Colorado is known for its incredible scenery, breathtaking drives, and interesting history. Plus, it’s home to some fantastic mountain towns that are incredibly charming and indescribably scenic.
Each Colorado mountain town has its own vibe, which makes it fun to visit multiple on one trip if you can. These mountain towns in Colorado are small and compact, so they’re easy to visit on a day trip from Denver or in between stops on a Colorado road trip itinerary.
Throughout this post, you’ll learn all about the most charming mountain towns in Colorado. They’re located all over the western part of the state, too, so no matter where in Colorado you plan on visiting, you’ll most likely be able to find a great mountain town close by.
Here are all of the mountain towns in Colorado that you won’t want to miss!
Best Mountain Towns in Colorado
First up is Leadville, one of the less-visited mountain towns in Colorado.
It’s a pretty small town with a population of around 3,000 people, but it’s known for being one of the higher towns in the state. It sits at an elevation of 10,000 feet – how crazy!
It’s the highest city in all of North America, so you should for sure add it to your must-visit list!
Despite being a small town, there’s quite a bit to do in Leadville.
Stop by the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum to learn more about mining history and its importance to Colorado.
For some excellent cross country skiing, consider going on the Mineral Belt Trail, which offers excellent views the entire way.
If you’ve heard of Colorado, you’ve most likely already heard of Breckenridge. It’s one of the state’s most popular destinations because Breckenridge is home to one of the state’s best ski resorts (and plenty of great hikes, too!).
Breckenridge is one of Colorado’s most charming mountain towns because it’s set right amongst the Rockies. It has a truly historic feel to it, too, because the town started to come to fruition in the 1800s when it was initially a mining town.
The best thing to do in winter is to have some fun at the Breckenridge Ski Resort, but if you’re visiting throughout the rest of the year, you can enjoy rides on the BreckConnect Gondola, shopping on South Main Street, and going on hikes.
Another one of the more popular places to visit in the mountains in Colorado is Aspen. Similar to Breckenridge, it’s known for being home to great skiing!
Aspen is located in the Rocky Mountains and serves as a destination no matter the time of year for adventure junkies.
In addition to skiing, there are tons of great things to do while visiting Aspen. Head to the Wheeler Opera House for a dose of beautiful architecture. Take the time to learn more about Aspen’s history at the Wheeler-Stellard House.
To get the most out of the mountain views, consider doing the Crater Lake hike, which will bring you through the Maroon Bells! This is one of the most beautiful mountainous areas in the entire state.
Located in southern Colorado is another charming mountain town called Silverton. You may have heard of it before because it’s known for being home to a great railway that you won’t want to miss.
This is one of the smaller towns on this list, which is part of what makes it so charming. The population is only about 500 people! If you want to get to know some locals in Colorado, this is a great place to visit.
In Silverton, you definitely won’t want to miss out on the Golden Block Brewery for some great locally crafted beers.
You’ll also want to hop on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad if you have time because it’s one of the most scenic routes in the state.
This small city is incredibly charming and is only a short drive away from Denver, so it serves as a fantastic day trip.
It was founded in the 1880s and is most well known for being a gambler city, as it’s home to a historic casino. (Fun fact: Allison once won a s***ton of money in Central City!)
The drive to Central City will genuinely take your breath away, too, especially if you’re coming from Denver.
You slowly drive higher and higher up the mountains until all of a sudden you’re at a sign that says Central City Welcomes You. Despite being a small town, Central City’s hospitality is alive and well!
In Central City, arguably the best thing to do is try your hand at gambling in the Monarch Casino. You can also stop by the Central City Opera House to catch a great live opera show or attend a local festival.
Steamboat Springs is a quaint mountain time located in the Yampa Valley of Colorado. It is one of the newer charming towns on this list, founded only a little over a hundred years ago in 1900.
As you might have guessed, the town got its name because of its amazing hot springs. If you head to the Old Town Hot Springs, you’ll be able to check them out first hand. There’s also a fitness center here, so you can work out with a view.
In the winter, Steamboat Springs turns into a great winter getaway. It’s home to the Steamboat Ski Resort, and you can even see a lot of the ski runs directly from the town. Consider skiing for a bit and then warming up in the hot springs for a fun time!
Located just a short distance from Denver is one of Colorado’s most charming mountain towns, Estes Park. Most people visit here because it’s the perfect home base for those who want to explore Rocky Mountain National Park.
It’s located right in the mountains and is incredibly beautiful. The best way to experience the views here is to hop on the Estes Park Aerial Tramway. It will bring you to the top of Prospect Mountain, which is incredible!
Of course, there are other great things to do in Estes Park. You can stop by Snowy Peaks Winery for some delicious drinks. Drive the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway for an incredible road trip.
Also, consider stopping by Lake Estes for some fishing or other water activities!
Glenwood Springs is truly one of the most breathtaking places to visit in the mountains!
It’s kind of on the verge of being a city because of its size, and it’s known for being home to fun resorts that are perfect for families or even romantic getaways.
This town is known for being home to natural hot springs, which visitors can experience while visiting the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool.
The baths here date back to the 19th century! Another spot to experience the hot springs is at the Iron Mountain Hot Springs.
For a real fun time, be sure to also head to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.
This is one of the highest theme parks in all United States because it’s situated on top of a mountain. You even have to ride a gondola to get to the top of it!
Idaho Springs is an overlooked 19th-century mining town near Denver and Central City.
This tiny Colorado mountain town is filled with great locals and excellent restaurants, as well as beautiful hikes that surround it!
Believe it or not, Idaho Springs is most well known for being the birthplace of Colorado pizza.
What sets Colorado pizza apart is that the dough is made with honey, so it has a slightly sweeter taste! Stop by Beau Jo’s Pizza to try the original.
If history is what you are into, you can visit the Argo Gold Mill and Tunnel. It’s an old mine that now offers guided tours to the public so you can truly step back in time.
A short drive away from Idaho Springs is also St. Mary’s Glacier, one of the only glaciers in Colorado. It only takes a 2.4-mile hike to get to it!
Last but not least is Salida, a small town in Colorado that is pretty charming!
Similar to most other towns on this list, it’s situated right in the mountains and was founded in the late 1800s.
A lot of the locals like to stay that Salida serves as the true heart of the Rocky Mountains.
Salida is known for being incredibly historic. In fact, there are tons of buildings located in downtown Salida that are known to be nationally recognized historical spots.
Be sure to stop by the town and shop at some of the local stores while visiting to check out the insides of the different buildings here.
This is another great town with hot springs, but these are indoors. The Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center has pools that are fed by the nearby hot springs, making it a really unique place to visit. There are even indoor waterfalls which make it super fun to visit!
If you want some outdoor fun, hit up the Arkansas Whitewater Recreation Area for some fun in the rapids!
Colorado is truly home to some beautiful and charming mountain towns.
No matter what kind of traveler you are or who you usually travel with, you undoubtedly found a few new places to add to your must-visit travel list!
Have you been to Colorado before? Which Colorado mountain town did you like most?
There are so many charming small towns in Maine that it’s truly hard to pick a favorite!
If I had to pick, the area of Midcoast Maine and all of its charming small towns come to mind.
And in particular, I fell in love with the beauty and vibe of Damariscotta almost instantly.
It’s a small town — pretty much made up of one street and lots of beautiful bodies of water — but trust me that if you visit, it will steal your heart just as it stole mine!
The Best Things to Do in Damariscotta, Maine
Wander around the galleries and jewelry stores on Main Street.
There are a number of excellent boutiques, galleries, and stores on the Main Street of Damariscotta, which stretches about three blocks long at its core.
Here are a few of my favorite stores:
Aboca Beads & Jewelry has well-priced classic pieces, including freshwater pearl necklaces, glass beaded jewelry, and other gorgeous sea-inspired jewelry.
Wildings has plants and all sorts of plant accessories, as well as devastatingly beautiful jewelry and accessories. I left with a beautiful blush pink belt bag; my friend left with a lovely brass geometric ring…. And that was us showing restraint!
Citizen Maine is a punnily-named wonderful shop selling all things Maine for your home décor.
Grab an old-fashioned soda at Rexall Malts.
Is there anything better than grabbing a frosty milkshake or soda float at an old-fashioned soda fountain? If you think of anything, I’ll be waiting.
Unfortunately, Rexall Malts was closed when I visited in 2021 due to a labor shortage, but they intend to reopen for the 2022 season.
However, I got to peer inside and it is all the vintage nostalgia that dreams are made of! I’ll definitely be returning for a float or a sundae sometime soon.
Have a wood-fired pizza with a view of the water.
Maine has so many delicious restaurants, with new ones opening frequently, and Damariscotta is no exception to the foodie fun!
Damariscotta has a new kid on the block in their small but mighty restaurant scene. There’s a brand-new pizza restaurant in Damariscotta called Oysterhead Pizza serving up wood-fired pizzas with a view of the harbor!
I didn’t get a chance to eat here, but like the soda shop, it’s on my list for my next visit to Damariscotta.
Grab a pastry at Barn Door Baking Co, then browse some books.
There’s nothing I love more than grabbing a pastry and a coffee and browsing a bookstore.
Luckily, Barn Door Baking Co. is literally located within a bookstore, so a great book to stick your nose in is never far from reach!
The next-door bookstore is called Maine Coast Book Shop and it has a wide selection of Maine fiction and non-fiction as well as a great curated section of new releases.
Watch a movie at the Lincoln Theater.
I love small one-room theaters – perhaps because my hometown of Lafayette had one, and it was always fun to see what the (only) choice was for what to see!
In a world of Netflix and infinite options, sometimes it’s nice to have the choice made for you: and that’s just the case at Damariscotta’s Lincoln Theater.
When I was in Damariscotta, they were playing Roadrunner, the new Anthony Bourdain documentary!
I desperately want to see it, but I am not seeing movies in theaters at the moment due to the Delta variant. It’s on the list for next time!
Grab some ice cream at Wicked Scoops.
If you haven’t already had enough to eat, grab something sweet at Wicked Scoops!
They serve ice cream from local Maine ice cream company Gifford’s which prides itself on its “HomeMaine” ice cream!
The two most delicious flavors are campfire s’mores and blueberry ice cream!
Have a cheeky drink at King Eider’s Pub.
I love a pub that looks like it comes straight out of another era, and that is exactly what King Eider’s Pub looks like!
With its British-inspired sign, brick façade, and Kelly green awning, the décor of this little pub is as classic as it gets.
Have a world-class seafood meal at Damariscotta River Grill.
I didn’t get a chance to eat dinner here, but my friend who was showing me around – who is a Maine local who lives nearby Brunswick – was raving about this Damariscotta River Grill.
Not sure what to get? She recommends the coconut-curry Thai seafood stew and the lobster cakes!
Wander around Damariscotta Town Harbor.
Virtually every Maine small town on the water – whether it be an ocean or a river – has its own little stretch of a harbor for locals to keep their boats.
Damariscotta’s harbor area is teeny-tiny but it’s lovely to go for a walk after digesting a meal at one of the many places I recommended in this post!
Go for a kayak or SUP.
Want to go kayaking? Head over to Midcoast Kayak in Damariscotta where you can rent a kayak.
Prices are reasonable: a two-hour rental costs $30 for a single kayak and $40 for a tandem kayak.
Stand up paddleboards are also available for $30 for a 2-hour rental. Other rental durations are available (half-day, full-day, weekly).
You might even see a harbor seal on the rocks in Damariscotta River — they love it here!
Enjoy a peaceful day on Damariscotta Lake.
Damariscotta Lake is a short drive from downtown Damariscotta and it’s a great place to spend some time relaxing with beautiful nature views.
The lake is massive, covering some 4,000+ acres, and has many islands and islets inside the lake. The northern portion of the lake is protected as a state park as well.
