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The Best Time of Year to Visit Hawaii

Updated: November 16, 2017

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When To Visit Hawaii

Best Time for Surfing: The best time for surfing in Hawaii depends on the skill level of the surfer. The biggest waves tend to hit the north shores of all islands in winter, from about November through March – especially in December and January, and particularly on Oahu’s North Shore. This is the best time for pros, experienced surfers, and spectators. Beginning surfers will want to stick to the south sides of the islands during winter, or travel in the summer months. Waves are especially calm from May through September.

Best Time for Snorkeling and Swimming: Great swimming and snorkeling are possible year-round in Hawaii, but during summer months (May through September) water is warmer, waves are smaller, and skies are sunnier, making conditions ideal for these water-based activities. Big Island and Maui tend to have the best snorkeling, because their snorkel spots are affected less by trade winds from the east. Kauai has the least reliable snorkeling, because it tends to rain more year round, reducing visibility in the water.

Best Time for Hiking: Some of the world’s most amazing hikes are available in Hawaii, especially on Kauai. Though hiking can be done year round, summer is usually best, because there are more daylight hours and the trails tend to be drier. Summers can get very hot here, so be sure to pack plenty of water and sunscreen, and plan on beginning your hike early in the morning, when the air temperature is cooler.

Best Time for Whale Watching: Whales head down from Alaska to Hawaii every year for the winter, from December through April. The peak time for sightings runs from late February through early March, after the calves are born. Whales can be spotted from the coast on every island, but tend to concentrate between Maui’s western shores and the neighboring islands of Molokai and Lanai.

Best Time to See the Volcano: Kilauea on the Big Island has been erupting non-stop since 1983, sometimes in dramatic bursts and sometimes in lazy flows. There is no certain time of year that sees more or less lava than any other. The main factor in choosing when to visit is the weather. Temperatures at higher elevations are about 6-11 Celsius degrees cooler than at sea level with winter temperatures averaging 8-12ºC. Summer (May through September) is the best time for visiting the volcano while staying warm.

Best Time for Fishing: Fishing is a year-round activity in Hawaii, with different fish biting at different times off different islands. (Except sharks – you can always find sharks!) Generally, winter sees lots of striped marlin, snapper, skipjack, and bigeye tuna; and there’s a good chance of spotting a whale while you’re out, too! Spring offers more Mahi mahi, yellowfin, and blue marlin. Summer finds jumbo-sized yellowfin and blue marlin, along with ono and skipjack. Fall sees lots of billfish, all varieties of marlin, mahi mahi, and giant trevally.

Best Time for Stargazing on Mauna Kea: Similar rules apply for visiting Mauna Kea as to visiting Kilauea. Colder winter temperatures mean that summer months are best for keeping warm. For visibility, the best time of month to see stars is during a new moon. If you plan to utilize the world-class telescopes on Mauna Kea’s summit, remember to keep elevation in mind; at nearly 4200 meters up, Mauna Kea’s oxygen level is low. It is highly recommended that travelers pause halfway up for an hour to acclimate, and that they never ascend Mauna Kea within 24 hours of scuba diving.

Best Time for Skiing/Snowboarding: Mauna Kea means “white mountain” in the Hawaiian language. There is snow here year round, though its consistency varies. The best time for skiing or snowboarding Mauna Kea is during February and March. There are no lifts or resorts, and you’ll need a 4 wheel drive vehicle, but the snow is said to be among the best worldwide.

Best Time for Discounts: For discounted rates, it’s usually best to book early and schedule flights for mid-week. In general, the cheapest rates on flights and hotels can be found during spring and fall months. Late March through mid-June usually finds great rates, except during the last week in April, which is Golden Week, Japan’s peak travel time. Later in the year from September through mid-December is also a fantastic time to find deals, except during the week of Thanksgiving. June and July are usually less expensive than the pricey winter months, but are more crowded; deals during this time tend to be both rare and last minute.

Best Time for Avoiding Crowds: The quietest month for tourists is November, with the exception of Thanksgiving week. May through the first week of June, September, and October are also great times to avoid crowds. April can be quiet, except during Golden Week and during the years that Easter falls at the beginning of the month.

Best Time for a Destination Wedding: Summer months tend to be drier than winter months, so planning a wedding for May through October means less chance of rain, though Kauai and Hilo nearly always have some rain. Hurricane season generally goes from June through November, though big storms are rare. The best bet for a sunny wedding is May.

Best Time for Inter-Island Cruises: Winter months, December through March, are the best times to spot whales off the sides of your ship, but this is also the rainiest and most expensive time to visit. The best time for cruise deals is between Thanksgiving and mid-December. A greater variety of boats can be found in April, September, and October.

Best Time for Buying Airline Tickets: Prices for flights fluctuate dramatically. Generally, booking one to four months in advance offers the best rates, with six weeks out being the optimal time for finding deals. Exceptions are when booking for Thanksgiving week and mid to late December. For these times, it’s usually best to book as soon as tickets are available, up to eleven months out.

Best Time for Good Weather: Hawaii has warm weather all year round, with average highs of 26-28ºC in the winter, and 29-31ºC in the summer. The biggest variables are rain and surf conditions. Winter months tend to be rainier, while hurricane season goes from June through November (but big storms are rare here). Surf swells are largest in winter, especially on the islands’ north shores. The most consistently good weather is usually found in April, May, September, and October.

Hawaii Travel Seasons

High Season (December – March): December through March is Hawaii’s high season, especially around the Christmas and New Years holidays. Flights, hotels, and cars will be at their most expensive this time. Hotels often require longer minimum stays, greater deposits, and have stricter cancellation policies around the holidays. Cars can sell out well in advance. Plan well and book early for peak season travel.

Low Season (April through mid-June, September through mid-December): Spring and fall are the low seasons for travel in Hawaii, from April through mid-June, except the last week in April, and from September through mid-December, except for Thanksgiving week. Flights, hotels, and cars are less expensive, while beaches and attractions are less crowded.

Summer (Mid-June through August): From mid-June through the end of August, family travel season is in full swing in Hawaii. Prices tend to be less expensive than during the winter months, but beaches and attractions will be more crowded. Fewer deals are available during the summer, especially in August, and the rare ones tend to be last minute.

Hawaii Weather by Month

Temperatures in Hawaii are warm all year long. Rain is more common in the winter months of November through March, with the rare big storm seen during hurricane season from June through November. Brief and light showers occur regularly everywhere. Kauai and the Hilo side of Big Island are the wettest areas, while West Maui and Big Island’s Kona coast are the hottest and driest. Surf is bigger and rougher in the winter, especially on the islands’ northern shores.

  • Hawaii Weather in January: January is one of the cooler months of the Hawaiian year, with temperatures as low as 20ºC. Rain is likely, but not heavy. The north shores will see their most enormous waves during this month, with large swells in the west, too. It’s a good idea to bring a light jacket or dress in layers for evenings or for visiting high elevations. (Average high 26ºC, average rainfall 78mm, Honolulu average water temperature 24.7ºC.)
  • Hawaii Weather in February: Average temperatures in February are the same as January, around 20-26ºC, but rain is a little heavier. Huge wages continue to hit the north and western shores. A light jacket and clothes that dry quickly are advised this time of year; whale watching excursions sometimes get splashy. (Average highs 26ºC, average rainfall 90mm, Honolulu average water temperature 24.4ºC.)
  • Hawaii Weather in March: March temperatures remain the same as in February, with just a little less rain. Northern swells are still quite large but not the monsters of winter. Western waves may be a little bigger than those up north. (Average highs 26ºC, average rainfall 88mm, Honolulu average water temperature 24ºC.)
  • Hawaii Weather in April: Temperatures hold steady from March to April, but rain drops off significantly. Layers are still a good idea, but rain gear can be left behind. Waves on all coasts in April range from flat to medium in size, and the water’s starting to warm up. Great time for snorkeling! (Average highs 26ºC, average rainfall 52mm, Honolulu average water temperature 25ºC.)
  • Hawaii Weather in May: May is one of the sunnier and drier months of the year, and temperatures continue to heat up. Surf is still small to medium in most places, with warm ocean temperatures. This is considered one of the best months to visit Hawaii for outstanding weather conditions. (Average highs 27º, average rainfall 38mm, Honolulu average water temperature 25.5ºC.)
  • Hawaii Weather in June: Gorgeous, sunny, and dry. June sees surf picking up on the south shores, while north shore waves disappear entirely. Ocean temperatures are incredibly comfortable beginning this time of year. (Average highs 28ºC, average rainfall 43mm, Honolulu average water temperature 26ºC.)
  • Hawaii Weather in July: High temperatures hold steady in July, with a little more rain than in June. South swells reach their peak, bringing in some big waves. A jacket is still useful this time of year if visiting Haleakala Crater or taking a helicopter tour. (Average highs 28ºC, average rainfall 57mm, Honolulu average water temperature 26ºC.)
  • Hawaii Weather in August: In August temperatures reach their upper limits, and rainfall is at its yearly low. Northern surf is still flat, while southern swells are large, and west and east waves are picking up in size. (Average temperature 29ºC, average rainfall 34mm, Honolulu average water temperature 26.5ºC.)
  • Hawaii Weather in September: September has the warmest water temperatures of the year in Hawaii, while waves are medium to large on all shores. Air temperatures hold hot and steady. This is one of the rainier summer months, though there’s still not as much rain as is seen in the winter. (Average temperature 29ºC, average rainfall 61mm, Honolulu average water temperature 27ºC.)
  • Hawaii Weather in October: October is the last really warm month here, though the rains are beginning to pick up. Waves on the south and east begin to subside, and the north and western swells begin to ramp up for winter. A rain jacket or umbrella may be useful if visiting during this time of year. (Average temperature 29ºC, average rainfall 80mm, Honolulu average water temperature 26.5ºC.)
  • Hawaii Weather in November: This is the rainiest month in Hawaii by far, seeing three times as much precipitation as in May or August. Bring an umbrella, and plan some rainy day activities in case of a downpour. Water and air temperatures are still very comfortable, and north and western waves are large again, to the delight of many a surfer. (Average temperature 27º, average rainfall 124mm, Honolulu average water temperature 26ºC.)
  • Hawaii Weather in December: In December, air temperatures reach their winter lows, which generally hold steady throughout the coming months. Water temps are still comfortable, though not quite balmy. Southern waves flatten out entirely, while western and especially northern surf grows bigger. The first whales of the season should be showing up now. (Average temperature 26ºC, average rainfall 87mm, Honolulu average water temperature 25ºC.)

Hawaii Events and Festivals

Hawaii in January

  • North Shore Surf Competitions (Oahu): January is prime surfing season, with several events happening on the North Shore of Oahu. Volcom Pipe Pro at the Banzai Pipeline takes place at the end of the month. January also falls into the competition window for the Quicksilver Big Wave Invitational aka The Eddie, held in Waimea Bay. (But don’t hold your breath on that one. With its minimum requirement on wave size, it has only ever taken place nine times since its inception in 1984.)
  • Chinese New Year (Oahu, all islands): Celebrated from mid-January to mid-February on all the islands but especially impressive in Honolulu’s Chinatown neighborhood. Expect impressive fireworks, lion and dragon dancers, kung fu demos, and music. http://hawaii-nye.com/cny/

Hawaii in February

  • Maui Whale Festival (Maui): Presented by the Pacific Whale Foundation to raise awareness for the protection of humpback whales. Events take place over the course of the month, but the highlight is World Whale Day with its Parade of Whales.
  • POW! WOW! Hawai’i (Oahu): International arts, music, and cultural festival featuring gallery installations, live art, mural projects, lectures, and music. Takes place during Valentine’s week.
  • Waimea Town Celebration (Kauai): Eight days of activities in this Western desert town near the canyon. Events include a deconstructed triathlon and an ice cream eating competition.
  • Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival (Big Island): Celebration of Japanese and Hawaiian cultural heritage. Tea ceremony, origami, hula, feather leis, food, music, and more!

Hawaii in March

  • Honolulu Festival (Oahu): Waikiki’s three day celebration of Hawaii and the Pacific Rim. The festival includes cultural explorations via food, dance, and arts, and ends with a parade.
  • Kona Brewer’s Festival (Big Island): Featuring 47 breweries and chefs from 29 restaurants. The festival opens with a hula and includes a home brewer’s competition, live music, and a trash fashion show.

Hawaii in April

  • Merrie Monarch Festival (Big Island): Three day festival with a huge hula competition, invitational arts fair, hula shows, and a parade through Hilo. Most events are free to the public, but tickets are required for the competition and can only be requested by mail.
  • Waikiki SPAM JAM (Oahu): A celebration of Hawaii’s infatuation with SPAM, the only meat that gets cooked in a can! This is an evening street festival where chefs from fine dining restaurants come up with new SPAM recipes. Expect SPAM-themed arts, crafts, and retail. The event is free to the public, but attendees are encouraged to donate a can of SPAM to the Hawaii Food Bank.
  • Honolulu Brewers Festival (Oahu): Featuring over 100 craft beers from Hawaii, the Mainland, and abroad, plus live entertainment, and food from Oahu’s top restaurants. Tickets have previously been limited to 2500 and have sold out, so pick yours up as soon as they’re available.

Hawaii in May

  • Lei Day (all islands): “May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii.” Celebrations all over the islands on May 1st typically feature a lei competition, hula dancing and live music.
  • Lantern Floating Ceremony (Oahu): Each Memorial Day at sunset in honor of fallen slodiers, around 40,000 people float paper lanterns carrying prayers and messages into the waters off the coast of Ala Moana Beach.
  • Kauai World Challenge Canoe Race (Kauai): A 36 mile outrigger canoe relay race along the Kauai coast. The race begins at Kapa’a Beach Park and ends at Salt Pond.
  • East Maui Taro Festival (Maui): Out in Hana town, this festival celebrates Hawaii’s staple food. There’s a farmers market, poi pounding, taro pancake breakfast, and more.

Hawaii in June

  • Pan Pacific Festival (Oahu): Annual event celebrating Pacific Rim art, performance, and cuisine. Over 100 performances are slated with the festival ending with a parade.
  • King Kamehameha Day (all islands): This is a Hawaiian public holiday honoring King Kamehameha the Great, who united all the Hawaiian Islands. Celebrated throughout Hawaii, common features are a floral parade with pa’u riders, women on horseback in colorful dresses. The biggest festival takes place on Oahu.
  • Maui Film Festival (Maui): Taking place in the Wailea resort area, this event includes fine foods, panel discussions, and film screenings under the stars and with toes in the sand.

Hawaii in July

  • Koloa Plantation Days (Kauai): Celebration of historic Koloa, the first sugar plantation in Hawaii, and of the community, cultures, and environment there. Events include a rodeo, dance, music, food, and a parade.
  • Honolulu Surf Film Festival (Oahu): Month-long film festival at the Honolulu Museum of Arts, celebrating surf history and its cultural impact. Classic and contemporary full-lengths, shorts, and documentaries.
  • Prince Lot Hula Festival (Oahu): This is an annual tradition for the past forty years, the largest non-competitive hula event, showcasing dance from several renowned hula groups.
  • Joy of Sake (Oahu): Honolulu hosts the largest sake tasting event outside of Japan. Food from some of Honolulu’s best restaurants accompanies the over 300 sakes being poured.

Hawaii in August

  • Ho’oku’ikahi Establishment Day Hawaiian Cultural Festival (Big Island): This event celebrates ancient Hawaiian culture. Free to the public, but visitors are asked to learn at least one craft before they go to help preserve the culture; choose from lei making, feather standards, and more. Activities include Ho’okupu Ceremony, canoe rides, and Hawaiian food tasting.
  • Na Hula Festival (Oahu): Prince Lot is the largest, but this is the longest running, non-competitive hula festival. Free admission, takes place in Queen Kapi’olani Park.
  • Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament (Big Island): Five day long fishing competition in Kona. The public is invited to the afternoon weigh-ins of the huge fish caught, and some may get a photo with the latest Miss Billfish.

Hawaii in September

  • Kauai Mokihana Festival (Kauai): Weeklong Hawaiian cultural event that includes a music contest, hula contest, lectures, and a craft fair.
  • Aloha Festivals (Oahu, all islands): A statewide celebration, all islands have their own Aloha Weeks, but Oahu has the biggest one. This massive festival attracts over 100,000 attendees. Events include a reenactment of the royal court, Hawaii’s largest block party in Waikiki, and a floral parade.
  • Okinawan Festival (Oahu): A celebration of all things Okinawan, featuring karate demos, dance, taiko drumming, food, and lion dancers.

Hawaii in October

  • Hawaii Food & Wine Festival (Oahu, Maui, Big Island): Events take place over three islands on different days. Some highlights include an urban luau, rare wine tasting, ramen showdown, kids’ cooking class, and a history of cocktail scandals. Tickets for each event are sold separately.
  • Coconut Festival (Kauai): A celebration of the coconut fruit on Kauai’s Coconut Coast. Features a coconut cookoff, a cooking demo, and a pie eating competition.
  • Ironman Competition (Big Island): The world’s biggest and baddest triathlon. Competitors by qualification only.

Hawaii in November

  • Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (Oahu): Three iconic surfing competitions on the North Shore Beaches. There are holding periods for each event with competitions held on the day during each period when waves are biggest. Continues into December.
  • Kona Coffee Cultural Festival (Big Island): A celebration of the Kona region’s coffee, history, culture, and arts. Events take place over eleven days at various spots in the Kona Mountains and on the coast, including coffee cupping competitions, gallery installations, coffee farm and history tours, and coffee science seminars.

Hawaii in December

  • Festival of Lights (Kauai): Visit for the opening ceremony or throughout December to see the County Building decked out in lights. These are special decorations made by a deceased member of the community, who made the ornaments out of scraps, like soda cans, toothpicks, and bottle caps.
  • Moku’ula by Moonlight (Maui): Free night of slack key and ukulele music, mixed with storytelling and talks on contemporary Hawaiian issues. On the beachfront in Lahaina. Bring your own beach chairs, mats, and blankets.
  • Wailea Village Mochi Pounding (Big Island): A community tradition, making rice cakes the old fashioned way. Everyone takes their turn pounding the sticky rice for good luck in the New Year. With taiko drumming, food vendors, fortune telling, and more.

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The Best Beaches in Thailand

Updated: November 12, 2017

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The best beaches in Thailand.

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Photo Galleries (on Flickr)

The 21 Best Beaches in Thailand

Railay Beach, Krabi

Railay Beach in Krabi.
One of my absolute favorite places in Thailand. Railay is accessible only by boat from Ao Nang or Krabi. There are no vehicles in the town so very quiet and perfect for kids. Several great beaches are within easy reach of the town. Recommended Hotels: Railay Bay Resort & Spa (moderate) • Sunrise Tropical Resort (moderate) • Railay Garden View Resort (budget)

Phra Nang Beach, Krabi

Best beaches in Krabi.
Phra Nang is a short walk from Railay – or rent a kayak and go by sea. Rock climbing near-by and some fun caves to explore. Recommended Hotels: Rayavadee (luxury)

Tonsai Beach, Krabi

Tonsai is only reachable by boat or kayak (or during low tide you can walk to Railay). Beautiful beach. Rock climbing nearby. Recommended Hotels: Dream Valley Resort (moderate) • Tonsai Bay Resort (moderate)

Mai Khao, Phuket

Mai Khao is close to the airport and a great stop after a long flight. Very quiet compared to Phuket’s other resorts. The main reason to stay here is the huge water park with slides at the Centara (great for families). Recommended Hotels: Centara Grand West Sands Resort

Karon Beach, Phuket

Karon Beach near Patong Beach in Phuket.
A great beach with lots of restaurants and nightlife – though not as wild (or seedy) as Patong. Recommended Hotels: Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort & Spa (luxury) • Andaman Seaview Hotel (luxury) • Moevenpick Resort & Spa (moderate) • Golden Sand Inn (budget)

Kata Beach, Phuket

Kata beach during Christmas and New Years Holidays.
A wonderful beach and town. Phuket can have choppy water but Kata is protected and often calm (and thus one of the most kid-friendly beaches on Phuket). Good quality restaurants are a short walk from the beach. Recommended Hotels: The Shore At Katathani (luxury) • Mom Tri’s Villa Royale (luxury)

Kata Beach vs Karon Beach

Viewpoint of Kata Noi Beach, Kata Beach, and Karon Beach on Phuket Island, Phuket, Thailand.
Above you can see the layout of Kata and Karon Beaches. Kata Noi beach is closest, then Kata Beach, and the farthest cove (from the camera) is Karon Beach. Beyond that is Patong (not visible).

Khao Lak

Khuek Khak beach near Khao Lak.
Khao Lak is an hour north of Phuket. A great mix of small town charm and beautiful beaches. Recommended Hotels: The Sarojin (luxury) • Le Meridien (luxury) • Baan Krating Khao Lak Resort (moderate) • Khaolak Banana Bungalow (budget)

Kantiang Beach, Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta Beaches
Great beach for those wanting solitude and sand. Just a hanful of hotels and restaurants – enough to have some choices but not so many as to attract the crowds. Recommended Hotels: Pimalai Resort & Spa (luxury)

Phi Phi Don, Koh Phi Phi

View of Koh Phi Phi Beach.
Phi Phi Don is very touristy but is still close to idyllic. The island is dotted with great stretches of sand away from busy Tonsai beach. Rooms are in short supply on Phi Phi so book well in advance. Recommended Hotels: Outrigger Phi Phi Island Resort and Spa (luxury) • Zeavola (luxury) • Holiday Inn Resort (luxury) • Mama Beach Residence (moderate) • PP Ingphu Viewpoint (budget)

Chaweng, Koh Samui

Chaweng Beach on Koh Samui.
Chaweng is Koh Samui’s largest town and where you’ll find the most nightlife (and a Starbucks). The beach is great too. Recommended Hotels: Amari Palm Reef (luxury) • Centara Grand (luxury) • Baan Chaweng (moderate) • Poppies (moderate) • Ark Bar (budget)

Bophut, Koh Samui

Bophut Beach on Koh Samui.
Evening dining is popular on many beaches and Bophut does it as well as any beach. Some consider the sand at Bophut to be a little too coarse but it’s still one of my very favorite beaches. Recommended Hotels: Anantara Resort & Spa (luxury) • Hansar Samui Resort & Spa (luxury) • Zazen (boutique) • Peace Resort (moderate) • Smile House (moderate) • World Resort (budget)

Mae Nam, Koh Samui

Mae Nam is very popular with expats and long term travelers. The type of place you want to unpack your bags and hang out for a week (or a month). Recommended Hotels: W Retreat (luxury) • Coco Palm Beach Resort (moderate) • Samui Buri Beach Resort (moderate) • Harry’s Bungalows (budget)

Choeng Mon, Koh Samui

One of the most kid-friendly beaches on Koh Samui. A relaxing vibe is the rule here but Chaweng is 10 minutes away if you need some nightlife or more choice of restaurants. Recommended Hotels: Sala Samui Resort (luxury) • Imperial Boat House (moderate) • White House Beach Resort (budget)

Thongtakian Beach, Koh Samui

Silver and Coral Beach on Koh Samui.
Thong Takian Beach (also Silver Beach) is a small cove between Lamai and Chaweng on Koh Samui. Secluded yet an easy taxi ride to nightlife and restaurants. Recommended Hotels: Promtsuk Buri (moderate) • Crystal Bay Beach Resort (budget)

Bottle Beach, Koh Phangan

Bottle Beach on Koh Pha Ngan island.
Reachable only by boat and thus very quiet. A beautiful beach surrounded by mountains is perfect for those looking for some solitude. It’s very popular with long-term travelers. Recommended Hotels: Bottle Beach 1 Resort (moderate) • Smile Bungalow Bottle Beach (budget)

Haad Rin, Koh Phangan

Haad Rin is home to the famous full moon parties. Of course, it gets crazy here around the full moon party but the beach itself is surprisingly nice. Visit away from the full moon dates for a good mix of nightlife and beach bumming. Recommended Hotels: Pariya Resort & Villas Haad Yuan (luxury) • Sarikantang Resort And Spa (moderate) • Best Western Phanganburi Resort (moderate) • Cocohut Beach Resort & Spa (moderate) • Lighthouse Bungalows (budget) • Rin Bay View Bungalow & Restaurant (budget)

Haad Yao, Koh Phangan

Known for its sunsets and coral reef. A great stretch of beach that is getting busier every year. Recommended Hotels: Haad Yao Bayview Resort & Spa (moderate) • Tantawan Bungalows (budget) • Shiralea Backpackers Resort (budget)

Haad Salad, Koh Phangan

Haad Salad is a quiet and secluded beach far from the party scene at Haad Rin. Recommended Hotels: Salad Buri Resort & Spa (moderate) • Green Papaya Resort (moderate) • Haad Salad Villa (budget)

Thong Nai Pan, Koh Phangan

Wonderful beach which is home to some of Koh Phangan’s best resorts. A quiet peaceful paradise. Recommended Hotels: Anantara Rasananda (luxury) • Santhiya Resort & Spa (luxury) • Panviman Koh Phangan (luxury)

Koh Samet

Koh Samet beach near Pattaya and Bangkok.
The nicest beaches near Bangkok. Koh Samet is a 4 hour bus and ferry trip from Bangkok. An added bonus: during the wet season Koh Samet has some of the country’s driest weather. Recommended Hotels: Paradee Resort (luxury) • Ao Prao Resort (luxury) • Samed Grand View Resort (moderate) • Jep’s Bungalows (budget)

Bang Bao, Koh Chang

Koh Chang island's best beaches.
Koh Chang is in the far east of the country. An off the beaten track island with fantastic beaches. Recommended Hotels: Amari Emerald Cove (luxury) • Panviman Resort (luxury) • Centara Tropicana Resort (moderate) • KC Grande Resort & Spa (moderate) • Garden Resort (moderate) • Siam Beach Resort (budget)

The 19 Best Hotels in Thailand

Anantara Riverside Resort & Spa – Bangkok
(Hotel phone: +66 2 476 0022)
Anantara Riverside Resort in Bangkok

Mandarin Oriental – Bangkok
(Hotel phone: +66 2 659 9000)
Oriental Hotel in Bangkok

Anantara Chiang Mai Resort and Spa – Chiang Mai
(Hotel phone: +66 53 253 333)
Anantara Chiang Mai Resort

Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai – north of Chiang Mai
(Hotel phone: +66 53 298 181)
Four Seasons near Chiang Mai

Centara Grand Beach Resort – Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui
(Hotel phone: +66 77 230 500)
Centara Kid-friendly Resort in Koh Samui.

Hansar Samui Resort & Spa – Bophut, Koh Samui
(Hotels phone: +66 77 245 511)
Best Hotels on Koh Samui Beach

Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui – west of Mae Nam
(Hotel phone: +66 77 243 000)
Four Seasons Koh Samui Resort

The Library – Chaweng, Koh Samui
(Hotel phone: +66 77 422 767)
Library Hotel on Chaweng Beach in Koh Samui

Tongsai Bay Resort – near Choeng Mon, Koh Samui
(Hotel phone: +66 7724 5480)
Tongs Bay Resort on Koh Samui

Six Senses Samui – near Choeng Mon, Koh Samui
(Hotel phone: +66 77 245 678)
Six Senses Koh Samui

Sala Samui – Choeng Mon, Koh Samui
(Hotel phone: +66 77 245 888)
Sala Samui on Koh Samui

The Sarojin – Khao Lak
(Hotel phone: +66 76 427 902)
Sarojin Khao Lak

The Shore at Katathani – Kata Beach, Phuket
(Hotel phone: +66 76 330 124)
The Shore at Katathani on Kata Beach on Phuket

Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort – Karon Beach, Phuket
(Hotel phone: +66 76 370 100)
Le Meridien Resort on Karon Beach in Koh Samui

The Pavilions Phuket – Bang Tao Beach, Phuket
(Hotel phone: +66 76 317 600)
Pavilions Hotel in Phuket

Six Senses Yao Noi – Koh Yao Noi (near Phuket)
(Hotel phone: +66 2631 9777)
Six Senses Yao Noi at Phuket

Holiday Inn Resort Phi Phi Island – Koh Phi Phi
(Hotel phone: +66 75 627 300)
Holiday Inn Resort on Koh Phi Phi

Outrigger Resort & Spa – Koh Phi Phi
(Hotel phone: +66 75 628 900)
Outrigger Hotel on Koh Phi Phi

Zeavola Resort – Koh Phi Phi
(Hotel phone: +66 7562 7000 )
Zeavola Phi Phi Hotel

Q. What are the best months to visit Thailand’s beaches?

Longtail boats to beaches in Thailand.

December, January, and February are the months with the best weather throughout most of the country. If your plan is to tour the entire country then these are the best months to visit. Regional difference can be large however.

March, April, and May get increasingly hot. The skies are still clear but the heat can be hard to take especially in northern Thailand and anywhere not near the beach.

The rains come from June through November in most of southern Thailand (where most of the islands and beaches are). Phuket, in particular, gets rough seas and dangerous undertows from July to October. Koh Samui gets most of its rain in October and November. The eastern coast tends to have more hospitable weather through the rainy months (though it can still get some big storms.) Often the rains won’t last for long (just a few hours a day) followed by sun – but the water will be murky and the beaches can be littered by debris during the monsoon season.

September and October are the least attractive months to visit – though you’ll find some remarkable discounts on accommodations.

If you’re in Thailand during September and October and need some beach time Koh Samet is a great choice as it doesn’t get the heavy rain like the rest of the country.

  • Bangkok – December and January are the coolest driest months. The weather gets warmer through March and April when the rains start. The wet weather continues until October with the rainiest month being September. During September, October and November there can be flooding throughout the city.
  • Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand – January and February are the best months here – especially if you’re trekking (any earlier and paths will be muddy and flooded, any later and you’ll be in the burning season and then the hot season). Farmers start burning their fields in March and by April the air can be smokey and unhealthy. The hot and then rainy season start soon after with the rains stretching into November.
  • Phuket, Krabi, and the Andaman Coast – The best months to visit for a beach holiday stretch from late November until May. The weather is wet, humid, and hot from June through October. During these months the sea is often too rough to swim and visibility for snorkeling and diving is not good. But even in the rainy season you can get wonderful stretches of sun that are great for sitting by the pool.
  • Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, and Koh Tao – The best time to visit is from late December to April. The rains start in May but are never as intense as on the west coast so Samui makes a better choice (than Phuket) for  June, July, and August. It’s rainy here from late September until early December.
  • Hua Hin, Pattaya, and Koh Samet – The best year-round weather of any region of Thailand. If you’re visiting during September and October and want to avoid the rains then this is the place to be.

Q. What are the best places in Thailand for kids?

Thailand is a very family-friendly country. My top destinations in Thailand for families are Phuket, Railay, Koh Samui, Hua Hin, Bangkok, and Chiang Mai.

Bangkok is more challenging than the others but it has so much to offer kids and so many great attractions that if you have a little patience you and your kids will love it as much as my family.

  • Best beaches for kids: Railay, Kata Beach (Phuket), Choeng Mon (Koh Samui), Haad Salad (Koh Pha Ngan), Jomtien (much better than nearby Pattaya)
  • Best Family Hotels: These are my favorite hotels for families in Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, Railay, Pattaya, and Chiang Mai.
  • Rainy Season: No one likes the rain when on holidays but it can be a bigger disappointment to kids. Phuket, in particular, gets rough seas that make swimming unsafe for kids from July to October (July and August can be fine as long as you don’t mind swimming in the pool instead of the ocean). In Koh Samui October and November are the rainiest months.
  • Car Seats: Some car rental companies will have them but if it’s a necessity bring your own. Most cars (and taxis) only have seat belts in the front seats (where car seats should never be placed). So even when you have a car seat finding a car that will allow its use is an effort.
  • Kid-friendly Food: Western food, from pasta to hamburgers, is widely available at all the beach resorts and in the larger cities. Fried rice and pad thai are 2 thai dishes that kids usually love.

Q. What’s the best way to get around Thailand?

Flying is the fastest and easiest way to get around the country. There are direct flights from Bangkok to Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Samui. The train is my next favorite way of getting around and taking an overnight train is a fun way to travel as the locals do.

Thailand is a long narrow country. So getting from the Bangkok or Chiang Mia to the southern islands is a good distance. Getting from one coast to the other can be done in a half-day drive (and ferry) – but even then flying is still a big time saver.

  • Air – Thailand is well served by several budget airlines. Air Asia has the most flights but NOK Air, Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways, and Orient Thai have multiple routes as well. Flying is an easy way to get around the country and can be incredibly cheap if booked early. Note to tall people: they have no legroom. I’m 6’6″ and can barely fit into my assigned seat.
  • Train – A fun way of getting around the country. Overnight trains with sleeper cars from Bangkok north to Chiang Mai and south to the gulf coast are convenient and authentic ways to get where you’re going. Getting to the islands and beach resorts will almost alway require a bus and/or ferry trip after you get off the train (at Surat Thani for Phuket, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, and Koh Phangan). The buses are timed with the arrival of the train so the extra hassle and planning is usually minimal. Be sure to buy train/bus/ferry combo tickets in Bangkok to make the connection easier.
  • Bus – Buses go everywhere around the country. The good news is you can usually jump on a bus within a few hours and be on your way with no need to book tickets days or weeks in advance like air or rail tickets. The bad news is the bus rides can be long and boring without the benefit of walking about as you can on a train. A bus to an island will typically take you right to the ferry terminal and get you on your way. As with the train it’s easier if you buy a bus/ferry combo ticket but it’s not mandatory.
  • Hired Car – These are practical and not as expensive as you might think – especially for Bangkok to Hua Hin or Pattaya or between popular tourists destinations like Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Samui. You can approach any taxi (pick the newer, nicer, and larger ones) and ask how much to get where you’re heading.

Q. What are the trains like and how do I buy tickets?

Trains can be booked up to 60 days in advance. Except for Thai holidays and the period around Christmas and New Years, trains only occasionally sell out so it’s possible to get a sleeper right up to the day of travel and very possible to get a seat anytime (as long as you’re not picky about where you sit or what class of ticket you buy).

There are multiple ways to book your ticket: in person at Hualamphong station; through a travel agent in Bangkok; in advance through thairailticket.com (this is the official Thai Railways website but it’s not terribly user friendly so be patient); or book through ThailandTrainTicket.com (an online booking agency that will charge a small fee).

It’s easiest to book in person in Bangkok. You’ll get the most choices for train times and be able to stipulate the exact setup you want (e.g. for booking multiple sleepers) – but you run the risk of trains being sold out.

Thus, booking in advance might be required – especially if you’re on a tight schedule – but be prepared to make some compromises. Some online agencies only sell tickets for the overnight train that departs Bangkok at 19:30. (This is my favorite train for getting to Samui and has a great connection for getting on the ferry.)

In summary: if you have some flexibility wait until you’re in Thailand to book your train tickets. On your first morning walk into a travel agency and ask about booking your onward train ticket to your destination. They’ll lay out all your options and book your tickets for you. You’ll be able to stop back later that day or the next morning to grab your tickets. You should be able to get tickets that leave Bangkok within 1 day to 3 days – though it can be longer around peak travel periods like Christmas and New Years.

There is a fee for booking through a travel agency. If you’re on a budget then book directly at Hua Lamphong (but remember you’ll need to pay a taxi to get you there which will likely be similar to the travel agent’s booking charge). Once you’re at the station ignore anyone (including your taxi driver) who direct you towards a booking office outside the station. You want to go inside the station to book your tickets.

If you need tickets in advance book the overnight train through ThailandTrainTicket.com. They’ll be delivered to your hotel and be waiting for you upon your arrival.

Q. Do I need a visa for Thailand? And how long should my passport be valid for?

Citizens of Canada, U.S., U.K, Australia, and most of Western Europe can get a 30 day visa on arrival – so you needn’t do anything in advance. Citizens of other countries will need to apply in advance for the 30 day entry visa.

If you want 60 day visa (regardless of your citizenship) you’ll need to apply in advance or get the 30 day visa (as above) and then extend it once inside the country. This can be done at immigration offices in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, Krabi, and Phuket.

Pre-applied-for visa’s will (sometimes) begin on the date when your plane takes off for Thailand – so you can lose a day in the math and you’ll be left with 29 days and 28 nights from arrival.

Passports should have 6 months of validity remaining after your departure day. You will hear of exceptions to this rule, but to be safe have a full six months extra. For example, if you’re in Thailand from June 1 to June 15 you’d want your passport to be valid until at least December 15. Failure to have this cushion could result you not be allowed into the country. (Actually you probably wouldn’t even be able to board your flight that is heading to Thailand.)

Q. How much does it cost to travel in Thailand?

Costs vary hugely depending on your travel style, modes of transport, hotel preferences, and how much shopping you do (and where you do it).

Regardless of your budget the more you move around the more you spend. The longer you stay in one spot the more your costs will drop. Not only do you save money on transportation but you tend to find cheaper places to eat and shop and get a better deal on hotels. You can also seek out less touristy accommodations options (e.g. an apartment that rents by the week or month) that can drastically reduce your expenses.

A bare bones budget that include low-end hotels, buses or 2nd class trains without a sleeper, and street food would be about $30/person/day.

A mid-range budget that involved over-night sleeper cabins on the train, the occasional flight, restaurants for most meals, and hotels with western-style standards and maybe a swimming pool, would be in the $80 to $100 per day.

At the top-end it’s skies the limit as Thailand is home to some of Asia’s best restaurants, best hotels, and best shopping. That said, a budget of $500 day would expose you to some of the country’s best food and hotels.

How do I visit Thailand on a budget?
3 Simple tips will save you a big chunk of money in Bangkok

  • Eat where the locals eat. It’s easy to get a huge lunch or dinner for just a few dollars if you eat street food or at a small non-touristy restaurants. And the food is better too.
  • Bargain when you shop. Making an offer – especially when shopping at one of Bangkok’s wonderful markets – is expected and encouraged. If you look like a tourist you’ll often be quoted an initial price as much as 2 or 3 times what a Thai person would pay so be aggressive as you make a counter offer.
  • Book hotels online and early. Except for the cheapest guesthouses the best deals are found through hotel booking sites like Booking.com (my favorite) or Hotelscombined.com (good for last minute deals). For budget hotels in Bangkok walk the streets of the Khao San Road neighborhood popping your head into every guesthouse you see to enquire about rooms and prices.

Q. Do I need vaccinations to travel to Thailand?

The CDC recommends the Hepatitis A vaccine and the Typhoid vaccine for all travelers to Thailand. Other vaccines (Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies, and Yellow Fever) may be recommended depending on where, when, and how long you’ll be traveling.

Our son was bit by a dog in Indonesia and had to undergo a series of multiple shots for Rabies over the following 21 days. If you get the rabies vaccine you still need after-the-fact shots but they are far fewer in number. Children are thought to be at higher risk for rabies as they tend to interact with dogs and animals more and may not report a small scratch or bite to their parents.

The CDC estimates the malaria risk in Thailand as low and describes the regions with some malarial risk as “Rural, forested areas that border Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, and Laos. Rural, forested areas in districts of Phang Nga and Phuket. None in the cities of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, Pattaya, Phang Nga, and Phuket.”

In addition, most adults aren’t up to date on their routine vaccinations so pre-travel doctor’s visits are a good time to get any recommended booster shots.

Is the water safe to drink in Thailand?
Generally, no. Bottled water is available pretty much everywhere. Better hotels and restaurants will often provide previously boiled drinking water that is fine to drink – but you need to ask to be sure.

Q. Should I get travel insurance for Thailand?

Yes, but check to see what your current insurance covers – sometimes it’s more than you think. A big concern is emergency evacuation (typically to Bangkok) as most insurance does not cover this and if you’re seriously hurt or sick regional hospitals will not have the resources to treat you – so a trip to Bangkok is a necessity (and expensive).

World Nomads is recommended by everyone from the NY Times to Lonely Planet and has been around for years.

Maya Beach on Koh Phi Phi Lee.

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The Best Hotels in Kyoto

Updated: November 9, 2017

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The 7 Best Hotels in Kyoto

  • Hoshinoya Kyoto
    (Hotel phone: +81 570-073-066)
    The ultimate in Japanese elegance, Hoshinoya occupies a century-old former riverside villa in Arashiyama, with guests ferried 10 minutes to and from the property by boat. Every detail of this luxury hotel-ryokan hybrid is exquisite, from paper walls imprinted with 130-year-old woodblocks to seasonal meals that are true works of art. Each of the 25 rooms has views of the river and nature in all its glory, from cherry blossoms in spring to fiery red maples in fall.
    Best traditional ryokan in Kyoto.
  • Hotel Kanra Kyoto
    (Hotel phone: +81 75-344-3815)
    With a contemporary yet traditional design, this 29-room boutique hotel borrows architectural details from the many machiya (merchant houses) that once graced many Kyoto neighborhoods. Latticework, raised platform beds, tatami areas with modular furniture, and hinoki (cedar) soaking tubs impart the essence of this ancient city, which guests can explore with the hotel’s rental electric bicycles, powered by rooftop solar panels.
    Best Ryokan with tatami beds in Kyoto.
  • Ritz-Carlton
    (Hotel phone: +81 75-746-5555)
    With an enviable position on the bank of the Kamogawa river, this 134-room property blends in with its historic surroundings with low-slung buildings and an understated design that resembles a Japanese inn. Its interior is a fusion of traditional and contemporary Japanese styles, complete with Zen gardens, a three-story waterfall, and artwork created by 80 mostly Kyoto artists that center on The Tale of Genji, the world’s first major novel. Rooms are huge (starting at 45 sq.m/483 sq. ft.) and are luxuriously appointed, with the best providing vistas of the river and Higashiyama hills rising in the background.
    Best luxury hotel in Kyoto.
  • The Screen
    (Hotel phone: +81 75-252-1113)
    A hip boutique hotel that stands out by offering only 13 rooms, each designed by a different designer and ranging from Japanese-style rooms to themed rooms like the one decorated in black (to resemble the peacefulness of the womb). Its location is excellent, on a street lined with craft and antique stores just a short walk north of downtown Kyoto.
    Best Boutique Hotel in Kyoto.
  • Westin Miyako Kyoto
    (Hotel phone: +81 75-771-7111)
    Open since 1890, the Miyako is one of Japan’s most famous hotels. Although renovations and expansions over the years have transformed it into a thoroughly modern property, it conveys the spirit of old Kyoto with its attention to detail, superb hilltop setting near Nanzenji Temple and excellent service. Its 499 rooms offer a wide variety of choices, from those large enough for four people to 20 Japanese-style rooms in an annex. Sprawling over more than 16 acres, it has more facilities than almost any hotel in town, including both indoor and outdoor pools, a Japanese garden, children’s playroom, and even a bird sanctuary.
    Best luxury hotel near Kyoto.

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Posted on

The Best Time to Visit Iceland

Updated: October 26, 2017

  • Best Time to See the Northern Lights: Many people come to Iceland hoping to see the aurora borealis, or northern lights, as it’s an ideal place to do so, thanks to the small population and long distances between towns that make it easy to escape light pollution, even if you’re in or near Reykjavik. There are a number of factors required in order to see them, including guaranteed darkness, which is why the best time to see them is from late September through late March. This is when there are full dark nights, although the lights can sometimes be seen as early as mid-August or as late as mid-April. Another important factor is the weather – cold, clear nights are best for aurora views, as on warmer nights there is often some precipitation or a lot of cloud cover. Solar flares on the sun or solar wind is also required. When all of these factors come to gather, you’ll have the best chance to view the colorful dancing lights. As there is less precipitation in October and November along with full dark, chilly nights, these months tend to bring the highest odds for viewing.
  • Best Time for Sightseeing: Iceland is renowned for its numerous spectacular sights, particularly waterfalls, geysers and volcanoes. Ideally, you’ll want to have longer days in order to see as much as you can, yet fewer crowds to interrupt the view, and weather that doesn’t make roads impassable. That means going in the weeks that frame either end of the high season, about the last week of May through mid-June, or anytime in September.
  • Best Time for Whale Watching: Generally, the best time to go whale watching in Iceland is from April to October. The peak season is in the summer months: June, July and August, with tours available from Reykjavik, Vestmannaeyjar islands of the south coast, Husavik  Akureyri and Dalvik. You aren’t out of luck if you come during the winter, however. Provided a storm doesn’t blow in, winter whale watching is available from Grundarfjordur on the Snaefellsness Peninsula. While it doesn’t sound like it would be very pleasant, watchers are given thermal suits, making it fairly comfortable to see the orca whales that follow the herring in the area waters.
  • Best Time for Good Weather: The best time for optimal weather in Iceland is during the high season, particularly July and August when average highs are around 13°C, though temps can reach as high as 15°C or even 20°C. If you’re hoping to avoid the rain, the lowest amount of rainfall occurs in May and June, and temperatures are often a pleasant 11°C.
  • Best Time for Visiting Blue Lagoon: The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most popular attractions all year round, though the biggest crowds tend to be there between May and September, peaking in July and August. The winter months are typically the calmest, particularly in December and January, outside of the holiday period. Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be the least crowded days of the week throughout the year, but more importantly is the time of day you visit. Peak hours are in the morning, from about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and lunchtime is generally the busiest time of day overall. By 3 or 4 p.m., the crowds are much smaller, and you’ll still have plenty of time to enjoy a soak as the lagoon is open until 10 p.m. January 1 through May 25 and August 21 through October 1; to 11 p.m. May 26 through June 29; and midnight June 30 through August 20, and October 2 through December 31.
  • Best Time to Save Money: Airfare is typically cheapest during the winter months, outside of the Christmas and New Year holidays, as are accommodation rates. Prices for everything peak during the busy summer months. If you’re hoping for a combination of lower overall costs and better weather, go during the shoulder season: mid-May through mid-June or September through mid-October.
  • Best Time to Avoid Crowds: If you’re hoping for a more relaxed experience without the crowds, avoid going to Iceland in the high season, from mid-June through August. By visiting in April or May, September or October, you’ll encounter fewer tourists, yet the days will be long enough to enjoy sightseeing and possibly decent weather. The fewest visitors come between November and March, but this is also when inclement weather and the short, dark days can affect your plans.

