Fall Foliage and Volcanoes: Exploring the Best Places to Travel in the Fall

2023-08-26 00:17:13 - Drany Macley Drany Macley, the senior editor of Vytravels.com, brings extensive journalism background and over eight years of experience in travel writing and editing to the site, offering practical insights and first-hand knowledge through articles on innovative hotels, backed by a BA in Journalism from Ithaca College.

As the days grow shorter and the air becomes crisp, the beauty of autumn comes alive in various corners of the world. From the majestic landscapes of Colorado's Grand Mesa to the tranquil beaches of Molokai, Hawaii, fall offers a plethora of travel opportunities for adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike. Whether you're seeking a thrilling volcanic expedition in Lake Atitlán, Guatemala or a cozy glamping experience in Maine, this guide will take you on a journey to the best places to travel in the fall. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to explore the stunning destinations that will leave you in awe of the vibrant colors and natural wonders that autumn has to offer.

Explore Colorado's Grand Mesa

Photo: Jeremy Janus/iStock

In the fall, Colorado's trails become even more stunning and popular with the sight of shimmering golden aspens. However, if you want to enjoy these trails without the crowds, consider heading to the newly renovated Electric Mountain Lodge located 80 miles east of Grand Junction. Situated at an elevation of 9,200 feet on top of the Grand Mesa, which is the largest flat-top mountain in the world, this lodge offers four rooms and five cabins. It serves as a gateway to the Grand Mesa National Forest, providing access to over 300,000 acres of backcountry. The lodge's remote location creates a feeling of having your own private park, with over 200 miles of trails for mountain biking and hiking just outside your doorstep. Additionally, there are lakes available for paddling and fishing. If you're up for day trips, you can go fly fishing on the Roaring Fork River or try the Palisade Plunge, a thrilling 32-mile downhill singletrack bike trail. Meals at Electric Mountain Lodge are served in the main timber-framed lodge and feature locally sourced ingredients from the chef's farm in nearby Paonia, including dishes like kale and feta salad, roasted beet bruschetta, and grass-fed burgers. This region is also known for its wine scene, so don't miss the opportunity to book tastings at Azura Cellars and Storm Cellars. Explore why Colorado's wines are gaining recognition.

-Jen Murphy

Chill Out on Molokai, Hawaii

Photo: Patrick McNally/Creative Commons

Fall is considered Hawaii's shoulder season, offering pleasant temperatures and fewer crowds. However, popular islands like Maui and Oahu can still become crowded. If you're looking for a more relaxing and secluded experience, visit Molokai. This island is the complete opposite of bustling Waikiki, with only one hotel and no stoplights. The Hotel Molokai is a perfect base, offering retro Polynesian-style bungalows. It is located near the main town of Kaunakakai and the Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove, a sacred area with coconut trees planted by King Kamehameha V in the 1860s. For a more remote getaway, consider booking a campsite at Papohaku Beach on the west side of the island. This beach, stretching for three miles and being 100 yards wide, will make you feel like you have your own private oasis. Don't miss the opportunity to visit Halawa Valley, which is home to one of the earliest Hawaiian villages. Anakala Pilipo Solatori, the last descendant of the valley, still resides there and offers a three-mile guided hike to Moal'ula Falls through Halawai Valley Falls Cultural Hike. Having a conversation with Solatori and witnessing the beauty of the falls will surely leave a lasting memory.

-J.M.

When To Travel To These Fall Destinations

spooky pumpkins USA

The fall season in the US typically spans from September to November. If you're interested in experiencing the autumn foliage, the best time to go is usually from late September to early October. However, it's important to note that the exact dates can vary based on the location, from east to west.

Fall is also a time for festivals and state fairs throughout the US. Many states take advantage of the milder temperatures during this season. Here are some notable events to keep in mind:

  • Labor Day (1st Monday in September) - This holiday marks the end of summer and is often celebrated with trips, camping, or backyard BBQ parties.
  • Halloween (October 31st) - While not a federal holiday, Halloween is widely celebrated throughout the US with activities such as pumpkin picking, haunted houses, hay rides, and fall-themed events.
  • Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November) - Thanksgiving is a time for family gatherings and a traditional feast centered around turkey. If you've never celebrated this holiday, try to find a family to join for the full experience.

