Picture your ideal summer. Is it heading to an idyllic island for some enriching R&R? Perhaps it’s hiking around an American wilderness where there are more animals than people? Or could it be a short-haul jaunt to a lesser-known corner of the Caribbean off-season?
Well, we’ve got you covered if you crave any of these trips for your summer vacation—and we’ve got seven more ideas, too, with our top picks for the best places to travel in August.
1. Sydney, Australia
August is great for: cheering on the Gals to greatness.
Last year, Australia and New Zealand won a joint bid to the host the Women’s Soccer World Cup, and the tournament takes place in these two nations starting in mid-July this year. By the second week of August, it’s quarter final time. The final itself will occur on August 20 at Sydney’s Stadium Australia, an 80,000-seater arena originally built as part of the capital’s hosting duties for the Olympics in 2000. Sydney will host 11 games in total, including Panama versus France on August 2.
If your interests skew more to culture, it’s an ideal time to come, too: This year is the 50th anniversary of Jørn Utzon’s masterpiece, the Sydney Opera House, whose gleaming, white, sail-inspired roof has become a shorthand for the entire country. The August roster of events includes a showcase for Jessica Pratt, one of the highest profile homegrown sopranos, and 19th-century opera La Giaconda, anchored by German tenor Jonas Kaufmann.
Where to stay: Capella Sydney
Book now: Capella Sydney
The Park Hyatt has a worthy rival in the luxury space in this 192-room outpost of the Asian hotelier, which opened in March in the former Department of Education building downtown. Opt for a room on one of the newly added, higher floors for the best views.
How to get to Sydney
If you’re heading solely to Sydney, there are direct nonstop flights from LAX on United, Delta, and American, plus a canny bonus from HNL on Hawaiian. If you want to take in some other matches, including those in New Zealand, consider the Qantas route from JFK to AKL, which started in June and subsequently allows you to connect across the Tasman Sea to Australia.
2. Denali, Alaska
August is great for: huskies, blueberries, and hiking.
Though you’re not likely to see the aurora borealis here this month—it’s too bright in summer for the phenomenon to occur as easily as it does for the rest of the year—there are ample reasons to visit Alaska’s Denali National Park & Preserve right now (especially on August 4, which is a national park fee-free-day in honor of the anniversary of the Great Outdoors Act from 2020).
The 6-million-acre site, anchored by the 20,310-foot-high namesake mountain, is ideal for whitewater rafting down the Nenana River or off-trail hiking. It’s the only national park with its own kennel of 30 sled dogs, and rangers hold demos daily over the summer, giving you a chance to tour the huskies’ kennels and see the traditional Alaskan mode of transport in action.
August is also when the town of Healy, 30 miles from the park, hosts its annual Blueberry Festival: Expect concerts, family fun, and, of course, plenty of blueberry-powered treats.
Where to stay: Denali Park Village
Book now: Denali Park Village
Denali Park Village’s lodges and cabins sit in a valley along the Nenana River; there are trails to hike and explore right on property, or head to the Miner’s Village, where you can try your luck at panning for gold.
How to get to Denali
Book a flight on Alaska Airlines to Fairbanks, the closest airport; from there, it’s a 125-mile drive through the rugged countryside to reach Denali.
3. Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i
August is great for: pan-Polynesian celebrations.
The connection of Hawai‘i westward to Polynesia is at the forefront this month during the two-day festival Heiva I Kaua`i 2023 (August 5–6 this year). It draws Tahitian dance and drumming groups from around the world, including the USA and Japan, to perform here. Think of the thrillingly rhythmic tradition like a folk break dancing, where the steps and routines change on a whim in response to the thunderous drum beats, which stutter and syncopate unpredictably. The various contests are accompanied, of course, by stalls selling Tahitian foods and souvenirs that nod to its notable crafts, including the black pearl.
On Kaua‘i this month there’s superb fishing, too: It’s prime season for the likes of blue marlin and tuna—Ohana is a reliable operator for charters. The weather is a plus whatever you’re doing, since it’s dry season with rainfall of less than two inches all month on average. That also it makes hiking around the Garden Isle easier than in the rainier months. Try a scenic half-day hike on Kalalau Trail (reservations required) or the family friendly Kuilau Ridge Trail.
Where to stay: Timbers Kaua‘i at Hokuala
Book now: Timbers Kaua‘i at Hokuala
The ideal perch for a family visit is one of the three- or four-bedroom homes on this 450-acre resort complex, which also has an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Course on site.
How to get to Kaua‘i
West coasters, of course, have the easiest access here. Delta, United, and Hawaiian, among others, fly directly to Lihue from Los Angeles, while Alaska has flights from Portland, Seattle, and San Diego.
4. Nairobi, Kenya
August is great for: a come-one-come-all fusion dance fest.
The dance-and-music tradition it celebrates is pan-African, though kizomba originated among the regions colonized by the Portuguese—hence most lyrics are in that language, and the dance style has a Latin accent, too, owing a clear debt to the tango, albeit with less rigid choreography. Expect more than 20 dance workshops, live music concerts, and themed parties. Afternoon socials have become increasingly popular in Kenya in recent years, putting Afro-Latin dances like kizomba or bachata at the center of an evening socializing.
