43 Summer Adventures You Should Start Planning Now

While it's true that you can snag some pretty cool last-minute deals on vacations, if you want to plan a summer vacation on a specific date to a dreamy destination, it's time to start planning. Many experts recommend starting your vacation planning about six to nine months out.

As the saying goes, "Planning a vacation is just like planning a family — you need to get started nine months in advance." Millions of U.S. families with children will be taking advantage of the break from school to plan vacations, so competition for the best reservations, rates and deals is high. Airfare prices and schedules are often posted about nine months in advance, and according to the rental booking site HomeAway, the best time to book a summer vacation rental is January, as most summer homes fill up by April 1. Whether you want to explore a different part of the United States or head out on an international adventure, here are some exciting vacation options for this summer that you can go ahead and start planning now.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Summer is the most pleasant and most popular time to enjoy the gorgeous scenery of Acadia National Park. The majority of Acadia National Park is located on Mount Desert Island, including Cadillac Mountain, the highest point along the North Atlantic coastline. The mountaintop is the first place in the continental United States to be hit with sunlight in the morning, but it also offers beautiful vistas all day long. The park has 45 miles of carriage trails and 125 miles of hiking trails for visitors to take in its fresh and saltwater beaches, trees, lighthouses and wildlife.

The Amazon

The Amazon River is a mighty body of water worthy of inclusion on your bucket list. It's the largest river in the world based on the volume of water it moves (one-fifth off all the running water on Earth) and the second longest river in the world (it would stretch the distance from New York City to Rome). The majority of the Amazon Basin is in Brazil, but it also winds through seven other South American countries. Instead of visiting a town near the river, the best way to experience the river is on it. Summer is the low water season down south, so you'll have better access to jungle trails, fishing and bird watching with cooler temperatures.

Anchorage, Alaska

Summertime is a great time to head to Alaska, particularly friendly Anchorage, since the days are long and temperatures are warm. Explore the unique Alaskan wilderness by hiking, mountain biking, glacier climbing, kayaking, helicopter tour and more. You can even take a scenic train ride on the Alaskan Railroad to nearby Denali National Park. Anchorage also offers metropolitan amenities like spas and restaurants and cultural opportunities like the Alaska Native Heritage Center. If you want to see the famed northern lights, you can catch them at the tail end of the summer season in early September.

Asheville, North Carolina

No matter what you're looking for on your vacation, Asheville, North Carolina, will have something for you. Word has gotten out about this destination, however, so planning in advance is key. Downtown Asheville is known for its food, art, music and brewery scenes, while the Biltmore Estate, America's largest private home, offers a historical look at Gilded Age opulence. The city lies along the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the country's most breathtaking drives; the roadsides burst with colorful wildflowers in the spring and summer.

Bali, Indonesia

Bali draws visitors from around the world with its beautiful beaches, ancient temples, burgeoning dining scene and dazzlingly tropical green jungles. Recharge at the spa or a yoga and meditation center, shop at bustling street markets, enjoy live performances, and explore local shrines. The best time to visit Bali is during the island's dry season between April and October, which makes it an ideal location for your summer vacation.

Banff National Park, Canada

Banff National Park is considered the hiking capital of Canada during the summer. There are hundreds of miles of trails, some of which start at high elevations, guaranteeing spectacular panoramic views. The park's lakes, including Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, were formed from melted glaciers and their striking, clear blue waters contrast beautifully against the surrounding snow-capped mountains and glaciers.

Bend, Oregon

Whether you're looking for adventure on land or water, the central Oregon city of Bend is right for you. Whitewater rafting, fly fishing, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, SUPing and floating the river are just some of the summer outdoor activities you can do in Bend. The city also has plenty of tasty restaurants and hosts many summertime events like Bite of Bend, Brewfest and a nationally acclaimed arts and crafts show.

Big Sur, California

Known as "the American Riviera," the Big Sur region of California's coast stretches from Carmel to San Simeon along Highway 1. The undeveloped, untouched seaside landscape makes for a gorgeous bucket list road trip. Sights along the way include the striking Bixby Bridge, the purple-tinged sand of Pfeiffer Beach and the stands of majestic redwoods.

