Where to Travel During the Rainy Season
Plan the trip of a lifetime during the less popular time of year to dodge high crowds and prices.
Reduced rates and abundant wildlife are just a couple of reasons to plan a trip to these world-class destinations during the wetter months.(Getty Images)
When it comes to travel, the wet season often has a negative connotation, conjuring images of unhappy, umbrella-toting tourists puddle-hopping between shuttered restaurants and closed shops under cloudy skies. Still, as counterintuitive as it sounds, sometimes it's best to travel during the wetter months and reap the benefits of off-season travel. Aside from lower prices and dwindling crowds, there are also other selling points for visiting certain destinations when they're at their wettest. From Turkey's Mediterranean islands to Oregon's Willamette Valley, here are six noteworthy destinations where precipitation enhances the experience.
When to go: May-November
May through November is a great time to visit Costa Rica. The country's wet season, often characterized by drizzles and downpours in the afternoon, is known as the green season. The landscape is especially lush and the rainforest is teeming with fascinating creatures that are more active at this time of year. And since there are fewer tourists on the trails, more elusive species like the jaguar are easier to spot. One of the country's premier activities, whitewater rafting, is also best experienced during these months when the rivers are raging and rapids replace exposed rocks. The Costa Rica Marriott Hotel San Jose even offers complimentary GoPro rentals to guests to capture outdoor adventures. On the Caribbean coast, Tortuguero National Park comes alive with more than 20,000 nesting sea turtles laying eggs on 22 miles of protected beach. Here, travelers can witness this surreal scene starring leatherbacks, loggerheads and the endangered Atlantic green turtle on nightly tours led by licensed guides.
When to go: July-October
Thailand's wet season, from July through October, begins with a big party geared toward culture-minded locals and visitors. In May and June, the villages around Chiang Mai launch handmade bamboo and PVC-pipe rockets and compete in Bun Bang Fai, or rocket festivals, to usher in the wet season. The tradition started centuries ago when the Lao people believed firing rockets into the sky would trigger months of moisture for their rice paddies. Aside from partaking in the celebratory rain pleas and parades, adventurous travelers can take advantage of the higher water levels and whitewater raft in the mountains and cruise the scenic Mekong River separating the country from Laos. In the southern, coastal parts of the country, plenty of deals can be found at luxury beach resorts like Dream Phuket Hotel & Spa. What's more, the daily showers, which usually occur in the afternoon and last for a few hours, offer the perfect opportunity for a massage break.
When to go: October-January
Turkey is an adventurer's playground. Between the Mediterranean islands, mosque- and monument-filled Istanbul and the rugged Black Sea coastline, there are a wealth of sights to explore, even during the wetter months. October is the best time to visit the islands and visit the seaside town of Marmaris; at this time of year, average highs hover in the 80s and most of the party crowd is back in school. And November is ideal to enjoy solitary experiences like hiking amid the rolling hills along the Black Sea. January ushers in a prime time to ski at the resorts in Anatolia or enjoy sightseeing in Istanbul without hordes of visitors at your side. After all, Istanbul's city of 14 million can be overwhelming during the height of the summer tourist season; in the winter, it's much less intimidating. There may be more puddles in the streets, but they don't put a damper on touring mosques or bartering for spices in the Grand Bazaar.
When to go: February-May
Technically, Rwanda has two rainy seasons: February through May and October through November. But considering that the tiny landlocked country's top attraction is its primate population, the first, longer wet season is an optimal time to see endangered mountain gorillas. Because of the rain and cooler temperatures, the roving groups feed at lower elevations and are easier to locate on the trekking tours. Though the rain can make for muddier hiking conditions, drizzles and downpours usually occur first thing in the morning or late at night and only last for an hour or two. In the southwestern corner of the country, May is an ideal month for chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park. The trees are beginning to bloom, and guests at the park's premier property, Nyungwe Forest Lodge, can also arrange for a guided hike to the cascading Kamiranzovu waterfalls.
When to go: November-January
Oregon embraces its wet season (November to January) with a welcoming attitude that quickly rubs off on visitors. Each month receives about 10 inches of precipitation, yielding plenty of scenic photo ops. Amateur photographers can chase storms alongside professionals who come to capture the raging Pacific along the coast or the magnificent falls at Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area near the Washington border. Plus, there's statewide tax-free shopping at famous locations like Portland's Powell's City of Books, the world's largest bookstore. Travelers will have no trouble finding a coveted seat by the fireplace in a tasting room in one of Willamette Valley's 400-plus wineries at this time of year. Valley residents like Kristin Fintil, the innkeeper at Chehalem Ridge Bed & Breakfast, fondly refer to the rain as "liquid sunshine." While the wet season is a festive time to plan a trip, keep in mind a can't-miss celebration – the Oregon Truffle Festival – takes place at the end of January.
When to go: October-November
Colombia's climate varies by region, but it's safe to say October and November are two of the country's wettest months. Since higher water levels make narrow waterways more navigable, Amazon River cruise departures during these months can get passengers further inland and up to 30 feet closer to the canopy's elusive wildlife. In the coffee-growing highlands, adventure tour operator Intrepid Travel offers Café Colombia tours in November so guests can learn about the planting process that takes place when the soil has the most moisture. November is an ideal wet season month to visit destinations along the Caribbean coast, especially Cartagena. Even before the dry season officially begins in December, the city celebrates more sunny days than downpours. Every second week in November, Colombians gather in Cartagena for a full week of festivities surrounding the National Beauty Pageant. Humidity is high, but so is the average daily temperature, hovering in the high 80s, so it's a good time to catch a boat taxi and cool off at the nearby island beaches.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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