Where to stay: Hemingways
Book now: Hemingways
The grande dame of hotels in Kenya’s capital is a hideaway from the bustle, with its 45 rooms—all at least 850 square feet—are set in the house’s own vibrant gardens. Make sure to be back in time for sundowners on the terrace.
How to get to Kenya
Kenya Airways runs a comfortably outfitted Boeing 787 on its direct, nonstop flight from JFK to NBO: The almost 14-hour jaunt operates daily during the summer. The airline is a fellow member of the SkyTeam alliance, which means it seamlessly connects to Delta’s domestic network.
5. Budapest, Hungary
August is great for: a saint’s day, speed records, and saying Happy 150th Birthday.
This year, the city marks its 150th anniversary—or rather, it celebrates the merger of the once stand-alone cities of Buda and Pest (plus the now-forgotten Obuda) into a single metropolis, intended to be a fitting counterpart for the glittering Vienna, the other main city in the Austro-Hungarian empire. Today, pause on the main bridge, looking east and west. Buda, on the Danube’s western flank, is hilly, with winding streets and a quieter, more residential vibe, while the eastern areas, once Pest, are low-lying and flat, with most of the commercial elements of the modern city (think shops, restaurants, and nightlife).
August is also when the city celebrates its patron saint, St. Istvan (better known as Stephen) on August 20: It’s a national holiday, aka the day of the new bread as a nod to harvest season. Expect plenty of July 4th-style celebrations, including impressive firework displays. The same week, Budapest will also play host to the World Outdoor Athletics Championships, the third largest sporting event in the world. The city has just unveiled a newly installed, nine-lane track intended to help athletes maximize their speeds—pick up tickets to see world record attempts at everything from the 100 meters to relays.
Where to stay: Matild Palace
Book now: Matild Palace
One of two wedding cake–like palaces sitting close to the Danube’s main bridge, this maximalist hotel is a glorious addition (the blue- and gold-tiled bathrooms are particularly delightful) to the city’s luxury hotel scene.
How to get to Hungary
There are no nonstop flights to Budapest from the USA. The cheapest option is likely to fly to London and connect on a low-cost carrier for the short-haul hop—it’s about a 2.5-hour flight on the likes of Ryanair and Wizz Air.
August is great for: adventuring in the Caribbean’s quiet corner.
This five-square mile island is an intriguing alternative to many nearby Caribbean destinations that aim squarely at fly-and-flop travelers lured solely by a luxe hotel and a sandy beach.
Saba (say it SAY-buh) is an outdoorsy destination and one that’s particularly appealing to divers, since its volcanic origins have created otherworldly undersea landscapes. When magma pushed through the sea floor, for example, towers of rock reached hundreds of feet underwater, surprisingly close to the surface. There are two dozen self-guided hiking trails, too: Try the 1,000-plus-steps hike up the Mount Scenery Trail—the almost 3,000-foot summit is the highest spot in the entire Netherlands Kingdom. (This island remains part of that country, which commandeered the rock in the 1640s.)
Come this month in particular for Create & Learn, a festival that runs for two weeks starting on August 24 and is operated by a local nonprofit; it’s intended to share traditional arts and crafts skills with everyone—whether local children or curious visitors. It’s held four times each year, and each iteration focuses on different niches. This August, come to learn about painting, pottery, and knife sheathing.
Where to stay: Julianna’s Hotel
Book now: Julianna’s Hotel
The recently renovated, four-room annex known as the Captain’s Suite is the pick of the crashpads here; the rooms open onto a private terrace with superb Caribbean Sea views.
How to get to Saba
The best way to reach the island is via St. Martin (SXM), which has direct flights from MIA, CLT, ATL, JFK, and more. Then it’s a 12-minute flight to Saba on WinAir, or a 90-minute ferry ride across to the island—nervous fliers should opt for the latter, as the ultra-short runway here can made touchdown a white-knuckle adventure.
7. Tokushima Prefecture, Japan
August is great for: a glimpse into Japan’s creative traditions that goes beyond Kabuki.
The Awa Odori festival focuses on the Japanese dance tradition that emerged via the Buddhist custom of honoring ancestral spirits—the name derives from the feudal moniker for this region, Awa, and dance, or odori.
Each year, from August 12 to 15, more than 1 million visitors descend on Tokushima on the eastern end of Shikoku, one of the quieter corners of the country, best known otherwise as the hub of Japan’s indigo-dying tradition. Come to watch groups of dancers and musicians, known as ren, roaming through the streets in costumes based on the yukata, or summer kimono; they chant and dance to the accompaniment of lutes and drums.
Most of the activity takes place in the evenings on streets that have been pedestrianized downtown for the event: There are paid, semi-professional performances on some stages, as well as enthusiastic amateurs, plus the usual smattering of food and souvenir stalls ranged around. Look in particular for the ona adori groups, or women’s dance troupes, distinguished by their fan-shaped braided hats, or amigasa; these were traditionally worn by ninjas, as the wide brims make identity-concealing much easier—a detail that the dancers playfully leverage.
