18 Best Places to Visit in the USA in December

Written by Anietra Hamper Updated May 4, 2023

There are three main types of December travelers: the snowbird , looking to combat goosebumps with a little warmth and sunshine; the ski aficionado , searching for the best slopes; and the holiday lover , searching for a fun, festive spot to enjoy their winter vacation .

Colorful houses in Charleston, South Carolina

With a vast array of climates and terrain, the USA boasts a bevy of exciting places to visit in December. From warm-weather wonders like Florida, Hawaii, and California to snow-laden mountain locales boasting the top ski resorts in the United States to big cities like New York and Las Vegas, you'll have a lot of choices when planning your December vacay.

Plan your travels with our list of the best places to visit in the USA in December.

2. Miami, Florida

3. new york city, new york, 4. salt lake city, utah, 5. u.s. virgin islands, 6. las vegas, nevada, 7. pasadena, california, 8. phoenix, arizona, 9. charleston, south carolina, 10. washington d.c., 11. anchorage, alaska, 12. key west, florida, 13. breckenridge, colorado, 14. new orleans, louisiana, 15. santa fe, new mexico, 16. stowe, vermont, 17. savannah, georgia, 18. st. augustine, florida.

Aerial view of the Na Pali coast in Kauai

One of the best warm places to visit in the USA in December is Hawaii. Its tropical breezes, ample sunshine, bathwater-warm ocean waves, captivating scenery, and beaches make this an ideal place to relax on island time.

There are several islands from which to choose, and you can vacation on one or plan to visit several in the same trip. The more time you can spare, the more awesome your Hawaiian holiday will be.

The island of Oahu is a great starting point, especially if you stay in the capital of Honolulu . Relax on Waikiki Beach , visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial , and enjoy the urban scene.

The island of Maui has a nice combination of activity and solitude, with golf courses; Wailea Beach; and the dormant volcano Mount Haleakala, where you can witness a spectacular sunrise.

The Big Island has many natural attractions and outdoor activities , like Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Kaunaoa Beach, and Akaka Falls State Park.

The small island of Kaui is the oldest island and the ideal spot for quiet and romantic vacations. It is also known for its many tropical waterfalls, gorgeous hikes, and breathtaking scenery.

Lanai is another small island with remote natural spots that is not as touristy as the other islands.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Hawaii

Aerial view of Miami Beach

If you are looking for a warm destination with plenty of activity in December, Miami, Florida will fit the bill. Miami has a festive scene in the winter, with holiday performances like The Nutcracker and the magical lights that decorate Zoo Miami .

There are lots of local beach events, so you get the best of both worlds by combining the holiday festivities with warm Florida weather. If you do decide to skip the cold locales by spending your holidays beachside, you will be in good company. It's a popular idea, and seeing the festive holiday lights and decorations in the palm trees will be the perfect change of scenery.

All the best Miami attractions also include options like boating and visiting the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens . Since you do not have to worry about snow in December in Miami, you can explore the local neighborhoods, like Little Havana and the Miami Design District.

Many snowbirds from the north retreat to Florida for the winter, so you will want to plan your lodging far in advance. If you are particular to a favorite section of the Miami beaches , it is best to book lodging where you will spend the majority of your time.

New York City

New York City is one of the most festive destinations to visit in December, and some would say it's the best time to visit New York . Bundle up and head out onto the downtown streets to see the holiday store window displays, or catch a performance of the famous Rockettes. Be sure to stop by Rockefeller Square to see the iconic Christmas tree.

There is never a dull moment in New York City , even during the winter. Many people visit New York City in December just to do their holiday gift shopping at the famous department stores and Christmas markets , and to see the many festivals during the holiday season. A must-experience is ice skating at Central Park with the spectacular New York City skyline in the background.

If you end up blowing your budget on presents, you can still catch a Broadway show for a reduced price by hitting the ticket office a few hours before the performance to see if last-minute bargain tickets are available.

Since snow storms are unpredictable in December in the northeast, you should plan a little extra time and flexibility in your itinerary in case of travel delays. Save the extra-cold days for museum visits (there's plenty!) when you can stay warm inside and only go out for short periods at a time.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in New York City

Utah State Capitol building in Salt Lake City

Not everyone wants to escape the cold in December. In fact, for avid skiers, December is prime time to hit the slopes and ski resorts near Salt Lake City . There are nearly a dozen ski resorts in Utah's Wasatch Mountains, which are just a short drive from Salt Lake City. The ski slopes are equipped to accommodate both novice and advanced skiers.

If you prefer to just look at the snowcapped mountains instead of traversing them, that is an option, too. Salt Lake City has many festive holiday events in December, like horse-drawn carriage rides through Temple Square , which is adorned with holiday lights.

You can also shop in small boutiques for unique gifts. You can experience a vintage Salt Lake City holiday by visiting the This Is The Place Heritage Park, which showcases life and the holidays in the 1800s in Utah during the month of December.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Salt Lake City

St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

For a Caribbean vacation in the USA in December, the Virgin Islands are a no-brainer. The islands of Saint Croix , Saint Thomas , and Saint John are United States territories and have tropical natural landscapes perfect for a mid-winter getaway. Beach days and snorkeling will top your to-do list, as well as hitting some of the natural park locations on the islands.

St. Thomas is the most populated of the three islands since it has a cruise ship port, so while there are many tours and activities available, you will be sharing the sandy beaches with many other December tourists.

St. Croix is the largest of the islands and has many cultural attractions. St. John is the smallest and most natural, with great snorkeling, hiking, tropical plants, and untouched beaches.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Attractions & Places to Visit in the US Virgin Islands

Las Vegas welcome sign

Many December travelers in the USA are attracted to the lights and warm temperatures that are guaranteed in Las Vegas . You will find all of the normal flare, with an overload of sights and sounds along the Vegas Strip and a twist of festive December décor. Many of the hotels feature elaborate holiday decorations with an abundance of flowers and lights.

Besides the great shopping in Las Vegas, there is plenty of December entertainment to enjoy. One of the most beautiful spots to visit is the Botanical Cactus Garden at Ethel M Chocolates . The state's largest cactus garden features light displays (sometimes in 3-D) that will put you into the holiday spirit.

With the mild December temperatures in Las Vegas, you can even enjoy spending a winter day poolside at your hotel.

Read More: Top-Rated Hiking Trails near Las Vegas

Pasadena City Hall

If you are looking for warm weather and a unique experience for your December vacation, you can head to Pasadena, California, where the city is preparing for the famous Tournament of Roses Parade . With Southern California temperatures, it is possible to spend one day at the beach and the next day taking part in one of the biggest events in the city.

Deco Week happens at the end of December as Rose Parade participants make their final tweaks to the elaborate rose-covered floats. You can volunteer to help with those final preparations. If you do plan to head to Pasadena to take part in this annual tradition, book far in advance to hold your spot.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Pasadena, CA

Phoenix, AZ at dusk

December is a fabulous month to visit Phoenix, especially if you're a fan of the outdoors. Popular winter activities include hiking , golfing, biking, rock climbing, and camping . Shopping is another fun activity, as is museum-hopping.

As for the weather, you'll definitely be pleased. With little rain and highs in the upper-60s to low-70s Fahrenheit, you won't need to pack a parka or run the risk of sweating through your wrinkle-free travel shirt. The extra room in your suitcase means you'll have plenty of space for the finds you'll grab at holiday markets.

While in town, be sure to visit the Desert Botanical Garden , skate on the ice rink at CityScape , and tour the Heard Museum . Glendale Glitters is a fun, festival-type event in nearby Glendale, featuring thousands of holiday lights, music, food, and other activities on the weekends throughout December.

  • Best Attractions & Places to Visit in Phoenix, AZ
  • Top-Rated Day Trips from Phoenix

Holiday decorations in Charleston, SC

Charleston in December is a refreshing sight. While cool (highs hover around 60, and lows can drop to 25), this old-world Southern gem is so lovely and charming, it will warm your spirit. And if the weather turns, you can always head indoors, to the South Carolina Aquarium , Charleston Museum , or Old Slave Mart Museum .

Make time to wander around the captivating Historic District . Picturesque homes and churches that were built centuries ago; cobbled alleyways; and gnarled, twisting oak trees make it easy to feel romantic. Feeling extra amorous? Hop in for a ride in a horse-drawn carriage.

Make the most of the lack of humidity with a visit to the Middleton Place Plantation, Boone Hall Plantation, or Magnolia Plantation & Gardens . December plays host to an array of lights shows and holiday markets. The Holiday Festival of Lights , for instance, begins mid-November and lasts until January.

Read More: Top Attractions in Charleston, SC

United States Capitol Building in Washington D.C.

Though the nation's capital is generally snow-covered in December it is one of the best places to visit at the end of the year for a number of reasons: A winter trip to Washington D.C. is ideal for getting cheap rates on hotel rooms and for fewer crowds at attractions in the city , which can be challenging during the busy summer tourist season.

The other reason to go to D.C. in December is that most of the Smithsonian museums are indoors, so it is easy to visit many of them during your visit. Washington D.C. is beautifully decorated in December for the holidays, especially the White House. There are lots of holiday activities around the city, from walking tours to seeing the national Christmas tree.

December in D.C. offers some things that you just can't experience any other time of the year. Plan some time to see the national Christmas tree near the White House, which is illuminated just after Thanksgiving; the Wharf District holiday boat parade, which happens in early December with dozens of festively decorated boats floating along Washington Channel; and the Winternational global market, which has booths hosted by international embassies, with crafts for sale from their respective countries.


Many people head for warmer weather in December, but it is a great month to head north to Alaska. December is in the middle of peak season for viewing the Northern Lights , so it is easy to find a tour to see them. You can also take a scenic ride from Anchorage to Fairbanks on the Alaska Railroad Aurora Winter Train .

Another way to take in Anchorage in December is by taking a dogsledding trip, hitting the slopes, watching for wildlife, or taking a glacier trek. There are a number of museums in Anchorage to visit when you need a break from the cold. Otherwise, put on the layers and experience Anchorage during this magical time of the year.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Anchorage, Alaska

Footpath to the beach in Key West

The tranquil waters and key lime pie in Key West in December will almost make you forget that it is even wintertime. That is why it is one of the best places to go in December. As you might expect from this warm-weather destination, the holidays are showcased on the water, with the Lighted Boat Parade at the Historic Seapor t and offshore excursions to clear up any winter blues.

You can take a tour of the Victorian mansions in Key West, which are elegantly decorated with wreaths and holiday décor. If you feel like doing nothing but sitting on the beach for your December getaway, you can do that, too. Bear in mind that Key West is a popular winter spot, so you will pay a premium for hotels and airline tickets.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Key West, FL


December means ski season in Breckenridge , so it is one of the best places to go for some downhill adventure. While some of the warm-weather destinations will see crowds in December, Breckenridge will, too, but it is the place to be if you are looking for quality winter skiing.

Hotel and resort rates will be at a premium, but you can usually package them with lift tickets for the duration of your stay. When you're not carving through the white powder on the slopes, you can enjoy the festive scene in town, where the small shops along Main Street are decked out for the holidays. Breckenridge gets into the holiday spirit, which is why it is considered one of the best Christmas towns in Colorado .

Though you will have plenty of company in Breckenridge in December, there are nearly 3,000 acres of ski areas, so there is enough space to accommodate the rush of winter travelers.

Read More: Top-Rated Ski Resorts in Colorado

The French Quarter of New Orleans

The festive city of New Orleans is a great December vacation destination, where you can enjoy the warmer weather, walk through the city streets and the French Quarter , and leave before the influx of Mardi Gras revelers start to arrive in the following months. December weather is warm, but it is not the stifling heat that you would experience in the summer, so you can enjoy it more comfortably.

There are many holiday festivals and over-the-top light and decorative displays throughout the city to enjoy in December, including illuminated art pieces at Lafayette Square. The Roosevelt Hotel is another must-see, with 50 themed and decorated Christmas trees and thousands of holiday lights decorating the historic hotel.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in New Orleans

Traditional architecture in Santa Fe

The southwestern city of Santa Fe is a great getaway in December for those who want to lay low in a small, artsy location. The city is rooted in Native American culture. The historic buildings and small shops are fun to stroll through as you buy local artwork ranging from paintings to jewelry.

Santa Fe is a nice place to escape from the cold and snow and is known for its many health retreats and relaxing spa resorts. If you still want to see the snow, you can head into the mountains for a day of skiing.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Santa Fe

View over Stowe, Vermont

For some December travelers, especially those looking for a romantic vacation in one of the best small towns in Vermont , hunkering down in a cozy bed-and-breakfast or cottage with several feet of snow outside might be appealing. If so, then Stowe, Vermont is where you need to spend a holiday. December is cold in Stowe, but that is part of the charm for a getaway filled with fireplaces and hot chocolate.

You can still spend your days outdoors by layering up and hitting the ski slopes , snowshoeing, or taking a dog-sledding adventure before returning to your cozy accommodations. December in Stowe is marked with traditional holiday parades, celebrations, and tree lightings in the center of town.

Read More: Best Things to Do in Vermont in Winter

Moss-draped oak trees in Savannah, Georgia

You'll want to pack a sweater when visiting Savannah in December. With highs in the mid-60s to mid-70s, you may want to block the nightly (or daytime) chill. That won't stop you from fully enjoying this Georgian wonderland.

Peppered with historic mansions; luxurious parks; and picturesque, moss-draped trees; this idyllic beauty is even more magical when dressed for the holidays in December. Head to River Street during the first weekend of December for music, treats, and shopping. You'll find handmade stocking stuffers and other creative gifts from these unique vendors.

Savannah's Lighted Christmas Parade is another holiday must-see that takes place during the first weekend of December . It includes a tree lighting ceremony, caroling, dancing, and more on Tybee Island.

When you aren't busy getting festified, visit the area's historic homes, museums, and the large and lush Forsyth Park .

Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Savannah

St. Augustine skyline and the Bridge of Lions

St. Augustine is a lovely place to visit at all times of the year, although it can get unbearably hot during summer. In December, though, this historic Floridian gem really comes to life. A Sunshine State marvel, St. Augustine lies on the northeast coast and offers visitors archeological masterpieces along with soft, sandy beaches.

One of the best Christmas towns in Florida , this town literally jingles and sparkles during December. The annual Night of Lights festival runs from mid-November through January and features over three million lights swirling their way around town. It's incredibly charming, even if you aren't into holiday festivities.

Hop on the Old Town Trolley, explore Castillo de San Marcos, go fishing in the surf , or lounge on the beach at Anastasia State Park. You'll have fewer crowds to fight, but with temps in the low to mid-70s Fahrenheit, you may not be tempted to play in the water all day.

Read More: Best Attractions & Places to Visit in St. Augustine, FL

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More Winter Travel Ideas : Many of the best places to visit in December are also going to be the most expensive. If you are on a budget, you can consider some of the cheap places to travel in December or specifically cheap Christmas holiday destinations . If warm weather is calling you, then you might consider the beaches in California or the Caribbean as options.

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32 Warm Places to Visit in December in USA (Best Spots to Escape the Cold)

Posted on Published: August 10, 2022  - Last updated: October 7, 2023

There’s nothing quite like a warm getaway to escape the cold, dreary weather. The USA has some pretty incredible vacation spots that are perfect for winter. Feel the sunshine at these amazing destinations: warm places to visit in December in the USA!

warm places to visit in December in USA view of colorful mountains and beach with lingering clouds

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, see my  disclosures .

To find warmth in the USA in December, you’re pretty much heading south. From island vacations to coastal destinations and deserts, there’s so many beautiful and adventurous places to beat the cold.

This list of warm places to visit in USA in December includes spots you’ve definitely had on your radar – but perhaps more intriguing are the underrated places you haven’t heard of!

Whether you’re looking for a vacation destination to get outdoors and active instead of cooped up, a perfect location to spend your holiday break, or you’re just looking for the best beach to visit in December, you’ll find a bit of everything on this list!

Map of the best warm places to visit in USA in December

From Hawaii to Florida, there’s so many ideas on this list! Use this map as a visual of the destinations, then check out the photos and tips below on what to do in each location.

By the way, since I’m actively crossing places off my bucket list but haven’t been everywhere yet, I’ve asked some fellow travel writers to help with this list.

Let’s get to it!

Must-see video: best warm December vacation ideas

Warm places to visit in December in USA

Starting this list off with a bang! When all you want in December is warmth, these are the perfect vacation destinations for you!

1. St Croix, US Virgin Islands

view of city and bay of St Croix USVI best warm places to visit in December

Average temp:  high 82, low 72

Wishing for warmer temps in December? Well St. Croix might just be the perfect spot for your winter getaway! The largest and least visited of the US Virgin Islands, St. Croix is an tropical oasis while escaping the cold.

Just at the start of the dry season, December is a perfect time to visit St. Croix. It’s a festive time of year with Christmas events and festivals across the island, including the Crucian Christmas Festival .

If you’re looking for the perfect beach in December on St. Croix, then Sandy Point Beach is it! Open on the weekends, it’s a National Wildlife Refuge, and one of the longest beaches in the US Virgin Islands. It’s closed during sea turtle nesting season, typically April through August, so December is the perfect time to visit!

For a true taste of the Caribbean, visit a rum distillery. St. Croix is home to Captain Morgan Rum Distillery and Cruzan Rum Distillery. Or, visit one of the 150+ sugar mill ruins on the island to soak in some history.

Other popular activities are hiking for those turquoise water views, taking a day trip to Buck Island National Wildlife Refuge and visiting Fort Christiansvaern.

There’s so many things to do in St. Croix, you won’t get bored! It’s one of the very best warm places to visit in USA in December, and one you’ll love!

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

2. Monterey, California (one of my favorite warm US destinations in December)

Big Sur view of rugged coastline with wild flowers beach blue water

Average temp:  high 61, low 45

One of the ‘coolest’ warm places to visit in December in USA is Monterey, California. Known for it’s mild temperatures year-round, it’s a great spot for a winter getaway.

December is especially a great time to visit Monterey because the marine fog has mostly dissipated , versus the summer or early fall when it’s still lingering around. Crowds are fewer and prices are reduced, which is awesome for enjoying the area attractions.

Monterey is home to one of the United States best marine sanctuary, making it one of the best spots in the US for wildlife viewing ! Take a kayak tour of the Monterey Bay or witness seals and sea otters in their native habitats at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve .

Spend a day – or more experiencing Big Sur and one of the best scenic drives in the US, just south of Monterey. There are so many things to do in Big Sur that you’ll find something you love! Chase waterfalls, relax on beaches or get active on a hiking trail with incredible views of the coast.

Be sure to visit Cannery Row where you’ll find shopping, dining and plenty of entertainment options for all ages. It’s home to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the best things to do with kids in Monterey.

3. San Juan, Puerto Rico

Warm places to visit in December in USA Best winter sun destinations Warm places to visit in USA in December Warmest place in US in December view of Puerto Rico ruins ocean and city in distance

Average temp:  high 85, low 67

San Juan is a must on any  Puerto Rico itinerary , no matter when you vacation, but December is a particularly wonderful time to visit. Hurricane season is officially over, and daytime temperatures are in the low 80s, making is a great time to explore and hit area beaches.

The holidays are celebrated with verve all through the month. Old San Juan, the city’s historic district, is decked up in holiday lights and nativity scenes.

Enjoy Puerto Rican eggnog, an alcoholic concoction made with rum, coconut milk, and sweet spices. You’ll also find live music in the streets, and, leading into Christmas, folks singing Christmas carols at night. Very festive!

December is also perfect for sightseeing. Be sure to visit the historic forts of Old San Juan, and walk the colorful alleys to snap photos of the beautiful facades. 

The balmy weather makes December a great time to spend time of the many idyllic beaches in San Juan and just beyond , from the beaches of Isla Verde to Luquillo. For more beach time, plan on a day trip to Culebra Puerto Rico or Icacos Island ! If you’re looking for unique experiences, consider the Bioluminescent Bay, as reviewed in the battle of Culebra vs Vieques .

It’s also a great time to visit El Yunque, the tropical rainforest near San Juan. Hike amidst lush vegetation and waterfalls and take in the views from the observation tower. 

Hotel El Convento is a great place to stay in Old San Juan! It’s housed in a beautiful historic building. 

Recommended by Dhara of It’s Not About the Miles

4. Maui, Hawaii

maui coastline rocky shore against ocean cliffside

Average temp:  high 80, low 66

If you’re looking for the best winter sun destinations, look no further than Maui. Home to incredible scenery like gorgeous beaches, tropical rainforests with beautiful waterfalls and epic adventures, Maui is an awesome place to visit!

