Best Off-Season Summer Resorts

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Booking a resort during the summer is often like trying to find a last-minute dinner reservation on Valentine's Day. All the good places are already taken, and you are going to wind up paying through the nose wherever you go.

The reason is that most people want to go to the same place as everybody else. For popular destinations such as the Hamptons, Nantucket, Lake Tahoe, and Tuscany, summer is the high season. Rates go up, restaurants overbook, and parking spaces become as hard to find as a British dentist.

That's because these places, crowds aside, are truly at their best in summer. The weather is often sublime, the local produce at its peak, and the water refreshing. Plus, if one likes that sort of thing, the nightclubs are packed with celebrities and other bold-faced names.


  But there is another side to summer: a quieter, less expensive side. While the Hamptons of the world fill up, many of the resorts where people flock during winter empty out after Memorial Day. Off-season, these places still offer first-class accommodations and service, beautiful locations, spas, beaches, and fine dining -- but for much less than during the high season.

Take The Breakers. This superb grand hotel has been synonymous with Palm Beach luxury since it first opened in 1896 (the current building, based on the Villa Medici in Rome, was built in the 1920s). Set on 140 acres and bordering the Atlantic, it offers a private 18-hole golf course, tennis, fresh- and saltwater-swimming, newly renovated rooms, and easy access to the stores on nearby Worth Avenue. Best of all, for people who come to unwind during the summer, rates fall by nearly 50%. An oceanfront room that goes for $880 per night in the winter costs only $490 in summer.

There are plenty of other places to vacation like a millionaire for less during the summer. In the Caribbean, the huge influx of tourists in the early months of each year slows to a trickle in June. The same is true for such posh getaways as Mexico's Riviera Maya.


  Now, there are some trade-offs. The main one is the heat. After all, resorts in the tropics that offer balmy weather in January can become quite hot in July. Take the Fairmont (FHR) Scottsdale Princess in Scottsdale, Ariz. This family-friendly resort below the McDowell Mountains is very comfortable most of the year, with temperatures in the high 60s and 70s. But during the summer the mercury can spike to 104 Fahrenheit or more. In these days of air-conditioning, though, it's not that bad. Just remember to book early tee times and be in the pool by the time the sun hits its zenith.

But in some parts of the world, the difference between summer and winter weather is not extreme. In Anguilla, for example, the average summer temperature of 88 is just five degrees more than it is in the winter.

There are a few other drawbacks, as well, but nothing dramatic. In the off-season, some shops and restaurants may close down as their chefs and waiters head to busier spots until Labor Day. And don't expect the same glamorous crowds that inundate these places during the high season. The beautiful people will no doubt be frolicking somewhere else.

Of course, there are many sensible people who think that's not a bad thing. That reminds us of the other great thing about traveling off-season: You can always find a chaise longue by the pool.

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