With the arrival of fall, crisp morning air, and changing colors, most are already packing away their sunscreen and swimsuits for the season and preparing to embark on a classic leaf-peeping adventure. But with the dwindling summer crowds, fall is an optimal season for sun seekers to take advantage of emptier beaches and plummeting accommodation rates in still balmy, but not sweltering, weather. Some of the world’s beaches are even better experienced in the fall.
Praia do Norte, Portugal
One of the most unique beaches on the planet is Portugal's Praia do Norte (North Beach). Here, the Atlantic Ocean crashes against the coast, creating some of the largest waves on Earth — which can reach around 80 feet high. Fall in particular is a great time to visit because October marks the beginning of “Big Wave” season. This is when the waves reach their highest peaks, meaning it is prime time to watch surf competitions. For a bird's-eye-view of the action, head to the 16th-century São Miguel Arcanjo fort, which sits high on the cliffside over the beach. The fort is also home to a surfing museum where visitors can learn more about the history and culture of the sport. Although wave conditions don’t allow for much swimming, temperatures hover in the mid-70s to mid-80s Fahrenheit during the fall — perfect for relaxing on the sand and enjoying the Atlantic breeze.
La Jolla Shores, California, USA
With clear skies, low chances of rain, and a temperature reaching the high 70s Fahrenheit, fall is a pleasant time to kayak La Jolla's seven sea caves and explore varied marine ecosystems. Paddle past kelp beds, encounter leopard sharks, and watch sea lions play on nearby rocks. After strolling the mile-long La Jolla Shores, indulge in some of San Diego's finest boutique shopping followed by a hearty meal at one of the neighborhood's chic restaurants.
Playa Grande, Costa Rica
Situated along Costa Rica's north Pacific Coast on Las Baulas National Marine Park grounds, Playa Grande plays a vital role in the survival of the nation’s leatherback turtles. Its sandy shores offer public access during the daytime, but come nightfall, visitors are only permitted entry to this protected area in the presence of a guide to minimize impact on the sea animals. Make your way to Playa Grande during nesting season beginning in October for an opportunity to witness female leatherbacks lay eggs in the sand. Aside from experiencing the wildlife, Playa Grande along Tamarindo Bay is also recognized for its consistent surf breaks.
Huntington Beach, South Carolina
South Carolina’s three-mile-long Huntington Beach offers visitors a pristine shoreline, as well as a network of nature trails and bountiful bird watching opportunities in conjunction with Huntington Beach State Park. Situated in Murrells Inlet, Huntington Beach State Park is recognized as a premiere birdwatching destination on the East Coast. With some 300 species present in the region, appearances of sandhill cranes and painted buntings excite dedicated birdwatchers. As summer crowds thin, you're more likely to spot and hear the wildlife from afar.
Eagle Beach, Aruba
Not many tourists visit the tropical islands of the Caribbean in fall due to hurricane season, but savvy travelers know that autumn is the ideal time to take advantage of thinner crowds and low flight prices. Because Aruba sits below the traditional hurricane belt, the island statistically experiences fewer storms, making its star attraction, Eagle Beach, a warm escape. Just northwest of the island's vibrant capital of Oranjestad, Eagle Beach is lined by luxurious all-inclusive resorts and low-rise hotels. The beach's white sands have been consistently ranked as a favorite in the travel community. With mellow tradewinds, tanning sessions, and beach bumming beneath a thatched roof hut are even more enjoyable. Round out the evening with a romantic sunset cruise over sparkling waters or toast to the perfect getaway with fruity cocktails at a beachfront bar.
Plage d'Étretat, France
The quaint beach town of Étretat is located on the northern coast of France, on a part of the English Channel’s shoreline called the Alabaster Coast (La Côte d’Albâtre). It was founded as a fishing village, but during the 19th century, it became a popular hideaway for artists and writers from across Europe. Even Claude Monet spent time painting the shores of Étretat. One of the best views in town is found high on Amont Cliff at the Étretat Gardens where living sculptures overlook the sea. For history buffs, the chapel of Notre Dame de la Garde and remnants of World War II bunkers are worthy sights along the coast. Despite cooling fall temperatures, Étretat offers all beach activities through November, including kayaking, fishing, and sailing.
