6 Underrated U.S. Travel Destinations For Summer 2024

Wondering where to head to on your summer holidays this year? Put these places picked by Conde Nast Traveler’s underrated destinations world’s ranking at the top of your list! 

Summer is about to start and, if you choose the right destination, your days will be filled with pristine beaches, national parks, bonfires, the cool breeze of stunning lakes, tasty food, and outdoor adventures.

This time around, we bring you some of the most amazing underrated hotspots in the United States you must consider if you want to go off the beaten path.

Catalina Island, California

Santa Catalina Island is a hidden gem in plain sight. With sun-drenched beaches surrounded by blue waters, Catalina is the place to go if you want to indulge in water sports or try fresh seafood and local craft beers. 

Hollywood has chosen this destination multiple times to film popular movies. Yes, it’s that beautiful! This island is meant to be explored by foot or bike, which adds excitement to your vacation days.

When in town, don’t miss the chance to visit El Rancho Escondido to meet astonishing Arabian horses and an extensive vineyard.

Visiting this island is possible by a one-hour ferry ride from Long Beach, Dana Point, San Pedro, or Newport Beach to Avalon.

San Juan Islands, Washington

This collection of 400 award-winning Washington islands are perfect for a laid-back summer vacation filled with nature and joy.

The three most visited islands include Orcas, San Juan, and Lopez. All of them are accessible by ferry. 

Travelers from across the country flock to these islands to engage in whale watching and wildlife tours, as well as kayaking, hiking, and swimming.

July and August are the busiest months in the Islands, so booking your accommodation over the next few days is probably the best idea.

Finger Lakes, New York

The Finger Lakes is a region blessed with 11 stunning glacial lakes, majestic waterfalls, and multiple charming small towns. Its location makes it perfect for a weekend getaway with family and friends.

This area is full of recreational options, including water sports catering to adventure lovers. With perfect temperatures of around 80, Finger Lakes are ideal for engaging in hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and swimming. 

Hot air balloon rides and rafting in Letchworth State Park are other great outdoor activities you can take part in here. 

Many travelers dream of a summer escape to these lakes so make sure to book your accommodations as soon as possible.

Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park

Unlike other popular natural parks in the United States, Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park is not overrun with tourists yet. Visitors to this natural wonder can enjoy activities such as boating, paddling, swimming, as well as hiking and trekking.

If you are into stargazing, this place boasts an International Dark Sky Park certificate due to its unique characteristics that make it ideal for taking in the night sky. You can even spot the Northern Lights but that’s between November and April.

This park is conveniently located at a five-hour drive north of Minneapolis-St. Paul, three hours north of Duluth, or four hours south of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Flying into Falls International Airport is another way to make it there.

Crystal River, Florida

Image Credit: Manatee mother and calf, Gregory Sweeney

Many travelers are drawn to this city for the exciting possibility of interacting with wildlife animals such as manatees in their natural habitat. This activity is illegal in most of the United States but not here.

If you plan to swim with manatees, it’s a good idea to hire a tour company because they know where you can spot them. These companies also provide you with special gear so you can have a memorable experience.

One of the most recommended tourist highlights is the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, where visitors can learn about different species while being surrounded by stunning unspoiled nature.

You can also visit Three Sisters Springs, a popular spot for swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding.

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Isle Royale is a ‘hidden gem’ National Park in the United States, not for lack of beauty but because making it there is an adventure by itself. 

Take a five-hour boat ride from the Upper Peninsula to discover this secluded national park. Its location makes it ideal for visitors to discover lush forests and wild animals. 

Visit Lake Superior over the summer months because it may be too cold the rest of the year. 

This park mostly caters to families and people with a sense of adventure. So spare some vacation days to visit Isle Royal and don’t forget to pack your hiking boots and binoculars to admire wildlife.