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Arnisee with Swiss Alps. Arnisee is a reservoir in the Canton of Uri, Switzerland, Europe
Eva Bocek | Adobe Stock

The Best Coolcation Destinations to Visit This Summer

Summertime is here, and so is the hot weather. If you’re like me, you do everything you can to avoid the heat – my summer vacation destination of choice is Canada, and there are plenty of other cooler destinations you can visit to beat the heat. Coolcations are here to stay; we’ve found the top places to head to this year to keep cool. 

What Makes a Coolcation? 

A “coolcation” is a summer getaway that offers relief from the heat. Areas that are considered coolcations can have a few factors attributed to them; some have more than others, but all have at least one: 

Galyna Andrushko | Adobe Stock
  • High altitude – A higher altitude usually means cooler temperatures, even in peak summer months. 
  • Proximity to water – Cooler temperatures occur thanks to the sea breeze effect
  • Lush greenery – Your coolcation will not happen in a barren desert. Places with lush greenery that rarely experience drought are perfect for a cooler climate. 
  • Opportunities for water-based activities – Cooling off in the water is critical to staying cool, so your coolcation will likely include plenty of water activities. 
  • Low temperatures – A coolcation destination won’t have temperatures above 75 degrees in the summer, making the weather pleasant and bearable even in the height of summer.

Top Coolcation Destinations 

North America 

Canadian Rockies, Canada 

R.M. Nunes | Adobe Stock

Average temperature in summer months:   Between 50°F and 73°F

The high elevation of the Rockies makes it the perfect cool destination, and the hiking, stunning scenery, and mountain lakes make for an exhilarating vacation for everyone. Visitors can explore places like Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, which offers breathtaking views of the Ten Peaks reflecting in its turquoise waters. It is surrounded by hiking trails, which allow for taking in the scenery from different perspectives. Lake Louise offers opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, and hiking. While swimming is permitted in most lakes, remember that the water can be cold, so you may want to invest in a wetsuit. Visitors are also awed by wildlife like bears, elk, and moose, which are often spotted in the landscape, while breathtaking highways like the Icefields Parkway are worth renting a car for if arriving by air. Charming towns like Banff, Lake Louise, and Canmore provide all the amenities you need to enjoy your stay. Be sure to try the gondola ride in Lake Louise! 

Hotel Pick: Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Nestled beside Lake Louise’s iconic turquoise waters, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a luxurious escape for your Rockies vacation. Choose from classic hotel rooms with stunning lake or mountain views, or upgrade to a lavish suite or even a private chalet for an unforgettable experience.

Lake Tahoe, USA

Average temperature in summer months:  Between 68°F and 73°F

Sitting at an elevation of 6,000 feet, Lake Tahoe offers a refreshing escape from the summer heat. Lake Tahoe has something for everyone, from outdoor adventures and championship golf courses to casinos. Towns like South Lake Tahoe, CA, and Crystal Bay, NV, offer casinos and nightlife for those looking for a more exciting getaway. At the same time, North Lake Tahoe, CA, and Incline Village, NV, are perfect for relaxing, and Kings Beach, CA, and Tahoe City, CA, are known for being more family-friendly. No matter which town you choose, Lake Tahoe offers a refreshing escape from the summer heat with plenty of remarkable adventures. Lake Tahoe has plenty of opportunities for hiking, boating, kayaking, or lazing on the shore. Like the Rockies, swimming is allowed, but the water is quite cold, so be prepared! 

Hotel Pick: Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Lakefront Resort and Casino

This expansive resort features multiple pools, a waterslide, a variety of restaurants, and even a kid’s club. It is perfect for families with children seeking a fun-filled coolcation with plenty of on-site activities. The hotel offers standard rooms, suites, and unique lakeside cottages with fireplaces, kitchenettes, and patios – all perfect for a cool lakeside escape.