It’s especially great in December because the rainy season hasn’t hit yet and the crowds of summer are gone, making it more affordable and more enjoyable. If you go in the first 2 weeks of December, you’ll avoid the holiday pricing.

Be sure to relax on Maui’s beautiful beaches! For year-round snorkeling fun, Black Rock at Kaanapali Beach is a must. Don’t forget your snorkel gear so you can go when you want! Or, watch the surfers at D.T. Fleming Beach on the North Shore.

If you’re looking for adventure, hike the Waihee Ridge Trail . You’ll get epic views of the valley and coast. Just be sure to wear hiking shoes for this one – the trail can get muddy after it rains.

And if you’re up for a road trip, driving the popular Road to Hana is one of the best road trips USA and an experience you’ll never forget. Be sure to make it to Wai’ānapanapa State Park and see the black sand beach (reservations required).

Side note: if you’re really into unique beaches, a must-see is the Black Sand Beach Vieques in Puerto Rico. So stunning!

Anyway, for a more remote drive, consider the Kahekili Highway. This one-lane road offers stunning views and adventure like hiking, waterfalls and more.

Maui is an ideal destination for the best beaches in December, and one you’ll definitely want to consider!

5. St. George, Utah

large canyon green valley orange rocks at sunset

Average temp:  high 56, low 31

One of the most unique spots on this list of warm places to visit in USA in December is St. George, Utah. Nestled on the southwest corner of the state, it’s just minutes away from Arizona and Nevada.

A great launching spot for a Utah national parks road trip, St. George is located about an hour west of Zion National Park. You could certainly take a day trip to Zion, but it may have a bit of snow in December.

There’s so many things to do in St. George. The downtown is rich in history, with museums and parks to learn about the region in years – and centuries past. From the dinosaurs to the Paiute natives and then finally settled by Mormons in the 1800’s.

Of course there’s plenty of outdoor activities in St. George – even in December! Snow Canyon State Park is just 15 minutes north of town, and worth the visit. With 20 miles of hiking trails through petrified dunes, lava tubes and of course, stunning overlooks, it’s a hiker’s dream.

For more adventure, consider a sunrise hot air balloon ride near the city. Or, rent a sled and sandbar at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, a little over an hour south of town.

6. Siesta Key, Florida (another favorite on this list of warm places to visit in December in USA)

view of yellow lifeguard stand with teal ocean in distance in Florida

Average temp:  high 74, low 55

Ranked as one of the best beaches in the USA over and over again, Siesta Key is an amazing getaway. Although high’s in the mid 70’s may not seem like great swimming weather, it still means you can enjoy this beachy destination.

You’ll get more of the beach to yourself in December, which is one of the perks of traveling to Siesta Key in winter. Fly a kite or build a sandcastle. Take beach chairs or a lightweight beach towel and just enjoy the sound of the gentle waves hitting the shore.

And when you need a break from the beach (if that’s even a thing😉), you can head into Siesta Key Village where you’ll find the cutest town square . With boutique shops and restaurants, there’s plenty to do here, too. Be sure to try Meaney’s Mini Donuts & Coffee House (the cinnamon ones are the best).

With so many things to do in Siesta Key , there’s truly something for everyone! You’ll love this beach town, as it’s one of the best warm places to visit in the USA in December.

7. Temecula, California

best winter sun destinations Temecula winery with hills in background

Average temp:  high 67, low 47

If you are ready to escape the cold, snowy weather for somewhere warmer this December, look no further than Temecula, California. Located in Southern California, just an hour’s drive from San Diego, this city has plenty to do – including wine tasting, shopping, and more! 

In December, Temecula’s high temperature is just shy of 70°F, with only 2 days of precipitation, so you can expect warm, sunny days. And there’s no better way to enjoy the beautiful weather than with a visit to Temecula Valley Wine Country!

Temecula is home to 50+ local wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms . Some of the best wineries in Temecula include Wilson Creek Winery, Leoness Cellars, and Baily Vineyard & Winery. 

December is a fabulous time to visit Temecula because of the fun holiday events you can attend, like the Temecula Chilled Holiday Market and Santa’s Electric Light Parade in Old Town Temecula. Despite the warm weather, you can even ice skate at the Peltzer Ice Skating Rink or Temecula on Ice during the holidays. 

Old Town Temecula is a fantastic location to base your trip if you want to walk around and soak up the sunshine, as it’s one of the best winter sun destinations in the US.

You can eat at some of the best restaurants in Old Town Temecula , like The Goat & Vine or 1909 Temecula, or you can shop at the dozens of quaint boutiques selling unique items, like wine-barrel furniture, olive oils and more. 

Carter Estate Winery and Resort is the perfect place to stay for your warm-weather getaway to Temecula, CA. Located on a gorgeous vineyard, this resort allows you to wake up in the heart of wine country every morning! 

Recommended by Brittany of Travel By Brit

8. South Padre Island, Texas

sunset on the beach with waves and two birds

Average temp:  high 72, low 57

If you’re looking for an amazing warm destination to visit in December in the USA, then South Padre Island is the perfect destination for you. 

After all, temperatures are usually around 72 degrees during the day and then around 57 degrees in the evening throughout the month of December.

Plus, the weather here is usually pretty dry, making it the perfect place to relax, take a walk through the Padre Island National Seashore, and enjoy the single biggest undeveloped barrier island in the world.  Additionally, December is off-season. Therfore, crowds will be minimal and hotel prices will be quite reasonable. 

As a result, you can quietly enjoy some of the best things to do in South Padre Island , like take some time to explore the historic Port Isabel Lighthouse from 1852 . In fact, it’s the only lighthouse on the coast of Texas that is open to visitors and makes for a fun place to visit. 

Then, learn about local wildlife at the Sea Turtle Conservation Center. In fact, this amazing wildlife rescue center helps upwards of 100 turtles per year and is an ideal place to learn all about these fascinating creatures. 

You can also visit the South Padre island Birding Center and admire local populations of Buff-bellied hummingbirds, White Ibis, and Red-winged Blackbirds as you stroll along the picturesque boardwalk here. 

Then, pamper yourself at the Sapphire Spa before spending the night at the swank Hilton Garden Inn South Padre Island to create the ultimate getaway. South Padre Island is one of the best warm places to visit in USA in December.

Recommended by Victoria of Texas Travel 365

Warm places to visit in December in USA, continued

Can you believe this list?! Just 25% through it and there’s so many more adventures to have. Let’s keep going!

9. New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans storefront brightly colored with holiday decorations

Average temp:  high 65, low 46

If you’re looking for a place to escape winter’s frigid clutches and have a little fun in December, there is no better place than New Orleans! While the weather in New Orleans can be oppressive at certain times of the year, December is ideal as it averages in the 60s – 70s which is perfect for sightseeing!

You might think The Big Easy is only a party town during Mardi Gras – wrong! December ushers in plenty of its own one-of-a-kind holiday fun.

The beginning of December kicks off with the Krewe of Jingle – a downtown holiday parade with special appearances from Mr. and Mrs. Clause. New Orleans knows how to host a parade, so this is one you should make sure you don’t miss!

In the middle of December, head to historic Lafayette Square to enjoy the LUNA Fête festival . Over a long weekend, the city celebrates with awe-inspiring light shows; it generally brings in over 100,000 attendees!

In addition to the holiday fun, another great way to get to know the city is on a walking tour. This is an especially great activity if this is your  first time visiting New Orleans  — there are a range of tour options, from learning about Voodoo to exploring the chic Garden District.

New Orleans is a fun city and one of the best warm places to visit in December. And, if you have a bit more time in the area, be sure to check out the best things to do in Lafayette, Louisiana .

Recommended by Rebecca from Veggies Abroad

10. Oahu, Hawaii (a destination full of the best beaches in December)

warm places to visit in USA in December view of teal water beach along hillside

Average temp:  high 82, low 67

When you think of a warm December getaway, Oahu may be one of the first destinations to come to mind. And with its stunning white sand beaches, epic mountains, and abundant wildlife, it’s no surprise this is one of the most popular destinations, come December. 

Thanks to its location close to the equator, Oahu enjoys temperatures in the low 80s in December, which is warm enough to break out the tank tops, sun dresses and even a long travel skirt .

In December the island may experience a rain shower or two. These showers usually only last for a few hours and should not be too much of a hindrance on your outdoor adventures. 

Many visitors primarily focus their explorations of the island to Honolulu, but there’s so much else to see and do here. For example, one of the best things to do in Oahu in December is to watch the professional surfers take on the big waves of the North Shore . Check out the Banzai Pipeline or Waimea Bay Beach Park, which can see waves up to 25 feet in height! 

While snorkeling along the North Shore is probably not advisable in December, given the aforementioned monster waves, you can still check out some of the best snorkeling in Oahu by heading to Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve, just 10 minutes east of Honolulu .

Here, the waters stay calm year round, where you can swim with and observe the 400 species of fish, turtles and other marine life. Bring your own snorkel gear to hit the water when and where you want while on Oahu!

For a conveniently located home base during your stay, consider The Modern Honolulu , just steps away from Waikiki Beach, both a family-friendly and adults only pool and an excellent onsite restaurant. 

Oahu is one of the best winter sun destinations in the US, and one you won’t want to miss!

Recommended by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

11. Disney World, Orlando, Florida

warm us destinations in December teapot with holiday flowers and dinner in distance

Average temp:  high 75, low 55

The happiest place on Earth, aka Disney World, is an easy pick for any families out there looking for iconic warm places to visit in December in USA. 

After all, Disney World comes alive at this time of year with festive holiday decor and fun seasonal events like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. 

Plus, the weather at  Disney in December  is super comfortable throughout the month since the average high is 74 F and the average daily low is 56 F. 

However, to avoid insane crowds, try to time your visit for the first week of December. This is when kids are still in the school and when the park is less crowded. 

You should also try and buy Park Hoppers so that you can avoid more crowded parks on an as needed basis. 

Additionally, try and visit Magic Kingdom on Party Days and avoid parks with extra Magic Hours to get the most out of your visit. 

Then, make time to enjoy seasonal activities like Tony’s Most Merriest Town Square Party (an add-on experiences for extra fees), Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Dessert Party at Tomorrowland Terrace or Plaza Garden Viewing (another add-on event), A Frozen Holiday Wish (happens nightly all month long) and more. 

You can also attend the International Festival of the Holidays at Epcot before spending the night at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.  It’s probably the best Deluxe resort in Disneyworld and features an island theme that is accentuated by leis that are presented to you as you walk in the door.

Looking for more fun? Check out the best Hollywood Studios rides in the park!

Recommended by Victoria of Disney Trippers

12. Augusta, Georgia

warm places to visit in USA in December view of city with boats and river

Average temp:  high 60, low 41

One of the most underrated spots on this list of warm places to visit in USA in December is Augusta, Georgia . A southern city full of charm, Augusta is known for outdoor recreation, historical sites and hist vibrant restaurant scene.

Tour downtown finding fun murals, shopping and dining. A foodie’s delight, Augusta is known for outdoor patios, which you’ll find especially inviting in the warm sun during mid-day. Bring layers for the evenings as it gets chilly!

One of Augusta’s top attractions is the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park. Walk the trails and soak in the peaceful nature all around you. Or, get a little more active on the 32 miles of biking trails through the Forks Area Trail System.

And you can’t visit Augusta without a stroll along the Augusta Riverwalk . It’s a fun, brick trail along the Savannah River! If traveling with kids, they’ll love the playground on the Riverwalk.

During December, the city has holiday festivals and markets. Enjoy historic holiday tours where you can visit homes from the 1800’s, including the childhood home of President Woodrow.

13. San Diego, California (perfect for this list of warm places to visit in December in USA)

view of California coast from above palm trees rocky shore and buildings

Average temp:  high 66, low 49

San Diego is an incredible place to visit during December. With incredible weather and tons of fabulous attractions, you can’t go wrong with visiting this Southern California City! 

You can expect temperatures around the high 60’s during the day and in the 40’s at night. Some of the best things to add to your San Diego itinerary in December include wandering through the famous Balboa Park.

Balboa Park is comprised of 1,200 acres. You can explore beautiful gardens and dozens of museums including The San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego Air and Space Museum, Museum of Us, San Diego Natural History Museum and more! Additionally, the famous San Diego Zoo is also located in Balboa Park.

The Old Town San Diego Historic State Park is another must-visit. Here you can indulge in amazing food while experiencing San Diego’s Spanish roots and history.

A special experience in San Diego during December is whale watching . Around 20,000 Grey Whales start migrating in mid-December. Seals also start giving birth around mid-December at the La Jolla Caves. You will likely also be able to see the Sea Lions in La Jolla too!

If you are in search of some additional beach time, don’t forget to check out Coronado Island. Walk along the beach, enjoy the many eateries, and visit the famous Hotel Del Coronado .

Recommended by Sam of Find Love and Travel

14. Sedona, Arizona

mountains of Sedona brightly colored red with town below

verage temp:  high 60, low 34

Sedona is the perfect sunny escape in December! Excellent for various travel styles, there’s hiking and outdoor adventures, as well as low-key things to do in town. With mild temperatures and minimal crowds, December is a great time to visit Sedona.

Take the Sedona Trolley around town to get acquainted without the worry of driving or traffic. Visit the Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village for just that – shopping.

Go hiking or horseback riding at Cathedral Rock or Oak Creek Canyon. If you’re traveling with kids, they’ll love jumping around the unique landscape at Slide Rock State Park .

Perhaps the most popular hiking trail in the area is Devil’s Bridge Trail . At 3.9 miles and rated as moderate, this trail is perfect for an afternoon hike in December! Bring your grippy hiking shoes for this one, as the rock stairs leading up to the bridge can get pretty slick.

For the best views of the incredible landscape in Sedona, head up to Airport Mesa. There’s a parking lot at the overlook so it doesn’t require much hiking at all. It’s also a great spot for stargazing!

15. Culebra, Puerto Rico (perfect for visiting the best beaches in December)

warm places to visit in December in USA view of white sand beach waves and palm trees

Average temp:  high 85, low 74

Quite possibly the warmest place in the US in December, Culebra Puerto Rico is an amazing destination you’ll love. Puerto Rico was previously mentioned above, but Culebra is so spectacular it deserves it’s own spot.

Culebra Puerto Rico is located just 18 miles off the eastern side of Mainland Puerto Rico . Getting to Culebra requires a ferry ride or small plane, but it’s so worth it!

Home to one of the most incredible beaches in the Caribbean, Flamenco Beach Puerto Rico is one of the best beaches you’ll ever see, and a phenomenal place to visit for the best beaches in December.

This crescent-shaped beach sits along rolling hills and its undeveloped land makes it seem from a fairytale. With plenty of parking and amenities, you’ll want to spend a day – or more – at Flamenco Beach.

Spend some time in with the sea turtles while snorkeling at Tamarindo Beach. Or, for some solitude, visit the lesser-known Zoni Beach. And when you’re hungry, be sure to head downtown to grab a bite.

For couples traveling, consider the cozy cottages with phenomenal views – Aleli Cottages . For more space, try the Oceania Villas .

You’ll fall in love with Culebra. It’s definitely one of the best on this list of warm places to visit in December in USA!

16. Florida Keys

warm US destinations in December to visit view of green ocean water white sand beach and sand dunes

Average temp:  high 75, low 70

The snow is falling, the temperatures keep dropping and you’re ready to escape to a tropical paradise. One of the best warm places to visit in December is the Florida Keys!

Stretching approximately 120 miles from Key Largo to the southernmost point in the continental USA (Key West), the Florida Keys are the perfect getaway if you are looking for a mix of adventure and relaxation. With average December temperatures in the high 70’s, you’ll never want to leave! 

Your best and most affordable option would be to fly into Miami and rent a car to make the Miami to Key West road trip . From here, you can take your time exploring each island and all they have to offer. You’ll want to spend at least one night in Key Largo, Islamorada and Key West. 

The list of things to do in the Florida Keys is never-ending. Depending on how much time you have, you will have to decide between scuba diving in John Pennekamp State Park, deep sea fishing at Robbie’s, parasailing over the sparkling blue water or simply relaxing on the beach. 

After your road trip of adventures, you’ll definitely want to stay in Key West at Tiki Suites.  There are 2 suites located in the middle of the ocean! You’ll have nothing but the ocean surrounding you as you relax and fall asleep to the sound of the waves. A truly once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Recommended by Jordan of The Homebody Tourist

Best winter sun destinations

Okay – let’s catch a breath here. We’re 1/2 way done. A few of my personal favorites are coming up next!

More winter sunshine ahead…

17. St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

view of st Thomas USVI boats in harbor with island in distance

Average temp:  high 84, low 76

The US Virgin Islands are a great place to visit in December for a number of reasons, especially St. Thomas . First, the weather is absolutely beautiful during this time of year.

The average high temperature is about 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and the average low is only about 75 degrees. This makes it the perfect time of year to enjoy all that the islands have to offer, including the beaches, without having to deal with crowds of people.

The beaches on St. Thomas are calm and perfect for swimming, and there are plenty of water sports activities to keep everyone entertained. Magen’s Bay is the most popular beach on the island and is great for families.

Coki Beach and Sapphire Beach are also a lot of fun! Sapphire Beach, especially is a great place to base during your stay because Sapphire Beach Resort offers discounts on snorkeling equipment rental to its guests. There are also several pools and a restaurant there, in case you don’t feel like going elsewhere to eat.

December is also a great time to visit St. Thomas and the US Virgin Islands because it’s one of the quieter times of the year.

While the islands do see a significant number of tourists during the winter months, it’s nothing compared to the summer crowds. This means that you’ll be able to enjoy all that the US Virgin Islands have to offer without having to worry about fighting for space on the beach or in restaurants.

Recommended by Brodi of Our Offbeat Life

18. Santa Barbara, California

tall palm trees along beach with orange and pink sunset

Average temp:  high 65, low 45

Known for its incredible Spanish architecture, wineries, expansive beaches and moderate temperatures, Santa Barbara is always a good idea. Deserving on this list of warm places to visit in December in USA, Santa Barbara offers sunshine to those wishing to escape grey skies or snow elsewhere.

Dive into culture, history and art in Santa Barbara. See a performance at the Lobero Theater, visit the Old Mission Santa Barbara, get lost in the beauty of Santa Barbara Museum of Art or shop and dine on State Street.

Of course, you’ll want to visit the beach while you’re at the California Coast! Santa Barbara is one of the best stops on a Pacific Coast Highway vacation from San Francisco to San Diego road trip . The area’s best beaches along the way are East Beach, Hendry’s Beach and Goleta Beach Park.

December is a fabulous time to visit Santa Barbara, as the city is full of events and festivities . Watch the boat parade through the harbor at Stearns Wharf. Shop for someone special at the city’s annual Folk and Tribal Arts Marketplace.

And don’t forget about New Year’s Eve in Santa Barbara! For a night to remember, try a champagne cruise, catch a drag show, do a bar crawl or so much more. It’s a great way to celebrate the end of the year!

Recommended by Nikki of She Saves She Travels

19. Kauai, Hawaii (another favorite on this list of best warm places to visit in December in USA)

Average temp:  high 82, low 65

You gotta go to Kauai! It’s not only one of the best warm places to visit in December in USA, it’s also an incredible destination for adventure and relaxation! Known as ‘the garden isle’ for its lush vegetation and epic waterfalls, it has stunning coastlines unlike any other spot on this list – or in the world.

You’ll want to see the Waimea Canyon, AKA the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Explore it’s epic views from the inside by hiking the Waimea Canyon Trail . Right down the road is the Kalalau Lookout in Koke’e State Park, to see the stunning NaPali Coast.

For sunshine in December, you’ll want to stay in the Poipu area to get the least amount of rain . Popular for awesome beaches like Poipu Beach or Shipwreck Beach, the waves can be the smallest in the winter, which is perfect for a warm getaway to the beach.

Kauai is home to some amazing food too. On the North Shore, try Kalypso Island Bar & Grill in Hanalei. You’ve gotta try the acai bowls at Java Kai in Kapaa, or the famous Hula Pie at Keoki’s Paradise in Koloa. Some of the best places to eat in Kauai won’t break the bank, either, like Da Crack Mexican Grinds.

Early December is a fabulous time to visit Kauai as it’s the shoulder season. The pricing is lower than late December over the holiday, and the crowds are much fewer, meaning you’ll have less waiting at restaurants and attractions.