Places to Travel in Fall Guide

Below, you'll find a detailed guide for traveling during the fall season. Stay informed about the advantages and disadvantages of taking an autumn trip, and consider the following factors before embarking on your journey.

The Benefits of Traveling in the Fall

Fall travel offers numerous advantages. Firstly, the weather is typically milder, making it a pleasant time to engage in outdoor activities without the intense summer heat. Popular destinations tend to be less crowded in the fall, resulting in shorter queues and wait times. Additionally, traveling during this season is often more budget-friendly, as flight tickets and accommodations are usually priced lower compared to peak periods. Look for the best airline and hotel rewards programs to maximize your savings.

The Drawbacks of Traveling in the Fall

One of the main disadvantages of fall travel is the unpredictable weather. Temperatures can vary, and there may be a higher chance of rainfall or even snow in some areas. It's important to plan and pack accordingly. Additionally, some attractions or establishments may have reduced hours or closures during the fall season due to lower tourist demand. If you're looking for more options, consider exploring international destinations known for their fall charm.

Tips for Traveling in the Fall

Before embarking on your autumn adventure, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Be prepared for changing weather - Pack a light jacket or sweater that can be layered, as well as a waterproof jacket or umbrella to handle sudden weather changes. Comfortable and waterproof shoes are also recommended.
  • Search for travel deals - Many travel companies offer discounts and promotions during the fall season. Look for discounted plane tickets, attractive hotel deals, and package options to make your trip more affordable and enjoyable.
  • Choose destinations with beautiful fall foliage - Take advantage of the stunning colors of the season by visiting destinations known for their vibrant fall foliage. Places like the Smoky Mountains National Park, Joshua Tree in California, Tbilisi in Georgia, and Harpers Ferry in West Virginia offer breathtaking landscapes for nature lovers and photographers.
  • Consider purchasing travel insurance - Unforeseen events can occur during any trip. Protect yourself financially by investing in a travel insurance policy that covers medical emergencies and trip cancellations. Choose a reputable travel insurance company that suits your needs.

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Reviews of the Best Fall Travel Destinations

Below, you will find detailed information about our top five recommended places to visit during the fall season. This includes the best destinations for families to take a fall break and ideal honeymoon spots.

Best for Scenic Drives: Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Trolley in Gatlinburg Tennessee

If you are looking for breathtaking views during your fall trip, Gatlinburg, Tennessee is the perfect destination. The Newfound Gap Road in Gatlinburg offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains, making it a great choice for scenic drives. In addition to the beautiful landscapes, Gatlinburg also offers a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking and wildlife viewing. The city is known for its vibrant arts, culture, and music scene, providing plenty of options for entertainment. However, it's worth noting that Gatlinburg can get crowded during the fall season, and prices might be slightly higher due to the influx of tourists. Despite these factors, Gatlinburg remains an affordable vacation spot for travelers of all budgets.

Best Island Destination: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

People at the beach in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil offers a unique island-like atmosphere that is perfect for a fall getaway. The city is known for its world-renowned beaches and warm weather during the fall season. It also offers a rich cultural scene with various events and vibrant nightlife. While Rio de Janeiro is technically not an island, its beachy vibes and lively culture make it an ideal destination for a fall trip. It's important to note that visiting Brazil requires a visa for U.S citizens, and the destination can be expensive. However, with careful planning and budgeting, it is possible to experience the best of what Rio de Janeiro has to offer without breaking the bank.

Best Fall Honeymoon Destination: Seattle, Washington

Man on a bike at pier, with a Ferry Boat in the background in Seattle

If you're planning a fall honeymoon, Seattle, Washington is an ideal choice. With its cooling temperatures and vibrant autumn colors, Seattle offers a picturesque and romantic setting for couples. The city boasts diverse natural scenery and national parks, providing ample opportunities for outdoor activities. Additionally, Seattle is home to the renowned Museum of Pop Culture, offering a unique cultural experience. It's worth noting that while Seattle can be expensive, especially when it comes to popular tourist attractions, with some thoughtful budgeting, a fall honeymoon in Seattle can be a memorable and affordable experience.

