You’re an off-season traveler, always looking for somewhere different and unexpected. Your favorite places are those others might dismiss, but you see an insider-ish appeal that’s easily overlooked. Even better, when you choose to hit a spot out of season, of course, it’s likely a bargain making you equal parts thrifty and original.
Read on for our 12 suggestions for an off-season destination each month, whether it be Venice at its most romantic, or a sneaky way to see San Francisco when the weather might—actually—be good.
Cool and crisp aren’t two ideas readily associated with Morocco’s heady, glamorous, and overheated city. But come to Marrakech in January, and you’ll actually enjoy wandering around the souk, rather than struggling with high temps (that reach the 90s in the summer) and wall-to-wall crowds. Those clear skies are ideal for stargazing, too, so head up to the Atlas Mountains 60 miles or so away for nighttime adventures—though remember that it’s very cold after sunset, as is typical for a desert, so pack a fleece, some cashmere, or both. If you’re curious and a seasoned skier, try a few runs in Oukaimaden, a ski resort in the mountains—know, however, that facilities are basic at best.
Where to stay: La Mamounia
Book now: La Mamounia
Indulge your inner Anna Delvey (we know you want to) with a stay at La Mamounia, the plushest crashpad in the city, set in its own swoon-worthy gardens—look for the macaron stand at the center from Pierre Hermé.
Come to Venice in February, and it’s like stepping into a Henry James novel, or at least back in time. The faded glamour of La Serenissima is only burnished by the dark evenings, damp weather, and lack of visitors, which means you might end up idling alone in a campo without risk of your reverie being disturbed by an umbrella-toting guide. If it rains or snows, duck into a local café for a glass of reviving prosecco, and snuggle up against the chill—the ultimate romantic gesture.
Locals may grumble about acqu’alta, or high water, the nickname for the regular floods that hit the city in winter, but for visitors it’s a quirky delight. Streets will be filled with tables that form makeshift sidewalks in a few feet of water and walking around requires thigh-high plastic waders. Most hotels will have them on hand this month; just ask. Once wearing them, we dare you not to splosh around with toddler-like abandon.
Where to stay: La Calcina
Book now: La Calcina
La Calcina is a charming family-run property overlooking the Giudecca in Dorsoduro—handy, as this is the area that’s least flood-prone (hence the name: hard back).
Safari is renowned in the Northern Hemisphere’s summer, when winter in sub-Saharan Africa causes droughts that force animals around whatever water source remains, making viewing easier. But it isn’t the only time worth heading here on safari.
The rains move into the region this month, which might seem off-putting, but don’t dismiss what’s been nicknamed “green season”. It’s a chance to see the Africa countryside as its most abundant: Smells are intense as the plants and trees burst into life, and the torrential, but mostly fleeting, rainstorms will soak the landscape in spectacular fashion. Most importantly, you’re likely to see baby animals; this is calving season for wildebeests, zebra, and many other species.
Where to stay: Angama Mara
Book now: Angama Mara
Angama Mara’s perfect perch on a cliff top overlooking the Mara makes for jawdropping breakfasts as the sun rises—the midcentury-inflected African decor is a refreshing change from most lodges.
April: Jackson Hole, Wyoming
This month, elk begin to migrate from the National Elk Refuge here to their summer home up north, so expect to see them idling everywhere—along highways, in yards, and, of course, the plains of Grand Teton National Park. It’s a chance to see the same thing happen across the countryside, as wildlife emerges from hibernation and bursts into life; come for fly fishing (the season opens on April 1), and you’ll see the water teem with fish and be jostling with far fewer anglers (be patient, as some days can be spiked by snow runoffs). April 1 is also Gaper Day, the spoofish end-of-season slopefest when skiers dress up in impractical outfits to hit the slopes one last time—think ponchos, jeans, or Hawaiian shirts—and end the day with a raucous après-ski evening.
Where to stay: Hotel Jackson
Book now: Hotel Jackson
Hotel Jackson, the 58-room hotel in the heart of downtown Jackson Hole, has views out across the Snow King and Jackson Valley mountains and decor that’s a winkingly stylish riff on Old West clichés.
May: Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i
Spring is the Goldilocks time for Hawai‘i, a place where there’s no weather-driven low season since the climate’s consistent pretty much year-round. May, though, is that just-right time: no more winter rains, surf conditions remaining impressive, and the extra jolt of summer heat hasn’t begun.
Crowds are thinner and attractions like the Kalalau Trail are easier to navigate—it’s much drier than in summertime, when conditions can be slippery. Boat operators begin their season this month (wrapping up in September), so see the Na Pali coastline from the water: Try a sunset charter from Holo-Holo, with abundant drinks and a delicious supper from $180.
Where to stay: 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay
Book now: 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay
The former St. Regis has been rebooted as an outpost of ultraluxe sustainable chain 1 Hotels—its focus on greenery and green husbandry (all locations are LEED certified and carbon neutral) is ideal for the island.
June: Park City, Utah
Ski destinations across the world struggle to gain traction with visitors when the pistes aren’t powdery—a shame, as any outdoorsy type can relish Park City even when it’s warm. Opt to hike and mountain bike many trails in the summer, and lift tickets are much cheaper: An adult scenic lift day pass is $32 rather than hundreds of dollars as it would be in peak winter ski season. Resorts like Deer Valley throw events to lure visitors, such as a series of free summer concerts, and the farmers’ market runs every Wednesday from this month through October. A bonus for Park City in particular: Winter Olympians train here off-season, so you can watch them at the water ramps and slides around town.