One of the more unique things to do in Damariscotta is visit Whaleback Shell Midden State Historic Site where you can find a shell midden.
What is a shell midden, you ask?
A midden is a historic dumping ground for organic waste: in this case, the oyster shells left behind by the Native American peoples centuries ago. Here is some more information on the shell middens of Maine.
The middens along the Damariscotta River were thought to be left behind by the Wawenock (or Walinakiak, meaning “People of the Bays”) Abenaki Indians over 2,500 years ago (source).
They are not only ecologically important, but they also tell important stories of people who lived in the region millennia ago, who have much to teach us but no written history: which is why these sites are so important!
The beautiful seaside town of Camden, Maine is one of Vacationland’s best-kept secrets.
Located on Highway 1 in the more remote reaches of Midcoast Maine, about an hour and a half drive from Acadia National Park, Camden is worthy of a weekend getaway or a stop on a coastal Maine road trip.
With typical New England architecture, fantastic shopping and art galleries, and a state park with dozens of gorgeous hiking trails just minutes away, Camden offers something for everyone in a charming coastal Maine town.
Whether you prefer culture or nature, Camden, Maine has something for you: here are our top picks for what to do in Camden!
Where to Stay in Camden, Maine
INN WITH HARBOR VIEW | Lord Camden Inn: For a stunning harborside hotel located in downtown Camden, this inn has all the amenities you’d want and a great location to boot. There is a fitness center, free WiFi, and fresh coffee from a Keurig in room. Some rooms have a harbor or river view, so check your individual room to see!
Luxury B&B | The Belmont Inn: This beautiful B&B is less than half a mile to a beach and has beautiful architecture and furnishings. The rooms are simple but elegant, and there is a garden available for guests to enjoy. The B&B includes a delicious breakfast — your choice of traditional American or vegetarian.
Traditional B&B |Elms of Camden: This charming bed and breakfast is a great choice for those who love something a bit traditional. In addition to tastefully decorated rooms (some with their own fireplace!), guests can also enjoy a shared living space, multi-course breakfasts served in the inn each morning, and an on-site garden.
If you prefer a more historic boat (or a longer boat ride), head out on the Schooner Olad for a two-hour sail.
The Schooner Olad is a classic sailing yacht with gorgeous billowing sails — it was built in 1927 and has been lovingly restored so that it’s in as good of shape now as it was on its maiden voyage over a century ago!
While you can see the Curtis Island Lighthouse on a cruise or sailing trip, sometimes once isn’t enough!
If you want to see it from another perspective (or you don’t want to go on a boat in the first place), you can see it from Camden town at the Curtis Lighthouse Overlook, not far from Laite Memorial Beach.
Take a day trip to Rockland for the Farnsworth Art Museum.
The charming small town of Rockland is not far from Camden and makes a worthwhile day trip if Camden is your base during your stay in Maine.
The Farnsworth Art Museum is one of the best art museums in New England and has an extensive collection of Andrew Wyeth’s works, as well as works from other members of the Wyeth family.
Betsy Wyeth bequeathed a large collection of works by the Wyeth family upon her death in 2020, so the museum has been newly updated with her generous gift.
Besides works by the Wyeth family, you’ll also find contemporary and modern art primarily by Maine artists.
Camp in Camden Hills State Park.
There are a lot of campsites available in Camden Hills State Park, whether you bring your own set-up or choose one of the set-up canvas tents which you can rent here!
They come fully furnished with beds and linens and this one can even sleep up to 6 with a queen bed bunk bed! It’s a great ‘glamping’ camping experience that’s still full of outdoor adventure.
There are lots of sites available if you want to bring your own tent, but you will want to book in advance on recreation.gov as these spots go quickly!
Soak in at the views from the top of Mount Battie.
There are two ways to soak in the ocean views at the top of Mount Battie: the easy way or the hard way.
The easy way to check out the views from the summit of Mount Battie is beautiful and requires virtually no sacrifice. You can simply drive up from the entrance of Camden Hills State Park.
The hard way involves a hike. The distance isn’t long — just 3.1 miles out-and-back — but it’s steep, with an elevation gain of more than 600 feet via the Nature Trail.
If you prefer your views steeped in sweat, this is the way to go! Alternately, you may opt to drive up to Mt. Battie, and then save your hike for an even bigger challenge: Mount Megunticook!
Frankly, I would have loved to hike Mt. Battie but I was battling some chronic pain so we drove up and parked and walked around to admire the views! It was remarkable and worth the stop, whether you drive or hike.
Take on the tough hike up Mount Megunticook.
The hike up Mount Megunticook is not for the faint of heart but it offers the best views in all of Camden…. if you can stomach the summit!
The hike is 3.8 miles roundtrip, but that short distance means you also have to do 1,000 feet of elevation gain (and loss) rather quickly as you hustle to summit Megunticook.
Be sure to bring plenty of water and a hearty snack or lunch for the trail. It’s rather exposed and temperatures can be surprisingly hot for how far north you are!
It may be a slog, but the spectacular views are worth it! The trail is rated as moderate, but the incline is pretty steep in parts, so it’s best for more experienced hikers. Read a trail report here.
Take the Maiden’s Cliff Trail.
For a hike that’s shorter than Megunticook but still offers lovely views, the Maiden Cliff Trail is a nice option.
It is steeper, since you have to hike up 700+ feet over a 1.7 mile loop, but it’s good for a quick hike if you’re limited on time but still want a workout.
At the end, you’ll spot the white cross that marks a memorial site for a fallen young hiker, with a beautiful view of Lake Megunticook spread out below you!
Marvel at the beautiful Public Library.
Camden has a lot of beautiful traditional architecture and the public library in the heart of town is no exception.
The brick architecture is a lovely change of pace from a lot of the more standard wood-painted houses in other parts of coastal Maine.
The library has existed in some form or another since 1796, but it was destroyed in a fire that razed much of downtown Camden in 1892.
By 1896, it was rebuilt by the residents of Camden, and has been maintained beautifully over the years since.
Shop on Main Street and its side streets.
Camden has some of the best shopping in Maine! There are a number of great stores you can choose from but a few of my favorites are:
– Glendarragh Farm Lavender where you can buy natural lavender products from the largest lavender farm in Maine.
– Sugar Tools is a great boutique with lovely, fair-priced accessories and home goods and a small selection of clothing.
– Jessie Tobias Design is a new store with beautiful (but pricy!) home goods, bags, dresses and blouses, candles, and other gift items.
Cool off at Megunticook Lake.
Megunticook Lake is located in both Camden and Lincolnville and is a favored place for locals and visitors to cool off in the hot summer months!
One of the best places to go is to relax at Barrett’s Cove. It’s a small little beach cove on the lake, close to the Maiden Cliff trailhead.
If you’d like to kayak, there are rentals available at Maine Sport in Rockport and in town!
Relax in Camden Harbor Park and Amphitheatre.
This small public park area in downtown Camden is a lovely green space that can be a nice escape on a hot and humid summer day in Maine.
It’d also be a great place to take a picnic if you grabbed a sandwich to-go from Camden Deli!
Check out the Megunticook Falls in town.
Adjacent to Camden Harbor Park, as you walk along the harbor edge you’ll notice the ‘waterfall’ that cascades into the harbor.
It’s not a true waterfall but rather the final stage of a many-tiered dam that controls of the flow of water from Megunticook Lake to Camden Harbor. Regardless, it’s beautiful.
MID-RANGE | Mystic River Resort: This resort offers some of the most incredible views you’ll ever see. It’s located in the jungles of Belize, up on a cliff with stunning views over the beloved Macal River.
Located 7 miles away from San Ignacio, all you need is at your fingertips, including an open-air restaurant, an inventive bar specializing in fun cocktails, a full-service spa, a pool with rainforest surroundings, and a yoga deck.
LUXURY | The Lodge at Chaa Creek: If you are after a once-in-a-lifetime stay in an eco-lodge in Belize… look no further. Chaa Creek is a next-tier incredible resort that’s known for its beautiful natural surroundings.
The rooms are incredibly airy and spacious, with high-ceilinged thatch roofing and thoughtful details like beautiful textiles and local flowers. Outside your bungalow, you’ll find countless trees and plant life surrounding you and wake up to the sounds of birds and monkeys in the jungle.
Located on the Macal River, Chaa Creek offers activities like canoeing and kayaking down the river. You can also go for a swim in their infinity pool, try some “jungle cuisine” in their dining room made from local organic produce, or admire the butterflies at their butterfly exhibit.
Of all the day trips in Belize you could possibly choose from, this is my absolute favorite. In my mind, a trip to Belize without visiting ATM Cave just isn’t a Belize trip at all.
The Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave (called the ATM Cave for short) is an incredible cave system that you can only traverse with a licensed guide in a small group.
Permits and cave access to tourists are strictly limited in order to keep these caves preserved for future generations, as some parts of the cave were damaged in the past by tourists, unfortunately.
This is not an activity for the faint of heart! Doing an ATM Cave tour involves using a headlamp as your only light source, swimming through the cave, squeezing through some narrow parts of the cave system, and climbing up into the main cave atrium.
While I loved visiting the ATM Cave so much, if you have severe claustrophobia, this is not the San Ignacio excursion for you! The cave is dark and narrow in some places.
Inside the cave, you’ll find ancient pottery fragments as well as skulls and skeletons. These are the remains of human sacrifices that the ancient Maya people left in the cave. The cave was considered part of the Mayan underworld, where people could connect to the gods who ruled over death.
Archaeologists believe this was done to appease their gods as their civilization faced challenges such as drought and fighting between rival groups. It seemed not to work: not too long after the sacrifices were left, the Mayan civilization would slowly disappear.
Another fantastic place to visit near San Ignacio on a day trip is the Caracol Ruins archaeological site.
These are the largest Mayan ruins in Belize, and they are relatively under-visited compared to many other ruins in Central America.
The ruins of Caracol are beautiful and impressive, and one of the coolest things is that you can climb the pyramids there, unlike many pyramids in Mexico which have closed off the climbing to tourists.
From the top of the largest pyramid in the Caracol complex, you can even look over the border into Guatemala!
A trip to Caracol is easily paired with some incredible nature as well. On a guided tour to Caracol, you can also hike through the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, visit the Rio Frio Cave, and check out either the Rio-On Pools or the Big Rock Falls — all in a single day.
Trust me — you’ll relish a dunk in the waterfalls after spending the morning and early afternoon visiting the ruins in the hot Belizean sun!
Another fascinating cave system near San Ignacio is the Barton Creek Cave Reserve. Like ATM Cave, there is ample evidence of use by the Maya people.
Barton Creek is interesting, because the town itself is home to a Mennonite (Amish) settlement! There are actually a large number of Mennonites in Belize, over 10,000 of them actually — most of whom live in Cayo District.
Once you arrive at Barton Creek Cave, you’ll be able to explore it by canoeing through it! This is a great way to experience the caves in a peaceful way while learning about the history of this ancient Maya site — as well as Mayan traditions, rituals, and ceremonies — from a knowledgeable local guide.
Belmopan is the capital of Belize and it’s an easy day trip from San Ignacio.
For a capital city, Belmopan is rather small — the tiniest capital city in the Americas by population, in fact, with a population of under 20,000 people!
Belmopan is a good gateway to outdoor adventure, as you’ll find Guanacaste National Park right within the city.
This national park has some hiking trails and the beautiful Belize River runs right through the heart of it.
Belmopan is also close to other places you might want to visit: Ayala’s Natural Pool, St. Herman’s Cave, St. Herman’s Blue Hole, etc.
You can drive to Belmopan easily via rental car or take any of the buses heading towards Belize City, all of which will stop in Belmopan.