Seward, Alaska

Adventure Kayak Tour in Tracy Arm Alaska at Dawes Glacier, Seward
Lucie | Adobe Stock

Average temperature in summer months:  Between 55°F and 64°F

Any city or town in Alaska could be on this list, but we narrowed it down to one, so you don’t have to pick. Nestled amidst stunning mountains and Resurrection Bay, Seward boasts breathtaking scenery, incredible wildlife viewing, and fun outdoor adventures. Kenai Fjords National Park boasts dramatic glaciers, towering mountains, and a unique coastal ecosystem. Take a boat tour for whale watching, spotting sea lions, porpoises, and mountain goats, or hike/bike to Exit Glacier, a glacier slowly calving into the ocean- learn about it at the Exit Glacier Nature Center. Spend the day kayaking on Resurrection Bay, or learn more about local sealife at the Alaska SeaLife Center

Hotel Pick:Harbor 360 Hotel

The stunning location of Harbor 360 Hotel allows for rooms with harbor and mountain views. It features an indoor pool and a variety of room options, from comfortable standard rooms to balcony suites. Its proximity to the harbor makes it an excellent choice for anyone visiting the area. 

Newfoundland, Canada

EyesTravelling | Adobe Stock

Average temperature in summer months:  Between 59°F and 66°F

The largest province in Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland offers a cool oasis for anyone looking to cool off this summer. Visitors can witness the incredible sight of icebergs drifting along the rugged Atlantic coastline, making their annual migration from Greenland. Tourists can also hike scenic trails through Gros Morne or Terra Nova National Parks or embark on a whale-watching tour. For a truly unique experience, try a puffin watch cruise. Puffins spend most of the year out on the ocean but return to shore every summer to take care of their babies. Visitors are always welcome in the quaint historic fishing villages, where they can mingle with the locals and eat fresh seafood at restaurants. The capital of Newfoundland (and the biggest city), St. John’s, offers a lively atmosphere, historical sites, and a renowned food scene focused on fresh seafood. Hike Signal Hill for panoramic views, explore the colorful Jellybean Row houses and visit the quirky Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Archives to learn about the province’s unique history. History buffs will also love Bonavista, the oldest English settlement in Newfoundland, where visitors can explore the impressive Bonavista Lighthouse and the historic Signal Hill Battery. 

Where to Stay: Blue on Water, St. John’s

Located in the heat of St. John’s, Blue on Water offers a luxurious stay for your incredible summer escape. This boutique hotel is on one of St. John’s busiest streets, making it the perfect spot for exploring all St. John’s has to offer. Rooms range from superior to executive suites- with just eleven rooms total. There is a restaurant and bar on site. 

South America Coolcation Destinations

Patagonia, Argentina/Chile 

Aleksei Potov | Adobe Stock

Average temperature in summer months:  Between 50°F and 73°F

Patagonia offers the perfect temperatures for outdoor adventures in the US summer months since it is winter in the southern hemisphere. These include exploring the majestic granite peaks, glaciers, and turquoise lakes of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and kayaking on Lago Argentino. Tierra del Fuego National Park has penguins, sea lions, and several bird species for epic wildlife viewing. Explore the charming town of El Calafate, Argentina, the gateway to the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno Glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Finally, visit Ushuaia, Argentina, nicknamed “The End of the World,” where you can experience breathtaking scenery, exciting adventures, and delicious fresh seafood.

Where to Stay: Hotel Las Torres, Chile

This rustic-chic hotel offers a cozy atmosphere and stunning views of the Torres del Paine mountains and is an excellent choice for those who want a comfortable and stylish stay within the park. Choose from superior rooms or junior suites, and consider their all-inclusive package. 

