Vacation Ideas for August
May 25, 2007 12:38 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I are taking a week vacation in early August, somewhere in North or Central America, where should we go and what should we do?

We are taking around a week of freedom before I start law school in the fall, and we'd like to hit up somewhere neither of us have been before.

Ideas we've tossed around so far:
Belize, Tulum & Playa del Carmen or Pacific Coast Mexico, Prince Edward Island, Caribbean Islands, Costa Rica, US Rockies

We're looking for:
Relaxing, beach/water, sailing (possibly), scuba diving (possibly), hiking, camping, good food (but no seafood), local flavor (think ruins or history more than museums), nicer than a hostel but not an all inclusive resort style, either North or Central America.

Obviously, there's a wide variety of things we're looking at, but we're sure we haven't thought of all the possible cool ideas yet. What can AskMe come up with?
posted by Inkoate to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Your first place mentioned - Belize - is fabulous. Ambergris Caye (while it probably has changed a lot in the 8 years since I was last there) is a paradise. We dream of living there. Not great beaches in San Pedro, but lots of water. Fantastic diving & snorkelling. Choice of accommodation from basic to luxury. Lots of good restaurants. Sailing can probably be arranged. Trips to the mainland for Mayan ruins are easily arranged, though if you have the time and money to fly to Tikal in Guatemala it's well worthwhile.

Tulum I've been too much more recently (last year). We did the all-inclusive thing but next time we go we'll travel independently and choose places to stay as we go.

Not sure where you're from, but it's likely to be very very hot in both places in August. And you might want to check if hurricanes could be an issue at that time of year as well.

Prince Edward Island (could be warm but not Mexico hot!) is a beautiful place but it might not keep you occupied for an entire week. Locals could maybe tell you otherwise. There are interesting provincial parks in NB / NS that are relatively close and would give you reasons to explore a little further afield.

US Rockies I was also in last year - Estes Park & Boulder specifically. We had a fabulous time and could easily spend several weeks there and not get bored of the scenery or activities. Mid-July the weather was perfect. Good food. Good beer. Driving, hiking, biking all amazing. Though I understand it can get busy / expensive in the summer, there is again a wide range of accommodation & camping options.

All the above qualify as 'relaxing'. Enjoy it, wherever you end up!
posted by valleys at 1:00 PM on May 25, 2007

when i was a lot younger my dad and i went on an amazing trip to roatan, an island off the coast of hondouras, for some scuba diving (which was great)

then we hopped to mainland hondouras to see the mayan ruins at copan (also amazing)

something to check out...
posted by garethspor at 1:37 PM on May 25, 2007

I was reading an NY Times article about Dominica (not the Dominican Republic) a few months back, and it seemed pretty sweet - a general absence of white-sand beaches and 8 potentially active volcanoes has kept the hordes at bay, so there are no international-chain megahotels or even a long-runway airport - in fact, there are only 70,000 people on the whole island. The mountainous terrain means that most of it is still covered with rain forest, and they're really trying to push ecotourism.

It would be hurricane season, but it's probably off the beaten path compared to, say, Costa Rica or Playa del Carmen, and the likelihood of a hurricane directly hitting the island is probably quite low.
posted by mdonley at 1:59 PM on May 25, 2007

I just spent a week in Tulum last month. It is fabulous, and you can finagle some pretty cheap stays.
posted by mkb at 2:19 PM on May 25, 2007

I would punch my mom in the face to go to Costa Rica. They have MONKEYS. Also, cloud forests and orchids and also, I'm sorry, I don't know if I mentioned that there were fucking MONKEYS THAT JUST LIVE THERE.
posted by mckenney at 4:22 PM on May 25, 2007

Belize (Key Caulker) or Los Roques, in Venezuela. No doubt about it.
posted by micayetoca at 5:43 PM on May 25, 2007

I can speak to PEI since I'm from that part of the country. It meets all your criteria except maybe SCUBA diving. (I'm not sure about that one.) It's awful pretty and would be a unique landscape for someone from DC. It can be extremely touristy or not, depending on your preferences. It's quite different from your other choices -- it's more of a rugged or sandy beachy, quaint, eco/green, wildlife/outdoors, historical/cultural, local artisans and craftspersons type of thing than tropical paradise. I'll give you a couple of little hidden-gem secrets.

