A young bride and groom were posing for wedding photos a short distance from my beach chair, but there was hardly anyone else on the broad expanse of glistening white sand near our all-inclusive hotel.
At first glance, Cancun would not have been my top pick for a summer vacation destination, but as I relaxed on an uncrowded beach with a good book and a cold drink, I had to admit that I was changing my mind.
A trip to Cancun in early July can be half the cost of what it is during the peak winter months and a little beach time during the summer is always nice.
And activities such as snorkelling with whale sharks make summer a very interesting time to visit this part of Mexico.
As it turns out, I’m not alone in thinking Cancun makes a great summer getaway destination. Cancun hosted close to two million travellers last summer and some 48,075 of those visitors hailed from Canada.
The destination was also recently recognized by both the Orbitz and Fly.com websites as their No. 1 international summer travel destination. The new recognition will no doubt bring more Canadian tourists to the destination during the summer months.
Cancun isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, though. The ideal summer trip depends on the type of traveller and the kind of experience they want to have. You have to know what you want and then take into account weather conditions, activities, entertainment options, your travel budget and other factors when choosing a travel destination.
Here are some suggestions for top summer vacation destinations for Canadians and some once-in-a-lifetime experiences to enjoy in each:
For surfers, summer is not the best time to visit the Hawaiian Islands, but anyone who appreciates calm surf conditions will enjoy summer on Maui. Although temperatures soar on the mainland during the summer months, the climate on Maui remains fairly stable year-round and June through September are the months with the lowest precipitation.
The island has a full calendar of events and festivals in the summer to entertain the large influx of families who visit during this timeframe and there is an abundance of activities to enjoy from hiking to snorkelling on the Valley Isle.
Once-in-a-lifetime: Spend the night inside a volcano at Haleakala National Park (www.nps.gov/hale/planyourvisit/wilderness-cabins.htm).
More info: www.gohawaii.com/maui.
The summer months fall in the rainy/hurricane season for Cancun and other parts of Mexico, but in many cases this simply means short, periodic rain showers in the evenings.
Though summers can be quite hot and humid in Cancun, you are never far from a beach or pool. And rates for package trips, flights and lodging are typically lower during the off-season.
Summer is also the season for the annual whale shark migration.
Once-in-a-lifetime: Snorkel with massive whale sharks in the waters off nearby Holbox Island (cancun.travel/en/treasures-of-the-caribbean/holbox/whale-sharks).
More info: www.cancun.travel.
There’s a reason Alaska has been dubbed “The Great Land” and visitors can discover a destination unlike any other during the short spring and summer season.
Between mid-May and mid-September, the days are long and nature is in full bloom in Alaska. From glaciers and rugged mountains to wildlife and wildflowers, the scenery is spectacular and hiking, fishing and wildlife-viewing are top activities.
Once-in-a-lifetime: Fish for wild Alaska salmon or spend time observing as many as 60 bears from elevated platforms at the Great Alaska Adventures fly-in Bear Camp (www.greatalaska.com).
More info: www.travelalaska.com.
Timing is everything along New Brunswick’s Fundy Coast, but fortunately there are moments in life when time is on your side. One of those moments happened when we visited the world-famous reversing falls in St. John, N.B.
Although we hadn’t taken the time to check the tidal charts, we were fortunate to visit at high tide and see the fascinating phenomenon of water flowing backwards up the falls.
Canada’s Atlantic coast has a culture and history that makes it a pleasure to explore — especially during the warm summer months.
Abundant outdoor activities, beaches, scenery, summer festivals, interesting historical sites, friendly people and quirky little towns and villages can all be experienced by car or bike in the Canadian Maritimes.
Once-in-a-lifetime: The Bay of Fundy is home to the highest tides in the world and you can walk on the ocean floor at low tide near the Hopewell Rocks (www.thehopewellrocks.ca) in New Brunswick or try Tidal Bore Rafting near Truro, N.S. (www.raftingcanada.ca).
More info: www.novascotia.com; www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca; www.tourismpei.com
At least a dozen beluga whales could be seen surfacing in the distance as our tour boat plied its way along the mouth of the Churchill River in northern Manitoba.
From an observation platform near the back of the boat, it would have been easy to mistake the whales’ white backs for white caps on the water, but we knew differently. During the summer months of July and August, more than 3,000 beluga whales can be found in this river system — feeding on crustaceans, giving birth, and molting by rubbing their skins on the sandy bottoms of river estuaries.
It’s an incredible sight and if you’re lucky you may also spot a polar bear or two in the area. Though it’s off-season for polar bear watching, the great white bears can still be found in and around the Town of Churchill.
Once-in-a-lifetime: Snorkel with beluga whales, go on a whale watching tour by zodiac boat or head out onto the Arctic tundra to see wild polar bears (www.frontiersnorth.com).
More info: www.travelmanitoba.com.
Close to home
You don’t have to travel far to have an amazing summer travel experience. The Canadian Rockies are filled with some of the best mountain scenery on earth and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A drive through Banff or Jasper National Parks yields some of the world’s best views including massive glaciers, rugged mountain peaks, turquoise lakes, mountain streams, waterfalls and abundant wildlife. People travel from around the world to see what is right in our backyard.
Once-in-a-lifetime: Ride an Ice Explorer vehicle onto the surface of the massive Athabasca Glacier (www.explorerockies.com), step onto a cliff edge walkway made of glass (glacierskywalk.ca), or view wild grizzlies from the safety and comfort of a gondola (www.lakelouisegondola.com).
More info: travelalberta.com.
Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story that we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.