The Cloud Forest, Mindo, Ecuador

SL-Photography | Adobe Stock

Average temperature in summer months:  Between 59°F and 68°F

Cloud forests are “tropical, evergreen, found at altitudes of between 1,000 and 2,500 metres, and experience high rainfall and moisture levels, giving them their characteristic, dreamlike mist.” They are formed by lateral cloud filtration, when “air currents travel inland from the sea, cooling and collecting as cloud when encountering high mountain slopes.” The Cloud Forest in Mindo, Ecuador provides this ethereal experience with cool, humid air, creating a microclimate in the region. The cloud forest is a biodiversity paradise; hike through vibrant trails with colorful orchids, bromeliads, and towering trees. Keep your eyes peeled for fascinating creatures like the quetzal or monkeys swinging through the canopy. Cascading waterfalls hidden within the lush landscape add to the refreshing atmosphere. More than just stunning scenery, cloud forests offer cultural immersion. Explore local villages and learn about the traditional ways of life of indigenous communities who call this unique ecosystem home.

European Coolcation Destinations

Iceland

Roberto Lo Savio | Adobe Stock

Average high temperature in summer months: Between  50°F and 59°F

Iceland is a refreshing escape for anyone seeking cooler temperatures for a summer adventure. Iceland offers a land of dramatic contrasts, from steaming geothermal geysers to vast glaciers and cascading waterfalls. Try a tour like the Golden Circle Tour to get a taste of everything. This classic tour takes you to Gullfoss Waterfall, the geothermal Geysir area with Strokkur geyser erupting every few minutes, and Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and site of the world’s oldest parliament. Whether you marvel at the black sand beaches in Reynisfjara, be awed by the ice glaciers at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, relax in the Myvatn Nature Baths, or explore an ice cave– you’ll love the cool temperatures of the land. 

Where to Stay for Your Iceland Coolcation: The Retreat At Blue Lagoon 

This luxurious hotel offers stunning views of the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, where you can soak in the warm milky-turquoise waters surrounded by volcanic landscapes. Enjoy suites with balconies, stunning mountain views, and an on-site spa. 

Swiss Alps, Switzerland 

Boris Stroujko | Adobe Stock

Average high temperature in summer months: 57°F and 61°F

The towering snow-capped peaks, vibrant meadows bursting with wildflowers, and pristine alpine lakes create a picture-perfect backdrop for your coolcation adventure. The scenic trails offer hiking for all levels of hikers, from leisurely paths to more challenging mountain trails- all offering stunning views of the Alps and surrounding areas. Jungfraujoch, nicknamed the “Top of Europe,” offers panoramic views from the highest railway station in Europe. Make your friends jealous with the stunning pictures you’ll take at Lake Oeschinen, a turquoise jewel nestled within the mountains, accessible only by cable car or hiking. Thrill seekers will love the Oeschinensee Mountain Coaster – a roller coaster that uses nature’s natural curves and ups and downs to create an exciting ride. The Swiss Alps are also home to Rhine Falls, Europe’s largest waterfall. The resort town of Interlaken offers boat cruises and easy access to surrounding peaks. While  Lucerne has a charming Old Town with its famous Chapel Bridge. For a truly unique experience, visit Zermatt, a car-free paradise at the foot of the Matterhorn that is ideal for hikers. 

Where to Stay for Your Swiss Alps Coolcation: Hotel Eiger Muerren

Wake up to some of the most stunning vistas in the world when you stay at Hotel Eiger Muerren. Featured amenities include an indoor pool and jacuzzi, sauna, relaxation room, on-site massages, and an on-site restaurant. Rooms and suites have mountain views, forest views, and many include balconies to enjoy the awe-inspiring views. 

Scottish Highlands, Scotland 

moofushi | Adobe Stock

Average high temperature in summer months: Between 55°F and 65°F

The rugged mountains cloaked in heather, sparkling loch, and charming villages of the Scottish Highlands make for the perfect cool summer adventure. Visits to a village like Glencoe, and the Glencoe Nature Reserve, a dramatic valley carved by glaciers, are perfect for hiking or biking enthusiasts, while the Glenfinnan Viaduct is a must-visit for Harry Potter fans. A trip to Scotland would not be complete without a visit to a castle or two (or more!) Urquhart Castle is a haunted ruin overlooking Loch Ness (and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to spot Nessie!), while Culzean Castle has stunning gardens and a dramatic oval staircase. 