20. Bisbee, Arizona

city of bisbee arizona buildings with mountains in sunlight

The quaint, little town of Bisbee, AZ is attracting winter travelers from all over the world due to its stunning beauty and quirky vibe.

Why visit Bisbee in December? It is truly the best month, boasting highs in the mid-50s and lows in the low-30s. Being an inherently dry climate, you can expect little to no precipitation this time of year. Instead, you’ll find clear skies, colorful sunsets and more stars than you can imagine. 

In visiting Bisbee you can expect a true getaway. The town is small, with just over 5,000 residents. However, what it lacks in population, it makes up for in charm.

A haven for artists and other creative types, the town is full of murals, quirky antique shops, charming cafes and relaxed breweries. Make sure to spend some time shopping in downtown, visiting the nearby ghost town of Lowell and viewing the Lavender Pit, which is an open copper mine located just outside of town.

If you’re lucky enough to spend some time  road tripping in the area , you should also check out Saguaro National Park and Chiricahua National Monument, which are both less than 2 hours away. 

You can’t go wrong with booking a boutique hotel in the main part of town. If you are looking to get close to the action, try the  Copper Queen Hotel . If you would like something a little bit quieter, the  School House Inn Bed & Breakfast  may be more your speed.

Either way, you are sure to enjoy a picturesque and relaxing stay in the heart of the American Southwest, one of the best warm places to visit in December!

Recommended by Michele of Slow Traveling Cat

21. Anna Maria Island, Florida (another one of my favorites for warm places to visit in USA in December)

florida beach with white sand teal water

It’s small-town charm and crisp, white beaches will draw you in. Anna Maria Island is definitely one of the most fabulous (and underrated) warm places to visit in USA in December!

Located just an hour west of Sarasota, this island is the picturesque Florida vacation destination. Lacking chain hotels or restaurants, you’ll find boutique shops, fun places to eat and awesome beaches.

Check out the Anna Maria Pier for unique views of the island and local waters. If you’re lucky, one of the local fevers (groups) of sting rays will be lurking in the waters below! Hunt for seashells at Coquina Beach, hang out the beach at Bean Point or find some adrenaline in a parasailing adventure.

Celebrate the holidays in Anna Maria Island by visiting the cute Bridge Street, covered in twinkling lights . Or catch one of the island’s boat parades, where locals and tour companies decorate their boats with holiday lights and show them off during a water parade.

December is a special time on Anna Maria Island, and with so many unique things to do on Anna Maria Island , you won’t get bored!

22. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

warm places to visit in December in USA view of beach from above at sunset with city skyline bridge and ferris wheel

When planning a summer vacation, Myrtle Beach might come to mind, but have you ever considered retreating to beautiful South Carolina in December? This southern beach town is the perfect retreat if you’re trying to escape the cold and enjoy some warmer weather.

In December, Myrtle Beach offers weather in the 60s with mostly sunny days. Visiting this month means very little crowds, cheaper room rates at places like the Marriott Myrtle Beach Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes .

One of the  locals’ favorite things to do in Myrtle Beach  is to visit Brookgreen Gardens, located just 30 minutes outside of downtown. The gardens are an amazing destination year round, but from the end of November to the beginning of January, they hold the Nights of a Thousand Candles. The whole property is lit with over a million lights and almost 3,000 hand-lit candles. You can listen to holiday music, admire the lights and drink some hot apple cider, getting in the holiday spirit.

Spend another evening at one of Myrtle Beach’s famous theaters for a holiday themed show! Pirates Voyage, The Alabama Theater and The Carolina Opry all hold special holiday themed shows during December and are so much fun for all ages.

The daytimes will be warm enough to walk on the beach, eat fresh seafood outside on the boardwalk and ride the massive Ferris Wheel. Try the Sea Captain’s House or River City Cafe for some of the best food with ocean views!

Recommended by Tori of Tori Pines Travels

23. Joshua Tree National Park, California

smooth tan rocks sand and Joshua Tree blue sky

Average temp:  high 61, low 37

Joshua Tree is an incredible place to visit in December for warm weather and sunshine! The desert landscape means that unlike most national parks in the US, summers are too hot for outdoor adventures. 

December brings perfect weather for hiking in Joshua Tree , as daytime temperatures are comfortable , usually in the high 50s or low 60s. It does get chilly at night, so be prepared with some layers – especially if you’re camping, or if you plan to be out in the mornings or evenings!

December is also less crowded than spring or fall, when the park is most popular – but, starting your day early or staying in the park close to sunset will be the best way to avoid crowds. Some of the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park include the Hidden Valley Nature Trail, Ryan Mountain and the Lost Palms Oasis Trail.

Some other great things to do in the park include stargazing, off-roading and wildlife viewing. You can see lizards, snakes, tortoises, birds, and if you’re lucky, maybe some big horn sheep, foxes and bobcats!

When you’re in Joshua Tree, you can camp in the park, check out some of the quirky vacation rentals nearby, or stay at the Joshua Tree Inn.

Recommended by Anna of Anna Tee

24. San Antonio, Texas

river at dusk with restaurant brick sidewalk and trees

Average temp:  high 64, low 40

If you’re looking for the best warm places to visit in December, then San Antonio, Texas should be on your radar! With sunshine and temperatures in the 60’s during the day, you’ll be exploring this fun city in warm weather, a nice escape from the cold.

The San Antonio River Walk is the shining star of this destination, but it offers visitors so much more!

Explore The Alamo – the location of the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution in 1863 (timed ticket entry required). For more history and art, visit the San Antonio Museum of Art, Brisco Western Art Museum or the McNay Art Museum.

If you’re looking for a family getaway during December, you’ll want to hit up Six Flags Fiesta Texas . Rides for kids and adults of all ages, it’s a thrilling way to enjoy your time in San Antonio.

And of course, you can’t go to San Antonio without experiencing the River Walk. There’s so much to do and see in the area. From street vendors and shops to restaurants and cool architecture, you can spend a whole day (or more) exploring the area.

A warm getaway, San Antonio just might be the perfect December getaway!

If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to plan your trip to San Antonio to include the best Texas resorts for families .

More warm places to visit in USA in December

From the best beaches in December to adventurous destinations off the beaten path, let’s round out this list with more incredible destinations!

25. Page, Arizona

curvy orange rocks leading upward to the sky

Average temp:  high 45, low 30

If you’re looking to spend time in the American southwest, Page, Arizona is one of the best places to visit. It’s home to some of the most popular places to visit in Arizona including Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. December is a great time to visit because the weather is beautiful. 

In the month of December, the days are warmer and the night cold so it’s a good idea to make sure you bring layers. There is little to no rain here during the month of December. These are great temperatures for hiking and going on outdoor adventures in the area. 

There are lots of great  places to stay in Page . If you’re looking for a unique experience, try glamping with Under Canvas . For a traditional hotel stay, consider Country Inn & Suites by Radisson or the Hyatt Place Page Lake Powell .

One of the best things to do in Page is tour Antelope Canyon . This beautiful slot canyon is one of the most famous in the country, and it’s an amazing experience to walk through. It’s gorgeous!

December is a popular time to tour Antelope Canyon, so you’ll want to make your reservations well in advance. After your tour of Antelope Canyon, be sure to leave some time to walk out to the Horseshoe Bend Overlook.

There are lots of other fun destinations in this area, including Las Vegas, Southern Utah and Sedona. Page, AZ is a great destination to include if you’re going on a road trip through this area, and one of the best warm places to visit in December in USA.

Recommended by Candice of CS Ginger

26. Clearwater Beach, Florida

sunset behind pier on ocean

Average temp:  high 70, low 60

Clearwater Beach is one of the best winter sun destinations! Located just 25 miles west of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast, it’s one of the most popular beaches in the country.

Temperatures consistently stay between 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter, but the crowds are significantly less during this time of year. This makes it the perfect time to be able to relax in comfort without having to fight for a free spot on the sand or get overheated by the scorching summer sun. 

Unlike the majority of beaches on mainland USA, Clearwater Beach has powder white sand and turquoise blue water. It’s absolutely beautiful, and the sunsets on this beach are even prettier!

There’s even an entire nightly festival that was created just to celebrate the sunsets! It’s called the Sunsets at Pier 60 Festival, and it starts 2 hours before sunset every evening. When deciding  where to stay in Clearwater Beach , a hotel right by the pier is your best pick to keep you close to the action. Opal Sands is a top-rated choice!

Boat tours are another popular activity during December. There are dolphin-spotting cruises and even pirate cruises for kids.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium also celebrates the holiday season. W hen you visit during December, you can see Christmas lights, festive habitats and even tank divers dressed up as Santa and his helpers.

Definitely consider Clearwater Beach for your next warm weather vacation in the US in December!

Recommended by Jillian of Adventure Dragon

27. Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas strip buildings at sunset

Average temp:  high 60, low 27

You know what’s awesome? Las Vegas in winter, as opposed to summertime. 🤣 Las Vegas deserves a spot on this list because of its entertainment and food scene. Not to mention the outdoor adventures that are perfect during December!

Perfect for a long weekend away in December, Las Vegas is home to countless entertainment opportunities. Get concert or show tickets and you’ll be sure to see top-notch performances!

Of course there’s gambling and clubs, but also plenty of things to do that don’t include being on The Strip your entire trip. For some quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of the city lights, check out Red Rock Canyon scenic drive . A timed entry reservation is required in December. Bring your hiking shoes and hit the trails!

Or enjoy one of the many day trips from Las Vegas. Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam are cool to see in person. And if you’re really up for some cool sights, be sure to do a Las Vegas to Zion National Park day trip for incredible canyon views!

Las Vegas is an excellent destination for December, and also one of the top warm winter vacations in the US !

28. Gulf Shores, Alabama (must-see for warm places to visit in USA in December)

Gulf State Park beach with white sand blue water and pier in distance

Average temp:  high 66, low 47

Okay, if you’re looking for a family-friendly getaway to a warm winter sun destination, then Gulf Shores, Alabama is for you! Offering mild temperatures year-round and some of the best beaches on the Gulf Coast , you’ll fall in love with Gulf Shores and its sister city, Orange Beach.

One of the most fun things to do in December in Gulf Shores is a day at The Track. With go karts, mini golf, roller coaster and kiddie rides and an arcade, you could literally get lost here!

Head over to The Wharf at Orange Beach for some serious entertainment and dining. Take a Ferris wheel ride, enjoy some laser tag, grab ice cream or enjoy some water-front dining.

In December, The Wharf hosts a variety of winter and holiday festivities including an ice skating rink, horse-drawn carriage rides under twinkling lights and shopping events.

Don’t forget to enjoy some activities on the Gulf! Go for a dolphin cruise, build a sand castle, rent jet skis or go sand crab hunting at Gulf State Park .

29. Big Island, Hawaii (one of the best winter sun destinations)

big island best warm places to visit in December view of statues on beach

One of the best warm US destinations in December is the Big Island of Hawaii. People can escape the chilly weather on the Mainland and enjoy a tropical island without needing a passport.

If you’re visiting the Big Island during the holidays, you can enjoy many island-style decorations and community events.

Another fun Big Island activity is stargazing at Mauna Kea. Winter is a great time to do this because the sun sets a bit earlier than in the other seasons, so you won’t have to stay up as late to see the dazzling stars.

December is also whale watching season in Hawaii. It’s best to see them on a whale watching tour .

One of the unique  things to do on the Big Island  is swimming with manta rays. Luckily, these manta ray tours run throughout the winter so you can participate in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The top attraction on the Big Island is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This is the only place to see lava in Hawaii. It’s important to check conditions before your trip to see if and where the lava is flowing.

The weather on Kona in December is typically in the low 80s during the day and the upper 60s at night. The Hilo side of the island is usually rainier than the Kona side.

And you should pack warm layers if visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or Mauna Kea. There is often snow at the summit of Mauna Kea!

A few great places to stay on the Big Island are the Royal Kona Resort in Kona and the Grand Naniloa Hotel in Hilo.

Recommended by Marcie of Hawaii Travel Spot

30. Catalina Island, California

view of town along bay with mountains and boats

Average temp:  high 59, low 43

Off the coast of Southern California is Santa Catalina Island, and it definitely deserves a spot on this list of warm places to visit in December in the US. Just an hour ferry ride from Long Beach, getting to Catalina Island is convenient from the LA area.

Visit Catalina Island in early December to enjoy off-season pricing and fewer crowds than later in the month. With temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s, pack layers and enjoy the sunshine on the island!

Find adventure on the water with kayaking, parasailing or a submarine tour. Enjoy the island views by soaring through the air on a zipline or hiking. Try the Avalon Bay Trail with water views, or for more of a challenge, hike the Hermit Gulch Trail.

Downtown Avalon is such a charming harbor town. It’s as cute as ever with brightly colored shops and homes, which reminds me more of Europe than California! Enjoy strolling the Green Pleasure Pier and grabbing some delicious food from a variety of locally-owned restaurants.

31. Phoenix, Arizona

phoenix arizona city skyline at sunset

Average temp:  high 68, low 44

One of the best warm US destinations in December is Phoenix! With sunshine and only a few days of rain, it’s perfect weather for indoor and outdoor activities.

Phoenix is a great destination for families, couples and solo travelers of all ages. One of the best places to include on your Phoenix itinerary is Papago Park. Stroll through the Desert Botanical Garden, where you can see over 50,000 plants!

Have a picnic at the Papago Ponds or hike the short 0.3 miles to Hole in the Rock. Animal lovers will enjoy spending time at the Phoenix Zoo, also located at Papago Park.

The city of Phoenix and neighboring Scottsdale really celebrate the holidays big, too. Enjoy pop-up ice skating events, various festivals and multiple light shows throughout the area, including 2 drive-through animated light shows.

And of course, you can’t come to Phoenix without eating delicious food! For the best Mexican food in town, try Taco Guild or Barrio Cafe. Or enjoy a variety of local restaurants in downtown Phoenix on 7th Street.

Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or longer vacation, Phoenix is one of the best warm places to visit in December in USA.

32. Destin, Florida (warm places to visit in December in USA – a must-see destination)

best beaches in December view of Destin florida beach with sand dunes in foreground

Average temp:  high 64, low 48

Destin, Florida is a beautiful place to visit during December. The weather is perfect for spending time on the beaches, and there are plenty of great activities and attractions to enjoy. 

Destin Harbor is especially festive during this time of year, with decorated boats and lights everywhere.  Every year in December, HarborWalk Village has the Destin Boat Parade with fireworks and activities for everyone. 

The city of Destin also has an annual Christmas Parade which covers most of the town. This parade is a must-see for anyone in town in December and features floats, marching bands, and of course, Santa Claus himself. 

Destin Commons and The Village of Baytowne Wharf both have events going on throughout the month of December. Destin Commons has pictures with Santa and Baytowne Wharf has a holiday concert series in December and even an ice skating rink!  

Other places to visit in December in the Destin area include Crab Island, James Lee Beach and Norriego Point.  If you’re looking for state parks, Henderson Beach State Park is great and offers a beautiful beach, walking trails and camping. Topsail Hill State Park is in nearby Santa Rosa Beach and offers many amenities, as well. 

A great place to stay in Destin is The Palms of Destin , which is right in the heart of the city, near Henderson Beach State Park and The Track (go-karts and mini-golf). 

If you’re looking for a fun, festive and warm place to visit in December, be sure to visit Destin, Florida!

Recommended by Wayne of Always on the Shore

best us islands to visit in december

Whew! What a list!

Warm places to visit in USA in December

  • St. Croix, USVI
  • Monterey, CA
  • San Juan, PR
  • St. George, UT
  • Siesta Key, FL
  • Temecula, CA
  • South Padre Island, TX
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Disney World, Orlando, FL
  • Augusta, GA
  • San Diego, CA
  • Culebra, PR
  • Florida Keys
  • St. Thomas, USVI
  • Santa Barbara, CA
  • Anna Maria Island, FL
  • Myrtle Beach, SC
  • Joshua Tree National Park, CA
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Clearwater Beach, FL
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Gulf Shores, AL
  • Big Island, HI
  • Catalina Island, CA
  • Phoenix, AZ

Related content you might like: 30 FUN Warm Winter Vacations in the US (You’ll Absolutely Love) 32 Awe-inspiring Adventurous Bucket List Ideas You Gotta See to Believe

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32 warm December getaways photos of 3 beachy destinations

Saturday 2nd of December 2023

So many good ideas! I need a getaway this winter and these are all good options. Now it's just about choosing! HA

Sunday 3rd of December 2023

Haha that's the truth! So glad you found some inspiration here :)

A great list! So many warm winter sun places in the USA, you are really lucky! I have been to Hawaii and would go back there in an instant! LAst time I visited was early December and it was wonderful weather

Friday 1st of December 2023

There's quite a few places on your list that my husband and I would enjoy. We are always on the lookout for someplace to escape the winter snow.

Oh yay Jolayne! Sounds like it's time for a getaway😎

Saturday 3rd of September 2022

What a great list! So many beautiful places to access with a US Passport. We've visited 7 of these in the off season and St. Croix is probably our fave so far!

Wednesday 7th of September 2022

Oh awesome Kathryn! St. Croix is certainly dreamy💛

It's always good to find a comprehensive list like this, especially to escape the cold! I'm off to Puerto Rico for the first time next year & this has really whetted my appetite too!

Ah thanks so much for the compliment, Sue. I hope you love Puerto Rico, it's one of my favorites!!

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  • Last Updated On
  • May 30, 2023

35 Best Places to Visit in December in the USA

Christina Rado

There’s probably no better way to close out the year than by traveling, especially in December, a beautiful month in the United States.

There are a ton of fantastic destinations to visit in the US in winter.

Whether you’re trying to escape the snow at a warm beach or embrace the cold on a ski trip, this country has everything.

There are countless Christmas cheer and unique events in large and small places to enjoy the festive season.

But, if you prefer an intimate holiday, the USA has something for you, too.

Kickstart your winter adventure by checking out the best places to visit in December in the USA below.

1. Maui, Hawaii

Maui, Hawaii

Maui, HI 96708-96793 (808) 270-7230

Maui , also referred to as The Valley Isle, is Hawaii’s second-largest island in the Central Pacific.

Maui is the best choice if you’re seeking warm places to visit in December.

Expect daytime highs around 80 degrees Fahrenheit and evening lows around the 60s.

And you can unwind on the beaches with golden sand close to Kihei or Lahaina if you’re unsure what to do.

Plus, great snorkeling is accessible here.

Although Maui’s strong trade winds tend to lessen in December, it is still preferable to arrange water activities for the morning when the ocean is calm.

If you like colder weather, go upcountry to Kula, where the air is crisp and refreshing.

Related: Top Maui Restaurants

2. Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth is a Bavarian-style hamlet in central Washington State’s Cascade Mountains.

Like a theme park, its architecture and art transport you to a charming German town as it sits beneath the shadow of the mountains along the Wenatchee River.

The best time to visit Leavenworth is during the Village of Lights Christmas Town festival, “where it’s Christmas every day in December!”

The village is all decked out for the holidays, with fresh evergreen garlands lacing the shops and half a million colorful lights illuminating Front Street Park.

You can hear live holiday music wafting through the air from the pavilion, and snow usually blankets the ground to add that extra enchantment.

Expect to find holiday activities like gingerbread houses, sleigh rides, kids’ crafts, a story corner, sledding, and roasted chestnuts.

Related: Where to Eat in Leavenworth

Related: Best Christmas Vacations For Families

3. Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville , located in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, is a gorgeous city that attracts outdoor enthusiasts worldwide.

Asheville is delightful to visit all year round.

However, December is one of the greatest seasons to visit Asheville, even though the region may not be as appealing due to the chilly winter weather.

And if you love Christmas, you will love Asheville.

Their festivities begin with a tree-raising ceremony and provide daytime and candlelit midnight tours of the Biltmore House’s festively adorned chambers.

Holiday activities are also featured in the Antler Hill and Historic Biltmore Village neighborhoods.

However, Asheville has many other beautiful locations to celebrate Christmas besides the Biltmore.

Additionally, the North Carolina Arboretum hosts Winter Lights, and the Omni Grove Park Inn hosts the National Gingerbread House Competition.

Recommended Hotel: Cambria Hotel Downtown Asheville

Related: Dining in Asheville

4. Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas

Austin , Texas’s state capital, is noted for its diversified live music culture based on country, blues, and rock.

Austin puts on those parades and light shows to show their love for the cold holidays.

