Plan your summer vacation around these events and festivals, honoring everything from wine, chocolate and lobster to hula, sailing and hungry ghosts. Here are the best places to travel in August.
The people of the Cook Islands celebrate their independence at the annual Te Maeva Nui Festival, held in Rarotonga. A parade kicks off the festivities, which involves eight teams (four from Rarotonga and four representing the Outer Islands) challenging each other in cultural competitions. The traditional dance and choir performances that take place throughout the week are not to be missed.
Bring a blanket and picnic lunch to Kapiolani Park (Honolulu's largest public park) to witness the Na Hula Festival. The non-competitive event showcases Hawaii's oldest dance form, with hula students showing off their skills. Watch the graceful movements and appreciate the Hawaiian art form, all while enjoying a family-friendly day at the park.
The quaint harbor town of Rockland hosts the five-day Maine Lobster Festival each summer. Nosh on all things lobster, like bisque, rolls and mac and cheese while overlooking Penobscot Bay. Events include a parade, local beer and wine tastings, a seafood cooking contest and a lobster crate race, where contestants run across a series of crates bobbing in the ocean.
August in St. Lucia is officially declared Chocolate Heritage Month in honor of the island's cocoa industry, which dates back to the 18th century. Embrace all things chocolate by taking a tour to learn the ins and outs of how the delicacy is made. At Boucan by Hotel Chocolat, set on a cocoa plantation, take part in the Tree-to-Bar Experience, where you can harvest cocoa pods straight from the tree and make your own chocolate bar. Anse Chastanet offers a similar experience, with a tour of Emerald Estates' organic farm to see how cocoa is harvested, followed by a visit to the resort's chocolate lab for tastings.
Bring your appetite to New Zealand's largest food festival, Visa Wellington On a Plate, held in the country's capital. During this two-week annual festival, more than 140 of the region's top eateries offer dining deals and limited menus, including an exclusive Festival Dish (patrons vote on a favorite that wins the festival). Special events include creative cuisine presentations like Dumplings Around the Globe, Umami Origami and Pie and Pinot pairings. A food truck rally and Beervana, a mecca for craft-beer lovers, are also on deck. Be sure to pack a coat: it's the end of New Zealand's winter.
The Chinese heritage of Thailand's population is celebrated at the annual Por Tor Festival. Translated as "Hungry Ghost," communities gather to offer food for both their own ancestors and those spirits who no longer have living relatives. The event takes place in Phuket Town at the Seng Tek Bel shrine and on Ranong Road, where revelers parade through the streets dressed in traditional Chinese clothing. Special offerings are left at ancestor's altars including flowers, candles and food (mainly a red turtle-shaped cake that symbolizes good luck and long life to the person offering the gift).
Anyone from veteran sailors to novices can race at the Aruba International Regatta. Spectators can watch the action from Surfside Beach, where vessels ranging from yachts to miniature boats compete for bragging rights. The event also includes windsurfing and kitesurfing competitions, and post-race happy hours and beach parties.
Drama nerds and theater geeks, take note: the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the king of all fringe festivals. Artists from nearly 50 countries come to Scotland's capital city to perform in plays, ballets, operas, comedy shows and more. As a visitor, it's easy to get in on the action without a ticket. Just stroll the Royal Mile to watch street performers amid a magical Harry Potter-like backdrop — after all, this is the city that inspired the books.