Best for Outdoor Enthusiasts: Fairbanks, Alaska

Aurora lights near Fairbanks, Alaska

Fairbanks, Alaska is a perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts during the fall season. The crisp air and stunning autumn foliage in Fairbanks provide a beautiful backdrop for activities like hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing. One of the highlights of visiting Fairbanks is the opportunity to witness the mesmerizing Northern Lights, as the city holds a special position within the "Aurora Oval." While fall temperatures can be cold in Fairbanks, the city itself is affordable and offers a range of outdoor experiences. Keep in mind that Fairbanks is a relatively remote destination, so it may require some time and planning to reach. However, the breathtaking scenery and outdoor adventures make it worth the effort.

Best Fall Break Destination for Families: Joshua Tree, California

Woman hiking at Joshua Tree California

For families looking for a memorable fall break, Joshua Tree, California is an excellent choice. The destination offers striking scenery and a wide range of family-friendly hiking trails. It is also an affordable option for families. One of the unique experiences in Joshua Tree is the ranger-led Night Sky Program, which provides an uncommon family adventure. The park's diverse landscapes and rich history offer endless exploration opportunities. Whether you want to go hiking, rock climbing, or simply enjoy the stunning desert landscape, Joshua Tree has something for everyone. It's important to note that Joshua Tree is only accessible via car and can become crowded during the fall season.

Other Places to Consider in Fall

In addition to our top five recommended destinations, there are several other prime locations to visit during the fall season. Here are a few honorable mentions:

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque offers mild weather and a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking and hot air ballooning. The city also has a rich cultural heritage to explore, including local cuisine and museums. However, it's worth considering that autumn in Albuquerque can bring unpredictable weather and crowded tourist events.

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Harpers Ferry is known for its fall foliage, historic sites, and outdoor recreation activities such as zip lining and rafting. The town provides a glimpse into its past through the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. However, the popularity of Harpers Ferry during the fall season can lead to overcrowding and difficulty finding accommodations.

Tbilisi, Georgia

Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia, offers a unique blend of urban beauty and autumn charm. Surrounded by forests, gardens, and vineyards, Tbilisi provides a colorful experience during the fall season. However, heavy rain and prominent events scheduled during other seasons may make Tbilisi less ideal for a fall trip.

Additional Fall Travel Recommendations

Chase Volcanoes in Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Photo: shayes17/iStock

Lake Atitlán in Guatemala offers stunning volcano views, deep blue waters, and a rich Mayan culture. Despite being just three hours away from Guatemala City, it feels like a world apart. While autumn is technically the rainy season in this region, the showers are brief and offer a chance to experience the rural highlands with fewer crowds. Enjoy rustic accommodations along the lakeshore, or splurge on Casa Palopó, offering indigenous Guatemalan artwork and breathtaking views of the caldera-turned-lake. Explore the surrounding Sierra Madre highlands for birdwatching and unique experiences, or take on a strenuous hike to the summit of Volcán San Pedro. Spend a night in the historic city of Antigua at Villa Bokéh for a colonial-style villa experience amidst the jungle.

Glamp in Maine

Photo: Courtesy Under Canvas Acadia

Experience the beauty of Acadia National Park in Maine by glamping at Under Canvas Acadia. This glamping outpost allows you to enjoy the rocky headlands and stunning views of Cadillac and Dorr mountains. The camp offers safari-inspired tents with private bathrooms and fire pits. Explore the park's hiking trails, go bioluminescent kayaking in historic Castine, or visit lighthouses and lobstering villages along the Blue Hill Peninsula. Enjoy the local seafood and craft beer scene, and take in the majestic night skies of Maine.

Hike and Bike Northern New Mexico

Photo: JannHuizenga/iStock

Discover the vibrant fall colors of New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Taos. This destination offers dramatic landscapes, Native American culture, and excellent outdoor activities. Hike the South Boundary Trail, fish in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, or summit Wheeler Peak. Mountain bike the Valle Vidal Loop or explore the storied south coast and stop in the scenic village of Vik at Smidjan Brugghus, one of Iceland's celebrated craft breweries. Experience the unique attractions and diverse dining options that make Taos an exceptional fall adventure destination.

Explore Iceland’s Southern Coast

Photo: mantaphoto/iStock

Iceland's Southern Coast offers breathtaking landscapes and fewer crowds compared to pre-pandemic times. Enjoy the eruption of Fagradalsfjall, the first volcano to erupt on the Reykjanes Peninsula in 800 years. Focus your itinerary on the southern coast, starting with a visit to Fagradalsfjall before exploring other attractions. Stay in Reykjavik at Hotel Odinsve and enjoy the city's new Sky Lagoon. Head east to Hotel Ranga for hot tubs and fishing, or embark on adventurous day trips to the Þórsmörk Valley or Silfra for scuba diving. Enjoy the stunning scenery of Iceland's southern coast and the possibility of witnessing the Northern Lights.