Winter is a terrific time to get the party started on the dance floor at a prominent honky-tonk or music venue in Austin, like the Broken Spoke.

The Trail of Lights at Zilker Park, one of Austin’s top public holiday light shows in December, is also held there.

For a stroll beneath its sparkling lights, this occasion draws together businesses, nonprofits, towns, families, couples, and college students.

Recommended Hotel: The Driskill, in The Unbound Collection by Hyatt

Related: Must Try Restaurants in Austin

5. Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah is a coastal city in Georgia known for its antebellum architecture, well-kept parks, and horse-drawn carriage rides.

If you are looking for the best places to travel in December for the holidays, Savannah is like something out of a Hallmark movie.

Greenery and red ribbons adorn the squares by the Downtown Neighborhood Association.

Furthermore, a vast tree and string lights decorate Broughton Street, and merchants erect a bustling German-style Christmas market along the riverbank.

The most significant way to experience Christmas in Savannah is to stroll through the Old District and enjoy the holiday decorations of the historic homes.

Recommended Hotel: JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District

Related: Top Restaurants: Savannah

6. Park City, Utah

Park City, Utah

Park City , located in Utah’s western state and famous for its ski slopes, is east of Salt Lake City.

Park City, Utah, is among the best US destinations in December if you’re hoping for a white Christmas.

Many holiday events include Snowfest at Park City Mountain, a yearly torchlight parade down the mountain, and even fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

You can also ride the North Pole Express on the Heber Valley Railroad, which is especially well-liked by families with young children.

Or arrange a private, exclusive snowshoeing tour with a guide.

Moreover, Park City’s Main Street is a popular destination for pubs, restaurants , art galleries, and Christmas entertainment.

Recommended Hotel: Park City Peaks

Related: Best Places to Visit During Christmas in The USA

7. Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley, CA 92328 (760) 786-3200

Death Valley National Park, which spans eastern California and Nevada, is well-known for Titus Canyon and the salt flats of Badwater Basin.

This national park is situated on the border between California and Nevada and is well-known for its extreme weather.

The world record for the greatest air temperature was set at Death Valley’s aptly named Furnace Creek, also known as the “hottest location on Earth.”

With typical high temperatures around 60 degrees Fahrenheit and average low temperatures around 30 at lower elevations, December tends to have much nicer weather.

Winter is the best month to visit Death Valley if you want to avoid crowds and go hiking in cooler weather.

Recommended Hotel: The Inn at Death Valley

8. Aspen, Colorado

Aspen, Colorado

Aspen, CO 81611-81612 (970) 925-1940

The Colorado town of Aspen is a well-known destination for outdoor activities and is home to a ski resort.

One of the best places to go in December, Aspen is a winter wonderland in the beautiful state of Colorado.

In December, tourists across Colorado and other states travel to Aspen to take in the breathtaking surroundings.

Due to its world-class ski resorts, Aspen has become one of the most favored locations for skiing and snowboarding during the winter.

With sleigh rides through the town streets, ice skating, tubing, and other winter sports, December in Aspen creates a magnificent ambiance.

Moreover, there are numerous bars and eateries in the city where you may indulge in seasonal favorites like hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Recommended Hotel: The Gant

9. Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park, UT 84532 (435) 719-2299

Arches National Park is famous for its 2,000 natural sandstone arches, including the massive, red-hued Delicate Arch in the east.

The park is most peaceful in the winter when a light layer of white snow covers the blazing red arches.

Avoid the busy tourist season and enjoy the peace of a winter visit.

Remember that a visit in the winter may bring cold weather and icy parking lots, roads, and trails.

But if you’re prepared and ready for the cold weather, a trip to Arches in the winter can be unique.

Recommended Hotel: Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Moab

10. Orlando, Florida

Orlando, Florida

Orlando , a city in central Florida, is home to more than a dozen famous theme parks, including Walt Disney World.

If you are wondering where to have the best birthday trips in December, visit Orlando.

Orlando in December offers mainly clear skies, low humidity, and colder temperatures.

The Christmas events and decorations at Disney and the other theme parks are over the top, but you can take the free Christmas tree promenade at Disney Springs.

Depending on when you visit in December, you can also take in the many parades, including boat parades.

Discover “snow” at some holiday celebrations, and meander around Lake Eola to see the Orlando Christmas tree and holiday light show.

Recommended Hotel: Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando, Autograph Collection

Related: Food Places in Orlando

11. San Diego, California

San Diego, California

San Diego is a popular tourist destination on California’s Pacific coast, thanks to its parks, beaches , and balmy weather.

The month of December in the city is filled with a ton of entertaining outdoor and holiday-themed events.

Moreover, the average daily high temperature in San Diego in December will be around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

While whales can be seen in San Diego throughout the year, the best time to go on a tour is from mid-December to mid-March.

And sunsets are incredibly vibrant this time of year because of how near the sun is to San Diego.

It’s the best time to observe the sunset from Sunset Cliffs or arrange a cruise during sundown.

Recommended Hotel: Pendry San Diego

Related: Places to Dine in San Diego

12. New York City

New York City

One of the top cities to visit in December is, without a doubt New York City , also known as NYC, which is the most populous city in the country.

New York City is a dream trip for many people worldwide, but it’s even more enchanting in December.

With Christmas and New Year’s as the main attractions, you’ll want to visit this charming city.

New York City is a delight, from soaking in the glistening lights of Times Square to strolling through Central Park covered in snow.

There are a variety of festive activities to partake in after night falls.

These include visiting the Christmas markets in Union Square and Bryant Park, sipping hot wine, and watching the Rockefeller Center tree light up.

A Nutcracker show on Broadway with a winter theme is fun, as is the light display at Dyker Heights and Fifth Avenue.

Recommended Hotel: InterContinental New York Barclay Hotel, an IHG Hotel

Related: Best Food Places in NYC

13. Marco Island, Florida

Marco Island, Florida

Marco Island, FL 34145-34146 (239) 389-5000

Marco Island is a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Southwest Florida, with resort hotels , beaches, marinas, and golf courses.

With temperatures in the temperate range of 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and little humidity, December is a delightful season to visit Marco Island.

Don’t miss the joyous Marco Island boat procession, which will feature vessels of all kinds decked out with holiday lights and playing Christmas music for everyone to enjoy.

Outdoor enthusiasts can also find much to do on Marco Island, from thrilling airboat rides to kayak and boat tours.

Recommended Hotel: Holiday Inn Club Vacations Sunset Cove Resort, an IHG Hotel

Related: Restaurants to Try in Marco Island

14. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago , one of the largest cities in the country, is situated on Lake Michigan in Illinois and is well known for its innovative architecture.

Chicago should be on your bucket list if you’re wondering where to travel in December.

This city transforms into a winter wonderland with many yearly holiday customs.

Chi-Town is well known for its ferocious snowstorms and freezing temperatures during the winter.

But the city’s numerous holiday festivities provide more than enough incentive to face the weather and go outside to enjoy the season.

You can see millions of lights turned on at Lincoln Park ZooLights, and Santa Claus might visit you as you enjoy the stunning light show.

Recommended Hotel: Viceroy Chicago

Related: Popular Restaurants in Chicago

Related: Best Midwest Ski Resorts for Families

15. Mammoth Lakes, California

Mammoth Lakes, California

Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546 (760) 965-3600

Mammoth Lakes is a town in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, best known for the Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain ski slopes and surrounding trails.

This charming ski town is the perfect destination to visit in December because it offers many outdoor winter sports.

For instance, consider skiing at one of its renowned ski areas, such as Mammoth Mountain or June Mountain.

In December, the slopes are typically coated in fantastic powder, and the majestic Sierra Nevadas make for an impressive, memorable background.

You can also do winter sports instead, including cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in the nearby Inyo National Forest.

Even though Mammoth’s slopes draw most of its winter guests, there is still a lot of festive cheer.

Numerous Christmas lights decorate The Village in Mammoth Lakes all year long.

And there are other events planned for the winter holidays, including the annual tree lighting and Santa visits.

Recommended Hotel: Juniper Springs Resort

16. Nantucket, Massachusetts

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Nantucket, MA 02554-02584 (508) 228-7261

The little island of Nantucket , Massachusetts, off the coast of Cape Cod, is famous during the summer because of its dune-backed beaches.

When it comes to glamming up the town for the holidays, Nantucket goes all out.

Along the streets of downtown, dozens of Christmas trees are erected, decorated, and lit up each night around sunset.

The Brand Point Lighthouse is the perfect location for holiday card shots because it has a giant wreath.

Furthermore, in the Whaling Museum, more than 50 trees are on display, each with a unique decoration created by regional artists and companies.

And Christmas in Nantucket isn’t here until the renowned dory boat on Easy Street lit up its distinctive little tree in the sea.

Recommended Hotel: White Elephant Hotel

Related: Must Eat Restaurants in Nantucket

17. Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix , the capital of Arizona, is renowned for its year-round sunshine and warm temperatures.

If you are looking for warm weather in winter, Arizona is the best place to visit in December in the USA.

Phoenix’s December highs are typically around 70 degrees, ideal for outdoor activities like hiking.

Plus, you can listen to live music outside while admiring the countless brilliant holiday lights in the lovely weather.

You can see lovely Christmas lights at the Desert Botanical Garden during the yearly Las Noches de las Luminarias celebration.

And at the CityScape retail center, there is a lovely outdoor rink where you can enjoy some holiday ice skating.

Recommended Hotel: Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel

Related: Top Places to Eat in Phoenix

18. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is the capital and most populous city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the New England area’s economic and cultural hub.

Wintertime in Boston offers lively markets, ice skating outdoors, and cozy igloos.

Although it snows more frequently in January or February, a winter wonderland cityscape is still possible in Boston in December!

Go ice skating on Frog Pond in Boston Common for some wintertime entertainment.

Or spend the evening at The Envoy in the Seaport gazing out over the water from The Lookout Rooftop.

If you want a romantic escape, renting a heated igloo is one of the most fantastic date ideas in Boston.

Recommended Hotel: The Newbury Boston

Related: Must Eat Places in Boston

Related: Best Family Ski Resorts in New England

Related: Best US Places to Visit in January

19. Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu, HI 96701-96898 (800) 464-2924

Oahu is the state capital of Honolulu and is known for its pristine beaches and fun nightlife .

Oahu is a stunning island in Hawaii, and December is the best month to visit because of the weather.

December’s temperature ranges from a high of 80 F to a low of 70 F, making it nearly never too hot or cold for anyone.

Oahu offers many enjoyable activities , including sightseeing, resting, and hiking.

In addition, you can engage in water sports like surfing, jet skiing, paddle boarding, and more.

Despite being the most populous island in Hawaii, Oahu has many beautiful natural beauties to appreciate if you venture away from the crowd.

You might even be fortunate to view whales, Hawaiian monk seals, or sea turtles.

Since whales like to migrate to the warm waters of Hawaii to breed and give birth, the whale-watching season in Oahu typically lasts from December to May.

Recommended Hotel: Hampton Inn & Suites Oahu/Kapolei, HI

Related: Best Eats in Oahu

Related: Best Places to Visit in February in the USA

20. Burlington, Vermont

Burlington, Vermont

Burlington is the most populated city in the U.S. state of Vermont and the county seat of Chittenden County.

Burlington is the best place to vacation in December in the USA.

This city has a lovely blanket of snow covering it and a view of the magnificent Lake Champlain.

Make sure to stroll down Church Street, decked out in dazzling holiday lights and cheery storefronts, during December.

You can also board the Polar Express and take an unplanned rail trip to the North Pole near you.

And to heighten the holiday mood, attendees are urged to arrive in their jammies as professional chefs serve baked cookies and hot cocoa.

Recommended Hotel: DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Burlington Vermont

Related: Great Restaurants in Burlington

21. Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs , a city in southern California’s Sonoran Desert, is renowned for its hot springs, chic lodgings, golf courses, and spas.

Palm Springs is a perfect choice if you are wondering where to go in December.

This city has fantastic weather, with daytime temperatures near 70 degrees Fahrenheit in December.

Plan some hikes into the numerous oases in the area since the weather is ideal for exploring outside.

The palm trees bordering the main street in downtown Palm Springs always make the area festive, but in December, the entire area is decked out for the holidays.

You can watch the Festival of Lights Parade, which features illuminated floats, marching bands, and colorful cars, if you go in the first few days of December.

Recommended Hotel: La Maison Hotel

Related: Best Food Spots in Palm Springs, CA


HI 96701-96797 (800) 464-2924

Hawaii , famous for its beaches and surf, is the only American state outside North America.

People will tell you Hawaii is one of the best states to visit in December.

Many people looking for a tropical haven to celebrate this holiday season often make Hawaii their first choice for a yearly trip.

With the unofficial Christmas flower and ideal weather on land and at sea, it is not surprising that December has grown to be a popular tourism month in the islands.

This is the perfect place to unwind on island time, thanks to the tropical breezes, abundant sunshine, bathwater-warm ocean waves, and breathtaking landscape.

Recommended Hotel: Trump International Hotel Waikiki

23. Miami, Florida

Miami, Florida

Miami is a coastal metropolis and the seat of the county of Miami-Dade.

This city will meet your needs if you’re seeking a warm location with a lot of activity in December.

Miami comes alive during the holidays with events like The Nutcracker, and the enchanted lighting adorns Zoo Miami.

Boating and visiting the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens are among the most fantastic Miami attractions.

And since there is no snow in Miami in December, you can stroll around nearby districts like Little Havana and the Miami Design District.

Recommended Hotel: EAST Miami

Related: Top Miami Restaurants

24. Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake is a metropolitan city and is Utah’s capital and most populated area.

For avid skiers, December is the best month to visit the slopes and ski areas in Salt Lake City.

Just a short drive from Salt Lake City are the six top ski resorts in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains.

The ski slopes can accommodate both beginning and expert skiers.

However, if you prefer to unwind and enjoy the white scenery, there are spots in the skiing area perfect for that, too.

Additionally, December in Salt Lake City is filled with fun holiday activities like horse-drawn carriage rides across the lighted Temple Square.

Recommended Hotel: Grand America Hotel

Related: Where to Eat in Salt Lake City

25. U.S. Virgin Islands

U.S. Virgin Islands

VI 00801-00851 (800) 372-8784

The U.S. Virgin Islands are a group of Caribbean islands and islets recognized by their white-sand coastlines, coral reefs, and lush mountains.

The Virgin Islands are a no-brainer for a December Caribbean vacation in the United States.

The dry season officially starts in December, when temperatures often range from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

As a result, the pleasant weather is perfect for exploring St. Thomas’ stunning beaches, taking island-hopping cruises, and trekking on St. John.

Recommended Hotel: Flamboyan on the Bay Resort & Villas

Related: Dining in The US Virgin Islands

26. Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas , nicknamed Sin City, is the most populous city in Nevada and the 25th most populous city in the entire country.

Las Vegas’ dazzling lights and mild temperatures draw many December visitors from the USA.

Along the Las Vegas Strip, you’ll find all the customary flair, a surplus of sights and sounds, and a nod to the holiday season.

Plus, you’ll see extensive Christmas decorations with lots of flowers and lights in several hotels.

In addition to fantastic holiday shopping, December in Las Vegas is jam-packed with fun activities.

The Botanical Cactus Garden at Ethel M Chocolates is among the most picturesque locations.

Recommended Hotel: Las Vegas Hilton At Resorts World

Related: Must Try Restaurants in Las Vegas

27. Pasadena, California

Pasadena, California

California’s Pasadena , northeast of Los Angeles’s downtown, is renowned for its Victorian art structures.

If you are looking for the best December vacation spots, head to Pasadena.

With the warm weather in Southern California, you could go to the beach for the day and still participate in one of the significant events.

Be part of the preparation of one of Pasadena’s well-loved festivals.

At the end of December, Rose Parade contestants finish customizing their lavish, rose-covered floats during Decor Week.

You can join various activities to help prepare for this much-awaited event.

Recommended Hotel: The Langham Huntington, Pasadena

Related: Top Restaurants: Pasadena

28. Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina

The 1670-founded port city of Charleston , South Carolina, is known for its cobblestone lanes, horse-drawn carriages, and pastel antebellum homes.

Although Charleston isn’t known for its winter vacation, it’s one of the best and cheap places to visit in December for those looking to escape the bitter cold.

You can enjoy Charleston’s charming winter festivals, such as the Festival of Lights.

During this celebration, James Island County Park is turned into a winter wonderland with more than two million sparkling lights stretched over three miles.

Or you can spend some time exploring the fascinating Historic District with its charming churches and homes that date back hundreds of years.

Recommended Hotel: The Charleston Place

Related: Food Places in Charleston

29. Boulder, Colorado

Boulder, Colorado

Boulder, a town in the Rocky Mountain foothills, is renowned for its outdoor adventures, skilled chefs, breweries, and bustling downtown.

Boulder is one of the must visit places in the USA in December because of its view of the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

You can enjoy the view of the white sceneries of the mountains or indulge in the activities this charming city offers.

One of the best things to do in Boulder is to walk around the city, go to Pearl Street Mall, a well-known outdoor shopping center, and go skiing at Eldora Mountain.

Additionally, you can go to the city’s renowned Winter Craft Beer Festival and learn why Boulder is frequently referred to as the capital of beer making.

Recommended Hotel: Hotel Boulderado

Related: Places to Dine in Boulder

30. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190 (307) 344-7381

The Yellowstone Volcanic Region is a volcanic hotspot featuring magnificent gorges, roaring rivers in the mountains, lush forests, hot springs, and erupting geysers.

Yellowstone National Park is one of the most famous December weekend getaways because of its white scenery and activities.

The 2.2 million-acre park radiates a magical beauty when it is covered with snow.

Yellowstone is also the perfect place to admire nature’s beauty and strength by looking at geysers.

Be amazed as you watch Old Faithful, the geyser that shoots water into the air, produces a breathtaking chilly air in the wintertime known as “geyser rain.”

And if you love to be active on your winter vacation, you are in luck.

Miles of trails in Yellowstone take visitors past icy forests, scorching hot springs, and snow-covered meadows.

Recommended Hotel: Headwaters Lodge & Cabins at Flagg Ranch

Related: Best Winter Vacations for Families

31. Washington DC

Washington DC

The capital of the United States, Washington, DC , is a compact city on the Potomac River that borders the states of Maryland and Virginia.

Travel to Washington to experience the best December vacations with your family.

December is not peak tourist season, so you’ll get better deals on hotels and less crowded tourist spots.

Spend your trip in Washington, DC, visiting the Smithsonian museums, primarily indoors.

You can also take your kids for a stroll through the city and take in the holiday decorations, especially those at the White House.

And if you want a little adventure, join one of the many holiday events, such as viewing the huge national Christmas tree or taking tours of the city’s top sights.

Recommended Hotel: Riggs Washington DC

Related: Best Food Places in Washington DC

32. Stowe, Vermont

Stowe, Vermont

Stowe, VT 05662-05672 (802) 253-3000

Stowe is a town in northern Vermont noted for its hiking areas and skiing slopes.

If you want to have a cozy getaway with your family in winter, Stowe offers one of the best December vacations.

With the fireplace on and mugs of hot chocolate, you can spend family time in a little cottage or bed and breakfast.

You can also enjoy a variety of outdoor pursuits if you decide to venture outdoors, including skiing and dog sledding.

You can also indulge in one of Stowe’s traditional holiday parades and watch the tree-lighting ceremony in the town square.

Recommended Hotel: Trapp Family Lodge

Related: Restaurants to Try in Stowe

33. Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge, CO 80424 (970) 453-5579

Breckenridge , a Colorado town at the foot of the Tenmile Range in the Rocky Mountains, is well-known for its ski resorts.

It’s no wonder that skiing fans flock to Breckenridge in December because that month marks the beginning of ski season there.

Aside from skiing, the holiday celebrations also make Breckenridge a terrific spot to visit in December.

Take a stroll through the town to take in the lovely views of the holiday season as buildings are decked out in festive decorations.

In addition, you can buy a holiday souvenir from one of the quaint businesses on Main Street.

Recommended Hotel: One Ski Hill, A RockResort

Related: Popular Restaurants in Breckenridge

Related: Best Family Ski Resorts in the U.S.

34. Key West, Florida

Key West, Florida

Key West , Florida’s southernmost point, is known for its pastel-colored conch-style homes.

Want to experience the best trips in December?

Consider visiting a beach paradise , Key West.

Key West is among the most fantastic U.S. destinations in December for anyone seeking to escape winter troubles.

