Summer travel can be full of hassles, especially when canceled flights, overbooked hotels, crowded restaurants, and excessive heat cause major headaches around the globe. If you nixed a summer getaway, fall is actually a terrific time to visit some top island destinations, including sizzling beach locales, historic Mediterranean isles, and temperate beauties swathed in autumnal hues.
Here are 10 islands we love for a great fall getaway.
Located just 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela—outside of the Atlantic hurricane belt—Aruba calls itself “One Happy Island” and makes for a great fall Caribbean escape. Whether you’re traveling with your partner, your family, or a group of friends seeking to unwind, Aruba offers great hotel options and plenty of land- and water-based activities. Plus, it’s easy to get there with nonstop flights from major cities such as Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Charlotte, and Chicago.
Aruba’s beaches are world-famous and, depending on your travel style, you can book a waterfront stay on one of its two most enviable strands. Lively and popular Palm Beach is lined with major resorts such as the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino; Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort, Spa and Casino; Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino; and the Radisson Blu Aruba. Super-scenic and serene Eagle Beach is home to Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa and Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, as well as the recently reopened and reinvigorated classic, the Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort. For an all-inclusive stay, there are Hotel Riu Palace on Palm Beach or Tamarijn Aruba All-Inclusive on Eagle Beach.
Aruba’s unique culinary heritage means you can indulge in locally caught fresh fish and also try novel Dutch-Caribbean dishes such as cheesy keshi yena, cabrito stoba (goat stew), and polenta-like funchi. The island’s constant trade winds make kitesurfing and parasailing popular pastimes while its arid and rugged interior is best explored on ATV tours. After dark, Aruba ups the energy with more than a dozen casinos and a lively nightlife scene.
The “C” in the ABC Islands (alongside Aruba and Bonaire), Curaçao is another southern Caribbean island that’s ideal for a fall getaway filled with Dutch-influenced culture and superb snorkeling and diving. Its capital, Willemstad, ranks among the most photogenic in the Caribbean with the vibrant colonial architecture of the Punda and Otrabanda districts and the distinctive taste treats (such as red snapper, okra stew, and pumpkin pancakes) at the Old Market-Plasa Bieuw delivering an experience that goes beyond the beach—although the island has some lovely sand, too.
Get away from it all by checking in to the new all-inclusive Sandals Royal Curaçao or immerse in all things Curaçao by staying in or near Willemstad, where hotel and resort options include the Renaissance Wind Creek Curaçao Resort, Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort, and Baoase Luxury Resort.
In historic Willemstad, one of the most moving sites is the Kura Hulanda Museum. Set right in the harborside city center, where Dutch traders sold human cargo from the 17th to 19th centuries, the museum effectively presents the story of the transatlantic African slave trade and relates how African culture has influenced society in Curaçao and across the Caribbean.
Curaçao is also home to the distillery that makes the eponymous azure-hued spirit Blue Curaçao (tours and tastings are available) as well as 1,220-foot Mt. Christoffel, which can be hiked for panoramic views of the island’s largest national park.
Fall is a great time to visit Oahu. It’s after the summer rush when Hawaii’s most-populated island swells to standing room only with vacationing families and honeymooners. September through November offers a chance to experience all that Honolulu, Waikiki, and the dramatic beaches of Oahu’s North Shore have to offer, along with excellent weather and a noticeable dip in hotel rates. Plus, there are nonstop flights to Honolulu from Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Atlanta, Boston, Seattle, and a dozen other U.S. cities. And no passports are required.
Waikiki is the place to stay for gentle surf, abundant shopping and fantastic Diamond Head views—along with easy access to the Diamond Head Crater summit should you be inclined to hike it. Top hotel options include the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa, the Outrigger Reef Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian, and The Laylow.
Activity-wise, there’s Hawaiian culture to explore at Iolani Palace and the Bishop Museum, World War II memorials to visit at Pearl Harbor, and surf lesson or outrigger canoe paddles on Waikiki. Dining options range from traditional Hawaii plate lunches and shave ice to all kinds of international options. Hawaii Regional Cuisine is a local-focused movement developed about 30 years ago by a group of 12 chefs to showcase the islands’ melting pot flavors and you can taste the creations of chefs Roy Yamaguchi, Alan Wong, and Peter Merriman on Oahu.
Moorea, one of the most beautiful islands in French Polynesia, ranks high on many travelers’ dream destinations and a quick getaway here is easier than you think. It’s just an eight-hour flight from Los Angeles to Papeete on the island of Tahiti and then a 10-minute flight or 30-45-minute ferry ride to Moorea, located just 11 miles away. September to November, the tail end of high season, are ideal months to visit.