It will be lovely beach weather in August; the Atlantic is swimmable due to the Gulf stream that winds up there. Even in grey weather the coastline is gorgeous, though, and there are a tonne of hiking opportunities. Some people bike across the entire island, even. Lots of outdoorsy stuff to do.

You'll probably want to spend at least a day or two in Cavendish, which is the epicentre of tourism, but which definitely has its merits, particularly the PEI National Park, which is stunning. I highly recommend you stay in the Green Gables Bungalow Court, which is this adorable little cottage accommodation. It's family run and really well kept. They're little midcentury cottages with their own BBQs and kitchens with, like, tea towels matching the paint trim and stuff. Super adorable, and it makes a great home base because it's well located. The site has good pictures to give you an idea. If you're into the exquisite Maritime joy of buying fresh food at the local grocery and having a little summer cookout instead of eating at fine-dining establishments, you will really love this place. (There are a couple of small grocery stores in nearby Rustico, as well as bakeries and seafood shops.)

About 20 minutes away in Brackley Beach, there's an old-school 50s drive-in theatre which isn't touristy, but makes a really fun outing. Check the local paper for show times. AND, you'll get, like, free reign of the butter pump for your popcorn in the concession stand. Where else can you do that?!

On the other side of Cavendish by about 20 minutes in Burlington is Woodleigh Replicas, which is this bizarre little place to visit if you like oddball attractions. This WWI and started building small replicas of the UK buildings he'd seen. It's pretty detailed work. It's definitely become run down since I visited as a kid in the 70s, but there is an offbeat appeal to it.

The last recommendation from me (a vegetarian who can't recommend lobster anyway but know people go crazy for it in PEI) is to eat lots of PEI potatoes! It's the Idaho of Canada. Stop at a roadside fry stand or something. They're really delicioso. That's the primary crop there. (Agriculture, tourism and fishing are the top three industries.)

To me, the thing that works for PEI is that it's way off the beaten path in terms of typical vacations. Mexican package vacations are kind of a dime a dozen, right? PEI definitely makes a more adventurous choice in this sense.

I don't think they have monkeys though.
posted by loiseau at 5:55 PM on May 25, 2007 [3 favorites]

I've heard that the Yucatan is extrememly unpleasant in July and August. Extreme temperatures and humidity, which is why people usually go in the winter or early spring.
posted by smackfu at 7:32 AM on May 26, 2007

Inkoate significant other here. Thanks for the ideas so far, we're already excited about our non-existent plans! To respond to a few of the concerns about weather, we'll keep the hurricane season in mind when making our decision (nothing says relaxation like evacuation routes and stockpiling water). Regarding the heat: we live in that swampy, nasty, ridiculously steamy area known as the nation's capital, so while we don't love 95 degrees, we're used to it. Keep the suggestions coming - thanks!
posted by xaire at 9:35 AM on May 26, 2007

I've been to most of the places you've mentioned.

They are all lovely.

Costa Rica is exotic and [if you are careful] affordable and since almost all the tourists are American or Canadian, everyone speaks English [practically] and prices are in dollars everywhere. This makes it exotic yet non-stressful [no language barrier, no currency exchange]. There are also lots of things to do, see and learn.

While I was in Costa Rica, most of the people had been other places in central America, and they all raved about Guatemala. It is clearly the next thing

Tulum is a good base for exploring the yucatan.

I love Puerto Rico and Vieques. They have a bioluminecent bay where the water just glows at night with every movement. be sure to coordinate with the moon.

Puerto Vallarta has local flavor but ammenities.

Many people love Cabo or driving around Baja in general.
posted by Mozzie at 7:15 PM on May 28, 2007

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