St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park
Belize is known for its Great Blue Hole of course… but it also has a lesser-known inland blue hole, located at St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park!
This tour of the Blue Hole is combined with Crystal Cave, a beautiful limestone cave system. The cave system is only accessible through a rainforest hike which ends at the entrance to the cave, so it feels very remote and magical.
The tour involves spelunking through the cave to discover all the beautiful geographic features of the cave, as well as artifacts from Mayan ceremonies that number some thousands of years old — including pottery, fire pits, and even human remains!
One of the coolest parts of this tour is visiting ‘Wonderland’, a room in the cave system that is completely covered in sparkling crystals, for which the cave gets its name!
After exploring the cave system, you’ll have a chance to swim in the beautiful Blue Hole to cool off and feel refreshed before heading back to San Ignacio in the evening.
If you’re looking for a full-day excursion from San Ignacio that will also get you a new stamp in your passport, be sure to save a day for a day trip to Tikal from San Ignacio!
This is one day trip for which I strongly suggest a tour. Navigating a border crossing by car is an experience many travelers have not have had before, and if there are language barriers it can be intimidating.
Personally, I have done the border crossing solo when traveling from Belize to Guatemala, but I am an experienced solo traveler fluent in Spanish.
I’ve also spent several months of my life in Central America and feel super comfortable traveling around. If you don’t have that sort of experience, booking a Tikal tour from San Ignacio is a much better idea.
The trip to Tikal takes about 2-2.5 hours by car, with some time for the border crossing, which your guide will help you navigate.
Tikal is located in a beautiful national park, and so you’ll see wildlife everywhere you look: everything from monkeys to iguanas and more.
Tikal is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s perhaps better-known as being a filming location for Star Wars!
This guided tour of Tikal includes all the main sightseeing of the ruins complex. With over 3,000 structures in the Tikal area, having a guide to help you narrow down the key things to see is really helpful.
You’ll get to see temples, ball courts, plazas, palaces, and pyramids — the largest of which is over 200 feet!
Cave tubing in Belize is a popular outdoor activity to do from San Ignacio, and there is no shortage of tours offering it!
Cave tubing is basically what it sounds like: floating on a river through caves in an inner tube! You’ll have to hike to the cave systems before hopping in your tube, but the hike to the river and caves in the Caribbean heat is what makes the dip into the waters so refreshing!
The Mayan archaeological site of Xunantunich is located a short distance from San Ignacio Town, practically on the Guatemalan border.
Xunantunich enjoys a beautiful location on a ridge, looking over the scenic Mopan River. Its name means “Maiden of the Rock” in the Mayan language, but this is a modern name; the original name is unknown. Supposedly, this name comes from the ghost of a woman who haunts it!
Xunantunich was an ancient city, which takes up about one square mile. Its best-known feature is the 130-foot-tall pyramid ‘El Castillo’, which is the second tallest Mayan structure in Belize (after the temple pyramid at Caracol).
If you want to book a guided tour, this tour is highly rated and you can customize it to meet your interests, adding on either cave tubing, river tubing, or horseback riding for a full-day tour, or just visiting Xunantunich for a half-day trip.
This is not so much a day trip from San Ignacio town as an activity inside it, but it’s so important it deserves a spot on this list!
The ancient Maya site of Cahal Pech is about 10 square miles and includes nearly three dozen buildings, the largest of all being about 80 feet tall!
It is believed by archaeologists to be one of the oldest Mayan settlements in Belize, and that the people who settled Cahal Pech likely came from Guatemala, perhaps around the Tikal area.
The Maya Ruins of Cahal Pech are a must-do while visiting San Ignacio, and it pairs well with a visit to Xunantunich above, since the two Mayan sites are only about 6 miles apart.
If you want some additional info, can hire a local guide to give you a private tour at the ruins themselves — a guided tour including pick-up and drop-off is not necessary here, as the ruins are within walking distance of town!
What to Pack for a Trip To San Ignacio
Mosquito repellent: San Ignacio has a tropical climate with mosquitos year-round, particularly in the rainy season. Protect yourself with mosquito repellent. As a backup, I carry around a few mosquito repellent wipes with me in my purse in case I forget to apply spray before leaving or that I can apply after swimming.
Bug bite aftercare: It’s also inevitable that you won’t be able to get away totally scot-free in terms of bug bites, so bring some after-bite relief too. This is hard to find in Belize, so definitely bring it from home!
Full-size travel towel: Many of these San Ignacio day trips involve water — cave tubing, kayaking, swimming, waterfalls, etc. You’ll definitely want to bring a small, foldable, quick-dry towel on any day tour with water activities. This travel towel is full-size but compact, and it dries super quickly even in Belize’s humid climate.
A guidebook: I use travel blogs a lot when I’m on the road but I also love having a guidebook to give me more specific, thoroughly researched information. Lonely Planet is my go-to guidebook and Lonely Planet Belize is no exception.
Reef-safe sunscreen: Reef-safe sunscreen isn’t just for reefs! The chemicals in sunscreen are bad for every natural ecosystem, like caves and swimming holes. When I know I’ll be in any natural body of water, I use a reef-safe sunscreen like this one.
GoPro: If you go cave tubing or ziplining, you’re going to want a way to capture all of that action! The GoPro Hero 9 is the newest, best option in the action camera landscape. Be sure to consider whether you want GoPro accessories like a chest harness or head mount.
Don’t forget travel insurance! Travel insurance coverage helps you recoup your losses in case of emergency, accident, illness, or theft. I’ve relied on World Nomads for my travel insurance coverage for four years with no complaints, and I’m a happy paying customer. I recommend them highly to fellow travelers!
Kona is on the west side of the Big Island of Hawai’i, where most flights arrive on the island.
It is the most lively part of the island, offering numerous bars, restaurants, resorts, and beaches.
So when you come to Kona, you are coming to a city in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the island of Hawai’i!
There will be opportunities to swim with manta rays and Hawaiian spinner dolphins. You will get to explore pali (cliffs) and valleys.
You will most likely see at least one rainbow; they are on the license plate for a reason!
Finally, you will immerse yourself in the aloha spirit.
In a word: Hawai’i is pono. Pono is the Hawaiian word that denotes integrity and balance. It is righteousness—the perfection of all creation in all its imperfections.
Ua Mau Ke Ea o ka ʻĀina I ka Pono is the motto of the state of Hawaii. It means, “the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.”
Remember this attitude when you visit Hawai’i.
Move with aloha, deep love connected to spirit energy—the deep love of self, others, and the aina (land). Leave no trace when you visit wild places. Treat the land and the people with respect.
Top Things to Do in Kailua-Kona
Start your journey by checking out some of the local beaches.
One great feature of Kona is the access to beaches from the main downtown area along Ali’i Drive. You may walk to one or more of them depending are where you start or go by car.
Magic Sands Beach Park is a popular choice and is easily walkable from one of the most lively areas of downtown Kona.
If you continue north down Ali’i’ Drive, you will arrive at Pāhoehoe Beach Park.
It would be a bit of a walk (close to an hour) from the main downtown area but still doable depending on where you start.
There is no ocean access here, but it is a great picnic spot.
Another walkable beach from downtown Kona is Kahalu’u Beach Park, again depending on where you start. You will find the best snorkeling in Kailua-Kona here! This beach is south of Magic Sands Beach Park.
Head all the way north to the end of Ali’i Drive to stop at Kamakahonu Beach. This beach is sometimes referred to as “Keiki beach,” meaning “kids beach,” because of the calm waters.
The beach is an excellent spot for water sports. It is also within proximity to Kailua Pier.
At Kamakahonu, you will also find Kona Boys Beach Shack.
They offer all sorts of rentals, including: snorkels, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards (SUP), body boards, chairs, umbrellas, coolers, life jackets, bikes, and dry sacks, right from the beach!
You can reserve your gear ahead of time on their website, too.
Another way you can get to the beaches besides walking or driving is to take the Kona Trolley to reach the pier. It is only $2.00!
The trolley also stops at Magic Sands Beach Park, Kahaluu Beach, along with restaurants, hotels, and Water Front Row. It is super convenient!
You can also rent a bike to make getting to and from the Kailua-Kona beaches even more accessible!
Go on a helicopter tour to see lava flows from above.
One of the coolest things to do in Kona is embark on a helicopter tour which will take you over Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park!
This is a great way to see the island from an entirely different perspective.
Melt your stress away with a hot tub spa experience.
Before you leave the island, you can reset your system in a relaxing hot tub with a massage.
There are multiple places to get a massage and soak in a hot tub. I just love Mamalahoa Hot Tubs, south of Kona in Kealakekua.
The saltwater teak hot tubs are outside, with the option for a night soak under the stars. You will enjoy plenty of privacy as little thatch huts surround these teak tubs. There are also lovely outdoor showers.
The hot tubs are a great option if you are on a budget as it is only $50 for two people, or $60 for a night soak. If adding a massage is too pricey, you will still have the chance to relax and detox.
To boost your healing, they also offer many methods of massage, including hot stone. Massages are a great way to ease muscle tension and release toxins in the body.
Go kayaking or paddleboarding.
One of the coolest ways to experience Hawai’i is from the water!
Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard at one of the many water sport outfitters which will prepare you for all manner of aquatic outdoor activities!
Marvel at the beautiful and historic Hulihee Palace.
The beautiful oceanfront Huliheʻe Palace is located on Ali’i Drive in Kailua village, and it’s a great place to go to learn a little more about the history of the Hawaiian monarchy on the Hawaiian islands, before the U.S. occupation of the Kingdom of Hawai’i.
Built in 1838, Huliheʻe Palace was once a summer home for Hawaiian royalty such as King Kalākaua and Queen Kapiʻolani. It is home to beautiful traditional Hawaiian architecture such as koa wood furniture and beautiful artifacts from Hawaiian monarchs.
There are guided tours of the palace available, at 10 AM and 1 PM daily.
Check out Mokuaikaua Church.
Built in 1820 by two missionaries given permission to operate a church by King Kamehameha II, Moku‘aikaua Church was the first Christian church built on the Hawaiian islands.
It’s located across the street from Hulihee Palace in a very historic part of Kailua close to Kailua Pier, so it’s easy to pop in and visit.
The exterior is now built of stone, after the original structure burned several times, and the inside of the church is beautiful with traditional koa wood decorating the interior
Savor the taste of fresh-caught fish with poke.
There are countless poke spots in Kailua Kona. Many of them are right on the ocean along Ali’i Drive!
One popular spot for waterside dining is Da Poke Shack. There is also one down south in Captain Cook.
Another great Kona poke spot is Umeke’s Fish Market and Restaurant. This restaurant is committed to locally sourcing its food.
That means the fish, vegetables, fruit, and meat are locally sourced whenever possible! As a result, it will be among the freshest food you will have while visiting Hawai’i.
And finally, we have Pau Hana Poke, a tiny hole in the wall. This is a local favorite and also serve as a fish market.
The menu can evolve differently depending on what is available. Local fishermen always provide the freshest fish.
It is take-out only here, so grab some poke and head to a beach.
Snorkel with spinner dolphins at Two Step.
Two Step is one of the best places on the entire island to snorkel!
It is incredible, and you may find yourself swimming among Hawaiian Spinner dolphins. They come to Honaunau Bay to rest, play, and clean their bellies in the sand.
Never will you have as great of a chance to swim with wild dolphins as you do on the island of Hawai’i!
It is best to come here in the morning if you want to swim with the pae’a (that’s Hawaiian for dolphin).
Not to mention there are countless fish and coral to view when snorkeling at Two Step. You will also most likely get to see honu (sea turtles).
This spot is south of Kailua Kona by about 40 minutes, but it is totally worth the drive.
Embrace the taste of Kona coffee.