Iceland’s Travel Seasons

  • High Season (mid-June through August): Iceland’s high season falls during the peak of summer, a time when the days are long (the sun never completely sets on the longest day of the year), allowing visitors to enjoy the country’s myriad of outdoor adventures in the Midnight Sun. This is the best chance for pleasant weather, but you can also expect to find a lot more tourists at popular attractions, higher prices, and have greater difficulty finding accommodations.
  • Shoulder Season (Mid-May through mid-June, September through mid-October): Iceland doesn’t have much of a shoulder season, with the majority of visitors arriving during the peak of summer. Coming in late spring, visitors can expect the snow to be thawing, there to be fewer tourists and a wider range of accommodation availability, and occasionally lower prices too. In early autumn, temperatures may be cool and crisp, with golden light and changing colors on the trees. There will be fewer travelers, some lower prices, and, the later in the fall you arrive, the better chances you’ll have of seeing the northern lights.
  • Low Season (Mid-October through mid-May): While an increasing number of visitors are coming during the low season thanks to the myriad of hot springs, winter adventures and nightlife, this is still a good time to come to avoid the crowds and enjoy better availability and the lowest rates of the year on accommodation, car rentals and airfare. Winters are surprisingly moderate, with temperatures generally hovering right around freezing, though days are often dark, with just four to six hours of daylight. Most major roads are plowed, but mountain roads and interior routes will be impassable, and many attractions, especially outside of Reykjavik are shut down.

Iceland Weather by Month

  • Iceland Weather in January: January is the coldest month in Iceland, with an average high of 2°C, and an average low of -3°C. When you consider that the temperatures are similar to that of New York City, it’s probably milder than what you’ve envisioned. Winds often reach gale force, however, and when that happens, it does feel very cold. It’s frequently rainy, particularly in and around Reykjavik, and this month (along with February) have the best chance for snow. The days are short, with about four hours of sunlight in early January; sunrise is at 11:19 a.m. and sunset at 3:44 p.m. on the 1st, although by the end of the month that stretches to about seven hours, with the sun coming up at 10:10 a.m. and going down at 5:12 p.m. (Average Max Temperature: 2°C. Average Precipitation: 55mm.)
  • Iceland Weather in February: February is similar to January in terms of temperature, but you’ll have more daylight hours to enjoy the scenery. By the end of the month, there is 10 hours of sunlight, with sunrise at 8:38 a.m. and sunset at 6:43 p.m. There is also slightly less precipitation, with an average of 40mm falling in the form of rain or snow. Instead of snow covered streets, you may even see lush gardens, with temps hovering slightly above zero on most days. The majority of attractions and roads in southwest Iceland will be open with the exception of significant storms that may blow through, and most will be wonderfully crowd-free. Dress properly and you’ll stay warm, with temps comparable to winter weather in the northern reaches of the U.S. (Average Max Temperature: 2°C. Average Precipitation: 40mm.)
  • Iceland Weather in March: March brings even more daylight, with more sun than darkness throughout the day by the end of the month. As of March 31st, the length of day increases to 13 hours and 26 minutes – a gain of three hours and 16 minutes in just one month. Temperatures still haven’t changed much, however, and the amount of precipitation is the same as it was in February, meaning it will still feel like winter. Rainy days are as common as sunny days, though in the city of Reykjavik, most snow is likely to be seen on the surrounding mountains and not on the ground. Many roads, outside of the capital area and southwest region, will still be impassable without a 4-wheel drive vehicle. (Average Max Temperature: 2°C. Average Precipitation: 40mm.)
  • Iceland Weather in April: While it’s not exactly beach weather, April unofficially marks the start of “summer” in Iceland. Temperatures are on the increase, with an average high of 5°C and lows right at freezing. Precipitation drops considerably, to half of what it was in February and March at 20mm, which can come in the form of snow but most often falls as rain, especially in the lowlands. By April’s end, the length of day has increased to 16 hours and 44 minutes, another significant gain over the previous month, with sunrise at 6:46 a.m. and sunset at 8:19 p.m. As you really should no matter when you visit Iceland, bring lots of layers and waterproof shoes so you can handle anything the weather might throw at you. (Average Max Temperature: 5°C. Average Precipitation: 20mm.)
  • Iceland Weather in May: May is often a fabulous time to be in Iceland, with long 20+ hour days, fewer tourists and lower prices. While it’s still a bit chilly by most standards, with an average high of 9°C, there are typically plenty of sunny days. In Reykjavík, the chance of a wet day over the course of the month rapidly decreases, starting at 36% on the 1st and ending it at 29%. That said, the weather in Iceland is always subject to extreme change, and can be rather unpredictable, so it’s best to be prepared for the unexpected. In the interior, mountainous areas of the country, there is still a possibility of snow. (Average Max Temperature: 9°C. Average Precipitation: 40mm.)
  • Iceland Weather in June: June brings the longest day of the year. While sunrise and sunset hours shift throughout the month, the sun rises on average at 2:42 a.m. and sets at 11:32 p.m. In Iceland’s northern reaches, the sun barely sets before it pops back up again. Temperatures are climbing too, with the average high at 11°C, and it’s not unheard of for temps to reach 15 or even 20°C. There’s also less wind, and less rain, making it easier to enjoy all of those outdoor adventures. Of course, with that brings the peak tourist season, so expect bigger crowds, higher prices and book accommodations well in advance. (Average Max Temperature: 11°C. Average Precipitation: 20mm.)
  • Iceland Weather in July: As mentioned, July is another one of the most popular times of the year to visit Iceland. The weather is often pleasant, though never too hot, and days are still long with sunset averaging around 11 p.m., and the sun rising early, at 3:23 a.m. July boasts the warmest temperatures in Iceland, with average highs of 13°C and lows at 11°C. Of course, like June, temps can creep up quite a bit more than that and you could end up with a number of much warmer days. While you might experience some light rain, average precipitation is still at a minimum. (Average Max Temperature: 13°C. Average Precipitation: 20mm.)
  • Iceland Weather in August: Summer in Iceland is short-lived, so you can expect temperatures to gradually decline this month, though August is still one of the warmest and driest times of the year to be here. Temps rarely dip below 6°C, or exceed 14°C. There’s a slightly higher chance for rain than in June or July, with an average of 30mm of precipitation. Earlier in the month, you’re more likely to experience summer-like days, but as August moves towards September, temperatures drop and a chill comes to the air, especially at night. The days of the Midnight Sun are gone, though you’ll still have lots of daylight for exploring, with sunrise around 5 a.m. and sunset just before 9:30 p.m. (Average Max Temperature: 13°C. Average Precipitation: 30mm.)
  • Iceland Weather in September: While the days aren’t as long in September (nearly 15 hours of daylight on the 1st, decreasing to 11 hours and 35 minutes on the 30th), temperatures are often pleasant, crowds have disappeared and prices start to drop. The earlier in the month you come, the warmer it’s likely to be, with temps as warm as 13°C. On average, the high hovers around 9°C and can dip as low as 5°C. There is a greater chance for rain, and even a possibility of snow, so be prepared by bringing plenty of layers and a variety of clothing. You may even be treated to the northern lights, which can generally be seen, when conditions are right, from about late September through late March. (Average Max Temperature: 9°C. Average Precipitation: 40mm.)
  • Iceland Weather in October: By the end of October, it’s starting to feel like winter in Iceland. This month is a time of transition, the autumn colors are in full swing, and temperatures are gradually dropping while the days are increasingly shorter. On October 31st, the sun doesn’t rise until 9:03 a.m., and it sets at 5:18 p.m. The average temperature is a brisk 4°C and drizzle is quite common, so plan for wet, cool weather. On the upside, with the exception of some of the most remote areas of the country, the majority of Iceland is still accessible to tourists, and there are far fewer crowds and reduced prices too. (Average Max Temperature: 6°C. Average Precipitation: 30mm.)
  • Iceland Weather in November: Summer is now a distant memory, and while it isn’t as dark or cold as December and January, temperatures drop to an average of around 3°C with lows dipping to about freezing, and the sun shines for only six hours or so, rising a little before 10 a.m. and setting around 4:30 p.m. Of course, the earlier in the month you arrive, the milder the weather and the more daylight you’ll have. Even though it’s likely to be pretty cold, with frequent days of light rain, snow and/or fog, depending on the specific destinations you visit, as long as you dress appropriately, most of the time you’ll be comfortable and find lots to do with fewer crowds to contend with. (Average Max Temperature: 5°C. Average Precipitation: 30mm.)
  • Iceland Weather in December: December in Iceland is cold and dark, but it’s also one of the most beautiful months to be in the country, with snow covering the landscape and dazzling holiday lights helping to brighten the darkness. The days are very short, as it’s now the opposite of summer and the famous Midnight Sun. While you won’t see much daylight, what you can see has a surreal, iridescent quality unlike anywhere else that’s known as the “long blue,” or blue light that lingers before the sun finally rises. When it does rise, it grazes the sky and then quickly descends below again. You’re just about guaranteed to experience snow, rain, or a combination of both, though the temperature rarely dips much below freezing, with the low averaging -1°C. The weather also keeps many tourists away, so you’ll find fewer to contend with along with lower rates and greater accommodation availability. Bundle up and enjoy like the Icelanders do. (Average Max Temperature: 4°C. Average precipitation: 40mm.)

Iceland Events and Festivals

Iceland in January

  • New Year’s Day – January 1st is a national holiday as it is in most nations around the world, though it’s really a two-day holiday here as just about everything is closed until January 3rd. As most people stay up very late on New Year’s Eve, the first day of the new year is often spent sleeping at home and the second day shopping holiday sales.
  • January 6th – January 6 marks the official last day of Christmas in Iceland. Known as “þrettándinn,” it is celebrated with bonfires, traditional songs and fireworks.
  • Thorrablot – This is an ancient Viking mid-winter tradition that originally was a feast of sacrifice, involving the blood of goats and oxen. Today, the celebration that starts the 13th week of winter on the Friday that falls within January 19 to 25, includes lots of singing, dancing, drinking and eating traditional Norse dishes like fermented shark, pickled ram testicles and boiled sheep heads. To attend a real celebration, you’ll need an invitation from a local, but some restaurants in Reykjavik offer special Thorrablot dinners.

Iceland in February

  • Winter Lights Festival – This festival hosted around the first weekend in February was created to help lift spirits and brighten the winter darkness. The capital city will be dramatically lit up, not only with gorgeous light-art installations, but with a cornucopia of cultural events from choral performances and figuring skating to fashion shows and belly dancing. Other highlights include Pool Night and Museum Night, in which the museums and pools around Reykjavik stay open late and offer free admission.
  • Öskudagur – Öskudagur, or Ash Wednesday, is on the seventh Wednesday before Easter (February 14 in 2018). This is when Icelandic children dress in costume and sing for candy, similar to Halloween.
  • Food and Fun – For four days in late February, and sometimes early March, the Food and Fun Festival is a time when many of the world’s most acclaimed chefs collaborate with the finest restaurants in Reykjavik. Special menus are prepared that consist only of Icelandic ingredients and are available at participating eateries during the festival. A televised competition is also held in which the top international chefs are challenged to create dishes on the spot, using purely Icelandic ingredients.

Iceland in March

  • Beer Day – On March 1st every year, this unofficial holiday honors the anniversary of the 1989 legalization of beer with an alcohol content above 2.2%. To make up for the lost time it was banned (all the way from 1915 through 1989), Icelanders indulge in a beer spree, with celebrations held in pubs, clubs and restaurants throughout Reykjavik.
  • DesignMarch – This event held over four days in mid-March showcases Icelandic product design, interior and graphic design, furniture and architecture over three days in mid-march. It hosts workshops, talks, exhibitions and other events, and has attracted big names in the past like Calvin Klein.
  • Reykjavik Folk Festival – A three-day music feast held in early March, this event celebrates the Icelandic folk music scene with a lineup of folk artists of various styles and ages.

Iceland in April

  • Easter – Easter marks the end to the long, dark winter. Most workers in Iceland get five days off, from Holy Thursday to Easter Monday, which may fall in March or April, depending on the year. Schools and most offices shut down, and many shops may be closed too. This is a time when locals often head elsewhere to visit family and friends, or to the famous ski festival in Isafjordur, which features ski competitions as well as a rock music festival.
  • The First Day of Summer – The old Icelandic calendar, in which there are only two seasons, summer and winter, designated the official start of summer on the Thursday that falls within April 19 and April 25. Just about every town in Iceland will have its own celebration which typically includes parades, sporting events, street entertainment and gift giving.

Iceland in May

  • Reykjavik Art Festival – This long-running art festival takes place every other year over 16 days starting in mid-May, with the next event to be held in 2018. It features a variety of national and international theater, art, design and dance that’s showcased throughout the capital city.
  • Rite of Spring Festival – Hosted in early May, this festival is focused on cutting-edge world, jazz and folk music.

Iceland in June

  • Seafarer’s Day & Festival of the Sea – This holiday officially known as Sjómannadagur, is held on the first weekend of June to honor the contribution fishermen have made to Icelandic culture and the economy, as well as to remember those who were lost at sea. In fishing villages across the country, you’ll find it celebrated with lively parties, fantastic local seafood, cultural events and paradise. The fishermen themselves take part in all sorts of competitive events like strongman competitions as well as rowing and swimming races.
  • Iceland National Day – This official public holiday commemorates Iceland’s full independence from Denmark on June 17, 1944. One of the most popular events of the summer, the streets of Reykjavik are filled with colorful parades, street performances, traditional dancing, theatrical performances and free outdoor music concerts that last well into the night. Each town honors the day in its own unique way, so no matter where you plan to be, you’re likely to find a celebration.
  • Summer Solstice and the Secret Solstice Festival – This relatively new festival is held on the longest day of the year, June 21st. It features rock bands, singer-songwriters, DJs and other acts from Iceland and beyond, hosted on multiple stages over four days under the Midnight Sun. There are also numerous local summer solstice celebrations held on this day in which Icelanders gather to watch the sun dip below the horizon only to quickly rise up again.
  • International Viking Festival – The oldest and biggest festival of its kind in Iceland is held in Hafnarfjörður at Viking Village over five days in mid-June. A Middle Age market is set up where costumed “Vikings” sell handmade goods, host staged battles, dance, tell stories and show visitors how to do things like shoot a bow and arrow, carve wood, and throw spears and axes.

Iceland in July

  • Innipúkinn Festival – This small annual music festival held over the bank holiday weekend in late July in downtown Reykjavik offers the chance to enjoy some of the country’s favorite bands, bringing in the cream of the crop of the Icelandic music scene. It also includes standup comedians, a music market and a wide variety of food trucks.
  • LungA – Hosted in the small town of Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland, LungA offers a mix of art and music in a spectacular location that’s held over seven days in mid-July. It includes live music, a variety of workshops, and a wide range of art on display.

Iceland in August

  • Verslunarmannahelgi – The first weekend of August is a bank holiday weekend during which many Icelanders leave town to go camping. The Westman Islands are the most popular destination, with visitors gathering at campgrounds to enjoy live bands and a bonfire that goes on well into the morning. There are also a variety of events held throughout the country.
  • Gay Pride – Iceland’s biggest Gay Pride event is held over the second weekend in August. It features concerts, theater, all-night parties and a parade. Tens of thousands pour into downtown Reykjavik to show solidarity and revel with the city’s gay community, making it a fun event for all.
  • Reykjavik Marathon – This annual event held on the third weekend of August attracts more than 10,000, from Iceland and abroad. It features a full marathon as well as a 42.2K team relay, a half marathon, 10K, and shorter “fun runs” for kids and adults. It kicks off early in the morning, with races starting and finishing at Lækjargata. Runners also get free admission to all of the city’s pools and thermal baths afterwards.
  • Menningarnótt – Menningarnótt, or “Culture Night,” begins when the marathon ends. It’s one of Iceland’s biggest events of the year, and when the streets clear of runners, all types of cultural events fill in that can be found throughout town, in the parks, squares, streets, and individual homes, and ends with an impressive fireworks display.

Iceland in September

  • Reykjavik International Literary Festival – This annual festival held in early September is considered one of the most prestigious literary events in Northern Europe and includes Icelandic and international authors. In the past, it’s hosted numerous distinguished writers, including Kurt Vonnegut, Seamus Heaney and David Sedaris. In 2017, it will take place from September 6 to September 9 at various Reykjavik venues.
  • Reykjavik International Film Festival – Taking place over 10 days starting in late September, this festival shows a diverse range of non-fiction and dramatic films from more than 40 countries around the world. There are multiple screening venues in downtown Reykjavik that include world premieres and award-winning films from other festivals. It also encourages interaction with other art forms by hosting photo exhibitions, concerts and more.

Iceland in October

  • Iceland Airwaves – This festival held over three days in mid-October, showcases some of the best Icelandic indie/alternative music talent, including big names like Of Monsters and Men and Bjork, along with a number of international artists and local DJs. It’s been called the “hippest long weekend on the annual music festival calendar” by Rolling Stone magazine.
  • Illumination of the Imagine Peace Tower – On October 9th, John Lennon’s birthday, Yoko Ono invites guests on a complimentary ferry trip to Viðey Island to take part in a gorgeous illumination ceremony.
  • Halloween – Celebrating Halloween is relatively new in Iceland, but it’s quickly become one of the year’s biggest party events for adults. There is no trick-or-treating, but restaurants and bars throw costume parties with prizes for the best costume, and many host live music too.

Iceland in November

  • Frostbiter – This Iceland Horror Film Festival is hosted in the town of Akranes, about 40 minutes north of Reykjavik, and features horror films and filmmakers from around the world. A mix of horror feature films and shorts are screened over the last weekend in November. It also includes after-parties and other events.

Iceland in December

  • Christmas holiday events – Christmas is celebrated in a big way in Iceland. As the days are very short, with just 4 to 5 hours of daylight, you’ll see lots of holiday lights to brighten things up. Annual Icelandic Christmas concerts, one of the oldest holiday traditions in Iceland are hosted, and a group of 13 mischievous trolls known as Yule Lads begin arriving into town, one each night from December 12 through Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is the most important night of celebration in Iceland, officially beginning at 6 p.m., when the church bells throughout Iceland ring in the Jól. Icelanders typically attend mass which is followed by a Christmas dinner with family.
  • New Year’s Eve – New Year’s Eve in Reykjavik is one of the world’s most impressive celebrations. This is the only time of year when private use of fireworks are legal here, and individuals put on their own unique displays that set the skies ablaze. It also includes neighborhood and waterside bonfires that are meant to symbolize the burning away of the previous year’s troubles. Some 500 tons of fireworks can be seen lighting up the sky from every corner of the city starting at around 11:35 pm. There is lots of drinking and singing of folk songs, and some people dress up as elves and trolls. After midnight, the pubs and nightclubs remain open, with the celebrations going on well into morning. At 5 am, locals line up for hot dogs and then head to the hot springs to ease the pain of those inevitable hangovers.

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The Best Hotels in Los Cabos

Updated: October 25, 2017

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Cabo Hotels – Tips and Advice

  • The absolute best hotels in Los Cabos are Las Ventanas (most luxurious), Esperanza Resort (most romantic and best spa), Cabo Surf Hotel (best family boutique), and Hilton Los Cabos (best family resort).
  • The best areas for travelers are Cabo Downtown (beaches and nightlife), San Jose Downtown (famous art district), San Jose Puerto Los Cabos (private and tranquil with the only swimmable beach in San Jose), and The Corridor (golf, surfing, snorkeling).
  • Los Cabos means “the capes,” and is made up of two towns, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, along with the coral reef marine park, Cabo Pulmo. Most of the hotels and attractions are in Cabo San Lucas, San Jose, and the Corridor (the stretch of Highway 1 linking the two towns). Cabo and San Jose are close in distance, about 30 km apart, but each town has its own distinct feel. Cabo is the livelier town, known for its nightlife, while San Jose is a more tranquil area, known for its Arts District. The Corridor is home to several golf courses and many of the area’s swimmable beaches.
  • Los Cabos is known for beautiful beaches, all of which are public, but few of which are swimmable due to dangerous undertow. Those beaches that are swimmable also have some of the best snorkeling in the world; Jacques Cousteau has called the Sea of Cortez “The Aquarium of the World.” The best beaches for swimming or snorkeling are: Medano Beach, Playa Empacadora, and Lovers & Divorce Beaches in Cabo; La Playita in San Jose; and Chileno Bay, Playa Monumentos, Old Man’s Beach (aka Playa Acupulquito), Tequila Cove, Santa Maria Beach, and Palmilla Beach in the Corridor.
  • Taxis are incredibly expensive in Los Cabos, costing around $50USD one-way from the airport to the hotels. Round trip fare from Cabo to San Jose is usually between $80 and $100USD. Avoid taxis if possible. Car rentals are fairly cheap here, while tours and some hotels offer their own transportation.
  • Los Cabos’ rules of the road are similar to the U.S. Highways are well-maintained, and streets are all well-mapped (if not well-marked) and easy to follow via GPS. Two things that are different are topes and left turns. Topes (pronounced TOH-pays) are speed bumps, but there are no regulations on their height, steepness, or visibility; some are nearly impossible to see until it’s too late! Drive slowly in downtown areas and keep an eye out for these. Standard left turns are usually OK in downtown but not on highways. To make a left, drivers will often need to use a retorno, which is a U-turn overpass. To use a retorno, drive past the road you want to make a left onto, get into the far right lane to take the retorno exit, make the left onto the overpass, and finally merge with traffic going the opposite direction. You can then make a right at the desired street or destination.
  • Pay in pesos whenever possible. Many hotels, restaurants, and tour operators accept payment in U.S. dollars. However, travelers will almost always overpay if using dollars, as the exchange rate for tourists favors the peso.

The 17 Best Luxury Hotels in Los Cabos

1. Las Ventanas al Paraíso – Corridor, Tequila Cove

The best resort hotel in Los Cabos

Breathtaking suites and villas with the highest level of luxury and service in Los Cabos. An experience-focused getaway; guests may have their private terraces made up to sleep under the stars, or choose one of their signature Emotions packages, such as a private, Gypsy dinner on the beach. All accommodations include butler service, bespoke mosaic headboards and adobe fireplaces, and thoughtful amenities like telescopes. Las Ventanas’ seven pools overlook the Sea of Cortez and desert gardens, while their spa fuses traditional Baja therapies with four elements practices. Stellar dining and drinks top off the stay. Located in the Corridor between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose on Tequila Cove, recommended for strong swimmers only.
Hotel phone: +52 624 144 2800

2. Esperanza Resort – Corridor, Cabo del Sol

Esperanza Hotel in Los Cabos

Romantic, ocean view suites front a virgin beach in this luxury, boutique resort. Their award-winning spa features hand-made, indigenous treatments and is complemented by cascading infinity pools and a beachfront whirlpool. Breezy casitas, suites, and villas all feature local, artisanal furnishings, hammocks, and soaking tubs. Along with plenty of adults-only spaces, amenities for children here include a kids’ club with cooking classes, mini-golf, and games. Though the beach here is rocky, the resort is only a short drive to several sandy, swimmable beaches. Located southeast of the Cabo del Sol complex in the Corridor.
Hotel phone: +52 624 145 6400

3. Cabo Surf Hotel and Spa – Corridor, Palmilla

Family-friendly Cabo Surf Hotel and Spa

This upscale yet casual, family-friendly boutique sits on a long, sandy beach in a cove with the best surf break in Los Cabos. Ideal for families, the hotel offers connecting rooms, and the largest suite has three bedrooms and a full kitchen. The attached surf school offers classes for ages six and up; peak surf lasts from March through November, but there are gentle waves all year long for beginning surfers or swimmers. With a cozy spa, all-day dining, two pools and two hot tubs, there is something for everyone here. Located on Old Man’s Beach in the Corridor, just north of Palmilla Beach, about five minutes’ drive to dining, shopping, and art in downtown San Jose.
Hotel phone: +52 624 142 2666

4. Hilton Los Cabos – Corridor, Tequila Cove

Family-friendly resort hotel in Los Cabos

A contemporary, family-centric resort, the Hilton offers exceptional pools, accommodations, and plenty of activities for kids, families, and adults. The kids’ club for ages 4-12 hosts piñata parties and Mexican craft activities, while adults can take up mixology and cooking classes. Two fantastic, 24-hour pools overlook the only swimmable beach in the area; swim up bars in the pools, swing bar on the beach. Rooms are spacious, beginning at 50 square meters, all with private balconies and some with outdoor Jacuzzis. Located in the Corridor next to Tequila Cove, exactly in between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose.
Hotel phone: +52 624 145 6500

5. Hotel El Ganzo – San Jose, Puerto Los Cabos

Hotel El Ganzo, Los Cabos

Stylish, adults-only boutique with a rooftop pool, glass Jacuzzi, and a private beach club accessed by boat. With picturesque views of the marina and Sea of Cortez, along with chic décor, original murals, and live music by visiting artists and musicians-in-residence, El Ganzo offers a creative alternative to the usual beach getaway. Exceptional restaurants and bars feature ingredients grown onsite in the hotel’s culinary garden. Local elements feature heavily in their spa menu, with Baja flowers, mezcal, and agave incorporated into traditions from Bali, India, and Thailand. Located in Puerto Los Cabos near the San Jose Estuary, just a fifteen minute ride on one of their loaner bikes to the downtown arts district.
Hotel phone: +52 624 104 9000

6. The Cape – Corridor, Cabo Bello

The Cape Hotel in Los Cabos

Mexico Moderno architecture lends an urban vibe to this intimate hotel, featuring an infinity pool, saltwater pool, and Cabo San Lucas’ only rooftop lounge. Contemporary rooms all boast views of the ocean and El Arco, along with copper soaking tubs and craft cocktail bars. Spacious one- to three-bedroom villas add full kitchens, while penthouse villas include private, rooftop plunge pools. Its spa is carved into the stone cliffs with a signature massage matching the sound and intensity of the ocean waves in real time. Fantastic dining options include Nikkei (Japanese-Peruvian) and Baja-American cuisine, as well as poolside and beachfront bar service. Located in Cabo Bello on Monuments Beach, a popular surf break in the Corridor, just fifteen minutes from downtown Cabo San Lucas.
Hotel phone: +52 624 163 0000

7. Montecristo Estates Luxury Villas – Cabo San Lucas, Sunset Beach

Montecristo Estates villas in Los Cabos, Mexico

A collection of spacious villas, each with its own private pool and hot tub, in a gated community overlooking the Sea of Cortez and Sunset Beach. Elegantly appointed units all have three bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, a full kitchen, two living rooms, and sleep up to ten people. Butler service and grocery shopping service are both complimentary. The common area features a free form infinity pool, tranquil spa, and a sports bar. Rates include shuttle service to Quivira Golf Club and all sister properties, offering access to twenty more restaurants and a private area on Sunset Beach. Located in the hills just above Downtown Cabo San Lucas.
Hotel phone: +52 624 142 9971

8. Marquis Los Cabos – Corridor, Tequila Cove

Adults-only all-inclusive hotel in Los Cabos, Mexico

This five-star resort, a member of the prestigious Leading Hotels of the World consortium, is one of only two adults-only, all-inclusive properties in Los Cabos. All suites offer sweeping ocean views, Jacuzzi tubs, and private balconies; master suites and casitas include private pools, some with rooftop terraces and gardens. Superb restaurants feature local, seasonal menus in a variety of cuisines, including French, pan-Asian, and Baja, alongside local tequilas and artful cocktails. Three divine pools, a holistic spa, and direct beach access ensure an unparalleled guest experience. Located in the Corridor on Tequila Cove, a short walk to a calmer beach, and near golf courses.
Hotel phone: +52 624 144 2000

9. Villa La Estancia – Cabo San Lucas, Downtown

Villa La Estancia, Los Cabos, Mexico

Gorgeous resort on sandy, swimmable Medano Beach, with cascading, sea-facing pools and five Jacuzzis. This hacienda-style resort with Spanish colonial décor is home to well-appointed rooms and spacious suites that include up to three bedrooms. An oversized spa offers a wide menu: from romantic, couples massage and hydrotherapy packages to kids’ services in the Mini Spa. Guests may dine at the casual, poolside grill and upscale, Italian restaurant onsite, or choose one of the many restaurant options at the sister properties next door. Full meal plans are available here, or guest may take the short walk to Downtown Cabo San Lucas to check out the local gastronomy scene. Located on Cabo’s most popular beach, near nightlife, dining, and shops.
Hotel phone: +1 877-897-1951

10. Casa Natalia – San Jose, Downtown

Casa Natalia Hotel, Los Cabos

This sunny, adults-only boutique with creative flair and a fountain-fed pool is home to one of the city’s best restaurants, Mi Cocina. Casa Natalia embodies the artistic vibe of San Jose, with colorful rooms featuring Mexican textiles, original artworks, and bold accent walls and furnishings. All rooms feature bright terraces with hammocks, while spa suites add outdoor whirlpools. Superior suites and above include complimentary, private breakfast delivered to your terrace. Complimentary transfer to the Beach Club at El Ganzo. Located in Downtown San Jose on the main square, walking distance to the town’s famous Art Walk, historic church, and restaurants.
Hotel phone: +52 624 146 7101

11. Grand Fiesta Americana – Corridor, Cabo del Sol

Grand Fiesta Americana Hotel, Los Cabos

Family-friendly, all-inclusive resort, boasting six pools, four whirlpools, and fifteen bars and restaurants; truly something for everyone! Its unique spa specializes in “vinotherapy,” wine-based massage and therapeutic treatments. The resort offers a variety of rooms and suites, all with balconies, and some with private pools or gardens. Direct beach access fronted by a reef makes this an ideal spot for snorkeling. The Grand Fiesta sits in the Corridor, right next to the Cabo del Sol Ocean and Desert golf courses.
Hotel phone: +52 624 145 6200

12. Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos – San Jose, Hotel Zone

All-inclusive luxury family resort in San Jose del Cabo

Luxury all-inclusive resort with four pools surrounded by shady cabanas, a kids’ splash playground, a teen game room, and nightly entertainment. Spacious rooms and suites all include a private balcony or terrace; connecting, swim up, or club level options available, the latter with access to an exclusive lounge and upgraded room amenities. Sixteen unique restaurants and bars offer flavors from around the world, including Mexican, French, and Japanese, along with a tequila bar and 24 hour cantina. Its Zen Spa features peaceful massage palapas surrounded by water. Located in the San Jose Hotel Zone, near an amazing swimming beach, Palmilla.
Hotel phone: +52 624 163 7730

13. Sheraton Grand Hacienda del Mar – Corridor, Cabo del Sol

Sheraton Grand Hacienda del Mar, Los Cabos

Elegant colonial-style resort with five pools, located between two golf courses in the Cabo del Sol complex. Its “Old Mexico” vibe is its most distinctive attribute, with ornamental cupolas, Catholic artwork, antique gold, red tile roof, and hand-painted tiles. Enormous suites from one to four bedrooms and two floors can sleep up to ten. Their amazing kids’ club features time in the kids’ pool with waterfalls and slides, Spanish lessons, and even camping. Spa days and romantic dining round out the experience.
Hotel phone: +52 624 145 8000

14. Mar Adentro – San Jose, Hotel Zone

Los Cabos modern hotel Mar Adentro

The most visually striking hotel in Los Cabos, Mar Adentro’s architecture resembles a futuristic pueblo on a gorgeous golden sand beach. Its interior courtyard paths are set amid reflecting pools, meeting up at a pod-like restaurant designed like an inverted bird nest, before continuing on toward a chic swimming pool and further to the beach club. Rooms are spacious with minimalist décor, electronic lighting and shades, and all feature large terraces with oversized soaking tubs, daybeds, and a breakfast table. Dining is remarkable here, with organic produce and local seafood served daily in Nido (the bird nest) and Origen, their contemporary Mexican fine dining restaurant. Their spa offers massage and body treatments with a special focus on aromatherapy and music. Located in the San Jose Hotel Zone, just a fifteen minute bike ride (complimentary bikes) or short taxi to the Downtown Art District.
Hotel phone: +52 624 104 9999

15. Pueblo Bonito Pacifica – Cabo San Lucas, Sunset Beach

Pueblo Bonito Pacifica, Los Cabos

Exquisite adults-only, all-inclusive resort with two dazzling pools, an award-winning spa, and a private golf course. Sophisticated rooms and suites all include private terraces, some with personal plunge pools. Tower rooms and suites add 24 hour butler service, upgraded amenities, and access to an exclusive lounge. Sumptuous dining here focuses on contemporary Baja flavors using local, organic produce, fresh seafood, and fine meat cuts. The Pacifica’s design and style celebrates its desert surroundings with sand-colored buildings, cactus gardens, and raked sand landscaping. Located on Sunset Beach on the Pacific side of Cabo San Lucas, about ten minutes’ drive to the marina and downtown nightlife.
Hotel phone: +52 624 142 9696

16. Bahia Hotel & Beach House – Cabo San Lucas, Downtown

Bahia Hotel and Beach House, Los Cabos

Fashionable boutique hotel with a free form pool and beach club in the heart of Cabo’s nightlife district. This chic hotel is home to two of the top restaurants in Cabo San Lucas: Bar Esquina, known for its seasonal Mexican-Mediterranean menus, and SUR Beach House, with its craft cocktails and Asian-Peruvian-Mexican flavor fusions. Newly renovated rooms feature modern Mexican décor with rich woods, tree stump tables, and lots of natural light. Bahia Hotel is only one block from Medano Beach and walking distance to nearly every bar and restaurant in town.
Hotel phone: +52 624 143 1890

17. Sandos Finisterra – Cabo San Lucas, Downtown

Sandos Finisterra Hotel, Los Cabos, Mexico

Gorgeous all-inclusive, family-friendly resort carved into a cliffside boasting three pools, a kids club with activities, a nightclub, and a spa with hydrotherapy. Rooms feature contemporary décor with balconies, some with private Jacuzzis. The common areas are decked out in a retro style, and take the rugged landscape into consideration, using the natural rocks as interior walls. Its high vantage point offers unsurpassed, panoramic views of the Pacific, Sea of Cortez, and Cabo. The resort is walking distance to the Cabo marina, bars, and restaurants, but guests will want to drive back up.
Hotel phone: +52 624 145 6700

Staying in Cabo San Lucas, Downtown

The best hotels and restaurants in downtown Cabos San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas, usually shortened to Cabo, was a tiny fishing village only forty years ago. But this sleepy town has been experiencing a tourism boom since the late ’70s, fast becoming one of the top beach destinations in the world. Downtown Cabo is best known for its lively bars and nightclubs, golden sand beaches, and relaxed attitude. The town is laid out in a C-shape, following the contours of the coast, beginning with Medano Beach to the northeast, the marina in the center, and wrapping around to Land’s End and the famous El Arco rock formation at the southeastern tip. All of the beaches in this area front the Sea of Cortez and are swimmable, including Medano (the most popular), Playa Empacadora (mostly locals), and Lovers Beach (accessible by water taxi). Beaches on the southern side face the Pacific, such as Sunset Beach; these are closed to swimming due to the deadly current.

Just inland from the beaches, Downtown Cabo is home to casual and fine dining restaurants, and wild nightclubs and bars. The marina area includes Puerto Paraíso mall, water taxis to Lovers Beach and Divorce Beach, tour and fishing boats, plus more bars and restaurants, some that will cook any fish that travelers catch. A small main plaza with a historic church, local natural history museum, and souvenir shops sits to the southwest of the Marina. Everything is close; in fact, you can walk the length of Madero Beach, all the way around the marina, and to Land’s End in about thirty minutes.

The Best Hotels in Cabo San Lucas, Downtown

The Best Restaurants in Cabo San Lucas, Downtown

  • Restaurante Los Tres Gallos • $$-$$$ • Authentic Baja recipes with local ingredients in a romantic setting.
  • Las Cazuelas del Don • $ • Amazing, traditional clay-pot stews with a rotating menu based on the Seven Deadly Sins.
  • Bar Esquina • $$-$$$ • Trendy spot for Mediterranean and Mexican flavors. Great cocktails.
  • Scabo Old School Restaurant • $$-$$$ • Casual, cheap, and absolutely delicious! 100 pesos, or about $5USD, buys five quesadillas and a beer.
  • Koi Sushi • $$-$$$ • Relaxed restaurant for fresh sushi, best in Los Cabos.

Staying in Cabo San Lucas, Sunset Beach

The best hotels and restaurants in Cabos San Lucas, Sunset Beach

The Sunset Beach area sits on the southern edge of Cabo, overlooking the Pacific. This is the latest area to be developed in Cabo, so the beach itself is fairly secluded and unspoiled. Though not swimmable, Sunset Beach is the perfect spot to unwind in the sun or hit the links; away from the raucous partying of downtown, but still accessible to its dining, marina, and conveniences. This area is home to a few luxury resorts, high-end residences, and Jack Nicklaus-designed Quivira Golf Club.

The Best Hotels in Cabo San Lucas, Sunset Beach

The Best Restaurants near Cabo San Lucas, Sunset Beach

  • Restaurant El Pretil • $ • Cheap and cheerful breakfast and brunch spot.
  • La Rana Vegana • $ • Stellar vegan dinner spot tucked away in a residential neighborhood.
  • Barrio del Tango • $$-$$$ • Top-notch Argentine steak and meats in an al fresco setting.

Staying in San Jose, Downtown and Hotel Zone

The best hotels and restaurants in downtown San Jose, Los Cabos

San Jose is a relaxed town with a boho vibe. Romantic colonial architecture, fine restaurants, low-key cantinas, and its famous Art Walk are the town’s biggest draws. San Jose is greener than Cabo and the surrounding area because of an underwater river that flows through here, eventually surfacing to create a lush estuary. The wetlands here are home to a bird sanctuary with walking trails, a small beach, and observation platforms, and it’s a popular spot for bicycling or horseback riding. The nineteenth century Spanish church, Parroquia San José del Cabo, is the historic heart of downtown, with the Art District’s main galleries just one block away on Alvaro Obregon.

Most of the activities are in downtown, but most hotels are just southwest in the Hotel Zone. This is a 3.5 km strip of beach beginning at Costa Azul beach to the southwest and ending at the far northeast of Playa Hotelera (Hotel Beach). This long stretch of golden sand is popular for sunning and beach sports, but is not swimmable. The only swimmable beach in San Jose is further northeast in Puerto Los Cabos.

Best Hotels in San Jose, Downtown and Hotel Zone

The Best Restaurants in San Jose, Downtown and Hotel Zone

  • The Hangman • $ • Lively night spot for flavorful tacos with a wide range of fillings, strong cocktails, and beer.
  • Mi Cocina • $$$$ • Upscale Euro-Mexican bistro in a cozy courtyard setting. Creative dishes and excellent cocktails.
  • La Lupita Taco and Mezcal • $$-$$$ • Artsy, casual taco joint with creative ingredients and a huge mezcal selection.

Staying in San Jose, Puerto Los Cabos

Where to stay and eat in Puerto Los Cabos

Puerto Los Cabos is on the opposite side of the estuary from Downtown, and is home to the Marina, the swimmable beach La Playita, and some of the newest hotels in San Jose. This area is generally quieter than downtown, though there are a few attractions here, including the Dolphin Discovery at the marina and the Wirikuta Cactus Garden, filled with sculptures, local flora, and hosting a nightly theater show. Puerto Los Cabos is less than ten minutes from Downtown by bike or car.

The Best Hotels in San Jose, Puerto Los Cabos

The Best Restaurants in San Jose, Puerto Los Cabos

  • Huerta Los Tamarindos • $$-$$$ • Organic, Mexican restaurant and farm with absurdly good food and large portions. Cooking classes available, too!
  • El Marinero Borracho • $ • (AKA The Drunken Sailor.) Great ceviche and fish tacos, avocado pie for dessert.
  • Flora Farms • $$-$$$ • Organic farm and fine dining restaurant. Impeccable service and rich flavors. Reservations required, schedule a few days in advance for small groups.

Staying in The Corridor

The best hotels and restaurants in the Los Cabos Corridor

“The Corridor” is a roughly 30 km stretch of Highway 1, connecting Cabo and San Jose. Many of the area’s largest resorts are here, alongside a few golf courses, swimmable beaches, and adventure parks. Resorts and attractions here are spread out, so those who plan on exploring much outside their resort grounds will need to rent a car or arrange for other transportation; there is nothing within walking distance of most hotels here.

The best surf breaks on the Corridor are at Old Man’s Beach and Playa Monumentos. The best snorkeling is at Santa Maria Beach and Chileno Bay. The best beaches for swimming are Palmilla and Tequila Cove.