It is perfect for touring the island because of the calm waters and the moderately warm weather.

You can go to some of the island’s well-known bars, bar hop, or just relax on the beach and watch the sunset.

Recommended Hotel: Parrot Key Hotel & Villas

Related: Must Eat Restaurants in Key West

35. Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage , Alaska’s largest city, is a well-known winter paradise with breathtaking cultural attractions.

No list of best places to visit in December in the USA is complete without Anchorage.

Due to the Northern Lights, December marks the height of the tourism season in Anchorage, Alaska.

From Anchorage to Fairbanks, you can board the Alaska Railroad Aurora Winter Train for a picturesque view of the Northern Lights.

The city of Anchorage is a great place to spend a December holiday, in addition to taking in this magnificent natural display.

You can go dog sledding, explore the local animals, visit the city’s museums, and hike a glacier.

Recommended Hotel: The Hotel Captain Cook

Related: Top Places to Eat in Anchorage

Map of Places to Visit in December in the USA

35 Best Places to Visit in December in the USA for 2024

  • Maui, Hawaii
  • Leavenworth, Washington
  • Asheville, North Carolina
  • Austin, Texas
  • Savannah, Georgia
  • Park City, Utah
  • Death Valley National Park
  • Aspen, Colorado
  • Arches National Park, Utah
  • Orlando, Florida
  • San Diego, California
  • New York City
  • Marco Island, Florida
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Mammoth Lakes, California
  • Nantucket, Massachusetts
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Oahu, Hawaii
  • Burlington, Vermont
  • Palm Springs, California
  • Miami, Florida
  • Salt Lake City, Utah
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Pasadena, California
  • Charleston, South Carolina
  • Boulder, Colorado
  • Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
  • Washington DC
  • Stowe, Vermont
  • Breckenridge, Colorado
  • Key West, Florida
  • Anchorage, Alaska

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U.S. Virgin Islands   Travel Guide

best us islands to visit in december

Best Times To Visit U.S. Virgin Islands

The best time to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands is April to June, when you can expect mild weather and very little rainfall. In the USVI's peak season, from December to March, the temperature ranges from the mid-70s to high 80s with breezy evenings. July to October is the region's hurricane season with average temps in the upper 80s.

Weather in U.S. Virgin Islands

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

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Global Grasshopper – travel inspiration for the road less travelled

14 Amazing Places to Visit in December in the USA

Whether you are looking for beautiful warm winter sunshine, snowy mountain adventures, or just oodles of Christmas magic, there is the perfect place to discover.

To help you choose and from my time traveling around in the holiday season, here are my favorite spots to explore…

1. Leavenworth, Washington 

Leavenworth in the winter

Nestled in the snowy peaks of The Cascade Mountains, just over a hundred miles north of Seattle , is the stunning little town of Leavenworth. 

I love that it’s a perfect replica of a Bavarian town, complete with German beer, Bavarian cuisine, reindeer, Christmas markets , and a unique Nutcracker Museum . I personally think it’s super cute, especially this time of year!

The town offers many activities all year round, but this month, it turns into a magical wonderland with snowmobiling and skiing. If you love kitsch, I think you’ll love this picturesque little town, especially during the snowy winter months of this month, January and February . 

  • Average temperatures  – from 1°C to -6°C
  • Visitor’s center address: 940 US Hwy 2 STE B, Leavenworth, WA 98826

My favorite highlights…

  • Gong for fun beginner snowboarding lessons!
  • Dining on a vegan hot dog and sauerkraut at München Haus.

2. Avila Beach, California

Avila Beach California December

If you’re craving a dose of Vitamin D during the winter months, look no further than the charming beach resort town of Avila Beach in California!

It offers some of the warmest temperatures this month, averaging around a pleasant 18 degrees, and I love coming here to soak up the warm sun and unwind. It’s too cool to swim, but I watch the surfers, explore the scenic hiking trails, take leisurely bike rides, and go paddleboarding.  

I recommend visiting the iconic lighthouse or indulging in a wine-tasting adventure at nearby vineyards for those seeking a more relaxed pace.

  • Average temperature – 18 degrees
  • Location: San Luis Obispo Bay, 160 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

My highlights…

  • Staying in a suite at the super cute boutique inn Avila La Fonda Hotel , complete with a large hot tub and a microwave with popcorn.
  • Shopping for unique seasonal gifts and local produce at Avila Valley Barn.

3. Durango, Colorado

Durango in the winter

Durango, steeped in Wild West charm and framed by the rugged San Juan Mountains, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure amidst breathtaking scenery.

This month, it’s a snowy haven that caters to skiers of all levels and abilities. After a day on the slopes, I love soaking up picturesque views and sampling craft brews from one of Durango’s six esteemed brewing companies.

In my opinion, the biggest draw is the magical historic steam train that passes stunning snow-clad landscapes! 

  • Average temperatures – 5 to -10 degrees
  • Visitor Center Address: 802 Main Ave, Durango, CO 81301, United States

My personal highlights…

  • Dining on hearty local cuisine at the fabulous Seasons of Durango.
  • Going on a scenic round-trip journey on a restored steam train that offered scenic and dining on homemade black bean burgers along the way.

4. Waikiki, Hawaii

Waikiki Beach Hawaii

Waikiki is a beautiful option for those seeking a warm and enchanting winter getaway. With daytime temperatures averaging a balmy 28 degrees, affordable prices and fewer crowds (until the holiday rush starts), it’s a great time to visit, particularly at the beginning of this month.

Alternatively, spend the seasonal holidays here and enjoy a beautiful, warm Christmas vacation surrounded by paradise-like scenery.

I love its pristine beaches, excellent surfing, dreamy resorts, boutique-dotted vibrant neighborhoods, and chic waterfront areas with cocktail bars and upscale dining experiences. I also recommend visiting a captivating hula show, an experience that genuinely encapsulates the islands’ spirit! 

  • Average temperature – 28 degrees
  • Visitors Center Address: 159 Kaʻiulani Ave # 102, Honolulu, HI 96815
  • Going snorkelling at Sans Souci Beach and spotting a super-cute sea turtle.
  • Going for a dip in the hot tub and sipping on cocktails at the rooftop Na Lani Sky Lounge at Hokulani Waikiki.

5. New York

New York Christmas

There’s an undeniable magic in New York City during the Christmas season, beginning in November and extending through this month.

One of my favorite seasonal rituals is indulging in hot apple cider at Bryant Park, followed by a nostalgic twirl on the city’s free ice rink, and then embarking on a serene snowy stroll through the enchanting pathways of Central Park.

I also make sure to fit in a visit to the iconic Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center, take a pilgrimage to Santaland at Macy’s, venture into the historic Meatpacking District for eclectic shopping experiences, and then explore cozy bars and cafes in the vibrant East Village. Christmas perfection! 

  • Average temperature – 7 degrees
  • Visitors Center Address: 810 Seventh Avenue,between 52nd & 53rd Streets, New York City, NY 10019. 
  • Trying the incredible plant burgers at   Superiority Burger.
  • Going ice skating at the iconic Rockefeller Center and then warming up with an eggnog oat milk latte at Cafe Grumpy. 

6. Siesta Key, Florida

Siesta Key Florida - hot December vacations

For a delightful winter escape filled with warmth and sunshine, Siesta Key, Florida, is an excellent choice within the US.

This picturesque barrier island, nestled along the Gulf of Mexico, exudes a unique charm and boasts a stunning public beach that has earned the prestigious title of the best in America—not once, but twice!

Ideal for a family vacation, I’m a huge fan of its charming ambience, a fine array of shops and cafes in Siesta Key Village and family-friendly amenities such as shallow waters perfect for paddling, playgrounds, and tennis courts. 

While the water may be swimmable for those brave enough to take a dip, the occasional hot day will bring more comfortable temperatures.

  • Average temperature – 23 degrees
  • Tourist Office Address: 5223 Avenida Navarra, Siesta Key, FL 34242
  • Going for happy hour cocktails at the fun Gilligan’s Island Bar & Grill.
  • Snorkeling at the Point of Rocks, an incredible series of unique limestone rock formations.

7. Williamsburg, Virginia

Williamsburg Virginia in the winter

Williamsburg holds immense historical significance. In 1776, George Wythe affixed his signature to the American Declaration of Independence.  

What truly captivates me about Williamsburg is its transformation into a living history museum within its historic center. Here, old colonial buildings stand proudly restored, costumed interpreters bring the past to life in shops and cafes, and I feel immersed in a journey into America’s colonial era.

During the Christmas season, Williamsburg emerges as a picture-perfect town adorned with twinkling lights and festive decorations, casting a magical spell over its streets. Blanketed in a layer of powdery snow, I personally think it resembles a scene from a fairytale!  

  • Average temperature – 12 degrees
  • Tourist Office Address: 421 N Boundary Street | Williamsburg, VA 23185
  • Dining on hearty Uruguayan cuisine at the rustic chic Tabaré Williamsburg Uruguayan.
  • Going on a fun pub crawl combined with a ghost tour! 

8. Gaylord Opryland Resort, Nashville

Gaylord Opryland Resort Christmas

If you’re seeking a festive Christmas extravaganza that goes all out, look no further than Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tennessee—it’s an absolute gem!

During Christmas, the resort undergoes a breathtaking transformation, adorned with over 3 million twinkling lights, enchanting ice tunnels, an indoor ice skating rink, whimsical grottos, and even festive scavenger hunts.  

I also love venturing into Nashville to soak up the vibrant energy of the legendary ‘Music City’. At this time of year,  its streets are adorned with twinkling lights and an array of festive activities to suit every taste.

  • Average temperature – 11 degrees
  • Address: 2800 Opryland Dr, Nashville, TN 37214
  • Going for a hearty buffet breakfast at Cascades American Cafe compete with waffles and home fries.
  • Going for a hot stone massage at the European-inspired Relâche Spa. 

9. Aspen, Colorado

Aspen - places to visit in December

Aspen shines as one of the most prestigious winter resorts in the country, captivating celebrities and travelers alike with its snowy allure.  

I adore the cozy log cabins adorned with twinkling lights, where the air is infused with the aroma of hot toddies, and the streets are filled with festive trimmings and the sound of Christmas carols.

With skiing opportunities catering to all abilities, along with options for snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and enchanting outdoor ice skating rinks, Aspen offers a range of snowy delights.  

Don’t miss the chance to embark on a snowplough tour, indulge in culinary delights at esteemed restaurants and bars, and discover the chic boutiques that line the streets. 

  • Average temperature  – 2 to -12 degrees
  • Aspen Chamber Resort Association Address: 425 Rio Grande Place 81611 Aspen
  • Having a fun evening out at the lively Hooch Craft Cocktail Bar.  
  • Trying tubing at The Meadows at Elk Camp on Snowmass.

10. Crystal Beach, Texas

Galveston Beach Texas

For a low-key, warm getaway, Crystal Beach is an excellent choice! With temperatures averaging a comfortable 18 degrees during the day this month, it offers pleasant warmth without the scorching heat, and it’s notably less crowded than some of Texas’s more popular beach resorts.

Known for its strong commitment to eco-friendliness, Crystal Beach appeals to the discerning traveler seeking sustainability alongside relaxation. Here, expansive open spaces, breathtaking views, a great range of accommodation options, and sightings of seagulls and dolphins await.

My favorite highlights include the pristine sandy coastline, indulging in delectable dining experiences at local restaurants and soaking up the laid-back coastal vibes!

While the water may not be warm enough for comfortable swimming this time of year, I recommend soaking up the sun’s rays on the beach and enjoying a leisurely paddle along the shoreline. With a ferry departing from Galveston to Crystal Beach around the clock, accessibility to this idyllic destination is effortless year-round.

  • Visitors Center Address: 2275 TX-87 Suite 10 #2621, Crystal Beach, TX 77650
  • Watching live country music at Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe.  
  • Playing a round of miniature golf at The Gulf Range.

11. Biltmore Estate, Asheville

Couple vacation Asheville

The first Christmas celebrations at the breathtaking Biltmore Estate in historic Asheville occurred on Christmas Eve in 1895, and today , the festivities kick off in early November with the grand raising of a massive Christmas tree. This marks the beginning of a spectacular display throughout the house and grounds, and over 100 hand-decorated trees and twinkling lights transform the estate into a magical wonderland.

I love that thousands of poinsettias and fresh evergreen garlands adorn the grand hallways, creating a cozy vibe accompanied by live musicians singing festive carols.

Amidst the festive atmosphere, Asheville’s cafes and restaurants offer delectable seasonal fare that perfectly complements the holiday spirit. I highly recommend a visit to Antler Village Winery. Here, as it unveils its annual sparkling white, the winery transforms into a dazzling festival of illumination.

For those seeking a hands-on experience, workshops offer the chance to craft your decorations. At the same time, candlelit evening tours provide a magical opportunity to wander freely through the house, aglow with the warm light of candles and crackling log fires. 

  • Average temperature  – 10 degrees
  • Address: 1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803
  • Seeing the beautiful twinkling Christmas tree display adorned with hundreds of lights.
  • Going for a hearty English-style meal at cozy Cedric’s Tavern with a side dish of warm homemade pretzel rolls.

12. Vermont

Christmas in Vermont

I mmortalized by films like ‘White Christmas,’ Vermont rightfully earns its fame for its stunning winter landscapes. This month, Vermont’s quaint villages and historic towns are adorned with wreaths, trees and homes are illuminated, town squares swish with ice skaters, and The Polar Express sounds its horn! 

To me, Vermont resembles a scene straight out of a Christmas card, with picturesque towns nestled amidst snow-laden spruces. I love that the state buzzes in the joyous spirit of the season through shared meals, festive drinks, and merry gatherings.

The charming town of Woodstock hosts the Annual Wassail Weekend, an enchanting celebration with carol singers, craft workshops, and open houses. There are also plenty of skiing opportunities, and I love the exhilarating Ice Skating Trail at Lake Moray.

If you feel like you’ve lost the Christmas Magic, I recommend a trip to Vermont as the perfect antidote!  

  • Average temperature  – 3.5 degrees
  • Visitors Center Address: 680 North Main St., Route 2. Alburgh, VT 05440
  • Trying Fat Biking at The Stowe Recreation Path.
  • Hunting for artisan seasonal gifs at Vermont Holiday Market.

13. Solvang, California

Solvang at Christmas

Founded by Danish immigrants in 1911, Solvang offers a charming glimpse of Nordic life in the heart of Santa Barbara County, California.

This themed town has blossomed into a beloved destination from its modest origins, drawing visitors far and wide. In my view, the Julefest celebrations, spanning November to December, exude a warmth that can thaw even the iciest of hearts! 

I love the quaint Danish-style buildings dripping with festive decorations, the cute bakeries, the cosy cafes that give off ‘hygge’ vibes, and the charming boutique shops. 

My favorite seasonal highlights include the Christmas markets, candlelight tours, and enchanting caroling sessions that infuse the streets with joy. Don’t miss the magical tree lighting ceremony and the grand Julefest Parade, where Christmas floats glide through the town.  

  • Average temperature – 20 degrees
  • Visitor Center Address: 1637-1639 Copenhagen Dr, Solvang, CA 93463
  • Paying a visit to the super-cute Christmas store Jule Hus, the blown glass ornaments were gorgeous.
  • Having an organic, gluten-free lunch at the quaint Actor’s Corner Cafe.’

14. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Usa

What could be more fitting than spending this month in Bethlehem?

This charming town is aglow with twinkling lights and festive decorations each year, casting a magical spell over its historic snowy streets. I’m particularly fond of the Christmas huts lining the streets, offering artisanal treasures, and the renowned Christkindlmarkt—a sprawling indoor market brimming with unique gifts.

One of Bethlehem’s most charming traditions is The Living Advent Calendar, a daily event held at 5:30 pm at The Goundie House. I suggest experiencing this enchanting tradition firsthand!

Beyond the holiday splendor, Bethlehem is home to The Moravian Bookstore, the oldest continuously operating bookstore in the country. Founded in 1745, this literary haven is nestled in the heart of Bethlehem’s historic district, and when I visit, it’s hard to tear myself away! 

  • Average temperature  – 5 degrees
  • Visitors Center Address: 505 Main St. Bethlehem, PA 18018.
  • Warming up with an authentic German Glühwein at the local Christkindlmarkt.
  • Searching for unique Christmas presents at the trendy Domaci shop.

best us islands to visit in december

Beth Pinches - writer and photographer Beth was born under a wandering star, with drama in her veins and ink in her pen. After stints studying theatre in Dublin and Utrecht she used her creative streak to see as much of the world as she could on as little money. She toured Italian Schools with a children’s theatre troop, lived as an au pair in both Rome and Washington DC, explored the British countryside, worked her way through much of Europe, Salsa danced in Cuba and road-tripped down America’s west coast where she discovered her spiritual home; Portland, Oregon. Other places she loves include Croatia, Finland, Japan and India. In between adventures, travel writing and performing she resides peacefully with her family, cats and ukulele. Find Beth on Linkedin or  Facebook . Hotel Reviewing Experience - Asked by many tourist boards and many high-profile travel brands to formally review hotels including Visit Jersey , Visit Sweden , and Israel Tourist Board. Also travelled around the world scouting out and reviewing all the most unique hotels in the world, check out our Instagram page for photos . Listed as a top UK travel journalist . Portland Reviewing Experience - Lived in Portland for 6 months and spent many months scouting out all the coolest spots.

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  • 1 Trunk Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
  • 2 Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos
  • 3 Laguna Beach, California
  • 4 The Baths, Virgin Gorda
  • 5 Pink Sands Beach, Bahamas
  • 6 Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda
  • 7 Smathers Beach, Key West
  • 8 Grand Anse Beach, Grenada
  • 9 Mauna Kea Beach (Kauna’oa Bay), Hawaii
  • 10 Spanish Wall Beach, Rincon, Puerto Rico

10 Incredible Beaches to Visit This December

When winter comes calling and changing leaves are replaced by habitual flurries, it's time for a sunny escape. Here, 10 of the best beaches around—each begging us to flee the cold this December.

P.S. Check out What to Pack for a Beach Vacation before your next seaside getaway!

A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.

See recent posts by Chelsea Stuart

Trunk Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Trunk Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Velvety-soft sands, mild island breezes, and serene, crystalline surf greet visitors at Trunk Bay in tropical St. John. Even in December, you’ll find agreeable weather at the Virgin Islands National Park shoreline, where average land and sea temps hover in the 80s. While sunbathing is one of the main draws, you can always snorkel the Trunk Bay Underwater Reef Trail , a 225-yard-long family-friendly path dotted with colorful fan coral and exotic marine life.

RELATED:  Save BIG with our incredible deals on beach hotels going on right now >>>

Grace Bay Beach in Turks and Caicos

Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos

Scoot on over to the Northeast coast of Providenciales (Provo, if you want to fit in) and you’ll find the 12-mile-long, barrier reef-protected Grace Bay Beach . The postcard-perfect stretch of white and pink sand consistently lands international ‘best of’ lists for its impossibly turquoise waters, calm surf, and nearly year-round sunshine. Winter in Provo—get a load of this—means air temps in the mid-80s while the ocean remains tepid as well, in the mid-70s.

Laguna Beach in California

Laguna Beach, California

Late November and certainly December may spell out descending temps and snow flurries for most regions of the U.S., but on the West Coast, Cali still clings to a sliver of sun. Drive yourself down the state’s rugged coast on the scenic Pacific Coast Highway and make a pit stop in Laguna Beach. Though the luxe Orange County town was sprung to reality TV fame in 2004 thanks to a high school-age Lauren Conrad (and co.), it’s an indisputable destination in its own right with mild temps and eight miles of rambling coves and beaches , including downtown Main Beach—Laguna’s “Window to the Sea.”

RELATED :  7 Hidden California Beaches for Crowd-Free Paradise

The Baths in Virgin Gorda

The Baths, Virgin Gorda

If you’ve never heard of Virgin Gorda, let us properly introduce you. The 8.5-mile mountainous island, the third largest in the British Virgin Islands, is home to one of the Caribbean’s most visited natural wonders: the Baths . On the southern end of the isle lies a maze of eroded, volcanic granite boulders, tidal pools, natural cave tunnels, and rocky grottoes that attract holiday-makers in search of primo snorkeling spots.