With its aquamarine lagoon, two dramatic bays (Cook’s and Opunohu) and majestic green peaks, Moorea is a tropical playland for couples or families. Top activities include snorkel tours, parasailing, shark and stingray feeding, and 4×4 adventures through the island’s verdant interior landscape to lookouts offering panoramic views. At night, Tahitian culture is showcased in entertainment featuring hip-shaking dance performances set to the rhythm of traditional island drumbeats. Don’t miss a chance to try poisson cru, French Polynesia’s signature dish of raw tuna marinated in coconut milk and lime juice.
Moorea offers the chance to stay in an iconic Tahitian overwater bungalow, set above a sea-life-filled lagoon, or a beach bungalow nestled amid palm trees and offering instant access to the sand. Resort options include the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa, the Manava Moorea Beach Resort & Spa, and the Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort.
It’s tough to compete with this Italian island when it comes to the three things: stunning scenery, great food and wine, and fascinating culture and history. As the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily is home to legendary cities that include Taormina, Palermo, Syracuse, and Catania—each featuring century-spanning architecture and landmarks—as well as ancient Greek and Roman ruins at Agrigento and other archaeological sites, the infamous volcano Mt. Etna, and miles of beach-rimmed coastline.
Luxury hotels in Sicily range from the sublimely positioned Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo in Taormina to the oceanfront Verdura Resort in Sciacca. Other options include the wine-centric Monaci delle Terra Nere, set in a 17th century monastery, and the seaside Club Med Cefalu Resort for those who prefer an all-inclusive stay.
Sicily’s agricultural bounty is reflected in its cuisine, which is rich in seafood and fresh vegetables. Dishes not to miss include caponata (marinated eggplant with celery, onion, capers, pine nuts, and raisins), pasta con la sarde (bucatini pasta with sardines, anchovies, fennel, pine nuts, raisins, and saffron) and arancini (stuffed and fried rice balls). And for dessert? Cannoli, of course, since they were invented here.
Summers lure sun-seeking crowds to the hot and arid Maltese archipelago—with many visitors arriving in the capital, Valletta, by cruise ship—but by autumn temperatures here begin to dip into a comfortable range and things settle into a more relaxed pace. There are three islands to explore: Malta, the largest is home to historic, golden-hued Valletta with its incredible harbor and architecture, including the Co-Cathedral of St. John; Gozo is known for its towering sea cliffs, vast array of churches and the pre-historic site at Ggantija; and tiny Comino is home to just two residents but is a popular destination for day trippers looking to hike its rugged landscape or swim in its ethereal Blue Lagoon.
Hotels on Malta range from sophisticated options in Valletta, such as The Phoenicia and the Roselli AX Privilege, to beachside resorts that include The Westin Dragonera Resort and the Radisson Blu Resort Malta. On Gozo, you’ll find the Kempinski Hotel St. Lawrenz, eco-friendly Ta’ Cenc and the Cesca Boutique Hotel.
The Maltese language is derived from late medieval Sicilian Arabic (English is an official language, too) and the islands’ gastronomy incorporates influences from centuries of occupation by its Mediterranean neighbors, so you’ll recognize touches of Italian, Spanish, French, and northern African cuisines. Top dishes include lampuki (dorado/mahi-mahi) baked into a pie with spinach, olives and herbs), timpana (macaroni, meat, and cheese baked in a pie crust) and pastizzi (flaky pastry stuffed with either salty ricotta or crushed peas).
Like Malta, Mallorca is overrun in summer, but this mountainous isle, part of Spain’s Balearic Islands, becomes a lovely spot to soak up autumn’s Mediterranean sunlight from September to mid-November. Its capital, Palma de Mallorca, is home to the architecturally significant sandstone Cathedrale-Basilica de Santa Maria de Mallorca (known as La Seu, it took 600 years to build), 14th century circular Bellver Castle and a charming old town filled with medieval churches and ornate palaces. There’s also a half-mile-long beach, C’an Pere Antoni, that is walkable from the city center.
Hotels range from boutique Old Town gems, such as Posada Terra Santa, Hotel Cort, and Concepcio by Nobis to seaside resorts that include El Vicenc de la Mar and Hospes Maricel & Spa. For a romantic getaway or milestone anniversary splurge, check out Belmond La Residencia set in the mountain amid olive groves on the island’s northwest coast.