The Best Hotels in the Corridor

The Best Restaurants in the Corridor

  • Tenangos Los Cabos • $$-$$$ • Outstanding restaurant for authentic Mexican flavors and stout drinks. Try the chile en nogada!
  • Cynthia Fresh Organic Restaurant • $$-$$$ • Fresh, organic, tasty, with generous portions. Open for breakfast and lunch year round and dinner in the high season.
  • Sunset MonaLisa • $$$$ • Italian fine dining with a romantic ambiance and stunning views. Reservations required.
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The Best Things To Do in Madrid

Updated: October 25, 2017

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Best Tours in Madrid

Best Things To Do in Madrid

  1. The Prado Museum

    Seeing the Prado in Madrid
    One of the world’s top art galleries. With a collection spanning more than 7,000 priceless artworks, Madrid’s Museo del Prado is arguably the world’s top art gallery of European masters. It is also the best place in the world to immerse yourself in the works of master Spanish artists; Francisco de Goya tops this list, but the Prado is also particularly strong on the 17th century court painter Diego Velázquez. On the ground floor, visitors will find works by Rafael in the Italian Renaissance collection, as well as an excellent Flemish collection featuring The Garden of Earthly Delights – a showstopper by Heironymus Bosch. Head up to the first floor to view works by Murillo, Rubens, Velázquez and Titian, with three rooms alone devoted to Spanish Renaissance master El Greco. Don’t miss the Edificio Jerónimos, with its excellent temporary exhibitions, or the beautiful 2nd-floor cloisters. Book your ticket online to avoid waiting in queue. Admission is free between 6 and 8pm Thurs-Sun, but it’s not really worth visiting then because of the massive crowds. Photography not allowed.
    • Nearest transport: Banco de España Metro
    Reviews

  2. Visit the Royal Palace

    Visiting the Royal Palace in Madrid
    Spain’s grand royal palace. As European royal palaces go, Madrid’s Palacio Real may not be as large as Versailles in Paris, or Schönbrunn in Vienna, but its sumptuous decor gives the other two a run for their money. An imposing French-Italian Baroque palace full of Italian frescoes, French tapestries, gold leaf, chandeliers, and Spanish porcelain, the Royal Palace is now used primarily for state functions and ceremonies; the royal family lives in a mansion elsewhere in the capital. Palace audioguides are better than the guided tours, taking visitors up the grand staircase to the Hall of Columns – the gorgeous former ballroom where Spain joined the European Union, as well as the Gasparini Room (formerly the king’s dressing room), dazzling with gold-green-pink decor, and the sumptuous Carlos III bedroom. Other highlights include the Gala Dining Hall where the King of Spain receives foreign dignitaries, the royal chapel, the world’s best collection of Stradivarius instruments, the glittering crown and scepter of King Carlos II, and the grand Throne Room. The weaponry belonging to various Spanish kings is in the Armory across the courtyard from the palace. Try to arrive at opening time to avoid queues.
    • Nearest transport: Ópera Metro
    Reviews

  3. Marvel at modern art in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

    Visiting the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid
    Formerly belonging to Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon, this extraordinary extensive collection was sold to Spain and now forms part of Madrid’s “Golden Triangle” of art. Whereas the Prado and the Reina Sofia galleries provide an in-depth look at the works of specific artists, the Thyssen gives you the chance to explore a huge array of artistic styles, including the Thyssen’s forte, Impressionism. The collection is spread across three floors, with each floor featuring a permanent collection and rotating works acquired since the 1980s. Of the latter, look out for pieces by Constable, Van Gough, Kandinsky, and Guaguin. The permanent collection doesn’t disappoint, either; highlights include works by heavy-hitters such as El Greco, Titian, Tintoretto, Goya, Renoir, Van Gough, Manet, Pissarro, Dalí, and Chagall, Lucian Freud, Henry Moore, and Francis Bacon.
    • Nearest transport: Banco de España Metro
    Reviews

  4. Wander Retiro Park

    Visiting Retiro Park in Madrid
    Madrid’s most popular park. Created in the 17th century for King Felipe IV and formerly reserved for the Spanish royal family, this vast park just west of Madrid’s art museums is hugely popular with locals and visitors alike. Since its public opening in 1868, Madrileños have been coming here to read, stroll past landscaped lawns, play with their kids, boat on the park’s larger lake (El Estangue), or enjoy a cold drink in one of the park’s numerous terrazas (open-air cafes). On weekends, when it’s busiest, buskers, tarot readers, jugglers and other street performers cluster along the lake walkways, but the 300-acre park is large enough so that it’s possible to find a quiet spot even then. Don’t miss the Palacio de Cristal, the glass palace conservatory south of the lake; the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía holds occasional art exhibitions here.
    • Nearest transport: Retiro Metro
    Reviews

  5. Go tapas bar hopping in La Latina

    The best tapas bars in La Latina, Madrid
    Madrid’s liveliest areas for tapas. The most sociable way to dine out in Madrid is to make like the locals and do the tapeo – a circuit of the local tapas bars; eating, drinking and socializing with friends and family. Calle de Jesús near the Prado and the streets around La Latina Metro and Plaza Santa Ana have the densest concentration of popular tapas bars. They get packed in the evening, so it’s often standing room only or very limited seating. At Plaza Puerta Cerrada 7, try the century-old El Madroño, a refined vermouth bar named after the strawberry tree symbol of Madrid. On Calle Cava Alta, Taberna Matritum is renowned for its seasonal tapas, including grilled calçots (Catalonia’s giant spring onions) and grilled squid with butifarra (Catalan sausage). On Calle de Jesús, Taberna de la Daniela Medinaceli is one of the best places in town to try cocido Madrileño, a hearty chickpea stew, while the Taberna Maceira serves a great selection of Galician standards, including pulpo a la gallega (Galician-style octopus) and pimientos de padrón (spicy green peppers). La Casa del Abuelo near Plaza Santa Ana is the place for seafood lovers, with gambas (shrimp) prepared many different ways, while Las Bravas is a perpetually packed little bar particularly famous for its patatas bravas (potatoes in a spicy sauce), as well as the Madrid staple of oreja a la plancha (grilled pig’s ear).
    Reviews

  6. Visit the Queen Sofia Arts Center

    Visiting the Queen Sofia Arts Center in Madrid
    Madrid’s top contemporary art gallery. Originally Madrid’s first public hospital, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is now gleaming museum, showcasing Madrid’s premier collection of contemporary art. Cubism, surrealism and other 20th century art movements are well-represented here, as is contemporary sculpture. Though there are a few works by non-Spanish artists, such as Braque and Kandinski, the majority of works are by Spanish artists, with a particular emphasis on 20th century greats like Picasso, Dalí, Miró, and Tàpies. The star of the collection is Picasso’s Guernica, a monumental canvas that was inspired by Hitler’s bombing of the Basque town of the same name. Visit the room behind Guernica to see Picasso’s works that became the basis for the final piece. Other highlights include Cubist works by Gris and Braque, the dreamlike Surrealist works of Dalí, the bold, primary colors of Miró, and some rare proto-modernist engravings by Goya. No photography is allowed in the Guernica room. There’s an excellent café just outside the main entrance.
    • Nearest transport: Atocha Metro
    Reviews

  7. Do a loop walk from Plaza Mayor

    Visiting Plaza Mayor in Madrid
    Take a stroll around Madrid’s historic center from the city’s central square. Start your walk at the cobbled, pedestrianized Plaza Mayor. Originally a marketplace, during the 17th century this square was the stage for bullfights, royal processions, and the burning at the cross of heretics during the Inquisition. Today, it’s a popular gathering spot, with cafes around the edges, attractive Baroque architecture and a statue of Felipe III on horseback. From the square, head west past Mercado de San Miguel, a beautiful 1916 structure that’s also a popular stop for tapas. Take a left and then a right to reach the beautiful 17th century Corpus Christi Monastery; to buy homemade cookies from the nuns, look for the Venta de Dulces sign. Then head north to the Plaza de la Villa, the ruling center of medieval Spain, where you’ll find the ceremonial town hall with coats of arms of Madrid’ rulers. Continue west along Calle Mayor to La Almudena Cathedral and then head north, past the Royal Palace, to the peaceful Plaza de Oriente, studded with statues of Visigothic kings. Walk east, past the Teatro Real – Madrid’s opera house – to Plaza Isabel II, busy with occasional street stalls. Then take the pedestrianized Calle del Arenal to Puerta del Sol, Madrid’s center and a hub for street performers, protestors, and parades.
    • Nearest transport: Sol Metro

  8. Do a Day Trip to Toledo

    Day trip to Toledo from Madrid
    Spain’s stunning 2,500-year-old former capital. Nestled within the banks of the curving Tagus River lies a tangle of narrow, cobbled, streets that is the heart of historic Toledo. Toledo’s roots comprise two and a half millennia of Roman, Visigothic, Jewish, Moorish, and Christian heritage, and the city was Spain’s capital until 1561. The best thing to do in Toledo is to simply lose yourself in its maze of ancient streets and drink in the medieval atmosphere, though there are also several unmissable attractions. In the very center of town stands Catedral Primada, one of Spain’s most extravagant cathedrals; its sacristy houses a gallery of paintings by El Greco, Zurbarán, Velázquez, and other masters. Fans of Spanish art also won’t want to miss the artists El Greco Museum, home to a fine collection of the namesake master’s paintings. Toledo’s Jewish roots are on display in the Sephardic Museum, set within the stunning 12th century El Transito Synagogue. The only Moorish building that survived the Reconquista is the small yet beautiful Mosque of Christ the Light on the northern slopes of town; though it has since been converted to a church, the mosque’s original arches survive. There are plenty of restaurants scattered around; don’t miss the opportunity to try the local specialty, cuchifritos: lamb, tomato and egg cooked in white wine.
    • Nearest transport: Toledo is a 71km drive from Madrid; you can also take the frequent, high-speed AVANT train from Madrid Atocha station (roughly hourly; 30 minutes) and then a bus from the train station to Plaza de Zocodover in the old town.

  9. Night out in Malasaña

    Where to go drinking in Malasana Madrid
    Live music and clubbing in Madrid’s liveliest neighborhood. If you had to choose one part of Madrid for a raucous night out, your best bet would be hedonistic Malasaña, the heart of the counter-culture movement that hit the capital after Franco’s death in 1975. Madrileños head out late and stay out til dawn – the action in nightclubs doesn’t kick off until well after midnight, so plan your night accordingly. Kick off your night at El Jardín Secreto, an intimate, candlelit drinking venue festooned with Indian fabrics and serving great cocktails. Alternatively, have a beer or two at Kikekeller, one of Madrid’s bares clandestinos (shop by day, cool bar by night). Then proceed to La Vía Lactea for a taste of grungy, 1980s Madrid; live music here ranges from garage and rock to indie. Other great bars for rock, soul, and indie are Moloko, decked out with old concert flyers, and kitschy-but-cool Tupperware. Head to Ya’sta, a stalward Malasaña club with an eclectic mix of psychedelic trance, indie, techno, and more on the menu. If you want to hear some local rock, there are frequent performances by up-and-coming bands at Siroco earlier in the night, before funk, soul and disco take over.
    • Nearest transport: Noviciado Metro

  10. Do a day trip to Segovia

    Day trip from Madrid to Segovia
    Just 50 miles from Madrid, the historic town of Segovia makes an easy day trip from the capital. Segovia is famous for two things: an impressive Roman aqueduct and a fairytale castle that allegedly inspired the one in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Some 100 feet high and 2,500 feet long, the well-preserved, 2,000-year-old Roman aqueduct was built without any mortar and is an extremely impressive sight. The medieval heart of Segovia is shaped a bit like a ship, with the aqueduct at the stern and the castle at the bow. From the main Plaza Azoguejo, take the cobbled Calle de Cervantes that winds through the ‘ship’ and passes by the impressive Segovia Cathedral before depositing you at the Alcázar (castle). With pointed turrets, dry moat, and impressive views from the top, this medieval fortified palace is well worth a visit. Highlights include the Hall of Monarchs, lined with the busts of Spanish rulers, the armory, and the panoramic terrace views. (The terrace is closed in winter.)
    • Nearest transport: take the high-speed AVE train (30 minutes) from the Madrid Chamartín train station to Segovia’s Guiomar train station and then catch a bus or taxi to the base of the aqueduct that bisects Segovia’s main square.

  11. Go shopping in Sol

    Where to shop in Madrid's Sol district
    Madrid’s prime shopping area. While the narrow streets between Gran Vía and the Sol Metro station are liberally lined with souvenir shops selling cheap and tacky gifts, there are plenty of quality stores worth perusing. If you’re into handmade shoes (or want to be), Calle Augusto Figueroa is lined with zapaterías that will custom-make footwear to your specifications. While Camper now has outlets all over the world, the original store on Gran Vía has the best shoe selection. If you’re looking for uniquely Spanish gifts, Antigua Casa Talavera specializes in beautiful ceramics from small family potters from all over Spain. Maty sells flamenco outfits, shoes, and accessories, while El Arco Artesanía is all about handmade designer souvenirs, from jewelry and papier-mache figures to home fittings. Foodies should check out any of the several branches of El Museo del Jamón scattered around the city center, selling vacuum-sealed packs of Spain’s finest jamón iberico bellota and other meaty goodies. Union Musical, off Puerta del Sol, sells a wide range of beautiful (and pricey) classical guitars. There are numerous high street fashion outlets around Gran Vía and Puerta del Sol, including Mango and Zara, but for high-end fashion (Gucci, Prada, etc), head to Calle Serrano, just northwest of the Parque del Buen Retiro.
    • Nearest transport: Sol or Plaza del Callao Metro

  12. Have a drink (or two) in Chueca

    The best bars in Madrid's Chueca district
    Hip neighborhood, sophisticated bars. Like any capital city worth its salt, Madrid has no shortage of watering holes. One of the best places to head to is Chueca, the epicenter of gay Madrid, with trendy restaurants, chilled-out lounges, and sophisticated cocktail bars. If the latter is your thing, head to Del Diego, one of Chueca’s swankiest bars; the signature ‘El Diego’ is my pick out of the 75 cocktails on offer. Then head on to Museo Chicote, a Madrid landmark once frequented by Hemingway and Sophia Loren; it’s got 1930s decor, an extensive cocktail menu, and DJ action after midnight. With eclectic furnishings, low-key ambience, dim lighting, and killer mojitos, Café Belén is one of my favorites among lounge bars. Bar Cock is a former brothel turned elegant bar with an English pub atmosphere – the cocktails here are some of the best in the country and the place attracts A-list celebrities and hangers-on. If you’re looking for somewhere more down to earth, Stop Madrid is friendly, buzzy taverna with an excellent wine selection, great sangria, and tasty tapas. Finally, if you’re simply looking for a quiet drink, then try Gran Café de Gijón, a grand 19th century café that’s been the favorite haunt of Spain’s greatest 20th century literary figures.
    • Nearest transport: Chueco Metro

  13. Tour the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium

    Tour Santiago Bernabeu Stadium or catch a match of Real Madrid
    One of the world’s greatest football stadiums. Even if you’re not a Real Madrid supporter, if you’re a football fan, then a visit to Santiago Bernabéu is a must. You can visit the stadium during the day for a self-guided tour of the facilities (buy tickets online or at Window 10 next to Gate 7 at the stadium itself). The tour takes in a panoramic view of the pitch from the top, the presidential box and the press room, the dressing rooms, players’ tunnel, the pitch itself, and the remarkable trophy display of one of the world’s most successful football clubs. Check online what’s available to visit on any given day, as sometimes the changing rooms are off-limits. If you can, visit the stadium during football season (September to May, with the exception of the second half of December) and catch an exciting match alongside 80,000 exuberant supporters. The atmosphere is electric, particularly if a big game is on and Real Madrid are playing their bitter rivals, Atlético de Madrid. You can buy tickets to matches online; for regular games that shouldn’t be too difficult, but to get tickets for a major match, you have to be lucky (or prepared to wait in online queues).
    • Nearest transport: Santiago Bernabéu Metro
    Reviews

  14. Day trip to Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial

    Day trip to Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial from Madrid
    Majestic monastery and palace complex. In the foothills of the Sierra Guadarrama range, 50km away from Madrid, this 16th century royal getaway makes for an easy day trip. If there’s an English-language tour departing just as you arrive, take it. Otherwise, it’s not really worth waiting around, since they are pretty infrequent. A self-guided tour takes you through the Patio de los Reyes, where sits a statue of San Lorenzo holding a gridiron, on which the saint is said to have been roasted alive. Just beyond is a sombre basilica, with a worthwhile work by El Greco in the nearby Museum of Tapestries. Just west of the basilica is the Sala de Batallas, decorated with paintings celebrating Spain’s great military victories. Downstairs find the Museo de Pintura, with 15-17th century works by Flemish, Italian, and Spanish masters. Also downstairs is the Panteón de los Reyes, the royal pantheon where 26 Spanish kings and queens are seeing out eternity. Other highlights include the King’s Apartments and the lovely monumental garden, Jardín del Príncipe. The monastery itself is closed to the public.
    • Nearest transport: the easiest way to get here is by frequent bus from Madrid’s Moncloa bus station; buses drop you off in the centre of the little town of San Lorenzo, a ten-minute walk from the complex.
    Reviews

  15. Do a side trip to the Valley of the Fallen

    Visiting the Valley of the Fallen from El Escorial Monastery.
    Controversial Spanish Civil War memorial and Franco’s tomb. Easily doable as a side trip from the El Escorial Monastery, the Valle de los Caídos monument consists of an enormous Catholic basilica deep inside a hill, and a 150-meter-tall cross that perches on a granite outcrop above. The memorial, constructed over a period of 18 years in the 1940s and 50s, is controversial because it was built largely with the forced labor of Republican prisoners of war – per Franco’s orders, digging out 220,000 tons of granite from inside the hill and then using the granite to construct the cross. There’s a wintry chill and silence inside the vast basilica, and the remains of 34,000 victims of the Civil War (from both sides) are interred on the high altar. But it’s Franco’s tomb behind the high altar that catches your eye, as well as the grave of the founder of Spanish fascism, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, in front of the altar. To add further controversy, Franco supporters from all corners of Spain gather here on November 20th, the anniversary of the dictator’s death.
    • Nearest transport: The easiest way to get here from El Escorial is by taxi.
    Reviews

  16. Catch a bullfight at the Plaza de Toros

    Seeing a bullfight in Madrid's Plaza de Toros
    The bullfighting tradition is strong in Madrid, and the country’s top matadors come to show off their skills at the Las Ventas bullring – the grandest in the country. If you’d like to catch a bullfight, the season runs from March to mid-October, mostly on Sundays, and almost daily during the May-early June festival of San Isidro. The drama of a bullfight plays out in three acts. Act I: the matador attracts the bull’s attention with his cape, and the mounted picadores try to weaken the bull by spearing its neck muscle. Act II: banderilleros run towards the bull and try to plunge barbed sticks into its neck to weaken it further. Act III: the matador steps in and does a deadly dance with the bull before going for a clean kill between the shoulder blades. It’s not a spectacle for the squeamish, though there’s no denying the grace and skill of the professional matadors. There are no bad seats in the arena, but the more expensive seats have you sitting in the shade (sombre) and nearer to the action, while the cheaper seats are in the sun (sol) and higher up. For the bigger bullfights, tickets sell out in advance. Even if you’re not interested in attending a bullfight, it’s well worth touring the arena and visiting the museum behind it, with its impressive collection of bullfight-related paintings and spectacular outfits belonging to some of the biggest names in bullfighting.
    • Nearest transport: Las Ventas Metro
    Reviews

  17. Catch a Flamenco Show

    Where to see a flamenco show in Madrid
    While Seville is the undisputed capital of this hypnotic, passionate dance form, it’s taken very seriously in Madrid. Here you are unlikely to catch any impromptu, passion-driven breakout of flamenco music and dance in a random dive bar, but there are several flamenco venues where highly professional performances take place on a nightly basis. Las Tablas offers relatively inexpensive, traditional shows, with a good mix of tourists and locals in attendance; entry price includes a free drink. Taberna Casa Patas – the House of Feet – is the place to catch big names in flamenco. It’s an intimate venue, popular with tour groups as well as locals; book tickets in advance. The flamenco style performed here is more contemporary than at Las Tablas, and there’s an on-site restaurant as well, for those wanting dinner before the show. The less pricey Las Carboneras also offers dinner before the show, as well as unlimited free drinks if you book in advance. There are numerous other venues, but they are less respected and professional than the above three, and the waiters there can be pushy.
    Reviews

  18. Day trip to Ávila

    Day trip to Avila from Madrid
    Beautiful historic town with impressive medieval wall. A popular day trip from Madrid, historic Ávila is the birthplace of St Teresa – the most important woman in the history of the Spanish Catholic Church – and is particularly famous for the beautifully preserved 12th century wall that encircles the town’s medieval heart. Built on top of earlier Roman and Moorish battlements, the wall can be climbed, with two sections accessible to the public: the 1300m stretch that runs along the north side of the old city, and a 300m stretch, accessed from inside the Puerta del Alcázar. Other attractions include the fortress-like Gothic cathedral on Plaza de la Catedral; it dates back to the 12th century and has a magnificent interior. Pilgrims make a beeline for the 17th century Convent of Santa Teresa, built on the spot where the saint was born; her ring finger, complete with ring, is displayed in the relics room. For the best view of Ávila’s walls, drive or take a taxi northwest of the city towards Salamanca, to the Los Cuatro Postes viewpoint. Try to linger in Ávila after dark, when the medieval, lamp-lit streets are particularly eerie.
    • Nearest transport: it takes around an hour and a half to drive to Ávila from Madrid, and about the same if you take one of the frequent trains from Madrid’s Chamartín train station.
    Reviews

  19. Visit the Templo de Debod

    Visiting the Templo de Debod in Madrid, Spain
    Egyptian temple, relocated to Madrid. Originally located south of Aswan in Egypt, this temple, dating back to the 2nd century B.C., was dedicated to Isis, one of the most important deities in ancient Egypt. Her cult spread across the Roman Empire, and Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius both contributed to this temple’s design. In 1968, it was donated to Spain by the Egyptian government to thank Franco for assisting in the preservation of several key UNESCO monuments that were threatened by the rising waters of the Nile. The temple – the only one of its kind in Spain – was painstakingly rebuilt, stone by stone, in Madrid’s Parque del Oeste. The park is particularly popular with locals around sunset, when the temple is beautifully reflected in the surrounding pool. Visitors can wander through the original temple rooms, including the small sanctuary of Amun, the god of the sun, and admire the carved reliefs.
    • Nearest transport: Plaza de España Metro
    Reviews

  20. See the view from the Circulo de Bellas Artes

    Circulo de Bellas Artes is Madrid's best viewpoint.
    One of the most popular viewpoints in Madrid, this 1920s skyscraper near the Plaza de España has a 7th floor roof terrace, crowned with an Art Deco statue of Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom and protectress of culture and the arts. You have to pay to take the elevator up to the terrace; once there, you can have drinks at the small rooftop café and get an excellent bird’s eye view of some of Madrid’s notable buildings. The Gran Vía, the golden-domed Metropolis building, the Guadarrama mountain range, the twin-towered Puerta de Europa, and the Plaza de Cibeles are all visible from here, with the greenery of Retiro Park peeking out from behind. Try to go on a weekday, when there are no queues.
    • Nearest transport: Sevilla or Banco de España Metro
    Reviews

  21. Day of fun at Casa de Campo Park

    Madrid Zoo, Madrid amuseument park, Casa de Campo Park
    Amusement park, zoo, and Madrid’s largest park. Casa de Campo, the so-called ‘lungs of Madrid’, stretches west of Río Manzanares. It’s crisscrossed with walking trails, dotted with lakeside restaurants, and is particularly popular with families due to numerous children’s attractions. The zoo is a big draw, with animals from all over the world – the stars here are the white Siberian tigers, Atlas lions, and pandas. The zoo also has a huge aviary, home to vultures, eagles, and condors. If you’re looking for something more adrenalin-packed, the nearby Parque de Atracciones is an amusement park with a good assortment of white-knuckle rides for older kids and adults, as well as gentle rides for small children. There are rollercoasters and a simulated bungee jump in the Zona de Máquinas, a Ferris wheel and other family-friendly rides in the Zona de Tranquilidad, and water rides in the Zona de la Naturaleza. The teleférico, a practically horizontal cable car, carries visitors above the river and is a fun way to get into the depths of the park from the Argüelles Metro station. There’s a good playground near the Casa de Campo Metro station.
    • Nearest transport: Casa de Campo or Batán Metro, or Argüelles Metro and teleférico
    Reviews

  22. Catch the views from the Almudena Cathedral

    Almudena Cathedral view of Royal Palace, Madrid
    Unremarkable cathedral but great views. Most European capitals are centered around a grand cathedral that harks back to the golden age of Christianity. Madrid is an exception; the Catedral de la Almudena was not completed until 1993, and while its cavernous, neo-Gothic interior lacks the old-world grandeur of landmark, medieval churches (think Seville, Salamanca, and Santiago de Compostela), some visitors find it refreshingly modern in a country where medieval churches are a dime a dozen. Interesting features include a contemporary, colorful ceiling, a splendid 15th century altarpiece and an enormous 5,000-pipe organ. In a chapel behind the altar you’ll find the 12th century coffin of Madrid’s patron saint, San Isidro. The coffin was exhumed 40 years after his death and the saint’s body was allegedly found to have been miraculously preserved. You won’t see him, though; his body now rests in the sepulcher of Madrid’s San Isidro church. The cathedral’s main highlight is the rooftop viewpoint from which you get an excellent view of the Royal Palace.
    • Nearest transport: Ópera Metro
    Reviews

  23. Visit the National Archaeological Museum

    Visiting the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid
    Excellent archaeological museum and crash course in Spanish history. Beautifully renovated, the neoclassical building showcases a well-curated collection of artifacts that tell the story of the Iberian peninsula, with a focus on each significant epoch. Start with the earliest human presence in Iberia in the Neolithic, Copper, and Bronze Ages on the ground floor and continue upstairs for a look at Celtic Iberia that preceded Roman conquest. The Roman Hispania covers seven centuries of Roman rule during which Spain produced several Roman emperors; don’t miss the remarkable mosaics. Late Antiquity deals with the collapse of the Roman Empire and the subsequent conquest of Spain by the Germanic Visigoths, while the Medieval World is an in-depth look at the 711 A.D. arrival of the Moors in Spain and their 800 years of cultural contribution before being expelled by Catholic monarchs in the 15th century. On the 2nd floor there are riches on display from the Spanish conquest of the New World, as well as non-Iberian exhibits that reconstruct the daily lives of Egypt’s ancient inhabitants who lived along the Nile. The ancient Greeks’ beliefs in death and the afterlife are explored in the Greece section, along with a choice collection of pottery. The museum organizes family activities and holds twice-monthly workshops in which kids aged 9 and older can learn about archaeology.
    • Nearest transport: Serrano or Colón Metro
    Reviews

  24. Smell the flowers in the Royal Botanic Garden

    Visiting the Royal Botanical Gardens in Madrid
    Just south of the Museo del Prado and east of Retiro Park, this sculpted green space is a great spot to relax after you’ve visited the nearby art galleries. It’s small, compared to El Retiro, but there are over 30,000 species of plants in this 8-hectare space, including exotic trees from around the world. King Carlos III moved the gardens to this location from their original spot on the banks of the Manzanares River, and his statue proudly stands in the center of the gardens. There are plenty of shaded benches scattered around and it’s a popular place for family visits, particularly on weekends. Head to the Villanueva Pavillion, on the east side of the gardens, to check out the frequently staged contemporary art exhibitions. Call ahead if you want to join a Spanish-language guided tour of the gardens.
    • Nearest transport: Atocha Metro
    Reviews

  25. Shop at the El Rastro flea market

    Shopping at El Rastro flea market in Madrid
    Every Sunday, between 9am and 3pm, Madrileños head to El Rastro – Europe’s biggest flea market – spreading over several blocks south of La Latina Metro stop. Wander the streets, lined with old furniture, antiques, miscellaneous bric-a-brac, bootleg CDs, and much more. Or head a few blocks north to Plaza Mayor, where you’ll find Europe’s biggest stamp and coin market, busy with collectors. If you’re a serious shopper, there are bargains to be had when the stalls are wrapping up and the vendors are more likely to give you a good deal. But even if you’re not shopping, you can still join the strolling locals, check out the street musicians, stop for cañas of beer along the way, and finish off your stroll with some tapas along Calle Cava Baja. El Rastro is notorious for pickpockets, so watch your belongings.
    • Nearest transport: La Latina Metro
    Reviews

  26. Visit the Hermitage of San Antonio de la Florida

    Goya's resting place in Madrid
    Goya’s final resting place. Northwest of the city centre, near the Casa de Campo, lies a small Neoclassical chapel that dates back to the 18th century. It may not look like much from the outside, but it happens to contain the tomb of Francisco de Goya, one of Spain’s greatest painters. The painter died in 1828 in Bordeux, France, where he lived in self-imposed exile, and his mortal remains were transferred to Madrid in 1919; apparently, when his skeleton was exhumed, it was missing the head. It’s particularly worth visiting Goya’s tomb if you’ve already been to the Prado to see his masterpieces in person. Inside the chapel, a mirrored floor reflects the beautiful cupola and Goya’s own proto-Impressionist frescoes. No photography allowed inside.
    • Nearest transport: Príncipe Pío Metro
    Reviews

  27. Catch a show at Teatro de la Zarzuela

    Seeing a zarzuela show in Madrid
    Spain’s unique form of satirical musical comedy. Is it theatre? Is it opera? Is it dance? All of the above and more, zarzuela is a uniquely Spanish pastime, invented in the 17th century as entertainment for King Felipe IV and his court. With their focus on everyday problems, zarzuela shows quickly became popular in Madrid and the capital is still the best place to catch a performance. From the early 20th century, zarzuela works have incorporated double entendres, scenes portraying sexual themes and social criticism. You have to be fluent in Spanish to get the gist of what’s going on; odds are, even then you won’t get the whole storyline, as zarzuelas are full of in-jokes and local references that only Madrileños truly get. Still, it’s an excellent glimpse into local culture, utterly untainted by tourism.
    • Nearest transport: Banco de España Metro
    Reviews

  28. Marvel at pre-Colombian treasures at the Museo de America

    Visiting the Museo de America in Madrid
    Museum dedicated to the conquest of the New World. Between the 15th and 19th centuries, the Spanish Empire shaped the world like no other. This excellent museum explores Spain’s imperial legacy, focusing largely on the exploration and conquest of Latin America, as well as the cultures, religion, language and art of the indigenous inhabitants of North and South Americas. The exhibits are spread across two floors and comprise a wealth of jewelry (the Colombian gold collection is remarkable), statuary, ceramics, weaponry, and ritual objects looted from Spain’s many South American colonies. One of the rarest objects on display is one of four surviving Mayan codices (ancient manuscripts). The museum is divided into five thematic areas, starting with El Conocimiento de América, which charts Columbus’ landfall in 1492 and the voyages of other explorers. The clash between Spanish and indigenous cultures is also explored, while La Realidad de América attempts to explain how the Latin America of today was shaped by Spanish conquest. Family workshops take place every other weekend and there are occasional activities just for kids.
    • Nearest transport: Moncloa Metro
    Reviews

  29. Visit the Museo Sorolla

    Joaquin Sorolla house museum in Madrid
    House museum dedicated to painter Joaquín Sorolla. It’s well worth making the trip to the northern reaches of Madrid to visit this mansion surrounded by lush landscaped gardens. The former home of this Valencian artist, renowned for his Mediterranean seascapes, is Madrid’s best house-museum and home to the most complete collection of the artist’s works. Downstairs, an Andalucian-style courtyard leads to a side room showcasing an assorted collection of Sorolla’s drawings. Head upstairs to see the three rooms that the painter used as his studios; the middle one displays the best of his Valencian seascapes, while the last room was his actual workshop. The furniture in the salon and dining area is original, and the artist decorated the place himself. Much of the house has been left exactly as it was during the artist’s lifetime, lending the museum a personal touch. Paintings spanning Sorolla’s entire career are spread across the four adjoining rooms on the top floor, arranged in chronological order.
    • Nearest transport: Iglesia Metro
    Reviews

  30. Take in an exhibition at the Caixa Forum

    Modern art exhibitions at Madrid's Caixa Forum
    One of Madrid’s most striking contemporary landmarks. This eye-catching 21st century structure across the street from the Prado is a brick edifice topped by a summit of rusted iron. Adjacent to it is a four-story hanging garden. This is an exhibition hall, with four floors of stainless steel and soaring ceilings. World-class contemporary art, photography and multimedia shows take place here on a changing basis three or four times per year. The gift shop is excellent and you can take an elevator to the top, where the on-site café serves fixed-price lunches.
    • Nearest transport: Atocha Metro
    Reviews

  31. Catch the views from the roof of the Palacio de Cibeles

    Views of Madrid from Palacio de Cibeles
    360-degree rooftop views. The 1919 Palacio de Cibeles is a grand building and an emblematic monument of the city, overlooking the busy Plaza de Cibeles. Formerly the post office headquarters, the space was revamped in 2007 and turned into a cultural center with an unwieldy name: the Cibeles CentroCentro de Cultura y Ciudadanía. There are various temporary exhibitions spread across its floors, but the big draw here is the 8th floor observation deck, Mirador Madrid, offering 360-degree views of the city. Entry to the Mirador Madrid is at set times (Tues-Sun); you can purchase tickets online. You enjoy similar views if you eat at the excellent Restaurante Palacio de Cibeles on the 6th floor.
    • Nearest transport: Casa de Campo Metro
    Reviews

  32. Go up the Faro de Moncloa

    Faro de Moncloa sightseeing in Madrid
    Highest viewpoint in Madrid. Worth the trip to the northwest corner of the city, just west of the hip student neighbourhood of Chamberí, the Faro de Moncloa is a 110-meter-tall former transmission tower that looms above Madrid. It was built in 1992, when Madrid was named the European Capital of Culture. Visitors can take one of two see-through panoramic lifts up the side of the tower to the 92-meter viewpoint at the top that looks like a flying saucer. From the huge glass windows you can see numerous Madrid landmarks: the Royal Palace, the Almudena Cathedral, the 1950s Victory Arch and even the peaks of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, way beyond the city limits. On a clear day, you can see for a hundred kilometers. The tower is closed on Mondays.
    • Nearest transport: Moncloa Metro
    Reviews

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Best Time To Visit Barcelona

Updated: October 23, 2017

See Also

Q. When is the best time to visit Barcelona?

  • Best Time for Sightseeing: The lines to enter the city’s most popular sights and attractions, like the Basilica de la Sagrada Família in central Barcelona, are at their longest in the summer and on Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter. As the weather is fairly comfortable year round, it’s best to avoid the summer months and any period around a major holiday. The first half of March, the month of May and mid-September through October, are arguably the best times of the year for sightseeing, with thinner crowds, shorter lines and warmer, but not too hot, weather. Visiting on a Tuesday or Wednesday can also help lessen the chance you’ll have to battle countless other tourists. Try to plan your sightseeing early in the day, starting with the most popular sight, for the best experience.
  • Best Time for Shopping: There are two periods each year that offer big sales, with the chance to find huge bargains that include discounts of as much as 70 percent off. The winter sales begin the week after the Festival of the Kings, or the second week of January, and typically run until the end of February, although there are no official sale dates. It kicks off with the first rebajas, or discounts, followed by bigger mark downs for the second rebajas, and finally remate, which marks the final clearance sales. The summer sales, which follows the same pattern, start during the first week of July and run through the end of August. In either period, the first rebajas is known for being quite frantic, particularly at El Corte Ingles (a major department store), which means you’ll need to be prepared to elbow your way through the crowds in order to get to the best bargains. If that doesn’t sound like something you want to endure, go either late in the first week or wait until the second week when you’ll still find a wide variety of items, but the crowds won’t be nearly as bad. Toward the end of the sales, there will be a noticeable reduction in what’s left.
  • Best Time for Beaches: Barcelona summers tend to be hot and humid, making it a perfect time for the beach, though not the best time to be wandering around the city. Of course, this also means practically everyone else is handing to the beaches too, so they can be very crowded – and, while the water is clear and the sand is clean in the morning, by the end of the day, both can get a bit littered. As the water temperature is most comfortable from swimming from around the end of May through mid- to late-September, your best bet for fewer crowds and optimal conditions can usually be found by going early or late in the season, in May or September.
  • Best Time for Festivals: If you’re hoping to attend one of the city’s big festivals, you’ll need to arrive sometime between late spring and early autumn, with the majority of Barcelona’s larger festivals taking place then, including the world’s biggest indie and alternative music festival, Primavera Sound, held in late May or early June. The nine-day Festa Mayor de Gracia is hosted in August, while the grandest fiesta of the year is the four-day Festes de la Merce in September, which honors the city’s patron with a run, harbor swimming race and all sorts of concerts, parades, Catalan dances and feasts. Of course, when major festivals are held, expect the crowds to be thick, though many feel that just makes it even more fun and exciting.
  • Best Time for an FC Barcelona Game: Barcelona hosts one of the best football teams in the world, FC Barcelona, and many feel a trip to the city wouldn’t be complete without visiting the team’s famous stadium. While tours are available, the best way to experience it is by catching a game. The schedule is set every year around mid-July, and matches usually start in late August and end in late May, with a winter break around the Christmas and New Year holidays. The best time to go, for those who also want to enjoy pleasant sightseeing and the beaches, is arguably in September or May, though you’ll have a good time during any month in between as well. Most matches are played around the weekends, so plan accordingly.

Barcelona Travel Seasons

  • High Season (May through August): High season in Barcelona brings the hottest weather, the biggest crowds and the highest accommodation rates. July, and especially August, tend to be sweltering, and tourists spill out of every hotel, restaurant and attraction, with long lines just about everywhere. The advantages of traveling during this period are wonderfully long days, with the sun sticking around until around 9:30pm, and all of the attractions are sure to be open with the tourists out in full force. This is also the perfect time to head to Barcelona’s beautiful beaches and you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy major festivals like Musica als Parcs, which features free concerts between June and August in various open-air venues throughout the city.
  • Shoulder Season (mid-March through April and mid-September through October): The shoulder season can bring the best of both worlds, with a number of festivals held in the spring as well as the late summer/early autumn months, and crowds tend to be a bit thinner during this time as well, while the weather is often idyllic. Prices haven’t yet hit their peak in early spring, and they begin to drop again in September when kids are back in school and the crowds abate.
  • Low Season (November through mid-March): During the low season, prices not only drop exponentially, especially for accommodation, but it’s a great time to enjoy Barcelona without having to wait in long lines or fight for personal space. The chillier temperatures and frequent drizzle means you won’t be spending much, if any, time on the beach, but you will find a more romantic atmosphere with the opportunity to share an umbrella and cozy up to the one you love. It’s also the perfect excuse for taking things at a slower pace, occasionally stopping into a charming café for café con leche or churros with hot chocolate, rather than rushing from sight to sight.

Barcelona Weather by Month

  • Barcelona Weather in January: January is Barcelona’s coldest month, but if you live in a place that tends to get a lot of snow and frigid temperatures, it’s likely to feel rather mild. While temperatures can dip as low as 5°C, it rarely gets below freezing and there’s a good chance you’ll experience some relatively warm weather as the temperature this time of year can still exceed 16°C. The rainfall is also relatively low, with just 40mm falling over eight days, and when it does arrive it’s often light or in the form of drizzle. If you’re afraid you’ll miss the sun, consider that it still shines 50% of the time this month. Bring a winter coat and portable umbrella along with a light jacket or sweater for warmer days and you’ll be well-prepared no matter what the weather brings. While days are shorter than during the summer months, the sun is up for approximately 10 hours each day this month, setting around 5:30pm on New Year’s Day, and a little after 6pm by January 31, providing plenty of time to enjoy outdoor attractions. (Average Max Temperature: 14°C. Average Precipitation: 40mm.)
  • Barcelona Weather in February: The weather in February varies greatly, from beautiful, sunny days to overcast and rainfall. Some mornings start out with sunshine, with rain arriving in the afternoon. With such variance, planning to dress in layers and bring a variety of clothing for cold weather as well as relatively comfortable sunny days. The average high temperature this month remains 14°C, though it can get warmer than that in the afternoon. Lows increase a degree too, to 6°C, while the rainfall lessens a bit to 41mm that comes down over five days in the form of mostly light rain, drizzle or thunderstorms. (Average Max Temperature: 14°C. Average Precipitation: 41mm.)
  • Barcelona Weather in March: While March is the coolest of the spring months, the average high creeps up to 16°C and overnight lows generally don’t dip below 8°C, making it a pleasant time to be in Barcelona. The days are longer too, with the sun sticking around until 7pm by mid-month, and after 8pm by the end of March as clocks move forward an hour. There isn’t much in the way of rainfall either, with just 33mm falling over four days, and you’ll enjoy more sunny and clear days as compared to the two previous months. You’re unlikely to need an umbrella, but it’s a good idea to bring a warm coat in case it gets chilly. (Average Max Temperature: 16°C. Average Precipitation: 33mm.)
  • Barcelona Weather in April: April is unofficially the start of summer, with high temperatures gradually rising throughout the month. While the average high is 18°C, temperatures occasionally exceed 21°C in the afternoon this month. Rainfall is an average of 37mm in April, commonly arriving in the form of drizzle, light rain or a short-lived thunderstorm. Visitors often start to enjoy the beaches this month, though with sea temperatures at an average of 14°C., it’s usually a bit too cold for a swim. You will likely need some summer gear like shorts, t-shirts, tank tops and sandals for warm afternoons, but you’ll probably also want some long pants and perhaps a sweater or two for cooler evenings. (Average Max Temperature: 18°C. Average Precipitation: 37mm.)
  • Barcelona Weather in May: May is a beautiful time to be in Barcelona, with average temperatures around 20°C, though highs reach 22°C, and occasionally even 25°C. The days are lengthening too, with sunset at just before 9pm early in the month, and by May 31, the sun stays up until 9:18pm. Precipitation increases a bit in May, with 54mm of rainfall over nine days, though it’s most likely to occur earlier in the month, and when it falls it’s in the form of light or moderate rain, drizzle or thunderstorms. If you visit this month, you may need the full gamut of clothing, other than a winter coat. Bring a light jacket and long pants to wear in the evening, along with shorts or dresses, sandals and a bathing suit to enjoy the mostly warm weather during the day. An umbrella is probably a good idea too, just in case. (Average Max Temperature: 22°C. Average Precipitation: 54mm.)
  • Barcelona Weather in June: In June, the warm weather has officially arrived, though the month isn’t as hot as it will be in July, and especially August. The average high temperature rises significantly from May, four degrees to 26°C, and occasionally it gets as hot as 28°C. Rain is minimal, if existent at all, and most likely early in the month. If you plan to visit in June, bring lightweight, summery clothing and beachwear, along with sun protection like a wide-brimmed hat and high SPF sunscreen. With overnight lows of 18°C, the evenings are pleasant, but if you chill easily you may want to bring a sweater and long pants. This month also brings the longest day of the year, with the sun setting at 9:30pm on June 30. (Average Max Temperature: 26°C. Average Precipitation: 11mm.)
  • Barcelona Weather in July: If you’re seeking sunshine and heat, July is a good time to come to Barcelona, bringing perfect weather for sunbathing and activities in the water, with sea temperatures at an average of 23°C. Sometimes the afternoons can exceed sizzling temperatures of 30°C, though the average high is 28°C. Rainfall is quite low, with just 25mm falling over two days in July, which means you may need to find relief from the intense sunshine in the shade, in addition to slathering on the sunscreen as the intense rays of the sun can be quite strong and cause a sunburn if you aren’t adequately protected. Plan to bring your light, summer clothing, including beachwear and look forward to spending time in the water, which is an average of 24°C this month. (Average Max Temperature: 28°C. Average Precipitation: 25mm.)
  • Barcelona Weather in August: August is Barcelona’s hottest month, with the average high rising to 29°C. Combined with high humidity, that temperature often feels much hotter than it is, and you’ll see many locals using fans to try and keep cool, while the beaches, parks and pools are packed with both locals and tourists alike. With the sun rising just before 7am and setting just after 9pm early in the month, you’ll have 14 hours of full sun, which means sunscreen is again an absolute must. As the month progresses, the days gradually become shorter, with the sun going down about 8:30pm on August 31. No matter when you arrive, plan to leave your umbrella behind as just 64mm of rain falls, and when it does, it brings a bit of cooling relief. Instead, as you would for July, pack lots of light summer wear, including a bathing suit. (Average Max Temperature: 29°C. Average Precipitation: 64mm.)
  • Barcelona Weather in September: The cool down begins in September, making it a lot more pleasant to enjoy everything Barcelona has to offer. The average high temperature decreases three degrees to 26°C, with the warmest weather coming during the first half of the month. The weather can be a bit unpredictable now, with gorgeous beach weather one weekend and clouds or rain the next. Most of the time, you’ll be able to wear your typical summer gear, though you made need a couple of layers for when it cools off in the evening. Thunderstorms are more common in September, and the average amount of precipitation increases to about 75mm, falling over nine days, which means that bringing your portable umbrella is once again a good idea. (Average Max Temperature: 26°C. Average Precipitation: 75mm.)
  • Barcelona Weather in October: Fall is now in full swing, and October is an especially good time to visit Barcelona for those who like the sunshine but don’t want to experience summer’s intense heat or thick crowds. The days are typically still sunny and warm, though temperatures dip down to an average of around 21°C and rainfall increases slightly to 81mm falling over six days this month. As you’ll have a fair chance for rain and clouds, along with plenty of sunny days, you’ll need to bring sunscreen and short-sleeved shirts as well as a light coat and umbrella. The days get significantly shorter as the month progresses; while the sun goes down around 7:30pm on October 1, it sets just before 6pm by month’s end, due to the clocks changing backward an hour. (Average Max Temperature: 23°C. Average Precipitation: 81mm.)
  • Barcelona Weather in November: The city not only quiets down significantly in November, there is a noticeable chill in the air, with average low temperatures dropping to 8°C, and average highs decreasing from around 19°C to 15°C from the start to the end of the month. You’ll no longer need your beachwear, though you will need a good balance of lighter clothes for during the day along with evening layers. The amount of rainfall decreases slightly to 34mm coming down over four days, with your odds of experiencing wet weather highest earlier in the month. If you plan to come in early November, you may want to bring a raincoat along too. (Average Max Temperature: 18°C. Average Precipitation: 34mm.)
  • Barcelona Weather in December: December tends to bring sunny but chilly days, with average temperatures of 11°C, though it may get as warm as 14°C on some afternoons. Although people from northern countries with a cold winter climate may regard Barcelona’s winter temperatures as quite mild, the sea air can add to the chill factor, which means a warm coat and a few sweaters are essential, though you may want a light jacket and short-sleeved shirts for those warmer, sunny days. With average precipitation at 35mm, you’re unlikely to need an umbrella, but you might bring one just in case. (Average Max Temperature: 14°C. Average Precipitation: 35mm.)

Barcelona Special Events and Festivals

Barcelona in January

  • New Year’s Day – New Year’s Day is a national holiday, and most residents throughout the country will enjoy a day of rest and relaxation. While the majority of the shops and sights will be closed, and many of the bars and restaurants, you won’t have a difficult time finding a place that’s open to enjoy a bite to eat or a refreshing drink.
  • Three King’s Day – On January 5, parades are held throughout Spain for Three King’s Day, or Dia de los Reyes Magos, including in Barcelona. That evening, three “kings” arrive by boat. After a few words of welcome, they parade through the city streets on regal floats, throwing gifts and candy to the children.
  • Festa dels Tres Tombs – This traditional Catalan festival that takes place in mid- to late January, honors St. Anthony, the Patron Saint of animals, the poor and the sick. The name of the parade, “tres tombs,” is Catalan and translates to “three turns” in English. In Barcelona, the parade is in the Sant Antoni area, and you’ll see many people bring pets to the procession to be blessed.

Barcelona in February

  • Carnival – Carnival in Barcelona, like it is everywhere else in the world, marks the start of Lent, 40 days before Easter, which in Spain is known as Semana Santa. This is a relatively low-key event in Barcelona, though you may see groups of children or stall owners in local markets dressing up for the occasion and sometimes participating in “best costume” contests. There are parades throughout the city, with each neighborhood hosting its own special events.
  • Festival of Santa Eulalia – This annual children’s festival usually takes place over four days around February 12, which is Santa Eulalia’s Day. It’s the city’s biggest festival for kids and features parades, human castles, puppets, family workshops, concerts and more.
  • Valentine’s Day – Catalans celebrate their romantic day of love on April 23, known as Sant Jordi; however, as an increasing number of restaurants and other businesses are realizing the commercial possibilities for February 14, if you’re looking for a romantic place to dine, you’ll have no problem finding an eatery serving up special offerings for Valentines.

Barcelona in March

  • Festival de Sant Medir de Gracia – This annual festival in the Vila de Gracia area of the Gracia district takes place during the first week of March. A long and colorful procession of pack animals and riders on magnificent horses meet at the square, Plaza Ruis i Taulet, before riding to a picnic on the Arrabassada to the hermitage of Saint Sant Medir. When the procession returns, riders throw sweets into the crowd. The event is capped off with an evening of fireworks.
  • Barcelona Marathon – This well-organized race held annually in mid-March attracts nearly 20,000 runners from across the globe; athletes follow a route that runs past many of Barcelona’s most impressive sights.