Pink Sands Beach in the Bahamas

Pink Sands Beach, Bahamas

Though most dedicate the bulk of their Bahamian trips to Nassau or Paradise Island—AKA mega-resort central—those in the know hop a ferry to Harbour Island to spend a lazy day on Pink Sands Beach . The three-mile expanse of coral reef-protected shore is laid-back in all the ways that its resort-town siblings never could be. Serene Atlantic waves meet a crowd of friendly locals and few visitors, and bet you didn’t guess it: pale pink sand. An added bonus? The sand is always delightfully cool to the touch, so you can walk barefoot without worrying about burning your toes.

Horseshoe Bay in Bermuda

Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda

The 21-mile-long island of Bermuda isn’t aching for beautiful beaches, that’s for sure; so topping our list takes quite a lot. One of our highest regarded is the fine, white and pink-sand Horseshoe Bay . The Atlantic shoreline, rimmed with limestone rocks and dotted with intimate coves, is named for its curved shape. While the beach can be overrun by overzealous sun-seekers, you can easily jaunt to nearby vacant inlets—like Rocky Port Royal Cove (AKA Baby Beach) to the west, and Peel Rock Cove to the east—to avoid the masses. If you’re down for some time in the water, don’t miss out on killer snorkeling; parrot fish, angel fish, and snappers are just some of the colorful aquatic species you may encounter.

RELATED: 17 Incredible Caribbean Vacations

Smathers Beach in Key West

Smathers Beach, Key West

We’re going to be upfront on this one: rumor has it that the sand on Key West’s Smathers Beach isn’t native to Florida, but…the Bahamas. After hurricane season comes and goes each year, dutifully wiping away the beach’s shore, the state ships in the good stuff from the Caribbean to replenish and rebuild. Despite borrowing one of its best assets from international beaches, the spot is especially popular among spring breakers, sunbathers, and those in search of an exceptional sunset. Since the tide isn’t strong enough for surfing, it’s particularly ideal for swimmers and snorkelers, and it’s also conveniently located—just a mile or so from Duval Street in Old Town, one of the liveliest areas in Key West.

Grand Anse Beach in Grenada

Image Courtesy of Grenada Tourism Authority

Grand Anse Beach, Grenada

Situated in the Caribbean Sea between Trinidad and Tobago, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is Grenada, an isle home to no less than 45 pristine beaches. More than a few are certainly worth their salt, but it’s the 2-mile, palm and almond tree-lined Grand Anse , on the southwestern coast, that steals the show time and time again. Despite drawing hoards of locals and throngs of cruise ship shoobies, it’s large enough to accommodate everyone without feeling congested. Take to the calm waters for a dip, or go extreme sport-mode and try your luck water-skiing, parasailing, or sea kayaking.

Mauna Kea Beach (Kauna’oa Bay), Hawaii

Mauna Kea Beach (Kauna’oa Bay), Hawaii

One thing every Big Island vacationer should know: all BI beaches are public access (read: completely free!), and while there are a handful to choose from, Mauna Kea (also known as Kauna’oa Bay Beach) is our go-to. Since access is controlled by the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel , the quarter-mile, sublime stretch keeps crowds to a minimum. The hotel has only 40 parking spots for non-guests, so your best bet is to get there bright and early—by 9 a.m., otherwise you’ll be stuck staking out a spot. Daytime visitors can bank on sloping white sands that feed into a gentle surf, while those who make nighttime pilgrimages are treated to manta ray sightings as a result of the hotel’s floodlights that attract their favorite snack: plankton.

RELATED :  The Best All-Inclusive Resorts for Every Type of Traveler

Spanish Wall Beach in Rincon, Puerto Rico

Spanish Wall Beach, Rincon, Puerto Rico

If you’re looking for a beach far off the beaten path (sorry for the cliche, but it’s apt), the largely ‘secret’ Spanish Wall is one few tourists make it to. This is in part because the shallow and secluded coast—at the very western top of Rincon, where the Atlantic crosses paths with the Caribbean—requires a hike from the wildly popular Domes Beach along the Domes Trail. Word to the wise: not only is the unspoiled stretch still relatively toasty in the winter, but that’s when surfers will actually find the best breaks.

What to Pack

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10 Incredible U.S. Islands That Should Be On Your Bucket List This Winter

Banish all your cold weather woes in these 10 United States islands.

Winter brings out different emotions in travelers. Some hate the cold and prefer to tuck in their sheets, while others see it as an opportunity to try thrilling winter activities. The good thing is the excursions don’t have to revolve around skiing in Telluride only, which is a winter wonderland .

Islands evoke dreams of paradise, and the United States has plenty of them, defined by their thriving coral kingdoms or stunning topography. Some islands in the U.S. allow holidayers to brave the cold in style , enabling them to create epic memories. Most travelers have a soft spot for these 10 U.S. islands, all with a fair share of exhilarating outdoor adventures best enjoyed during winter.

10 Santa Catalina Island, California

Since wintertime is the off-season in Santa Catalina Island , there are fewer crowds, and some attractions are closed down. However, tourists have many land and water activities, such as semi-submarine adventures, golf cart tours, or playing a mini-golf course at the Gold Gardens.

Although the waters are chilly, a thick swimsuit keeps kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders cozy throughout their expeditions. Adventurers come face-to-face with marine life while aboard a semi-submarine. The portholes enable tourists to view the bright orange Garibaldi, urchins, and bat rays.

Related: Brave The Cold, Rejoice In Beauty: 10 Best Winter Destinations For The Adventurous Traveler

9 Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island transforms into a picture-perfect destination during winter, with powder-white snow covering the buildings, the majestic Mackinac Bridge, and Lake Huron as the backdrops. The quiet atmosphere makes Mackinac an ideal romantic getaway for lovebirds to reignite their spark. A must-do activity for couples is arranging a private livery carriage tour for a romantic date.

For tourists looking for an outdoorsy activity, the Mackinac Island State Park is the perfect place to try out cross-country skiing. Additionally, they can attend the once-a-month Fort Mackinac Turtle Trek snowshoeing and cross-country event from January to March.

8 Sanibel & Captiva Islands, Florida

The dull sun, cool air, and stunning beaches call shelling enthusiasts along the shores of Sanibel & Captiva Islands. This family-friendly activity engages the young ones without getting them wet. What’s more, as families comb the beaches for shells, they keep an eye out for sea turtles and herons.

Beachgoers can wear warm clothes to relax by the beach while listening to the soothing sounds of the waves in the background. The gorgeous sunset on the horizon is worth waiting for in the evening when the shores are uncrowded.

Related: From Snowy Peaks To Sunny Shores: The Ultimate List Of 10 Best Winter Destinations

7 Bald Head Island, North Carolina

Bald Head Island offers a calm atmosphere and beautiful surroundings where vacationers explore or relax during winter. Travelers choose from playing golf, bike riding, sailing, strolling along the beach, fishing, and exploring the Old Baldy Lighthouse.

The Bald Head Island Conservancy organizes hikes for nature lovers and explorers to learn about the importance of the coastal wooded habitat. Birdwatchers can hop on a guided tour to see the diverse types of birds on the island’s various ecosystems. Fortunately, the accommodation prices are significantly slashed compared to summer prices.

6 Maui, Hawaii

Winter in Maui means whale-watching tours and lots of family-friendly fun. Many boat tour companies arrange whale-watching cruises around the island. The humpback whales are visible from the shores, but vacationers can also canoe or kayak to see these enormous creatures. Visitors have a once-in-a-lifetime experience when they hear the whales sing in their natural habitat.

Besides whale-watching, vacationers can attend annual events such as the Banyan Tree Lighting, PGA TOUR Sentry Tournament, the Chinese New Year Festival, and Maui Whale Festival.

Related: Brave The Cold: 10 Essential Tips For A Successful Backpacking Trip In Winter

5 Amelia Island, Florida

Amelia Island is a barrier island with a laid-back vibe, especially during winter. This island caters to all types of tourists with its active nightlife, outdoor activities, and rich history. Although the winter mornings have a brisk breeze, the golden sandy beaches are excellent for a stroll as vacationers bask in the glorious sunrise.

Visitors can explore Amelia Island Light, which is Florida’s oldest lighthouse, built between 1838-1839. The lighthouse management opens the grounds to explorers every Saturday for three hours and conducts tours twice a month.

4 South Padre Island, Texas

South Padre Island is a wonderland during winter , allowing visitors to have fun whether they are looking for a chilled or adrenaline-filled vacation. The nightlife on this island gets exciting when the sun begins to set with the numerous restaurant and bar options.

Tourists go for an exhilarating and informative dolphin-watching tour on the bay. However, visitors should wear warm clothes if the breeze gets too cold. Jet skiers and kite surfers can have fun riding the waves on the Texas Gulf coast, provided the air temperature and other conditions are favorable.

3 Oahu, Hawaii

Vacationing on Oahu Island during winter is a great time to enjoy its famous attractions but with fewer lines and crowds. Adventurous visitors create lots of unique experiences as they can try out scuba diving, kayaking, or snorkeling, while food lovers sample treats at Niko’s Fish Market or local food trucks.

Hikers spend their mornings trekking the rugged 1.6-mile Diamond Head trail as they revel in breathtaking sunrise and panoramic views of Oahu. Additionally, the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse paved trail rewards hikers with spectacular views of the southern coastline of Oahu and the historic Makapu’u Lighthouse.

Related: 10 Winter Bucket List Destinations In The U.S. You Need To See

2 Daufuskie Island, South Carolina

Fishing, hunting deer, frolicking along the shores, and exploring the outdoors are what Daufuskie Island offers in winter. Experienced foragers can head out to the maritime forest to look for wild edible plants and mushrooms as they listen to the soothing nature sounds.

History buffs can explore the First Union Baptist African Church, the Haig Point, and Bloody Point Lighthouses, constructed in 1873 and 1883. The Union Baptist African Church is the oldest building on Daufuskie Island and is still a local worship place.

1 San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan Island is a tranquil winter getaway for travelers looking to recharge their batteries and reset their minds. The stormy days call for get-togethers with friends as they enjoy signature cocktails, treats, and music in the local restaurants.

Vacationers looking to pamper themselves can schedule rejuvenating body treatments and massages at the Lavendera Massage or the Spa at Earthbox in San Juan Island. The Spa at Earthbox also offers luxurious facial treatments and therapeutic hot stone massages, perfect for winter relaxation.

29 of the Best Places to Travel in December (USA Edition)

12/01/2023 by Kristin Addis 1 Comment

With the end of the year comes a new world of travel possibilities. You can spend December fully embracing the chill of the season, or find a warm getaway if that’s more your style! Good thing the United States offers opportunities for travelers of all types, with appealing destinations scattered throughout the country. 

Starting from the West Coast and heading east, here’s a list of the top 29 destinations to visit this December:

Table of Contents

1. Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua trees in nevada

Winter is without a doubt the best time to see the deserts in California . Joshua Tree National Park is  one of the best places to visit in the colder months . The park’s temperatures range on average by December from near 40 degrees Fahrenheit overnight to near 60 by afternoon, which makes daytime hiking and rock climbing infinitely more enjoyable than the unbearable summertime heat. 

Read Next: What to Do in Joshua Tree National Park

Deserts make up around a quarter of the state, so there are plenty of others as well.  Check out this BMTM post  for some of the best deserts in California.

2. Death Valley National Park, California & Nevada

death valley national park in winter

If you’ve been dying to check out Death Valley (see what I did there?) but are a little nervous about its famously scorching temperatures, consider going in December! All throughout the winter months, the area sees a dip in its usually high temps, making it much more enjoyable for hikers.

Death Valley National Park is home to some seriously out-of-this-world landscapes that you definitely don’t want to miss out on. From the colorful Artist’s Palette to the stunning  Golden Canyon , there’s plenty  to see and do in Death Valley . Even though December is one of the best times to visit this incredible national park, it’s not typically crowded, so you can enjoy some of the best spots without worrying about overwhelming crowds cramping your style.

3. Mendocino County, California

fort bragg glass beach

While Mendocino County is famous for having weather reminiscent of eternal spring, December sees chilly temperatures that are cold enough to bundle up for, but warm enough to be able to get outside and enjoy the area’s moody coastline.

Mendocino County is the perfect December getaway for nature lovers and anyone who loves the cozy vibe of the beginning of winter. Fort Bragg is home to the legendary Glass Beach, which gets its name from the layer of colorful sea glass that washes up on its shore. In  Mendocino , you can check out Jug Handle State Natural Reserve, Van Damme State Park, Mendocino Headlands State Park, and other stunning natural areas. Stay at a chic boutique hotel to soak it all in each evening!

4. Truckee, California

Truckee california

Truckee in the winter is a snowy wonderland and absolutely beautiful when the snow settles. You’ll want to check out the lake views at Donner Memorial State Park, hike the Truckee River Regional Park Legacy Trail, and dive in the Emerald Pools swimming hole — it’ll be cold, but so very refreshing. Lake Tahoe and Reno are only day trips away, and Donner Pass is a historic experience to drive through. There’s also fun to be had with snowboarding, skiing, and ice skating!

If you get snowed in though and must spend time indoors, there are plenty of neat museums, breweries, and coffee shops to fill your heart. Check out this amazing list of things to do in Truckee .

5. Sun Valley, Idaho

sun valley Idaho

Idaho  is one the country’s best-kept secrets, and December is especially a great time to visit the state. Sun Valley gives you the opportunity to see some of the most picturesque winter landscapes  in the United States. Throughout December, the nearby Sawtooth Mountains get  that  much more magical when a new layer of snow decorates the scenery. With fantastic skiing opportunities,  naturally occurring hot springs , and hospitable locals, Sun Valley is one of the most ideal trips for a cozy December getaway.

6. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone national park

As the least populated state, Wyoming may be the ideal destination to get some peace and quiet.  Yellowstone National Park is beautiful  no matter what time of year, but especially so during the winter. There’s a reason why  the park is one of BMTM’s bucket list–worthy road trip stops !

Many roads may be closed during the month, but the oen between Mammoth Hot Springs and the northeast entrance is open all year. Check out the  park’s webpage  for more information.

7. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

grand Tetons national park

Head 30 miles south of Yellowstone and you’ll find  Grand Teton National Park , which can be enjoyed just as much in December. Most of it is only reachable by cross-country ski or snowshoe during this time of the year, but the isolation is more than worth it.

8. San Juan County, Utah

valley of the gods

Many people thinking of December trips may not consider  Utah . Lucky for you (and your wallet!),  there’s so much to explore in the state’s off season . The temperatures in the area dip to highs only in the 40s Fahrenheit and lows in the 20s in December, making the weather chilly but bearable. If you want a trip  full of exploration , San Juan County’s Valley of the Gods is BLM land, meaning you can camp in any of the road pulloffs (provided you leave no trace). If you decide to hike in any of Utah’s national parks, be sure you’re prepared for potentially icy conditions.

9. Moab, Utah

Moab Utah

Moab sits between two of  Utah’s best national parks :  Arches  and Canyonlands, so this charming town surrounded by red-rock landscapes is a great pick for December adventurers. Not only can you hit up popular places like Delicate Arch and Mesa Arch without seeing too many crowds, but the chilly weather here isn’t too frigid to put a damper on your trip.

Moab doesn’t get very much snow, but the surrounding La Sal Mountains will likely be completely white this time of year. The color contrast between the white mountains and red-orange rock formations is a stunning sight that you only get in the wintertime.

Find out what else to do in Moab here.

10. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain national park Utah

If you want a December full of towering mountains, Colorado is the place to go. For one, the state is known for having the most “fourteeners” (mountains higher than 14,000 feet) in the country. 

While some parks close during this time of the year,  Rocky Mountain National Park  is open year-round. Though you can enjoy your trip here with just snowshoeing gear, there are opportunities for sledding and skiing too. The colder months are also ideal for watching wildlife like elk, moose, and deer. Check out the  park’s page  for more details on the winter activities you can do here. 

Colorado also makes for a  fun road trip  if you want to explore the state during your December trip. 

11. Sedona, Arizona

sedona arizona

Sedona, Arizona , is one of the  United States’ hubs for everything spiritual , but it’s also a fantastic place to enjoy the outdoors in December. If you’re coming from a place that gets super cold in the winter, Sedona is a great escape to warmer temperatures without it being too hot.

Another huge plus of visiting Sedona in December is the laid-back atmosphere and thinner crowds. Head out for a hike to the Seven Sacred Pools or Devil’s Bridge, and you might be able to enjoy some solitude, as there won’t be as many hikers as there are in the warmer months.

Find out what else there is to do in Sedona here .

12. Bisti Badlands Wilderness, New Mexico

Bisti Badlands Wilderness, New Mexico

Want to see some otherworldly landscapes with names like “Alien’s Throne” and “Dragon Eggs”? Head out to the Bisti Badlands Wilderness in New Mexico for all that and more. This incredible slice of undisturbed nature is a  must-see place in New Mexico  because of its uniqueness. The Bisti Badlands are a whopping 45,000 acres, with no real trails or paths to follow, making it ideal for travelers seeking a truly rugged adventure.

You can visit the Bisti Badlands any time of year and find very few people, but December is especially ideal because of the mild weather and even fewer people. Make sure to bring a 4×4 vehicle and plenty of water!

13. Taos, New Mexico

Taos New Mexico

After the heat of the New Mexican climate fades away, December brings a time of rich cultural activities to the state. Taos combines both the natural and traditional draws of New Mexico, as a historic town located a half-hour drive from mountains ideal for skiing. If you come around Christmas, you’ll be able to see  luminarias  light the streets and parks of the state.

Taos is also a hub for forward-thinking architecture and has an entire community of people with Earthships, a sustainable type of home with all kinds of neat, environmentally friendly features.  Read more about the Taos Earthships here .

Check out this post  for other things to do in New Mexico.

14. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque New Mexico

If you like history, Albuquerque might be the best next vacation for you. Definitely take a walk through Old Town, check out the Albuquerque Museum, stay at Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm , go to the Petroglyph National Monument, and watch a film at the historic KiMo Theatre.

But there’s plenty more to do if you’re not that into history, like snowshoe the Cibola National Forest , hike the Sandia Mountains, and get a view from above on the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway.

15. Big Bend National Park, Texas

big bend national park

Big Bend National Park  is a desert area along the southwest Texan border with Mexico. This park is arguably the best place on this list to stargaze — it  has the least light pollution of any other national park unit in the lower 48 states ! 

The average temperatures in Big Bend range from a nighttime low of 39 degrees to a daytime high of 63 degrees Fahrenheit, though sudden periods of cold weather happen on occasion. According to the park’s website,  the holidays are typically busy , so reservations for accommodations are highly recommended.

16. Fredericksburg, Texas

Fredericksburg, Texas

For a holiday experience with a  German  touch, check out Fredericksburg, home to the largest number of Texas German speakers. If you come in the latter part of December, you’ll be able to  see the town decked out in full Christmas decorations — German Christmas pyramid included!

The town is also around 70 miles from other cities, such as San Antonio and Austin, making for a great roadtrip stop.

17. New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans

New Orleans has  so  much to offer beyond the Mardi Gras season. Besides being a great city for solo female travelers , it is just as full of energy in December as in February during Mardi Gras. Definitely go to the Bywater District , and maybe try some delicious vegan food ! Here’s a great itinerary for exploring New Orleans , and a helpful packing list . As a plus, December is during the shoulder season, so you’ll be able to still find relatively good accommodation deals.

18. Florida Keys Road Trip

florida sailing school

If you’re craving a sense of freedom, the Florida Keys are the answer. You can drive the entire Overseas Highway and gaze out at the Atlantic Ocean the whole time, hopping from key to key. There’s plenty of things to do in Key Largo , Islamorada , Marathon , Big Pine , and Key West , like sunset sails , snorkeling , and heading to the beaches . It’s America’s own slice of Caribbean paradise, with a special feel. (If you’re traveling solo, here’s everything you need to know .)

Where to Stay in Marathon Where to Stay in Key Largo Where to Stay in Key West

19. St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine, Florida

If you want a December trading snowboards for surfboards, few places fit the bill as perfectly as Florida. During the holiday season, St. Augustine is most known for its  Nights of Lights , a free celebration during which the city is covered in lights! 

In general, you can enjoy Florida’s summer activities during the winter. Whether you want to  learn how to sail in Ft. Myers or  explore Cocoa Beach , the state has a ton to offer throughout the end of the year.

20. Savannah, Georgia

savannah georgia

For a quaint Southern getaway,  Savannah  is an ideal destination. Shops selling holiday trinkets fill the hallmark  River Street  in December, offering the festive experience without the intense cold.

As a bonus, head about an hour and a half south to Georgia’s Jekyll Island for its annual  Holly Jolly Jekyll  festival. Throughout December, the island offers activities, ranging from a skating village to an array of light displays.