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

This island group in the Pacific is part of French Polynesia and lies just northwest of Tahiti. Summertime is prime for visiting the "Pearl of the Pacific" because the weather is dry and temperatures are more mild. The islands are dotted with luxury resorts, overwater bungalows and man-made beaches near turquoise waters. On top of all sorts of water activities, you can also feed sharks and manta rays. You can also hike the extinct volcano, Mount Otemanu.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

The summer months in North America correspond with winter in Argentina and consequently the tourist off-season. Though temperatures are chillier, most attractions are open and crowds are few. See a performance at the Teatro Colon, catch a live tango show in the La Boca neighborhood or see traditional Feria de Mataderos cultural market to shop and experience folkloric dancers, musicians and gaucho demonstrations.

The Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is a tropical getaway all year round. Summer is technically the rainy season, but storms can pass quickly, leaving sunshine in their wake. If you're willing to risk trickier weather, you can find cheaper hotel prices and big discounts on vacation packages. Summer is also festival season in the Dominican Republic, so on top of the gorgeous beaches, you can enjoy fests dedicated to seafood, jazz music, mangoes and more.

The Florida Keys

The Florida Keys were hit hard by Hurricane Irma, but the region has recovered and has a lot to offer for a fun summer vacation. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is the country's first underwater state park and one of the country's best scuba diving and snorkeling sites. Stroll the white sands of Sandspur Beach, play with dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center, enjoy fresh seafood, take a jetpack waterflight and more.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands are home to an amazing diversity of animals that can't be seen anywhere else in the world. The remote volcanic islands, which are part of Ecuador, are located in the Pacific Ocean. The archipelago is a national park and is considered by UNESCO to be a "living museum." Experience the islands' stunning biodiversity up close this summer by snorkeling, scuba diving and hiking around the islands.

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

Almost 6 million people every year come from around the world to visit the Grand Canyon, which is considered one of the seven wonders of the natural world and a must-see sight in the United States. It's one of the deepest canyons in the world, with many amazing hiking trails to choose from. If you haven't visited the Grand Canyon yet, marveling at its majesty from along the rim is a must, and the Desert View Watchtower offers 360-degree views for visitors.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Encompassing 3,000 individual reefs along 900 islands, Australia's Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world and the only living thing that's visible from space. This natural wonder of the world is best explored sooner rather than later, as large chunks of the reef are being lost to coral bleaching. See the barrier from afar by skydiving above it or taking a helicopter tour. Then get up close and personal to the reefs and the thousands of animal species that call it home by exploring some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling sites in the world.


Like other Arctic Circle locales, the Danish territory of Greenland is best visited in summertime for those looking to take in the sights. The summer months offer long, bright daylight hours and even a chance to experience a midnight sun. The weather is ideal for hiking, spotting local wildlife, climbing Ukkusissat mountain, mountain biking and kayaking, all with striking fjords and glaciers as your backdrop.

Helsinki, Finland

Summer is the peak season for strolling through Helsinki and enjoying its many parks, beaches and cafes. An internationally influential city in fashion, textile, furniture, lighting and more, Helsinki is home to cutting-edge boutiques and workshops as well as the Design Museum. Helsinki is also surrounded by natural beauty such as lakes and forests perfect for adventure excursions.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Jackson Hole valley in Wyoming offers rustic charm, a slower pace and less commercialized, stunning natural surroundings, making it perfect for a relaxing summer vacation spent enjoying nature. Jackson Hole is next to Grand Teton National Park, which is home to an array of majestic animals, including bison, wolves, grizzly bears, mountain lions and bighorn sheep. The park is also the perfect terrain for sports like hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting and more.

Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai, the oldest Hawaiian island, is known as the Garden Isle, and summer is the perfect time to take in its lush scenery. The 17-mile stretch known as the Na Pali Coast is a national park with breathtaking natural beauty that's said to be one of the best hikes in the world. Swim, sail or sunbathe on the beaches along Hanalei Bay. Visit the Spouting Horn natural blowhole or hike the Waimea Canyon. There's no shortage of outdoor adventure in this natural paradise.

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Summer is the best time to take an African safari, and one of the top places see wildlife up close is South Africa's Kruger National Park, one of the largest national parks on the continent. South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, so the months from May through September are cool and dry. Vegetation is more sparse since its winter, meaning you have better sightlines to spot elusive animals, such as the white and black rhino. Kruger is also home to all the big safari animals, including elephants, lions and giraffes.

Kyoto, Japan

The former capital of Japan, Kyoto is home to more than 2,000 ancient temples and shrines, surrounded by lush gardens, including the breathtaking Sagano Bamboo Forest. Kyoto keeps Japanese cultural traditions alive and is the place to enjoy the nation's customs and arts and crafts. The dining scene is also spectacular with delicious options ranging from street food to Michelin-starred restaurants. Summer's temperatures and humidity scare away some tourists, so you have a better chance of finding discounts.

Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada

Lake Tahoe is a summertime playground, with a variety of warm-weather activities available from lounging on the beach to hiking to the top of Mt. Tallac. Lake Tahoe is also known for great mountain biking and golfing and for hosting outdoor concerts all summer long.

Lisbon, Portugal

Whether you're traveling solo, as a couple or as a family, Lisbon, Portugal, is a great summer destination. As a city on the beach, it has historic castles and museums, Michelin-starred dining, nightlife and outdoor fun all in one spot. Lisbon also hosts many exciting and popular festivals throughout the summer.


Mozambique may not be on your radar yet, but it is one of the best summer beach destinations in Africa, with a coastline of pristine beaches along the Indian Ocean. June, July and August are surfing season, and the warm waters of Tofo Beach are a great spot to hit the waves, bike on sand dunes or simply relax on the beach. While in Mozambique, you can also go animal trekking, hike Mount Namuli, snorkel among well-preserved corals and fish for barracuda.


One of Africa's most underrated destinations, Namibia offers many of the same amazing adventures and fantastic views as other countries but for a fraction of the price and with fewer crowds. It's also been nicknamed "Africa for beginners" because it's less crowded, many locals speak English, and threats from crime and disease are low. It has loads of adventure opportunities, such as sandboarding, hot air ballooning, climbing the world's oldest dunes or going on a safari. Wildlife viewing is best done from June through August, Namibia's winter, when it's cooler and drier and animals congregate around watering holes.

New York, New York

New York City is a world-famous metropolis bursting with history, art, culture, fine dining and more. Its amazing variety of art, music, theater, culture, food and architecture drew 13.67 million international visitors in 2018. Summertime is perhaps the most popular time for people to visit the Big Apple, so start planning now to secure the best hotel deals and tickets to popular attractions.


One of the most underrated destinations in Central America, Nicaragua is home to colorful cities like Granada and Leon as well as locations for unique outdoor adventures. It's also known as the "land of lakes and volcanoes." Cerro Negro is an active volcano that you can slide down on a sandboard in what is called "volcano surfing." Summer in Nicaragua is the perfect time to hit the beach for bigger surfing waves and hiking through lush jungles.

Oslo, Norway

Summer is a great time to visit Oslo because after the thaw of winter, you can enjoy the city's many neighborhoods, architectural landmarks, and parks, including Vigeland Park, the world's largest sculpture park featuring works by a single artist. The city is also quite close to nature, so you can explore the forests of Nordmarka or take a cruise, kayak or canoe Oslo Fjord.

Patagonia, Chile

Patagonia is the region at the southernmost tip of South America known for its penguin population and rugged, wintery landscape. Its sights include the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Perito Moreno Glacier (which features ice caves you can hike inside) and multiple volcanoes, including Ojos del Salado, the highest active volcano in the world. The summer months of June, July and August in the Northern Hemisphere are wintertime in the Southern Hemisphere. While this is the low season for Patagonia tourism because of the temperatures, it's also the best time to visit the region for skiing and exploring the otherworldly, frozen landscape.

Phuket, Thailand

This string of Thai islands is home to the country's most popular beaches, year-round mild weather and activities for every type of traveler, from shopping to water sports. Travel by tuk-tuk (a motorized rickshaw) or motorbike, hike through the jungle, chow down on local cuisine and more. May to October is the area's monsoon season, meaning cheaper accommodation rates and less crowds, and June and July still see plenty of sunshine along with shoulder season discounts.

Prince Edward Island, Canada

Prince Edward Island, Canada's smallest province, is a charming northern getaway. It offers lots of outdoor fun at a slower pace. Enjoy pebble beaches, wineries, farmers markets, scenic bike paths and golf courses and the island's summer attractions. Visit in August for Old Home Week, a lively celebration of the island's rural and maritime culture.

Reykjavik, Iceland

By offering cheap airfare and the ability to stop over en route to and from mainland Europe, Iceland has positioned itself in recent years as a top tourist destination. The capital city of Reykjavik features metropolitan amenities as well as proximity to natural wonders, including glaciers, fjords and lava flows. The warmer summer months are the most comfortable and popular time to visit.

