Best Places to Go in May 2024

For many travel destinations, the month of May falls under “shoulder season.” Since it’s between the summer high season and winter, it’s typically quieter with fewer crowds.

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But strategic travellers know that May is a great time for travel. First, arriving before the summer crowd in June means getting off-peak rates. Plus, the more moderate temperatures in spring are great for outdoor activities, and the risk of rain showers is never too bad.

So, what do you mark as shoulder season month? It ultimately depends on the weather. In America, it’s right after spring break in March, so think of it as a late spring vacation – but seasons vary across the world. Autumn in the northern hemisphere is spring in the south and vice versa, but the season is usually from March to April, then September to October.

If you’re thinking of travelling in May, here are some May vacation ideas to help you pin down where to go. We’ve listed some of the best places to go in May, from national parks, beaches, and cities for quick weekend getaways in May. Let’s get to it! 

Plakias Beach, Crete, Places to Go in May
Plakias Beach, Crete, Greece
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Best National Parks to Visit in May

Yellowstone National Park, USA

This is the oldest and one of the most famous national parks in America. Sitting on top of a dormant volcano, the park has more geysers and hot springs than any other place on earth!

Lakes, canyons, grasslands, and waterfalls also add to the park’s scenic landscapes. Among the many wildlife that call Yellowstone home are America’s largest buffalo herd, grizzly bears, wolves, elk, bobcats, badgers, beavers, and more.

Visit in May and you’ll see the park come to life. Rivers and waterfalls start flowing, wildflowers are blooming, and all the roads are open. Keep your eyes peeled as you’ll likely bump into wildlife wherever you go. It’s calving season for elks in Mammoth Hot Springs, and bison in Lamar Valley, so you can head there and see the newborns. Meanwhile, Memorial Day weekend marks the start of fishing season.

Some hiking trails are also snow-free by May, such as the Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail, the geyser basin with Old Faithful, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

Places to Go in May
River Valley, Yellowstone National Park
The Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park
The Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park might be the smallest national park in Costa Rica, but its biodiversity is clearly unmatched. Within the thick forests are endangered species like three-toed sloths, howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, scarlet macaws and more, making it one of the best places to visit. Visitors can explore on foot, or even try out horseback riding tours. 

May marks the beginning of the green season or rainy season in Manuel Antonio. It’s called green season because the country’s forests and vegetation turn lush from the extra rainfall, and it’s magical to see. This usually means pleasant weather and sunny skies in the morning with light rain in the afternoon.

If you ask us, it’s one of the best times to visit Costa Rica if you’re willing to risk a bit of rain. It’s a small price to pay in exchange for low-season pricing, which starts in May. Prices for plane tickets, hotels, and tours are the lowest you’ll find year-round, and crowds are practically non-existent.

Manuel Antonio. Costa Rica
Manuel Antonio. Costa Rica

READ NEXT: 13 Things to Do in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa 

At the end of the beautiful Garden Route in South Africa is Addo Elephant National Park. There are over 600 elephants here, making it one of the densest populations of elephants in the world, although there’s more to see here than just the gentle giants.

The park is not only home to the Big 5 (elephant, lion, leopard, rhinoceros, and buffalo); it’s also the only place in the world with the Big 7, adding great white sharks and southern right whales to the list.

The park also covers several coastal islands where the biggest African Penguin Colony on the continent is. Unique coastal birds like Cape gannets, bar-throated apalis, and brown-hooded kingfishers are also commonly spotted there.

May is an ideal time to visit because of the mild temperatures and because there aren’t as many tourists around. Temperature plays an important role in game parks as animals naturally hide to escape the summer heat, whereas winter is too cold for visitors to stay too long in the open. 

READ NEXT: The 2024 Ultimate Garden Route Itinerary

Kakadu National Park, Australia

More than 65,000 years ago, the Northern Territory Aboriginal people lived in an area known today as Kakadu National Park. Their community still resides there to this very day, making theirs the oldest living culture on earth.

There are cave paintings, rock carvings, and rock art from over 20,000 years ago, and the rich history behind it all will leave you awe-struck. Its extremely valuable archaeological and ethnological significance makes Kakadu National Park a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The dry season in May is the most popular time to visit the region. During this time, most major tourist sites are open, roads are easily accessible, and it’s even possible to navigate them without a 4×4. Average temperatures are cooler during these months, there is fewer chances of rain, and fewer bugs around.

Plus, waterfalls flow gently during Kakadu’s dry months. With much calmer waters, it’s considered safe to swim under many of them. There are also natural “infinity” pools at the top of waterfalls that are accessible and swimmable during this time. This gives visitors a special swimming experience with spectacular views of the region.

Burrungkuy Lookout
Burrungkuy Lookout, Kakadu National Park

Best Beach Destinations to Visit in May

Bali, Indonesia

Bali is one of the best places to visit for a beach holiday in May, when the wet season ends and dry season begins. This means mostly warm weather, sunny days, and great surf. While there may be an occasional rain shower, it doesn’t last very long.

Conditions are great for swimming, snorkelling, beach volleyball, and soccer. Surfing is popular in west-facing beaches, where the best waves come between April and August.

There are numerous beaches along the western side of the island with the busiest stretch between Canggu and Kuta. These beaches are often some of the best spots to catch a Bali sunset. Take a stroll along the long stretch of golden sand, enjoy the fresh air, and find a spot under one of the beach umbrellas. If there’s anything you need, vendors pass by offering everything from fruit, cold drinks, to massages.

mount batur bali
Mount Batur, Bali, Indonesia

Crescent Bay Beach, California

Crescent Bay is a popular beach just north of Main Beach in California, and it’s one of the many beautiful coves along Laguna Beach. The shoreline is a quarter mile long, framed on both ends by towering cliffs and tide pools.

