54 Summer Travel Ideas
Whether you’re craving natural beauty, a big-city buzz, cultural cred, or spa retreats, we’ve rounded up 54 summer travel ideas. Now get out of town!
Choose your own adventure
Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe
A relaxed alternative to crowded Puerto Vallarta and party-hearty Cabo, Punta Mita is a tropical locale perfect for hydrophiles. Nearby Marieta Islands National Park means opportunities to snorkel with sea turtles and dolphins. Or check in to the undeniably upscale Four Seasons Punta Mita, which includes a lazy river, infinity pool, and kid-friendly surf lessons.
The Big Island
This Hawaiian island is synonymous with outdoor adventure. The 100-year-old Volcanoes National Park spans 200,000 acres, with opportunities for day hikes, biking, and more. Beyond snorkeling, beach volleyball, and stand-up paddleboarding, Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows on the Kohala Coast serves up free cultural activities, like palm frond weaving and ukulele and hula lessons. And on July 4, known locally as Turtle Independence Day, the hotel will release the honu (green sea turtles) they’ve raised at their onsite saltwater pools back into the wild.
Tahoe’s warm-weather pursuits run the gamut, from hiking the Rubicon Trail to kayaking the north shore and cliff jumping into Emerald Bay. The Heavenly Epic Discovery Project creates family-friendly programs in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service; activities include zip lining, canopy tours, and other “learn through play” adventures. For a dose of retro flair, check in to the just-refreshed Coachman Hotel, a 1960s motel-style property in South Lake Tahoe that combines a rustic cabin feel with midcentury design.
With more than 88 percent of its land entrusted to the Catalina Island Conservancy, Catalina offers untouched landscape, beaches, and Caribbean-clear waters. Adventure seekers will love the Zip Line Eco Tour, which flies over canyons via five lines at nearly 40 miles per hour; try the new nighttime zip for an added thrill. Then head to the new Island Spa for the Hot Sand Therapy treatment on a heated quartz sand table. Staying overnight? Make a reservation at the recently renovated Pavilion Hotel. Getting there takes about an hour via the Catalina Express ferry from Dana Point. Bonus: If it’s your birthday, your ride is free!
If celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow and Mick Jagger have been to this rustic Montana outpost, it’s because a fabulous resort was involved. Enter: The Resort at Paws Up, a luxury retreat on a 37,000-acre cattle ranch with private home and safari-style luxury tents. Paws Up is known for its outdoor-oriented seasonal events, like Gettin’ Primitive (July and August), a workshop on skills like fire making and longbow archery. For anytime adventure, try ATV riding and the new aerial ropes course. Even the spa includes nature, with massage tents near tall pines and a yoga platform for outdoor om-ing.
A quick drive from Carmel-by-the-Sea, this hideaway is known for its rolling hills, hiking trails, and desirable climate. Its inland location protects it from the coast’s notorious fog. In fact, the area gets 300 sunny days per year. At Carmel Valley Ranch, slip into summer camp mode with horseback riding, beekeeping, organic gardening, and a nightly s’mores ritual. The region also offers a low-key wine country. Bernardus Lodge & Spa can organize wine tasting trips, as well as their signature VinoTherapy Pedicure, with antioxidant-packed chardonnay grapes (and vino to drink, too).
Park City’s small size makes it perfect for a quick weekend trip. Utah Outdoor Adventures organizes river rafting and hiking excursions in the region, or you can follow your own schedule and explore historic Main Street, which is dotted with galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and the whiskey-vodka emporium High West Distillery & Saloon. Guests of The St. Regis Deer Valley can enjoy its signature 24-hour bespoke butler service (shoeshine, morning coffee, etc.), the Jean-Georges restaurant J&G Grill, and a 13,000-bottle Wine Vault. Bottoms up!
Given Sun Valley’s topography—set within the Rocky Mountains and a stone’s throw from Sawtooth National Forest—it’s no surprise that the Idaho town offers almost every adventure imaginable. The region boasts nearly 400 miles of single-track trails for mountain biking and 30 miles of car-free paved trails, as well as hiking in Sawtooth and rafting along the Salmon River. The family-friendly Sun Valley Inn is a perfect place to set up camp, offering a stroke of luxury in the wilderness.
