Figuring out the optimal time to travel to an island can be tricky, what with the limited accommodations and the crowds that can overtax the local infrastructure. Peak season often does not mean the best time to go; it just means the most expensive time, based on when school’s out in nearby countries. TripAdvisor just announced its list of the world’s top islands, and the best time for many is “shoulder season”—when prices are lower yet conditions are more favorable for the activities you want to do.
So I thought I’d help by suggesting an island (or archipelago) for each month of the year. These are moments when the destination is at its best yet, in most instances, offers shoulder-season pricing.
Craving an island not listed below? Punch its name into the “Destinations” search box at top left; if we’ve got an Insider’s Guide for that island, you can read the best and worst times to go. If you’re seeking the right travel agent to plan an island trip you have in mind, ask me here.
January: Sri Lanka
The last two weeks of January bring delightful weather—spring-like temperatures and blue skies—and fall after the busy New Year’s period but before February, when many travelers come on half-term or over the Chinese New Year from Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Dubai, and other parts of Asia. — Miguel Cunat, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Sri Lanka
All that is sumptuous and extravagant about Venice is kicked up several notches in February, thanks to Carnevale. A month’s worth of elaborate celebrations—marked by Baroque costumes, masked balls, sinful sweets, and general bacchanalian overindulgence—reaches a fever pitch in the “Fat Days” preceding Martedì Grasso (Shrove Tuesday). Carnevale dates vary from year to year but always include at least part of February. — Maria Landers and Brian Dore, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for Italy
April is when the cruise ships start to arrive for the summer season, letting off up to 4,000 passengers at a time. A month earlier, hotel rates are half their summer peak, temps are in the low 70s (great for golf and tennis, if not bikinis), and there are free tours, lectures, and arts demonstrations all over the island. — Vicky McGlynn, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Bermuda
April: The Maldives
Late April (after Easter) is when you’ll find a sweet spot of lower hotel rates and ideal weather: Temperatures are consistently in the high 80s year-round, but in late April there is almost no rain or wind, so the water is calm for snorkeling and diving. — Lindsey Wallace, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for the Maldives
May weather is warm but not hot, and hotel rates are more competitive than during the summer. The crowds are thinner too, which has the added benefit of ensuring the service will also be better (during the hectic summer months, service suffers). — Christos Stergiou, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Greece
June has the most reliably pleasant weather—daytime temps in the 80s and gentle breezes to keep the sun from feeling too hot—and decent prices: High-season hotel rates don’t kick in until July. — Diane Embree, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Bali
From mid-June to mid-July, you get the best of both shoulder and peak seasons: It’s lively but not crowded, warm but not scorching, and hotel rates aren’t sky-high. Mykonos is always windy, so bring a light sweater for evenings. — Christos Stergiou, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Greece
August: Great Barrier Reef islands, Australia
August brings warm weather, good visibility for divers and snorkelers, and calm seas (the wind dies down at the end of July). It’s also the best time to view whales—dwarf minke whales visiting the northern reefs and humpbacks on their annual migration to Antarctica. — Stuart Rigg, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Australia
September: San Juan Islands
The weather in the San Juans (and the Olympic Peninsula) is usually still very nice in September, and there are fewer tourists than you’ll find in July and August. (The best time to see the resident orca whales, though, is June.) — Sheri Doyle, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for the Pacific Northwest
October: The Seychelles
The Seychelles are warm year-round, but October is one of the months that yields the most sunny days, and it’s the best month for spotting whale sharks. — Lindsey Wallace, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for the Seychelles
November: Papua New Guinea
There are only two months that do not fall within the country’s two monsoon seasons: November and April. That’s when it’s the least rainy and the trade winds blow. If you want to do the 60-mile Kokoda Trek, though, arrive in October, when it’s still “dry season.” — Lynette Wilson, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Papua New Guinea
December: Caribbean Islands
From just after Thanksgiving until just before Christmas, you have lovely weather and can enjoy savings of up to 40% off peak-season rates. (Peak season starts just before Christmas and lasts till just after Easter).