7 best beach destinations in the world for fall travel

Garrett Gardner
7 best beach destinations in the world for fall travel

The beach lover’s best kept secret? That’s easy — offseason anywhere and everywhere is where it’s at for maximum vacation enjoyment. After all, who wants to be crammed shoulder to shoulder with other people on the hot sand or marinating in a sea of sunscreen in the water if it can be at all avoided?

Fall temperatures are often a little cooler than July and August — and that’s definitely part of the appeal for people who prefer not to sweat it out at the shore. The fall months also bring with them discounted accommodations and lower reward stay redemptions compared to summertime.

Add to that less-crowded biking and hiking trails, easier-to-come-by restaurant reservations and more parking spots within steps of the sand and you’ll have plenty of reasons to consider a fall beach vacation.

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We’ve spun the globe to bring you some of the best fall beach destinations — places where you will enjoy mostly empty beaches from destinations in the U.S. to more far-flung seaside locales.

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Amelia Island, Florida


Closer to Georgia than the rest of Florida, Amelia Island is part of the Sea Island chain of barrier islands just north of Jacksonville.

It sees more of a change in seasons than the rest of the Sunshine State thanks to its northerly location. It’s also an exceptionally family-friendly place to visit, with all kinds of beach and river fun (think shrimping and family sunset cruises) on offer.

There are 13 miles of dune-backed beachfront to explore here, and it’s a favorite place to hunt for shark’s teeth.

Amelia Island goes big on history, too, with attractions that include the 19th-century fort at Fort Clinch State Park and American Beach, a historic African American community home to Florida’s first African American beach resort.

For cyclists, this island is paradise, with over 23 miles of dedicated bike trails to pedal from the beach to the parks. Riptide Watersports can even deliver rental bikes to your hotel. For wildlife — alligators and all kinds of birds — don’t miss the Egans Creek Greenway.

SpringHill Suites Amelia Island provides Peloton bikes in its free gym and an outdoor pool, with suites with two queen beds and a pullout sofa starting at 33,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

The grande dame oceanfront resort in these parts is The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, with stays from 65,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. It has an ideal location right next to the beach and bike trails of Fort Clinch State Park.

Related: The best islands to visit right off the US coast

Virginia Beach, Virginia

The Virginia Beach coastline. EUROBANKS/GETTY IMAGES

During the summer, it seems like everyone from the Washington, D.C., area and Richmond, Virginia, area decamps to Virginia Beach. You’ll likely have to jostle for elbow room along the Virginia Beach Boardwalk and have trouble finding a lonely stretch of sand along the 35 miles of beaches here.

By mid-September, however, the bulk of those beach-goers have returned to the office and school and you can enjoy lingering warm autumn weather with far fewer people around.

Head out on a sunset kayak or dolphin tour into the Chesapeake Bay with Chesapean Outdoors or hit the weekly farmers market and go mural spotting in the city’s Vibe Creative District. You can also just unfurl your towel with a backdrop of sea oats and rolling waves on lovely Sandbridge Beach.

The brand new Fairfield Inn & Suites Virginia Beach Town Center includes a self-service bar stocked with seasonal and local beers and rooms from 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

Also newly opened, the Hyatt Place Virginia Beach/Oceanfront has standard rooms from 17,000 World of Hyatt Points per night.

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama


Roughly 7 million visitors set their sights on Alabama’s sliver of coastline in beautiful Gulf Shores and neighboring Orange Beach every year – and lots of them target the lazy days of summer to rent a vacation home along sugar-spun sands.

Plan your visit for September or beyond and you can be practically alone while bathing in the sparkling turquoise waters that are the same hue of coveted blue found just west in the Florida panhandle.

The fall months are a particularly pleasant time to pedal along miles of bike paths and go birding within spectacular Gulf State Park. The park is home to two miles of beachfront, a lake, a campground and 28 miles of trails and boardwalks. It also has a great bike share program, or you can rent from Beach Bike Rentals, right near the entrance to the Rosemary Trail.