Channel your inner cowboy at Tanque Verde Ranch. Set on 60,000 acres, this Arizona dude ranch offers horseback riding, nature walks, mountain biking, tennis, fishing, watercolor classes, yoga, and more. On June 10 and 11, Tanque will host a Boots-n-Brews package, including accommodation, a food and beer tasting event, and live music. But if your inner cowboy would rather lounge poolside, take the adventure down a few decibels at the posh, wellness-focused Miraval Resort & Spa, located 40 minutes north of Tucson.
Layovers begone! Beginning June 16, WestJet Airlines is launching nonstop flights from San Diego to the scenic Canadian city. That means a faster route to the lush forests and cool suspension bridge in Lynn Canyon, Stanley Park for sunset bike rides, and the botanical exhibits at Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park. Since you’ve burned all those calories, we recommend deep-fried delights at Lucky’s Doughnuts, operated by favorite local coffee roaster 49th Parallel.
Walk city blocks
Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City
Just over three hours by air, the Mexican metropolis once crippled by a seedy reputation is now a buzzing hotbed of great art, food, and parties. Of the many fantastic art institutions, the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Museo Frida Kahlo, and Palacio de Bellas Artes are the most impressive. Roma Norte is one of the city’s hippest ’hoods, boasting indie boutiques and Beaux-Arts mansions alongside graffitied walls, and the Mercado Roma gourmet food hall. Looking to fiesta? El Centro is populated with traditional discos and bars, while La Condesa offers jazz and art shows.
The Emerald City has a rainy reputation, which is why summer’s an ideal time to visit. Opening this month is Thompson Seattle, a sleek and sophisticated hotel with views of Puget Sound and the Olympic mountain range. Nearby is the Seattle Art Museum, whose summer exhibit boasts work by Picasso and Matisse, as well as the pier-side Seattle Aquarium. Then head to the Ravenna nabe for dinner at Salare, led by a French Laundry–trained chef who puts cool spins on his grandmother’s grub.
Portlandia may conjure imagery of pasture-raised chickens, but this city has plenty of urban flavor. Start with a cuppa from Heart Coffee before making the requisite stop at Powell’s City of Books, a 68,000-square-foot bibliophile’s paradise. Foodies can peruse Southeast Division Street, where restaurants like Pok Pok (Thai), Bollywood Theater (Indian), and Salt & Straw (ice cream) will fill your itinerary. All that exploring calls for a drink at Multnomah Whiskey Library. Afterward, retire to The Nines, a recently refreshed luxury hotel with a 419-piece art collection as well as a library of 3,000 books.
It’s the stomping ground for startup glitterati, and all that innovation means art, shopping, and culinary excellence. The walkable enclaves of Hayes Valley, the Mission, Castro, and Pacific Heights offer no shortage of boutiques, cafés, and restaurants to browse. In Hayes, try Souvla, a stylish, fast-casual Mediterranean spot with Greek yogurt–based fro-yo. Then, take in bold street art in the Mission, exhibits at the De Young Museum, and the Outside Lands music festival this August, featuring Duran Duran, Lana Del Rey, and more. You can rest your weary feet at The Marker, a newly renovated hotel near Union Square with Technicolor-splashed rooms, bicycles, and wellness kits.
Be immersed in culture
International Folk Art Market, Santa Fe
Art abounds in this humble southwestern locale. The heart is the 400-year-old plaza, which showcases the big little city’s blend of Spanish, Anglo, and Native American influences via boutiques, restaurants, and galleries. From there, check out the Canyon Road arts district, with more than 100 galleries—as well as the 13th annual International Folk Art Market in July. Santa Fe also lays claim to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, celebrating the artist’s nature-inspired work. Most buzzy of all is the new art collective Meow Wolf, whose multi-use complex, with workshops, interactive art exhibits, a music venue, and more, is backed by Game of Thrones author and longtime Santa Fe resident George R. R. Martin.
L.A. is embracing its new reputation as a thriving artistic and culinary hot spot. The most notable creative contribution is the new Broad museum, which will feature a summer exhibit on photographer Cindy Sherman; as well as LACMA, the largest museum in the western U.S. The superlatives continue with the trendy Thai eatery Night + Market, which recently earned a Best New Chef nod from Bon Appétit. Plus, kids (and big kids) can venture to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, now open at Universal Studios Hollywood. Book a room at the midcentury-glam Garland Hotel—just two miles from the theme park—to avoid L.A. traffic.