Where to stay: Montage Deer Valley
Book now: Montage Deer Valley
Soothe those aching muscles at the end of a day’s hike at Montage Deer Valley. The 950,000-square-foot property also has an indoor and outdoor pool, making it one of the best year-round options.
July: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Who needs the overcrowded, overpriced Mediterranean in summer? Puerto Vallarta is the perfect substitute, with appealing beaches and plenty of plush hotels. Even better, it’s a short-haul, direct flight to most major hubs stateside. The weather’s glorious most of the season; when it rains, mostly in the mid-afternoon, use that downpour as an excuse to take a Spanish-style siesta after a long, indulgent lunch.
Charter a yacht, Med-style, for a day or more out on the water. Underwater activities like scuba and snorkeling are superb in and around Los Arcos, or the Arches, a collection of gray granite islands about six miles off the coast that form a protected marine park.
Where to stay: Hacienda San Angel
Book now: Hacienda San Angel
Richard Burton’s former home is now a boutique hotel, the Hacienda San Angel—art- and antique-crammed, it’s like an eccentric’s mansion on a tropical island.
Yes, technically, it might get a little dusk-like close to midnight in the northern reaches of the Nordics come midsummer, as if the night is trying to assert control over the sky. It never succeeds, though: by 2 a.m. or so, it’ll be bright and morning-like again, a disconcerting but thrillingly disruptive experience.
Head to the edges of the Arctic Circle in Sweden and watch tee off at Björkliden Golf Course, which runs for 24 hours a day this month. As for Finland, the sauna’s spiritual home, go for a bracing midnight swim and then heat up afterwards in a nearby cabin. Brave the steam rising from the heated coals (known as löyly) and soak in summer’s end.
Where to stay: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
Book now: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
Finland’s Kakslauttanen sits in the country’s Lapland region, and has log chalets that can be booked from June 1 - October 30. The resort also has three smoke saunas—a type of sauna that utilizes firewood to slowly build its warmth.
September: San Francisco, California
Sshhh: There is a month when the weather in San Francisco doesn’t careen through four seasons’ worth in a single day. July and August can be particularly bad offenders, but come this month and you’ll be sharing a locals’ secret. September is when you won’t need to pack sunscreen, an umbrella, and a scarf in your day bag. The balmy, breezy temps stay consistent and (mostly) sunny all month, mostly in the mid 70s. Given that San Francisco is a city where walking is both the easiest and most interesting way to get around, that’s a major plus. Many of this month’s citywide events, whether the Shakespeare Festival’s free performances in McLaren Park or festishfest Folsom Street Fair in SOMA take place alfresco, too.
Where to stay: Harbor Court Hotel
Book now: Harbor Court Hotel
The former Army-Navy residence, built in the 1920s in a Mediterranean revival style, has been reimagined as a luxury hotel right on the waterfront—even better, it’s close to the Ferry Building Marketplace, the gourmet hub that any standard-issue food court hopes to grow up to be.
The Caribbean is sadly synonymous with hurricanes in the fall, which rip through the region regularly between August and November. There are parts, though, that sit firmly outside the Hurricane Belt—the zone between 20 and 35 degrees north in latitude. One of the places that’s free from imminent impact each year? The former Dutch colony of Aruba, a barely 70 square-mile island close to the Venezuelan coast in the southernmost reaches of this region. It’s a can’t-fail beach vacation with brochure-like golden sands rimmed with palm trees: Try Eagle Beach for idling, water sports on Arashi Beach, and snorkeling off Malmok Beach.
Where to stay: Boardwalk Small Hotel
Book now: Boardwalk Small Hotel
Belgian expat twins Stephanie and Kimberly Rooijakkers own Boardwalk Small Hotel, a charming spot of 14 casitas that serves as an alternative to the generic chains that tend to form the bulk of on-island accommodation.
November: Provence, France
Come in late fall to this bucolic corner of southern France and you can gorge on two delicacies at once. It’s truffle season, and up to 80 percent of the black varieties of this tuber that grow in France originate right here, in Vaucluse. Head to the Friday morning market in Carpentras to watch them sell for prices that crypto-bros might envy, or try one of the tasting menus at a local restaurant that incorporates them into a multicourse meal—it’s pricey, but unforgettable to dine at Sevin, right in the center of Avignon next to the Palais des Papes.
It’s also olive season, a much more affordable treat: Until the middle of the month or so, you can join a tour to pick your own and combine it with a Provençal picnic for just 25 euros per person.
Where to stay: Hotel de Cambis
Book now: Hotel de Cambis
Keep the gastronomic theme consistent by staying at Hotel de Cambis, where the rooms are categorized like wines—the top category is grand cru—and the decor is heavy on burgundy, red, and pink.
December: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Forget mother of dragons: In December, Dubrovnik’s all about the mother of Jesus, as the Game of Thrones–famed filming hub is festooned with a Mittel Europe-style Christmas in its cobbled old town. Come here to taste local delicacies (look for orahnjaca, a yeasty walnut cake) as well as outdoor concerts, carol singing, and plenty of souvenirs.
December 6 is a highlight of the calendar—it’s St. Nicholas Day, when Santa leaves gifts for good kids, and the hairy demon Krampus instead leaves a stick or two for anyone who’s been naughty. Stay around until New Year’s Eve, too, and you can celebrate here with a three-day music festival that climaxes with a symphony performance on January 1. All that, and the weather’s likely to remain balmy enough that you won’t need anything more than a light sweater.
Where to stay: Pucic Palace
Book now: Pucic Palace
The 19-room Pucic Palace in the heart of the old town is a chance to channel your inner aristocrat, whether Hapsburg or Targaryen—think heavy drapes, marble bathrooms, and antique furniture.