Sunny weather and big waves make outdoor activities like scuba diving, body surfing, and bodyboarding popular at this beach, but there’s also much to explore on land. Crescent Bay Point Park sits to the west of the beach and offers excellent views of the cove. You can even spot gray whales from there during migration season.

Golden, sandy beaches like Crescent Bay draw in huge crowds, especially in the summer, but a beach trip on a fine spring day in May lets you enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere.

Crescent Bay Point
Crescent Bay Point

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Along South Carolina’s Atlantic Coast is a 60-mile stretch of beaches known as The Grand Strand, and its hub is at Myrtle Beach. A mix of beach and resort city, this is one of the best places to visit in May in USA for those who want a lot of recreation options.

Among its glittering attractions are celebrity-designed golf courses, colourful arcades, shopping plazas, thousands of fine restaurants, an old-fashioned amusement park, and one of America’s tallest Ferris Wheels.

In May, Myrtle Beach weather hits mild temperatures best spent outdoors. Fill your itinerary with any late spring day activity of choice without worrying too much about the heat. 

Spring is also prime golf season in the Grand Strand, so those looking to practice their swing have tons of golf packages to choose from.

As the beach gears up for the summer, pools and waterparks start to open, too. Visit in May and get first dibs with fewer people in line, right before the early summer crowd arrives. There are also fun events worth attending in spring, like the Myrtle Beach Bike Week and the annual Blue Crab Festival.

Goddess of the Sea statue in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, places to go in may
Goddess of the Sea statue in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Crete, Greece

Though not the most obvious option in Greece, the island of Crete is one of the best places to go in May in Europe. 

While the rest of southern Europe endures chilly days during this month, southern Greece enjoys warmer weather with bright turquoise waters.

May marks the month that most resorts, hotels, and restaurants start opening up for the season. The coastal towns and cities of Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion, Malia, and the Agios Nikolaus area start to see tourist arriving. Those who visit in May can soak up sunny days with relatively little rainfall. Since everything is open this time of year, there is no shortage of culinary, relaxation, and entertainment choices to help you unwind.

Matala Beach, Crete
Matala Beach, Crete

READ NEXT: Best Beaches in Crete Worth Visiting

Best Cities to Visit in May 

Washington, DC

If you want to see pink cherry blossom trees in spring without going all the way to Japan, a good alternative is Washington, DC. They received cherry blossoms as a gift from the Japanese in 1912, as a symbol of their friendship.

Peak bloom season varies every year, but the window is usually between mid-March and mid to late April. This is when the city celebrates the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Visiting in May gives you a good chance to see the colourful flowers, and even outside of cherry blossoms, the month has ideal weather for sightseeing.

Whether indoors or outdoors, the capital city has lots of cultural and historical attractions. These include the Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum and research complex, and the National Mall with iconic American monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument, as well as the US Capitol and the White House.

Washington DC
Cherry blossoms in Washington DC

San Francisco, USA

San Francisco is another bustling city in America that’s great to visit in May. If you arrive right before summer, you get to experience the Golden City with fewer crowds, shorter queues, cheaper rates, and little to no rainfall.

The moderate weather in May makes it cool enough to visit the city’s landmarks without working up a sweat. 

There are stunning views wherever you go, starting with the Golden Gate Bridge that’s picture-perfect this time of year without summer fogs getting in the way. You can drive up to the bridge or take a boat tour that also stops by Pier 39 and Alcatraz. Another way to see the city is to hop on an iconic wooden cable car and map out the city’s steep hills. 

If you’re interested in arts and culture, there are many museums to get lost in, like SFMOMA, the de Young Museum, the California Academy of the Sciences, or the Exploratorium. 

California road trip Highway 1
San Francisco with the view of the Golden Gate bridge

Cannes, France 

Unlike many destinations on this list, Cannes’ peak season begins in May. This coincides with the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, which brings lots of tourists, parties, and higher prices to the resort town. If you want to be there for the festivities, plan ahead before every high-end and boutique hotel is fully booked. 

But if you’d rather avoid the crowds, you’re better off planning an early spring trip instead. The best time for a relaxing getaway in Cannes would be between March to mid-May.

May is the hottest time of year in Cannes. Warm, sunny, and summer-like, the atmosphere is perfect for enjoying fresh air by the beach, soaking up the sun, and trying out jet-skiing or paddling along the French Riviera. 

Off-shore, get a taste of local flavours at the many street markets selling seasonal and local produce.

Cannes Bay France
Cannes Bay

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is one of the best European cities to visit in May. Warm weather, exciting events, and off-season prices make it a great time to go out and about the city. It’s an affordable choice for travellers who want to explore Europe on a budget. 

There’s so much to see and do in Barcelona, especially with pleasant weather on your side. 

Stop by world-famous architectural sites like Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, taste authentic Spanish flavours in outdoor cafes and restaurants, and stroll through the city’s many parks and green spaces.

Chilly nights are best spent checking out the lively nightlife scene. Bars and clubs keep the party going even before the summer crowds get there. Gothic Quarter or El Born are neighbourhoods known for a good time. 

The Primavera Sound Music Festival, one of the city’s biggest music festivals, also happens towards the end of May. Stick around to watch international and local artists perform in different genres, from rock to EDM.

Best day trips from Barcelona
City view of Barcelona

Travelling ahead of the summer crowds in May? Are you going for natural beauty at a national park, beach, or the city? Tell us about your plans below!

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