Where to Stay for Your Scottish Highlands Coolcation: Ballachulish Hotel

It makes sense to stay in a historic building while visiting an area steeped in history. The Ballachulish Hotel was built in 1877, and the crackling fires, creaky stairs, and stunning loch views create a cozy and quirky atmosphere. The hotel’s location is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts – nestled amidst the scenic Glencoe Highlands and overlooking lochs Linnhe and Leven. Simple, traditionally decorated rooms offer modern amenities and loch views in upgraded categories. Guests can enjoy a full Scottish breakfast, a renowned whisky selection by the fireplace, and even free access to a nearby pool and sauna.

Other Regions for a Coolcation

New Zealand 

Roys peak mountain hike in Wanaka New Zealand. Popular tourism travel destination. Concept for hiking travel and adventure. New Zealand landscape background. See Less
Joshua | Adobe Stock

Average high temperature in summer months: Between 50°F and 59°F

Another destination where it is winter during the US winter, making it the perfect coolcation destination, is New Zealand. The dramatic landscapes made famous by the Lord of the Rings Trilogy offer mountains, geothermal wonders, lush rainforests, and pristine beaches. Explore Milford Sound (nicknamed “Fiordland’s Jewel”) on a cruise, which is the best way to see the fiord, as it offers the most up-close views of the waterfalls and rainforests. The Waitomo Caves are glow-worm-studded caves, that offer an eerie, mystical experience, while the TranzAlpine Train travels coast-to-coast through the southern Alps, with stunning mountain views. More adventurous travelers can try bungee jumping off the Kawarau Bridge or tackling the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a world-renowned one-day hike.

Where to Stay For Your New Zealand coolcation: Rosewood Cape Kidnappers

Indulge in luxury at Rosewood Cape Kidnappers, where your stay includes a full breakfast, a daily manager’s reception, and even a round of golf on their championship course. Unwind at the on-site spa or take a yoga class. Cool off in the infinity pool after exploring the surrounding beauty by bike or horseback. The impeccably furnished rooms offer heated floors, premium bedding, and stunning views. Recognized among the world’s best by Condé Nast Traveler, this Relais & Chateaux property promises an unforgettable coolcation experience.

Bhutan 

s_jakkarin | Adobe Stock

Average high temperature in summer months: Between 68°F and 77°F

Escape the summer heat in the “Land of the Thunder Dragon” with stunning mountain scenery. Travelers focusing on sustainable travel will love the efforts Bhutan has made to prioritize sustainability, as well as a slower pace of life focusing on fostering a sense of well-being. Hike through stunning valleys adorned with colorful prayer flags or visit ancient monasteries perched on mountaintops. Witness the spectacular Tiger’s Nest monastery clinging precariously to a cliffside. Explore the Haa Summer Festival, a vibrant celebration filled with masked dances and colorful costumes. Immerse yourself in Bhutanese culture by visiting a traditional farmhouse or learning archery, the national sport. 

Things to remember:  You will need a visa to visit Bhutan, so be sure to apply in plenty of time before your trip. There are customs visitors need to respect while visiting Bhutan. Be sure to look up local customs before you go to ensure you are a respectful visitor. 

Where To Stay For Your Bhutan Coolcation: Terma Linca Resort and Spa

Terma Linca Resort and Spa is conveniently located next to a shopping mall and features on-site amenities like a garden and playground. Parents can unwind at the spa with various massage options while kids enjoy exploring the playground. Two on-site restaurants provide dining options, and free Wi-Fi keeps everyone connected. The well-equipped rooms offer dedicated workspaces and separate sitting areas.

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