21. Charleston, South Carolina


Similar to the charm and historic landscape of Savannah,  Charleston  is a relaxing option for travelers this month. The city has a mild climate, giving visitors a slight chill of winter without the dramatic snowfall. Throughout December, the city hosts a celebration called the Holiday Festival of Lights , complete with lights, sculptures, and Santa!

22. Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville’s location lets you experience the best of the Appalachian’s winter scenery while keeping the conveniences of the city. Depending on the weather, some parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains may be closed.

But there are more things to do here than just day hike.  Here are a few of the best free and budget-friendly things to do in Asheville . If you’re willing to spend some money, the Biltmore Estate hosts an annual  Christmas at Biltmore  celebration that’s made the city popular during the holiday season.

23. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee

Even though much of December is  Nashville ‘s low season, the city doesn’t lose any of its charm. Popular pastimes throughout the month include seeing the Christmas decorations at the  Gaylord Opryland Hotel  and attending the  annual Christmas Parade . If you come at the end of the month, you can catch Music City’s  New Year’s Eve extravaganza .

This is also a fantastic  budget destination in the US , as there are dozens of  free things to do in Nashville .

24. Hocking Hills, Ohio

Hocking Hills, Ohio

Hocking Hills is an area in southeastern Ohio with some of the most dramatic topographic features in the Midwest. There are a ton of scenic preserves and parks in the area, the most famous being  Hocking Hills State Park . In December, you may see snow and ice formations along the trails, adding to the beauty of the parks’ hikes.

25. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago, Illinois

There’s no denying that winters in  Chicago  can get very cold. However, December doesn’t suffer the brunt of the winter freeze, which makes it an excellent destination if you want to take advantage of some off-season deals. You’ll be able to see some of the city’s main holiday attractions, including light displays at the  Lincoln Park Zoo and the traditional  Christkindlmarket .

Chicago also has tons of  free things to do , so between that and the off-season deals, December is the  perfect time to visit Chicago  on a budget. 

26. New York, New York

New York, New York

If Hollywood has showed us anything, it’s that  New York City  is the quintessential place to spend the holiday season. And how can it not be iconic? From ice skating in the parks to holiday shopping down Fifth Avenue, NYC is a playground of festive activity.

If you’re intimidated by its reputation for being super expensive, consider all of these  free things to do in the Big Apple , which can help offset some of the higher prices on things like food and accommodation.

27. Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park , a piece of northeastern coastal land mostly on Maine’s Mount Desert Island, shines in December. Some of its roads close this month, so be aware of the park’s  operating hours and seasons . Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are a few of the popular activities this time of year, along with  ice fishing  (though that is mainly popular during the latter part of winter).

Off the Mainland

28. maui, hawai’i.

road to hana

There isn’t really a bad time to visit Hawai’i , making it a popular destination for those with time off during the holiday season. Maui is a great spot to explore, especially solo (here are tips for how to experience Maui alone ), with journeys like the  Road to Hana  to keep you busy.

Check out  our Hawai’i guide  for more tips as to how you can spend your December here. Not sure what to pack? We’ve got you covered with this perfect Hawai’i packing list .

29. Vieques, Puerto Rico

Vieques, Puerto Rico

Thanks to its location south of the Tropic of Cancer,  Puerto Rico  is in a year-round state of summer. As one of two territories in the Caribbean that US citizens can enter without a passport, Puerto Rico is a perfect option for December travelers wanting to brush up on their Spanish. Most people visiting Vieques Island come to see  Mosquito Bay , one of the five bioluminescent bays in the world. Come out here on a dark night to experience nature’s very own light show.

Regardless of where in the US you are, there is no one way to spend the month of December. With the holiday season in full swing, there’s bound to be a destination that’ll finish your year off in an unforgettable way.

Is there a place you want to visit this December? Let us know!

About Kristin Addis

Kristin Addis is the founder and CEO of Be My Travel Muse, a resource for female travelers all around the world since 2012. She's traveled solo to over 65 countries and has brought over 150 women on her all-female adventure tours from Botswana to the Alaskan tundra.

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09/20/2023 at 2:03 am

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  • Winter Vacations

11 Best Places to Travel in December

These are the best places to visit in December in the U.S. and around the world.

best us islands to visit in december

rusm/Getty Images

The end of the year is incredibly busy with gift shopping, decorating for the holidays, and family gatherings. So before you run out of open days, take some time to book that winter vacation — even if it’s just a weekend getaway. Whether you’re looking for a warm-weather escape to end the year or a festive destination brimming with holiday cheer, we’ve got you covered. From ski towns to beach resorts, here are 11 of the best places to travel in December.

Lake Tahoe, California

Don Eim/Travel + Leisure

Snowfall usually begins in late November in Lake Tahoe, so you can be one of the first to hit the slopes when you visit in December. The destination’s sapphire blue lake, pine forests, and snow-covered peaks are gorgeous this time of year. Stay on the south shore at Edgewood Lake Tahoe , which hosts holiday festivities throughout the month; the resort’s new multi-bedroom Villa Suites are perfect for families or groups. On the north shore, Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe features ski-in/ski-out access and a mountainside concierge. Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe and Edgewood Lake Tahoe were both among Travel + Leisure’s Best Resorts in the Western United States in 2022. Nearby Reno Tahoe offers a wide range of winter activities and a convenient airport with flights from many major cities.

Palm Springs, California

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure

If you’re looking for mild weather, superb restaurants, golf, plush hotels, spas, and great shopping, put Palm Springs on your December must-visit list. And at just two hours from Los Angeles and San Diego, the Greater Palm Springs area is easy to reach. Check the concert and sports events schedule at the new Acrisure Arena , which hosted Cirque du Soleil’s new Corteo this summer — a first for the desert venue. Lodging ranges from expansive resorts like the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort to boutique and adult-only properties. Stay just steps from downtown Palm Springs in a quiet and historic neighborhood at Auric House ; you’ll feel like a local as you stroll to restaurants, shops, and breakfast at nearby Korakia Pensione .

Charleston, South Carolina

ChristopherPillitz/In Pictures via Getty Images Images

Charleston topped the T+L World’s Best Awards list this year for favorite cities in the United States, and it’s a perfect destination for the holidays, with gorgeous decorations adorning historic buildings, streets, and neighborhoods. Christmas markets, tree lightings, parades, and seasonal events inspire the holiday spirit during December. The Charleston Place gets decked out for the season, and the other best Charleston hotels include the Emeline , Planters Inn (a Relais & Châteaux property), and The Vendue , Charleston’s art hotel.

Newport Beach, California

Adrian Rudd/Travel + Leisure

With weather in the 60s and lots of Southern California sunshine, Newport Beach is a great December destination for hiking, cruising the harbor in a Duffy boat, whale watching, visiting Balboa Island, or strolling along the beach. The city celebrates the holiday season with the annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade each night from Dec. 13-17, when more than 100 decorated yachts, boats, kayaks, and canoes cruise the waterfront, along with music, fireworks, and glittering lights. Stay near the action at Lido House , an Autograph Collection hotel, or be among the first to stay at the new Pendry Newport Beach . For five-star luxury, two oceanfront golf courses, and stunning views, choose The Resort at Pelican Hill . Accommodation options here include bungalow rooms and suites with fireplaces and private terraces, as well as Mediterranean-style villas with two, three, or four bedrooms.

Branson, Missouri

tomofbluesprings/Getty Images

In Branson, the two-month-long Ozark Mountain Christmas celebration kicks off in early November, and it’s an incredible way to get into the holiday spirit. Known as “America’s Christmas Tree City” for good reason, Branson features more than 1,500 decorated trees, shows, parades, 6.5 million lights, drive-through displays , and photo opportunities with Santa Claus. Throughout December, there’s caroling by the fire, story times, and a candy village displayed in the lobby of the Chateau on the Lake . At Big Cedar Lodge , guests can sip hot cocoa, see twinkling holiday lights, skate at the Winter Wonderland ice rink, make wreaths, and bake gingerbread — and that’s just a few of the property’s annual Home for the Holidays activities.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Nikada/Getty Images

December is considered one of the best months to visit Dubai thanks to moderate weather that’s ideal for being outdoors exploring the city. Visitors will find a festive atmosphere and myriad seasonal events , from elaborately decorated Christmas trees and holiday markets to shopping malls decked out for the season. See public art in the Dubai Design District, lounge at the beachfront in La Mer, or visit the historic Al Fahidi District. Stay at the elegant Habtoor Palace , LXR Hotels & Resorts, or the plush Burj Al Arab Jumeirah . Welcoming guests starting Dec. 1, One&Only One Za’abeel is located in the heart of the city near the Dubai World Trade Centre. The Lana , Dorchester Collection, Dubai, will also open in December beside the Dubai Canal.

Riviera Maya, Mexico

Located on the Yucatan Peninsula along the Caribbean, Riviera Maya is 30 minutes south of Cancun and offers calm seas, sandy beaches, sunny weather, and lodging for all tastes, from boutique hotels to lavish resorts. Maya archaeological sites are fascinating to explore, and cenotes — caves or underground holes filled with cool water — are another intriguing feature of the Yucatan. Mayakoba , a private community with nearly 600 acres of lagoons, jungles, and beaches, includes El Camaleón Golf Club , luxury residences, and four resorts: Fairmont Mayakoba , Andaz Mayakoba , Banyan Tree Mayakoba , and Rosewood Mayakoba . Celebrate the new year with legendary Mexican musician Luis Miguel in concert on Dec. 31 at the nearby golf course. Also in Riviera Maya is Maroma , A Belmond Hotel, now open after an extensive renovation and redesign led by Tara Bernerd & Partners . 

Vienna, Austria

Ambika Verma/Travel + Leisure

While Vienna is lovely year-round, it is dazzling in December, with holiday decorations, lights, markets, and Christmas trees galore. Delicious Austrian food is part of the celebration, and mugs of Christmas punch (made with rum and/or brandy) keep shoppers warm as they browse or sample wiener schnitzel, sausage, apple strudel, or traditional roasted chestnuts. Or, stop into a café for coffee and Sachertorte, a famous Austrian chocolate cake. T+L readers recently voted for their favorite Vienna hotels , and The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna took the top spot. The Rosewood Vienna , which just opened last year, and The Amauris Vienna , a Relais & Châteaux property, are also fine options. Note that river cruises are a great way to see Europe’s many Christmas markets, and itineraries are offered through several companies, including AmaWaterways , Viking River Cruises , and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises .

Fort Worth, Texas

Think about this lively Texas city for an end-of-year vacation or weekend getaway, when the weather is in the comfortable high 50s and there’s so much to do. The Fort Worth Zoo features holiday decorations, lights, falling snow, and visits from Santa in December. The Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District , where ranchers once traded cattle and cowboys drove the animals to market, is still in action with a daily longhorn cattle drive, restaurants, rodeo shows, bars, and tours of the original wooden corrals. Stay at Hotel Drover , in the heart of the District, where holiday decor and activities add to the fun. Near the downtown Sundance Square entertainment area, Kimpton Harper Hotel is set in a historic building that was once the tallest in Fort Worth. The Crescent Hotel, Fort Worth opens this autumn and features a Canyon Ranch Wellness Club with a full menu of fitness classes and spa treatments.

U.S. Virgin Islands

Lauren Breedlove/Travel + Leisure

Located in the northeastern Caribbean Sea, St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas make up the U.S. Virgin Islands. Whether you travel to the Caribbean for the beaches, water sports, outdoor adventures, shopping, or nightlife, these islands have myriad options. Join the fun at St. Croix’s Crucian Christmas Festival, which begins Dec. 10 and combines Caribbean, African, Spanish, and Dutch influences in traditional carnival events. The closing parade happens on Jan. 6, when thousands of masqueraders fill the streets. Among accommodation options are the waterfront King Christian Hotel in downtown Christiansted, St. Croix and The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas , which hosts holiday activities throughout December. Passports are not required for travel to this United States territory.

This sunny island in the eastern Caribbean is a perfect December escape, whether you’re traveling with friends or family or looking for a romantic getaway. From relaxing on the beach or by the pool to active adventures like kitesurfing, diving, or playing golf, there are lots of fun things to do on Anguilla. Places to stay include boutique hotels, resorts, villas, and apartments at a range of prices. Consider the family-friendly Four Seasons Resort & Residences Anguilla , Malliouhana Resort , and Frangipani Beach Resort , where there’s fun for everyone. Cap Juluca, A Belmond Hotel and Altamer offer private villas. Zemi Beach House on Shoal Bay Beach features a spa set in a 306-year-old Thai house.

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best islands to visit in December

Many people consider summer to be the best time of year to travel. I completely disagree. I absolutely love travelling in the off-season and autumn and winter are slowly becoming my favourites. One thing I love about winter travel is how varied it is. You can be shoeshowing through a forest one moment, take a flight and be lounging on a Caribbean island the following day! Speaking of which, if you’re wondering what the best islands to visit in December are, you’ve come to the right place!

the best islands to visit in December - Malta

Islands escapes often conjure up images of sun-soaked paradises and colourful cocktails. And while this is mainly the case, I’ve also decided to throw in a few non-tropical islands into this list. If you’re considering heading to an island in December, don’t set your sights on the Caribbean just yet! 

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The Best Islands to Visit in December

For the perfect mix of sun, sea, and snow (trust me!), I’ve rounded up 19 of the best islands to visit in December. Without further ado, these are my top pics.  

Average Temperature : 17°C (62°F)

Let’s start off with an island that isn’t tropical at all. But is still one of the best island escapes to have over the winter months. Malta is a hidden gem in Europe. It represents everything good about winter sun while remaining a somewhat off-the-beaten-path experience. Especially in December. 

malta is one of the best islands to visit in December

You likely won’t be able to catch a tan in Malta in winter. But, you will be able to explore the island without the summer crowds, go hiking, see some fantastic history, and some stunning natural beauty. 

The island is super easy to get around with public transport. Buses can take you to most areas of the island and, while some can be unreliable (mainly the ones coming from the airport – we learned this the hard way), the majority are reliable, efficient, and affordable. However, if buses aren’t your style, it’s fairly simple to hire a car . If you’re from the UK, you’ll also be pleased to know that they drive on the left side of the road which makes getting around very easy. 

beautiful buildings in Malta

While on the island, a few must-sees including the old town of Rabat with its winding cobbled lanes, the historic Mdina, walk the heritage walking trail, and visit the historic temples. I also highly recommend you take a ferry to Gozo, where you’ll find more fantastic temples, beautiful gardens, and a towering citadel with great views. 

Malta is also pretty good for New Year’s Eve with a great party in Valletta and fireworks.

2. Phuket, Thailand

Average Temperature : 30°C (86°F)

If you’re dreaming of a tropical island escape during the winter months, you can’t go wrong with Phuket, in Thailand. Located south of the country, you can get here via a 1-and-a-half-hour flight from Bangkok . However, some airlines will also fly here directly. I flew into Phuket International Airport, and from there, a short ride took me to my hotel

Phuket in Thailand

It’s a fairly touristy destination , but this all depends on where you stay. The island is big enough to offer a bit of everything.

You’ll find pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters, great for swimming and paddling. Explore the bustling markets in Old Phuket Town, where you’ll find a mix of cultural treasures and quirky street art, and for outdoor lovers, activities like snorkelling in the Similan Islands or hiking to the Big Buddha are a must.  

Then, don’t forget to indulge in the local cuisine; the street food here is incredible and so cheap! You can find delicious pad Thai noodles made in front of you for about £1!

Top Tip: Choose your accommodation wisely to avoid the hustle and bustle if that’s not your thing. Patong Beach is lively with its vibrant nightlife, perfect for party animals, while Kata Beach offers a more laid-back atmosphere. 

3. Tenerife, Spain

Average Temperature : 21°C (69°F)

For a dose of volcanic beauty and outdoor adventure, heading to Tenerife in December is always a good idea. The Spanish island is an absolute gem. But, in winter, when the summer crowds have left and the prices have dropped, it’s the perfect escape! 

Located in the Canary Islands, just off the northwest coast of Africa, Tenerife boasts the ‘eternal Spring,’ with a warm climate year-round, making it one of the best islands to visit in December.

The island is a paradise for nature lovers with lush green landscapes, towering volcanic peaks, and beautiful beaches. You can explore the unique landscapes of Teide National Park , relax on the golden shores of Playa de las Américas, or take a scenic drive through the Anaga Rural Park. 

Tenerife is one of the best islands to visit in December

When flying in, most international visitors land at Tenerife South Airport (TFS), conveniently connected to major cities worldwide. From there, getting to your destination is a breeze with taxis and buses readily available. You can also get to Tenerife by ferry from some of the other Canary Islands. 

With average temperatures around 18°C in December, Tenerife offers the perfect blend of warmth and adventure during the winter months.

Average Temperature : 18°C (64°F)

This is another of the islands in Europe that I consider a bit of a hidden gem . Before my trip to Cyrus, so many people told me that there was nothing to do there except lounge on the beaches and catch a sun tan. But, they could not have been more wrong. 

Cyprus is the perfect blend of history, culture, and mild Mediterranean weather. Situated in the eastern Mediterranean, it boasts a rich history and modern charm. December might not be peak beach weather, but with temperatures hovering around 17°C, it’s ideal for exploring without breaking a sweat. 

beautiful views over Cyprus

Wander through the cobbled streets of charming villages like Omodos or immerse yourself in the fascinating history at the Tombs of the Kings in Paphos . There’s also the wonderful ancient Kourion amphitheatre with its stunning views, the tiny Kolossi Castle, and the gorgeous Aphrodite beach where the goddess was reportedly once spotted.

If you’re here for the festive season, the atmosphere in Cyprus during December is electric. The locals really know how to celebrate the holiday season with delicious food, warm hospitality, and a fantastic fireworks display during New Year’s Eve.

5. Gran Canaria, Spain

Another fantastic option in the Canary Islands, Gran Canaria is one of Europe’s best islands to visit in December. This vibrant island is ideal for those seeking winter warmth. 

In December; Gran Canaria’s average temperature is around 21°C, making it an ideal winter destination. It can get a little cooler at night though, so you may want to pack a light jacket. Even so, it’s a great temperature for both beach strolls and mountain hikes .

stunning views in Gran Canaria, Spain

Like with Tenerife, there’s lots to do here. Explore the golden sands of Playa del Inglés, visit the dramatic dunes of Maspalomas, or wander through the historic Vegueta district in Las Palmas. The Christmas markets are also well worth a visit, where the island’s unique blend of Spanish and African influences comes through.

Top Tip: If you don’t plan on visiting for Christmas, you’ll find that prices are much cheaper. This is one of the most expensive destinations to fly to for the festive season in Europe because so many people want to escape for some winter sun. The start of December is much more affordable.

6. New York City, USA

Average Temperature : 5°C (41°F)

New York? An island? Well, yes, in fact, it is! The island of Manhatten might not be your traditional island escape but I can’t think of a better city to visit during December (except, perhaps, London ). 

Picture the iconic skyline decorated with festive Christmas lights, the city streets dusted with snow, and the famous ice rinks popping up all over the city. New York comes alive in December and it’s definitely one of the best times to visit. 

New York at Christmas

It’s definitely not warm, with temperatures hovering around 4°C, but if you fancy a festive escape, you can’t go wrong. A few of the must-sees in New York in winter include ice skating at Rockefeller Center, exploring the festive window displays along Fifth Avenue, and watching a Broadway Show at the Radio City Music Hall. 

Top Tip: Don’t miss the dazzling displays at Dyker Heights in Brooklyn for a Christmas lights hidden gem.

7. Saint Lucia

Average Temperature : 28°C (82°F)

If you fancy a trip to what is arguably one of the most beautiful Caribbean islands to visit in December, you can’t go wrong with Saint Lucia. With lush landscapes, turquoise waters, and a tropical escape, this Caribbean gem, located in the eastern part of the region, is a slice of paradise that promises an unforgettable winter getaway. 

It’s fairly easy to reach with a flight to the Hewanorra International Airport (UVF). From the UK, a few airlines fly direct including TUI and British Airways, but most will include a stopover in the States. I’d recommend staying in the charming town of Soufrière for its blend of local culture and stunning views of the iconic Pitons. 

St Lucia is one of the best islands to visit in December

December in Saint Lucia means temperatures hovering around 27°C, creating the perfect climate for exploring. Dive into the vibrant marine life with a snorkeling adventure in Anse Chastanet or embark on a scenic hike up Gros Piton for breathtaking panoramas. Don’t miss the Friday Night Street Party in Gros Islet for an authentic taste of local music, food, and dance.