There are numerous coffee farms on the Big Island. You can visit any time of year and you will get to sip on samples of delicious coffee, right from the source!
Greenwell Farms is located out of town in Kealakekua. They were recently voted Hawaii’s Best Farm Tour by Hawai’i Magazine!
The tour is fun and informative.. plus, they have excellent coffee!
Hula Daddy Kona Coffee is another great option and is convenient to Kona in Hulualoa. They offer tours by reservation and free coffee tastings.
Even if you do not want a tour, you can come by and try their coffee!
For a farm tour right in town, head up the hill to Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation. They offer tours with off-road vehicles.
You don’t have to walk on this tour; however, if you do want to hike around a bit, they have lava tubes and trails to explore as well. Plus, you get to sample that glorious Kona coffee!
And finally, we have Hala Tree Organic Coffee Farm. I love this farm because it is not only organic, but the property is lovely.
You will get to taste your coffee on a lanai (covered porch) that overlooks the Pacific Ocean while you sip your java.
It is a good idea to call ahead before you visit any of these farms to make a reservation if needed.
Watch the manta rays mesmerize you with a night snorkel tour.
You very well may have gone on your coffee tour and are feeling quite energized!
Take that energy and go for a night dive with manta rays. There are many tour outfitters available that will provide this experience.
It is guaranteed you will swim with the manta rays when you take a manta ray night tour in Kona!
Manta rays are attracted to light, so the tour operators will shine a light in the water to bring the manta rays to you, while you float and snorkel among these gentle giants.
Fun fact: Manta rays are attracted to light because that is where the highest amount of plankton is for them to consume. The closer to the light they are, the more plankton they can ingest. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Grab some beers at the Kona Brewing Company.
A visit to Kailua-Kona offers excellent opportunities for bar hopping. You can bar hop at many places along Ali’i Drive, plus you just have to visit Kona Brewing Company!
A stop at Kona Brewing Company is a great way to start the night. They have an extensive menu in their tasting room!
This menu has food pairing options to accompany one of their many excellent beers, so it’s a great place for dinner and a drink.
Check out the nightlife along Ali’i Drive.
You can then head on over to Ali’i Drive, which is one of the prime nightlife stretches in Kona. It’s also a great place to watch the sunset!
Not sure where to start? Laverne’s Sports Bar is a popular spot.
I also have had an awesome time at MY BAR + Pizza and more!- LGBTQ Friendly Hot Spot. This bar is inclusive and super fun! They have karaoke, DJs on the weekends, and pool tables.
Sam’s Hideaway is also a good spot if you are looking for nightlife. Plus, Humpy’s Big Island Ale House offers live music and a selection of over 30 microbrews — great if you enjoyed Kona Brewing Company and want to keep the craft beer train going!
Additionally, you may want to make the trek to Rays on the Bay, located in the Kailua-Kona Sheraton.
It is not necessarily a nightlife spot as they close at 11 PM. However, they offer the unique experience of viewing manta rays from their viewing platform after dark!
Gaze in wonder while whale watching.
Kona is one of the best spots to see the humpback whale migration, as it is on the west side of the island — which means they swim right past Kona!
The best time to see whales in Hawai’i is from April to December. The Big Island is the only spot in the US where these whales mate, calve, and nurse their young, which means the humpbacks hang out here quite a lot!
There are many tour companies you can use to get your humpback whale watching tour. You will most likely see other sea creatures like dolphins on this adventure, as well.
Going on a whale watching boat tour is one of the most essential things to do in Kona, so be sure not to miss it!
Appreciate plants at Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden.
Come to the Amy Greenwell Botanical Gardens to learn about traditional Hawaiian gardening among a historic site.
There are sacred grounds to explore and the Pa‘ikapahu Heiau, a sacred temple. There are many rare and almost extinct species of plants preserved here: over 200 native plants, to be more specific!
These gardens are a beloved spot in Kona, primarily because of Amy Greenwall. She was a hula-dancing, plant-loving, and vivacious woman.
She wanted to preserve the Hawaiian culture, and you can do the same with a visit to this special place!
Sample tasty tropical fruit at a farmer’s market.
There are many farmers’ markets in Kailua-Kona. You can find mangos, soursop, rambutan, bananas, and more, depending on the time of years!
Plus, you can discover sweet breads, honey, local products, and artisan jewelry.
The Kona Farmers Market is located right in downtown historic Kona Village on Ali’i Drive. It runs Wednesday through Sunday, so there are plenty of opportunities to hit up this great market.
You can get flowers or lilikoi (passionfruit) as you enjoy a day strolling the market in Kona!
The Pure Kona Green Market happens on Sundays in Captain Cook. It is a beautiful market with many wonderful products made by local farmers and artists.
The market is at the Amy Greenwell Botanical Gardens, so perhaps your visit to the gardens could correspond with a visit to this weekly market.
Additionally, the Ho’oulu Community Farmers Market is a great choice. There are fewer purveyors of fruits and veggies than the other markets.
However, the market is excellent if you are looking for arts and crafts produced by locals. It is held on Wednesdays.
Continue your connection with Hawai’i by learning to hula.
There are many studios to learn some hula when you visit Hawai’i! A lot of people confuse hula with Polynesian dance, but hula is a lot less fast-paced than Polynesian dance.
So, what is hula? It is a series of hand gestures that tell a story of the land and people of Hawai’i, following the lyrics and music of a song.
As you gesture with your hands you rock your hips back and forth creating a beautiful, mesmerizing dance that honors the earth, the sea, and the sacred traditions of ancient Hawai’i.
You can find hula lessons at the Sheraton Hotel, The Four Seasons Hotel, and Mani Lani.
Lehua Rose Weddings also does hula and lei making classes. You can also find free hula lessons at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park.
Dance into the night at a luau.
Continue your journey of connecting with Hawaiian culture and the aloha spirit with a luau! There are many options for luau experiences on the island.
We like Voyagers of the Pacific at Royal Kona Resort as they provide some great hands-on experiences.
You can make a lei, learn hula, and see demonstrations of Polynesian arts. But, of course, a luau is not complete without pig roasted in an imu, an underground oven.
Your reservation at this luau includes all activities, a dinner buffet, and drinks from the bar.
Try out scuba diving.
One of the best ways to see more of the underwater world of Hawai’i is by diving!
Whether you’re already PADI-certified to dive or you’d like to try diving for the first time, there are a variety of scuba schools in Kailua-Kona that can make that happen.
A few we recommend are Kona Honu Divers, Kona Diving Company, and Big Island Divers.
Shop your heart out in Kailua-Kona.
The Kona Trolley is an excellent resource for a shopping adventure!
You can make your way to all the major shopping centers via this convenient trolley.
Stop at areas like Coconut Grove Marketplace, Kona Ali’i Gardens Marketplace, and Kona Inn Shopping Village.
At Coconut Grove, you can hit up Kanaka Kava, Island Lava Java, and ABC Stores for souvenirs and mini-mart products, or try Ali’i Gardens Marketplace for great eats. And of course, you can’t miss TJ’s BBQ!
Don’t forget to hit Kona Inn Shopping Village, right off Ali’i Drive. It is considered the marketplace with the best view, where you can find boutiques, galleries, clothing stores, and excellent restaurants.
You can also head to The Shops At Mauna Lani, where you can participate in a lei-making class.
Alternately, check out Keauhou Shopping Center, where you can find bookstores, boutiques, and live music.
Day Trips from Kona
Wind your way up the coast to Pololu Valley and Hawi.
On your way to Pololu, you will pass through the quaint historic town of Hawi. This is one of my favorite spots on the island!
It is truly magical and worth the one-hour and ten-minute drive up the coast!
Not only is the town just fantastic, but the drive is also wonderful, too. There is also access to beaches and snorkeling here.
While Hawi is pretty tiny, there are many great shops, galleries, and restaurants to hit. Plus, they have a weekly farmers market.
Sweet Potatoe Kitchen serves some of the best vegan food I have ever had. The food is made with love and care. Bamboo Restaurant & Gallery is also a nice choice for Pacific Rim fare with an artistic flair.
You can also visit Kohala Coffee Mill. The name of this coffee shop is a nod to the history of this area as it was once the location of a sugar cane mill.
Admire the Pololu Valley.
As you continue your adventure in the Kohalamoku (district), you end at the northern tip of the island at Pololu.
You can park near the lookout to view stunning green hills descending into the ocean, but don’t stop there. Instead, hike down the pali (cliffs) into the enchanting Pololu Valley.
Down in the valley, green cliffs, black sand beaches, and ocean views will surround you. They also have swings down here for you to enjoy!
Take note: the hike down is steep. It is slippery and muddy after it rains.
Visit the peaceful Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.
There are two historic parks accessible from Kailua-Kona: Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park and Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park.
Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is south of Kona in Hōnaunau, HI. It has always been a place of peace.
Puʻuhonua is known as “the place of refuge.” No fighting was allowed to occur here. So much so that criminals who broke the Kapu laws of ancient Hawai’i could come here for refuge — if they could make it. It was beneficial for those that committed crimes with the consequence of death.
You can also visit the Royal Grounds outside the Pu’uhonua. They offer self-guided walking tours and ranger-led tours.
Finally, take the hike to Ki’ilae Village, an abandoned fishing town for 2.5-miles of mountain views.
See the sacred Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park.
Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park is a sacred place to Native Hawaiians.
The inhabitants of Kaloko-Honokōhau lived in this barren land of lava rock for centuries. They revered the land, and it is said that they became one with the spirit of Kaloko-Honokōhau.
They survived by fishing and creating aquaculture ponds, and they were experts at finding fresh water in this desolate area.
Today, you can learn more about the history and view wildlife such as green sea turtles. They like to hang on the rock here; just give them space!
You can also hop in the water and snorkel here. Please, always use reef-safe sunscreen; it’s the law (and it’s also just the right thing to do!).
Escape the crowds at Makalawena Beach.
The North Kona coast has a plethora of beaches to explore. Most of them require a little trekking to reach. But once you do, you will find white sand beaches, black sand beaches, and calm waters to swim in!
Makalawena is a treasure. You will want to head towards Mahai’ula Bay between the 90 and 91-mile markers on Highway 19 to reach the trailhead for Makalawena Beach.
At Makalawena, you can enjoy the calm, blue waters of Pu’u Ali’i Bay. You can also enjoy multiple landmarks and beaches on your 1-mile hike, including Hayden Cove, Mahai’ula Bay Beach, and Pu’u Ali’i Beach.
Check out Manini’owali Beach and Kua Bay.
This is another one of the most spectacular beaches on the Kona Coast and it’s absolutely worth a day trip from Kona.
It’s a great place for bodyboarding, snorkeling, and just relaxing on the beach and enjoying the contrast between the soft white sand and brilliant blue sea.
Marvel at Kalahuipua’a Historic Park.
Located in Waimea, the Kalahuipua’a Historic Park is best known for its unique natural fishponds as well as its lava tube.
It’s easy to do a quick hike to explore more of this beautiful area of the park!
Relax on Lone Palm Beach (Keawaiki).
Lone Palm (Keawaiki) is located in the South Kohala moku.
The beach is black sand, and there are beautiful golden pools (which are not suitable for swimming, due to the sensitive ecosystem) along the trail.
But don’t worry: there is plenty of ocean to enjoy once you reach the beach. Plus, there is a freshwater spring! You will hike across harsh lava fields to reach it, so wear boots.
To reach the trailhead, park at the ʻAnaehoʻomalu Bay parking area and hike south. There are restrooms and showers at this trailhead, too.
You can also access Lone Palm at mile-marker 79 on Highway 19. From here, you will hike north.
To reach these beaches, you will hike a few miles, but trust me, the hike is so worth it!