Barcelona in April

  • Holy Week (Semana Santa) – Holy Week is celebrated throughout Spain (and many other countries) from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, which typically falls in early to mid-April, April 9 – April 15 in 2017. In this region of the country, there are some unique Easter traditions which include the “Mona,” a whimsical chocolate and pastry treat that’s given in the same way Easter eggs are given out elsewhere. On Palm Sunday, palm leaves are blessed in the Basilica Sagrada Familia, and in the famous Gothic Cathedral of Barcelona, the celebration includes a hollowed-out egg shell known as l’ou com balla, which is placed on top of a fountain to bob around and “dance.” During the Easter procession, you’ll see hundreds of people carrying statues of Maria and Jesus under the accompanied drum rolls and trumpet statues through Barcelona’s old town.
  • Festival of St. Jordi – This day is akin to Catalonia’s version of Valentine’s Day. Saint George, or St. Jordi in Catalan, is the patron saint of Catalonia. A day of roses and books, men give a single red rose to the significant women in their lives – but not just their girlfriends and wives, it includes mothers and sisters too. In return, women give the men books. On this very colorful day in Catalonia, there are thousands of rose-sellers in the streets and bookshops set up in open-air stalls along major thoroughfares.
  • Feast of Virgin of Montserrat – On April 27 each year, hundreds of people take a trip into the nearby mountains to the Santa Maria abbey in order to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Montserrat. One of the only black images of the Virgin Mary in Europe, the Virgin of Montserrat is the patron saint of all dioceses in Catalonia and along with Sant Jordi is considered the patron saint of the territory. The abbey, located about a 30-minute drive from the city, celebrates with a mass inside and numerous traditional activities in the main square, including live music, groups dancing the traditional Catalan dance, food stalls and more.

Barcelona in May

  • Formula 1 – The Cucuit de Catalunya, located about 20 kilometers north of Barcelona near Montmelo, hosts the Barcelona Formula 1 race, which takes place over three days every year in mid-May, May 13-15 in 2016. This is a great opportunity to see some of the best Formula 1 drivers in the world compete in one of the most important races.
  • Corpus Christi – This day honoring the Holy Eucharist falls in late May or June, on May 26 in 2016. During this festival, solemn processions can be seen through the city, and the streets of Sitges are blanketed with flowers.
  • Sant Ponc – As part of the celebrations honoring the patron saint of beekeepers and herbal specialists, on May 11, an herb fair in Carrer de l’Hospital, features stands with fresh herbs and spices, flowers, honey, fruits, wines, aromatic oils, cakes and other sweets.

Barcelona in June

  • Primavera Sound – Held during the first week of June, from June 1-5 in 2016, Primavera Sound is the world’s biggest indie and alternative music festival. Events take place mainly in Barcelona’s Parc del Form, and are complemented by a large number of concerts at various venues in the Raval neighborhood.
  • Sonar Festival – This three-day electronic and advanced music festival held annually in mid-June (June 16-18, 2016), is the biggest of its kind in Europe.
  • El Grec Barcelona – El Grec, or The Greek, is one of the city’s most anticipated festivals of the year. It encompasses music, dance, theatre, flamenco, film and even the circus. The series begins in June, reaches its peak in July and goes on into August.
  • Nit de Sant Joan – Sant Joan is celebrated on June 23, and is one of the city’s biggest and noisiest parties. It features fiery activities, including fireworks that are set off from balconies, in the streets and in the squares, while bonfires are lit along the beachfront. Lots of cava, Barcelona’s favorite drink, is consumed, and many people take their first dip of the year into the sea at dawn.
  • Pride Barcelona – This annual week-long gay pride event in late June features concerts, drag shows, film screenings, art shows and open-air dance parties complete with foam, culminating with a festival parade along Carrer de Sepulveda.

Barcelona in July

  • Rock Fest Barcelona – Rock Fest Barcelona is a heavy metal rock festival that just came onto the scene in 2014, but it’s quickly becoming one of the world’s biggest and best of its kind. Held over three days in mid-July, July 15-17 in 2016, it features nearly 40 bands, with 2016’s lineup showcasing bands like Iron Maiden, Slayer, Anthrax, Michael Schenker and Twisted Sister.
  • Sala Montjuic – Held at Barcelona’s Castell de Montjuic, with the grassy moat of the castle transformed into an outdoor cinema, this outdoor film festival kicks off on July 1 and features a blend of recent independent films along with classics that are shown three times a week through August 5.
  • Festa Major del Raval – The Raval area hosts this annual summer festa in mid- to late July, which features more than 40 events, including concerts, dances, traditional Catalan parades and more.
  • Festival Cruilla Barcelona – This mid-July festival, which will take place over July 8-10 in 2016, is an eclectic festival that includes everything from electronica acts and Jamaican music to rock and pop, African and R&B. 2016’s event will include artists like Robert Plant, Alabama Shakes, Cat Power, Damien Rice and Love of Lesbian.

Barcelona in August

  • Festa Major de Gracia – This week-long festival held in the neighborhood of Gracia in early to mid-August, features outdoor concerts, dances and a host of other festivities. Elaborate decorations based on various themes like the solar system, marine life or local politics can be seen hanging throughout the streets.
  • Circuit Festival – Held in Barcelona over two weeks in the first half of August, this is the largest international gay and lesbian event in the world. It features non-stop parties, music, workshops, film festivals, literary readings, sporting events like beach volleyball and football tournaments, debates and more.
  • Festa de Sant Roc – Barcelona’s oldest festival, Festa de Sant Roc, has been celebrated every year since 1589. Centering around the Placa Nova in front of the cathedral in mid-August, it features plenty of Catalan traditions like parades with fat heads and giants, 19th-century street games, sea shanty singing groups, dancing, fireworks and more. It also hosts two must-see contests, one of which involves people walking over a greasy pole known as the “la cucanya,” and the other, “glops amb el porro llarg,” includes competitors drinking wine from a gigantic version of a wine carafe.

Barcelona in September

  • La Diada de Catalunya (National Day of Catalonia) – Celebrating the region’s autonomy on September 11 each year, this is Catalonia’s most historically and politically significant holiday. The day-long festival marks the day Barcelona was besieged by Spanish and French troops in 1714 during the War of Succession. Organized demonstrations typically meet at the Fossar de les Moreres where they pay homage to the defenders of the city who died during the siege. A number of cultural events are held in most Catalan villages, and many of the locals wave or display the Senyera, which is the flag of Catalonia.
  • Barcelona BAM Music Festival – BAM, which means “Musical Action Barcelona,” promotes some of the best independent artists from folk, rock and pop to indie and electronic. It’s held in late September at various venues throughout the city.
  • Festes de la Merce – Honoring Our Lady of Merce (La Merc), Barcelona’s patron saint, this four-day celebration held around September 24 features free music concerts from contemporary to traditional, that are held in the plazas, including Placa Sant Jaume and Placa de Catalunya, as well as a run, harbor swimming race, parades and Catalan dances.

Barcelona in October

  • Voll-Damm Barcelona International Jazz Festival – This long-running festival kicks off in early October and runs through most of December, featuring everything from local and national artists to world-famous musicians.
  • Dia de la Hispanitat – This national day that commemorates Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of the New World has become controversial in Catalonia, which means the only events that generally take place are demonstrations, or occasionally a low-key celebration organized by people who come from other regions of the country.
  • Barcelona International Boat Show – Billed as a not-to-be-missed event for sea lovers, this boat show features 670 boats that are on display along with 150 yachts and super-yachts that are on the water. Activities include surfing, windsurfing, paddle surfing, kayaking and dinghy sailing in the “beach fun zone,” a wave pool, radio-controlled sailing, a “nautical night” with music and tasting sessions, and much more.
  • Halloween – Although Halloween is not a Catalan or Spanish tradition, the day has become embraced in Barcelona and throughout the country much as it has in many other parts of the world with fancy dress parties and costume contests. Kids also go trick-or-treating, but it’s called “Truco o Trato” here.

Barcelona in November

  • All Saints’ Day – This public holiday on November 1, called “Tots Sants” in Catalan, is celebrated by friends and relatives laying flowers on the graves of their loved ones who’ve died. Here, you can also enjoy the Catalan tradition of La Castanyada, which means chestnut time. It includes eating roasted chestnuts, sweet potatoes, cakes called panellets and drinking muscatel wine. Stalls are set up selling these items throughout Barcelona streets.
  • Eurocon – This annual science fiction convention is held in early November, November 4-6 in 2016 in the heart of Barcelona at the Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona.

Barcelona in December

  • Christmas Market – In mid-December, a huge open-air market known as Fira de Santa Lucia opens in the streets around the main cathedral. It features all sorts of Christmas decorations and handmade crafts, trees, and figurines for nativity dioramas called pessebres. The market runs through January 6.
  • Placa de Catalunya Christmas Festival – Starting about a week before Christmas and running for two weeks, the central square in Barcelona hosts a Christmas festival that features a light and sound show as well as a variety of activities and workshops for all ages.
  • Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – In Spain, Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25 with gift-giving and a Christmas lunch. Everyone is welcome to attend the midnight mass on Christmas Eve, held at the Santa Maria del Mar church. Just before midnight, you’ll hear a Gregorian chant, “El cant de la Sibil·la,” performed in the Catalan language.
  • New Year’s Eve – December 31st brings parties that are held throughout the city, with the main event taking place at Montjuic’s Magic Fountain. The party is free and starts at 11pm with a spectacular music, light and water show. At midnight, 12 bells chime and then the fireworks show begins, finishing up about half-past midnight.

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The 27 Best Books About Paris

Updated: October 21, 2017

Books Set In and About Paris
A few of my favorite Paris books that I pulled off my bookshelves.

Best Books about Life in Paris

  1. My Life in France

    by Julia Child
    Magical memoir of Julia Child’s years in France. My favorite book about life in France as a foreigner.

  2. Paris to the Moon

    by Adam Gopnik
    Gopnik spent 5 years in Paris as a writer for the New Yorker. An inside look at life in France with his wife and young child.

  3. A Moveable Feast

    by Ernest Hemingway
    Paris in the 1920s through Hemingway’s eyes. A classic.

  4. The Flaneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris

    by Edmund White
    A walk through the streets of Paris in search of beauty, culture, and knowledge.

  5. Me Talk Pretty One Day

    by David Sedaris
    A humorous take on life in modern Paris.

  6. I’ll Always Have Paris

    by Art Buchwald
    Buchwald’s love letter to Paris based on his time there as a writer for the New York Herald Tribune.

  7. The Piano Shop on the Left Bank

    by Thad Carhart
    A wonderful little book about Paris, pianos, and a few very special people.

Best Books about Paris History and Culture

  1. The Discovery of France

    by Robb Graham
    A fun and informative read on the origins of France. My favorite history of the country.

  2. Rimbaud: A Biography

    by Robb Graham
    The focus is the writer, not the city – but this book is so great it’s a must-read for Paris fans.

  3. Seven Ages of Paris

    by Alistair Horne
    The most readable, exciting, and informative history of Paris.

  4. The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris

    by David McCullough
    The story of the artists, writers, doctors, and adventurers that settled in Paris between 1830 and 1900. An exhilarating read.

  5. How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City

    by Joan DeJean
    A history of Paris development from chaotic alleyways to grand boulevards.

  6. Paris: The Novel

    by Edward Rutherfurd
    800 pages of easily digestible Paris history.

Best Books about Paris Food

  1. The Sweet Life in Paris

    by David Lebovitz
    The story of an American chef in Paris, the ins and outs of French food, and over 50 recipes.

  2. Paris for Foodies: Your Ultimate Guide to Eating in Paris

    by Frederic Bibard
    The single best guide to restaurants and eating in Paris.

  3. Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris

    by A. J. Liebling
    The writer for the New Yorker recounts his eating adventures in Paris.

Best Paris Fiction

  1. The Paris Wife

    by Paula McLain
    1920’s Paris through the eyes of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson. Historical fiction of the highest order.

  2. Le Divorce

    by Diane Johnson
    A light-hearted but enjoyable novel about two sisters re-acquainting in Paris.

  3. The Elegance of the Hedgehog

    by Muriel Barbery
    The highly-acclaimed story of a Paris apartment building and its denizens.

Best Childrens Books about Paris

  1. Madeline

    by Ludwig Bemelmans
    Brilliant. My favorite kids book ever.

  2. 13 Paintings Children Should Know

    by Angela Wenzel
    A good introduction to art and artists.

  3. Katie Meets The Impressionists

    by James Mayhew
    A great series on the master artists. Fun and informative.

  4. Adèle & Simon

    by Barbara McClintock
    A young brother and sister’s adventures through the streets and squares of Paris. Gorgeous pen-and-ink drawings.

  5. The Invention of Hugo Cabret

    by Brian Selznick
    Stunning graphic novel (500 pages) about an orphan who lives in a Paris train station and has a mystery to solve. In 2011 it was made into the equally wonderful movie, Hugo.

  6. Madame Pamplemousse and Her Incredible Edibles

    by Rupert Kingfisher
    “In the city of Paris, on the banks of the river, tucked away from the main street down a narrow, winding alley, there is a shop.” – and from there the magic untwirls.

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Where To Stay in Paris

Updated: October 21, 2017

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Where Should I Stay in Paris?

Rue Cler is a great place to stay in Paris for first timers, families, and honeymooners.
The charming, central, and village-like setting of Rue Cler in the 7th arrondisement. Great for first timers and families.

Paris is one of the easiest cities to get around, even for first timers. Visitors love the fact that most of the city is walkable or easily connected by a comprehensive and reliable metro system. Taxis are readily available and there is even a vast network of public bikes you can use.

Paris is divided broadly as the Right Bank and Left Bank (north of the River Seine and south of the river, respectively) and further subdivided into 20 districts or arrondisements. Districts are given numbers and, starting from just north of the Seine, swirl out clockwise. This means that the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th arrondisements are the most central with the higher numbers being further out and typically more residential. When navigating, most people will refer to the arrondisement and/or more specifically the closest metro stop. Street names are almost irrelevant as the majority of them are only a few blocks long or, most confusingly, will change names once you cross into another district.

Most activity and tourist sights are in the center, which are highly safe and walkable neighborhoods that include the most notable restaurants, shopping, and landmarks. Probably the most popular neighborhoods are the Marais on the right bank (in the 4th) and Saint-Germain on the left bank (in the 6th). Generally speaking most people associate the Left Bank with classic architecture and Hemingway haunts while the Right Bank tends to be hip and trendy.

Paris areas not reachable by foot can easily be accessed by metro. Each metro ride requires one ticket (regardless of distance) that costs €1.80 and you can purchase them from machines found in every station. The machines take either cash or a chipped credit card, have an English language function and give you the option to buy a book of 10 tickets for €14.10 (called a carnet) which gives you a small discount and useful if you plan on taking the metro often. The metro trains are extremely reliable and every station even has a real time display telling you how many minutes until the next one arrives. The 16 Paris metro lines cover all parts of the city and is usually the fastest way to get around to avoid traffic.

The Best Places to Stay in Paris

  • Most Romantic Neighborhood: Montmartre
    Up in the hills of Montmartre, you’ll feel like you’re in another world. This neighborhood offers breathtaking views while retaining a quaint, village like charm. Wander around cobble stone streets or climb up its many picturesque hills and staircases in an area far from the tourist throng. Stroll past ivy-covered townhouses or the vines of Paris’ only winery. Have a picnic on the steps of the Sacre Couer and you’re in for one of the most magical views in Paris.
  • Best Neighborhood for Food and Restaurants: 11th Arrondisement
    The best neighborhood for foodies is the 11th. Located just outside the central arrondisements and with cheaper rents, many of the city’s up and coming chefs have set up shop in this area. Generally catering to a local crowd, prices are relatively more affordable in the 11th where the focus is on relaxed eateries with excellent food vs. stuffy haute cuisine. You’ll find everything here from newly minted Michelin star establishments to the most trend setting chefs to hip natural wine bars.
  • Best Neighborhood for Nightlife: Marais
    Paris has lots of options for nightlife, it’s just a matter of what you’re in the mood for. For great bar-hopping, head over to the Marais. Here you’ll find a diverse mix of everything from secret speakeasies to chic cocktail lounges filled with trendy Parisians. For something a little more lively, the area around Pigalle offers cabarets shows like the Moulin Rouge, concert halls with bands every night and neighborhood dive bars that bring in a roster of DJs. If you’re willing to trek out to the 13th you’ll have the most unique array of options. From the massive complex that houses Nuba and Wanderlust to the small docked boats that have been transformed into intimate concert and dance spaces, you’ll find only locals frequenting these riverside hangouts.
  • Best Neighborhood for Sightseeing: 1st Arrondisement
    For people who plan to do a lot of sightseeing, stay in the 1st. Many of Paris’s most famous landmarks are in this distric and you’ll be well positioned to see many others. In the 1st arrondisement alone you can visit the Louvre, the beautiful stained glasswork of Sainte-Chapelle, stroll through the Tuileries Garden, or a glass of wine at one of the quaint cafes lining the garden of the Palais Royale. The Place Vendome, the beautiful plaza where Coco Chanel used to live, is also home to the newly renovated Ritz Carlton where you can have a drink at the Hemmingway Bar. You’re also within easy walking distance of Notre Dame Cathedral, the Centre Pompidou, Champs Elysees, and just across the river from the Musee D’Orsay and Saint Germain. You will have to take the metro to the Eiffel Tower, but the 1st is well connected by metro and the station Chatelet is one of the biggest hubs, serving 5 different metro lines and the train that goes out to Disneyland.
  • Best Neighborhood for a Local Vibe: 11th Arrondisement
    The 11th arrondisement captures the spirit of how most Parisians really live. Away from the more glamorous neighborhoods like Saint Germain and the Marais, you’ll find informal bistros, fashionable cafes, hip boutiques and galleries, and lots of local nightlife. The 11th is a blend of younger Parisians near Oberkampf, artists in Belleville, families on the eastern outskirts, as well as an amalgam of the Vietnamese, North African, and Middle Eastern diaspora that calls Paris home.
  • Best Neighborhood to Stay for First Timer: 7th Arrondisement
    The 7th arrondisement is the perfect place to stay for first time visitors. Home to the Eiffel Tower, notable museums like the Musée d’Orsay, world class restaurants, some of the most beautiful architecture in the city and the charming market street Rue Cler, you’ll experience what most people think of when they envision Paris. You’ll also have the benefit of being away from some of the hustle and bustle in neighboring Saint Germain while being close enough to take advantage of its wine bars and jazz clubs.
  • Best for Families: Saint Germain
    Most districts in Paris are great for families but a few stand out. Depending on the age of your children, Saint Germain near the Luxembourg Gardens, the Marais near Places des Vosges, and the 1st near the Tuilleries are all highly central with great playgrounds. All are walkable with access to shops, sites, and restaurants. The 5th, though not as connected by metro but still very central might be another district to consider. You’ll still have access to all the amenities, plus a quieter, village like feel. Family friendly highlights include the Natural History Museum and the botanical garden known as Jardin des Plantes. If your kids are a little older, then you’ll definitely want to stay in the Marais. With all the trendy boutiques, galleries, and cafés, it’s great for young adults but still offers lots of cultural activities like the Centre Pompidou.
  • Best Neighborhood for Shopping: Marais
    There is something for everyone in the Marais. From chic boutiques filled with local Parisian designers, French chains like APC, international brands like American Apparel, or more upscale shopping, the Marais caters to both men and women at almost every price point. While most tourists head to the Galeries Lafayette, stylish Parisians prefer to shop at BHV (short for Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville). You can find nearly everything under one roof – from tools in their hardware department to the latest Marc Jacobs to an outpost of the Alain Ducasse cooking school. Tourists also get an immediate 10% off when you show a foreign passport.
  • Unsafe Areas of Paris
    Paris is quite safe and generally speaking the majority of crime that happens is of the pickpocketing variety. There are a few areas that might appear unsafe, especially late at night, and are worth mentioning if you’re not familiar with the city. Certain neighborhoods like Goutte D’or or the areas around the metro stops Barbes Rouchechouart and Chateau Rouge can be unwelcoming at night. Same for the area around Gare du Nord train station – though bustling during the day it can attract an unsavory element after hours. In recent years, there are a few areas of Paris that have become makeshift refugee camps. Though not unsafe, it may appear so and give some people pause. Several sites have sprung up around the city, but a few larger encampments are around the metro Stalingrad, a section near the Colonel Fabian metro station and the Halle Pujol market area in the 18th.

The Best Neighborhoods in Paris for Tourists

Saint Germain

Saint Germain retains the timeless charm of the Left Bank while buzzing with a lively array of galleries, restaurants and jazz clubs. From the upscale shops that dot the bustling Boulevard Saint Germain to the aristocratic calm of the Jardin du Luxembourg, this quartier is popular with locals and tourists alike. This neighborhood typically attracts a well-heeled crowd who come seeking only the biggest names in food and fashion. Though at times the area may feel overrun with tourists, the biggest advantage is that you’ll find many shops and restaurants open while other areas of the city lay quiet.

Marais

One of the trendiest neighborhoods in Paris, the Marais is defined by the hip Parisians who come to eat, drink, and shop in this uber cool quartier. Though the tone of the neighborhood slants towards a younger set, the Marais’s diversity offers something for everyone – from its famed Jewish quarter to the historic Place des Vosges – for visitors who’ve checked off their sightseeing list, the Marais is the perfect place to understand Paris outside of the guidebooks.

Latin Quarter

The Latin Quarter is great for those who want a central location with classic Parisian charm while seeking something a little quieter. Find somewhere away from the student hangouts for which the area is typically associated with and you’ll find yourself strolling down cobblestone streets, through leafy squares, and taking in some of the most diverse architecture in the city which includes Roman ruins, gothic spires and the innovative Institut du Monde Arabe. Great restaurants and wine bars abound in this part of the city as well as the lively market street Rue Mouffetard.

The 7th

The 7th has everything you think of when you think of Paris – the Eifel Tower, the Seine, excellent museums, breathtaking architecture, charming markets, high-end shopping, and world class restaurants. Its diversity and versatility make it a popular choice for everyone, whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a family vacation. Visit the family friendly Berges de Seines and you’ll have a riverfront play area that stretches from the Musee D’Orsay to the Pont D’Alma. Or at night, take a romantic stroll near the Pont Alexander III bridge, one of the most beautiful Beaux-Arts bridges in Paris where you’ll also have a view of the Grand Palais just on the other side of the Seine. Be sure to stay near the street Rue Cler, a charming market street that has a village like feel and gives you a small slice of Parisian life.

South Pigalle

Tourist who want a more local vibe should visit South Pigalle. Just south of the former red light district, the city’s most up-and-coming destination offers quiet tree-lined streets dotted with fashionable boutiques, cafes, and a thriving restaurant and bar scene. A few tucked away boutique hotels have popped up in recent years, allowing tourists to take advantage of its proximity to the hills of Montmartre and nearby Sacre Coeur.

Montmartre

Montmartre’s village like charm and breathtaking views are the biggest reasons to stay in this part of Paris. Though it’s a bit far from the other main attractions, you can easily reach the rest of the city by metro or explore this neighborhood’s unique history. Away from the touristy spots such as the Sacre Couer, Moulin Rouge, and Place du Tertre, you’ll find quiet cobblestone streets to wander with Avenue Junot having some of the most beautiful houses in Paris or Rue des Saules which climbs past the Vigne de Montmartre (Paris’s only vineyard). The street also connects the Montmartre hilltop with the Lamarck-Caulaincourt neighborhood with several stretches of stairs and its beauty was immortalized by artists such as Cezanne and Van Gogh.

The 1st

The 1st arrondisement is a great base of exploration during any stay in Paris. You’re in the heart of Paris with many of the city’s sights within walking distance such as the Louvre, Tuileries Garden and Notre Dame Cathedral while the Musee D’Orsay and Saint Germain are just across the river. Combined with a fantastic dining scene including some of Paris’s best restaurants like Spring and Verjus, visitors have an abundance of activities to choose from both day and night.

Recommended Paris Hotel

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Best Time to Visit Koh Samui

Updated: October 21, 2017

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When is the best time of year to visit Koh Samui?

  • Best Time for Swimming and Suntanning: Late December to April has great weather, little rain, and lots of sun. From May to September there’s still plenty of sun but you will get some rain – usually brief showers in the afternoon or night. October and November are the rainiest months when good beach weather can be hard to find.
  • Best Time for Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, and Day Trips to Angthong Marine Park: Koh Samui is not known for its snorkeling or scuba diving but day trips to Koh Tao are popular. The best time for diving on Koh Tao is anytime outside of November and early December with March, April, and May the best months to see huge whalesharks. Kayaking trips to Angthong Marine Park are also a highlight of a trip to Koh Samui and they’re best from late December to September with the park being closed every year in November and early December.
  • Best Time to Save Money: Visiting during the rainy months of October and November will certainly get you some great deals on hotels. While the weather can be stormy during this period sunny days are still possible. A better mix of good weather and prices is found during the months of April, May, and June. These months are hot and humid but very sunny and not a lot of tourists.
  • High Season (late December, January, July and August): Great beach weather. Sunny and warm but not blazingly hot like April and May. Expect some rain but it usually passes quickly. Book hotels months in advance – especially for the weeks around Christmas and New Years.
  • Shoulder Season (February, March, April, May, June, September, early December): Great beach weather with February and March being the 2 driest and sunniest months to visit Koh Samui.
  • Low Season (October and November): The rainiest months of the year but it’s still possible to have a string of nice days.

Koh Samui Weather by Month

Temperature by Month (high in Celsius)
Koh Samui Temperature by Month

Rain by Month (mm)
Koh Samui Rain by Month

  • January Weather on Koh Samui: Great beach weather with lots of sun and little rain. (Average Max Temperature: 28°C. Average Rainfall: 40mm. Days with Rain: 7)
  • February Weather on Koh Samui: Great beach weather. February and March are the sunniest and driest months on Koh Samui. (Average Max Temperature: 29°C. Average Rainfall: 10mm. Days with Rain: 5)
  • March Weather on Koh Samui: Great beach weather with many dry sunny days. (Average Max Temperature: 31°C. Average Rainfall: 10mm. Days with Rain: 4)
  • April Weather on Koh Samui: Great beach weather with lots of sun and little rain. (Average Max Temperature: 32°C. Average Rainfall: 70mm. Days with Rain: 5)
  • May Weather on Koh Samui: Good beach weather. Sunny but more rain and humidity. (Average Max Temperature: 33°C. Average Rainfall: 180mm. Days with Rain: 9)
  • June Weather on Koh Samui: Good beach weather. Hot, humid, and some rain. (Average Max Temperature: 32°C. Average Rainfall: 100mm. Days with Rain: 9)
  • July Weather on Koh Samui: Good beach weather. Hot, humid, and some rain. (Average Max Temperature: 32°C. Average Rainfall: 130mm. Days with Rain: 10)
  • August Weather on Koh Samui: Good beach weather. Hot, humid, and some rain. (Average Max Temperature: 32°C. Average Rainfall: 110mm. Days with Rain: 9)
  • September Weather on Koh Samui: Good beach weather. Hot, humid, and some rain. (Average Max Temperature: 31°C. Average Rainfall: 190mm. Days with Rain: 11)
  • October Weather on Koh Samui: Lots of rain but there will still be some sunny days. (Average Max Temperature: 29°C. Average Rainfall: 260mm. Days with Rain: 15)
  • November Weather on Koh Samui: The rainiest month of the year. Lots of rain but nice beach weather is still possible. (Average Max Temperature: 28°C. Average Rainfall: 290mm. Days with Rain: 16)
  • December Weather on Koh Samui: Good beach weather. Some rain at the beginning of the month but sunny dry days are the norm after December 20. (Average Max Temperature: 27°C. Average Rainfall: 90mm. Days with Rain: 8)

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The Best Time to Visit New York City

Updated: October 21, 2017

Helpful and Recommended

When’s the best time to visit New York City?

When To Visit New York City – Summary

  • The best time to visit New York City is from April to June and September to early November when the weather is mild and pleasant but the tourist crowds are not overwhelming. The cheapest time to visit New York is on weekends from mid-January to the end of February. My favorite month in New York is September.
  • Best Time for Good Weather: May to October though July and August can be hot and humid.
  • Best Time for Sightseeing: April, May, June, September, October, and early November
  • Best Time for Honeymoon: May, June, September, and October
  • Best Time for Nightlife: Year round
  • Best Time for Saving Money: January and February
  • Best Time to See Shows: It’s easiest to find show tickets during the quieter months of January and February, and in the early fall after the summer tourists have gone home. 2-for-1 tickets to over twenty of Broadway’s most popular shows are available during Broadway Week, held twice yearly in September and January. Summer travelers will have the best luck over the Fourth of July weekend, which generally sees a massive drop in ticket sales. Show tickets are hardest to come by during the last two weeks of the year, when blockbusters are reliably and constantly sold out. The Broadway season starts in September, making that month a great time to score tickets to new shows that haven’t yet generated a lot of buzz. (Tickets to these same shows can be a lot harder to come by in May and June, after the Tony Award nominees have been announced.) Theaters are typically closed on Mondays (though there are plenty of exceptions), and travelers hoping to attend a live TV show taping should note that many late night shows go on hiatus in mid-to-late August and April.
  • Best Time for Shopping: Shopping bargains can be found year round in New York City. Sale season at high end boutiques occurs twice annually, in November-December and April-May while outlet stores like Century 21, Loehmann’s, and Filene’s Basement offer discounted designer goods daily. Other retailers stick to a pretty dependable seasonal schedule: fall and winter items get discounted in November and December, with spring apparel at lowest prices in April and May, and summer clothing sales beginning around July Fourth. The combination of post-holiday sales and January’s slight dip in tourism make that month great for finding deals across the board in shopping, hotel rates, and airfare. International travelers take note: you receive a 10% discount at Macy’s, Bloomingdales, and Lord & Taylor all year long – just show your passport and ask for it.
  • Best Time for Museums: Expect museums to be at their most crowded during the holiday rush surrounding Christmas and New Year’s. Because museums are closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas, the heavily-travelled days around them can be particularly packed. The slight lull in tourism in January and February means quieter galleries and shorter lines. Special exhibitions are commonly debuted in the early fall, once the summer throngs have subsided, making October a great time to explore New York City museums and galleries.
  • Best Time for Restaurants: Along with the slow mid-winter tourism months, reservations at New York’s best restaurants can be surprisingly easy to come by in July and August, when locals escape the city on the weekends. December travelers, on the other hand, will find it all but impossible to get a good table without reserving well in advance. Great deals and special menus can be found at more than 300 of the city’s finest eateries during New York’s Restaurant Week, held twice annually in late January/early February and late July/early August.
  • Best Time for Holiday Displays: Stores along 5th Avenue begin unveiling their holiday window displays in mid-November, with all decorations up by Thanksgiving. The spectacular tree at Rockefeller Center isn’t lit until the Wednesday following Thanksgiving, when tourism crowds are at their peak. Those looking to enjoy New York’s holiday cheer would do best to visit during the week before Christmas, when festivity is high but hotel and airfare rates take a slight dip. Decorations and displays stay up through early January.
  • Best Time for Kids and Families: Summer is a particularly popular time for families to visit New York City. While there’s not the tourism lull you’ll find in January and February, crowds are much thinner than during the school holidays that surround Thanksgiving and Christmas, and airfare and hotel rates will be lower. The city offers loads for kids to do during the summer, from outdoor concerts and movies (many of them free) to bike rental, boating, and playgrounds in Central Park. While the busy holiday season can be magical for kids, the hordes of travelers can make Times Square overwhelming – and impossible to navigate with a stroller.
  • Best time to avoid crowds: The deep winter months of January through early March offer your best chance to see the city without being mobbed by tourists, though you’ll trade lower airfare and hotel rates for frigid temperatures. Despite the increase in family tourism, the summer months can also be surprisingly quiet in New York, as many locals head for the coast. Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends are best bets for calmer crowds minus the cold.

New York Travel Seasons

  • High Season (June-August & November-December): Vacationing families and European travelers on extended holiday make the summer months one of the most popular times to visit New York. Many locals leave the city during this time, however, which means that it can feel less crowded even while tourism is high. The Thanksgiving-New Year holiday season is a huge draw for tourists, festivity is high and the city is at its most packed. During both of these busy tourism periods, expect airfare and hotel rates to be at their peak and availability to be low. Book well in advance. See Also: The Best NYC Hotels
  • Shoulder Season (March-May & September-October): Though tourism isn’t quite peaking during these months, they are still incredibly popular times to visit New York. Mild weather makes the spring and fall seasons ideal for exploring the city on foot, whether to a backdrop of blooms and open air markets in the springtime, or the changing colors of Central Park trees in the fall. High prices and low availability for both flights and hotels is to be expected.
  • Low Season (January-Early March): New York City is at its quietest during these cold mid-winter months, when snow is common and temperatures hover between 1 and 4°C. Hotel occupancy rates dip below 90%, and restaurant reservations and theater tickets are easier to come by. The drop in temperature means a drop in both airfare and hotel rates, which makes this a great time to visit the city if you’re looking for a bargain and are not bothered by a little cold.
  • New York City Weather by Month

    New York Temperature by Month (high in celsius)
    Best time to visit New York City for the best weather and most sun.

    New York Rain by Month (mm)
    Best time to visit New York City for the least amount of rain.

  • New York City Weather in January: January is New York’s coldest month. Temperatures range from -12°to 4°C, generally hovering around 3°C. Snow is likely around this time, quickly becoming slush on sidewalk and street corners – warm clothes and waterproof boots are a must. (Average Max Temperature: 3.1°C. Average Precipitation: 81mm.)
  • New York City Weather in February: February remains cold, with the average daytime high creeping up to 4.2°C. Snow still common, and the days remain short: New York City sunset is around 5:30 in February. (Average Max Temperature: 4.2°C. Average Precipitation: 77mm.)
  • New York City Weather in March: March is a bit of a mixed bag in New York City, feeling sometimes like winter and at other times spring-like. Cold and snow are still common, though less likely toward the end of March. You’ll want to pack warm clothes, but may be surprised by not needing them. (Average Max Temperature: 8.9°C. Average Precipitation: 91mm.)
  • New York City Weather in April: Snow in April is rare in New York City, though still possible – especially around the beginning of the month. Any snow the city gets won’t last long, however. Average temperatures range from 7 to 18°C, spring rain showers are common, and flowers are up and blooming by the end of the month. (Average Max temperature: 14.6°C. Average Precipitation: 99mm.)
  • New York City Weather in May: May is one of New York City’s loveliest months. The temperature ranges from 10-26°C, so it’s usually warm but not hot, and without the humidity that you’ll find during the summer months. Flowers are blooming, trees are leafing out, and it’s a wonderful time of year to explore the city’s many parks. (Average Max Temperature: 19.8°C. Average Precipitation: 96mm.)
  • New York City Weather in June: June days grow warmer as summer approaches, though it’s usually not too hot or humid to comfortably enjoy being outdoors. Shorts and sandal season is in full swing, and the month’s long days (the sun sets around 8:30pm) are perfect for catching an outdoor concert or ballgame at Yankee Stadium – barring the occasional rainstorm. (Average Max Temperature: 25°C. Average Precipitation: 92mm.)
  • New York City Weather in July: The hottest month of the year, expect temperatures to range from 21-35°C, with an average high of 28.2°C. The humidity is on the rise as well, especially as August nears, though ample shade from trees and tall buildings means it’s usually not so uncomfortable that you can’t enjoy a walk in the park, or lunch or dinner in a sidewalk café. Expect quieter streets as locals have head for the cooler coast. (Average Max Temperature: 28.2°C. Average Precipitation: 97mm.)
  • New York City Weather in August: Though July is NYC’s hottest month by temperature, August is the most humid. It is truly sticky in the city this month, with the climbing daytime humidity often bringing late afternoon and early evening thunderstorms – but don’t worry, they blow over quickly. Temperatures can be a full 10° hotter in the subways, so it’s a good idea to consider a taxi as you make your way from one air-conditioned attraction to the next. (Average Max Temperature: 27.7°C. Average Precipitation: 87mm.)
  • New York City Weather in September: September is a flux month in New York, and the weather varies wildly as the city transitions from summer heat and humidity into crisp autumn. Temperatures range from 21-27°C until mid-month, with cooler air settling in as October approaches. Because summer’s humidity has gone, even September’s warmest days are perfect for outdoor activities and seeing the city on foot. (Average Max Temperature: 23.9°C. Average Precipitation: 84mm.)
  • New York City Weather in October: Traditionally New York’s driest month of the year, October boasts mild to chilly temperatures and crisp autumn air. Temps range from 10-20°C, so it’s a good idea to pack a light jacket – though you might not need it. The changing fall leaves and comfortable temperature range lead many folks to consider this a perfect time to see New York. (Average Max Temperature 18.2°C. Average Precipitation: 73mm.)
  • New York City Weather in November: Days are getting shorter, chillier, and rainier. A jacket is essential, and a hat and gloves are a good idea. It’s not unusual to see snow flurries by the end of the month, though accumulation is unlikely at this point. (Average Max Temperature: 12.1°C. Average Precipitation: 92mm.)
  • New York City Weather in December: Winter arrives in New York, with cold temperatures, snow, and holiday crowds. Wind and temperatures can be bitingly cold. Days are short – expect the sun to set around 4:30pm mid-month – giving visitors ample time to view the city’s twinkling seasonal lights. (Average Max Temperature: 5.9°C. Average Precipitation: 87mm.)
  • New York City Events and Festivals

    January in New York

    • Winter Jazzfest NYC — Over 100 acts at 11 venues in and around Greenwich Village.
    • Broadway Week — 2-for-1 tickets for over 20 of Broadway’s most popular shows.
    • NYC Restaurant Week — Three-course dining deals for lunch and dinner at over 300 of the city’s best eateries.

    February in New York

    March in New York

    • Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus — Clowns, gymnasts, aerialists, and performing animals make camp in Madison Square Garden when the Greatest Show on Earth comes to New York, kicked off by the annual elephant parade through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel.
    • St. Patrick’s Day Parade — Bands, bagpipers, and politicians march up Fifth Avenue past Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in this 250 year old annual celebration of Irish heritage.

    April in New York

    • Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival — An unorganized Easter Sunday celebration of fancy hats and outlandish accessories. Fashionable and festive folk stroll Fifth Avenue from 49th to 57th, and the rest of us experience some great people-watching.
    • Tribeca Film Festival — Celebration and judged competition of independent film, including panel discussions, a family festival street fair, and thousands of independent, documentary, and foreign film screenings across lower Manhattan.

    May in New York

    • Ninth Avenue International Food Festival — Ethnic cuisine, international music and dance, and more than a million hungry festival goers in Hell’s Kitchen between 42nd and 57th Streets.
    • Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit — Hundreds of local and international artists and artisans hawk their wares at this massive sidewalk art fair over Memorial Day weekend.
    • Fleet Week — The Hudson River Parade of Ships kicks off a week of musical performances, military demonstrations, and Memorial Day observances that celebrate the U.S. Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.

    June in New York

    • Belmont Stakes — Annual thoroughbred horse race that is the third and final leg of the Triple Crown. Held in Belmont Park, about 14 miles east of Manhattan.
    • Pride Festival and March — GLBT pride celebration and civil rights rally with floats, bands, dancing and celebratory parade from Fifth Avenue and 36th Street to the West Village. Ends in the ultimate bash on Hudson Street, from 14th Street to Abingdon Square.
    • Shakespeare in the Park (June/July) — Tickets are free (2 per person), but you’ll have to line up at the box office before noon to score seats to these extremely popular Public Theater shows at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.

    July in New York

    • Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks — This spectacular display over the East River near the Brooklyn Bridge draws crowds of thousands each year, and is viewable from many locations in Manhattan, as well as Brooklyn and Queens.
    • Bastille Day on 60th Street — Annual celebration of French food, culture, and entertainment, held the Sunday before July 14th. On 60th Street, between Lexington and 15th Avenues, on the Upper East Side.
    • NYC Restaurant Week — Three-course dining deals for lunch ($25) and dinner ($38) at over 300 of the city’s best eateries.
    • Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival (July/August) — Three weeks of world class music and dance performances, free and under the stars, in the plazas of Lincoln Center.

    August in New York

    • New York International Fringe Festival — 16 day long fringe theater and multi-arts festival: 1300 performances by over 200 multi-multinational companies at over 20 stages around Midtown Manhattan.

    September in New York

    • U.S. Open — American tennis pros compete in this two week long championship tournament held in Flushing Meadows, Queens.
    • Electric Zoo Festival — Electronic Dance Music festival held over Labor Day weekend, featuring top international DJs and live acts from around the world. Takes place on Randall’s Island.
    • Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit — Hundreds of local and international artists and artisans hawk their wares at this massive sidewalk art fair over Labor Day weekend.
    • Broadway Week — 2-for-1 tickets for over 20 of Broadway’s most popular shows.
    • New York Fall Fashion Week — The fashion industry converges on Lincoln Center, where the best designers in the world show off their spring collections in a week of invitation-only exhibitions and parties.
    • New York Film Festival (September/October) — The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual fall celebration of cinema, showing critically acclaimed international works and Hollywood premiers at various Lincoln Center event halls.

    October in New York

    • Columbus Day Parade — New York’s yearly celebration of Italian-American heritage, with floats and bands traversing Fifth Avenue from 47th to 72nd Streets. Held the second Monday in October.
    • Open House New York — A weekend-long architecture and design event, in which over 300 usually off-limit historic buildings and architecturally important sites are opened to the public for touring. Generally free, with some sites requiring advanced registration and a cover charge. Takes place across all five boroughs.
    • Village Halloween Parade — Halloween night festival and parade, featuring floats, circus performers, musical acts, fantastic giant-sized puppets, and over two million annual spectators. Runs along 6th Avenue, from Spring to 16th streets in Greenwich Village.

    November in New York

    • New York City Marathon — The world’s largest and most popular marathon event. Over 50,000 runners from around the world wind their way through all five New York boroughs on the first Sunday in November.
    • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — Over 3 million spectators line the streets as hundreds of floats, marching bands, dancers, celebrity performers, giant balloons, and of course Santa Claus usher in the holiday season along Central Park West and through the heart of Midtown Manhattan.
    • Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony — After a celebrity-studded holiday show and in front of thousands of spectators, Rockefeller Plaza’s iconic Christmas tree is set aglow. Held the Wednesday after Thanksgiving.

    December in New York

    • Ice Skating Rinks — The Rink at Rockefeller Center is the most iconic and has the longest lines. Wollman Rink in Central Park is the largest and has the best view. The rink at Bryant Park is free (with skate rental fee) and adjacent to the park’s festive holiday market.
    • Holiday Window Displays — Department stores on and around Fifth Avenue get decked out for the holidays starting in mid-November, and stay dressed up through the New Year. Best seen after sundown for maximum festive effect.
    • The Nutcracker — So many to choose from. Take your pick between the classic George Balanchine show put on by the New York City Ballet, Alexei Ratmansky’s contemporary American Ballet Theatre interpretation, or any of the other dozens of traditional and themed versions performed annually around the city.
    • Radio City Christmas Spectacular — The Radio City Rockettes star in this ultimate and iconic holiday extravaganza, a New York City tradition since 1933. Shows from mid-November through New Year’s at Rockefeller Center’s Radio City Music Hall.
    • New Year’s Eve at Times Square — Two performance stages and hourly fireworks displays entertain the reveling masses from 6pm until the famous ball drops at midnight. On Broadway, between 40th and 53rd Streets.
    • New Year’s Eve Fireworks — Ooh and aaah at the big display in Central Park (set off near Bathesda Fountain), or head east to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park to hang with the mellower crowd. Both spots have live music starting at 10pm, with fireworks welcoming the New Year at midnight.

    NYC Tickets and Tours to Book in Advance

    See Also

Posted on

Things To Do in Bangkok

updated October 20, 2017

See Also

The 51 Best Things To Do in Bangkok

1. Chatuchak Weekend Market

Bangkok's Chatutak Market is one of the largest in the world
Home to around 15,000 stalls, the Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the world’s largest markets, with an incredible array of goods for sale: tire-sized ammonite fossils, marmoset monkeys, male genitalia-shaped soaps, exquisite antiques, and tons more. Put on something light, slather sunscreen, wear comfortable shoes, and carry your backpack on the front. It’s good to get here early at around 10 am to beat the heat and the crowds. Enter via MRT Kamphaeng Phet (which opens out directly onto the market), turn right and walk for a short stretch until you reach entrance 1. Get a map from the tourist center here and then explore the sections that interest you, using the clock tower at the center for reference. If you see something you like, buy it – you’ll have so much ground to cover that it’s unlikely you’ll track back or even find the same stall again. If the heat gets to you, shop in air-conditioned comfort at JJ Plaza next door. Local food courts in the area include one at Bangkok’s best fresh market, the Or Tor Kor Market and the 100% vegetarian Chamlong’s Asoke food court. Tips: Negotiate bulk prices when buying a lot of souvenirs. This site becomes a plant market on specific weekdays and is worth a visit for the phenomenal variety of exotic plants and seeds available.

BTS Mo chit (Exit 1). MRT Kamphaeng Phet (Exit 2).
Saturdays and Sundays 9am – 6pm, Fridays 6pm – 12pm
Plant Market on Tuesdays 12am – 6pm, Wednesdays and Thursdays 7am – 6p.
Reviews

2. Scala Cinema

Scala Cinema in Bangkok Thailand
The single-screen Scala Cinema is one of Bangkok’s oldest cinemas, and (with tickets starting at THB 100) still one of the cheapest locations to see a movie. The beautifully preserved lobby, with its gigantic chandelier, cathedral-like ceiling studded with flower medallions, and art deco monuments doubling as ticket stands, is worth the trip in itself. The National Anthem is played right before the movie starts and everyone is required to stand in attendance. Movies are shown using the latest in digital technology at both Scala and Lido Cinemas; the latter belongs to the same Apex Theatre Group and is a great place to catch indie and art-house movies. For a luxury, high-tech movie watching experience, head over to Siam Paragon across the street, where there’s 4DX, IMAX, and sofa-beds with complimentary 15 minute foot massages. Tips: Movie tickets (excluding VIP tickets) are half-price on Wednesdays at all the major cinemas except Scala and Lido.