The kids will love feeding the giraffes and sloths at Alabama Coast Zoo, where you’ll find one of the country’s most incredible butterfly collections (donated by a former shrimper).

For a special stay, sleep right in the park at an oceanfront, eco-friendly property, The Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel. Rooms start at 70,000 Hilton Honors points per night.

Related: The ultimate road trip through the coastal South

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Although the water by mid-fall may be too cold to swim, Cape Cod in the fall boasts fewer tourists with plenty of other attractions to keep busy. IMAGE SOURCE/GETTY IMAGES

The Cape booms with summer tourists, making it a challenge to find somewhere to park your car at the busiest beaches, not to mention enjoy a relaxing moment on the sand.

Come fall, though, it’s like a switch suddenly flips. The daylight shadows grow long and lovely, the air turns crisper and you can stroll along sands with more seabirds than people.

The water by the end of September might be too brisk for most to dip into. However, this is a great time to tour a cranberry bog like the one at Annie’s Crannies to learn the fascinating harvest techniques, or to go bird-watching at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

For an affordable stay (use the savings for all the local seafood you can eat), book at the Courtyard Cape Cod Hyannis, where award stays start from 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

Playa Grande, Costa Rica

September is the best time to travel to Costa Rica for uncrowded Pacific Coast waves. IAN MCDONNELL/GETTY IMAGES

Surfers know to save their Costa Rica travels for September, which brings the best promise for solid and uncrowded Pacific Coast waves to the Nicoya Peninsula, sans the summertime masses.

This is also the time to visit Playa Grande’s other attractions since summer vacationers have returned to the U.S., Canada and Europe and you can partake in a more serene experience.

Playa Grande Surf Camp offers board rentals as well as group and private lessons that take place at high tide here when the beach break works best. Boogie boarders can always find some white water to ride, too.

Come late October, sea turtle nesting season kicks off at Las Baulas National Marine Park, where leatherback sea turtles return to lay their eggs on the same beaches where they were born.

About 17 miles south of Playa Grande, the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa is a favorite family resort with a sprawling, free-form swimming pool. Award nights are available from 34,400 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

Related: Travel to Costa Rica this fall for as low as $218 round trip

Mykonos, Greece

Crowds start to thin out in Mykonos by late September. ALEXANDER SPATARI/GETTY IMAGES

The most famous Greek island for nightlife is best avoided during the scorching hot and overcrowded months of July and August. That’s when the picturesque alleys of Chora and Mykonos’ sandy southern beaches pack in the masses like so many sweaty sardines.

Plan a trip here for the fall months, however, and you’re in for a far more appealing climate and ambiance.

Crowds start to really thin out by late September. October’s the sweet spot for still-balmy weather ideal for dining alfresco, hiking and sunbathing (and better all-around value at accommodations, too). It’s also a great time to go biking to get rural views of vineyards and the coast.

Opened in 2019, the Aegon Mykonos, Autograph Collection on Kalo Livadi beach has award nights from 50,000 to 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

The Radisson Blu Euphoria Resort, Mykonos, also in Kalo Livadi, has reward nights from 75,000 Radisson Rewards points per night.

Related: 7 things no one tells you about the Greek islands

Algarve, Portugal

Enjoy the famous cliffs and beaches around Lagos, Portugal, without the crowds of summer. CARINA BECHER/GETTY IMAGES

Hordes of German would-be surfers and van lifers from all over Northern Europe tend to have largely vacated the lovely Algarve region by the time autumn in Portugal rolls around. With daytime temperatures still close to 80 in September and October, it’s a fabulous time to linger outside.

Come for wine tasting at spots like Quinta Dos Santos in the western Algarve. Enjoy uncrowded tee times at the many golf courses around Faro (Quinta do Lago’s are favorites for water views). Explore the iconic cliffs and beaches around Lagos without the crowds of summer.

TPG recently checked in at the brand new W Algarve, in Albufeira, which is available for 56,000 Marriott Bonvoy award points per night. Our reviewer called it “stunning” and “more than worth the wait.”

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