Whichever way you go, be sure to wear reef-safe sunscreen and a hat, as you will be pretty exposed to the sun on your hike. There is no shade.
See some more Hawaiian spinner dolphins at Kealakekua Bay.
Kealakekua Bay is a great spot for water sports, which presents the opportunity to swim with dolphins if you’re lucky, or dolphin watch from land if you prefer not to swim!
Depending on what you prefer, you can kayak, snorkel, or scuba dive here: all of the above are amazing choices!
Marine life conservation is a focus in Kealakekua Bay. It is also a historic location, as it is where Captain Cook first landed on the island of Hawai’i.
He was the first Brit to land in the islands. But, unfortunately, he was killed in a skirmish right on Kealakekua Bay (to be clear, it was definitely his fault — trying to kidnap kings usually doesn’t go over well).
You’ll find the Captain Cook Monument located on this bay marking this historical site.
Nāpo’opo’o Beach Park, on the southern end of Kealakekua State Park, is where you can find this monument.
There is also a hikiau heiau (sacred temple) on the bay’s east side near Nāpo’opo’o Pier. This temple is to honor the Hawaiian god Lono.
He is the god of rain, music, fertility, agriculture, and peace. It was said he came to earth on a rainbow… so it is perhaps no surprise that the Big Island of Hawai’i is so blessed with rainbows!
Look in wonder at ancient petroglyphs.
Get your hike on at the Waikoloa Petroglyphs Reserve and the Puakō Petroglyph Archeological Preserve.
Both are north of Kona in Kohala. If you are interested in history, these places will be unique!
At both parks, you can see many images etched into the lava rock. You will see sea turtles, human forms, spirals, and more. They have a high concentration of petroglyphs. The exact age of the petroglyphs is unknown, but it could be anywhere from 500 to 2,000 years old.
You can spend an afternoon on a petroglyph tour! So get your hike on and enjoy checking out these historic pieces of art from the ancient Hawaiians.
Plan your trip around a hula festival.
If you want to see hula performers, the Big Island has many festivals to enjoy!
The most famous of these is the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo. It happens the week after Easter every year and is one of the world’s most renowned hula and Polynesian arts competitions.
The Iolani Luahine Hula Festival and Hula Scholarship Competition happens in January or February, right in Kona.
Another option is the Queen Liliuokalani Festival, which happens in Hilo in September.
There is also the Moku o Keawe International Festival which occurs on the Kohala Coast in November.
Make the trek down south to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
If you come to the Big Island, visiting this national park is essential!
You can get there from Kona two ways. Both take about 2 hours to drive, and there are great stops along the way.
I suggest getting a super early start and taking the southern route on the way there and the northern route along Saddle Road on the way back.
As you venture south, you will drive past some major landmarks of the Big Island. This includes South Point (Ka Lae), the Green Sands Beach (Papakōlea), and Black Sands Beach (Punalu’u).
South Point is going to be reasonably accessible as you can drive there from Highway 11. You can also hit Green Sands Beach; just take note it takes 2.5 miles to hike to the beach from South Point.
Punalu’u is easy for a quick stop. You will also want to check out Punalu’u Bake Shop on your way. This place is famous for its malasadas and sweetbreads. Hanahou Restaurant is also my favorite spot for a burger on the island.
Once you reach Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, you will have the opportunity for hiking. Take your pick of what ecosystem to immerse yourself in: there are rainforests, desolate lava fields, and craters.
You can also drive along Chain of Craters Road, where you can find endless hiking trails. Including one with access to petroglyphs. The road ends at the famed Hōlei Sea Arch.
Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, in the Kilauea Caldera, cannot be missed. It is best to view this at dusk or night. You can view the steaming crater, which glows red from the magma bubbling below.
On your way back to Kona, I suggest stopping at Mauna Kea Observatory for a stunning show beneath the stars. There is no better place in the world than Hawai’i to view the night sky!
Indulge your sweet tooth with a cacao farm tour.
There are quite a few cacao farms on the Big Island where you can tour the trees and taste the chocolate made with the cacao plant.
Cacao is a tree with yellow oval fruit. The seeds of the fruit are used to make cacao, which is later converted into chocolate. The fruit is also pretty good.
Kuaiwi Farm is a great spot for this activity. While their coffee farm tour is popular, you can also take a candy-making class with unlimited sampling. Yum!
You can also visit the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Farm. You can come here for a tour and sample their milk, dark, and rare criollo chocolates.
There is nothing like organic chocolate right from the source!
The Big Island is one of my favorite places in the world. I miss the energy and the views almost every day. You will too after you come here.
You will awaken your senses to gorgeous, sweet-smelling tropical flowers and fruit. You will hike and swim with dolphins over stunning coral reefs. You will eat poke of fresh-caught fish, sip on beers at Kona Brewing Company, or dance hula.
The people will be welcoming and warm, excited to show you aloha and hospitality. Please respect the natives of Hawai’i. This is their island, and you are merely visiting. Treat the land and the people with love.
You will learn the meaning of the aloha spirit. This is the most incredible privilege of spending time in Hawai’i. An attitude of love and gratitude is at the heart of the meaning of Aloha. You will find yourself saying, “Mahalo (thank you)” for encountering such a beautiful sentiment to bring home with you.
A trip to Hawai’i will be eye-opening and cleansing. You will have a renewed sense of presence when you return home. It will live on deep in your soul for years to come. Aloha. Malama pono (take good care).
The Dillon Ice Castles are a magical place to visit! Located in the heart of small-town Dillon, the Ice Castles are a must-see.
They are a great place for a romantic date night out, a night of family fun, or a great place to visit with friends.
The Ice Castles are the main attraction in Dillon in the winter months, and it’s a popular winter Denver day trip!
Dillon is just one of the four locations in the US that hosts the construction of these gorgeous man-made ice castles.
How Are the Dillon Ice Castles Made?
The Ice Castles are hand-built by ice architects! These masters grow then place icicles one by one in the design they want. After, these icicles are sprayed with water.
They repeat that process many times over the span of two months until the castles grow to the size of their liking. Typically, this requires about 25,000 tons of ice!
Where Are the Dillon Ice Castles?
The Ice Castles are located off of Highway 6, on Lake Dillon Drive in the Dillon Town Park.
The outside of this attraction can be seen from the streets throughout town, but the inside will blow you away!
From a distance (in the daylight) the castles will look blue because of their density, but as you get closer the intricacies will have you taking a second look.
Once you walk inside, you enter into another world!
In this article, I am going to give you some tips to make visiting the Ice Castles a smooth trip!
7 Tips for Visiting the Dillon Ice Castles
Get your tickets online in advance.
Getting your tickets online in advance will guarantee you entry into the Ice Castles on the day you want. It is $17.99 to get in during the weekdays and $22.99 Friday through Sunday. You can buy tickets online on their website here.
There are lower prices for children’s tickets as well and children under 3 are free. If you buy tickets the day of, the prices are typically more expensive, and there is no guarantee they won’t be sold out.
When you purchase tickets, you are not only purchasing a ticket for the date you want, but for the time you want to go as well. No matter what arrival time you purchase tickets for, you can stay as long as you want.
Opening and closing days do vary each year at the Ice Castles due to weather conditions. Getting tickets online will also ensure that the Ice Castles will be open.
Typically in Dillon, the castles open in late December or early January and close at the end of February or in the first few weeks of March.
When you purchase a ticket for the Ice Castles, you are buying an arrival window. For example, if you purchase an arrival window from 5 PM – 5:30 PM, you can enter the castles anytime between those times and stay as long as you want.
If you arrive before your time slot, you will just have to wait to enter. If you arrive after your time slot, you may lose your ticket and not be able to enter at all.
You may have to wait in line to enter into the Ice Castles during the more popular times from 4:30 PM – 7:00 PM, so arriving early will ensure you have enough time to wait in line and still enter during your arrival window.
It is also important to arrive early because parking can be scarce. There is a pretty large parking lot right on Buffalo Street in front of the Ice Castles. This is prime parking and it fills up very quickly!
If that lot is full, there is some overflow parking in the Town Hall parking lot. If both of those lots are full, you can find some parking along Lake Dillon Drive, which will leave you a short walk to the castles. Make sure to obey all parking signs in town and only park in designated areas.
If you are looking to avoid the parking situation, look into taking the free Summit Stage Bus from anywhere in the county. The Summit Stage bus drops you off and picks you up right on Buffalo Street.
You can get off at stop number 193 on the schedule if you’re taking the bus from Silverthorne or Keystone. Typically the bus comes every 30 minutes and runs on time.
If you are taking the bus from Frisco or Breckenridge, be sure to check out the Summit Stage schedule online.
The winter months in Colorado can be frigid! When visiting the Ice Castles, be sure to wear the correct clothing to ensure your comfort.
The Ice Castles hardly shut down due to adverse weather so be prepared for anything!
You will be standing on cold snow and ice mixture the whole time, so wearing warm winter socks and boots will help you stay warm. The only kind of boots that will keep your feet sufficiently warm is snow boots (I love these Sorel boots), which will be perfect for the 30-60 minutes you may be in the castles.
Packing some hand warmers in your pockets will allow you to enjoy your stay longer if you do start to get cold! I suggest these Karecel rechargeable hand warmers as they are less wasteful than the disposable ones, and they’re very affordable!
Bring a nice camera.
I know that many of us have really nice cameras on our smartphones that we bring everywhere!
If you really want to capture the intricate details though, I recommend bringing a nice camera and visiting the castles in the daylight to capture each individual icicle in a photo that will last forever.
If you plan to arrive around 4:00 PM, you will be able to see the castles in the daylight, catch the sunset over Lake Dillon, and enjoy the ambiance that darkness creates!
Take care of your bodily needs before you enter!
As a ski instructor, we always say “NO PEE, NO SKI” before we take the kids outside to ski. Well, the same goes for the ice castles!
Even though you aren’t going skiing, it’s almost the same in my eyes because there are no bathrooms inside.
There is also no reentry allowed if you have to leave to use the bathroom. I am just trying to say that you should plan ahead!
No food is allowed inside.
Unfortunately, food is not permitted inside the Ice Castles. Plan to have eaten before you go inside, or plan a meal for afterward.
Your journey inside can last a long time, especially if you’re into photography and capturing every last detail, so be prepared for anything!
If you are planning to eat in Dillon afterward,both Pug Ryan’s and Arapahoe Cafe are within walking distance of the castles and have great offerings.
Take your time inside.
As soon as you walk into the castles, you will be greeted with so much to look at: beautiful walls, archways, rainbow-colored lighting, and carved ice sculptures!
There are many different rooms to explore all with something different to offer. The castle is lit up with all different colors inside creating a different ambiance in each room.
Insider Tip: If you are looking for a nice romantic or private getaway, be sure to book a VIP experience in a private alcove!
If not, you can explore multiple different rooms, ice slot canyons, and walk under the many arches. Be sure to look up when you’re under the arches, to see what looks like a beautiful ice chandelier!
Don’t forget the ice slides.
If you’re looking for more action, make sure to visit the ice slides inside. There are ice slides of different sizes throughout the castle. Believe it or not, many slides are both adult and kid-friendly!
The lines can get long at the slides so make sure to keep your eyes on it. Visiting during the middle of the week and at unpopular times can help you avoid these lines.
If you’re not seeking the adrenaline rush the slide has to offer, you can slide your way through ice tunnels of all different sizes!
They are adult and kid-friendly as well. As the darkness sets in, the tunnels will light up with all different colors.
If traveling with kids…
If you have young kids, I recommend bringing a sled to tow them around!
Strollers are not permitted in the castles and would be extremely hard to push through the snow. Bringing a sled will allow you to stay longer even if the young ones start to get tired.
No matter how you choose to enjoy the ice castles, it will be a great time!