Every visit to Mallorca should include an island tour to discover its many scenic treasures—quaint mountain villages (especially Deia) and photogenic coves and bays along its North Coast—as well as a visit to the Mercat de Santa Catalina in Palma, which is Mallorca’s oldest food market. If you’re in Palma on a Tuesday, you can enjoy Tapas Tuesday, also known as Ruta Martiana, in Old Town for prix-fixe beers, wines, and tapas bites. The island is also home to a Joan Miro Museum housing the Mallorca-born artist’s studios and many of his works.
This U.S. summer playground located just 30 miles off the coast of Massachusetts segues wonderfully into fall. Nantucket, accessed via flight or ferry, welcomes visitors seeking a quiet, relaxing getaway offering beach access on clear-blue autumn days, scenic hiking, and cycling and a smorgasbord of fresh-caught seafood. Nantucket’s coastal New England architecture—weathered cedar shingles, bright white trim, covered porches, and patinaed weather vanes—are accented by vivid chrysanthemums and orange pumpkins. Beer lovers can even toss back local autumnal ales at Cisco Brewers, which also now offers Nantucket wines and distilled spirits.
The island’s top accommodations include The White Elephant and The Wauwinet, both heritage properties with lots of character. The Nantucket Hotel & Resort is celebrating its’s 10th anniversary, while the island’s newest additions are 14-room boutique property Life House, located in a former sea captain’s house, and the stylishly curated Hotel Pippa, right downtown.
Downtown is also where you’ll find the sweet stuff—literally, since chocolate-covered cranberries sold by shops such as Aunt Leah’s Fudge are a favorite treat (cranberries have been harvested on Nantucket for more than 200 years)—along with boutiques selling handcrafted and vintage goods and local eateries serving up seafood ranging from fresh scallops (fall is harvest season) to lobster mac ‘n cheese.
Rugged and unspoiled Vancouver Island requires just a flight to Vancouver followed by a seaplane or car ferry—and the journey there is just as scenic as the island itself. At 12,079 square miles, British Columbia’s largest island is home to dramatic pine forests, windswept beaches, quiet coves, and a superb botanical garden. It also boasts some of the best dining in the Pacific Northwest. From Ucluelet and Tofino, where adventure awaits on hikes and kayak paddles, to foodie favorite Salt Spring Island and historic Victoria (capital of B.C.), there’s something for everyone.
Vancouver Island also boasts several notable and indulgent places to stay, including the circa-1904 Fairmont Empress, located on Victoria’s inner harbor; the Wickaninnish Inn, overlooking the rolling waves of the Pacific in Tofino; and remote Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge offering five-star glamping.
The island is also known for its whale-watching (through October), bear-watching (near Tofino and Ucluelet) wineries (there are around 30), food tours (including by bike), adventure parks (for zip-lining and more), superb bird-watching, a dozen top golf courses, and the stunning 55-acre Butchart Gardens.
Prince Edward Island
Crowds thin and the pace slows in September and October (the tail end of tourist season) on Prince Edward Island, located in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence to the northeast of Maine and New Brunswick. In summer, PEI is a beach-lovers’ playground rimmed with family-friendly stands and photogenic dunes, such as those in Prince Edward Island National Park and Cavendish Beach as well as PEI National Park—Greenwich (home to the island’s largest sand dunes). And through mid-October, beachcombing remains popular. But the island province’s historic capital, Charlottetown, along with literary fame (all things Anne of Green Gables) and incredibly fresh seafood make an autumn visit multidimensional.
Lodging-wise, it’s easy to step back in time at the Great George Hotel, located in Charlottetown historic center (not far from where the 1864 Charlottetown Conference that led to the formation of Canada) and at Dalvay by the Sea, a circa-1895 beachside inn in PEI National Park. And for dining, Charlottetown is full of great options, including the Claddagh Oyster House for casual fine dining featuring seasonal ingredients, convivial Salt & Sol serving a fresh-and-local menu in a waterfront setting, and Churchill Arms for British pub specialties ideal for when temperatures dip. And don’t miss a scoop or two of ice cream at Cows, whose chocolate-covered potato chips (called Cow Chips) are also addictive.
A popular PEI sight for all ages is Green Gables Heritage Place, a celebration of Anne of Green Gables and its author Lucy Maud Montgomery, who lived and wrote her famous book series on the island. For a more spirited adventure, you can also take winery, brewery, distillery, and cidery tours around the island.