BTS Siam (Exit 2).
Reviews

3. Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC)

Contemporary works at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center
Contemporary works by Thai and international artists is featured at the BACC which also showcases documentaries, exhibitions and performances on a regular basis. Start at the top floor and work your way down the spiral walkway, taking in the exhibits on each floor. Hang out at artsy cafes, art and craft shops, bookshops and the library, or have your caricature or portrait drawn for a few hundred baht by the resident artists. Tips: Given its late closing time, the BACC is an excellent place to spend a few hours after shopping at nearby MBK or Siam Square. To view a more comprehensive collection of Thai fine art, check out the five-storied Museum of Contemporary Art, a 10 minute taxi ride away from BTS Mo Chit.

BTS National Stadium (Exit 3).
Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 9pm. Free entrance.
Reviews

4. Bang Krachao

Explore pre-modern Thailand in Bangkok's Bang Krachao
Bang Krachao gives visitors a glimpse of pre-modern Bangkok with its lush forests, meandering lanes, and farms – all scattered between temples and houses on stilts. This perfect city escape takes all of 15 minutes to get to; take a taxi from MRT Klong Toei to Wat Klong Toei, grab a boat at the pier behind it and cross over to the other side. Rent a cycle from the shop when you get off (THB 80 for the whole day) to explore Bang Krachao’s labyrinth of idyllic pathways. Go early to beat the heat, and go on a weekend if you want to visit the huge Bang Nam Phueng Floating Market (8 am to 4 pm). While there aren’t any floating boats in this market, it’s still a fantastic stop – allow a few hours to properly check out all the local crafts and delicious delicacies on offer, such as homemade red dragon fruit ice cream, piping hot hormok (steamed fish with veggies in banana leaf cups), fried scallops, and crab shells stuffed with chicken and crab meat.

MRT Khlong Toei (Exit 2).
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5. Caturday Cat Café

Bangkok's Caturday Cat Cafe charges no entrance fee
Contended cats are the stars of the Caturday Cat Café, which offers visitors the chance to kick back and relax in a purr-filled heaven. Gorgeous felines paw at cat toys, investigate bags, snooze on cushions and generally provide excellent company as you nibble cake or sip coffee. You’ll need to wash your hands before you enter and from then on you’re free to play, pose with, and photograph all the felines prowling around. Unlike some of the others in the city, there’s no entrance charge at this cat café. It’s a great place to hang out on a lazy or rainy afternoon. Not a cat person? Dog lovers have options too, thanks to the True Love Café, where one can get cozy with more than a dozen Siberian Huskies.

BTS Ratchathewi (Exit 2).
11am – 9pm. Free Entrance.
Reviews

6. CentralWorld

Bangkok's biggest shopping mall, CentralWorld
The biggest mall in all of Thailand and among the top ten largest malls in the world, CentralWorld’s incredible size ensures you’ll get a little more fit while indulging in some retail therapy. Catering to the mid and high-end retail segment, CentralWorld features brand name stores, cool fashion, top restaurants, and new technologies. There’s plenty for kids, too: an ice-skating rink, the Genius Planet Zone learning & activity center on the sixth floor, and the Thailand Knowledge Park (a huge library for both kids and adults). Events and/or weekend pop-up markets can be found on the grounds outside, where hopeful singles offer up red roses to the God of Love at the famous Trimurti Shrine. Tips: Hardcore shoppers can combine this with shopping at Palladium, Pratunam Market, or IT shopping at Pantip Plaza. Finish up with drinks at the Red Sky Bar at Centara Grand Hotel next door. For more upscale shopping, check out Siam Paragon and the malls around Siam Square, which are a short walk away.

BTS Chitlom (Exit 1).
Daily, 10am – 10pm.
Reviews

7. Ce La Vie

Ce La Vie is Bangkok's coolest nightclub.
One of Bangkok’s most popular nightclubs, Ce La Vie is where Bangok’s hippest denizens hang out, and a great place to party late into the night, grooving to funky music beats by big-name international DJs. Crowds tend to come in after 9pm; special nights include Wednesday Ladies’ Night (free drinks from 9 – 11pm), and ‘Canvas’ on Thursdays, with an artsy focus. Saturday is the night for dance hits. Pub hoppers can check out other cool venues in the Sathorn area, mostly along Soi 10-12; Smalls, Revolucion Cocktail, UNCLE, and WooBar are quite popular. For other nightlife haunts, check out clubs in Sukhumvit 11 (Onyx, Levels, Q Up), Slim/Flix at Royal City Avenue (RCA), and Muse, Demo and others along Soi 10 at Thong Lor.

BTS Chong Nonsi (Exit 1).
Tuesday-Saturday, 6pm – 2am. Free Entrance.
Reviews

8. Thai Cooking Class

Take a Thai cooking class in Bangkok
Bangkok’s many cooking schools offer full, half day, or express two hour cooking classes, featuring standard favorites such as Pad Thai, Tom Yum Soup, Thai Green and Red Curry, Green Papaya Salad, Mango Sticky Rice and more. The May Kaidee Cooking School, in particular, caters to vegetarians and vegans – Be prepared for some fast-paced cooking action; your fellow cooks urging you on as you fry and season in record time makes these classes super fun. Tips: Take copious notes as there’s plenty to absorb, the chef may also share secret recipes that aren’t in the take-home cook book. Also, don’t eat beforehand as you’ll be eating what you prepare – 8 dishes or more depending on the class. Other class options include fruit carving, making tofu, sauces and paste, raw food with dehydrators, Thai cooking combined with massage or traditional Thai dressing lessons, etc. Three, five, and ten day cooking classes are also available.

Multiple locations.
Reviews

9. Dinner Cruise

Take a dinner cruise down the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok.
Beautifully illuminated temples are the highlight of a dinner cruise down the Chao Phraya river. Cruise options range from converted teakwood rice barges featuring traditional Thai dancers, soft music and four-course meals to disco boats with live bands and international buffets. Both types of cruises roughly follow the same route (taking in Wat Arun, the Grand Palace, and the Rama VIII bridge among other sights), but are miles apart in terms of the experience. Cruises on a rice barge are much more expensive (THB 2,200), but are totally worth it, with limited seating (roughly 60) around candle-lit tables and chefs willing to customize the menu to suit individual preferences. Luxury cruisers (200 passengers) will better suit party-goers and have cheaper fares (THB 1,500). Round off the evening with a visit to the waterfront mall, Asiatique, or get a ‘Hangovertini’ at the Sky Bar on top of the Lebua State Tower nearby, which offers absolutely spectacular views of both the city and the river. Tips: Opt for smart casuals as some cruises specify a dress code.

Multiple locations near BTS Saphan Taksin.
Average time: 2 hrs.
Reviews

10. Escape Room

Test your puzzle solving skills in Bangkok's Escape Room
You’ll test your puzzle-solving skills and grace under pressure in Escape Room’s many thrilling (and sometimes scary) closed rooms, as players race to solve a mystery before time runs out. It’s more fun to go as a small group, and team participation will be critical – choose difficult mysteries like Crime Scene, The Overlook Hotel-Room 13, Prison Break and others. Single players can opt for easy games like The Mummy Return and Slaughter House. (Difficulty levels are indicated next to each game). It’s a fun way to spend 45 minutes and if you get stumped, you get three chances to buzz for help, summoning staff members who will give you a clue. Other popular interactive game companies in the city include Escape Hunt and Ticket to Mystery.

BTS National Stadium (Exit 4). MBK Center.
Open daily, 10am – 10pm. THB 550/person.
Reviews

11. Khlong Toei Market

Khlong Toei, Bangkok's biggest fresh market
Bangkok’s biggest fresh market assaults the senses with a variety of sights, sounds and smells at every turn. Utterly chaotic, butchers chop meat, sellers unload vegetables, restaurant owners select food, and motorcycles and porters patiently weave their way through all the chaos of it all. Khlong Toei market is not for the squeamish; it can be disturbing to walk through the meat section, especially when you realize that what you’re seeing goes way beyond a bewildering array of pig parts – there are unsettling sights like stacks of folded pig’s heads sans skulls and trays of bloody frogs with still-beating hearts. It’s easy to spend a few hours taking one-of-a-kind snapshots of all the frenetic activity. Tips: This market is within walking distance of MRT Khlong Toei. Bear in mind that this is a wet market, so wear sensible footwear that can survive splashes.

MRT Khlong Toei (Exit 1).
Open daily, 24 hrs.
Reviews

12. Bobble Football

Play Bobble Football in Bangkok, Thailand
Bobble football allows players to slip into plastic, air-filled bobbles and play interesting multi-player games. Playing football upside down might seem crazy, but that’s what happens frequently in a Bobble football game, where a bump from a fellow player can send players rolling about in their bobble, legs pedaling in the air. Hilarious and quite a workout, a one-hour bobble football session also includes other games like Bobble sumo (one-on-one takedown) and Bobble bulldog (an assigned player chases everyone else who scramble between safe zones), so there’s lots plenty of fun to be had even if you aren’t a football fan. Tips: Check to see if you can join the open sessions (THB 400 for an hour). It gets quite hot and sweaty inside the bobble, so wear a light top, and a pant that protects the knees. Other cool activities to try – indoor surfing at Flowhouse , the trampoline park at AMPED, aquabiking, and being a flight pilot (simulated) at Flight Experience.

Multiple Locations.
1 hr.
Reviews

13. Chao Phraya Ferry

Experience a slice of Thai life on the Chao Phraya Ferry
A ferry trip down the Chao Phraya is an excellent way to experience life on the river. The ‘River of Kings’ is the main artery of Bangkok and a hive of activity with river taxis, barges, Chinese style boats, long-tail boats, and tourist boats swiftly ferrying people and goods. Cutting right across the city, a ferry trip is also an easy way to visit many of the city’s major landmarks and attractions, like the Grand Palace, Wat Arun, Asiatique, Khaosan Road, Wat Pho, the Amulet Market and the Sriraj Medical Museum, just to name a few. The most enjoyable and cheapest way to watch life along the Chao Phraya river is to take the Orange Express Line (6am – 7pm), which the locals use, all the way to the last stop at Nonthaburi and travel back for the price of THB 14. (This flat fare applies whether you get off at one stop or the end of the line.) Alternatively, you can use this line to get on and off and explore attractions along the river at your leisure; look out for an orange flag on the boat before you board. For fewer crowds and a little more comfort, opt for the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat, which offers a THB 150 day pass that takes in all the major attractions but has fewer stops. Tips: If you intend to use the Orange line, bypass the blue polo shirted attendees at the ticket counter who might approach you to take the Tourist boat boat. Getting in and out of these boats can be a little alarming as they tend to bump forcefully into the pier, so hang on to the railing and be careful of your footing as you step or jump off. You can combine this with a visit to Wat Yannawa, and also hire long-tail boats or take tours from this pier to explore the smaller canal systems and other attractions along the river.

BTS Saphan Taksin (Exit 2). Sathorn Pier.
Reviews

14. Lumpini Park

Free exercise equipment in Bangkok's Lumpini Park
One of Bangkok’s most popular parks, Lumpini park is the best place to get some fresh air and connect with nature. Busy especially at dawn or dusk, there’s plenty to do here besides relax; work out on all the free fitness equipment, or participate in an aerobics class, free of charge. Other fun activities include taking a paddleboat across the lake or getting close to the indigenous population – namely the park’s many monitor lizards that seem to have no fear of people. Lumpini Park has the greatest visible population of these stately creatures and it’s quite a sight to watch them as they amble past people a mere stone’s throw away. While the monitor lizards can be seen all throughout the day, (mostly sleeping along the lake’s banks), the best time to see a lot of them is around 4 pm. Catching a glimpse of them at other parks can be a hit and miss affair. Tips: To catch free weekend concerts in the park, check the Bangkok Post’s events calendar. The Silom road next to MRT Silom becomes a night market every alternate weekend, and is worth checking out for its street food.

MRT Silom (Exit 1).
Open daily, 5am – 7pm. (Also accessible from MRT Lumpini & BTS Sala Daeng).
Reviews

15. Gem Shopping (Palladium)

Go gem shopping in the basement of Bangkok's Palladium World Shopping Center
The basement of the Palladium World Shopping mall is a gem shopping paradise offering buyers an incredible variety of crystals and stones, most available for wholesale prices. A stroll through here is a bit like visiting a natural history museum – you’ll see immense amethyst geodes/towers, ammonite fossils, ancient roman glass, and an impressive range of both rough and polished stones and gems. It’s the best to place to pick up Lapis Lazuli, as many of the shop owners directly import them from mines in their respective countries. Tips: Get to Palladium around 11am on a weekday when all the shops will be open. (Many close at 6 pm). For more upscale gem shopping, hit the Jewelry Trade Center on Silom Road, which has a fine selection of high quality orange sapphires, or browse through shops along the Charoen Krung Road.

BTS Chitlom (Exit 1).
Open daily, 9am – 8pm.
Reviews

16. Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

The majestic reclining Buddha at Wat Pho in Bangkok
Situated right behind the Grand Palace, Wat Pho houses a majestic reclining Buddha that is 46 m (150 ft) long in a massive complex dotted with pavilions, shrines, halls and numerous stupas. Check out the spectacular soles of the Buddha’s feet, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, which display auspicious symbols and chakras, and pay attention to the murals and stone inscriptions that contain ancient knowledge in the arts and sciences; it’s why this temple is considered to be Thailand’s first public university. Wat Pho is also famous for being the birthplace of the traditional Thai massage; courses courses are available from a school on the premises. Allow an hour or two to fully explore the complex’s multi-colored ceramic and mosaic tiled pagodas and 91 stupas/chedis. (The smaller ones supposedly contain ashes of the royal family while the larger ones have relics of the Buddha). Tips: Guide services are available starting at THB 200 for 1 person. The Yodpiman flower market is only a short walk away and is worth a quick look. Easily accessible from Bangkok, the biggest reclining Buddha 53 m (174 ft) in all of Thailand is at Wat Bang Phli Yai; visitors can walk right up to the top chamber inside this hollow 4 storeyed Buddha to gaze at his huge gold-veined heart.

By Boat: Tha Tien Pier (N8). Entrance: THB 100.
Daily, 8am to 6pm.
Reviews

17. Electronics Shopping (MBK)

Shop for electronics in Bangkok's mega shopping center, MBK.
The Ma Boon Khrong Center (MBK) is one of Bangkok’s most famous shopping malls, with 7 floors selling everything from fashion to furniture. Much more affordable than Siam Paragon or CentralWorld, it’s excellent for electronic shopping, and you can score some great bargains here with a little scouting. The third and fourth floors being are dedicated to mobile phones both new and old, tablets, DVDS, MP3 players, drones and what have you. It’s the place to browse through a mind-boggling range of mobile phone and tablet covers – or have customized ones made. Spend an hour or a day checking out MBK, eating at the food court, getting a massage, playing arcade games and more. Tips: The infamous Pantip Plaza is the go-to destination for buying electronics in Bangkok, however it does have a reputation for selling counterfeit goods. Whether shopping at MBK or Pantip Plaza do your due diligence – while you can pick up local brands of mobiles, speakers and other products fairly cheaply, as novelties they may or may not be long-lived. For quality electronics, head over to the Fortune Town IT Mall, which has a reputation for reliability, or stop by the branded store outlets that sell an equally wide range of products.

BTS National Stadium (Exit 4).
Daily, 10am – 10pm.
Reviews

18. Yunomori Onsen

Relax and rejuvenate at Bangkok's Unomori Onsen Spa
The Yunomori Onsen offers visitors total relaxation and the chance to soak away their troubles in a series of hot, cold, spring water-filled and jet-equipped public baths. Ladies and men bathe in separate areas; men go commando while ladies have the option of disposable black underwear. If you’re a first-timer just follow the recommended bathing sequence highlighted on the walls. Utterly rejuvenating, it can be tempting to spend the better part of the day here as there’s no limit to the amount of time you can spend bathing. Robes are provided for those who want to exit the bath and relax in the common areas to read or eat at the Japanese café on the premises, before heading back inside. Tips: Take a water bottle with you as it’s easy to get dehydrated. It’s not recommended to spend more than one hour in the bath at a time. If you’d like to try a sand bath/Onsen experience head over to One Sand Bath Therapy, and sink into a tub of heated, fine-grained volcanic sand.

BTS Phrom Phong (Exit 2).
Daily, 9am to 12pm. THB 450/person.
Reviews

19. Phallic Shrine (Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine)

Chao Mae Tuptim is Bangkok's phallic shrine
Hidden away in a corner of the Swissotel Nai Lert Hotel grounds, this fertility shrine has phalluses (penises) scattered all around, from huge ribbon-wrapped stone sculptures to smaller wooden ones tucked away between tree roots. And the collection only keeps growing, as women leave them behind in gratitude to Chao Mae Tubtim, the fertility spirit housed in the shrine whom they credit for answering their prayers for a child. Go on a phallus discovery photo-walk for some chuckle-worthy photos; you never know what you’ll come across – phalluses standing in line, sharing space with dancing figurines, sandwiched between elephant statues etc. The shrine is very quiet and you might be the only one here at times. Tips: This small shrine is good for a 20 minute visit tops, so combine this with a visit to the Nai Lert Heritage Home or another attraction nearby.

BTS Ploen Chit (Exit 1).
Reviews

20. Chinatown

Visit Bangkok's Chinatown district for a unique blend of Thai and Chinese culture
The unique mix of Thai and Chinese culture makes Bangkok’s Chinatown a fascinating destination to explore on foot for half a day or more. Check out Wat Chakrawat, where the monks keep a few pet crocodiles, shop for curios at Nakon Kasem (formerly called the Thieves market), or browse through quaint stalls at Old Siam Plaza. You can also catch a Khon Thai masked dance show at the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theater or putter about the 200 year old Talat Kao market. Don’t miss walking through the very narrow and busy Sampeng Lane Market (9 am – 6pm) which offers an unbelievable array of goods and wholesale shopping. Famous for its gold shops, Chinatown is also a culinary paradise for delicious street foods – gingko soup/dessert, unexpected ice cream flavors, duck and more duck, roasted chestnuts etc. Linger on until evening to sample some great seafood and a noisy street dining experience right by the road side, on tin tables and plastic chairs at the competing Lek & Rut restaurants. If you plan to eat there, go early as there can be long standing queues. Or have dinner or drinks at the very slow moving Grand China Princess Revolving Restaurant. Tips: Wear comfy shoes and be prepared for the heat. Combine this with a trip to nearby Little India and the flower market. The easiest way to get to Chinatown is to either walk or take a tuk-tuk (THB 50) from MRT Hua Lamphong.

MRT Hua Lamphong (Exit 1). Boat: Ratchawong Pier (N5).
Reviews

21. Erawan Elephant Museum

The Erawan Elephant Museum in Bangkok, Thailand
Built by the same visionary responsible for the Ancient City of Muang Boran, this massive, three-headed, bronze elephant statue is actually a museum on the inside and features some surreal architecture reflective of Hindu cosmology; the basement represents the underworld, and the dome, the earth. Understandably, heaven, where the Buddha resides, is located in the elephant’s belly on the top floor, reached by a winding staircase. While there’s not a lot of actual museum artifacts, it’s definitely worth a visit for an hour or more for the psychedelic atmosphere – intricate fairies and dragons cavort everywhere under a breathtaking stained glass window in this fantasy land. Statues of mythological creatures grace the gardens outside. It’s free to take the bowls of lotus flowers and set them afloat in the lotus pond around the museum, presumably for good luck. Tips: It’s best to visit this museum on the tail end of a trip to the Ancient City, and if you time your arrival here at 5 or later, the entry ticket is half-price. Don’t forget to make use of the free audio guide. It can be tricky to find a taxi once you’re done – ask the security staff to flag one down.

BTS Bearing (Exit 1).
Daily, 9am – 7pm (THB 400), 5pm – 6:30pm (THB 200). Free Shuttle.
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22. Khlong Ride

Use Bangkok's khlong boats to get around the city like a local
The Khlong Saen Saeb canal route offers visitors the opportunity to view another side of Bangkok, sitting shoulder to shoulder with the locals on a khlong ride down the city’s narrow canals. One of the cheapest ways to do this, is to travel down the Khlong Saen Saeb canal route which cuts right across the center of Bangkok. Tickets are valid travel through the entire route; you’ll need to switch boats at Pratunam pier to change lines. You can take in some sights along the way, depending on the route you choose; the Golden Mount Line ends up near Wat Saket, while the Nida line passes through Pratunam, Chitlom, Asok and other main areas, with many temples and malls en route. While it’s fun, this khlong ride is more like taking a crowded bus through the thoroughfare to get from point A to point B. For a more scenic experience that takes in farmlands and sights like the National Barge Museum, opt go for khlong tours that start from the Sathorn pier. Tips: Don’t sit right by boat’s side or if you do, be prepared to shield your face from sprays of dirty canal water, with the aid of the provided screens. The khlong route is also a convenient alternative to the BTS sky train and MRT underground train systems for quick and easy travel through the city.

Weekdays 5:30am – 8:30am. Weekends 5:30am – 7pm.
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23. Erawan Shrine

Erawan Shrine is one of Bangkok's holiest venues.
One of Bangkok’s holiest venues, the Erawan Shrine is the place to witness Thais fervently praying to the four-faced Brahma or Phra Phrom, the God of Creation. Constructed to alleviate bad luck, the shrine is usually busy with a potpourri of people offering candles, flowers, coconuts, teak elephants and more, punctuated by clouds of incense. Devotees come here to make a wish or thank the deity for their fulfillment by hiring the troupe of colorful classical dancers on the premises to sing and dance on their behalf. If you’re tempted, you’ll need to get in line and shell out between THB 260-710 to hire 2-8 dancers, who’ll perform as you offer up a prayer on bended knees. To pray by yourself, start by facing the front of the God, the Face of Peace and Health, and circle clockwise, to pay respects to his Face of Good Fortune, Face of Good Relationships, and Face of Protection against Evils, respectively. A visit to the shrine is a quick trip, pair it with a stop at the lesser known Phallic Shrine located behind the Swissôtel (a 20 minute walk away – more easily accessed via BTS Ploenchit), shopping at CentralWorld (one of the world’s biggest malls), or the lively Pratunam area for cheap & wholesale clothes shopping. Caveats: Avoid getting ripped off by the garland-peddling vendors lined up on the pavement outside the shrine (they are available for prices starting at THB 50 inside), and resist the vendors who peddle cages of birds for you to release and gain ‘merit’ at the ungodly THB 500 per cage price.

BTS Chit Lom (Exit 6).
6am – 11pm. Free entrance.
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24. Thai Massage (Health Land)

Experience a simple or extravagant Thai massage at Bangkok's massage parlors.
No visit to the ‘City of Angels’ would be complete without a Thai massage, and there’s a wide range of options available across the city. If you’re pressed for time, Bangkok’s ubiquitous massage parlors offer speedy versions, like a quick basic 30 minute foot massage for prices starting at THB 150. For the ultimate in luxury massages, try the Oasis Spa‘s ‘Golden Lanna Massage,’ a pure gold-oil infused massage choreographed to music. Divana Spa’s range of signature massages (up to THB 11,500), are also worthy of mention – they involve spinning golden silk threads over your body or the application of champagne or heated amethyst crystals. Unusual in concept, Perception Blind Massage offers massages by blind or visually impaired masseurs. To sample a truly traditional Thai massage, head to the massage school within the premises of Wat Pho (THB 420 for 1 hr); massages here are given in a crowded communal area that is typically jam-packed with tourists and can involve long waiting times. One of the best value traditional Thai massages (THB 550 for 2 hrs) can be found at Health Land, a popular Spa & Massage chain, which is a firm favorite with both locals and tourists; make an appointment ahead of time as their spa centers get quite busy. Tips: Thai massages can leave you quite sore – it’s advisable to specify a ‘soft/gentle’ massage on arrival, as your assigned masseuse may or may not speak English. Avoid stepping into any massage parlor that advertises soapy massages as these are likely to have ‘happy endings’ and demands for tips.

BTS Asok (Exit 3). MRT Asok (Exit 1)/(Multiple Locations).
9am – 11pm.
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25. Asiatique

Explore Bangkok's riverfront night market, Asiatique
Asiatique is a posh night market and mall combination that’s pricier than Chatuchak, but also better organized. It’s fun to pick up souvenirs from Asiatique’s small shops sequestered away in converted warehouses or take a leisurely stroll down the boardwalk, watching barges tow cargo up the river. Bangkok’s tallest Ferris wheel can be found here, and if you catch a ride around 6:30 pm, you can take stunning shots of the sunset over the Chao Phraya river. International dining options are plentiful at Asiatique, but for an entertaining Thai twist try the Joe Louis Thai restaurant where traditional Thai puppets (Hun Lakorn Lek), interact with the diners at 7:30pm and 9pm, every day except Mondays. Asiatique’s Calypso Ladyboy Cabaret and Muay Thai Live shows are also big entertainment draws. Tips: Avoid taking a taxi to Asiatique as the traffic leading to this area can be crazy. Can combine this trip with a visit to Wat Yannawa.

BTS Saphan Taksin (Exit 2). Free Shuttle every 15 minutes from 4:30 pm/last shuttle back 11:30 pm.
Daily, 5pm to 12am.
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26. Kwan Riam Floating Market

Bangkok's newest floating market, Kwan Riam
Kwan Riam Floating Market is one of Bangkok’s newest floating marketplaces (opened in 2012) and is a charming place to experience the lively vibe of a traditional floating market. Get here early (around 7am) to witness people waiting by the canal side to hand out alms to monks floating by on boats; this is one of the highlights of this particular floating market. To gain a little merit yourself and receive the monk’s blessings, buy some flowers or food and get in line early, as the alms-giving winds up by 8am. While this floating market doesn’t have the typical fruit and vegetable laden floating vendors, it has its own unique feature – many large wooden boats that double up as floating restaurants. Hop on to a boat to sample piping hot food from its on-board kitchen, and experience an atmospheric floating meal with views of the canal. There are also temples to explore, a wide variety of delicacies from various provinces to try, short THB 20 boat rides to take along the canal and even exotic Alpacas and Shetland ponies to admire at the market’s petting zoos. Tips: If the taxi route takes you through Ramkhamhaeng Road, keep an eye out for a bizarre aircraft graveyard, where rusted out Boeing 747 jets lie abandoned.

By Canal Boat: Nida line on Khlong San Saep to Minburi and Taxi.
Weekend 6am – 6pm.
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27. Amulet Market

Statues and protections of all kinds can be found at Bangkok's amulet market.
Bangkok’s amulet market along the Maha Rat Road is worth a visit, just to get a glimpse into Thai superstitions and beliefs. The selection of amulets here is incredibly diverse: ancient sand-colored ones starting at THB 10, elaborate ones featuring monks, holy cloth, and colorful Chinese-looking deities, and others that are truly astonishing. There’s plenty to catch the eye, like the Kuman Thong (golden baby boy) protection or good luck amulets that have tiny figures of two and three-headed babies, originating from the practice of dry-roasting unborn babies and lacquering them with gold leaf. Or wooden phalluses believed to increase male fertility. Artists working on concrete statues, reliquaries, and brass figures, and buyers examining amulets to spot valuable originals give this market plenty of atmosphere. Tips: If you approach it via the Maharaj pier, ignore the signs that lead you into touristy stalls inside the mall and walk straight ahead to directly enter the market. The amulet market is is one of the best locations place to buy inexpensive and life-like effigies of revered monks (THB 200 & above), as they sell for around THB 5000 at malls. Combine this trip with a visit to the Sriraj Medical Museum, the Grand Palace, or Wat Pho. There’s also a new amulet market which has a fantastic array of ultra-colorful small and life-size figurines (tiger-skinned monks, Buddhist and Hindu Gods and Goddesses), right behind Wat Ratchanadda and the Loha Prasat. If you’re going to visit just one amulet market, choose the new one.

By Boat: Tha Maharaj, Tha Chang (N9).
Daily, 9am to 5pm.
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28. Papaya Vintage

Unique and bizarre treasures at Bangkok's Papaya Vintage
A unique warehouse that’s filled with thousands of vintage doodads, Papaya Vintage has the feel of a mad collector’s snowglobe that’s been lost in time. It’s a treasure trove of old and quirky items that have been arranged together with no rhyme or reason. Headless mannequins perch above lighted owls, old globes share shelf space with skulls. There’s something interesting to see in every nook and corner, from old pin ball and arcade machines to army helmets, weird fans, gramophones and more. Tiny tots will especially enjoy the toy section with all the little cars and comic figures, dominated by a row of life-sized grinning Jar Jar Binks of Star Wars fame. Worth spending a few hours here. Tips: Can also check out a show at the Playhouse Magical Cabaret that’s within walking distance of thee MRT Station.

MRT Lat Phrao (Exit 4).
Daily, 10am – 7pm.
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29. Khao San Road

Lively Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand.
A backpacker’s Mecca, the vibrant Khao San Road is a hub of activity with flashy neon lights, ladies sporting massage signs, tattoo parlors, loud bars with live bands and shops selling everything from souvenirs to beachwear. This is the place to buy beer or cocktails by the bucket (with a second bucket for free), get dreadlocks, or obtain your very own fake international driver’s license. Hawkers amble about selling fried scorpions and tarantulas on a stick, and for mixes of crunchy snakes, frogs, centipedes and assorted fried insects look no further than the bug carts. While Khao San road is busy most times, the crowd really picks up after 9 pm, and it’s fun to just sightsee or go pub crawling. Soi Rambuttri, parallel to Khao San road, is equally lively and definitely worth a stroll. Tips: You can also self-organize a Bangkok By Night trip around town with a tuk-tuk from here. If you’ve had enough of the din and the crowds, head over to Phra Athit road nearby, with its more relaxed Bohemian aura and eclectic cafes, bars and restaurants.

MRT Hua Lamphong (Exit 2) & Taxi. By Boat: Phra Athit Pier (N13).
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30. Wholesale Shopping (Platinum Mall) & Pratunam Market

Shop wholesale fashion at Platinum Mall in Bangkok
With more than 2500 shops spread out across 6 floors, the Platinum Fashion Mall is the destination for wholesale fashion shopping. Numerous small shops set in narrow lanes sell everything from niche fashion to evening dresses, costumes, imported clothes, wigs, handbags, cosmetics, and more. Given the size of this maze, buy what you like when you see it, as you may not find the shop again. Haggling is fine here and if you buy more than one you can negotiate a wholesale price. Be aware that almost all the shops have a ‘no-try’, no refund and no exchange policy, so you’ll have to be confident about sizes. While you can shop all day here in air-conditioned comfort, do set aside some time to visit the Pratunam Market just opposite the mall, which is another shopping labyrinth extending all the way to the Baiyoke Towers (both I and II). Jam-packed shops in narrow alleys, pushcarts selling food, and workers transporting trolleys makes for a very local and dynamic market experience. The Baiyoke Towers in particular, are great for neon clothes, crazy graphic-T shirts, tie dye, embroidery etc. Tips: It’s best to visit both the Platinum Mall and the Pratunam area on a weekday between 10 am until 6 pm when all the shops will be open. If you visit on the weekends, be prepared to shuffle down the super-crowded lanes at a snail’s pace. The Pratunam area also has some of the cheapest, hole-in-the-wall Indian eateries. Wind up the evening at the roof top bar or the revolving roof deck (Ticket price: THB 300) on the 84th floor at Baiyoke Tower 2, Thailand’s tallest building. It takes 8 minutes for the revolving deck to complete one circle and delivers fabulous views of the city.

BTS Chitlom (Exit 1).
Platinum Mall: Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday 8am to 8pm. Other days 9am – 8pm.
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Pratunam Market: Daily, 10am – 6pm.
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31. The Golden Mount (Wat Saket)

The Golden Mount is one of Bangkok's oldest temples
One of Bangkok’s oldest temples, Wat Saket or the ‘Golden Mount’ is one of Bangkok’s oldest temples, and features a shining golden chedi perched on top of a man-made hill. Reaching the chedi involves negotiating a 344-step winding staircase, but this is an easy climb with short steps and a few interesting sights along the way to pause and admire. While there’s not much to see in the chedi itself, which houses a Buddha relic, it does gives you a bird’s eye view of the city. Cool things to do here include writing your prayers on clay tiles or on a long red cloth. In November, Wat Saket is the site of a huge temple fair and is worth visiting for its candlelit processions and festive atmosphere. Pay a quick visit to Ban Bat or the Monk’s bowl village, located in a side street nearby, to witness the last community in Thailand that still practices the centuries-old tradition of hand-crafting monk bowls. Tips: The metal castle (Loha Prasat), Democracy Monument, Khao San Road and the Bamrung Muang Road are all within walking distance.

Khlong Ride: Phana Leelard Pier.
7:30am – 5:30pm (THB 20).
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32. The Metal Castle (Loha Prasat)

Bangkok's Loha Prasat is the only structure of its kind that survives today
One of three structures of its type that have been constructed around the world, the Loha Prasat (Metal Castle) in Bangkok’s Wat Ratchanatdaram is the only one that has survived to this day. (It has been submitted to the UNESCO for consideration as a World Heritage site). The most striking features of this stunning multi-tiered temple are its 37 black iron spires, which symbolize the 37 virtues on the path to enlightenment; these spires are currently being given a golden sheen. Loha Prasats differ from other temples in their unique construction – multiple levels are laid out on well-spaced columns, and wandering through this one’s many narrow corridors filled with history exhibits makes for interesting exploration. A spiral staircase takes you right to an enshrined relic at the top, and permits fantastic close-up shots of the spires. Tips: The colorful amulet market situated right at the back is not to be missed. Have lunch or an early dinner at the classic Thai Methavalai Sorndaeng restaurant nearby, with its 1960’s vibe and reputation for serving royalty. The Bamrung Muang road and the Giant Swing are a short walk away.

Daily, 9am – 5pm. Free Entrance.
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33. Grand Palace

The Grand Palace is Bangkok's top attraction
Bangkok’s top attraction, the stunning Grand Palace is not a single building but a sprawling complex of halls, buildings and pavilions set amidst vast courtyards and gardens. A mishmash of architecturally different styles greet the eye, a testament to the vision of various reigning kings who made their own additions. Take your time walking around the complex’s many courts, admiring the massive murals, the small scale model of the Angkor Wat, the throne halls, galleries and more. The 2000 year-old Buddha image carved from a single jade block at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is one of Thailand’s most revered images. The brochure and map that accompany the ticket provide sufficient direction for you to find your way, but guides can be hired too. Tips: As this is Thailand’s foremost sacred site, the dress code is extremely strict – no see-through clothes, no shawls, no sandals or flip-flops. Long sleeve shirts, long pants and full skirts (for women) are recommended. If you aren’t suitably attired, clothes are available at a booth near the entrance for a deposit, but this can be a hassle with long queues. Arrive early on a weekday at 8:30 to both beat the midday heat and the flag-bearing tour groups and huge weekend crowds. Nearby attractions include the City Pillar Shrine, opposite the Grand Palace, and the Bangkok National Museum, a short walk away. The 3-part entry ticket also includes access to the Ananta Samakom Throne Hall, Vimanmek Mansion, and Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall, but needs to be used within a week.

By Boat: Tha Chang Pier (N9).
Daily, 8:30am to 3:30pm. THB 500.
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34. Bangkok By Night

Take a night tour of Bangkok, Thailand
A night tour of Bangkok’s major attractions is an exciting way to see their architectural grandeur in all its illuminated glory, and experience a side of them that few tourists take the time out to see. Try one of the organized tours or arrange your own tour with a local tuk-tuk driver for approximately THB 200 & above, as the major attractions are fairly close together. The prominent sights to swing by are the Golden Mount, Grand Palace, the City Pillar Shrine, Wat Pho, the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, the Giant Swing, the old forts at Santi Chaiprakarn park, and Wat Ratchanatdaram. Tips: Make sure to walk right up to the Anantha Samakhom Throne Hall as there’s a beautiful pavilion that’s not easily seen from the grounds in front. Also make sure to go into the Wat Pho temple grounds and witness the splendor of all the lit-up pagodas close-up. If self-organized, end your trip at Chinatown or Khao San Road, to grab a bite and round off the evening.

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35. Moon Bar

Bangkok's Moon Bar restaurant offers breathtaking views of the city
Perched on the top of the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree hotel at Sathorn, the Moon Bar offers outstanding 360 degree views of the city without any walls or structures to block the view. Along with the hotel’s sister restaurant, Vertigo, Moon Bar is situated on one end of an the elongated rooftop, giving visitors have the impression of being aboard the deck of a majestic floating ship way up in the sky. Come here around 6:30 pm and get a corner table to experience the sunset and glorious night time views – the only other rooftop bar that comes close is the State Tower’s Sky Bar (of Hangover movie fame), which overlooks the Chao Phraya river. However, Sky Bar gets insanely crowded, with long entry queues, and is also much more commercialized; visitors are shunted to a side area and only allowed on the Sky bBar proper after they buy a drink. The less crowded Moon Bar offers a more relaxed experience of having a drink on top of the world. Tips: Call head during the rainy season to see if the Moon Bar is open. It’s best accessed via the MRT to avoid getting stuck in traffic jams.

BTS Lumpini (Exit 2).
Daily, 5pm to 1am. Free Entrance.
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36. Wat Traimit

Bangkok's Wat Traimit houses a spectacular 24 carat gold buddha statue
Home to the world’s largest solid gold Buddha, Wat Traimit makes for an excellent stopover before entering the hustle and bustle of Chinatown’s Yaowarat road. Dating back to the 13th century, this five and half ton gold statue was believed to be made of plaster for centuries, until it was accidentally dropped when it was being hoisted, causing some of the plaster to crack open and reveal the a gleam of gold underneath. Beyond spending some time taking in all that gleaming shining majesty, there’s not a lot to do here – visit the museum on the third floor (THB 100) only if you have time to kill. Tips: Best visited en route to Chinatown, as this temple is literally a stone’s throw away from both the Hua Lamphong station and MRT Hua Lamphong.

MRT Hua Lamphong (Exit 2).
9am – 5pm. (THB 40)
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37. Rod Fai Night Market II

Shop for Thai food and goods at Bangkok's Rod Fai Night Market II
The open-air Rod Fai Night Market II with its flea-market atmosphere has something for everyone – long avenues of shops selling fashion and Thai street foods, live bands belting out music, cool pubs and chilled out bars. Frequented mostly by locals, this market situated right behind the Esplanade shopping mall is very easily accessed via the MRT. It’s the place to get a vintage haircut, check out hipster clothes, toys, kitsch stuff and more. Instead of having dinner, walk through this foodie heaven sampling things like Thai DIY type barbecue, huge grilled salted fish, Cajun-style shrimp (eaten with your hands off a plastic tablecloth), Khao Soi curry noodles, fried insects and amazing smoking desserts. It’s the only night market to have bars overlooking the market, giving you the option to have a drink to awesome views. Tips: Get here after 7 pm as that’s when all the shops are open. The Rod Fai Night Market I is bigger with around 2000 stalls and many unique vintage and antique items, but it’s a bit far out and involves taking a taxi from BTS On Nut. If you can only visit one night market go for Rod Fai Night Market I, however either market is worth visiting for an entire evening.

MRT Thailand Cultural Centre (Exit 3).
Thursday – Sunday, 5pm – 12am.
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38. Siam Niramit

The incredible Siam Niramit Show in Bangkok, Thailand
Described as a ‘Journey to the Enchanted Kingdom of Siam,’The outstanding Siam Niramit show is one of those rare shows that actually lives up to the hype. The show portrays the historical, spiritual, and cultural beliefs of Thailand in a fantastic 3-act performance; ancient civilizations comprise the first act, the second explores karma and depicts both heaven and hell, and the third enacts many merit-making Thai festivals. Around a hundred performers dressed in traditional costumes dance about huge, over-the-top stage sets for 80 minutes, delivering an unforgettable performance. Some really cool moments include a performer diving into an on-stage lake for a bath, live elephants that amble about and a dozen levitating angels that dive and swoop gracefully. Unfortunately, there’s a strict no-photo policy and laser pointer equipped staff monitoring the audience. If you arrive early, you can catch some traditional performances in the area outside the show hall, feed the elephants cucumbers for a fee, and take photos with costumed dancers. As a one-time thing it’s worth springing for the pricier tickets up front. Tips: For all types of cultural performances at other locations, check out Thai Ticket Major. The Himmapan Avatar show may emerge as a close competitor when it opens in the Show DC Mall (scheduled to open in September 2016). While there aren’t many events happening at the Aksra Theatre, it’s worth going to a show there, just for its stunning Thai-sculpture inspired interior.

MRT Thailand Cultural Center (Exit 1). Free Shuttle.
8 pm. THB 1500 & above.
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39. Muay Thai boxing

Catch an authentic Muay Thai Boxing match for free on Sunday monrnings
Known as the ‘Art of Eight Limbs’ for its eight points of contact, traditional Muay Thai boxing combines elements of both martial arts and boxing. Witnessing a match is not only a fantastic way to experience a centuries old Thai combat form but also take in some heart pumping action. To see an authentic, live match for free, with locals cheering for their favorites and bookies yelling out bets, head over to Channel 7’s TV studio on a Sunday morning. Walking through the studio door puts you straight in front of the ring, but continue onwards as there’s seating at the back reserved for foreigners. The crowd gets quite loud, especially when the match starts and the fighters begin pummeling each other – if it gets to be too much, you can always step out and continue to watch the match on the TV screens outside. Tips: It can be tricky to locate the studio by yourself, so take a motorcycle taxi either from the MRT or BTS Station and ask for ‘Chang 7’ or ‘Channel 7 Muay Thai’ and follow the crowd. It’s important to get there at least one hour before the match begins at 12:45 am, otherwise you’ll have to stand the entire time and be jostled by people entering and exiting (matches end at 4:35 pm). Bring your own water bottles. Free matches are also sometimes held on certain days in front of the MBK mall, but you’ll need to check beforehand to see if any fights are actually on. Matches held at the Lumpinee and Rajadamnern boxing stadiums are expensive, but ringside tickets may put you shoulder to shoulder with former champions.

MRT Chatuchak Park (Exit 3), BTS Mo Chit (Exit 4).
Free Entrance.
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40. Wat Yan Nawa

The fantastic boat-shaped Thai temple, Wat Yan Nara
With chedis for masts and a Buddha altar instead of a wheel room, Wat Yan Nawa (the Boat Temple) is a one-of-a kind Chinese junk boat-shaped temple built by King Rama III to remind future generations of the magnificence of the once popular junks. It’s free to enter but you might be asked for a small donation of THB 20 for some incense to pay your respects at the altar. While the temple itself is worth a quick look, the real attraction here is the fantastic repository of the relics of the Buddha and other enlightened monks, beautifully laid out in the hall in the nearby building. Miniscule beads of every hue, which are supposedly transformed body parts, along with more ordinary bone fragments, all credited with possessing magical powers, are displayed in reliquaries. Here’s where you can see the ‘brain relics of Buddha like grape seeds,’ the many chest, face, and forehead relics, and even glimpse the legendary Naga Gem (a gemstone found in a snake’s head). Aside of the relics, do take time to appreciate the unique multi-religious aura of this place – from the Chinese Kwan Yin, to the Hindu Ganesha, all the various Gods here live in harmony in this temple, surrounded by antique Buddhas and life-sized monk wax sculptures. You can leave behind notes of wishes or prayers on the little tree inside. Tips: Check out the top floor – ceremonies to ordain boys as monks are sometimes held here. As this temple is right by BTS Saphan Taksin, combine this visit with any plan that involves a trip on the river. In spite of its very functional appearance, the little restaurant close to the temple, Steak Chef Noi, is worth a visit for its delicious food, served up by a former hotel chef.

BTS Saphan Taksin (Exit 4).
Daily, 8am – 6pm. Free Entrance.
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41. Sing Sing Theater

The super hot bangkok night club, Sing Sing Theater
Sing-Sing Theater a must-visit bar-cum-club, with ladies dancing in bird cages, hanging lanterns, Chinese dragon imagery, and elaborate metalwork. Modeled like a theater, with multiple levels and balconies overlooking a central stage (which doubles as a dance floor), it’s one of the hottest destinations to hang out in Bangkok. Creative touches greet the eye everywhere, from the ‘Muses’ (ladies in Chinese quipaos) who usher you in, to the signature cocktails served in metal cages. International music acts and popular DJs dish out great music, and there’s a focus on innovative concept dance performances. Watching white- garbed martial artists, hot burlesque dancers, or ethereal siren mermaids flit about is an added bonus to spending an entertaining evening spent socializing or dancing in an already opulent setting. There’s nothing quite like Sing Sing Theater anywhere else in the city – with elements of theater, bar, and club, it’s the destination to socialize, dance, or enjoy the show. Tips: While it’s a great place to visit any day during the week, call ahead to find out when there’s a show. Sing Sing Theater is the brain child of the very popular designer Ashley Sutton; his other ventures in the city – Maggie Choos, the Bookshop, and the Iron Fairies – are other outlandish bars also worth checking out for their quirky atmosphere. For an overview of all Bangkok night life events check out Siam2nite, a one stop destination that lists many cool events and shows around town.