Old Orchard Beach, Maine, USA
Old Orchard Beach is a seven-mile stretch of sandy shores on Saco Bay in southern Maine. Tens of thousands of tourists flock to this resort town during the warmer months, but if you don’t mind an ocean breeze and cooler temperatures, the shoulder season offers a quieter getaway. The Old Orchard Beach Pier has stood on the shore since 1898, boasting shops, restaurants, and bars. Stopping at the pier for a Maine lobster roll should be at the top of any visitor's list. The beach is also home to Palace Playland (the only seaside amusement park in New England), where the arcade remains open during the fall. Nearby parks, including Ferry Beach State Park, boast hiking trails perfect for taking in the colorful fall foliage that New England is so famous for.
Playa Jardín, Tenerife, Canary Islands
Playa Jardín is one of the most famous beaches in the Canary Islands, located on the northern end of Tenerife, the largest island in the Spanish archipelago. It sits on the shores of Puerto de la Cruz, a popular tourist destination known for its international cuisine, local Tenerife wines, historical sites, and museums. Fall temperatures here remain in the 70s Fahrenheit, and the weather is relatively dry due to the Canary Islands’ location off of northwestern Africa. Most of Tenerife’s beaches have sands that range from powdery white to golden yellow, but Playa Jardín is known for its black volcanic sand. It’s a favorite spot for swimmers, surfers, and families, with ample public facilities, playgrounds, and gardens to enjoy. On the west side of the beach is Loro Park, which has been recognized as the "Best Zoo in the World" by TripAdvisor.
Sveti Stefan Beach, Montenegro
Sveti Stefan Beach is a perfect place to watch the sunset over the Adriatic Sea. The public area of this beach (on the southern end) faces a small, fortified island dotted with red roofed buildings that are so common in this region of the Balkan Peninsula. The northern end of the beach is privately owned by the Aman Sveti Stefan resort, touted as one of the most luxurious in the country. This quiet seaside town is a longtime favorite of Hollywood A-listers — even Marilyn Monroe was known to vacation here. Temperatures remain mild in coastal Montenegro during the fall, typically in the low 70s Fahrenheit, and the turquoise waters of the Adriatic remain quite warm. It is ideal weather for relaxing at a boutique hotel, enjoying happy hour at an oceanfront bar, or exploring the winding streets of nearby villages.
South Padre Island, Texas
The bustling resort town of South Padre Island resides on a 34-mile-long stretch of tropical sands of the same name along the Texas Gulf Coast. Surrounded by warm, swimmable waters for much of the year, South Padre Island is a popular destination in the fall for its annual Sandcastle Days. Now in its 32nd year, this multi-day sandcastle building competition draws some 30,000 spectators to witness the talent of master sand builders and participate in amateur sandcastle building contests. Scheduled to take place October 3 to 6 this year, Sandcastle Days is an eventful family affair, and children are invited to dance to the live music and participate in arts and crafts at designated stations.
Elafonisi Beach, Greece
Fringed by pink sands from red corals and lapped by shimmering turquoise waters, Elafonisi Beach sits on the remote southwestern corner of Greece's largest island Crete. The region’s late summer makes September and October a couple of the most comfortable months to visit without the blistering July and August heat. When the tide is out, venture across the lagoon from the shaded umbrellas and inviting loungers on Elafonisi Beach to seek solace in a string of semi-secluded coves and observe the sea daffodils and Juniper trees on Elafonisi Island.
Jumeirah Public Beach, Dubai, UAE
For thrill seekers and daredevils who love a good beach, glitzy Dubai's Jumeirah Public Beach on the Persian Gulf is the ideal fall destination. When its sweltering desert heat cools slightly after summer highs, visit the beach for an action-packed itinerary to experience both the city's pristine shores and dune-filled deserts. Explore an underwater world during scuba diving sessions, defy gravity while flyboarding, or experience Palm Jumeirah from above on a thrilling skydiving adventure. Squeeze in a rest day and tan on the sparkling white sands with a view of the Burj Al Arab, one of the world's ritziest hotels, before exploring the surrounding desert by dune buggy, sandboard, or on an overnight desert safari.