The Ice Castles are so easy to look at, that you may spend hours wandering around looking at every little detail.
The architects do an amazing job every year creating these castles bringing something new and different each year to the design.
I highly recommend planning some time for the Dillon Ice Castles when you are planning your trip to Denver in winter. This is an experience like no other!
Snowy mountains, steamy rivers, breathtaking landscape, and a variety of memorable wintertime adventures are waiting for you in the charming mountain town of Big Sky, Montana.
Well-known as a popular ski destination during the winter, a fly fishing paradise in the summertime, and a gateway to Yellowstone National Park all year round, Big Sky, Montana is hiding some other exciting activities we think you’ll love!
Plus, it’s still a bit of a hidden gem in the US, as most travelers end up flocking to Yellowstone, Glacier, or Jackson instead, leaving Big Sky blissfully free of mass tourism.
From delicious meals served on a snowy mountain-side and shopping in the Town Center to riding the slopes at Big Sky Resort and snowshoeing in the forest, Big Sky in winter has something for everyone to enjoy.
Things to Do in Big Sky in Winter
Hike to a Frozen Waterfall
One of the most popular waterfall hikes in Big Sky transforms into a dazzling frozen wall of ice once the cold weather moves in.
The Ousel Falls Trailhead is minutes from the Big Sky Town Center and offers ample parking spaces. From the parking area, follow the trail down toward the river. In the wintertime, the snow can become packed down and slick, so spikes are a great idea to keep you from slipping and sliding down the trail!
The trail is 1.6 miles round trip and offers scenic views of the South and West Forks of the Gallatin River. With only 400 ft of elevation gain, this trail is perfect for families and folks who are new to hiking! Before the waterfall, you will pass tall cliffs that often support gorgeous ice caves. Crossing the river to the caves is extremely dangerous, and staying on the maintained trail is encouraged!
Once you arrive at Ousel Falls, there is a picnic area and a couple of different viewpoints to observe the frozen falls from. It’s not uncommon to spot ice climbers making their way up the ice and guides leading new climbers on their first outing.
If you’re interested in getting on the ice with a professional guide, Montana Alpine Guides can take you out for a safe and exhilarating day of climbing!
Go Shopping in the Town Center
The shopping scene in Big Sky’s Town Center grows larger every year! Begin your tour of the downtown stores in the Town Center Plaza and make your way down Town Center Ave. toward Fire Pit Park. Along the way you’ll find:
Shop Sky Boutique’s exquisite hand-selected apparel, fine jewelry, and accessories! Need help putting a stylish outfit together for a night out in Big Sky? Look no further than Sky Boutique!
The Black Diamond Store
Head to Big Sky Resort in style! The Black Diamond Store has everything from professional ski gear to comfortable everyday apparel.
East Slope Outdoors
Remember your trip to Big Sky with a commemorative tee-shirt. East Slope Outdoors has a wide selection of graphic shirts everyone will love as well as ski apparel to keep you warm on the slopes.
You can always find the latest mountain town apparel and accessories at Montana Supply! It’s also the perfect place to find a thoughtful gift for a loved one or a special something for yourself.
From western style hats to cowgirl boots, Rhinestone Cowgirl is the perfect place to explore true Montana fashion. If you’re looking for western apparel for men, Antlers Clothing Co, in Fire Pit Park, is your next stop!
Snowshoe or Cross Country Ski on Big Sky’s Community Trails
The Big Sky Community Organization looks after Big Sky’s love of outdoor recreation and open space with trails and parks that all are welcome to enjoy!
Wintertime visitors can purchase a map of all of the town trails at the Big Sky and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Information Center or one of the many local retail stores.
A few trails you might enjoy on cross country skis or snowshoes are:
South Fork Loop
This easy 1-mile loop is groomed in the wintertime and is a perfect place for beginners to learn on snowshoes and cross country skis.
The trail weaves through the forest and hugs the South Fork of the Gallatin River for soothing sounds of rushing water.
Uplands and Hummocks Trails
Just past the South Fork Loop Trailhead, there is a small parking area for the Uplands and Hummocks Trails.
Due to some steep hills, both of these trails care challenging on cross country skis, but they are great for a moderately challenging snowshoe outing.
The Uplands Loop travels up above the Big Sky Town Center for picturesque views of Lone Peak and the Madison Range. The trail travels through the forest for about 2 miles before looping back to the parking area.
If you’re looking to add a little more mileage, continue onto the Hummocks Trail, which is 3 miles round trip with a couple of scenic viewpoints to stop at along the way.
Have a Marvelous Dinner Experience
A dinner experience in Big Sky reaches way beyond live music and dancing! During the winter, a few venues host intimate and fun events that are perfect for romantic evenings or special occasions.
Reservations are required for both excursions.
Montana Dinner Yurt
Meet your chariots, two big red snowcats named Rosie and Ginger. Climb aboard while choosing to ride on the open deck up top or inside the cab. Blankets are provided, but guests are encouraged to wear warm winter clothing!
Your snowcat will then bring you up the mountain at Big Sky Resort to a secluded yurt, where you will spend the evening. Greeted by live music and friendly staff, you will be seated family-style around the cozy dining room.
In addition to outstanding food and a soothing atmosphere, the Montana Dinner Yurt offers sledding and a bonfire. When your bellies are full, you’ll head back down the mountain on the snowcats with your new friends and memories to last a lifetime.
Sleigh Ride Dinner at Lone Mountain Ranch
By horse-drawn sleigh, dinner guests are transported to a rustic cabin, which is illuminated by an oil lantern. The magical ride takes you through the snowy forest under the big Montana night sky. At the dinner cabin, live music and a western atmosphere set the tone for your family-style prime rib feast.
With a rich history and as an icon of Big Sky for over 100 years, Lone Mountain Ranch is a destination within a destination. Locals and visitors alike enjoy coming to Lone Mountain Ranch to dine at Horn and Cantle, sip signature cocktails at The Saloon, and explore the beautifully groomed trails on cross country skis or snowshoes.
Explore Big Sky Resort
A winter trip to Big Sky isn’t complete without spending a day at Big Sky Resort. Boasting endless terrain for skiing and riding, Big Sky Resort is on every powder hound’s bucket list.
There are trails from beginner level to expert, with plenty of open space to learn and explore. Ski the trails from The Tram or the famous high-speed Ramcharger 8, which seats eight passengers comfortably with a protective face shield and luxurious heated seats!
For the non-skiers visiting Big Sky Resort, there are lots of activities to choose from! The adventurous type might enjoy a snowy zip line excursion, while the puzzle whizzes will love the resort’s challenging escape rooms. If you need a day to relax and unwind, book a soothing massage at Solace Spa.
After the last lift, skiers and non-skiers reunite for Après in the Mountain Village. Fuel up after a fun-filled day at one of the many dining options at Vista Hall, and then pop into Westward Social for a craft cocktail and live music!
If you’d prefer to head off-mountain for refreshments, Copper, inside the Wilson Hotel, has a phenomenal happy hour which runs from 4 pm – 6 pm daily!
Go ice skating in town
When the sun goes down, the lights come on over the Big Sky Town Center’s Skating Rink. Locals and visitors lace up their skates and glide around the glistening ice.
A romantic activity paired well with a hot to-go drink or a fun night out with the family, the skating rink welcomes all to join during open skate hours!
Traveling without ice skates? That’s not a problem!
Ice skates are available for rent at East Slope Outdoors for a small fee.
Go for a snowmobile in Gallatin National Forest
While you’re visiting Big Sky country in the wintertime, you have to get out and ride the powder on a snowmobile. Big Sky is nestled right inside Gallatin National Forest, which offers an exciting variety of terrain to explore on sleds!
Guided tours aren’t just for first-timers! Booking a snowmobile trip with a professional guide not only keeps you safe on the rugged mountain terrain, but it also allows you to experience the absolute best trails – that are often lesser-known.
Canyon Adventures, an outfitter in Big Sky, is famous for its witty and knowledgeable guides. If you’d like to schedule a trip or rent snowmobiles, do so well in advance of your visit to assure availability.
When the snow begins to fall in Jackson Hole, folks from all over the world arrive in town to experience the area’s world-class powder skiing.
Although a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts, as well as a popular home base for people visiting Grand Teton or Yellowstone in winter, Jackson, WY has fun in store for everyone – even non-skiers!
From sightseeing and exploring Western U.S. heritage to riding the slopes at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and snowy sleigh rides, Jackson Hole is an inclusive wintertime retreat that all can appreciate.
Perfect for adventurers, couples, families, and friends, Jackson, WY is a must-visit winter destination with a seemingly endless list of activities to offer!
If you’re planning on visiting Jackson Hole in winter, here’s a variety of fun things to do — but first, let’s quickly go over a few essential things to know before visiting Jackson Hole in winter!
When is the best time to visit Jackson Hole in winter?
Ideally, in January or February, after the Christmas rush but before all the schools have their spring break and snowbirds descend on Jackson Hole for some spring break skiing.
However, I know that for many Americans with limited vacation time, time is just as important as money when it comes time to planning your trip.
Parents who have to plan their travels around the school calendar will have little choice but to opt for a trip over the winter break or possibly spring break if it’s early enough.
If you’re from the East Coast and have a mid-winter break and a spring break (something which absolutely blew my mind when I taught in NYC, as we only have spring break in California!) going during your mid-winter break would be perfect.
It won’t be nearly as crowded, as Jackson Hole is more popular with West Coasters than East Coasters, and West Coasters tend not to have time off during February the way East Coasters do.
Is Grand Teton open in the winter? What about Yellowstone?
Grand Teton absolutely is open in the winter; however, several roads are closed to vehicle traffic and become maintained snow lanes for all kinds of winter sports, such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing! It’s a ton of fun, and you absolutely should plan for some time in Grand Teton in the winter.
Yellowstone, on the other hand, is harder to access in winter. While on a map, you may assume that Yellowstone is super close and therefore easy to access, note that a lot of the roads through Yellowstone are closed in the winter.
There’s a way around this, of course: you can take a snowmobile tour into Yellowstone to see attractions such as Old Faithful and other geothermal features, but it’s pretty much an all-day affair and needs be done by guided snowmobile tour or by booking a snowcoach transfer, which is very time-consuming.
Personally, I’d only try to visit Yellowstone on your Jackson Hole trip if you have 3 days or more OR are not planning to ski or snowboard. Otherwise, it’s a lot of time to dedicate to a day trip.
Can you ski in Jackson in December?
It’s impossible to predict this with any certainty, as it totally depends on the year’s snowfall thus far. Jackson has steeper slopes and therefore requires more snowfall than less steep ski resorts.
However, statistically, Jackson has a 82% open rate by Christmas Day. Those aren’t odds that I would want to hinge an entire ski vacation on, so be sure to either plan enough activities to keep yourself busy in case ski season hasn’t begun yet or plan for a later ski vacation, such as in February or March, when there definitely should be enough snow!
Is Jackson Hole expensive?
Jackson Hole has earned a reputation for being expensive, and unfortunately I have to concur!
Skiing is expensive. A full-day lift ticket costs around $160 at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and around $60 at the smaller Snow King Resort. You can get deals for weeklong passes, but that’s an expensive baseline to start at.
Accommodation in Jackson in winter is also expensive simply because of supply and demand. I suggest opting for an Airbnb if budget is a concern — and I have several I’ll recommend at the end of this post!
Is there a difference between Jackson and Jackson Hole?
Yes! Jackson is the name of one of the main towns in the area, whereas Jackson Hole refers to the valley encompassing several towns in the Jackson area, including Teton Village (the main ski resort area) and other small towns like Moose, Wilson, and Moran Junction.
Best Things to Do in Jackson Hole in Winter
Snowmobile in paradise!
