polynesian kingdom in the South Pacific is one of the least discovered areas of the world. Though many of the islands feature sandy beaches and resorts, equally as many are left uninhibited and wild. If you visit during their peak season—July through October—you might have the opportunity to snorkel with humpback whales, but you’ll have to battle the crowds for the GoPro shot. January is a smarter time to visit since you’ll have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world all to yourself, Lauren Juliff, travel writer, says. “I’ve been to 80+ countries, and even in the offseason, Tonga is one of the most spectacular countries I’ve visited,” Juliff said. Plus, prices are lower than in high season, you can book a room at the best accommodations in the country, and you’ll often find yourself on a gorgeous beach without a single person in sight. “The lack of tourists also makes it far easier to meet the locals and learn about what’s like to live on a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean,” she says.
Nestled between Sicily, Italy and the North African coast is the small archipelago of Malta. Known for a rich history that’s ripe with historic sites and plenty of breathtaking coasts, it’s smart to visit this region of the globe during the winter, Gregorio says. Though you might experience storms and strong winds, you will also have the place to yourself. “Once the Christmas holidays are over, the main avenues in La Valletta are less crowded, but still really picturesque. You can’t go wrong with this extremely affordable destination out of season,” she shares.
No matter how much of the planet you’ve been lucky enough to see, there’s nothing quite like a trip to Africa. Here, you can witness majestic animals in their natural habitats, seeing them as they live, and savor the simple act of watching them roam. If you have your sights set on Namibia, Juliff suggests flying in at the tail end of the wet season. Though you will have to work harder to spot lions, elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, and more, you’ll save on nearly everything else. “Namibia isn’t easy to do on a budget —accommodations are expensive, public transport doesn’t really exist, and eating out usually means opting for meals in your lodge. Because of this, visiting in the off-season means saving a significant amount of money without impacting the experience you’ll have in the country,” she explains. “You’ll still be able to see the spectacular alien-like landscapes, wander around a ghost town in the middle of the Namib desert, and go shipwreck-spotting on the Skeleton Coast—you just won’t be surrounded by dozens of tourists while you do so.”
April through early May: Yellowstone National Park
There’s a sweet spot to this legendary American destination, according to Gary Arndt, travel photographer: Right before school lets out and tourists and families plan their warm getaways, Yosemite will be less packed and easier to navigate. “Summer is far too crowded at the major national parks, and in the case of Yosemite, if you go after the crowds in the fall, the waterfalls will have gone down to a trickle. That makes spring—right when the snow has melted down—the best time to see the park,” he says. The national parks are so far off the beaten path they’re practically secret.
July and August: Churchill, Manitoba
Though this town on Hudson Bay in the far north of Canada is known as an optimal place to see polar bears (the optimal season is October to November), that’s also when it’s the most expensive and congested. A secret time of year to visit this destination, according to Arndt is July and August where you can witness another breed of wildlife up-close-and-personal: white beluga whales. Considering you’re in a place that’s usually below zero, it’s a nice switch to visit during its warmest season, where you won’t need a jacket or heavy clothing, he adds.
August and September: Siesta Key Beach, Florida
While it’s in the height of hurricane season, travel agent Kelli Hughes says with school back in session, the beaches are far less crowded during this time of the year. Why Siesta Key? It’s consistently rated one of the best beaches in the country thanks to its pristine beaches and clear blue waters. “If you visit during early fall, the tourists are gone, and this 8-mile stretch of 99 percent pure white quartz sand becomes your own private beach to enjoy and explore,” she shares. Don’t miss the Florida beaches locals want to keep secret.
October: Algarve, Portugal
This beautiful beach spot in Portugal is beloved by Europeans, which means you’ll want to avoid this cliffside destination during July and August, though October is a prime time to cross the Atlantic, according to Juliff. “The Algarve racks up 300 days of sunshine a year, so you’ll be guaranteed plenty of blue skies, even when visiting outside of the busy summer months. In October, the temperatures are enjoyable in the high-70s, the beaches aren’t crowded, and you’ll still find plenty of tour boats for sightseeing,” she shares.
November through March: Fiji
When you scroll through Instagram and see those over-water bungalows perched on breathtaking blue waters? You’re likely seeing a bird’s eye view to this South Pacific wonder. Like Australia and New Zealand, Fiji is on the other side of the Northern Hemisphere, meaning their seasons are opposite the United States. Arndt’s favorite time to visit is between November and March. “Fiji is a long flight from the United States, which is why isn’t at the top of everyone’s mind as a destination. But once you get there you’ll find it affordable, with great weather, and a friendly English speaking population,” he shares.
November or December: Hawaii
As long as you avoid the holidays, Colleen McDaniel, the senior executive editor of Cruise Critic, says November and December are ideal times to visit Hawaii. With no passport required, you’ll see more rain but far fewer crowds than you would during peak travel times in the summer. A cruise can be a way to cut even more cost, McDaniel shares. “Hawaii is definitely on many people’s travel wish list, but a trip can be pricey, especially if you want to island hop. A cruise provides a much easier way to do so—you only unpack once–and is usually more affordable than booking your own airfare and hotel. November and December (holidays excluded) are also some of the cheapest times to cruise to Hawaii,” she shares. Find out all the reasons fall is the best time to plan a vacation.