This month, the island hosts the 11th annual Wa’a Kiakahi festival in Kaanapali. The traditional Hawaiian canoe sailing event, led by 60 of the state’s top canoe sailors, honors how the ancient Hawaiians actually traveled between the islands. Elsewhere on Maui, the ultra-posh Hotel Wailea is the first and only Relais & Châteaux property in the state of Hawaii. The adults-only, all-suite hotel just underwent a $15-million renovation that includes luxe poolside cabanas and a grand treehouse that’s suspended atop an orchard and can be reserved for private dinner—at a cool $795 per couple.
Denver may be a draw for ski bunnies, but it’s also a hub for food, craft beer, and art. Head to The Source, Denver’s artisan food hall set in an 1880s brick foundry building with a brewery, French pastries, wood-fire pizzas, and more. The Denver Art Museum (DAM) showcases a vibrant mix of artists; the Women of Abstract Expressionism exhibit, opening this month, features relatively unknown female artists from the ‘40s and ‘50s. Even the hotels are getting in on the cultural action. The year-old Art hotel, located next to DAM, has art lining every wall.
Aulani–a Disney Resort, Oahu
The friendly, bucolic town 30 miles east of Santa Barbara checks the boxes for scenic landscapes, great food, and indulgent spa treatments. The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is an institution; book a Himalayan warm salt stone massage, one of their most popular services. Post-spa, enjoy a cone from the new McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams pop-up or rent a slick Linus bicycle for free. And no trip to Ojai is complete without a visit to Meditation Mount, the peaceful hilltop area from where you’ll often see the sky dissolve into a beautiful pink at sunset.
The Utah town is an ideal base camp for Zion National Park and Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, a 45,000-acre expanse with surprising silence just a few minutes from town, plus trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. At Red Mountain Resort, bliss out on yoga overlooking canyons, warm lava detox wraps, and wellness retreats that include daily hikes, cooking demos, and Shaman Spirit Healing classes.
Thanks to the Cross Border Xpress and Aeroméxico’s new direct flights between Tijuana and Los Cabos, it’s even easier to check out this chill beach town that the New York Times named one of its “52 Places to Go in 2016.” A one-hour drive from Cabo, it’s one of the last authentic colonial Mexican towns in Baja, and given its small size, it’s easy to see the dreamy architecture by foot. Hop on a bike for the 3.5-mile town-to-beach trail, or practice yoga in Tres Santos, a residential community with an organic garden, shopping plaza, and—coming soon—Hotel San Cristobal, opening at the end of the year.
The historic Casa Laguna Hotel & Spa in Laguna Beach has been revamped by designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard and the team behind the Sparrows Lodge in Palm Springs, with lush, winding pathways, an ocean-view pool, and direct access to the beach. In Dana Point, the regal Monarch Beach Resort has undergone an extensive renovation, which includes the new Miraval Life in Balance Spa, the spa brand’s first hotel partnership, with Zen boot camps on the beach and marine mud treatments. And because a cold one can be just as om-inducing as a massage, treat yourself to the Pail of Ale amenity at Huntington Beach’s Shorebreak Hotel—one dollar at check-in means two craft beers from local Four Sons Brewing.
The Waldorf Astoria’s Arizona Biltmore is for maximalists—740 rooms, a 22,000-square-foot spa, eight swimming pools, a 92-foot waterslide, two golf courses, and a recent $35-million redesign. You can soak in the opulence in their Mystery Room, a Prohibition-era speakeasy. Check out Phoenix’s artistic underbelly with The Found: Re Hotel, set to open in early summer, with decor inspiration from art, fashion, and music, as well as local art in the restaurant and guest rooms.
The desert oasis has plenty of new hotels to tout. The long-awaited Arrive Hotel debuted earlier this year, with a bar that doubles as a front desk, concierge services available via text, and Apple TV–equipped rooms. At the reimagined V hotel—which underwent a $15-million renovation—each room has a private balcony with a swing. And at the Avalon, once the Viceroy Palm Springs, the Estrella spa focuses on holistic treatments. All that relaxing will work up an appetite. In town, dine at the new Rooster and the Pig, a strip-mall Vietnamese eatery loved by locals.
