The Ultimate Guide to Shoulder Season Travel

Where to go in between the high and low travel seasons.

The moment you drop your youngest kid at the dorm, the school calendar no longer rules your life. You never have to fight the high-season crowds of summer and spring break again. Suddenly, fall is wide open, and we know just where to make the most of it.


The best time to go to Nicaragua

Summer is unbearably humid, and the holidays bring hordes. But November is blissfully quiet, and at the tail end of rainy season, which means short tropical showers in the afternoon and vivid green countryside ripe for trekking.

Where to land

On the southwest coast, the 17-room Inn at Rancho Santana has its own farm, plus stables for riding and an outdoor yoga palapa for morning sun salutations. From $275.

What not to miss

Hike trails through monkey-filled rain forest with the hotel’s naturalist, or, if you’re a seasoned surfer, paddle out to one of 10 breaks within easy striking distance.


The best time to go to Zambia

As water sources dry up during the hot months of September, October, and November, wildlife converges on the shores and islands of the Zambezi River. If you can handle daily highs around 90°F, you’ll be rewarded with crowd-free game viewing.

Where to land

Guests at Tongabezi Lodge, which sits on the banks of the Zambezi, can spot hippos, crocodiles, and elephants from the shaded deck of their cottages or even from the swimming pool. From $618, all-inclusive.

What not to miss

Victoria Falls is a 30-minute drive away, and, thanks to a new Univisa system, Americans can now cross more easily to the Zimbabwe side, where the flow is better this time of year.


The best time to go to Tahiti

In November, the islands’ calendar is packed with cultural events, and the water is mirror-like and perfect for diving. Watch for fall flight deals from Air Tahiti Nui.

Where to land

Taha’a Island is all pearl farms, mountains, turquoise lagoons, and vanilla plantations. Enjoy the serenity of an over-water suite or beach villa at Le Taha’a Island Resort, located on an islet a five-minute boat ride away. From $810.

What not to miss

The resort has an on-site dive center and can arrange village excursions and outrigger canoe adventures. Or cheer on the action at the Hawaiki Nui Va’a outrigger canoe race, November 4 to 6.


The best time to Bhutan

The dry season begins in September, with daily highs easing down into the 70s, perfect for hiking to towns and temples like the iconic cliff-top Tiger’s Nest.

Where to land

Amankora, a circuit of five luxury lodges in valleys across Bhutan, makes for a civilized Himalayan pigrimage. From $930,

What not to miss

Visit a training school for monastic astrologers, catch a glimpse of a flock of rare black-necked cranes, or try your hand at archery, Bhutan’s national sport.

Jen grew up in Pt. Pleasant, NJ (yes, the Shore), escaped to school in Boston, and fell in love with travel when she went abroad to study in Australia. After nearly ten years of eating and drinking herself silly in NYC, she finally reached the west coast. Things that makes her happy: the ocean, books, mountains, bikes, friends, good beer, ice cream, unplanned adventures, football, live music.
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