BTS Phrom Phong (Exit 3).
Daily, 9pm – 3am. Free Entrance.
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42. Muang Boran

Bangkok's Muang Boran, the ancient city
The Ancient City or ‘Muang Boran‘ is a massive outdoor museum, constructed in the shape of Thailand, that contains 115 accurate scale models of Siam’s ancient wonders. Spanning roughly 315 acres and built by the eccentric Thai millionaire also responsible for both the Erawan Museum and the Sanctuary of Truth (in Pattaya), a trip here is tantamount to experiencing a microcosm of Thai history in all its splendid diversity. Old monuments, glorious ruins, spotless temples, and historic houses are scattered about a verdant landscape punctuated by fascinating cultural and mythological references. Craftsmen working on traditional art forms and vendors selling snacks as they paddle about the city’s floating market give this open-air museum a lively feel. To really do it justice, Muang Boran needs an entire day – a day filled with endless and outstanding photo opportunities. Tips: Get here early on a weekday to experience all of its splendors without the hassle of crowds. Check to see if they have any promotional ticket offers that also include the Erawan Museum. Tram rides start from the entry point, but these are only available at set times and follow pre-determined routes – the best way to see the Ancient city is to hop on to one of the free bicycles or hire a golf cart and roam around at leisure. Make sure you have adequate water and sun protection. Take an anti-clockwise route starting with the Thai village and have lunch at any of the restaurants in the floating market. Plan to reach the Royal Watercourse Procession before 4 pm, as that’s your last chance for a free lake cruise that’ll take you past many magnificent dragon-shaped ceremonial barges and other sights. Leave early Muang Boran early enough to stopover at the Erawan Museum on your way back.

BTS Bearing (Exit 3) & Taxi ride.
Daily, 9am – 7pm. THB 700.
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43. Siriraj Medical Museum

Bangok's Siriraj Medical Museum, "the Museum of Death"
Known as the ‘Museum of Death,’ the Siriraj Medical Museum is filled with exhibits such as which can be both gruesome and heart-rending at the same time: conjoined twins, deformed babies, skulls with gunshot wounds, murder weapons, a two-and-a-half-foot-wide diseased scrotum, and parasites you didn’t know could exist in a human body. One of the museum’s star exhibits features the paraffin wax-filled body of Thailand’s most notorious serial killer, Si Quey, who ate the hearts of little boys. He’s flanked by a mummified rapist in a what look like a telephone booth display, bearing the words ‘Rape Murderer with Death Sentence.’ Take your time checking it all out as the museum is spread out across different buildings, which can be a little tricky to locate. The most disturbing sections are the ones devoted to Parasitology, Forensic Pathology and Congenital Disorders. Tips: The museum is located on the grounds of Siriraj Hospital. The easiest way to get here is via the ferry boat. Spring for the complete ticket (THB 300), which permits you to enter the Siriraj Bimuksthan Museum, only if you’re interested in checking out the history of the hospital and the river area. Other offbeat museums to check out include the Human Body Museum, the Batman Toy Museum, the Shell Museum and the Museum of Floral Culture.

By Boat: Phannok Pier.
10am – 5pm. Closed on Tuesdays and Public Holidays. THB 200.
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44. Soi Cowboy

One of Bangkok's most popular red light districts, Soi Cowboy
A red-light area that reflects that offers a glimpse into the seedier side of Bangkok, Soi Cowboy is a 150 meter long stretch, opposite the Terminal 21 mall, that sports numerous go-go bars. Bikini-clad women stand in droves under neon-signs in this farang ghetto, enticing passing tourists to buy a drink. Many places here offer half price drinks during happy hours which might last until 9 pm – getting a drink lets you experience the vibe of the street here without any other untoward hassle. Other red light district areas in Bangkok include the Nana Plaza and the infamous Patpong night market. Tips: One of the best streets for gay nightlife is Silom Soi 4. If you do decide to visit the Patpong night market, be wary of vendors approaching you with a list of some of the unbelievable activities that ladies can engage in involving ping pong balls, razors and more. While they might entice you inside for a drink, quoting a low entry price, it’s entirely possible they’ll then have bouncers to bar your exit, (especially if you’re the last to leave) unless you pay ten times the price or more for the privilege of having watched the ‘shows.’

BTS Asok (Exit 6). MRT (Exit 2).
Reviews

45. Float Session

While in Bangkok, try a float session in an epsom bath
Bangkok’s flotation centers give you the experience of complete sensory deprivation as you float in an epsom salt bath within a futuristic pod. A ‘float’ can last anywhere from 1 to 2 hours, depending on the option you choose, and you’ll need to shower before you get in. This experience isn’t really for everyone – it can be either completely relaxing or mind-numbingly boring, depending on your personality. Regardless, it’s worth trying out, as it is quite something to experience the kind of surreal silence where you can hear your own heartbeat in total darkness. It’s worth trying out once regardless of whether you love it or hate it. Tips: Ask for promotional offers. Make sure to apply Vaseline liberally on any rashes or cuts you might have before you enter the tank, as the salt water will sting terribly otherwise. Also ensure that the water doesn’t enter your eyes; there’s a mist spray and towel inside the pod for emergencies. Shower thoroughly beforehand – the staff are serious about possible contamination and you’re required to sign an agreement that specifies a huge fine in case there is any. It’s best to go to a float session without any makeup, perfume, or gel on to avoid the risk.

Multiple locations.
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46. PlayHouse LadyBoy Cabaret Show

Beautiful ladyboys star in Bangkok's PlayHouse Magical Cabaret
Extravagantly dressed and unbelievably beautiful ladyboys are the highlight of the PlayHouse Magical Cabaret show, as they lip-sync and dance to many popular hit songs, putting on quite the performance. While there’s plenty of entertainment value here in terms of the elaborate sets, contemporary dance forms (hip hop, ballet, Bollywood etc.), and even a magic show, it’s the unbelievably beautiful ladyboys (‘kathoeys’) themselves that stand out. Many of them deliver equally stunning performances dressed as either men or women. Interestingly, these shows aren’t risque, and are suitable for family entertainment. Tips: If the crowds are pretty thin, you may be enticed up front by the entire cast of the show for a post-performance photo shoot and be overwhelmingly bombarded for tips. It’s wise to either avoid this situation entirely or keep a few notes ready in hand. Other popular cabaret shows include the Calypso Cabaret and Mambo Cabaret show.

MRT Lad Prao (Exit 1).
7pm and 8:20pm. THB 1200.
Reviews

47. Boat Noodle Alley

Find traditional Thai boat noodles near Bangkok's Victory Monument
Nondescript in appearance, Boat Noodle Alley is an alleyway near Victory Monument that’s famous for serving boat noodles, known as ‘guay diow rua’. Small noodle portions are served in tiny bowls costing around THB 10 or more; this is reminiscent of the way they were sold by floating noodle sellers – the small portions meant less chance of spillage. Locals and students visit here to order bowls by the dozen – some top favorites involve a dash of fresh pig’s blood. Tips: A noodle bowl is super cheap; order 5 or more bowls to experience a delicious variety of broth flavors, seasonings and noodle types. Some places offer a free glass or bottle of Pepsi if you down 10 or 20 bowls. The khlong adjoining the alleyway, with its polluted waters, is far from scenic – you might want to opt for one of the air-conditioned restaurants instead. Check out the Victory monument area before or afterwards as it’s great for inexpensive clothes and cheap formal suits.

BTS Victory Monument (Exit 4).
Daily, 11am to 9pm.
Reviews

48. Nai Lert Heritage Home

The Nai Lert Heritage Home in Bangkok, Thailand
Opened to the public in early 2016, the Nai Lert Heritage Home is a grandiose example of traditional Thai architecture featuring gorgeous teakwood expanses and a charming landscaped garden with century-old trees. It can only be visited with a guide, and if you can’t make it on the appointed days and times, they do allow guided visits by pre-booked appointments. Aside of many antiques and artifacts, there’s plenty of history and many fascinating details to admire – a table made of musical instruments, a gigantic monk bowl to feed visiting monks, and a bomb hole that’s been transformed into a lotus pond. Tips: Relax with a meal or drinks afterwards, at the adjoining Ma Maison restaurant. The Jim Thompson House and the M.R. Kurkit House are other old and well-known homes to check out. Can combine this with a visit to the Phallic shrine which isthat’s just down the road.

BTS Ploen Chit (Exit 1).
Thursday & Friday. Guided visits at 11am, 2pm & 4pm. THB 500.

49. Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

Wat Arun, the temple of Dawn, is one of Bangkok's oldest templesOne of Bangkok’s most iconic riverside landmarks, Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn) is also one of the city’s oldest temples, famous for its unique Khymer-style central spire exquisitely decorated with colored porcelain. The temple’s majestic spire, surrounded by four smaller spires, dominates the skyline and symbolizes the mythical Mount Meru (in Buddhist cosmology, the center of the universe). Steep steps lead up the central spire and if you dare the climb you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of the river, Wat Pho and the Grand Palace. The various pavilions and guardian statues in the temple complex are also worth a look. Tips: To get here, take the ferry to pier N8 and then take a cross-river ferry for THB 3. You can get some cool great shots of the temple from the cross-river ferry boat either when approaching or departing the temple. Currently, the higher levels of the central spire are under restoration (from 2015) with a tentative opening date sometime in 2017, so you’ll only be able to climb up a little way. The best views of this temple are to be had at sunset around 6 pm, from restaurants and cafes on the opposite side of the river; The Deck at the Arun Residence Hotel is one of the best locations to capture some amazing photographs.

By Boat: Tha Tien Pier (N8) & Cross-river Ferry boat.
Daily, 8am to 6pm. THB 50.
Reviews

50. Bamrung Muang Road (Street of Many Buddhas)

A Buddha factory on Bangkok's Bamrung Road
An elephant trail in times past, Bamrung Muang is Bangkok’s ‘Buddha Road,’ where thousands of small to giant-sized Buddhas and all manner of Buddhist paraphernalia are sold. Walking down this road is a visual treat: human-sized seated monks, colorful Hindu Gods and Goddesses, massive orange candles, and giant bells all grace the storefronts bordering the sidewalks. Besides the shops, Monk buckets (buckets filled with everyday supplies available for monks can use) can be seen here. You might stumble upon Buddha-producing factories here – walk around for some cool photo ops: camera-ready rows of Buddhas, and workers loading and and touching up the statues. Tips: Be mindful of the narrow sidewalks as you walk. This road is quite long and goes on past the Giant Swing and a huge intersection, so continue past it and follow the road as it extends to the other side.

Khlong Ride: Phana Leelard Pier.
Daily, 9pm to 6pm.
Reviews

51. Artist’s House (Baan Silapin)

Colorful statues flank the canal at Bangkok's Artists House
Baan Silapin (the Artist’s House) is an old two-story teak wood house that’s an excellent place to experience old community life or chill out alongside the canals reading a book and watching the boats pass by. There’s an ancient stupa/chedi right at the center of the café, a puppet display and a performance space on the bottom floor, and many prints, drawings and photographs for sale on the first floor. It’s a charming locality, with homes on stilts bordering the canals, boldly colored human-sized statues of Thai men siting khlong-side gazing at the canal waters, artists working on paintings, and kids throwing colorful fish food into the water. The free shadow puppet performance is a must-see: black-clad masked actors manipulate intricate khon puppets and portray the tale of Ramayana. Tips: Its best to visit on a Saturday, as they are most likely to have a shadow puppet performance at 14:00. Call ahead on other days to check if they have a show scheduled. Make sure to leave a little tip in the puppet performance donation box; the appreciative puppets may reward you with a handshake or a kiss. If time permits, explore the surrounding area, as there are a few old temples worth exploring visiting in the vicinity.

BTS Wongwian Yai (Exit 2) & Taxi.
Monday & Tuesday 10am – 6pm.
Wednesday to Friday 9am to 6pm.
Saturday & Sunday 9am – 7pm.
Reviews

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Posted on

Best Time To Visit Amsterdam

Updated: October 21, 2017

See Also

When is the best time to visit Amsterdam?

  • Best Time for Sightseeing: The best time for enjoying the sights of Amsterdam without worries of others getting in the way of your view, is in late autumn and throughout most of the winter months. Of course, you’ll need to bundle up as it will be cold, and likely wet, but it may be well-worth it for the more peaceful experience. If that sounds a bit too chilly for your liking, consider coming between mid-September and mid-October, when crowds are few, but you’ll enjoy a better chance for sunny skies. The worst time for sightseeing is during the summer, when lines for the most popular attractions can mean a very long (sometimes as much as three hours) and sweaty wait.
  • Best Time to See the Tulips: Visit Amsterdam in mid-April if you hope to see the tulips at their colorful peak. The season extends between late March and mid-May, but the middle of April typically brings the most prolific blossoms. Of course, this all depends on the weather, which can be difficult if not impossible to predict.
  • Best Time for Shopping: Retailers in Amsterdam, and many other European cities, don’t put on big sales throughout the year, or even at the end of each season. Here, January and July are the months to shop, as that’s when the stores offer the most dramatic discounts as they clear out inventory. You’ll see store windows advertising UITVERKOOP OPRUIMING, which means “clearance sale.” You’ll have to bump elbows with countless other bargain hunters to get the best deals, especially in July, but with discounts up to 70%, it’s usually worth it. Keep in mind that the earlier you visit during the sale, the more choices you’re likely to have, but going closer to the end of the sale brings the biggest discounts.
  • Best Time to Visit the Anne Frank House: If the Anne Frank House is the No. 1 to-do on your itinerary, visit in the winter (other than around the holidays) if at all possible. In the summer, it’s not uncommon to be stuck waiting in line for three hours, which is especially miserable on a hot and humid afternoon. If you don’t have a choice, timing your visit right is a must. Come before it opens, getting in line by about 8:30am, which should get you inside in about an hour.
  • Best Time to Visit the Red Light District: Many tourists are curious about the Red Light District in Amsterdam, and just want to get a glimpse of what it’s all about. If that’s you, the best time to go all year round is in the early evening when you can see the glow of the red lights reflected in the dark canals, but it’s not too crowded yet. For those looking to participate, it’s possible to experience it 24 hours a day, although most of the action is from 9pm onward in the summer, and after 6pm in the winter.

Amsterdam Travel Seasons

  • High Season (April through August, mid-December through early January): Summer is the peak of high season, though the months of April and May, while slightly less crowded downtown, are still considered to be part of high season, due to the influx of tourists that arrive to experience the blooming tulips and other flowers. The weather is likely to be pleasant, but by the end of May, you’ll need to be prepared to wait in long lines for popular attractions, and bumping elbows with the hordes of tourists in congested areas of town. When it comes to accommodation, you’ll likely pay too much for too little, as hotels are able to charge their top rates. Around the Christmas holidays, just before Christmas through New Year’s, expect rates and crowds to peak again.
  • Shoulder Season (March, September): While March and September can be a gamble when it comes to the weather (go in late March or early September and you’ll fair better), you’re more likely to find some discounted rates, and less likely to have to battle thick crowds.
  • Low Season (November through mid-December, mid-January through February): With the dismal grey, cool weather during the winter months, accommodation rates are at their lowest, noticeably dropping, and you may be able to get cheaper airfare too. Still, you’ll find plenty of indoor attractions, and far fewer tourists than there were during the summer, making this a good time to be here for many, depending upon what you have on your own particular agenda. It’s beautiful when snowy nights blanket the city, and in early February, if the canals have frozen, you can watch the locals glide across the ice – or even join them yourself.

Amsterdam Weather by Month

  • Amsterdam Weather in January: January is the coldest month in Amsterdam, with average temperatures hovering around 3°C. Coupled with the winds that blow through the various canals, it can feel quite a bit colder than what the mercury actually reads. Still, as long as you’re dressed appropriately, you’ll be able to enjoy walking around the city most of the time. There may be some rain, as 69mm falls over eight days, and quite a few gray, gloomy days, from time to time there will be at least of few hours of blue, cloudless skies. Snow is a possibility, but when Amsterdam is covered in white, it’s especially beautiful. What can be more challenging, is the short days, with sunrise at 8:51am and sunset just after 4:30pm on January 1st. The later in the month you arrive, the longer the day will be – by January’s end, the sun will make an appearance at about 8:30am, dipping below the horizon about 5:30pm. When packing, focus on warm clothing, including sweaters and long-sleeved shirts, a winter coat and warm, waterproof boots. Bringing along thermal underwear, gloves and a scarf are also a good idea for those extra chilly days. You’ll also want to dress in layers so that you can easily peel some items off, as restaurants, coffee houses and most attractions will be cozily warm. (Average Max Temperature: 5°C. Average Precipitation: 69mm.)
  • Amsterdam Weather in February: February is slightly warmer than January, with the average high temperature increasing to 8°C, but at the same time, the average low takes a two degree dip to below freezing at -1°C, and combined with the fog and occasional winds, you can expect it to feel colder than the thermometer reads both day and night. February is a little drier, with 39mm of precipitation, though sunlight is still at a premium due to the frequent grey skies and short days. Be prepared by packing as you would for last month, with warm winter clothing, including thermals and other items that will allow you to dress in layers. (Average Max Temperature: 8°C. Average Precipitation: 39mm.)
  • Amsterdam Weather in March: With spring just around the corner, the weather is gradually warming this month, although cold snaps aren’t uncommon. Still, when precipitation falls, it’s usually in the form or rain rather than snow. The average temperature climbs noticeably to 6°C, with nicer afternoons reaching as high as 9°C, though the weather in Amsterdam can be erratic, especially in March, experiencing all four seasons in the same week – and sometimes the same day. As the month progresses, there is more sun, and more daylight, with sunset at about 8:15pm by March’s end, thanks in part to Daylight Savings Time. Plan on bringing warm clothing and dressing in layers, as most of the month is still technically winter and is likely to feel that way, though the later you arrive, the more likely you are to need your sunglasses. (Average Max Temperature: 9°C. Average Precipitation: 78mm.)
  • Amsterdam Weather in April: Spring has finally arrived, generally bringing a warming trend along with more dry spells – on average, just 36mm of rain falls this month. The sun comes back in a big way now, with fewer gloomy days and average high temperatures increasing to 12°C, while overnight lows are now well above freezing, averaging at 4°C. You can leave your heavy winter coat behind now as a light jacket and a sweater should suffice, though a scarf might be appreciated for days spent on or around the water. (Average Max Temperature: 12°C. Average Precipitation: 38mm.)
  • Amsterdam Weather in May: May brings noticeably warmer weather, with average highs increasing five degrees to 17°C and most days hovering around 12°C. This is one of the sunniest months in Amsterdam, with some 10 hours of sunshine a day, and by month’s end, the sun won’t go down until almost 10pm. It’s unlikely to feel truly hot, however, and evenings are still cool with low temps averaging 8°C. A light jacket is all you’ll need for after dark and chillier days, but bring your short-sleeved shirts and even a pair of shorts or a summery dress for those especially nice days. (Average Max Temperature: 17°C. Average Precipitation: 45mm.)
  • Amsterdam Weather in June: As summer starts to roll in, it’s mostly t-shirts and shorts weather in Amsterdam, with average afternoon highs of 19°C, but if you’re coming from an especially warm climate, it’s still likely to feel fairly cool. Rain is on the increase again with 69mm of precipitation in June, but as it’s generally spread out over just nine days, you can expect plenty of sunshine too. This month tends to be a mixed bag, with lots of sun interspersed with gray days and brief showers. Plan accordingly, by bringing some summer clothing, along with a light jacket or sweater for the evening as well as long pants and some long-sleeved shirts, just in case. (Average Max Temperature: 19°C. Average Precipitation: 69mm.)
  • Amsterdam Weather in July: July is one of the hottest months in Amsterdam, and while the highest temperature ever recorded was 32°C, on most days you’ll enjoy temperatures in the upper teens and low 20s. Combined with the high humidity, however, it can feel quite a bit hotter. This is the time when locals head to the beach, with the waters along the coast warmer now, averaging around 17°C, making it more enjoyable to participate in water sports and other activities. Although there is about 63mm of rain, when it does fall, it’s usually light and brief. Temperatures cool to around 13°C at night, so a light sweater or jacket is still a good idea if you’ll be out and about after dark. Otherwise, short-sleeved tops, dresses and shorts are standard attire. (Average Max Temperature: 21°C. Average Precipitation: 63mm.)
  • Amsterdam Weather in August: August is similar to July, also bringing high temps of 21°C, although things tend to be a bit more fickle – some years this month is characterized by lots of warm sunny, days and others there will be more cloudy days and rain. Although it is one of the hottest months in the city, it’s unlikely to ever feel scorching hot here, and you can usually count on at least some rain to cool things off with 54mm of precipitation over 11 days. Pack your summer wear including shorts or skirts, t-shirts and a bathing suit for dips in the sea, as the water will be as warm as it will all year at 18°C. You will still need a few warmer clothes for going out during the cooler evening hours, including long pants and a light jacket. (Average Max Temperature: 21°C. Average Precipitation: 54mm.)
  • Amsterdam Weather in September: The weather begins to change again in September, which is typically one of the wetter months of the year in Amsterdam, with an average of 75mm of precipitation over 10 days, though much of it will be in the form of light rain and perhaps a rare thunderstorm. The sun doesn’t come out as often, however, as much of the time heavy clouds will pervade city skies. The amount of daylight diminishes too, with sunset nearly three hours earlier than it was in June – 7:19pm by month’s end. On most days, temperatures will be a fairly pleasant 15°C to 16°C, occasionally getting as warm as 18°C in the afternoon. Bring a light rain jacket and plan for mildly warm and cool days as well as even cooler evenings with overnight lows now down to 11°C, and you’ll be well-prepared. (Average Max Temperature: 18°C. Average precipitation: 75mm.)
  • Amsterdam Weather in October: October weather in Amsterdam can best be summed up as inconsistent. It can be nice and sunny one moment and grey and rainy the next. Sometimes it’s warm enough to enjoy lunch at an outdoor café, and at other times, it feels like winter has already kicked in. Average temperatures are around 11°C, with highs averaging 15°C, and precipitation picks up just a bit to 84mm that falls over nine days, in the form of mostly light rain. You’re unlikely to need your summer wear now, but bring a couple of short-sleeved shirts for those wonderfully rare sunny afternoons that you’ll want to be sure to take advantage of – the amount of daylight decreases even further, with the sun dipping below the horizon at about 5:15pm on October 31st, as the clocks change backward this month. (Average Max Temperature: 15°C. Average Precipitation: 84mm.)
  • Amsterdam Weather in November: November is officially the wettest month of the year, bringing an average of 90mm of precipitation, much of it as drizzle or light rain, but toward the end of the month as temperatures drop, snow flurries are possible, though short-lived. The average temperature dips to 9°C, and overnight lows are around 4°C, making this a wet and chilly month to be in Amsterdam, but provided you bring layers, along with a waterproof jacket, you’ll be able to comfortably enjoy exploring the city. When packing keep in mind that you could very well experience a day or two of sunny skies and pleasant temperatures – or you could be in for the other extreme, a frigid night of -10 °C. (Average Max Temperature: 9°C. Average Precipitation: 90mm.)
  • Amsterdam Weather in December: You’ll need your warm winter coat, a scarf, gloves and thermal underwear for a trip to Amsterdam in December. Temperatures average around 4°C, with averages highs just two degrees warmer, and overnight lows of 3°C – which means, no matter what time of day or night, it’s likely to be cold, though brutally cold weather that’s well below freezing is still rare. Most days are not only dark, their short, with just three hours of sunshine a day, and sunset around 4:30pm throughout the month. Precipitation decreases from last month, with 69mm of rain on average over seven days (Average Max Temperature: 6°C. Average precipitation: 69mm.)

Amsterdam Special Events by Month

Amsterdam in January

  • New Year’s Day – January 1st, New Year’s Day, is a public holiday, but you’ll find many restaurants and some museums and other attractions, including the Anne Frank House, Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, open. As the January sales are beginning, it’s also a good time for bargain hunters and shopaholics to do some shopping. If you’re feeling brave and want to do what the Dutch do, start the year off by taking a New Year’s dive – the largest is held at the beach of Scheveningen, where more than 10,000 people plunge into the sea every year. If you don’t want to jump in yourself, it’s always fun to watch from the sidelines.
  • National Tulip Day – Traditionally held on the third Saturday of January every year, National Tulip Day brings approximately 200,000 tulips to Amsterdam’s Dam Square, creating a massive temporary garden that is open to the public for free for flower picking. More than 10,000 people come for the event, which means you’ll need to arrive early – usually at least an hour before the 1pm opening time, in order to pick your own.
  • Whisky Weekend Amsterdam – Over three-days in mid-January, Amsterdam’s Posthoornkerk becomes a tasting room and hot spot for whisky enthusiasts. Enjoy tastings and nosings along with whisky-friendly cheeses, a variety of Scottish products and traditional Scottish music.
  • Food Soul Festival – Held on the last Friday, Saturday and Sunday of January each year, the Food Soul Festival brings together some of the city’s best food trucks serving dishes from all corners of the globe, along with wine, craft beers and music into the warmth of the Kromhouthal in Amsterdam Noord.

Amsterdam in February

  • Chinese New Year – Chinese New Year festivities take place at Dam Square over the weekend closest to the official New Year date on the Chinese calendar. Friday night kicks off the event with a firework display, and the weekend includes workshops, dragon dances, tea ceremonies and lots of food.
  • 24H Oost – On a weekend in mid-February, the diverse neighborhoods east of the River Amstel known as Amsterdam Oost, hosts a variety of workshops and guided tours, performances, music, food and drink.
  • Amsterdam Salsa Festival – Join salsa lovers over this annual weekend in mid-February where you can learn to salsa or brush up on your skills at a variety of workshops as well as take in performances by some of the world’s best salsa dancers.
  • Valentine’s Day – There are lots of ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Amsterdam, including taking a horse & carriage ride on the city’s cobblestone streets to one of the many restaurants serving special Valentine menus as well as embarking on a canal ride to see the illuminated waterways while enjoying dinner and drinks.

Amsterdam in March

  • 5 Days Off Festival – Held annually in early March over five days, 5 Days Off is known as one of Amsterdam’s best electronic music festivals. Taking place at the Melkweg and the Paradiso, it focuses on techno, house, electronica and beat music.
  • Pink Film Days – Roze Filmdagen, or Pink Film Days, is the largest film festival for LGBTQ films in the Netherlands. It’s been a prominent feature of Amsterdam’s gay and lesbian events calendar for over two decades. The festival includes 11 days of screenings in mid-March at the Ketelhuis cinema in Wetergasfabriek Cultuurpark.
  • 24H West – This event on Amsterdam’s west side takes place on the second weekend of March. This is when museums, theaters, clubs, shops and more open their doors to the public, hosting a variety of unique and sometimes unusual events, such as theatrical high tea at ZID theater and dancing all night to electronic beats at the Radion Weekender.
  • HISWA Amsterdam Boat Show – Popular with everyone who likes to get out on the water, this expo features hundreds of small and mid-sized boats, boating accessories, clinics and workshops as well as the chance to get hands-on through a variety of water activities. Those who are into wakeboarding, kitesurfing, windsurfing and standup paddling will find something too.
  • St. Patrick’s Festival – Held on or around March 17th each year, the St. Patrick’s Festival is a one-day festival celebrating Irish culture with a focus on music. It showcases Irish traditional music as well as Irish music and musicians from other genres like pop, classical and jazz. Music workshops and Irish dancing are also included.

Amsterdam in April

  • Tulip Festival – Throughout the month of April, the tulip is celebrated at this festival which features more than a half-million colorful, and sometimes rare, tulips that can be viewed in the gardens of museums, private homes and a number of city institutions.
  • International PopArts Festival – This 10-day festival in mid-April takes places in a variety of venues, including several outdoor locations, with a full program of more than 30 performances, both nationally and from abroad.
  • Cherry Blossom Festival – This festival in early April celebrates the return of spring at Amsterdam Bos. Although it’s especially popular with Japanese expats, it draws a variety of locals and foreign visitors who can enjoy the blossoms as well as the traditional Japanese food and drink served in a festival tent.
  • King’s Day – This national holiday held on April 27 each year, is celebrated around the country to honor the King’s official birthday. Amsterdam hosts the biggest and best events including street fairs, parades and street entertainment. There are multiple dance parties throughout the city, catering to a wide range of tastes and music styles.

Amsterdam in May

  • Remembrance and Liberation Day – Remembrance and Liberation Day is celebrated annually on May 4. It initially began as a day to honor soldiers and civilians who lost their lives in World War II, but it now serves as a day to remember the fallen from other wars in addition to peacekeeping efforts. In Amsterdam, most businesses will be open, and a commemoration will take place at Dam Square, where the Queen places a wreath and leads the nation in two minutes of silence.
  • Rolling Kitchens – This yearly celebration of street food takes place on a long weekend around Ascension Day (the 40th day of Easter). Dozens of food trucks and mobile kitchens head to this culinary festival in the west of Amsterdam, where just about every type of cuisine is represented.
  • 909 Festival – Located in Amsterdam Bos, this intimate music event in the forest is focused on some of the world’s best techno sounds, attracting big name DJs like Radio Slave, Speedy J and Jeff Mills.
  • National Windmill Day – Held during the second weekend of May, this national holiday honors windmills. About two-thirds of the country’s nearly 1,000 working windmills will be open to the public. The windmills are beautifully decorated, and the miller at each one offers tours to explain the type of mill and how it works.

Amsterdam in June

  • Taste of Amsterdam – Every year, Amstelpark hosts the Taste of Amsterdam, a four-day event in early June (June 2-5 in 2016) in which top chefs from the city’s best restaurants create starter-sized plates of some of their signature dishes for visitors to sample. Wine tasting, a live cook-off, workshops, kids’ activities and a farmers’ market are featured too.
  • Holland Festival – The largest and oldest performing arts festival in the country, held at various venues around Amsterdam throughout much of the month of June, the Holland Festival offers a mix of music, dance, theater, opera, film and visual arts as well as western and non-western performances in a variety of languages.
  • Amsterdam Roots Festival – This internationally-renowned festival features music and dance from around the world, as well as films, workshops and exhibits. Its programming attracts outfits from all over, from Africa and Latin America to Asia across three stages: the Dance Court, Urban Stage and World Stage.
  • Open Garden Day – For one weekend in mid-June, visitors can peek behind the gables of some of the city’s magnificent canal-side homes to see their hidden “secret” gardens, all impeccably manicured with hedges, ponds and fountains. 

Amsterdam in July

  • Over Het IJ Festival – This 10-day festival features avant-garde theater, music and dance, as well as plenty of good food, in Amsterdam-Noord adjacent to the IJ channel.
  • Comedytrain International Festival – Kicking off on July 1st and running for six weeks, this festival brings both international comedic acts from the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia, as well as hilarious homegrown talent to the Toomler Club in Amsterdam.
  • Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Amsterdam – This international event for fashion fans and industry professionals is a series of public events held over 10 days in mid-July, including catwalk shows, take place at diverse cultural venues around Amsterdam.
  • Amsterdam Gay Pride – This huge annual celebration that runs for two weeks starting in late June, is focused on equality for gay, lesbian, transgender, queer and intersex communities, with festivities that take place throughout the city. There are film screenings, dance parties, sporting events, exhibitions and more, with its highlight the world-famous Canal Parade.

Amsterdam in August

  • Canal Festival (Grachtenfestival) – This 10-day festival in mid-August features classical music at elegant, intimate venues along Amsterdam’s canals.
  • Appelsap Festival – Appelsap, which means “apple juice,” offers the chance to enjoy refreshing drinks along with some of the best Dutch and international hip hop artists at Flevopark throughout the month of August.
  • World Cinema Amsterdam – Every year for 10 days in the second half of August, August 19-28 in 2016, film enthusiasts can enjoy indoor and open-air screenings at the Rialto cinema and Marie Heinekenplien.

Amsterdam in September

  • Jordaan Festival – Held for three days in early September, September 2-4, in 2016, in the Jordaan neighborhood, Amsterdam’s most colorful folk district, this festival celebrates local history and folk music traditions through local singers and theater performances.
  • Amsterdam Heritage Days – On the second weekend of September every year, the doors of important buildings, monuments and private homes are opened to the public free of charge to celebrate the city’s rich history.
  • Amsterdam Fringe Festival – This event held annually during the first half of September, September 1-11 in 2016, features an extensive array of productions by cutting-edge local and international artists as well as producers at more than 25 venues across the city, including theater, musical theater, art, comedy and dance.
  • Unseen Photo Fair – Around the last weekend of September, September 23-25 in 2016, this international photography fair brings galleries and photographers from across the world who contribute their very best work. It primarily focuses on undiscovered photography talent and unseen work by established photographers.

Amsterdam in October

  • Amsterdam Dance Event – A five-day electronic and music conference, the Amsterdam Dance Event is held in mid-October, October 14-18 in 2016, and features more than 2,000 world-class acts from across the globe to 120 venues throughout the city.
  • TCS Amsterdam Marathon – Held annually in mid-October, October 16 in 2016, this huge running event brings some 40,000 to the city to participate. The course begins at Olympic Stadium and passes many of the most notable landmarks and attractions in Amsterdam.
  • CineKid Festival – The CineKid Festival is the largest international film, television and new media festival for kids aged 4 to 14. Held at the Westergasfabriek in mid-October, October 18-21 in 2016, it screens films from all over the world as well as a selection of the best television programs for children, attracting more than 50,000 parents, children and guests.
  • Amsterdam Halloween Festival – This spooky festival offers nearly a whole week of action in late October, including events like an all-night horror movie marathon, a frightful edition of Friday Night Skate roller-skate, a themed dinner event, a kids’ party and the highlight, a costume party that includes makeup workshops, theater troupes, DJs and VJs, and a lineup of Dutch and international artists.

Amsterdam in November

  • The Arrival of Sinterklaas – Similar to Santa Claus, or St. Nicholas, this Dutch character launches the Christmas season with his arrival in mid-November, when he sails into Amsterdam from his home in Spain, bringing presents and treats for the children. Boats and floats bob across the water in central Amsterdam, while some 400,000 watch the spectacle from the banks of the canal.
  • Amsterdam Light Festival – This festival that begins with a boat parade in the canals, illuminates the city center and the canals with beautiful, twinkling lights from the last Saturday in November through the New Year.
  • International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam – Held for two weeks during the second half of November, this renowned international film festival brings together more great films, talented filmmakers and devoted fans to one place than any other in the world. Films are shown at cinemas throughout Amsterdam, while a wide range of lectures, workshops, discussions and special events are held at venues across the city.

Amsterdam in December

  • Christmas Markets – Multiple Christmas markets open throughout Amsterdam, from traditional Victorian-style markets to trendy markets located within old industrial buildings, there’s one for everyone during the holidays. Pick up seasonal delights like “pepernoten” (small, spiced biscuits), along with a mug of tasty gluhwein to warm up on a chilly day.
  • Sinterklaas – Although Sinterklaas isn’t a public holiday, on the eve of December 5th, Dutch children leave their boots by the fireplace in hopes of finding them filled with sweets in the morning. On the day itself, families gather to exchange gifts and enjoy lavish holiday meals.
  • Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – Although the majority of Dutch people have adopted the tradition of gift exchange and family celebrations around December 24 and 25, many businesses remain open, catering to tourists who choose to spend their holidays here. Museum Amstelkring, a church that sits atop a two-story canal house in the heart of the Red Light District, offers Christmas Eve masses. On Christmas Day, many museums and restaurants will be open as usual.
  • New Year’s Eve – On December 31st there will be parties throughout the city to celebrate the coming year. The city’s official celebration is held at the Oosterdok, with the VOC Shop The Amsterdam and the Scheepvaartmuseum forming a stunning backdrop for an impressive fireworks display. The Magere Brug, or Skinny Bridge, is one of the best spots from which to enjoy the spectacle.

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Posted on

Best Time to Visit Puerto Vallarta

Updated: October 18, 2017

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What is the best time of year to visit Puerto Vallarta?

    The best times to visit Puerto Vallarta are from mid-April to June, and October. These months all offer excellent weather and affordable rates. April through June has the best weather; May and June have the best hotel deals; and October has the best water for snorkeling and diving. Avoid Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter; this is peak time for local, Mexican family vacations.

    • Best Time for Good Weather: December through May are the best months to visit for good weather. Average highs are below 30°C in the afternoons, with cool evenings in the high teens. Sea temperatures are cooler this time of year than in the summer, though they still average in the mid-20s°C, quite comfortable for surfing and swimming. Vallarta sits on the edge of a rainforest, but precipitation is much less likely during the winter and spring months than in the summer. February through May are particularly dry months with mostly clear skies; July through September are the rainiest. The city is protected by the Banderas Bay, so hurricanes here are rare; the last hit came in 2002 and was the first major storm to land in Vallarta in 35 years.
    • Best Time for Families and Kids: The best times for family travel are from April through June and from mid-October through mid-November. April and May are particularly excellent months to visit, right after the Spring Break crowds leave and before the summer rains and Mexican vacation season begin. Travelers during these months should expect sunny, warm days that are not too hot, affordable room rates, and fewer crowds than in the previous five months. May and June offer the warmest water temperatures for late spring family travel, with June offering greater visibility for snorkeling. Since May and June are so popular with visiting families, there will be plenty of kids around to keep each other entertained at the kids clubs or poolside at the resorts. October and November are also great times to visit, though the days are typically a little hotter and room rates, especially in November, are just beginning to rise after the summer low season. Ocean temperatures are still warm this late in the year, with October offering great underwater visibility.
    • Best Time for Avoiding Crowds: Puerto Vallarta’s low season is getting shorter and shorter, but typically the best time to avoid the large crowds is from July through September, just after Mexican vacation season and before the foreign travel high season. With fewer people traveling, hotels and flights are often deeply discounted. However, this also means that it can be harder to schedule excursions, as fewer travelers visiting leads tour companies to reduce their number of daily or weekly outings. This is the rainiest season in Puerto Vallarta, with about half of the days experiencing at least a little rain, especially in the late afternoons or early evenings from late August through early September.
    • Best Time for Great Deals: The best time to find great deals for Puerto Vallarta travel is near the low season, but not exactly in the middle of it. Flights are usually cheaper during the low season from July through September, but many hotels close or reduce their room inventory for annual repairs during July and August. So, though there are fewer travelers, room rates don’t necessarily drop. Travel in May, June, September, and October for the best rates on rooms, plus affordable flights and excursions.
    • Best Time for Surfing: Surfing is great almost year round, especially in Sayulita, but the best time for riding the waves is from December through April, when the north swells hit. Waves are large enough for beginners to maintain enough speed on their boards to not tip over, while not being too intimidating. More experienced surfers will find faster and larger waves on the north end of Sayulita Beach, plus at several other nearby breaks. It is possible to surf outside of these months, but the waves just aren’t as good, especially from June through September, when the waves are particularly flat and short. Water is warm here year round, but the warmest times during the surf season are December, January, and April.
    • Best Time for Whale Watching: Humpback whales begin arriving in November and leave again by early April. The best time to see them in large numbers is from mid-December through mid-March. December will have the most active viewing of adult whales, as males compete for female attention in the hopes of mating. The first babies will be born in January, but become more active in February and March as they become stronger swimmers. Most whales leave toward the end of March, with the last few stragglers in the area until mid-April. Waves are calmer in the mornings, so earlier tours are better for people who tend to get seasick.
    • Best Time for Snorkeling and Diving: For snorkeling and diving, June through October offers better water conditions, while December through February offers more likely encounters with manta rays and whale sharks. Water temps are warm and waves are fairly calm year-round. Diving and snorkeling are possible anytime, though there are definite differences in the seasons. Water is warmest and visibility is clearest in the summer months from June through October. August and September are particularly warm with surface temperatures averaging 30°C. From November through May, the water is cooler and visibility is obscured by plankton blooms; however, plankton attracts more manta rays to the surface, making this a great time for snorkelers to see them up close. During the winter months, from December through February, divers and snorkelers may even encounter migrating whale sharks.
    • Best Time for Exploring the Jungle: December through March is the best time for visiting the Mismaloya jungle, whether hiking the Botanical Gardens or ziplining through the canopy. These are the coolest months of the year, with temperatures topping out around 27°C. Most days offer clear skies, even in the rainforest, especially in February and March. The worst time for jungle adventures is from July through September when the summer rains bring out hordes of mosquitoes. Even during the winter months, it’s a good idea to wear insect repellant or long pants that cover the ankles.
    • Best Time for Sportfishing: Fish bite year-round in Puerto Vallarta, but different seasons attract different types. The biggest variety of fish is found from September through December, when blue, black, and striped marlin are most abundant, along with mahi mahi, sailfish, and wahoo. Generally, the warmer months of June through September attract more tuna and grouper.

    Puerto Vallarta Travel Seasons

    • High Season: December through mid-April is the busiest travel time in Puerto Vallarta, as crowds flock to enjoy the city’s best weather. Average daily highs are usually below 29°C. Skies are the clearest they’ll be all year, though even in the driest months, days can be overcast. The cooler months from December through February bring migrating humpback whales and great fishing, and the north swells make for excellent surfing. This is when the city truly shines! As the weather warms up in March and April, throngs of students from north of the border descend on the city for Spring Break; most hotels that host Spring Breakers are in the North Hotel Zone. Holy Week (Semana Santa), the week leading up to Easter, is the peak travel time for local families. If visiting Puerto Vallarta in winter or early spring, be prepared to pay top dollar for flights and hotels and to contend with the crowds.
    • Low Season: July through September is the low season in Puerto Vallarta. Days are typically hot and humid with highs around 33°C and at least a little rain on more than half of the days. Skies are mostly grey, and surf is generally poor. However, there are lots of great deals on flights and hotels during the summer months. Those who venture to PV during the rainy season will be rewarded with the warmest ocean temperatures and the best underwater visibility. This is the perfect time for snorkeling, swimming, and scuba diving, especially near the reef islands, Marietas and Los Arcos.
    • Shoulder Season: The late spring (May and June) and fall months (October and November) are considered Vallarta’s shoulder season. These months feature good weather, with much less rain and fewer clouds than in the summer months, albeit hotter and more humid than in the winter and early spring. High temperatures hover around 31°C during these months. Rooms and flights are affordable, especially in May and June, when many hotels offer sales after high season officially ends. Room rates are still fairly low in October through mid-November, with prices beginning to creep up at the end of November in preparation for the holiday season.

    Puerto Vallarta Weather by Month

    Weather in Puerto Vallarta is warm and humid most of the year, with temperatures ranging from winter lows of 16°C to summer highs of 33°C. End of July and beginning of August are the hottest times of the year, while January is the coolest. March through May are the driest, sunniest months. Late August and early September are the rainiest and cloudiest. September is the most humid. Ocean surface temperatures are highest in August and lowest in March.