A Disney resort isn’t the first place we’d expect to feel super relaxed, but Aulani on the southwestern coast of Oahu makes us believers. At their world-class Laniwai spa, you can indulge in massages, herbal remedies, regimens for men, and even treatments for the whole family, like a lomilomi stick massage for up to six family members. The Aulani also has the on-site Painted Sky Teen Spa, which offers facials, massages, manicures, and pedicures for kids age 13–17, as well as a mixology bar where they can create body polishes and face masks. Then, regroup for a family trip down Aulani’s lazy river.
Eat, drink, and be merry
Hotel Saint Cecilia, Austin
Sin City is more than gambling and velvet ropes; there’s also a culinary renaissance happening in the less-frequented downtown. Breakfast and lunch spot Eat offers a vibrant take on New Mexican and French styles, while the same chef’s newer “Chinese and chicken joint,” Chow, is geared toward night owls. Enter through the back alley for street-style Mexican food at La Comida, where tequila is as much a must as queso fundido. Then burn it all off with a night of dancing on the Strip. For a non-EDM experience, try the just-opened Intrigue at the Wynn. Party on!
You certainly won’t leave hungry or thirsty. Don’t miss this trifecta of wineries: the family-owned Regusci Winery, which has great hillside views and a knowledgeable staff; the smaller Sequoia Grove Winery, which lets patrons picnic on the outdoor patio; and the barnyard-glam Frog’s Leap. When you’re ready for a vino break, Oxbow Public Market makes it easy to try many NorCal vendors, like Hog Island Oyster Co., in one place. When the food-and-drink coma kicks in, rest your head at the renovated Carneros Inn, set among 27 acres of grapevines and farmland, with family- and adults-only pools.
White stucco buildings, blankets of bougainvillea, pristine ocean views—this photogenic city could double as the Italian Riviera. Scope out the Euro charm of the upscale boutiques and restaurants along State Street. The Funk Zone district appeals to more contemporary tastes, with its graffiti murals and warehouses converted into galleries. It also includes SB’s Urban Wine Trail, a self-guided tour of more than 20 wineries. Just 10 minutes north, the bright and airy Goodland hotel includes a new vinyl record shop stocked with music from the ‘60s through the ‘90s as well as in-room record players. Groovy!
Valle de Guadalupe
Baja’s nearby beautiful wine country is still a relative secret, so now’s the time to take advantage of its off-the-radar delights. The new Decantos Vinícola winery has great tempranillo varietals and even better valley views, while award-winning whites are the main draw at Monte Xanic, which has a gorgeous lakeside tasting area. Casa de Piedra, a winery within a stone farmhouse, is conveniently located next door to Finca La Divina, chef Javier Plascencia’s first foray into the hotel industry. The new bed and breakfast has three rooms and a spacious common area, with eight more rooms expected to open by early 2017. And don’t miss Mogor Badan, where a winery, market, and restaurant converge. Deckman’s en el Mogor, run by Michelin-starred chef Drew Deckman, is essentially a campsite kitchen with a five-star menu. If DIY isn’t your style, hop on a tour hosted by Point Loma’s The Wine Pub, including transport in a cushy van and a pit stop for Tijuana tacos before winery hopping.
The saying goes “keep Austin weird,” but we think “keep Austin delicious” is more apropos. And thankfully, it’s just a three-hour flight away. Start with classics like tacos from the Torchy’s truck and traditional Texan grub from Franklin Barbecue. Then make your way to the new Easy Tiger, a beer garden–bakery hybrid. Given the summer heat, you’ll want to take a dip. We suggest the Barton Springs outdoor park and pool, or the stylish setting at Hotel Saint Cecilia.
Stay in a unique Airbnb
This chic “Off-grid itHouse” in a remote section of the California High Desert is powered via solar panel. No TV, no Wi-Fi, no problem.
$380 per night, two-night minimum
Built in 1949, this two-bed, two-bath hacienda is adjacent to the National Park, with Domino-style decor cred.
$185 per night
These handmade wagons are a quick bus ride from downtown. And yes, there’s Wi-Fi!
$46 per night, two-night minimum
The minimalist “Zen Loft” has a private patio, hot tub, and a location near some of PDX’s top restaurants.
$169 per night, three-night minimum
Party time! “Indigo Dream Home” is ideal for entertaining, including a backyard pool, grill, and guest house.
$400 per night, three-night minimum