A Weekend Getaway on Long Island’s North Fork

Photo: demerzel21/iStock

The eastern end of Long Island, known as the Hamptons, attracts a lot of attention from New Yorkers during the summer months. However, the North Fork remains a tranquil and picturesque destination that has maintained its bucolic charm for the past half-century. In the fall, the North Fork is an idyllic place to spend a long weekend. The oyster stands are less crowded, allowing visitors to finally secure a seat and shuck their own oysters. The sugar maple and red oak trees are also in full autumnal splendor, creating a vibrant display of colors. The surrounding water views at every turn add to the beauty of the region, making it an ideal getaway spot. What's more, the water temperature in September and October remains as warm as it is in June, making it perfect for swimming. Those looking for a beach getaway can visit Orient Beach State Park, a 363-acre area jutting into Gardiner’s Bay. Unlike other North Fork beaches, this park does not require a residential parking permit. Visitors can enjoy long walks along the empty shores or rent a bike and explore the scenic roadways. Fall is also the time when migrating stripers and false albacore, known as "albies" to fishing enthusiasts, pass through the area, chasing schools of sardines. Fly-fishing for these species from a boat can be exhilarating, especially when stripers start crashing sardines on the water's surface, with seagulls swooping down and boats maneuvering for the best position. Those interested in a guided fishing experience can book a guide through Striper Forever. As for accommodations, the Silver Sands Motel provides a unique retro experience, with its 1950s-style decor that has been featured in renowned fashion magazines. For fresh local oysters, a stop at Little Creek Oyster Farm and Market is a must. They serve buckets of oysters on picnic tables overlooking the Peconic River. And for wine enthusiasts, the North Fork offers more than 50 wineries to explore. One standout is Croteaux Vineyards, which specializes in rosé and features a charming tasting barn and courtyard garden. Lastly, visitors looking for a taste of local delicacies can visit Briermere Farm, which is known for its delicious pies, including classic flavors like peach and cherry, as well as unique options like blackberry-apple and blueberry cream. – R.K.

Explore Tucson, Arizona on a Road Bike

Photo: 4kodiak/iStock

When it comes to world-class cycling destinations in the United States, few places can rival Tucson, Arizona, especially in the winter months when the scorching heat of summer has subsided. With a population of 500,000, the city attracts serious cyclists from all over during the fall, which might just be the best time to experience everything Tucson has to offer. With afternoon temperatures in the 80s and cooler mornings, it provides the perfect climate for biking. The canyons of the Santa Catalina Mountains showcase stunning displays of fall foliage, with aspen and maple trees turning bright gold and deep red. During this season, the locals emerge from their summer hibernation and organize a variety of fall events, including gem shows and artisan markets that draw artists from all over. While these events are appealing, cyclists are particularly drawn to the vast array of road options available. From the easy and smooth sections of the 131-mile Loop, which serves as a network connecting all corners of the city, to challenging routes like the 61 to 80-mile out-and-back in Madera Canyon, there is something for every rider. A truly iconic ride is the Mount Lemmon route, covering nearly 7,000 feet in elevation over 59 miles and offering stunning views of aspen trees in the Catalina Mountains. After a day of cycling, riders can explore the burgeoning restaurant scene in Tucson. One notable establishment is Barrio Charro, a joint venture between chef Carlotta Flores of the Charro restaurant family and Don Guerra of Barrio Bread. Their menu features Southwest-inspired "tortamanos" sandwiches, including pulled pork with prickly pear BBQ sauce, all served on their house-baked azteca bread. Opening in mid-September, The Citizen Hotel is a 10-room inn in a converted downtown building, once home to Tucson's oldest newspaper. This unique property, created by hotelier Moniqua Lane and Arizona winemakers Sarah and Rob Hammelman, offers a 5,000-square-foot wine barreling and tasting room in its basement—a perfect way to wind down after a day of cycling. - R.K.