Jackson Hole receives multiple feet of snow every winter, making it a popular destination for snowmobiling! The area boasts a wide variation in terrain along with hundreds of trail miles to explore.
If you’ve never been snowmobiling in Jackson Hole before or are completely new to the sport, scheduling a trip with a local guide is highly encouraged and easy to do!
There are many outfitters to choose from, and with an area expert in the lead, you can be sure you’re traveling through the scenic landscape safely.
Not sure which snowmobiling tour to go with? I suggest this well-reviewed outfitter, which runs full-day tours of their ranch and other beautiful backcountry areas you’d absolutely never get a chance to see in winter on foot.
For a snowmobile adventure unlike any other, book a guided trip to Granite Hot Springs in the Gros Ventre Mountain Range.
Your guide service will provide transportation to the trailhead, which is 24 miles south of Jackson, WY.
From the trailhead, riders will follow their professional guide deep into the Bridger-Teton National Forest through a wintery wonderland before reaching the steamy hot springs.
This wilderness hot tub usually measures 105 °F but can reach up to 112 °F! The excursion to Granite Hot Springs is about 20-miles of riding round trip and takes a half-day.
Guests are expected to bring their own towels and bathing suits to soak in the springs.
Do a full-day adventure into Yellowstone National Park
If you’re seeking a full-day snowmobiling adventure, consider taking a guided trip into Yellowstone National Park to see Old Faithful erupt!
Beginning early in the morning, your guide service (I suggest Brushbuck Tours) will shuttle you to the trailhead where you will begin your 90-mile snowmobile journey through Yellowstone’s pristine landscape.
While riding past the mountain vistas, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. This national park adventure offers the opportunity to see bison, elk, deer, moose, and even wolves!
Take a magical sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge
Get ready to dash through the snow on a horse-drawn sleigh! You’ll want to bundle up for this sleigh ride adventure.
The 1-hour ride takes visitors into the National Elk Refuge, just outside of Grand Teton National Park, for a wildlife tour you’ll never forget.
In the company of a professional guide and experienced naturalist, you will be taken across the refuge to get a closer look at the elk that winter there.
I recommend booking with this trusted tour company who is taking lots of safety precautions, including mandating face masks for participants and guides, regular temperature checks for guides, and sanitization of all surfaces in between uses.
In addition to that, it’s a top-rated attraction with a 5-star rating and tons of verified positive reviews, and it includes transfers to and from Jackson.
This astonishing refuge is home to the largest migratory elk herd in North America and is frequented by a variety of other wildlife!
As you ask your guide questions and check out the residents, you’ll also have picturesque views of the Tetons in the background.
The sleigh rides operate between mid-December and early-April. Advanced reservations are highly encouraged – especially during the holiday season! This ride is great for families, couples, and friends visiting Jackson Hole in the wintertime.
Go shopping in Downtown Jackson
Shop ’til you drop in Jackson’s Town Square!
Begin your tour of the downtown stores at the Antler Arch, which also makes an excellent photo backdrop! From here, you can easily walk to any of these fun downtown stores:
Jackson Hole Resort Store: This is the perfect store for branded souvenirs and endless browsing!
Teton Toys: Find fun holiday gifts for the little ones in your life or a classic board game to bring back to your Airbnb.
Lee’s Tees: Rep your winter trip to Jackson, WY with a shirt designed by a local artist. Lee’s Tees has a wide selection of graphic shirts everyone will love.
Jackson Hole Jewelry Co.: Fall in love with handcrafted jewelry for yourself or as a gift for a special someone.
Stio: Here, you can find stylish clothing for recreation or everyday wear. Stio has timeless items that are rugged enough to stand up to the challenges of outdoor adventure!
Go dog sledding with a team of enthuastic pups!
I’ve gone dog-sledding several times, in Norway and Sweden, but I’ve still yet to go in Jackson — however, it is on my list!
Dog sledding is an extremely fun activity for both the humans and the dogs involved. The huskies are quite literally born to run, and every single time I’ve gone dog-sledding (three times) I’ve been impressed by the dog’s enthusiasm, energy, and absolute adoration for what they do.
This dog-sledding tour is a self-driving tour which, in my opinion, is the only fun way to do it! This is when you help out your team of pups by helping them steer the sled, control the brakes, and assist on running up any uphill portions so that the dogs aren’t the only ones doing the work. It’s actually quite a workout and it’s a ton of fun!
The dogs are well-loved and taken care of by the ranch, and the musher, Mike, has been dog-sledding and racing for over 30 years!
It’s also a great tour for recreating outside safely and maintaining physical distance, since it’s only one person per sled. Spots are limited and I expect this to be a popular tour this year so I encourage you to book ahead.
The Antler Arch is a popular photo spot in Jackson Hole no matter what the time of year.
There’s no denying it gets even more festive in winter, when blue-tinted fairy lights adorn the snow-dusted antlers and make for the ultimate Jackson Hole Instagram stop.
Explore Jackson’s art displays, museums, and galleries
Interested in exploring Jackson’s diverse art scene?
There are over 10 galleries within walking distance of Jackson Town Square, and even more spread throughout the town.
Among all of these galleries, Jackson is also home to the well-known National Museum of Wildlife Art.
With over 5,000 pieces of art representing wildlife from around the world, there’s so much to discover at the National Museum of Wildlife Art!
In addition to a world-renowned art collection, including work from artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, John James Audubon, and Henri Rousseau, the National Museum of Wildlife Art offers guided tours with professional docents.
It also has a breathtaking location overlooking the National Elk Refuge, a museum store, dining on location at the Palate Restaurant, and a 3/4-mile trail to view beautiful bronze sculptures.
Also, be on the lookout for Jackson’s many public art displays, including the 4,000-pound sculpture of a bronco rider that welcomes all arriving in the Cowboy State from the Jackson Hole Airport!
Go sledding or tubing at Snow King
Who said sledding was just for kids?
In Jackson Hole, anyone with a need for speed is encouraged to try out the tubing at Snow King Resort!
Located right in the town of Jackson, Snow King has a specially designed lift with groomed lanes just for tubing! You can buy a Big King pass which allows you to do all the activity
Do a winter safari in Grand Teton National Park
Jackson Hole is so close to Grand Teton National Park that people commonly use it as the place they stay while visiting the national park, so it only makes sense that if you’re staying in Jackson in winter, you ought to visit Grand Teton as well!
Admission is $35 per vehicle for 7 days of access, so you can make return visits any time you like.
If you plan on visiting a few national parks this year, I highly recommend investing in an America the Beautiful pass! It gives you one year of free entry to all National Parks and other federally-administered protected areas (National Forests, National Seashores, etc. — over 2,000 sites!) for the low price of $79.99. Plus, 10% of that goes back into the National Park Foundation to keep the land pure, beautiful, and accessible for all.
I have an entire guide to visiting Grand Teton in winter, and I recommend reading it here as you’ll be sure to add a few things to your Jackson Hole winter bucket list from this post!
If you prefer a guided but private experience, you can do a small-group winter safari tour of Grand Teton and its wildlife, limited just to you, your guide, and your family/pod. You can find moose, wolves, bighorn sheep, elk, and all sorts of wildlife in the winter (just don’t expect bears — they’ll be hibernating). Book it here.
For a similar experience but better suited to a single person or couple traveling, you can buy individual tickets on a Grand Teton winter wildlife tour, though do note it is shared with other people. However, masks are required and provided in shared areas. Book it here.
Visit the Ice Castle in Teton Village
If you are traveling with young kids, they’ll love the Ice Castle in Teton Village, in the Village Commons area.
It’s located right next to a small hill, which is perfect for sledding and snowplay.
The castle is made from snow and ice and has kiddos playing around it all hours of the day.
There’s also a skating rink here and the ice castles get lit up at night to make it a great place to spend an evening with the family.
Visit Jackson Hole Mountain Resort for skiing or snowboarding
If you love to ski or snowboard, a visit to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is probably already high on your list of must-do activities.
After all, this powder paradise has exciting terrain for all experience levels and ages to shred!
I’m not a skier or a snowboarder, so I’ll let you peruse the official Jackson Hole tourism website which has all the info you’ll need to know to pick the perfect ski resort for you.
Ride “Big Red” to 10,450 feet
There are even fun winter activities for non-skiers to experience resort-life!
Anyone wishing to take in the alpine views at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort on foot should make time to ride the Aerial Tram (AKA Big Red) to 10,450 ft. There are even waffles waiting for you at the top!
After your 9 minute ride up the mountain, pop into Corbet’s Cabin for one of their world-famous waffles! They pair perfectly with the mountain scenery.
Enjoy an après-ski scene for all
Whether you’re coming from a powder day at the resort or an afternoon roaming downtown shops, après ski begins at 3PM!
For folks coming off the slopes, the Mangy Moose is widely-known for their après fun among visitors and locals alike. Cold beer, signature drinks, and filling nachos are only a few of the restaurant’s top attractions.
Grab a table after a long day of skiing or riding and listen to some live music as you recount the day’s excitement.
Downtown Jackson has an après scene of its own, and a local favorite is the Million Dollar Cowboy. You may recognize this bar’s famous saddle stools!
If you’re looking for some après-ski fun in town, pop into this lively watering hole for western ambiance, music, mouthwatering steak, and a refreshing beverage!
Enjoy the delicious Jackson Hole dining scene
Foodies, this one is for you! Jackson Hole is the heart of the west but home to cuisines from all over the world.
If your breakfast, lunch, and dinner were from all the best restaurants in Jackson, the lineup would look like this:
Breakfast: Delicious espresso drinks and gourmet French bakery items come together at Persephone Bakery. Take something to go or dine in. There’s something everyone will love here from light and sweet to filling and savory!
Lunch: Every town has its signature burger place, and in Jackson, it’s Liberty Burger. Reasonably priced with a wide selection of local brews on tap, there’s no wonder why Liberty Burger is a local favorite! Try your first bison burger with onion rings on the side. They even have great veggie burgers!
Dinner: For dinner, pass around a variety of European-style small plates at Bin22. Make reservations in advance or arrive early because this is one of the most popular dinner restaurants in Jackson Hole! Sip on hand-selected wines and indulge in the best flavors your palate has ever tasted.
Dessert: If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll want to stop by Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream. Their all-natural ice cream made with 100% organic cream is to die for. For those out there that don’t like ice cream, Moo’s also has a wide selection of baked goods, truffles, and even offers house-blend coffee!
Hit up the local breweries
Jackson has a great brewery scene that you absolutely should check out while you’re there!
Roadhouse & Brewing Company is a favorite stop on the Wyoming Beer Trail. The brewery started as homebrewers and they’ve kept true to their roots, focusing on small-batch beers inspired by the landscapes around them.
Snake River Brewing is another local favorite, which also offers tours of their brewery — just e-mail them to set up a tour.
StillWest Brewery & Grill also operates in town and always has several beers which are standard (a kolsch, an APA, a red ale, a pilsner, and a porter) and 3+ seasonal offerings.
Jackson Winter Weather
In a word? COLD!
So cold, in fact, that the coldest temperature Wyoming ever experienced was measured in Moran, Grand Teton National Park, just 31 miles from Jackson — a bone-chilling -63 degrees Fahrenheit, back in 1933!
But don’t worry — that’s not exactly the average temperature in Jackson in winter.
Here are the breakdowns for winter temperatures and weather conditions in Jackson in winter, and what to expect on a month-by-month basis from November through March.
November: Average high of 40° F and an average low of 17° F, with 6 days of rain/snow
December: Average high of 28° F and an average low of 7° F, with 8 days of snow.
January: Average high of 28° F and an average low of 5° F, with 8 days of snow.
February: Average high of 33° F and an average low of 9° F, with 6 days of snow.
