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With much of the world closed to Americans, when it comes to summer travel plans, it can be difficult to know what to do. The good news is that not only are there many fabulous places to experience right in the U.S., but there are some great Caribbean islands, places in Mexico, and even some countries in Europe to consider. Of course, before you book you’ll want to confirm the latest details re. COVD-19 as things can change quickly.
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While summer is peak tourist season at Grand Teton National Park, there are plenty of options for staying away from the crowds among its 300,000+ acres, including remote areas for hiking and scenic drives. Even the best photographs won’t prepare you for the breathtaking sight of the jagged Teton peaks, dominated by 14,000-foot-tall Grand Teton. There are glistening lakes, glaciers and forests too, along with abundant wildlife with the opportunity to catch glimpses of moose, elk, wolves, bald eagles, black and even grizzly bears.
You can’t beat Alaska when it comes to a true wilderness experience in the U.S. For a town that offers a little bit of everything, consider Seward. It’s easy to reach from Anchorage via a scenic drive on the Seward Highway, bringing spectacular views of the Chugach Mountains, waterfalls, glaciers, lakes, and wildlife like moose, eagles and bears. Once there you can paddle or cruise across Resurrection Bay inhabited by humpback and orca whales, harbor seals, porpoises, otters, sea lions, and more, while bald eagles are just about everywhere you look. The five-mile coastal trail to Caines Head is one of the best hikes in the state, while Kenai Fjords National Park is less than a 20-minute drive away.
The Lost Coast is a nearly 25-mile stretch of stunning undeveloped shoreline, an area where you’re unlikely to run into many other people, but you will encounter jaw-dropping beauty in every direction. Hike the trails along the coastal cliffs, surf, or just watch the surfers ride the legendary waves with consistent year-round swells. An hour’s drive inland will bring you to Humboldt Redwoods State Park where you can gaze up at the world’s largest remaining contiguous old-growth forest of coast redwoods.
While Honolulu may be packed with people, you can almost always find a quiet spot on Hawaii’s Big Island – it’s aptly named as the largest in the state by far with 4,028 square miles of terrain. You’ll have plenty of room to hike, sunbathe, or dip down into the brilliant underwater world to snorkel. Or, join a guided horseback riding excursion to visit the hidden wonders of Waipio Valley, including the long black sand beach where it meets the sea. After dark, be sure to visit the Kalapana Lava Refuge when you’ll be able to witness active lava light up the night’s sky.
Mexico is one of the few places that has remained open to Americans, and while summer is hot in Baja, the heat keeps many visitors away. That means you can enjoy it crowd-free, keeping cool by enjoying those clear turquoise waters. There are all kinds of water sports to take part in from swimming to big thrills like parasailing – or get up in the air where it’s cooler by going on a powered hang glider ride which brings an amazing bird’s-eye view over the spectacular landscapes. Plus, the resorts offer even better deals during the summer, most of which host gorgeous pools, and you’re never far away from a cold beverage.
Summer, late summer, in particular, can mean hurricanes in the Caribbean, but the island of Curacao near Venezuela is the least at risk with the last major hit happening over 60 years ago. Plus you’ll find some great bargains during the season too. Currently, a negative PCR test is required, but if you’re willing to make the effort, the reward is 40 beaches, a diver’s paradise, and a foodie’s delight. The population is made up of some 50 different nationalities with restaurants here offering everything from French and Dutch to Brazilian, Indonesian and Japanese. Willemstad, the capital city also showcases colorful homes, including Dutch architecture with gambrel roofs and curved eaves.
Barbados is outside of the hurricane belt and hasn’t been hit with a major one in more than 65 years. It also reopened to travelers, including Americans, although you may need a negative COVID-19 PCR test. It’s definitely worth the effort to enjoy being around the friendly Barbadoans, endless powdery soft white sands with translucent blue waters and tasty fare with island restaurants emphasizing fresh seafood. Don’t miss the signature dish, flying fish and cou-cou, similar to polenta or grits, made with cornmeal and okra.
The Upper Peninsula doesn’t attract the big crowds and it won’t be too hot either, perfect for peaceful strolls along moss-covered paths or paddling Pictured Rocks a 42-mile stretch of Lake Superior coastline with sand dunes, cascading waterfalls, and multi-colored sandstone cliffs. Base your stay in Marquette to enjoy Presque Isle Park with hiking trails and a beautiful beach for sunbathing and swimming.
Great Basin National Park is one of the least-visited and most remote national parks in the continental U.S. with miles and miles of hiking trails where you’ll rarely run into another soul. The trails wind through ancient pine forests, leading to pristine mountain lakes surrounded by magnificent mountain scenery. It’s also home to Lehman Caves, ornately decorated with stalactites and stalagmites and offers some of the darkest night skies, for stargazing, with meteors, millions of stars and five planets all coming into view.
North Cascades National Park is one of the least visited parks in the country and a hiker’s paradise, protecting unspoiled wilderness areas and the largest concentration of glaciers other than Alaska, with over 300. There are endless trails to hike – the Blue Lake trail is one of the favorites, a 4.6-mile round-trip journey that brings views of colorful wildflowers in the summer along with the turquoise gem itself, surrounded by soaring mountain peaks. Along the way watch for moose, bears, and bald eagles as well as the more elusive gray wolves and cougars.
Crested Butte is known as Colorado’s Wildflower Capital. In July and August, you’ll find the meadows exploding with color, including paintbrush, columbine, lupine, and dozens of other beautiful blooms. The Taylor, Gunnison and East River offer world-class trout fishing as well as kayaking and river rafting. After a day of outdoor adventure, you’ll find a surprisingly impressive dining and drinking scene, complete with farm-to-table experiences and lots of great brews. While it offers the amenities of more popular towns like Aspen, it’s also very isolated, so crowds are rare here.
You don’t hear many talking about the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, but in this remote area, you’ll be immersed in nature, surrounded by incredible scenery while opportunities for outdoor adventure, including hiking, mountain biking, and fly fishing abound. While the crowds are in Yellowstone, you can be enjoying quiet contemplation next to a peaceful stream with no other humans around for miles. There are a wealth of opportunities for camping along with ranch retreats, lodges and cabins, or base yourself in historic Buffalo along its eastern slopes.
Amelia Island offers a much quieter beach paradise with more than 13 miles of sands far from the big tourist crowds. The barrier island lies off the state’s northern coast and is exceptional if you’re looking to enjoy the scenery along with peaceful relaxation. There are plenty of things to do for those who want to get active as well, like cycling along the miles of scenic trails, horseback riding on the sand, paddling and sailing in the tidal creeks and marshes, or golfing. Fort Clinch State Park hosts one of the best-preserved 19th-century forts in the country as well as a fishing pier, hiking, and biking trails. In the historic downtown of Fernandina Beach, take a horse-drawn carriage ride to see the points of interest.
Just about 14 miles off the coasts of mainland Rhode Island and Montauk, Block Island offers a magical summer destination with 17 miles of andy coastline. As it’s off most tourist’s radar, it’s a great place for peace and quiet as well as cycling, yachting, or simply browsing the art galleries and specialty boutiques. There are winding roads to drive and charming 18th-century lighthouses, along with eateries that serve fresh lobster rolls.