Discover Southern Oregon's Birding Paradise

Photo: Larisa Bogardus, BLM/Creative Commons

The Warner Wetlands in southern Oregon present a hidden side of the state that many people are not aware of. Located in the south-central part of Oregon, about five miles northeast of the small town of Plush (population 46), this area offers a unique landscape unlike any other in the region. Instead of the towering firs, snow-capped volcanoes, and rugged coastline, visitors to the Warner Wetlands encounter a prehistoric environment characterized by crescent-shaped sand dunes, sun-baked desert, and a chain of sparkling lakes stretching for 40 miles. The wetlands serve as a crucial stopover for various species of migrating birds, particularly during the fall season. The best way to explore this ancient landscape is by boat. In wetter years, visitors can launch a canoe and glide along the 10-mile Warner Valley Canoe Trail, which connects Turpin Lake in the north to Campbell Lake in the south, providing panoramic views of the grassy steppes of Hart National Wildlife Antelope Refuge in the southeast. Binoculars are a must-have for spotting tundra swans, American coots, and Caspian terns. Even during drier periods, there are still opportunities for paddling. Tall Town Bike and Camp in Lakeview, located around 40 miles southwest of the wetlands, offers kayak rentals and can provide guidance on suitable paddling locations based on water levels. Travelers heading north should make a stop at Silver Lake to experience the Cowboy Dinner Tree, famous for serving a 40-ounce steak that is sure to satisfy any appetite. - Tim Neville

Experience Lake McConaughy's Beautiful Shores in Nebraska

Photo: Courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Nestled in the heart of the Great Plains, Lake McConaughy offers the perfect destination for those seeking to prolong their summer water-sports activities, such as kiteboarding, wakesurfing, and paddleboarding. Located just a 3.5-hour drive from Denver, this expansive lake covers 55 square miles and boasts over 70 miles of pristine white sandy shoreline. In the past, beach camping at Lake McConaughy was strictly first-come, first-served, making it nearly impossible to secure a camping spot during the peak summer season. However, starting from September 12, after the crowds have dissipated, visitors have the luxury of choosing from a variety of beachfront campsites, a rare occurrence during this time of year. The Little Thunder and Lone Eagle campgrounds, situated on the northeast shore, offer some of the most coveted spots. The north shore is also ideal for kiteboarding, but it is important to note that this activity requires experience and participants must bring their own gear. By October, a wetsuit is recommended to keep warm in the water. For those who do not have their own equipment, Ski Patrol offers rentals, including wakesurf boats and fishing boats. Fall is prime season for fishing white bass and walleye, two freshwater species that are best enjoyed grilled over a campfire. - J.M.

Discover Florida's Unique Coastal Dune Lakes

Photo: Courtesy Visit South Walton

While the popular spring break destinations of Pensacola and the eastern beaches might steal the spotlight, South Walton in Florida offers a stretch of stunning beaches that remains largely untouched by the chaos of mass tourism, particularly during the fall season. With 16 scenic beaches and over 200 miles of hiking and biking trails, South Walton is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts looking to escape the crowds. The Gulf of Mexico provides an array of aquatic adventures, including paddleboarding and snorkeling. The extensive artificial reef system, consisting of approximately 700 near-shore structures, is a paradise for snorkelers. For a unique experience, visitors can venture inland to explore South Walton's system of 15 coastal dune lakes. These rare formations are created when windblown sand redistributes and creates shallow freshwater pools. Coastal dune lakes are found in only a handful of locations around the world, including Madagascar and New Zealand. These brackish ecosystems offer diverse wildlife, making them ideal for birdwatching, kayaking, and fishing. The Western Lake at Grayton Beach State Park is a prime spot for kayaking, and the park provides kayak rentals for visitors at the onsite ranger station. For a taste of local spirits, Distillery 98 offers sustainably-produced vodka made from 100-percent Florida Panhandle corn, filtered through a unique oyster shell apparatus to achieve a smooth finish. Accommodations in the area range from the newly opened Hotel Effie, featuring a celebrity chef-led restaurant, to a variety of gulf-front vacation rentals that offer a tranquil and private morning coffee experience. Fall visitors to South Walton are often treated to the sight of swarms of Monarch butterflies, which make a temporary stopover in parks and beachside neighborhoods before continuing their epic journey to Mexico. - T.W.