Where to stay: Hotel Iyaonsen
Book now: Hotel Iyaonsen
No one should come to Japan without spending a little time idling in one of its hot springs. This hilltop Tokushima hotel has a bathing complex handily located down in the valley nearby, accessible by cable car.
How to get to Japan
Haneda (HND) is now the main international touchdown in Tokyo, replacing Narita (NRT). There is regular, direct service there on all the major legacy carriers as well as Japan Airlines. It’s just over an hour to reach Tokushima (TKS) on a domestic connection from there.
8. North Fork, New York
August is great for: an alternative to the hectic Hamptons.
Forget the Hamptons, especially in August, when the crowds are thickest and the vibe loses its oh-so-exclusive edge. Opt instead for an alternative, the East End through the looking glass: the North Fork, a countrified cousin that’s more cut-off jeans and boots than hot pants and stilettos.
One of its major assets for visitors: the more than three dozen wineries here. Head to 300-acre Pindar Vineyards for Sunset Fridays this summer, where pizza will be served at sundown, or the family-owned Macari, a 500-acre winery known for its superb sauvignon blanc. Bedell Cellars was founded by the late movie producer and avid art collector Michael Lynne (hence the arresting, artwork-emblazoned labels).
Amble round the backroads and pick up fresh produce from more than 100 farm stands—the soil out here, thanks to glacial movements millennia ago, is particularly fertile, producing standout summer crops. Mattituck’s Harbes Family Farm has a kids’ petting zoo, and the beaches, like Orient Beach State Park and Goldsmith’s Inlet, are quieter and more appealing than any oceanfront spit in the Hamptons this month.
Where to stay: The Shoals
Book now: The Shoals
The year-old property calls itself a “boatel” with 20 rooms and 20 slips, allowing guests to arrive by water or explore the Long Island Sound. The private outdoor showers for each room are a thoughtful touch.
How to get to the North Fork
Budget around three hours to get out here by train from NYC—you’ll need to change at least once—or check out the Hampton Jitney service; it takes around 2.5 hours without traffic.
9. Engadin, Switzerland
August is great for: operas and arias amid the Alps.
Most people flock to this corner of Switzerland in the winter, for the ski-and-be-seen spot of St. Moritz, but it’s a shame that they overlook it for much of the rest of the year. Running from July 29 until August 11, the Engadin Festival is an annual classical music celebration that’s been running since 1941 here.
The concerts that form part of its program aren’t limited to conventional venues, though: The event commandeers everything from churches to old riding halls around the region for its shows. Programming is equally diverse and inclusive, ranging from solo recitals, chamber music formations, and orchestral concerts with soloists. This year’s performers include mezzo-soprano Marina Viotti, cellist Daniel Müller-Schott, and pianist Dmitro Chony.
Where to stay: Grand Hotel Kronenhof
Book now: Grand Hotel Kronenhof
The 112-room hotel in the village of Pontresina is an unapologetic celebration of old-fashioned Alpine luxury—think gilded chandeliers, ceiling frescoes, and comfy, overstuffed armchairs.
How to get to Switzerland
There’s a direct, nonstop flight from JFK to Zurich (ZRH) on the Swiss national airline, plus service from SFO on United. From there, take one of the ultra-reliable, sleekly efficient local trains to the Upper Engadin.
10. Edinburgh, Scotland
August is great for: spotting the next Oscar winner making a live debut.
Think of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as a combination of Broadway, Saturday Night Live, and the Groundlings—a comedy-skewing live performance fiesta with more than 3,000 shows taking place across 250 venues over almost four weeks (from August 4 to 28 this year). The dizzying full schedule is constantly updated, so make sure to download its app for the easiest planning.
By far the world’s largest performing arts festival, the Fringe was established soon after World War II. Since then, it’s proved a spotting ground for future superstars at the earliest stages of their careers. It cost intrepid festivalgoers just a few pounds to see the likes of the late Alan Rickman (aka Professor Snape from the Harry Potter film series), Mr. Bean actor Rowan Atkinson, and comedian-turned-chat show host Graham Norton made their debuts here in the past. Many of this year’s emerging talents will likely follow in their fame-finding footsteps.
In particular, look for the winner of the Edinburgh Comedy Award (formerly known as the Perrier), which crowns the standout from this year’s line-up—Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson, and Nanette breakout Hannah Gadsby are all past winners.
Where to stay: Gleneagles Townhouse
Book now: Gleneagles Townhouse
A onetime bank in the historic center of Edinburgh re-emerged after a gut renovation as a swanky city outpost of the century-old golf resort. Head to the rooftop bar on a warm evening for killer cocktails and views out over St. Andrew’s Square.
How to get to Scotland
Both United and Delta offer direct, nonstop flights to Edinburgh from the USA—the former from EWR, the latter from JFK.