The perfect summer vacation is different for everyone. For some, an ideal summer adventure is best spent working up a sweat while hiking in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. For others, it entails working up an appetite while sipping fine wine in the French countryside. Nonetheless, ’tis officially the season for summer travel (or, at least, to start planning for it). We’ve rounded up some of AFAR editors’ favorite summer destinations—read on, get inspired, and plan your own adventures under the summer sun.
“One of my favorites for a summer trip: Ojai. Early summer (May-June) is best, because it gets hot near the Los Padres National Forest in high summer. Ojai offers great day hikes, luxurious spas, genuinely good organic food, and little shops that range from New Age to Kinfolk-y. We stayed at the Caravan Outpost, an all-Airstream motel with a fire pit, general store, and cruiser bikes, located two minutes from town and 30 seconds from the Ojai bike path. Travelers beware: Ojai has a way of working its way under your skin and making you wonder how easy it would be to transplant your entire life to the valley.”—Aislyn Greene, AFAR senior editor
“I hate to sound clichéd, but Provence is a pretty good place to be in the summer. Just outside the tiny village of Saint-Antonin-du-Var we rented an old olive mill that’s been converted into lodgings and stayed for a week. We rode bikes past lavender fields and vineyards to the farmers’ market in Lorgues, where we bought cheese and sausage and spectacular radishes that we would slice and eat raw with salted butter. We strolled cobblestone streets that led to the shaded central square of the ancient hilltop village of Tourtour. We took a day trips to the coast, where we kayaked among the calanques, limestone cliffs that shelter tranquil bays of that incredible Mediterranean blue. We sipped pastis. We remembered what life is supposed to be about.” —Jeremy Saum, AFAR executive editor
“I spent every summer of my childhood visiting my grandmother on Cape Cod, and to me, the Cape is summer nostalgia at its best—from the wooden picket fences to the beach-side snack shacks (which serve the world’s best curly fries). When we weren’t spending the day seaside, we’d grab old cruisers and bike along the area’s numerous biking trails to a local ice cream or candy shop. I still look forward to my Cape vacations every summer and to ending a meltingly hot day at the beach with a bowl of clam chowder alfresco.” —Maggie Fuller, AFAR associate editor
“One long weekend in Denver was all it took to convert me. We landed just after midnight and went straight from the airport to Union Lodge No. 1 for cocktails with more garnish than ice. This isn’t a bad thing—one does not simply decline a Tom Collins with a six-inch sprig of rosemary wrapped in lemon peel, especially not during the summer. Every single drink and meal that followed was noteworthy, from bourbon sticky buns and apricot sour beer to brisket I still fantasize about. (Go to Owlbear Barbecue’s truck. You will not be disappointed.) During brief breaks from gluttony and brewery hopping, we hiked around Red Rocks Amphitheatre and strolled through the arts district, both of which benefited from Denver’s stellar weather. I’ve never seen clouds so striking.” —Nicole Antonio, AFAR managing editor
“I spent innumerable happy weekends as a kid pootling around the river in an inflatable dinghy at Dartmouth. [Dartmouth is located in southwest England’s Devon county, which neighbors the rugged, coastal Cornwall region.] Upriver took us to the quirky, hippy town of Totnes, while pointing the bow out to sea offered several secret coves and beaches only accessible from the water. In the harbor itself, sailing boats and ancient ferries criss-crossed the river, while on dry land every day involved some kind of hike and cream teas at cafés hidden down cobbled lanes. The Singing Kettle was a favorite. Clotted cream always on before the jam. I try and return whenever I’m anywhere near that neck of the woods.” —Tim Chester, AFAR senior editor
Anguilla, British West Indies
“Traveling to the Caribbean during hurricane season has its risks, but the lack of crowds and lower rates are a huge plus in my book—as long as you have good travel insurance (more on that here). I spent a long weekend in August at Zemi Beach House moving from the nearly empty white sand beach at Shoal Bay East to the infinity pool to the rum bar and back again. If you’re looking for more excitement, early August marks Anguilla’s Carnival, a week-long celebration with parades, beach parties, and boat races.” —Lyndsey Matthews, AFAR destination news editor
San Juan Islands, Washington
“I’ve spent countless summers with my family in the San Juan Islands, the archipelago in the northwest corner of Washington State, and it’s still my most cherished summertime destination. There’s nothing quite like eating Dungeness crab fresh out of the water, collecting shells and stones along the rocky beaches, or seeing orcas swimming by your boat. Don’t miss dinner at the Willows Inn on Lummi Island, where Noma-trained chef Blaine Wetzel creates an extraordinary tasting menu inspired by the local landscape.” —Jennifer Flowers, AFAR deputy editor
“I spent one of my favorite summers in Tuscany, posted up in an old monastery-turned-lodgings in Certaldo. We lounged by the pool, biked to the market, cooked meals from scratch, tasted wine, and took day trips around the area (easily catching quick trains to Siena, Lucca, San Gimignano, Monteriggioni, and Florence). It was a well-balanced summer trip—pure relaxation with a pinch of exploration each day.”—Rachel McCord, AFAR associate photo editor
This article originally appeared online in May 2017; it was updated on May 29, 2019, to include current information.
>>Next: The Sweetest Small Towns in the U.S. to Visit This Summer