    • Puerto Vallarta Weather in January: January is one of the coolest months of the year, though still quite balmy. Afternoon highs are in the upper 20s°C, and skies are mostly clear, especially toward the end of the month. Januarys average about 2 rainy days per month, usually occurring toward the middle. Ocean temperatures are on the low side for Puerto Vallarta, attracting humpbacks, their newborns, and whale sharks, but the water remains comfortable for swimming and surfing. It’s a good idea to bring a jacket, as nightly temperatures tend to drop to the mid-teens. (Average High 28°C, Average Low 16°C, Sea Temperature 25°C, Rainfall 23mm.)
    • Puerto Vallarta Weather in February: Temperatures remain steady in February with warm days and cooler evenings; highs average 28°C and lows average 16°C. Skies begin to clear up now, with most days sunny or only partly cloudy. There is usually only one rainy day in February, with rainfall becoming less likely toward the end of the month as Puerto Vallarta moves toward the dry season. Sea temperatures drop just a hair from the previous month but stay well within a comfortable range. Surf is great this month. Baby humpbacks are most active now; this is the best opportunity to see them in the open. (Average High 28°C, Average Low 16°C, Sea Temperature 24°C, Rainfall 12mm.)
    • Puerto Vallarta Weather in March: Temperatures begin a slow rise in March, with days often hitting 30°C. Nights can still get cooler, so a light jacket or sweater is good to have, especially on a sunset sail or if visiting the mountains. Rain is uncommon in this first dry month of the season; bring your sunscreen! Ocean temperatures are at their coldest, though still comfortable for all water activities. Surf is great throughout the month. Baby humpbacks are still active, though whales begin to leave the area toward month’s end. (Average High 29°C, Average Low 17°C, Sea Temperature 24°C, Rainfall 5mm.)
    • Puerto Vallarta Weather in April: April is warm throughout with a few hot days at the end of the month. This is the driest month of the year, usually with no rainy days, but the humidity increases as the weeks go by. Be sure to pack sunscreen. Nights are still cool, as in preceding months. Ocean temperatures begin to rise and waves are still steady, making this an excellent month for surfing. Most of the humpbacks are leaving the area for cooler waters. (Average High 31°C, Average Low 18°C, Sea Temperature 25°C, Rainfall 4mm.)
    • Puerto Vallarta Weather in May: May is hot and muggy with temperatures regularly topping 32°C. As humidity rises toward the last couple of weeks, so does the chance of rain, though only one rainy day in the month is the norm. Ocean temperatures rise to a very comfortable range. Surf is less consistent, but there are still plenty of great waves in Sayulita, San Pancho, and Lo De Marcos. (Average High 32°C, Average Low 19°C, Sea Temperature 27°C, Rainfall 12mm.)
    • Puerto Vallarta Weather in June: Heat and humidity run high in June, growing as the month goes by. Days are usually cloudy or overcast, and rainfall comes more regularly – expect about 10 rainy days throughout the month. Ocean conditions are excellent for swimming, snorkeling, and diving, with warm waters and great visibility. Surf has died down in most of the usual spots, but Quimixto to the south of PV offers great waves throughout the summer. (Average High 32°C, Average Low 23°C, Sea Temperature 28°C, Rainfall 159mm.)
    • Puerto Vallarta Weather in July: Summer is the start of the rainy season. July sees rain about half of the days and overcast skies almost every day. It’s a good idea to bring an umbrella and to plan some rainy day activities, just in case. (Check out a chocolate making class, or dash from bar to bar in the Old Town.) Temperatures are hot and sticky. Ocean temps continue to rise, and visibility is excellent for divers and snorkelers, especially near the reefs. Surf is almost completely gone in the areas north of Vallarta, but Quimixto still has consistent surf. (Average High 33°C, Average Low 23°C, Sea Temperature 29°C, Rainfall 285mm.)
    • Puerto Vallarta Weather in August: August is the peak of the rainy summer season, with highs frequently above 33° and rain occurring half of all days. Pack an umbrella, and plan for a few rainy day activities. Skies are overcast and humidity is oppressive every day. Ocean temperatures reach their peak warmth, hovering around 30°C. Water is calm and visibility is excellent, ideal for snorkeling and diving. Surfers can still find waves to the south of the city. (Average High 33°C, Average Low 23°C, Sea Temperature 30°C, Rainfall 300mm.)
    • Puerto Vallarta Weather in September: Temperatures fall just a bit in September, though days continue to be hot and humid. Skies are the greyest this month, with almost every day either overcast or cloudy. Rain is common, though a little less frequent than in the previous months. Travelers will still want to carry an umbrella, and plan ahead for rainy days. Ocean conditions are consistent as they were in August, with warm water, flat waves, and great visibility. Surf conditions are still better in the south than in the north of Puerto Vallarta. (Average High 32°C, Average Low 23°C, Sea Temperature 30°C, Rainfall 288mm.)
    • Puerto Vallarta Weather in October: October begins much like September, with heat, humidity, and rain. But by the second half of the month, skies clear and rain becomes less frequent, with only 5 rainy days spread over the month. Ocean temperatures and conditions remain similar to September, with warm, clear water. Surf should good in the popular beaches of Sayulita and San Pancho. (Average High 31°C, Average Low 22°C, Sea Temperature 30°C, Rainfall 117mm.)
    • Puerto Vallarta Weather in November: Great weather returns to Vallarta in November. Daytime temperatures are warm, often rising above 31°C for a few hours in the afternoons. Humidity is high early in the month, but lessens as the weeks go by. Rain is possible once or twice in November, but most days are very dry. Ocean temperatures are still very warm and surf is becoming more consistent throughout the region. The first adult humpbacks should arrive at the end of the month. (Average High 31°C, Average Low 21°C, Sea Temperature 28°C, Rainfall 24mm.)
    • Puerto Vallarta Weather in December: December is gorgeous in PV, with warm comfortable days and cooler evenings. A jacket is recommended for nights out, especially for sunset cruises. Rain showers may hit a couple of days, but the majority of days are dry and humidity is relatively low (though it’s always a little humid). More than half the days are sunny or only partly cloudy. Sea temperatures drop down to 25°C, still comfortable for all water activities. Surfing is excellent this time of year, and Banderas Bay is filled with whales. (Average High 29°C, Average Low 16°C, Sea Temperature 25°C, Rainfall 21mm.)

    Puerto Vallarta Festivals and Events

    Puerto Vallarta in January

    • Vallarta Cup – Every Saturday in January, the Vallarta Yacht Club hosts a race in Banderas Bay. Courses may be as far south as Puerto Vallarta and as far north as La Cruz. Each day of racing finishes with a party at VYC in Nuevo Vallarta.
    • Festival of Our Lady of Peace (La Virgen de la Paz) – Nine-day, annual festival in Bucerías, celebrating the village’s patron saint, also considered the mother and protector of fisherman. The festival begins with fishermen sailing from La Cruz to Bucerías with the Peace Torch to make an offering at the church. This is followed by eight days of carnival rides, food vendors, cultural activities, daily processions, and nightly entertainment. The final night of the festival closes with the lighting of the Castillo, a rotating, three-story framework stuffed with fireworks.

    Puerto Vallarta in February

    • Sayulita Festival – Five day festival in the little surfer town, filled with music, movies, Mexican wine and spirits. Events take place all over town; tastings, concerts, surfing, and yoga workshops. Hotels fill up fast, so book early! Camping is popular during this event in designated areas.
    • Charro National Championship – Charros are Mexican cowboys, and this five-day competition is similar to a rodeo. Charros show off their skills riding bucking broncos and roping bulls. Plus live music, dance, lasso demos, and cultural shows. Competitions are held at Arena Vallarta; music and cultural events take place at the Los Arcos Amphitheater on the Malecon.
    • Mardi Gras and Carnaval Parade (sometimes in March) – Huge celebration marking the last party day before the austere season of Lent. Festivities begin with an evening parade that stretches from the North Hotel Zone down along the Malecon through El Centro and finishes just shy of Los Muertos Pier. Floats, beads, and big parties follow, especially in Zona Romantica. Plan ahead for this – the parade draws crowds upwards of 30,000. This event is popular with the LGBT crowd, and many hotels and clubs host special events.

    Puerto Vallarta in March

    • Vallarta Wine Fest – Five-day festival at hotels and restaurants around town. Events include wine tastings, lectures, and special dinners. There is also a street festival, usually in Lázaro Cárdenas Park, with live music and entertainment, wine and cheese tastings, and arts.
    • Banderas Bay Regatta – Five-day event featuring three full days of sailboat races and four nights of parties. Races are open to both cruisers and race boats. Nights end with parties at the Vallarta Yacht Club, with food, live music, and dancing.
    • Dama Juana Raicilla Festival – Celebration of raicilla, aka Mexican moonshine, a sister liquor to tequila and mezcal. Events include raicilla and food tastings, talks with distillers, mariachi music, and more. This two-day festival takes place at the cultural center on Cuale River Island.

    Puerto Vallarta in April

    • Puerto Vallarta Taco Festival – The city’s best taco restaurants, whether street vendors or fine dining, get together to offer a wide range of styles and flavors of this signature Mexican dish. Tequila and beer share the spotlight, along with lucha libre, music, dance, and more entertainment. In the North Hotel Zone, near La Isla Mall.
    • Bucerías Oyster Festival (Feria de Ostiones) – Annual celebration of local oyster divers, marking the end of the oyster season in Bucerías. The main event is a competition among divers to see who can snag the largest oyster. Tons of oysters and ceviche to eat, plus live music, and the crowning of the Oyster Queen. Events take place on El Punto Beach.
    • Children’s Day (El Día del Niño) – A holiday filled with fun, gifts, and special activities just for kids. Though not an official holiday, most schools don’t hold classes this day. Zoos, amusement parks, and attractions often offer special discounts on April 30. Travelers can also participate by handing out toys or candy to street kids.
    • Vallarta Azteca International Folklore Festival (late April through early May) – Celebration of traditional dance from Mexico and Latin America. Dance troupes from all over Mexico plus Central and South America perform folkloric dance every evening from 6:00 p.m. at venues around town. Over 600 dancers participate annually, representing around 15 unique cultures.

    Puerto Vallarta in May

    • Vallarta Pride – Vallarta is the premiere LGBT destination in Mexico, and Zona Romantica is the central hub for the city’s Pride events. This nine-day festival features tons of activities, including a huge parade, drag derby, beach parties, film festivals, live music, dancing, and much more. Book hotels ahead of time, as many of the closest ones are small boutiques that fill up fast.
    • MayoFest Puerto Vallarta – Puerto Vallarta’s anniversary celebration. This is a five-day long festival with concerts (traditional, rock, and pop), sports, activities, and entertainment, much of it at the lighthouse (faro) and the Los Arcos Amphitheater on the Malecon. Food vendors abound, and the closing event is a huge fireworks show.
    • Restaurant Week – A two-week late May gastronomy event in Mexico’s top foodie destination. During this celebration, restaurants offer creative, three-course meals with three mix-and-match options for each course, all at a deeply discounted rate, making this an affordable time to explore PV’s cutting edge gourmet scene. Participating restaurants are scattered throughout the city.

    Puerto Vallarta in June

    • Navy Day (El Día de la Marina) – June 1st is celebrated in all of Mexico’s port towns; commemorating the launch of the first all-Mexican crewed ship, and honoring past and present naval service men and women. Boats are launched in a morning opening ceremony into Banderas Bay to lay flower wreaths on the water. The ceremony is followed by festivities and tournaments at sea, along with celebrations on the beaches and docks, with dancing into the night.
    • RHA Festival – Two-day electronic music festival in Punta Mita, northwest of Puerto Vallarta. The main RHA Festival runs for two-days with DJs spinning and dancing on the beach all night. The “RHA Experience” adds two more days of more intimate concerts and pool parties.

    Puerto Vallarta in July

    • Banderas Bay Fishing Tournament – International marlin and tuna fishing competition. This two-day event leaves from the Paradise Village Marina and is hosted by the Bahía de Banderas Fishing Club. Record-setting fish have been caught here in the past, including a 322 kg marlin.
    • NIIJIMA Mexican Surf Open – Surf competition at the main beach in San Pancho that is open to all: Mexicans and foreigners, amateurs and pros, men and women. 100,000 pesos in prize money is up for grabs. Three days of competitive surf is accompanied by live music, DJs, beer pong, beach volleyball, and more in San Pancho and Sayulita.

    Puerto Vallarta in August

    • Cristo de los Brazos Caidos (Christ of the Fallen Arms or Christ of the Cyclone) – Local celebration in Barra de Navidad south of Puerto Vallarta. This festival commemorates a local miracle. As a huge storm approached in 1971, town residents sought refuge in the church, certain that the storm would devastate the village. As they were deep in prayer, the arms of the crucified Christ above the altar fell off. At the same moment, the storm ended. Since then, the town has celebrated yearly with rosaries, processions, fireworks, street food, and live entertainment.
    • Punta Mita Beach Festival – Two-day festival at Kupuri Beach Club with tons of activities, including an underwater treasure hunt, windsurfing, paddleboarding, and more beach fun. Chefs from Punta Mita’s luxury resorts serve upscale beach bites and creative cocktails. A family-friendly event held from 9a-8p.

    Puerto Vallarta in September

    • National Charro Day – Charros, the Mexican cowboys, are celebrated every year on September 14. Festivities begin in Puerto Vallarta with charros riding through the downtown streets, decked out in their finest. At night, there is a charro parade down the Malecon, ending at Los Arcos Amphitheater. Here, the festivities continue with a street party, lasso demo, mariachi music, and dancing.
    • Mexican Independence Day – A two-day festival with music, fireworks, food, and parades. Beginning on the afternoon of September 15, people gather in the main square for non-stop mariachi and traditional foods. At 11pm, the grito, or cry for independence, is called with ringing bells and fireworks. The country’s biggest party begins immediately after and goes well into the night. On September 16, there is huge military parade through town and more food and festivities.
    • San Pancho Days – Nine-day festival for the patron saint of San Francisco (aka San Pancho), a small surfing village northeast of Sayulita. This celebration of St. Francis of Assisi is filled with parades, food, rodeos, live music, dancing, and carnival rides. Each day and night of the festival is held in a different neighborhood in town. The celebration ends with a wild day of parties, the final rodeo, and the lighting of the castillo, a tall rotating structure of fireworks, at midnight. Dancing continues until the wee hours. From September 25-October 4.

    Puerto Vallarta in October

    • Vallarta Nayarit Gastronómica – High-end culinary conference featuring renowned chefs and sommeliers. Four days of cooking demos, food and wine tastings, workshops, and special dinners. Creative, contemporary, and traditional cooking styles feature regional and international flavors.
    • Halloween – In PV Halloween celebrations merged with Day of the Dead events, creating a huge festival lasting several days from October 29-November 2. As of now, Halloween on October 31 is still the smaller holiday, celebrated with costume contests and parties at local bars and restaurants. Kids will be dressed up in the streets, saying “Queremos Halloween,” the local version of “trick or treat,” and carrying bags to be filled with candy.

    Puerto Vallarta in November

    • All Saints’ Day (Día de Todos Santos) – All Saints Day gets wrapped into Day of the Dead Celebrations, much like Halloween. On this day, Mexicans honor deceased children, leaving offerings to them on custom-designed altars in cemeteries or in their homes, with sugar skulls, toys, and treats. Altars are set up by local businesses, as well as the Cuale River Island cultural center and City Hall. City streets in all neighborhoods will be decorated in orange and purple, with public altars on the Malecon, and Catrinas (skeletons dressed as fancy, rich ladies).
    • Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, All Souls Day) – Mexican celebrations for Day of the Dead include decorating altars in their homes or in cemeteries, some keeping vigils and others leaving offerings, usually tequila, cigarettes, and the deceased’s favorite foods. Candles and trails of marigold petals extend from the altars to light the way for the spirit’s return. Around town, there will be parades of Catrinas, folkloric dance, mariachi, street foods, and special sweet pastries and treats. Hotspots for celebrations include the Malecon, Municipal Cemetery, Hidalgo Park, and the Emiliano Zapato neighborhood in the north end of Zona Romantica.
    • Festival Gourmet International – Ten-day food and wine event where the best chefs from local restaurants and hotels invite celebrity chefs into their kitchens for a culinary culture exchange. Events take place at a different location each night and include, cooking demos, restaurant hopping, forum discussions, wine and liquor pairings, and a mini art festival. Travelers can reserve their spaces online.
    • International Fishing Tournament – Three days of competitive fishing for marlin and sailfish with a reception each night at Marina Vallarta. The tournament ends with an awards ceremony and a large cash prize.

    Puerto Vallarta in December

    • The Guadalupe Processions – A festival over the first twelve days of December, celebrating the appearance of the Virgin Mary to the Aztec peasant Juan Diego in 1531. This celebration includes hundreds of processions to Guadalupe Church by the faithful in a fusion of Aztec and Catholic traditions. Processions usually begin in the afternoon and end after midnight, though as the festival nears the end, processions can fill the streets for up to twenty hours in a day. Bells ring with the arrival of each singing procession to the church. Folk dancers, live music, traditional foods, and a final night of fireworks caps off the fiesta.
    • Christmas Posadas – For nine days leading up to Christmas, this celebration reenacts the journey of Mary and Joseph searching for an inn. Participants journey from house to house reenacting the story; when they are received at the final destination, a street party begins with traditional Mexican foods, piñatas, and a special punch. On Christmas Eve, the final night of Las Posadas, the procession goes to the church for a special mass and fireworks.
    • New Year’s Eve – Events take place all over town, with free concerts at Los Arcos on the Malecon, a street party on Olas Altas in Zona Romantica, and multiple fireworks shows over the bay. Los Muertos Pier is the most popular spot to watch the displays. Reserve early for tables at fine dining restaurants, or simply bar hop through the throngs of Old Town.
Posted on

Best Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta

Updated: October 18, 2017

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Top 10 Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta

  1. Walk the Malecon

    Puerto Vallarta's beach boardwalk, the Malecon.
    Considered the heart of the city, the Malecon is a pedestrian-only esplanade following the shore for about a kilometer from Hotel Rosita in the north to the Los Arcos Amphitheater in the south. By day its most prominent features are its sculptures; “Boy on the Seahorse” being the most iconic. (This one is a replica; the original is further south on Los Muertos Beach). Free walking tours of the sculptures are available Tuesday mornings at 9:30 from November through April. Several shops, galleries, and restaurants line the way. At night, the Malecon lights up with food stalls, buskers, and street performers. Free music and cultural shows are held almost every night at the Los Arcos Amphitheater. Though the official Malecon covers just one kilometer, an extension of the Malecon (the Malecon II), continues along Los Muertos Beach south of the Cuale River through Zona Romantica, with more sculptures, food, nightlife, and the gorgeous Los Muertos Pier lighting the night.

  2. Discover Your New Favorite Foods

    The best food tours in Puerto Vallarta
    Puerto Vallarta is a foodie paradise, thanks to top-notch seafood and produce, the rich culinary traditions of Jalisco, and the hundreds of chefs who have made Vallarta their home. With throngs of restaurants and food stalls to choose from, one of the best ways to get to know the real city is on a food tour. Head off the beaten path into the neighborhoods of the Old Town to experience the variety of foods that make this city so beloved among gourmands. Several companies offer food tours; the best options are the Chef’s Pass Taco and Street Foods Tour (evenings, for adventurous eaters) and Vallarta Food Tours’ Taste of Pitillal (mornings, classic local flavors). Both tours last around three to three and a half hours with a good deal of walking, so wear comfy shoes and come hungry. Beer is available for purchase at most stops, but if you have a chance, try the raicilla (aka Mexican moonshine) – it never disappoints!

  3. Surf Sayulita

    The best surfing in Puerto Vallarta
    One of the top surfing destinations in the world, Sayulita’s main beach offers consistent surf almost all year round. Just an hour north of Puerto Vallarta, this eclectic little village has been a popular destination for surfers since the 1960s. Waves here are steady but not too wild, making this the ideal spot for beginners. There are several shops for lessons and rentals, but the best is Surf’n Sayulita. David, the owner, is a lifelong surfer and experienced instructor for all ages and abilities. Single lessons or full day trips (with or without lessons) are affordable, and available for individuals or groups. Located on Calle Gaviota, just half a block from the beach. Downtown Sayulita is walkable and filled with casual bars, lively cantinas, and fun local crafts, so plan on spending at least a day here to experience it all.

  4. Explore Marietas Islands

    Exploring the Marietas Islands off Puerto Vallarta
    Sometimes called the Mexican Galapagos, Islas Marietas Islands National Park is a small, uninhabited archipelago recognized by UNESCO as a vital breeding and shelter site for marine birds, most notably the blue footed booby. It’s also home to the most diverse population of reef fish in Banderas Bay and a wide variety of coral. But its main draw is the Hidden Beach, located in a manmade crater, the aftermath of military bombing exercises in the early half of the twentieth century. After becoming a national park in the ‘60s, the Marietas Islands and the Hidden Beach became popular camping spots. However, access to the islands was closed after too many careless tourists damaged the coral and started wildfires. The park has only just been re-opened in Spring 2017, with limited numbers of visitors allowed per day. Guests will need to book a tour to gain access to the Hidden Beach. The closest departure point is from Punta de Mita, though many tours operate from Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita. Punta Mita Adventures, Vallarta Adventures, and Sayulita Entourage are the best tour operators in each respective area.

  5. Get Up Close to Crocodiles

    Puerto Vallarta crocodile tour
    El Cora is a fantastic eco-sanctuary for crocodiles and other native animals and plants. Guided tours are led by knowledgeable local biologists and are fully interactive. Guests are invited inside enclosures to handle the baby and adult crocodiles, while learning about their biology and habits. Several wild crocodiles live in the surrounding Quelele Lagoon, and the guides are usually able to call them closer for guests to observe (though visitors are not allowed to touch the wild crocs). The park is open for drop in tours from 11a-6p every day except Wednesday for a suggested donation of 200 pesos (about $11USD). Night tours are offered on select dates and include a performance of the Huichol crocodile legend. Check their Facebook page for performance dates and reserve in advance. For long term travelers, El Cora welcomes volunteers who want to assist in their conservation efforts. Located just north of Puerto Vallarta in Bucerías, on a long dirt road behind Flamingos Golf.

  6. Wander the Old Town

    Best things to do in Old Town Puerto Vallarta
    For a true taste of Vallarta’s Old Mexico charm, travelers should spend a day exploring Old Town, just inland from the Malecon. This highly walkable downtown features several attractions within just a few minutes of each other. The most striking feature of the city is Guadalupe Church (Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe), a gorgeous colonial brick church with a wrought iron crown. Services are offered three times a day on weekdays and seven times on Sundays, with bilingual masses available at certain hours, for those who want a closer look. Just to the south, travelers will find the Mercado Municipal, the flea market north of the Cuale River, with great local crafts on the main floor and an array of fantastic, cheap restaurants up above. Cross over the wooden swinging bridge to reach Cuale River Island, a tropical island with a secluded feel, offering a small archeology museum, a cultural center with art classes, and several craft vendors and restaurants. Head south across the river into Zona Romantica and duck into the several art galleries on Basilio Badillo and Lázaro Cárdenas streets. Grab a happy hour drink on Olas Atlas Street and watch the sunset from Los Muertos Pier. Walk back north along the Malecon, if you still have energy left.

  7. Cuddle a Baby Lion

    Vallarta Zoo
    Vallarta Zoo (Zoológico de Vallarta) is unlike any other zoo, allowing guests to pet and interact with almost all of the animals. For $10USD entry plus $5 optional for a bag of food, the animals walk right up to the front of their enclosures for a handfed treat. The giraffe and hippos are especially popular for feeding. For an extra charge, visitors are allowed into a special enclosure to hold, cuddle, and play with the baby big cats, which can be lions, tigers, panthers, and/or jaguars (depending on availability), plus monkeys and lemurs. This hands-on experience costs $85USD and is inclusive of entry, a food bag, two drinks, and a souvenir from their shop. This is truly a unique experience and worth every penny. However, be advised that the zoo here is not like a typical, pristine Western zoo. Though the animals are well-fed and cared for, their habitats are smaller than guests may be used to seeing. Located south of Puerto Vallarta in Mismaloya.

  8. Make Your Own Chocolates

    Puerto Vallarta chocolate making class
    Chocolate is one of Mexico’s greatest gifts to the world, with the first and still highest quality cacao beans cultivated here. ChocoMuseo’s Bean to Bar Workshop takes students through the complete process of chocolate making. Beginning with a brief history lesson in chocolate, the class then provides hands on instruction in roasting and grinding the beans followed by mixing and molding the chocolates. Other classes cover truffles and how to cook a traditional Mexican mole. Its three story location includes a chocolate shop, café, and a factory open for tours of the process.

  9. Hike through a Jungle Garden

    Day trip to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens.
    The Vallarta Botanical Gardens cover 64 acres of the Mismaloya jungle to the south of the city. Unlike a typical manicured garden, the landscape here is largely left wild, with several hiking trails winding their way over steep hills and down to the edge of the Los Horcones River (bring a swimsuit and towel if you want to take a dip). Trails vary from moderate to difficult, and a good pair of shoes is necessary to navigate over the uneven paths. Hike early to avoid the heat, then return to the center of the gardens, a flat area with a huge collection of orchids, the largest in Mexico, as well as an aquatic plants pond and a cactus garden. Birds, butterflies, and iguanas are all found here, plus a fresh Mexican restaurant with good food and even better cocktails.

  10. Sail Off into the Sunset at Banderas Bay

    Best sunset sailing charters in Puerto Vallarta
    Vallarta is known for its colorful orange and purple sunsets and, under the right conditions, the rare “green flash” just as the sun disappears over the horizon. There’s no better spot to see the city’s famous sunsets than from aboard a sailboat, gliding over the calm waters in the Banderas Bay. You’ll have a great vantage point here to see not only an unobstructed view of the horizon, but also dolphins, turtles, manta rays, and in the winter months, maybe a whale or two. Most cruises offer an open bar, hors d’oeuvres, and sweets along the way, and last about three hours. The best sunset sailing tours are offered by Ada Sailing, leaving from Marina Vallarta, and Ally Cat Sailing Adventures, leaving from La Cruz Marina near Bucerías.

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Hotel Booking Sites

The best websites for booking rooms and finding cheap hotels

Updated: October 17, 2017

Tips for Booking Hotels Online

  • Booking.com has the best hotel rates. It’s safe, reliable, and easy to use. It’s my favorite website for booking hotels.
  • How far in advance should you book hotels? As soon as possible. Rates almost always go up (not down) and I rarely save money by waiting. Advanced booking is even more important for kid-friendly hotels.
  • What days have the best hotel rates? Generally big cities (that are popular with business travelers) will have cheaper rates on the weekend. Resorts and holiday destinations (that are popular with tourists) will have better prices on weekdays.
  • I’m not a huge fan but here are my tips for using Airbnb.
  • My single best hotel tip: If any problems arise about your booking (the room type, the cost, free breakfast), threaten to leave a critical review on TripAdvisor or Booking.com. Don’t be mean, rude, or dishonest – but make it clear that you will be writing about your stay on a travel forum or hotel review site. This is huge for hotels and a bad review can really affect future business.

On This Page

The Best Hotel Booking Websites

1. Booking.com

Booking.com Phone Number: 1 (888) 850-3958
Booking.com Email: [email protected]
Booking.com Website: Booking.com
Booking.com App: Download
Booking.com Review: The most reliable hotel booking site. Easy to use and convenient for trip planning.

Reviews of Booking.com

These opinions are a mix of my personal experiences and what I hear from readers and online customer reviews.

  • The best prices of any online booking site.
  • Good customer service when something goes wrong.
  • Be aware that there are different types of reservations: most can be canceled with no charge, but some have cancellation fees or charge the full amount upon booking with no ability to change or cancel.
  • Booking.com’s Verified reviews (only confirmed guests can leave a review) are more reliable than what you’ll find on Tripadvisor but fake reviews are still possible. Be sure to read as many reviews as possible.
  • The maps on Booking.com are better than other sites but they can still be incorrect. If precise location is important then double check on Google maps.

Why and How to Use Booking.com to Book Hotels

  • Booking.com has a super handy calendar view for all the hotels you’ve booked. Now you don’t have to search through your emails to find out where you’re staying on your last night in Paris – it’s all right there in your “Bookings” tab. (This sounds like a minor deal, but it really makes a big difference.)
    Best website for booking hotels and planning a trip.
  • Reviews on Booking.com are from verified guests (people that actually booked a room through the website at that hotel). Every hotel is graded on friendliness, comfort, location, facilities, staff, value for money, and wifi-quality. I have found a score of 8.8 and above means the hotel will be excellent (pretty much 5 star or exceptional value for money). 8.0 and above is basically a 4 star. 7.0 and above is a good quality 3 star hotel. I never book anything below a score of 7.
    User reviews for booking hotels online.
  • Booking has the clearest descriptions of the idfferent rooms. Though it’s still far from perfect so additional research is often required to be sure you’re getting the exact room you want.
    How to find the best rooms at luxury hotels while booking online.
  • Booking has nice large pictures so you can see what the hotel is like. Also has lots of photos of individual suites and room types (but you need to enter potential dates to see these room pictures).
    How to use Booking.com to find the best hotel rates and best rooms.

2. HotelsCombined.com

Hotelscombined Phone Number: 1 800 001 041 (toll free only for Australia)
Hotelscombined Email: [email protected] (this usually gets the fastest response)
Hotelscombined Website: HotelsCombined.com
Hotelscombined App: Download
Hotelscombined Review: Good for last minute hotels and often great for family reservations as it has a slightly larger selection of rooms than Booking.

Using hotelscombined.com for booking hotels online.

3. Agoda.com

Agoda Phone Number: +44 20 3027 7900
Agoda Email: [email protected]
Agoda Website: Agoda.com
Agoda App: Download
Agoda Review: Specializes in Asia where it can find some great discount hotel deals.

Using Agoda.com to book hotels online.

4. TripAdvisor

Tripadvisor Phone Number: 1 (781) 800-5000
Tripadvisor Website: [email protected]
Tripadvisor App: AndroidApple
Tripadvisor Review: Good for hotel reviews but not great for finding the best rates.

Using Tripadvisor for booking hotels online.

5. Hotels.com

Hotels.com Phone Number: 1 (877) 903-0071
Hotels.com Email: [email protected]
Hotels.com Website: Hotels.com
Hotels.com App: Download
Hotels.com Review: Hotels.com is good for finding cheap hotels but it’s the site I get the most complaints from readers about canceled bookings or overbooked hotels.

Using Hotels.com for booking hotels online.

The Best Hotel Websites for Top Destinations

Here are direct links for some of the most popular destinations in 2017:

Hotels in Europe

Hotels in Asia & South Pacific

Hotels in the USA & Canada

Hotels in Mexico & the Caribbean

How to Get the Best Hotel Deals

  • 1. Start your hotel search as early as you can – hotel rates only go up and rarely go down.
  • 2. Visit cities on weekends, visit resorts through the week (for the best deals).
  • 3. Use Booking.com or Hotelscombined.com to find the best rates for your destination – filter by review rating.
  • 4. When you find 2 or 3 highly rated hotels, contact the hotels directly and ask if they can beat the rate you found online – they often can and will.
  • 5. Book the hotel that has the best rate.
  • 6. Email the hotel after booking to confirm stay, make any special requests, and ask for a free upgrade.
  • 7. When you check-in ask again for a free upgrade.

When is the Best Time to Book Hotels?

Here’s a huge generalization that works pretty well for most situations: For hotels that have a business clientele last minute booking can offer good deals. For hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals that have tourists as their primary guests then booking 3 months to 6 months prior to your stay is likely the best plan.

Why? Business travelers are much more likely to arrange and make last-minute (or last week) travel plans. A month before a given date, a hotel in the financial district of London might not have many bookings but will not start discounting those rooms yet. It will still expect to make a lot of bookings in the week or two before that time frame.

Often it’s not just about the price. Early booking will get you the best rooms at a similar price to the less coveted rooms. E.g. A huge family room that is only a little more than a cramped double room.

A hotel in Cancun, Phuket, or Bali that has a lot of openings in a month will start to worry. Most of its guests should have already booked those rooms so the hotel will start to aggressively discount those rooms.

What Day of the Week Has the Best Hotel Deals?

It depends what type of hotel you’re booking.

Business hotels will offer bigger discounts on the weekends (when business clients are at home). Budget hotels will have empty rooms (and discounts) through the week because the people that stay there (weekend shoppers, concert goers, university students) come on there weekends and return home Sunday night.

Why Do Hotels Use Booking Sites Like Booking.com?

Here’s where it gets tricky for hotels. Yes, they want to fill some of those rooms. Even if a guest is only paying half the rack-rate it’s still a lot more than zero. At the same time hotels do not want to establish the practice of rewarding guests that wait the longest to book. Then everyone will book last minute expecting (and probably getting) discounted rates.

Hotels offer those rooms to hotel consolidators so that the price discounts don’t reflect directly on the hotel itself. A hotel guest that learns from another guest that they got a 50% discount by booking through Booking.com would probably shrug their shoulders and try to remember the name of the website. But if that same guest learned that their friend simply booked through the hotel’s website and got a vastly cheaper rate, they’re likely to be upset and displeased with the inconsistent way the hotel charges customers.

As well, when guests book through 3rd party websites they often book other travel options (travel insurance, airfares, rental cars). These serve to obscure the true cost of the hotel room so a direct comparison to the rate another guest paid can’t easily be made.

What’s Included and Are There Extra Fees?

When you’re comparing different rates from different websites be sure to check what’s included in the quoted price. Are there extra fees and taxes?

Extra costs could include an of the following:

  • City, State, and Country taxes
  • City, State, and Country surcharges and other fees
  • Booking service fees (often disguised as hotel charges)
  • Hotel energy surcharge
  • Hotel resort fee
  • Spa or swimming pool fee
  • Phone or internet availability fee
  • Short stay surcharge or room cleaning fee
  • Parking
  • Credit card surcharge

Clearly it’s not easy to compare 2 rates with all these extras to consider. Taxes and booking fees are the biggest ones so if you’re feeling overwhelmed focus on those and you should be fine.

If you’re staying at a big resort it might be wise to check the hotel’s official website to look for extra fees that may be applied (e.g. a charge for using the spa).

Most websites have search options for the following specifics:

  • Swimming Pool (Indoor and Outdoor)
  • Spa
  • Fitness Center
  • Kitchenettes
  • Wi-fi
  • Parking
  • Location (and vicinity of the airport).
  • Airport Shuttle
  • Non-Smoking Rooms
  • Rooms or Facilities for Disabled Guests

Be sure to use these if you’re looking for a hotel with special features or characteristics as in my experience they’re accurate.

A final tip, is to check whether breakfast is included. When you arrive at the hotel you can even ask (with a tone of voice that expects that it is included). It’s often of little cost to the hotel to serve another buffet breakfast but this can be a huge savings for you especially over the course of a week or extended stay.

15 Tips for Booking Hotels Online

This is the cheat sheet for booking hotels online.

  • Important! – Like airfares, hotel prices go down and go up. Unlike airfares, you can (usually) cancel hotel bookings and book a different hotel – or book the same hotel through a different website. So if you see a decent deal book it. And then keep looking for a better deal.
  • Important! – Verify directly with the hotel after booking through an online booking website (e.g. booking.com). This is easy to do and well worth it. Occasionally, you’ll get an even better room than if you hadn’t contacted them. For example, if you send an email saying something like this, “I just booked a room with your hotel on Booking.com. I wanted to confirm my booking and make sure you didn’t need any more information. We’re a family of 5 so really need this to go smoothly. Thanks.” At the very least it lets the staff know you’ll need a bigger room. Maybe it won’t change anything but occasionally some of the time it will.
  • Important! – If you belong to a hotel loyalty program and want to get hotel points by booking directly through the hotel you can still benefit by using 3rd party hotel websites. Simply look for deals for your chosen hotel then phone the hotel and state exactly the deal you found online. They’ll often offer you the same price on the same room.  (Though not always, as sometimes they have sold these hotel rooms as a block and are not looking to discount the remaining rooms they still have booking access to.)
  • When booking a hotel for a family of 4, family of 5, or family of 6 then booking two hotel rooms will often be cheaper than booking one large family room. The catch is that when you book two hotel rooms hotels usually won’t guarantee that they are beside each other – so if you do find a large family suite at a good rate that’s often the best choice.
  • How to book luxury hotels? – Be sure to check multiple websites (including the hotel’s website) to find the best prices. Unlike budget and moderate hotels there can often be huge rate differences between different sites.
  • Print your confirmation email (or have easy access to it on your phone) to show at reception. 9 times out of 10 you won’t need it but on occasion the hotel might not have received the reservation info and the confirmation will help.
  • If you’ve already decided on the dates of your hotel stay then you’re starting from a disadvantage. Sometimes you have to travel on specific dates but if you can swing it, try to book hotels before you’ve settled on your dates.
  • Check multiple sites before you book: the hotel’s website and at least 2 hotel booking sites.
  • If you’re looking for a specific hotel and see that it’s full on the nights you need then be sure to check a second or third website as this can simply mean that the first websites’ allocation of rooms has sold out, not that the entire hotel is booked full.
  • If possible contact hotels directly to ask for deals or inquire about special offers. This is a pain and it’s become less and less effective as the online deals have become so competitive but it’s still worth a try. It can be especially effective if you’re staying for a week or more. Hotel booking sites won’t be able to offer special deals based on length of stay.
  • The biggest risk with reserving through a hotel booking site isn’t that you’ll be scammed out of your money by an illegitimate business (all of the websites that I list in here are reputable) but that they will overbook your hotel and you’ll get an email a few weeks before your stay saying that your room is not available. This is very rare, but it does happen. Contacting hotels directly after you book (I’m mentioning this twice since it’s so important) makes this scenario much less likely.
  • If you book a non-refundable hotel (read the fine-print) you will never be able to cancel so be certain before you reserve it.
  • The more particulars matter to you (e.g. special room requests, king or queen sized bed, bathtub, space for cot) the less well booking sites will suit you. That said, many sites are very good at passing along your specific requests when you book, so be sure to include any necessary needs or preferences when you place the booking (there’s usually a form when you can add extra information).
  • For budget hotels it’s often better to book directly with the hotel. Usually they won’t be listed in the hotel booking sites anyways.
  • Airbnb, Agoda.com, and Hotwire.com are travel websites that accept PayPal – if that’s important for you.
  • If booking an apartment or family run B&B through a site (e.g. Venere) don’t assume that the same apartment will be payable using a credit card. Confusing I know. The initial credit card is used to reserve the room with Venere, but when you arrive (and need to pay) the owner might only accept cash.
  • Email the hotel directly a day before arrival (regardless of how you book). It’s a pain but it’s worth the effort. If you show you care about your booking, your room, and your stay – then your hotel will too.
  • Final Tip: This isn’t concerned with hotels but it can be a big life-saver. Take a photo of your passports with your phone before you start your trip. If you ever lose your passport (or even just can’t find it during check in) this can be a huge help in getting it replaced.

Booking Hotels in Paris

Paris is busy year-round and hotels should be booked 3 to 6 months in advance if you want the best prices. May to October are the busiest months with July seeing the most number of visitors.
Best Site for Booking Paris Hotels
Best Paris Hotels
Best Paris Hotels for Families
Where To Stay in Paris
Best Time to Visit Paris
Best Things To Do in Paris

Booking Hotels in London

London is a year-round destination and hotels should be booked 2 to 4 months in advance. April to September are the busiest months with August seeing the most visitors.
Best Site for Booking London Hotels
Best London Hotels
Best London Hotels for Families
Where To Stay in London
Best Time to Visit London
Best Things To Do in London

Booking Hotels in New York City

New York City is busy from March to December when hotels should be booked 3 to 6 months in advance. January and February are the slowest and least expensive months for hotels by a good measure.
Best Site for Booking NYC Hotels
Best NYC Hotels
Best NYC Hotels for Families
Where To Stay in NYC
Best Time to Visit NYC
Best Things To Do in NYC

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How To Use Airbnb – The 2018 Guide

Updated: October 16, 2017

Airbnb Tips

  • 1. Book early.
  • 2. Be flexible with room requirements for best experience. Particular guests will be happier at a hotel.
  • 3. Read as many reviews as possible and be aware negative reviews are underrepresented.
  • 4. Pay close attention to location.
  • 5. Send a private message to the owner.
  • 6. Read the fine print and cancellation policy.
  • 7. Expect the unexpected.
  • 8. Confirm directions with owner.
Our first Airbnb rental in Sayulita, Mexico. All in all a good experience, though the host was 2 hours late meeting us.
Our first Airbnb rental in Sayulita, Mexico. A good experience even though the host was 2 hours late meeting us and the kitchen was completely lacking in utensils. All in all, lots of fun.

How Airbnb Works

  • A guest starts the booking process by clicking Request to Book. When Instant Booking is authorized for a property the reservation will be confirmed automatically if the guest meets the host’s requirements. When Instant Booking is not authorized the host will need to manually accept the reservation request. Airbnb collects guest payments when the reservation is accepted and releases those funds to the host 24 hours after arrival.

Booking Airbnb – The Basics

  • 1. Go to Airbnb.com (there are no third party websites or booking sites) or install the Airbnb app on your phone or iPad.
  • 2. Enter your destination, dates, and number of guests (technically kids should be entered as guests but to start it’s best to only count adults or you might eliminate some rentals that would be perfect for a family of 4 but won’t show for a 4-adult search).
  • 3. Select whether you want an entire home, private room, or shared room. Then click “Filters” to finely tune your criteria (wifi, kitchen, number of beds, bathrooms, etc.)
  • 4. When you find a place you like click “Contact Host” to ask the owner a question, or “Request To Book” to start the booking process. Hosts need to approve you before the booking is finalized.
  • 5. If this is your first time using Airbnb you’ll be prompted to create an account before contacting or booking is allowed.

Airbnb Reviews – Why They’re Not Always Accurate

  • Airbnb focuses on real people, real relationships, real experiences. And no anonymity. All good, but it makes it tough for people to leave negative reviews of places they don’t like. Thus most reviews are glowingly positive.
  • The anonymity you can have on Yelp and Tripadvisor reviews definitely has its downsides but does allow and encourage more negative reviews.
  • Airbnb hosts will read past reviews of prospective guests. If they have a history of leaving negative reviews they’re not as likely to get rented to. This skews rentals to people who only (or primarily) leave positive reviews.
  • Bottom line: There can be some pretty lousy places that get good to great reviews.

Hotel vs Airbnb

  • I prefer hotels to airbnbs my a good measure. Better service, better locations, more luxurious, special, and unique.
  • The biggest problem with using Airbnb is meeting the host to get the keys. With a hotel you walk in the door and someone is waiting for you to get you settled.
  • Much is made by Airbnb fans about getting the local scoop from real people. This is largely nonsense. A good concierge will know way more about the city than the typical resident. I live in Seattle and feel I know the city pretty well, but compare my local knowledge to the concierge at a decent downtown hotel regarding a good jazz bar, the best place to shop for handbags, or where to find the best whiskey and you’ll quickly see how limited my knowledge is.

Is Airbnb Safe?

  • Is Airbnb largely safe?, sure. Is it as safe as a hotel (where the risk is basically zero)?, no.
  • If you’re a single female traveler I’d recommend having a door stop with you. I’m not trying to sound alarmist but if you did find yourself in a place where you felt unsafe (or at least uncertain) a simple way to block the door might be the difference between a long anxious night and a good night’s sleep.

Using Airbnb

  • 1. Start your search and book early. – Unlike hotels that have multiple rooms of the same type, most Airbnb rentals have just 1 or 2 rentals and once these are booked they’re not coming back online.
  • 2. Be flexible. – Airbnb works best when you’re not on a set schedule, don’t need to be in a specific area, and don’t have specific demands on the rental.
  • 3. Read as many reviews as possible and be aware that negative reviews are discouraged (perhaps unintentionally) by the nature of the Airbnb marketplace.
  • 4. Pay attention to location – Use Google Maps and Street View to get a feel for where the rental is located and what’s nearby.
  • 5. Send a message to the owner – Even if you don’t have any specific questions, make something up, and send an enquiry with a few basic queries (what’s the neighborhood like? is there a grocery store nearby?) – the response will tell you a lot about his or her style, assumptions, and whether they’re a good fit for you. But don’t be too demanding. If you seem high-maintenance the host might just ignore your email.
  • 6. Read the fine print and cancellation policy. Really! – Unlike hotels, Airbnb hosts can have rules and stipulations far outside of your expectations. Don’t just look at the pictures and click “Book Now”.
  • 7. Expect the unexpected (for better and worse). If you like predictability, then Airbnb is not for you.
  • 8. Confirm directions to the property. It’s amazing how often the directions will be lousy, hard to follow, or just simply make no sense. Write the owner to directly confirm that the directions are accurate and ask if they have any tips for getting there (e.g. airport transportation, taking the bus or train, cost of a taxi, etc.).

See Also

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The Best Hotels in Amsterdam

Updated: October 12, 2017

Luxury hotel on Amsterdam canal.
The dock and private boat of the Pulitzer Hotel – my favorite hotel in Amsterdam.

The 11 Best Hotels in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Pulitzer Amsterdam

Set in Nine Street, right on the Prinsingracht, bordering the Jordaan neighborhood, this gorgeous hotel consists of 25 beautifully-restored 17th and 18th century canalside houses, that feature a diverse range of very unique charming rooms & suites. ‘Generous Rooms’ have more space with a full breakfast while the Classic suites add canal views. (Canal views are worth it for a glimpse of life along the canal). All suites have bike repair sets, complimentary sweet & savory delights, marble bathrooms and heated mirrors. The best suites are the hotel’s ‘Extraordinary Suites’ that are individually themed (Book, Art, Antiques, Music & Grand) & custom crafted, offering private entrances, personalized drink set ups, canal views and complimentary buffet breakfasts. The hotel also has a classic hotel boat for canal cruises, 1 garden cafe & courtyard garden, 1 restaurant and 1 bar. Fantastic location close to boutique shops, cafes, restaurants, with many major attractions (Anne Frank House, Dam Square, Royal Palace etc.) within walking distance. The nearest tram stop is a 5 minute walk from the hotel & the hotel sells daily tram tickets. Hotel Phone: +31 20 523 5235.

Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht – A Hyatt Hotel

Contemporary, boutique hotel with a quirky, Alice in Wonderland vibe (colorful murals, video art, sculptural furniture, wallpaper stories) by the Prinsengracht Canal in the heart of the city. Its stylish designer rooms have lots of natural light; deluxe rooms have private terraces with garden or canal views, while suites have separate sitting areas. Hotel has one restaurant, a bar, a spa, fitness center, complimentary guest bicycles and a complimentary 1.5-hour guided bike tour every Sunday. Superb location, within walking distance of many Amsterdam attractions (Nine Streets, Zuidas business district etc.). Hotel Phone: +31 20 523 1234.

Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam

Steeped in history, this rizy hotel set in the former site of two convents offers beautiful, pristine rooms with both period and state-of-the-art touches. (Hotel offers a daily hotel history tour). Its chic rooms feature very comfortable Sofitel Mybeds with lovely canal, garden, city or courtyard views. Suites add lounge areas & bathtubs with tvs, with upgraded suites adding butler services and hammams. Its special Canal house suites (set in the former homes of famous Dutch Admirals) are like apartments and feature wooden ceiling beams, fully equipped kitchenettes and private entrances. Offers 10 dining options (including a Michelin star restaurant, private dining room and many bars), spa, an indoor heated swimming pool with jet stream and jacuzzi, a hammam and sauna. Hotel can also arrange horse carriage rides and romantic private dinners. Enjoys a great location in the Amsterdam city center, near the Royal Palace and a short stroll away from Dam Square, Vang Gogh Hermitage museum, many shops and restaurants. Hotel Phone: +31 20 555 3111.

Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam

Housed in six 17th century canal palaces on the UNESCO-protected Herengracht (Gentlemen’s canal), this opulent hotel with historic interiors & old-world glamour, has elegant rooms with canal & courtyard views, black-out curtains and marble bathrooms (some rooms have included breakfasts, bathtubs etc). Suites named after former residents may add separate living rooms, painted ceilings, decorative fireplaces, a study, dining rooms and a private spa & pool entrance, depending on the category. The King Grand Loft is its largest accommodation with traditional wooden beams set on the highest floor & has amazing views. Hotel has an extraordinary staircase, a personal concierge for every guest, 4 dining options (including a Michelin restaurant & a bar), a large private courtyard, a spa and an indoor pool. Enjoys a brilliant location within walking distance of key attractions (Rembrandtplein, Hermitage Museum etc.), shops, museums and theatres. Hotel Phone: +31 20 718 4600.