Hike Utah's Scenic Water Canyon

Photo: Michael Warren/iStock

Zion National Park may attract a lot of attention with its 676,000 visitors during peak summer months, but the greater Zion area offers equally stunning and less crowded hiking trails. Fall is the perfect time to explore this region, as there are no worries about spring run-off or scorching temperatures. The unique red rock formations become even more mesmerizing against the backdrop of autumn foliage, with trees dressed in shades of vermilion, burgundy, and honey. Water Canyon, tucked away on the backside of the park, rivals its more famous counterparts with its undulating, streaked walls and waterfalls. The trail, a 6.7-mile out-and-back, becomes narrower and steeper as you ascend to the canyon rim. At the summit, you'll be rewarded with a captivating view of a multitude of hoodoos (pinnacled rock formations) and the highest formations of the park in the distance. For those who prefer not to camp after a half-day hike, a few new glamping retreats have recently been established in the area, such as Under Canvas and Zion Wildflower Resort, offering comfortable accommodations amidst nature. - J.M.

Ride the Waves in Greece's Largest Island, Crete

Photo: Gatsi/iStock

Greece, one of the first European countries to reopen its borders to tourists, has become a popular destination for travelers seeking a memorable experience. Those who wish to indulge in food, history, adventure, and culture need look no further than Crete, the largest island in Greece. With regular flights from major cities, Crete offers a diverse array of activities for visitors. Approximately 200 miles south of Athens, the island experiences constant strong winds, making it an ideal destination for windsurfing and kiteboarding enthusiasts. In addition to thrilling water experiences, Crete boasts rugged mountains that provide excellent trekking opportunities. History buffs can explore the Palace of Knossos, an archaeological site where they can immerse themselves in the ancient civilization that once thrived on the island. Crete's unique geographical location, straddling the Mediterranean-North African climate line, ensures that the water remains warm well into the fall season. Renting a car is recommended for exploring the island's many attractions, including Platania Gorge and Patsos Gorge, which offer breathtaking hiking trails. In addition to the natural wonders, the island is also home to Kapsaliana Village, a 17-room hotel nestled amidst the largest olive grove on the island. This peaceful retreat is only a short drive away from the charming town of Rethymno and offers easy access to stunning hiking routes. A visit to Crete would not be complete without sampling the local delicacies and drinks. October marks the time when locals begin producing raki, a traditional distilled spirit made from grapes and anise. Cretans are known for their warm hospitality, and it is considered impolite to refuse a shot of raki when offered. - J.M.

Swim with Whale Sharks in La Paz, Mexico

Photo: Cavan Images/iStock

October heralds the start of whale shark season in the Sea of Cortez, and the Bay of La Paz is one of the premier locations in the world for swimming alongside these majestic creatures in a responsible and sustainable manner. To protect the whale sharks and their environment, the Mexican government strictly limits the number of boats allowed in their feeding zone. Only 20 boats are permitted at a time, and any outfitters found with more than six snorkelers near a whale shark face significant fines. Travelers seeking an unforgettable underwater experience can book a trip with InCabo Travel, a local company that employs guides with backgrounds in marine biology. Azores Airlines offers regular flights from Boston to Ponta Delgada, the main city on São Miguel, where visitors can explore the island's varied surf spots. São Miguel is the largest island in the Azores archipelago, which lies over 800 miles off the coast of mainland Portugal. Known for its consistently excellent waves, São Miguel is a prime surfing destination year-round. Fall is one of the best times to catch reliable swells in the still warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The island is home to a range of breaks, from long point breaks to world-class reef breaks like Ponta dos Mosteiros and Ribeira Grande. From beginner-friendly swells to powerful overhead barrels, surfers of all levels can find suitable waves. With more cows than people on the island, lineups are never crowded, and a 3/2 wetsuit is usually sufficient for these waters. Accommodation options include the Santa Barbara Eco Beach Resort, the first ecologically friendly ocean-side hotel in the Azores. Located along the northern coast, the resort offers villas with stunning views overlooking the beach. - T.W.

