TripAdvisor’s list of the world’s top islands for 2015 is out—and it’s got me dreaming about when to go. While some islands should be visited only in peak season—which can be pricey—others can be visited at times of the year when they’re less crowded and more affordable yet conditions are still good for the activities that the island is known for. So, when you’re priced out of peak season, here are a few value times to consider. We’ve also identified three highly rated hotels on each island, bookable on TripAdvisor.
* Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos (the #1 island in the world): Prices drop after Easter, yet the weather remains lovely through most of the summer. Rainy season doesn’t start in earnest till September.
* Santorini, Greece (#4 in the world): In May and June you miss the worst of the summer crowds and meltemi winds, and the white cuboid villages are gleaming
from their annual coat of paint.
* Ko Tao, Thailand (#5 in the world): The dry months of March through May are the best weather-wise on this side of the Gulf of Siam. In May hotel rates are usually low, seas are smooth, and visibility is good for diving.
* Bali, Indonesia (#7 in the world): June is the calm before the tourist storm and brings the nicest weather of the year, but April—the tail end of rainy season—is a secret great time to visit if you’re looking for serenity combined with relatively low rates and relatively good weather.
* Key West (the #4 island in the U.S.) and Key Largo (#7 in the U.S.), Florida: Summer brings the lowest rates of the year (in Key West, $317/night on average, as opposed to $444 in the spring; in Key Largo, $200/night on average, as opposed to $263/night in the spring). True, there are typically brief daily showers in summertime, but the ocean breezes mean it’s never too hot, and you’re spending most of your time in the water anyway. Consider it for June and July, but leave before the August storms threaten.
* Chincoteague Island, Virginia (#8 in the U.S.): The average hotel rate is highest in summertime—$182—but that’s low compared to better-known Eastern seashore resorts. It’s one of those rare “undiscovered” destinations for East Coast families looking to drive to their beach vacation.
* Maui (#1 in the U.S.), the Island of Hawaii (#2 in the U.S.), and Kauai (#3 in the U.S.), Hawaii: Fall is when these islands offer the lowest average hotel rates of the year ($260 – $340, on average, depending on the island), yet temps are in the 70s and 80s, and conditions are still favorable for local activities. On Kauai, for instance, fall is good for hiking, bird watching, trout fishing, and golf.
* Hilton Head, South Carolina (#5 in the U.S.): Fall is conference season throughout the U.S.—which means that, if you hit hotels between conferences, you’ll find excellent rates. On Hilton Head the ocean stays warm till mid-October, and golf courses and restaurants are far less crowded than in the summertime.
* Marco Island, Florida (#6 in the world): Fall means significant savings (the average hotel rate is $262, vs. $432 in spring). Yes, it’s humid, and there’s a (small) chance of a hurricane, but the white sugar-sand beaches sure are peaceful with the kids back in school, and the water is warm enough for swimming through November.
* Roatan, Honduras (#3 in the world): Winter is peak season, but the Bay Islands still represent value compared to other Caribbean destinations at that time of year. The best rates are after the New Year’s holiday but before Presidents’ Day.
* Madeira, Portugal (#6 in the world): The climate on this island 450 miles west of Morocco means mild winters similar to those of coastal California. It’s a hiker’s dream in winter—and there are legendary New Year’s Eve fireworks and festivities courtesy of the Belmond Reid’s Palace.
* Mauritius, Africa (#8 in the world): Although winter is rainy season, it’s also the best time of the year for the deep-sea and big-game fishing that Mauritius is famous for.
Get more travel advice from Wendy at WendyPerrin.com.