De L’Europe Amsterdam

Overlooking the Amstel river, in the heart of Amsterdam, this grand, historic hotel offers exquisite, tasteful rooms & suites in bold, vivid colors and the latest technologies (ipads in bedrooms, Bose surround sound systems and ipod docking stations). Deluxe rooms boast large baths with built-in TV in mirrors, heated bathroom floors and offer city, river or courtyard views, while Premium Deluxe rooms (some) add private balconies. (Ones with balconies are recommended). Suites in the Dutch Master’s Wing feature amazing replicas of famous Dutch Master’s paintings and add balconies, living areas etc. Provocateur Suites feature lovely twinkling starry night ceilings over circular beds. The hotel’s signature suite is its six-bedroom Penthouse Suite that adds a private riverside terrace and an oversized marble bathtub. Hotel offers a library, 5 dining options (includes a Michelin star restaurant and a bar), a heated indoor swimming pool (wth a jet stream, jacuzzi, starry ceilings and panoramic rivers views), saunas, and a beauty salon. Fabulous location a 15 minute walk away from the Central city station, with a floating flower market across the road. Within walking distance of museums & other attractions and lots of bars, cafes and restaurants in the area. Hotel Phone: +31 20 531 1777.

The Dylan Amsterdam

Chic, boutique hotel with an eccentric Dutch house vibe, set on the Keizergracht canal, offering refined rooms with Bose sound systems, bluetooth iPod connections and garden/courtyard views. Suites add luxury baths and canal views. Splurge for canal view rooms. The hotel’s signature suites feature lovely touches like 20 feet high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows etc. with a buffet breakfast included. Hotel has plenty of steep stairs, a Michelin star restaurant and a bar. Leidseplein, the Anne Frank House, many museums, and shopping areas are minutes away by foot. Hotel Phone: +31 20 530 2010.

Hotel Seven One Seven

Steps away from the tram, this stunning boutique hotel housed in a 19th century building offers 9-themed room and suite types (Dickens, Picasso, Tolkien, Shakespeare etc.) with minbars and artwork. Has beautiful baroque-style interiors and suites add baths. Hotel has no elevator so be prepared to handle the steep staircases, or opt for rooms on the lower floors. Good location, right on the Prinsengracht canal, with many local restaurants, bars, and shopping within walking distance. Hotel Phone: +31 20 427 0717.

Hampshire Hotel – Amsterdam American

Located right on Leideseplein, this art-deco style hotel offers modern rooms and suites (add seating areas) with minibars. Has a few rooms with balconies overlooking the Leidseplein Square which can be noisier than canal view rooms. Hotel has a restaurant, bar, bicycle rentals and is set just outside the city center (15 minutes walk). It’s also close to an airport bus stop (bus 197) and around the corner from public trams. Lots of restaurants, bars and shopping within sight of the hotel. Hotel Phone: +31 20 556 3000.

Misc Eatdrinksleep

Small, boutique hotel set in a 17th century canal house, close to Nieuwmarkt Square, that offers a total of 6 cozy, delightful rooms, with complimentary breakfasts and canal or garden views. Canal view rooms are larger and have white noise machines, while garden view rooms are smaller & quieter and have only fans. Has a small restaurant & a bar. Take note that the stairs in the hotel are narrow and steep (no elevator). Many key attractions are within walking distance – Nieuwmarkt (2 minutes), (Rembrandt House (4 minutes), Dam Square (5 minutes), Amsterdam Centraal Station (10 minutes), Nine streets & the Anne Frank House (15 minutes). Hotel Phone: +31 20 330 6241.

art’otel Amsterdam

Enjoying a central and convenient location across the street from the Amsterdam central station, this funky, upscale hotel offers art-inspired rooms and suites with mood lighting, views of the station (some), stocked minibars and complimentary breakfasts. The suites (only 4) add separate living rooms. Great range of facilities that include an all-day and late-night kitchen, bar, library, gym, indoor swimming pool, and Finnish sauna. Also has a 300 sq m art gallery featuring art exhibits and an art concierge. Front-facing rooms can be noisier so request rooms at the back if you need more quiet. Ideal hotel for those needing to head to the airport from the train station. Convenient location for tram lines and sightseeing (the Royal Palace is a few blocks away). Hotel Phone: +31 20 719 7200.

Hotel Okura Amsterdam

Set a little away from the city center on the banks of the Amstel Canal, a 15 minute drive from the Schiphol International Airport, the Okura offers big, clean rooms and suites with luxurious bathtubs and a turn down service. Executive rooms, set on the higher floors add Executive Lounge access, Japanese toilets (Toto), touchscreen controls for temperature, curtains and lighting. Junior suites add seating areas while upgraded suites are more like private apartments and add private kitchens. The Imperial Suite is the Okura’s largest suite; it’s a 2-storey suite that offers panoramic views, total privacy, a games console, walk-in closets, a 12 person cinema etc. Opt for high storey corner rooms as they offer excellent views of the canal and city. Facilities include 5 restaurants, 2 bars, a health club, swimming pool, jacuzzi, gym, sauna and solarium. Also offers cooking workshops. The trendy Pijp area with many restaurants and cafes is around a 15 minute walk and the nearest tram stop is within 10 minutes walking distance. Hotel Phone: +31 20 678 7111.

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The Best Hotels in Puerto Vallarta

Updated: September 25, 2017

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Puerto Vallarta Hotels – Tips and Advice

  • The absolute best hotels are: Hotel Mousai (most luxurious), Grand Velas (best for families), and Hacienda San Angel (most romantic).
  • The best areas for travelers are: El Centro (PV’s historic heart, with great restaurant and beaches), Zona Romantica (historic streets with trendy bars, nightlife, and popular Los Muertos Beach), Conchas Chinas (upscale neighborhood near attractions, but quiet at night), Mismaloya (secluded jungle and beaches), Marina Vallarta (resort area with a golf course and lots of marine attractions, beaches are just ok), North Hotel Zone (great beaches, quiet neighborhood, near attractions), and Nuevo Vallarta (exclusive, luxury, golfing and beaches).
  • Puerto Vallarta is home to some of the best restaurants in Mexico, with a mix of outstanding fine dining, cheap eats, local flavors, and international cuisine. Even if staying in an all-inclusive, it is worth making the trip downtown for meals at least a couple of times during your stay. Some of the top restaurants worth a special trip are Café des Artistes (best fine dining), Mariscos Cisneros (best local seafood), and Kaiser Maximilian (best international cuisine).
  • Puerto Vallarta is perfect for walking, with well-known attractions, such as the Malecon, the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Los Muertos Beach, and nightlife all within walking distance of each other. Farther-flung attractions, like the Botanical Gardens or Zoo to the south or Nuevo Vallarta to the north, are all serviced by bus for only a few pesos.
  • Taxis are more efficient for longer distances, but can be expensive. Rather than running a meter, taxis rates are determined by zone. The rate for a particular destination will be based on how many zones the taxi needs to cross through to get there. Zone maps can be integrated with Google Maps on your phone.
  • For day trips to Punta de Mita or Sayulita, it best to rent a car. Puerto Vallarta’s rules of the road are similar to those in the U.S. Highways are well-maintained, and streets are all well-mapped (if not well-marked) and easy to follow via GPS. Two things that are different are topes and left turns. Topes (pronounced TOH-pays) are speed bumps, but there are no regulations on their height, steepness, or visibility; some are nearly impossible to see until it’s too late! Drive slowly in downtown and keep an eye out for these. Standard left turns are usually OK in downtown but not on highways. To make a left, drivers will often need to use a retorno, which is a U-turn overpass. To use a retorno, drive past the road you want to make a left onto, get into the far right lane to take the retorno exit, make the left onto the overpass, and finally merge with traffic going the opposite direction. You can then make a right at the desired street or destination.
  • Pay in pesos whenever possible. Many hotels, restaurants, and tour operators accept payment in U.S. dollars. However, travelers will almost always overpay if using dollars, as the exchange rate for tourists favors the peso.

The 25 Best Luxury Hotels in Puerto Vallarta

1. Hotel Mousai – South Hotel Zone

Puerto Vallarta five diamond hotel
Five Diamond, adults-only hotel with a rooftop infinity pool overlooking their 85-acre jungle preserve, Garza Blanca Beach, and the Sea of Cortez. All accommodations include outdoor, tile Jacuzzis on private balconies. Ultra Suites add upgraded amenities, the hotel’s most expansive views, and unlimited access to the hydrotherapy circuit in their decadent spa. Expect impeccable service along with phenomenal dining and drinks on site or at their sister property, Garza Blanca. Guests may choose to reserve a suite only, or an all-inclusive package. Located just north of Mismaloya, near Los Arcos Park, the Botanical Gardens, and the Puerto Vallarta Zoo.
Hotel phone: +52 322 176 0738

2. Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit – Nuevo Vallarta

Family-friendly luxury resort in Nuevo Vallarta
Luxurious, all-suite, all-inclusive, family-friendly resort with a multi-tier infinity pool and exceptional family amenities and services. Their enormous two-bedroom, three-bathroom family suites boast a private Jacuzzi terrace, a 50 minute massage per person per day, and round-trip airport transfer. Kids’ amenities for all ages include a baby concierge, kids’ pool, kids’ club with culture, nature, and craft activities, and a teen lounge with gaming consoles, a dancefloor, and karaoke. A host of gourmet local and international restaurants satisfies even the pickiest eaters. The Grand Velas sits on the powdery white Nuevo Vallarta Beach, near Aquaventuras water park (with dolphins!) and in between two golf courses.
Hotel phone: +52 322 226 8677

3. Hacienda San Angel – El Centro, Old Town

Hacienda-style luxury hotel in Puerto Vallarta
Four romantic, colonial-style villas with a lush garden courtyard overlooking Guadalupe Church and the ocean. All rooms include dramatic Mexican and European antique décor, plus modern marble floors and French windows; Presidential and Royal suites add outdoor terrace Jacuzzis. Three pools, a small chapel, and a gourmet restaurant are spread throughout the grounds, linked by ivy-covered terraces and garden paths. Its fine dining restaurant serves sumptuous Mexican and international dishes, with sweeping sea and city views, live mariachi nightly, and seasonal Sunday brunches. The restaurant is popular for celebrations, so reserve in advance, especially during the high season. The hotel sits amid winding cobblestone streets in El Centro, just steps from the Church, the Malecon, and the city’s best dining and nightlife. Hacienda San Angel is the former home of Richard Burton.
Hotel phone: +52 322 222 2692

4. Villa La Estancia – Nuevo Vallarta

Family-friendly beachfront resort in Nuevo Vallarta
Luxury, family-friendly resort with spacious suites, a two-level pool, and exclusive beachfront location. Suites are generous, up to three bedrooms, with a full kitchen, and a washer and dryer. All rooms include a Jacuzzi in the master bathroom and a private balcony. Excellent on-site restaurants and bars, plus guests have access to dining options at the sister resort next door. Though this resort is very popular with families, it remains peaceful and quiet: no loud pool parties, and the bars close early, around 10:30. Villa la Estancia sits at the north end of Nuevo Vallarta, on a long, tranquil beach; just a fifteen-minute bike ride to the pueblo magico Bucerias and about thirty-minutes’ drive to Old Town.
Hotel phone: +52 800 483 0088

5. Casa Velas – Marina Vallarta

Adults-only boutique hotel in Marina Vallarta
Luxury, adults-only boutique with a free form pool, a beach club with an infinity pool, and a holistic spa featuring hydrotherapy and ingredients grown onsite in their botanical garden. A wide range of spacious suites are available, many with private Jacuzzis or plunge pools. Presidential suites are the largest and most luxurious with four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, free golf, and massage for all guests. Wellness suites add in room Jacuzzis, private plunge pools, a massage table, and fitness amenities. Thoughtful perks include a handbag bar and complimentary beach transfer all day. Located in Marina Vallarta, surrounded by the golf course, near sailing, diving, and marine parks.
Hotel phone: +52 322 226 8670

6. Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa – Marina Vallarta

Family-friendly resort Marina Vallarta
Upscale, beachfront resort with infinity, kids’, and lap pools, plus Puerto Vallarta’s largest spa. Family amenities include a kids’ club, teen gaming area, and a sea turtle hatchery and release program (June – November). Its indulgent spa spotlights indigenous Huichol treatments, a hydrotherapy circuit, and in-pool massage. Fantastic restaurants are around every corner here, but the star is their Ceviche & Tequila Bar, offering outstanding seafood and 270 tequilas. Rooms are airy and bright, but average in size; families should opt for a larger suite or connecting rooms. This resort sits right on the Marina Beach, walking distance to the Marina Vallarta Golf Club, boat tours, and marine parks.
Hotel phone: +52 322 226 0000

7. Club Ocho Cascadas – Conchas Chinas

Conchas Chinas luxury Adults-only boutique hotel
Exclusive boutique, luxury hotel in Puerto Vallarta. Each of its nine villas is on its own floor with a private plunge pool and full kitchen with a personal chef. All are spacious, most with two bedrooms, plus plenty of indoor-outdoor spaces with hammocks. Each room features local, natural décor, with stonework walls and floors, leather furniture, hide rugs, a blend of rustic woods, and a few villas built around whole trees. This adults-only hotel is very popular and very small, so reserve well in advance. Located in Conchas Chinas, the city’s most upscale neighborhood, ten minutes’ walk to the beach.
Hotel phone: +52 322 221 5278

8. Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa – South Hotel Zone

Luxury family-friendly resort near Mismaloya, Puerto Vallarta
Sophisticated resort in a jungle mountain preserve with two free-form infinity pools, contemporary dining, and a host of nature activities. All rooms and suites feature a private terrace with a hammock, while suite types one bedroom and up include a full kitchen, washer and dryer, and one extra bathroom per bedroom. Its top-notch kids club gets little ones up close with nature through hiking, planting trees, kayaking, and more. Succulent dining, a tranquil spa, and serene tropical view of Banderas Bay rounds out the experience. Garza Blanca sits on a sugary white sand beach with a rock wall and gentle waves just north of Mismaloya, near the Botanical Gardens, Puerto Vallarta Zoo, and Los Arcos Park.
Hotel phone: +52 322 176 0718

9. Casa Kimberly – El Centro, Old Town

Elizabeth Taylor hotel Puerto Vallarta
Dramatic and glamorous boutique accommodations, featuring a rooftop al fresco restaurant and bar, cozy spa, and lozenge-shaped pool. This adults-only hotel is comprised of two villas connected by a bridge; the older formerly owned by Richard Burton, and the other built by him for Elizabeth Taylor – each room is named and designed after one of Taylor’s films. Suites all feature indulgent baths and rain shower, plus lavish décor that blends Hollywood glitz with hacienda charm. Most include a private terrace with a whirlpool, plunge pool, or both. Its restaurant, The Iguana, is one of the top in the city, specializing on contemporary Mexican cuisine and a variety of tequilas. Located in El Centro, near Guadalupe Church, the city’s best restaurants and nightlife, and the Malecon.
Hotel phone: +52 322 222 1336

10. Grand Miramar – Conchas Chinas

Luxury suite hotel in Conchas Chinas
On the highest point overlooking Banderas Bay, the Grand Miramar offers panoramic views from its rooftop bar, plus three dazzling pools, a pool-sized Jacuzzi, and contemporary suites. All suites include a private terrace and a kitchenette with a stovetop. Two- to four-bedroom residences include full kitchen and dining room; many have private terrace whirlpools. The resort offers five great restaurants, but the stars are Casianos, with its three- to five-course surprise dinner menu, and the Gin Joint, especially popular for sunset cocktails and tapas. From its privileged location in Conchas Chinas, the resort is walking distance to two swimmable beaches and near the nightlife and dining in Zona Romantica.
Hotel phone: +52 322 221 5120

11. Casa Karma – Conchas Chinas

Luxury hotel with bar in Conchas Chinas
Eclectic, luxury boutique hotel with a mosaic tile pool and popular bar on its own little private beach. Casa Karma offers eight unique suites, all with custom stone and Mexican tile baths, most with private terraces. The Penthouse suite covers two floors with two terraces, two balconies, and a private plunge pool. Personalized service for all guests includes morning coffee delivery and complimentary laundry. The Bar at Casa Karma is popular with locals and ex-pats, especially for its nightly, themed happy hours, sunset tapas, and Build Your Own Bloody Marys on Sundays. Located in Conchas Chinas, walking distance to several beaches, the Los Muertos Pier, and Zona Romantica’s restaurants and nightlife.
Hotel phone: +52 322 221 6048

12. Velas Vallarta – Marina Vallarta

Marina Vallarta family-friendly resort
This family-friendly, all-inclusive, all-suite luxury beachfront resort showcases two free-form pools connected by a lazy river. Spacious, ocean view accommodations with up to three bedrooms, each with a full kitchen, including a stovetop and dishwasher. Its kids’ club offers a third pool, plus activities such as sandcastles, painting, and Summer Camp with beach bonfires. There’s an organic spa, and superb food and drinks on-site, and golf just next door. Velas Vallarta is located on Marina Vallarta Beach, walking distance to boating and marine attractions.
Hotel phone: +52 322 226 8673

13. Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel & Romantic Getaway – El Centro, Old Town

Adults-only beachfront hotel in Old Town Puerto Vallarta
Four-diamond, adults-only, boutique resort, with luxurious rooms and two beachfront pools. Spacious, ocean view rooms and suites are all inclusive of personal butler service; most feature a private indoor or outdoor whirlpool. Sumptuous dining onsite offers the best in Mexican cuisine, whether traditional or contemporary, plus 24 hour room service. Thoughtful amenities include a poolside “Draw Your Moment” art station, in-room pillow and aromatherapy menus, and loaner bikes and kayaks. Their indulgent spa offers hydrotherapy and an oxygen bar. Villa Premiers is well-located on Camarones Beach in El Centro, just a five minute walk to the city’s best restaurants, the Malecon, and Guadalupe Church.
Hotel phone: +52 322 226 7040

14. Resorts by Pinnacle 180 (aka Signature by Pinnacle) – Zona Romantica, Old Town

Family-friendly Zona Romantica condos, Puerto Vallarta
Family-friendly, stylish condo boutique with ocean views and private balconies. Each suite is uniquely designed, but all are one- or two-bedrooms with full kitchens, washer-dryer units, and private balconies; many have outdoor Jacuzzis. Top-tier condos include private plunge pools, plus upgraded features such as wraparound balconies. The cozy infinity pool has swim up access to the main bar with a popular happy hour. These chic condos are located in Zona Romantica, in the heart of Puerto Vallarta’s dining and nightlife district, just five minutes’ walk to Los Muertos Beach and Pier.
Hotel phone: +52 322 222 3556

15. Secrets Vallarta Bay – North Hotel Zone

All-inclusive, Adults-only resort in Puerto Vallarta's North Hotel Zone
Romantic, adults-only, all-inclusive resort on Camarones Beach, with gorgeous pools, a full-service spa, upscale dining, and a champagne bar. Suites are intimate yet spacious, many with private terrace Jacuzzis or swim up options; Presidential suite adds a private plunge pool and whirlpool bath. Its holistic spa emphasizes indigenous treatments with hydrotherapy pools. Fine dining and casual restaurants offer an array of indulgent flavors, from local Mexican recipes, to Pan-Asian and Mediterranean bites. Guests at Secrets also have full access to the nightclub, casino, and restaurants at Now Amber, its sister property next door. The resort sits just south of the North Hotel Zone on a golden sand beach, about thirty minutes walking to the Malecon and all of Puerto Vallarta’s nightlife.
Hotel phone: (866) 467-3273

16. Marival Residences – Nuevo Vallarta

Family-friendly all-inclusive resort in Nuevo Vallarta
All-inclusive, all-suite resort with outstanding services and amenities for families, plus a pool and beach club. Suites are one- to four-bedrooms, with a full kitchen and in room laundry; swim up suites and villas with full sized private pools are also available. Family amenities included in the rate are the kids’ club, free nanny service, and one free tour (options include sea lions, zip lining, pub tours, and more). Add on a “Family Emotions” package for a second tour, customized family picnic, exclusive concierge, and upgraded amenities. There are several restaurants and bars onsite, serving drinks as late as 2 a.m., plus more dining just a three minute shuttle away at their beach club. This secluded hotel is north of Puerto Vallarta in the exclusive Nuevo Vallarta complex, near golf, dining, and a small marina.
Hotel phone: +52 322 226 9740

17. Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta – North Hotel Zone

Family-friendly all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta's North Hotel Zone
All-inclusive resort with a tropical vibe on a sandy, swimmable beach. The resort offers two pools (one main pool and one adults-only), ten bars and restaurants, excellent family amenities, and club level upgrades for added luxury amenities, top floor rooms, and a private lounge. Family rooms are generously sized, sleeping up to six, with a large private terrace. Presidential suites are the largest and have a separate bedroom and private terrace with a whirlpool. Fantastic little kids club with a playground, plus beach and pool activities; the teen club offers video games and foosball tables. A wide range of restaurants suiting all tastes, with Mexican, pan-Asian, and Italian options, plus great cocktails and 24 hour room service. Located in the North Hotel Zone, walking distance to La Isla Mall and the Marina.
Hotel phone: +52 322 226 2100

18. Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta – Nuevo Vallarta

Rock and roll party hotel Puerto Vallarta
Family-friendly hotel with a party vibe. The Hard Rock showcases two pools, fun bars and restaurants, plus their signature music-themed activities and amenities. All rooms come equipped with a two-person Jacuzzi bath and a private balcony. Spacious family suites are all two-bedrooms, though larger suites up to three bedrooms are also available. Entertainment for all includes a kids club with a pool, waterslides, and games; an all-ages club with billiards, arcade games, and music; nightly theater, and a decadent spa. Great food and phenomenal cocktails with syrups made onsite from local fruits, plus a nightclub on weekends until 3 a.m. Sound of Your Stay package includes loaner guitars, mixing stations, turntables, and records. Located in Nuevo Vallarta on a shallow, swimmable beach, perfect for boogie boarding.
Hotel phone: +52 322 226 8470

19. Resorts by Pinnacle 220 (aka Residences by Pinnacle) – Zona Romantica, Old Town

Condo boutique in Old Town Puerto Vallarta
Family-friendly, elegant condo boutique with a rooftop infinity pool and well-appointed suites. Each condo is individually owned, so the décor differs, but all have full kitchens, washer-dryer units, and private balconies, some with whirlpools. Spacious one- to three-bedrooms units all offer striking views of the jungle-covered mountains or of Puerto Vallarta’s red tiled roofs and the Sea of Cortez. Its rooftop Sky Bar offers outstanding sunset views and cocktails. Pre-arrival shopping service can be arranged to stock the fridge with personalized foods and drinks. Ideally located in Zona Romantica, the nightlife and dining hub of the city, and walking distance to Los Muertos Beach and the Malecon.
Hotel phone: +52 322 222 3556

20. Westin Resort & Spa – Marina Vallarta

Great resort for families in Marina Vallarta.
Exceptional family resort with two free-form pools, a full service spa, and an array of spacious accommodations. Rooms and suites begin at 54 square meters, all with balconies and free-standing bathtubs, and many with Jacuzzis or plunge pools. This wellness-focused resort features a full service spa with hydrotherapy, an active kids club with beach and pool games, and tennis and basketball courts. Its long stretch of beach is nearly private, boasting a beach club with attentive service. Great dining onsite features seasonal ingredients, with Mexican and international menus. Located on the southern tip of Marina Vallarta, walking distance to the golf club, Vallarta Adventures, and a mall.
Hotel phone: +52 322 226 1100

21. Now Amber – North Hotel Zone

All-inclusive Puerto Vallarta resort with casino
Family-friendly, all-inclusive resort boasting three refreshing pools (one just for kids), kids’ and teens’ clubs, a nightclub, and a casino. Suites all include a freestanding bath and private balcony, some with swim up access or private terrace Jacuzzis. Kids as young as three can enjoy activities at the kids club, while teens have their own space for tabletop and video games. Family entertainment includes breakdancing, fire-breathing, and karaoke, while adults can enjoy the brand new casino (opening in December 2017) and nightclub until 1 a.m. Nine bars and restaurants range from casual to fine dining, with food available 24 hours at Coco Café or through room service. Adult guests have access to the spa next door at Secrets Vallarta Bay. Located just south of the North Hotel Zone on Camarones Beach, twenty minutes walking distance to La Isla Mall and thirty to the Malecon.
Hotel phone: +52 322 226 2900

22. Hilton Puerto Vallarta Resort – North Hotel Zone

Beachfront all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta
Wonderful, all-inclusive, beachfront resort with three pools, family activities, and an exceptional spa. Families will enjoy the Loft and Master suites, which are extra-large and feature outdoor whirlpools on private, furnished balconies. Its spa is the only one in the area with a “floatarium” for flotation therapy treatments. The two main pools are kept at different temps, one warmer and one cooler; the rooftop infinity pool is adults-only, with its own bar and sushi lounge. Its superb kids’ club offers different activities every hour, with beach and pool play along with arts. Activities for adults or families include daily kayak tours and tequila classes. Located on Playa del Oro in the North Hotel Zone, walking distance to La Isla Mall to the south and Galerias Mall and the casino to the north.
Hotel phone: +52 322 176 1176

23. Dreams Villamagna – Nuevo Vallarta

Nuevo Vallarta beachfront family resort
Stellar, all-inclusive, beachfront resort with five pools, hot and cold Jacuzzis, amazing suites, and excellent family and couples’ amenities. All suites include private balconies and indoor and outdoor whirlpools. Preferred Club upgrades add top shelf liquor, a pillow menu, and access to a private lounge. Its kids club, for ages 3-12, offers a range of activities, including games, crafts, and sandcastle competitions, plus weekly beachfront camping. There are eleven bars and restaurants onsite, catering to all tastes and ranging from casual to fine dining, with two adults-only restaurants. Its full-service spa offers treatments for adults, teens, and kids. Dreams Villamagna is located on a long, sandy stretch of beach in Nuevo Vallarta, near Marival Plaza shops and restaurants.
Hotel phone: (866) 237-3267

24. Vallarta Shores – Zona Romantica, Old Town

Puerto Vallarta hotel with 4 bedroom suites.
This boutique condo hotel offers large suites (up to four bedrooms), lots of great indoor/outdoor spaces, and an excellent beachfront location. Well-equipped kitchens are featured in all suites, with a private chef included in the rate for larger, three- to four-bedroom suites. Each suite is a little different, but most include one extra bathroom per bedroom, with Sky Suites and Penthouses adding whirlpool baths and private plunge pools. There is a common area with a larger pool, plus a full kitchen, dining room, and living room for all guests to share. Perfectly situated in the nightlife hub of Zona Romantica on Los Muertos Beach with a view of the original “Boy on the Seahorse” statue (the one on the Malecon nearby is a replica).
Hotel phone: +52 322 222 3838

25. Hotel Riu Palace Pacifico – Nuevo Vallarta

Beachfront luxury all-inclusive resort Nuevo Vallarta
Lively, family-friendly, all-inclusive, all-suite resort with a large beachfront pool and a kids’ pool. All suites have a private balcony and whirlpool tub, many with adjoining or lock off options. Family Suites have two bedrooms with a king and two double beds; Jacuzzi Suites are about twice the size, though, and add an outdoor hot tub. Tons of free activities here, including scuba lessons in the pool, windsurfing, catamaran tours, and a playground. Food and drinks are plentiful with a variety of international cuisines, though all a little Americanized. Located at the northern end of Nuevo Vallarta, walking or cycling distance to the pueblo magico Bucerias.
Hotel phone: +52 322 176 0090

Staying in El Centro, Old Town

The best hotels and restaurants in El Centro, Puerto Vallarta
Old Town, the hub of Puerto Vallarta activity, is divided into two sections: El Centro to the north of Cuale River and Zona Romantica south of the river. El Centro is the historic heart of the city and boasts the best-known attractions, Guadalupe Church, the colonial era church that dominates the night skyline, and the Malecon, the beachfront boardwalk with statues, food stalls, music and art. This is a perfectly walkable neighborhood with cobblestone streets and sidewalks, though the latter are often taken over by cafes and taco stands. A foodie paradise; local, casual cantinas and humble tamale stands share space with five-star gourmet restaurants, serving contemporary Mexican seafood and seasonal international menus. This lively downtown area has something going on almost every night, so it can be noisy in the later hours – amazing for active vacations with fun-filled evenings, but not ideal for restful, tranquil sleep.

The Best Hotels in El Centro

The Best Restaurants in El Centro

  • Café des Artistes • $$$$ • Best fine dining in PV. Contemporary, seasonal menu in a romantic setting. Reservations strongly recommended.
  • River Café • $$-$$$ • Secluded restaurant on Cuale Island – great breakfast, romantic dinners, cozy bar.
  • Metate Chocolate y Café • $ • The best coffee in PV. Excellent breakfast and lunch, with chocolate as a signature ingredient.
  • Café de Olla • $$-$$$ • A mainstay of the city, popular for carne asada and octopus. Do try the raicilla, aka Mexican moonshine, in a margarita or a shot.

Staying in Zona Romantica, Old Town

Where to stay and eat near Los Muertos Beach, Puerto Vallarta
The southern half of Old Town is the nightlife center of Puerto Vallarta, known for its numerous bars, cantinas, restaurants, and clubs. This is also the premier gay neighborhood in Puerto Vallarta, the most LGBT friendly city in Mexico. The party atmosphere begins around happy hour and goes well into the night, as late as 3 or 4 a.m., especially during the winter high season and during Pride in late spring. Still very family-friendly, tons of attractions are located here including the city’s most popular beach, Los Muertos; its stunning pier has become a hangout area for locals and travelers of all ages. The city’s oldest farmers market is here every Saturday until 2pm during high season, with produce, snacks, and crafts. Zona Romantica is also home to a number of art galleries, with a biweekly art walk/block party held during the winter months. Gourmet dining and trendy cocktails are available on nearly every corner near the new extension of the Malecon. Delicious local restaurants serve regional specialties just a few blocks inland, along the city’s famous cobblestone streets.

The Best Hotels in Zona Romantica

The Best Restaurants in Zone Romantica

  • Mariscos Cisneros • $ • Best casual local restaurant for seafood.
  • La Palapa • $$-$$$ • Gourmet, four diamond restaurant with a casual beachfront atmosphere. Reservations recommended.
  • 116 Pulpito Gastro Bar • $$-$$$ • Trendy little cocktail and tapas bar. Seating is limited to arrive early to snag a chair.
  • Kaiser Maximillian • $$-$$$ • Upscale, four diamond Austrian and international cuisine. Grab a sidewalk table for great people watching.

Staying in Conchas Chinas

Where to stay and eat in Conchas Chinas.
Often called the “Beverly Hills of Puerto Vallarta,” this affluent neighborhood sits just south of Old Town. Conchas Chinas stretches from the beachfront (with gorgeous little coves, sandy, shelly beaches, and dramatic rocky outcrops), zigzaging up the hill to the highest points in the city with stunning sunset views of Banderas Bay and the city lights at night. This mostly residential area is dotted with multi-million dollar villas and luxury condos, many of which are second homes of celebrities and politicians. The lower part of Conchas Chinas is walking distance to Old Town, yet remains quiet at nights, perfect for travelers who want the conveniences of the city without the late night buzz. The upper part offers the best views but requires wheels to get to and from town. A beautiful area that feels more remote than it is. There are few restaurants and bars here; most will be closer to downtown.

The Best Hotels in Conchas Chinas

The Best Restaurants in Conchas Chinas

  • The Bar at Casa Karma • $$-$$$ • Cozy al fresco bar in a boutique hotel. Known for their Build Your Own Bloody Mary bar on Sunday afternoons and fantastic tapas menu.
  • El Set Restaurant & Bar • $$-$$$ • Mexican seafood restaurant and bar, known for their sunset views.
  • Restaurant La Playita • $$-$$$ • Excellent service and beautiful views. Go for the chocobanana pancakes at breakfast!

Staying in the North Hotel Zone

Where to stay and eat in Puerto Vallarta's North Hotel Zone
North Hotel Zone
North of Old Town and south of the Marina, this area is known for its exceptional beaches, with long, wide stretches of soft, golden sand. It’s home to a number of large resorts, as well as restaurants, nightlife, and shopping centers. Four beaches run the length of this strip, including the popular Playa del Oro. Though it’s long walk into town from here, travelers can catch the bus to El Centro across from Walmart for about 8 pesos (less than one USD). This is a great area for visitors who want to an easy, fuss-free vacation, with accessibility to downtown and dining, without being in the center of it all. Walking distance to Marina Vallarta attractions and the golf club.

Best Hotels in the North Hotel Zone

Best Restaurants in the North Hotel Zone

  • La Leche • $$$$ • Contemporary, creative fine dining with a new menu every day. Reservations highly recommended, though there is a fantastic cocktail bar upstairs in case of a long wait.
  • Food Park • $$-$$$ • Eight food stalls run out of shipping containers. Great food with a wide selection cuisine from burgers to sushi to tacos, plus a bar cart and dessert cart.
  • La Casa de Mi Compadre • $$-$$$ • Sweet Mexican joint with the margaritas in Puerto Vallarta! The shrimp tacos are not to be missed.

Staying in Marina Vallarta

Where to stay and eat in Marina Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta
Exclusive enclave north of Puerto Vallarta, with luxury hotels, three golf courses, and most of the area’s marine attractions and charters. Marina Vallarta began construction in the mid-‘80s, and for a little while was the largest marina in Mexico. It is now the city’s main hub for water attractions, including sailing excursions, dolphin and sea lion encounters, and two water parks. The main boardwalk has several restaurants, shops, and spas (usually much more affordable than those at the resorts). This is a great neighborhood for families and couples who want to take advantage of all the sea life, snorkeling, and boating excursions the city has to offer. Some of the beaches here are a little too rocky for swimming, but when the currents are mild, this makes for excellent snorkeling.

Best Hotels in Marina Vallarta

Best Restaurants in Marina Vallarta

  • Sonora Grill Prime Vallarta • $$$$ • Outstanding steakhouse with a lively, albeit very loud, atmosphere. Great seafood, plus a wide selection of Mexican wines.
  • Tintoque • $$$$ • Upscale seafood restaurant, with fresh, inspired dishes that change daily. Reservations recommended.
  • Ocho Tostadas • $$ • Well-loved by locals! Great lunch spot for ceviche, fresh snapper, marlin, and octopus.

Staying in the South Hotel Zone

Where to stay and eat near Mismaloya, Puerto Vallarta
This rugged jungle coastline is what put Puerto Vallarta on the map. The South Hotel Zone, especially Mismaloya village, has been the backdrop for several films, but it was 1963’s The Night of the Iguana, and the ensuing love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, that propelled the small fishing village into the public eye – several Hollywood elites bought second homes here after falling in love with the area’s tropical beauty. This area is just south of Conchas Chinas, but its lush, mountainous terrain and unspoiled beaches make it feel much more remote than it is. Area attractions include the Botanical Gardens, with pristine hiking trails, and the Puerto Vallarta Zoo, where guests can hold baby big cats and hand feed all the animals. From Boca de Tomatlan, travelers can take a tour to Los Arcos Marine Park for snorkeling and scuba or catch a water taxi to secluded Yelapa Beach. There are not many restaurants in the main hotel area, but there are a few small, local spots just a little further south in Mismaloya and Boca de Tomatlan.

Best Hotels in the South Hotel Zone

Best Restaurants in the South Hotel Zone

  • Le Kliff • $$$$ • Renowned fine dining restaurant, perched on a clifftop with panoramic views of Banderas Bay. Reserve in advance. This is a popular spot, especially for romantic sunsets and celebrations.
  • Tony’s Hideaway • $$-$$$ • Hidden gem tucked between homes in Mismaloya. Casual and relaxed, with excellent meats and seafood with true local flavor.
  • El Jacalito • $$-$$$ • Amazing little seafood restaurant under a palapa roof, toes in the sand.

Staying in Nuevo Vallarta (aka Riviera Nayarit)

Where to stay and eat in Nuevo Vallarta
Nuevo Vallarta is an exclusive neighborhood to the far north of Puerto Vallarta, just across the state line in Nayarit, hence it’s alternate name Riviera Nayarit. This newly built development is fronted by the eight-mile-long Flamingos Beach. Flamingos is arguably the best beach in the Puerto Vallarta area, wide and flat for easy walking, soft white sand, and gentle waves for swimming and bodyboarding. Several golf courses are spread throughout the area, along with fine dining restaurants, spas, and upscale shops. The northernmost area is walking distance to Bucerias, a charming, slow-paced town with cobblestone streets, an open air market, and great beach. Nuevo Vallarta’s wide, flat streets make this an excellent area for cycling and walking, though the free trolley runs the circuit of resorts, restaurants, and golf courses makes getting around even easier.

Best Hotels in Nuevo Vallarta

Best Restaurants in Nuevo Vallarta

  • El Dinamita • $$-$$$ • Gorgeous patio dining under lanterns. Ordering from the menu is allowed but discouraged. Tell the waiter what things you like and if you have allergies, and they recommend a customized selection according to your preferences.
  • Mariscos Tino’s La Laguna • $$-$$$ • Fresh local seafood next to a natural lagoon, served under a palapa roof.
  • Etc. Beach Club • $$-$$$ • Great selection of local seafood dishes, fantastic margaritas, in a spectacular beachfront setting.
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Best Things to Do in Los Cabos

Updated: September 18, 2017

See Also

Top 10 Things to Do in Los Cabos

  1. Kayak to El Arco

    Kayaking and snorkeling at El Arco in Los Cabos
    El Arco (the arch) is Cabo’s most iconic landmark, a striking rock formation rising from the southernmost point of the Baja Peninsula, where the Pacific Ocean becomes the Sea of Cortez. The best way to visit El Arco is by kayak; this is the only way to access the cove and get up close to the arch, as larger boats are unable to maneuver the tight space there. High Tide Sea Expeditions offers outstanding glass-bottom kayak tours to El Arco, which include plenty of time to explore the area and take photos, plus a visit to the sea lion colony, and snorkeling at Pelican Rock on the way back. Tours last around three hours, with the price inclusive of hotel transfer, life vests, snorkel gear, and refreshments. Kid-friendly for swimmers ages 5 and up.
    Reviews

  2. Snorkel the Sea of Cortez

    Where to snorkel in Los Cabos, Mexico
    Called “The Aquarium of the World” by Jacques Cousteau, the Sea of Cortez is one of the world’s richest marine environments. Thousands of unique species are found here, from sea lions to sea turtles, from colorful reef fish to mobula rays – a type of manta ray that leaps out of the water. The dazzling blue waters in this gulf are gentle for most of the year, though temperatures vary; the warmest months for snorkeling are June through December. Explorers can snorkel on their own, swimming off the coast at Santa Maria, Chileno Bay, or day tripping up to Cabo Pulmo. For guided tours, try Cabo Trek for the best private trip or Esperanza’s Tours for a fantastic, affordable tour for couples or smaller groups.
    Reviews: Cabo Trek, Esperanza’s Tours

  3. Explore an Oasis at Sierra de la Laguna

    Hiking in the Sierra de la Lagina
    Sierra de la Laguna offers a striking contrast to the deserts of Los Cabos: a lush oasis with waterfalls, cold granite pools, natural waterslides, hot springs, and leafy green trees. To find the best spots in this pristine UNESCO biosphere reserve, travelers will definitely need a guide. Baja Sierra Adventures is the single best tour operator for Sierra de la Laguna. Owner Edgardo Cortes takes guests on multi-sport treks – hiking, biking, and swimming all of the area’s hidden wonders. Day trips, overnights, or multi-day excursions all include intimate dining at working ranches, mingling with the locals, and sometimes tortilla-making lessons over an open fire. Tours are adaptable for each group and can be easy to strenuous, great for families or couples. Available year-round, except for August and September. Travelers will need to rent a car to get to Santiago, the tour’s home base.
    Reviews

  4. Amazing Cabo Bar Crawl

    Best bar crawl in Los Cabos
    Cabo San Lucas is known for its wild nightlife scene, and the best way to learn the hotspots is via the Amazing Cabo Bar Crawl. Drink and dash through 12-14 bars in about two or three hours, solving puzzles and completing challenges along the way. Hang by your feet for an upside shot at the Giggling Marlin! Eat a crunchy cricket, and chase it with frozen tequila! Two to four people per team (two means teammates drink a lot; four means teammates drink a moderate amount). Plan on doing this early in your trip. It’s a fun way to try a ton of bars, get to know the layout of the town, and find the cantinas and clubs at which you’d like to spend more time.
    Reviews

  5. San Jose Art Walk

    Art walk in San Jose del Cabo
    Spend an evening walking through the art galleries in historic downtown San Jose, when the town’s quaint, Spanish colonial streets fill with colorful street performers, food stalls, musicians, and dancers. Superb local artwork here ranges from painting to sculpture to jewelry and beyond, each gallery with its own unique flair. Travelers can sample wine and tequila in the galleries or stop by the local cantinas for tacos, margaritas, and ceviche. The Art Walk is a free, all-ages event that takes place every Thursday evening between 5 and 9 from November through June. The main galleries are located on Obregon, Morelos, Guerrero, and Comonfort streets. Maps are available at any storefront and are helpful for finding the smaller galleries on the side streets. Tours are available but totally unnecessary.
    Reviews

  6. Burrito Safari

    Rancho Carisuva donkey hike, Los Cabos
    Enjoy Rancho Carisuva’s sunset or morning hike with a trusty little donkey (burrito) as companion. In this unique hike, guests will explore the Baja desert landscape, learn about local plants and wildlife, and take a break at a seaside clifftop lookout, where your friendly burro will offer beer and snacks. The hike back to the ranch follows a pristine beach. This is part of a rescue program that helps donkeys who have been abused or abandoned by local farmers and miners due to technological advances. The Burrito Safari is family-friendly and can be combined with ATV tours or horseback riding. Tours last about two hours, and rates include beer, water, and snacks, plus round-trip transportation. Guests may choose to provide their own transportation and get 30% off the tour price.
    Reviews

  7. Swim with Sharks

    Swimming with sharks in Los Cabos
    Cabo Shark Dive’s exhilarating tour offers a rare chance to safely swim, snorkel, or dive in the open water (no cages) with these apex predators. The Sea of Cortez is home to a variety of sharks that can be seen year-round, but this area is especially great for spotting silkies, blues, makos (the world’s fastest), and hammerheads that begin to gather here every March. Though sharks are the main attraction, guests may also get the opportunity to swim with other marine life, such as dolphins, sea lions, whales, and manta rays. Tours last roughly 5 hours, depending on how fast the sharks find the chum; guests will need to wait patiently. Very occasionally, no sharks will come. It’s rare that this happens, but in this case, guests will be offered a second tour at 50% off. Ages 13 and up only; minors must be accompanied by an adult.
    Reviews

  8. Learn to Cook Baja Style

    Cooking class at Los Tamarindos, Los Cabos, Mexico
    A hands-on cooking class is an amazing way to connect with Baja culture. Most classes begin with a trip to the local market or farm, where students will learn about indigenous ingredients and how to choose them. Authentic recipes for ceviche, salsas, mole, tamales, and more are taught in restaurants or home kitchens in classes that usually last around four or five hours, including time to eat your creations. Casa de Colores and Cookin’ Cabo offer home-cooking, family-friendly classes in Cabo San Lucas, while Huerta Los Tamarindos teaches an upscale course in San Jose that’s better enjoyed by adults.
    Reviews: Casa de Colores, Cookin’ Cabo, Huerta los Tamarindos

  9. Lovers Beach and Divorce Beach

    Lovers Beach and Divorce Beach
    These twin beaches jut out into the Sea of Cortez near El Arco, with Lovers Beach facing the calm gulf side and Divorce Beach facing the choppy Pacific. The water on the Lovers side is popular for snorkeling and swimming; the Divorce side is best for lounging, but the water is too rough to swim. Travelers will need to bring their own towels and umbrellas, but there usually are locals selling beer and refreshments. Lovers and Divorce less crowded than the main Medano Beach, because they are harder to get to. Most people take a water taxi to get there. Be advised that there is no dock on the beach side; the captain will pull up as close to shore as they can, and guests will then need to jump out and negotiate their way to the beach. There are locals who will help people ashore and handle their gear, usually for another 80 pesos ($5 USD). Another option is to hike to the beaches from the Grand Solmar, a moderate hike but not for novices. It only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to scrabble over the rocks. Stick to the inside, and don’t try to get by on the beach side.
    Reviews: Lovers Beach, Divorce Beach

  10. San Jose Estuary

    Bird sanctuary in Los Cabos, Mexico
    A marshy, freshwater lagoon and bird sanctuary, the San Jose Estuary is fed by an underwater river and covers about 2000 acres, including a thin strip of beach. Several hundred local and migrating bird species are found here, including Great Blue Herons, White-faced Ibis, and endangered Belding’s Yellowthroats. A little trail cuts through the area for hiking or biking, while kayaking is popular in the lagoon. Be sure to stop by the Wirikuta Cactus Garden just to the west of the Estuary, which houses about 1800 varieties of cacti as well as a sculpture garden. The Estuary is about 10 minutes’ walk from Downtown San Jose or 15 minutes bicycling from the Hotel Zone.
    Reviews: Estuary, Cactus Garden