March: Average high of 42° F and an average low of 18° F, with 10 days of snow/rain.
What to Pack for Jackson Hole in Winter
If you’re going to do any winter hiking, skiing (cross-country or downhill), snowmobiling, or general snow play, you’ll want to bring waterproof outer layers like snow pants or waterproof hiking pants as well as a waterproof jacket.
Underneath, you’ll want lots of layers: think thermals, wool socks, and a cozy sweater. You’ll also need proper snow boots and winter accessories.
Waterproof Parka: In the snow and cold of winter in Jackson Hole, you’ll want something like this wonderful North Face parka. I’ve had this one for ten years and it’s held up beautifully from everything to biking in NYC in winter to visiting north of the Arctic circle in Tromso and Abisko. It’ll certainly do you well in Jackson in winter!
Waterproof Pants: If you’re doing any winter hiking, skiing, sledding, snowboarding (basically, anything more intense than just checking out viewpoints you can drive to) you’ll want waterproof pants: trust me, jeans just won’t do!
Thermal Layers: Underneath whatever clothes you choose to wear, you’ll likely need some thermal layers to keep you warm in the Jackson winter cold.
Snow Boots: For snow boots, I suggest these cute and cozy Sorel boots, which are waterproof and warm but also have plenty of traction. Add some Yaktraxto the bottom for grip on icy surfaces and pathways. These are a godsend!
Winter Accessories: No matter what the temperature, winter accessories like a hat, gloves, and scarf are always a good idea! They help you layer and protect your most sensitive parts (ears, head, fingers) from the cold.
Snowshoes: Many trails in nearby Grand Teton National Park in winter will require proper snowshoes (different than snow boots!) if you want to do some winter trekking.
Camera: You’ll want a camera to capture all that Wyoming winter beauty! I use and love my Sony A6000! It’s mirrorless, so it’s lightweight and perfect for a high-quality camera that won’t weigh your pack down.
Headlamp (and extra batteries): If you’re hiking in or doing anything in the mountains in winter, it can get dark early — and quickly. Bring a headlamp in case any hikes take longer than expected or if you are planning any sunset hikes. This Petzl headlamp is highly-rated and affordable.
Where to Stay in Jackson in Winter
Best Overall: Wyoming Inn
The chic yet laid-back Wyoming Inn at Jackson Hole is my personal pick for where to stay in Jackson, WY! This charming hotel is super cozy and is designed with Western-style decor.
The inn’s lobby comes with a roaring fireplace, is toned with warm colors with lots of wood elements, and has an overall rustic design that gives you serious cabin vibes with modern hotel amenities.
The Inn also has its own designated fitness center complete with fancy Peloton equipment, a big hot tub to soak sore muscles in, and complimentary tea, hot chocolate, and cookies by the fireplace! There’s also a great on-site restaurant for nights when you’re too tired to properly hit the town.
This hotel is as luxurious as it gets in Jackson Hole, located in Teton Village just about a mile from Grand Teton National Park. It’s perfect for people who plan on skiing while in Jackson because it’s basically a ski-in, ski-out hotel.
There are a variety of room types, all with a gorgeous fireplace and cooking area, so you can find everything from queen studios to bi-level two-bedroom suites. While none are particularly budget-friendly, you can find the best size and style to suit your needs.
In terms of luxury amenities, there is a phenomenal on-site restaurant, a chic bar area with a great apres-ski scene, indoor and outdoor hot tubs, an indoor heated pool, a massage and spa center, and a gorgeous outdoor heated pool that’s lit up beautifully at night for after-dark dips under the Wyoming stars!
Folks come to experience Bozeman, Montana for its unbeatable access to outdoor recreation, diverse dining scene, rich history, and fun downtown area.
Bozeman is the kind of place where visitors and locals alike spend all day outdoors and evenings hanging out at one of the many local Montana breweries.
Bozeman is home to a more relaxed way of life where people you’ve never met make eye contact and say, “Hello!” as they walk by. There’s so much to discover in this small mountain town with a fun Western personality.
Here are some of the best things to do in Bozeman, Montana, on your upcoming trip!
Explore the Dining Scene
Bozeman is filled with amazing locally-owned restaurants serving up tasty dishes, unlike anywhere else. Since there are so many restaurants to choose from, we’ve narrowed it down to a few you absolutely must try!
South 9th Bistro
Special occasion or just craving some out of this world Steak au Poivre? South 9th Bistro is always hosting a can’t-miss dining experience. From the friendly staff to the cozy layout that makes you feel at home, this Bozeman restaurant has the food and environment to impress.
Everyone wants to know about the best breakfast spot in town. Nova is arguably that! A full selection of caffeinated beverages, fresh juices, and a trendy menu that still includes the classics.
Backcountry Burger Bar
Keepin’ it casual! Happy hour at Backcountry Burger Bar is a must for anyone visiting Bozeman. Conveniently located in the downtown area, this restaurant is home to the best burger in town!
Enjoy a Night Out
Get out on the town and explore Bozeman’s fun nightlife. Downtown stays awake all night with live music, drink specials, and swing-dancing!
There are many fun venues to check out, but these are a few of our favorites:
Bozeman Taproom & Spirits
The Taproom is Bozeman’s favorite rooftop bar. With a casual atmosphere, great views, and a full-service bar, the Taproom is a perfect stop after a day outdoors or exploring the town.
Feeling a little fancy this evening? Head over to Plonk for wine, cocktails, craft beers, and an atmosphere that will make you feel like a VIP.
Whiskey connoisseurs will fall in love with the Copper Restaurant and Whiskey Bar. Their selection of whiskey options span from Bozeman’s own local distilleries to globally recognized brands. This is the perfect place to try your first Montana Mule.
Taste the Taps on a Bozeman Brew Tour
If you didn’t already know, Bozeman’s craft brew scene is flowing with variety. There are so many breweries to choose from, each with their own unique flavors and atmosphere.
Looking for a little more guidance? Take an afternoon tour with locally owned Tour de Foam’s professionally guided trip!
Itching to get a taste of a few of the area’s very best breweries on your own? Here are our top three favorites with beer recommendations:
MAP Brewery: Midus Crush IPA
Bridger Brewing: Mad Mile Cream Ale
Outlaw Brewery: Passive Aggressive Pale Ale
Take a Hike in Bozeman
Getting outdoors is the Bozeman way of life.
There are seemingly endless miles of hiking trails ranging from mellow strolls through relaxed terrain to intense multi-day backcountry missions.
Lace up your boots and check out some of the area’s best hiking trails to see what all the hype is about.
A popular local favorite is a 1.6-mile loop that’s fit for anyone. Follow the tight switchbacks, which take you to the giant M that stands proudly over Bozeman and radiates Montana State University pride. (Go Cats!)
There are a couple of ways to reach the M ranging from easy to moderate in difficulty.
Petes Hill and Burke Park
Catch the sunset over the Bridger Range from the top of Petes Hill.
Take in the mountain views from one of the many conveniently located park benches or bring a blanket to sprawl out on the grass.
Note: must love dogs to hang out here.
This one is for the peak baggers out there.
Although challenging, this 4.5-mile round trip hike to the top of Sacagawea Peak, the tallest peak in the Bridger Range, offers rewarding views of the surrounding area from 9,650 ft. The mountain goats like this hike, so keep your eyes peeled!
Learn the Local History
The Gallatin Valley is full of rich and interesting history.
From the original Native American tribes that called the valley home to its colonization in the 1860s led by frontiersman, John Bozeman, this area has a fascinating story to tell.
You can learn about some chapters of Bozeman area history by visiting the Museum of the Rockies and Missouri Headwaters State Park.
Museum of the Rockies
Did you know that the Museum of the Rockies boasts the largest collection of dinosaur fossils in North America and that they have all been collected from Montana and surrounding states?
In addition to their complete dinosaur exhibit, the Museum of the Rockies also has local history displays, a never-disappointing rotating exhibit, and a planetarium.
Missouri Headwaters State Park
Only a short drive from Bozeman, this state park is where the Gallatin, Madison, and Jefferson Rivers converge to form the Mighty Mo.
This Historic Landmark is also the sight of one of the many camps that Lewis and Clark used during their famous expedition.
There’s plenty of history and scenic trails to explore here!
Spend Some Time by the River
Bozeman is in proximity to the Yellowstone, Madison, and Gallatin Rivers. All three of these well-known rivers offer great opportunities for on-water recreation!
The Gallatin River is the closest to Bozeman, but access to both the Yellowstone and Madison is less than an hour’s drive away.
Hot summer days in the valley are perfect for lazy river tubing down the Madison.
You can buy your own tubes or rent them from Madison River Tubing Company.
Try your hand at fly fishing
Home to one of the scenes in A River Runs Through It with Brad Pitt, the Gallatin River offers a world-class fishing experience!
Anglers from around the world come to fish these Blue Ribbon fisheries.
Go out on your own or book an experienced guide to show you the ropes and get you hooked on some beautiful native trout.
Go whitewater rafting
Experience one of the three nearby rivers at highwater for an exciting whitewater adventure!
With Montana Whitewater’s experienced guides, you can run the Mad Mile, a rowdy section of Class III-IV rapids on the Gallatin, the Kitchen Sink, an intense Class IV rapid on the Madison, or the Yankee Jim Canyon, on the Yellowstone right near the boundary of Yellowstone National Park.
Enjoy Some Winter Adventures
Bozeman is, without a doubt, a 4-season destination. If you plan to visit in mid-winter, expect snow and a lot of it!
With powder days galore, there’s no wonder why so many skiers and snowboarders rank Bozeman high on the list of must-visit winter destinations.
Conveniently located between two top-rated ski areas, Bridger Bowl and Big Sky Resort, there’s a lot of skiable terrain to cover!
No interest in the downhill shredding? Not a problem. There are still tons of fun outdoor things to do in Bozeman for non-skiers!
Some fun suggestions are Nordic skiing, ice fishing, snowshoeing, ice climbing, ice skating, snowmobiling, and dog sledding. Gear rentals and experienced guides are abundant and easy to find in this outdoor paradise!
Downtown Bozeman is the perfect place to find locally made art, practical outdoor clothing, and fun home decorations.
By walking up and down W Main Street, you’re sure to find a storefront that catches your eye!
Some of everyone’s favorites are Heyday, Cactus Records, Montana Gift Corral, and Chalet Sports.
Check Out the Weekly Events
This mountain town keeps things lively in the summer with a schedule of fun and diverse events.
There are a few that reoccur multiple times throughout the warm season to keep everyone coming back for more.
Enjoy Music on Main
Main Street shuts down on Thursday evenings throughout the summer, allowing locals and visitors alike to roam the street freely to shop, eat, and drink, all while listening to live music.
Don’t be shy! Dancing in front of the stage is highly encouraged.
Shop at the Weekly Farmers Market
Join local artisans for the summer farmers market, which happens every Tuesday in Lindley Park.
The Bozeman Farmers Market is the perfect place to socialize while supporting local businesses.
Take an Art Walk
The art scene in Bozeman is flourishing!
On the 2nd Friday of every month, galleries open their doors to all art lovers.
Enjoy live music dispersed throughout Main Street and a chance to discover amazing pieces of unique artwork.
Take a Soak
Hot springs are a popular attraction in Bozeman! There are three highly recommended hot springs in and around the area that are fun for all ages.
How does it work? The natural mineral water from the ground is harnessed and released into soakable pools for anyone to enjoy.
If you’re in Bozeman and want to check out a hot spring head over to Bozeman Hot Springs, Chico Hot Springs, or Norris Hot Springs for a little self-care and relaxation!
There are so many exciting things to do in Bozeman, from exploring the outdoors to immersing yourself in the lively downtown scene. This fun-filled mountain town is sure to impress every visitor!