Route 66

Nicknamed the "Main Street of America" or the "Mother Road," Route 66 is perhaps the most iconic and influential road in the country. Traversing even a portion of it is an American rite of passage because the route is a rich, living museum of the country's culture. Two to three weeks is how long many families take to see the length of the route, with some taking up to a month, making summer the perfect time to take the ultimate Route 66 road trip.

Scottish Highlands

Summer is the best time to visit the mythical Scottish Highlands as temperatures finally reach the 70s and the weather is dry, making it pleasant to take in the scenery. You can stroll along scenic cliffs or attempt to mount the U.K.'s tallest peak, Ben Nevis. The Highland Games take place in August, and you can golf until midnight as some parts of the northern Highlands get 18 hours of daylight during the summer.

Sedona, Arizona

Even though it's in Arizona, which is known for sweltering summertime temps, Sedona's weather is pretty pleasant compared to the triple-digit temps of Phoenix or Tucson. If you can handle warm summertime temperatures, you'll get cheaper rates. Explore the area's stunning red rocks on hundreds of hiking trails. You can beat the heat by shopping at the city's many boutiques, hitting the spa or traveling down the Verde Valley Wine Trail.


If you're feeling inspired after watching the hit movie "Crazy Rich Asians," its filming location, Singapore, is set to be one of the most popular travel destinations this summer. Its food scene is a mix of Chinese, Malay and Indian influences, and it has shopping ranging from outlets and street markets to high-end boutiques. Its botanic gardens are perhaps the most iconic in the world, helping Singapore live up to its ideal of being "a city in a garden."

South Ari Atoll, Maldives

This independent island nation in the Indian Ocean began developing its tourism industry in the 1970s, and now it has become a bucket-list trip for those who crave island luxury mixed with local charm. For example, visitors can tag along on traditional fishing trips then enjoy the fruits of their labors at dinner. A particularly unique adventure lies off the coast of the Maldives' South Ari Atoll: You can swim with whale sharks. It's also home to some of the country's best dive sites.

South Island, New Zealand

New Zealand's South Island is a prime spot for outdoor adventures. The summer months in the Northern Hemisphere are winter in New Zealand, meaning you can snag great off-peak rates. The South Island has hot springs and ski slopes with stellar views as well as access to the country's signature extreme sports. Its also home to one of the country's most iconic places, Milford Sound. This World Heritage Site is a glacier-carved fjord surrounded by waterfalls, mountains and forests.

St. Barts

The French Caribbean island of Saint Barthelemy, known simply as St. Barts or St. Barth's to those in the know, is know as the playground of the rich and famous, but it's both accessible and financially possible for mere mortals to visit as well. In 2017, St Barts was one of the islands hit hardest by Hurricane Irma. Most of its hotels and infrastructure have since been rebuilt and reopened, making this a great time to check out this relaxing beach getaway.

Stockholm, Sweden

Sweden's capital of Stockholm is a series of 14 connected islands with a well-preserved historic Gamla Stan district that seems straight from a storybook. As the city is surrounded by water, you can enjoy the summer sun on a cruise or in your own personal kayak. The city also has a dynamic food culture, beautiful natural surroundings, an entire museum dedicated to ABBA and plenty of places to experience Nordic traditions like saunas.

Swiss Alps

If you're keen on hiking during your summer vacations, one of the best places in the world to do so is the Swiss Alps. There are more than 40,000 miles of marked hiking trails in the Swiss Alps that take you through deep gorges, forests and grasslands along lakes and waterfalls. You can also enjoy activities like fishing and horseback riding as well as visiting art galleries, soaking in a thermal spa and learning cheese making.

Taipei, Taiwan

This East Asian destination is famous for its skyscrapers as well as its temples and museums. Its unique culture includes wacky themed restaurants, sumptuous street foods and creative parks with pop-up exhibits and performances. Hike up Elephant Mountain outside the city for a majestic skyline view. Summer in Taipei can be hot and humid, but those who brave the weather can catch the annual Dragon Boat Festival. You can also cool off by drinking a bubble tea, by visiting the Taipei 101 observatory or by marveling at the green architecture of the Beitou Branch of the Taipei Public Library.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is home to about 60 percent of the world's geysers, including one of the most famous, Old Faithful. Grand Prismatic Spring, also located in Yellowstone, is America's largest hot spring and the third  largest in the world. Yellowstone is home to many stunning sights, including multiple waterfalls and wildlife, like bison and gray wolves, and is a great last-minute summer destination within the U.S.

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