Paddle the Edisto River in South Carolina

Photo: Courtesy of DiscoverSouthCarolina.com

During the summer months, the Edisto River in South Carolina feels more like a lazy river. However, in the fall, the water rises and flows faster, creating an ideal conditions for paddling enthusiasts. The Edisto River is North America's longest free-flowing blackwater river, and it offers a unique experience for those craving a dose of adventure. The peaceful surroundings and diverse wildlife make it an enchanting destination for a paddling trip reminiscent of the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Located in the 48-acre Edisto River Refuge, there are three rustic treehouses that provide an unforgettable overnight experience. Chris Burbulak, the owner of Carolina Heritage Outfitters, supplies two-person canoes and offers shuttle services to transport paddlers upriver, making the trip manageable for beginners. The 13-mile paddle to Burbulak's treehouses takes four to five hours, and visitors must bring their own food and drinking water. Along the way, anglers can try their luck fishing for largemouth bass and catfish. The fall colors add to the beauty of the experience, and sightings of Peregrine falcons, wood storks, and great blue herons are common. At the refuge, guests can explore the trails and cook their catch of the day on the provided propane grills at each treehouse. After a restful night's sleep, paddlers can continue their journey with another 10 miles of paddling back to civilization. - J.M.

Surf the Waves in São Miguel, Azores

Photo: ajay_suresh/Creative Commons

For an epic surf adventure, look no further than São Miguel in the Azores archipelago, a collection of islands located over 800 miles off the coast of mainland Portugal. With a flight time of less than five hours from the U.S. East Coast, this European surf destination offers year-round waves that are perfect for surfers seeking an unforgettable experience. São Miguel, the largest island in the Azores, is exposed to the full force of the Atlantic Ocean, providing an array of surf spots for every level of surfer. From long point breaks to world-class reef breaks, São Miguel offers consistent waves throughout the year. While the peak surf season is from October to March, there are usually waves breaking year-round. With a population of roughly 140,000 and more cows than people, surfers can enjoy uncrowded lineups. A 3/2 wetsuit is usually sufficient for paddling out. Azores Airlines offers regular flights from Boston to the city of Ponta Delgada on São Miguel. Visitors can stay within a short drive of the best surf spots along the island's northern coast at Santa Barbara Eco Beach Resort, the first ecologically friendly ocean-side hotel in the Azores. The resort features villas perched on a bluff with breathtaking views of the beach. - T.W.

Cruise Alaska by Small Ship

Photo: urbanglimpses/iStock

When it comes to fall trips, Alaska may not be the first destination that comes to mind. However, this is actually an ideal time to witness the incredible wildlife and natural wonders of the Last Frontier. In the fall, you'll have the opportunity to see brown bears preparing for winter, witness the migration of humpback whales, and even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. And there's no better way to experience all of this, while also getting up close to glaciers, than by embarking on a small ship cruise.

Among the cruise companies offering small expeditions in Alaska this fall is Alaska Dream Cruises. This Alaskan-owned company offers seven-night trips through the Inside Passage, allowing you to immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of this region (prices start from $5,195). For a more intimate experience, you can opt for their October trip aboard the Kruzof Explorer, the smallest ship in their fleet, accommodating just 12 passengers (prices start from $5,195).

Lindblad Expeditions and Uncruise are two other cruise companies that offer similar itineraries in September, focusing on the Inside Passage. These companies often cater to a younger demographic and provide unique and adventurous experiences (prices start from ,200 and $4,895, respectively).

If you're looking for something even more luxurious, you can charter the Sea Mist, a 78-foot yacht operated by Alaskan Luxury Cruises. With only three cabins, this exclusive experience offers custom five to ten-night itineraries in the southeast region of Alaska. Along the way, you'll have the opportunity to visit iconic spots like Tenakee Hot Springs and the Hidden Falls Hatchery, famous for its bear viewing (prices start from $59,400 for seven days and six nights, for six people). Captain Jeff Gorton, from Alaskan Luxury Cruises, promises incredible wildlife sightings on these trips, including the chance to witness around 30 brown bears in one spot and a high concentration of humpback whales.

While the weather may be colder than in the summer, and you'll need to pack some extra layers, the wildlife viewing opportunities make it all worthwhile. Fall is truly the perfect time to experience Alaska's wonders.

As the crisp air settles in and the leaves change their vibrant colors, it's time to uncover the best places to travel in the fall. Whether you're seeking breathtaking landscapes, thrilling adventures, or simply a relaxing getaway, this guide has got you covered. From exploring the majestic Colorado Grand Mesa to chasing volcanoes in Guatemala or glamping in Maine, there's an array of destinations awaiting your discovery. So go ahead, pack your bags, and embark on an unforgettable autumn journey to embrace the beauty of the season in these captivating spots around the world.

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