8. Puerto Rico

Average Temperature : 19°C (66°F)

Tucked away in the heart of the Caribbean, this island paradise is the perfect blend of Spanish influence, tropical beauty, and warm hospitality. From Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU), a quick ride gets you to the heart of San Juan, where the charm of Old San Juan awaits with its colourful colonial architecture and cobblestone streets. 

Puerto Rico

December is one of the best times to visit Puerto Rico, with temperatures hovering around 26°C. This is ideal for both exploring the historic forts and relaxing on the beautiful beaches.

You can explore the local culinary scene with a mofongo feast (a Puerto Rican comfort food made from mashed plantains), and don’t miss the bioluminescent bay in Vieques for a magical nighttime kayak adventure. 

Also, I recommend you venture beyond the tourist hotspots to places like Culebra or El Yunque National Forest for a taste of Puerto Rico’s natural wonders.

Average Temperature : 2°C (35°F)

Our first trip to Iceland was in December, and it still remains one of the best places I’ve ever visited. Located in the North Atlantic Ocean and frequently referred to as “the land of Fire and Ice”, Iceland is one of the best places to visit if you love outdoor adventure and natural beauty. 

Iceland waterfalls in December

The landscapes are stunning. 

Surprisingly, you may not get snow in Iceland in December. The country typically sees the most snowfall in January and February . But, you can still expect icy temperatures, unpredictable weather, and rain. Like the UK , Iceland can be pretty rainy!

It doesn’t really sound like I’m selling it, but if you’re looking for one of the best islands to visit in December, Iceland should be high on your bucket list. Some of the country’s top sights include the Golden Circle , the black beaches on the south coast, the famous Blue Lagoon , and the countless breathtaking waterfalls. You can even dive between the tectonic plates if you wish!

Church, Reykjavik, Iceland

I also highly recommend visiting Reykjavik town centre. The city has great nightlife, lots of fantastic restaurants, some of the quirkiest museums in the world (Penis Museum, anyone?), and wonderful architecture.

Top Tip: For a more secluded hot spring experience, venture beyond the popular spots and discover the lesser-known hot springs like Reykjadalur. 

Average Temperature : 7°C (44°F)

I will never stop telling people how great the UK is to travel to . December is one of the coldest months of the year to travel to the UK, but it’s also easily one of the best. With festive markets up and down the country, a whole host of activities, Christmas light trails , and decorations in all the towns and cities, and one of the best New Year’s Eve Fireworks displays in the world, it’s no wonder so many people flock to the UK in winter. Especially London . 

London at Christmas

Most international visitors land at London Heathrow Airport (LHR) or Gatwick Airport (LGW). From there, it’s only a short train ride to the centre of London and from there, you can get a train to pretty much anywhere . Trains run to the south, midlands, and even as far as Scotland in the north. 

Nonetheless, most people stay in London for the festivities. And, to be honest, I don’t blame them! Here, you can witness the dazzling lights along Oxford Street, explore the magical Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, or catch a classic Christmas play in the West End. There are also so many fantastic Christmas decorations in London , from Covent Garden to the South Bank.

The streets of Edinburgh in December

If you’d prefer to head to the Scottish capital, Edinburgh is just as festive . Stroll along the Royal Mile, where the Christmas market comes alive with festive treats and handmade crafts and visit the famous Christmas market with its German stalls and Ferris Wheel. 

Top Tip : Don’t miss the quaint Christmas markets in smaller cities like Bath or York . Areas like the Cotswolds and Cambridge are also worth visiting in winter.

11. Bali, Indonesia

Average Temperature : 3°C (37°F)

A captivating tropical paradise in Indonesia, Bali is an unforgettable escape. Nestled in Southeast Asia, it’s one of the best islands to visit in December. You can expect pretty good temperatures in Bali in December, with weather hovering around 30°C (86°F). 

You’ll also find lush landscapes, pristine beaches, and a delightful cultural heritage with historic ruins and temples. Explore the vibrant local markets, and savor the flavors of mouthwatering Indonesian cuisine. Like Thailand, food is pretty affordable here, so you’ll find it a pretty cheap winter travel destination.

Beaches in Bali

On the cultural side, you can embark on a cultural journey to ancient temples like Uluwatu and Tanah Lot. Immerse yourself in the mesmerising rhythm of traditional Balinese dance performances. And, for nature enthusiasts, don’t miss the breathtaking rice terraces in Ubud or the underwater wonders of Amed’s crystal-clear waters.

Whether you’re dreaming of a laid-back Christmas in luxurious resorts or seeking adventure riding the famous waves at Uluwatu Beach, Bali has a range of experiences. It’s a destination where the holiday season unfolds in diverse ways, perfect for embracing the local customs and traditions along the way.

12. Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa, Japan is a tropical paradise known for its rich culture, traditions, and beautiful beaches. Okinawa is one of Japan’s 47 prefectures and is part of the Ryukyu Islands. Closer to Taiwan than Mainland Japan, Okinawa is a popular tourist destination for travellers from Eastern Asia and the United States given the heavy military presence on the island.

Okinawa has a subtropical climate with average winter temperatures between 19 – 22 degrees Celsius. With its comfortable temperatures, Okinawa is a popular winter escape for many.

Okinawa is one of the best islands to visit in December

Although Okinawa is an island, there are many things to do here especially when it comes to nature and water activities. Diving is the number one attraction here and divers flock to Okinawa all year long, even during the winter months. 

Okinawa is said to have some of the best diving spots and healthiest coral in the world. Other than diving other water activities include snorkeling, boating, and parasailing. If water activities are not high on your to-do list, you can shop at Kokusai Dori, visit Shuri Castle, or visit some of the WWII Sites.  

The best way to explore Okinawa is by car and many of the resorts are located in central to northern Okinawa.

13. Jamaica

Average Temperature : 27°C (80°F)

Jamaica is hands down, one of the ultimate destinations to soak up the sun during winter. This island paradise is a go-to spot all year round (except during hurricane season). The prime time to experience this island is from December to April when you’ll find the best weather.

Up in the northern part of Jamaica, is the most touristy part of the island, stretching from Negril and Montego Bay to Ocho Rios and Port Antonio. The beaches are beautiful, and the coastline is a picture-perfect Caribbean island. There’s no shortage of water sports to dive into either!


Once you’ve settled into your beachside retreat, why not kick things off with a refreshing dip in the pool or a laid-back drink at the pool bar? Take a leisurely stroll along the beach to catch the sunset. For an adventure along Jamaica’s scenic coastline, consider hiring a private boat or joining a group cruise.

If you’re in the mood for a different kind of nature-filled thrill, head to Dunn Falls in Ocho Rios. This popular spot, nestled in a natural park, boasts the famous 65-foot Dunn’s River Falls. You can actually climb these and it’s a fantastic experience.

Whether you’re a beach lounger or an adventure seeker, Jamaica’s got the perfect blend of sun, sea, and excitement for your winter getaway.

The island of Aruba is known for its beautiful white sand beaches and family-friendly activities, and it has warm weather all year long. However, it’s definitely one of the best islands to visit in December and a perfect winter travel destination!

Aruba is a little island located in the Caribbean Sea near South America, and it’s relatively easy to get there by flying from the US. There are even nonstop 3-hour flights to Aruba from US cities like Miami and Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

Aruba is one of the best islands to visit in December

Winter temperatures in Aruba hover around 27°C (80°F) during the daytime, which is perfect for relaxing on the beach and going swimming. Some of the best beaches in Aruba include gems like Arashi Beach and Baby Beach, which have soft white sand and blue water, without being too crowded. For a remote beach with almost no tourists, check out Grapefield Beach on the east side of Aruba.

There are lots of other things to do in Aruba as well. One of the best activities is to go on an ATV tour in the Arikok National Park, which has a rock bridge and a natural tide pool where you can swim in the ocean without having to worry about the waves or currents!

15. Turks and Caicos

One of the best islands to visit in December in North America is the tropical paradise of Turks and Caicos. North of Haiti and southeast of the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos is a chain of British Caribbean islands that contain some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Turks and Caicos is known primarily as a getaway for well-off Americans and Brits. It’s undeniably one of the most expensive tropical destinations on the planet, but those who can afford it are greeted with spectacular white sand, clear turquoise water, friendly locals, and wondrous sea life.

Turks and Caicos

Popular activities on the islands include scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking through mangrove forests, horseback riding in the water, and relaxing on the beach. The islands are particularly famous for having hundreds of beautiful villas that can be rented out by the week. The villas are great for large families or groups of friends.

The winter season features the most pleasant temperatures, with January highs averaging about 28°C (80°F). It’s also peak tourist season, so resorts and villas tend to jack their prices up for the season. It’s worth it, though, for an escape from the brutal northern hemisphere winter!

16. Madeira, Portugal

Average Temperature : 15°C (59°F)

If you’re looking for a unique European travel destination for your December escape, then look no further than Madeira, Portugal. Located about 1,100 km from the coast of Portugal and 960 km from the Azores, Madeira is known affectionately as “the Hawaii of Europe.” 

This magical island is only a short, 1 hour and 45 minute flight from Lisbon and, with an average temperature of 59°F in December, it’s the perfect Christmas travel destination. Simply book a flight on Ryanair or TAP Air Portugal into Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport (FNC), and get ready for the holiday festivities to begin!

Views over Madeira, Portugal

Madeira is a Christmas haven for those seeking a blend of traditional festivities and mild winter weather. Each December, the island springs to life with vibrant decorations, twinkling lights, and irresistible holiday charm. 

Spend your Christmas holiday sampling local delicacies and shopping for unique souvenirs at the Funchal Market, tapping into your adventurous side with a hike to Pico do Arieiro, or bundling up for a dolphin and whale watching tour on an eco catamaran . 

When it comes to the best time to plan your trip to Madeira , the answer is Christmastime every time

Top Tip: Madeira has one of the best New Year’s Eve fireworks displays in Europe, so if you plan to ring in the New Year in Madeira, you’ll need to book well in advance. Flights dramatically increase their prices closer to these dates.

17. Maldives

Average Temperature : 28°C (84°F)

The Maldives is a tropical paradise in the Indian Ocean, south-southwest of Sri Lanka. It consists of 26 coral atolls, which are made up of more than 1,000 islands. The average winter temperature ranges from 25 to 29°C (77 to 84°F). 

If you aim for a destination that screams paradise, you have come to the right place; the clear aqua water allows for many water activities, such as snorkelling, kayaking, and jet skiing (to name a few) and does not even include the array of underwater activities.

The Maldives

If you are looking for romance, stay at one of the many overwater bungalows or beach huts, where you can open your eyes each morning to a sea so beautiful that you will still think you are dreaming. There is plenty to do on the islands, including cocktails by the pool, yoga at sunrise or a romantic candlelit dinner by the oceanfront. 

Getting to your island resort is just as fun! You can hop on board a seaplane for an out-of-this-world experience or catch a ride on the resort boat for a quick and easy transfer.

The Maldives is one of the best islands to visit in December

Maldives is not just for couples; many resorts cater for families too, so when choosing the best one, research before you go. This paradise is easily one of the best islands to visit in December.

18. Maui, Hawaii

Average Temperature : 22°C (71°F)

Visiting Maui in December offers a unique, tropical getaway and is one of the best islands to visit in the winter months. While the northern hemisphere embraces the chilly winter, Maui enjoys mild temperatures, making it an ideal escape from the cold.

Maui, Hawaii is a great island to visit in December

The island has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world with golden sands, and bright blue waters, perfect for sunbathing, and water activities. Winter is one of the best times to visit Maui if you love nature and wildlife as December marks the beginning of the humpback whale season.

There are lots of incredible whale-watching excursions offered across the island which offer a once-in-a-lifetime chance to spot these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. It’s also the ideal time for hiking and exploring the natural parks as the weather is not too hot. Take advantage of the lush landscapes by exploring the scenic Road to Hana or hiking through Haleakalā National Park.

19. Curacao

One of the best islands to visit in December is the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao . It’s located in the south of the Caribbean just off of Venezuela in between Aruba and Bonaire, two other Dutch islands.

What makes it a great location to visit in the winter is the weather. It’s just below the hurricane belt and is less likely to rain during your trip. You can expect warm temperatures around 30ºC and a light breeze.

Beach in Curacao

One of the best things to do in Curacao is hit the beach as the island is full of beautiful turquoise coves. Some popular spots are Cas Abao Beach, Playa Kenepa and Mambo Beach. It’s also known for its colourful, Dutch colonial buildings in the capital city, Willemstad. 

You can walk along the waterfront and the Queen Emma Bridge to see the colourful storefronts. To see a different side of the island, head to Shete Boka National Park, where you can find underground caverns and rocky inlets. Because of the weather, you’ll have a great time exploring the island.

20. Koh Phangan, Thailand

Average Temperature : 29°C (84°F)

Koh Phangan is a beautiful tropical island in the Gulf of Thailand, to the east of the Thai mainland. It neighbours the much larger Koh Samui island.

Throughout the whole winter, you can enjoy balmy weather with December averaging from 25°C to 29°C (77°F to 84.2°F). The rainy season is officially over in November, but you may still experience some rain.

Koh Phangan is not just any ordinary tropical island with pretty beaches. There are just so many different things to do in Koh Phangan . It’s considered a spiritual place for many and the area around Sri Thanu is full of yoga centers and wellness retreats. The whole island is dotted with temples of all kinds.

Koh Phangan, Thailand is one of the best islands to visit in December

There are also wonderful hiking opportunities on the island – you can hike to a secluded beach or the top of the highest peak. 

Koh Phangan is amazing for digital nomads, too. There are many lovely cafés ranging from traditional Thai to modern Western. 

And then there’s the monthly Full Moon party, which has made Koh Phangan famous worldwide. In high season, which covers winter, there are often also Half Moon parties held at the Haad Rin area.

21. St Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Looking for a winter escape? Consider St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands , a paradise in the Caribbean with December temperatures around 77°F to 82°F. 

Swap your snow boots for flip-flops and enjoy a variety of activities from kayaking in Magen’s Bay to exploring the island’s rich history.

St Thomas is a fantastic island getaway in winter

St. Thomas is not just about adventure. It’s also home to some of the world’s most stunning beaches like Coki Beach. You can relax on the beach, snorkel among vibrant coral reefs, or simply enjoy the unspoiled natural beauty.

The island offers a range of accommodations to suit every budget, from luxury resorts like The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas to more affordable options like The Flamboyan Resort.

One of the best parts? If you’re a U.S. citizen and permanent resident, you won’t need a passport to visit! Unfortunately, British tourists and those from the rest of Europe will though!

With its warm people, stunning landscapes, and convenient travel logistics, St. Thomas is a top choice for a winter getaway.

22. St Kitts and Nevis

If you are looking for a hidden gem winter destination in the Caribbean then St Kitts and Nevis should be on your list. It is one of the best islands to visit in December, but as the smallest country in the Americas, it is often overlooked in favour of larger islands. Don’t let the small size fool you however as there is still plenty to do in St Kitts and Nevis.

Stunning scenery in St Kitts and Nevis

Take a ride on the historic Scenic railway and discover the history of the sugar trade or visit the UNESCO world heritage site Brimstone Hill Fortress. If you want to relax then head over to one of the beaches, check out the beach bars on The Strip or have a lovely day trip to the sister island Nevis which has some of the best beaches in the Caribbean.

If you are visiting in late December you will be in time to catch the annual Sugar Mas Carnival parades which take place from 26 th December through to January 2 nd every year.

23. Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is located in the Caribbean on an island called Hispaniola that it shares with Haiti. The main language spoken is Spanish and the currency is the Dominican Peso. The capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic is Santo Domingo. Popular tourist destinations include Punta Cana, Puerto Plata, La Romana, etc. 

The country is known for its gorgeous landscapes, which include beaches, mountain ranges, and tropical rainforests. It is the perfect winter getaway for those seeking warm weather and beautiful beaches. Mid-November to March is the dry season with temperatures ranging from 25 to 30°C (77 to 86°F). 

Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic

This time of year offers a welcoming escape from colder climates and provides opportunities for relaxation, adventure, or cultural experiences. There are so many things to do in the Dominican Republic – swim in the turquoise waters, go ziplining, lounge on their pristine beaches, try local food, explore the national parks, go for a dune buggy trip, and so on. 

As fun as the Dominican Republic is, keep in mind that the winter is the peak tourist season so it’s advisable to book the resort and the activities in advance to ensure a seamless and enjoyable vacation.

24. Borneo, Malaysia

Borneo is the third-largest island in the world and is shared by Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. December is a great month to visit the island. It’s a transitional period between the wet and dry seasons, which means a little rainfall but, more importantly: fewer tourists! The average temperature in December ranges hovers around 30 degrees Celcius, making it ideal for outdoor activities although it can be very humid.

Borneo is one of the best islands to visit in December

As a traveller, you can reach Borneo via flights starting from metropolitan cities like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Jakarta. Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, and Balikpapan are the main cities on the island and from there, domestic flights, ferries, and bus transport can be used to explore the island.

Borneo is mainly known for its incredible biodiversity. The island’s forests are home to orangutans, pygmy elephants, and proboscis monkeys. You can explore these forests through guided tours in more remote areas, however, many national parks like Bako National Park , Gunung Gading, and Tanjung Datu in Sarawak province are also accessible without taking an expensive tour.

Wildlife in Borneo

For a first-time visit, the Malaysian province of Sarawak is the most accessible for tourists, with many facilities in the capital of Kuching, easy car rental, and a bus line that goes all the way to Brunei and Sabah. If you like diving, make sure to visit the island of Sipadan, known for its incredible underwater world!

25. Tahiti, French Polynesia

An incredible destination to visit no matter what time of the year it is, but especially during the winter is Tahiti. The island is one of the best islands to visit in December. 

It’s located in the South Pacific Ocean and easily accessible via direct 8-9 hour flights from major international airports, like as LAX and SFO. And with average winter temperatures ranging from a balmy 28°C high to a pleasant 21°C low, the island beckons those seeking a warm respite during colder winter months.

Tahiti is a stunning island to visit in December

Beyond its inviting climate, Tahiti boasts an array of activities for travellers of every type. For example, one of the most popular activities is to go snorkelling and swimming amongst the vibrant coral reefs that are home to all kinds of marine life. Or, if you prefer to explore the island itself, you can trek through its interior and search for hidden waterfalls and panoramic viewpoints! And, of course, for those preferring some more relaxation, the island is home to several idyllic beaches with soft sand to stretch out on! Thus, if you’re ready for a dreamy and warm December escape, be sure to check out Tahiti. 

Final Thoughts on the Best Islands to Visit in December

Overall, December is a fantastic time for an island getaway . Whether you’re looking to bask on some white sands, explore fascinating wildlife and natural parks around the world, or explore the icy landscapes of more northern island escapes, December has a wide range of options.

So, whether you’re planning a festive Christmas getaway, or want a little bit of a break just before the Christmas madness begins, these best islands to visit in December will definitely spark your wanderlust.

My favourite tools for finding cheap travel

  • SKYSCANNER – For amazing flight deals.
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  • SAFETY WING – For affordable, reliable travel insurance.
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Alice Smith is a full-time travel blogger and content creator and the founder of Adventures of Alice. Following an unexpected redundancy from her career as a Content Marketing Specialist, she embraced her passion for exploration and turned her hobby of travel blogging into a full-time career.

From her roots near Cambridge, UK, she's ventured to over 30 countries since 2016. With a passion for the outdoors and a knack for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary, Alice is on a mission to show that budget travel can still be luxurious and that every destination, no matter how touristy, holds hidden gems.

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The 10 best places to visit in December

Jordi Lippe-McGraw

In December, the world transforms. The Northern Hemisphere sees winter's touch with snow and chill, while the Southern Hemisphere basks in summer's warmth.

Travelers can choose anything from snow-capped landscapes ideal for winter sports to sunlit beaches for relaxation. As the year-end approaches, many places come alive with holiday preparations, each offering unique cultural experiences.

Whether it's the allure of festive markets , the thrill of outdoor adventures, or simply exploring new terrains, December provides something for every traveler.

But where should you go? Here are the 10 best destinations to visit in December.

Breckenridge, Colorado

best us islands to visit in december

Imagine a place where the winter comes alive — that's Breckenridge in December. Picture world-class ski slopes, cozy family sleigh rides and thrilling snowmobile adventures. Not to mention, the history here is captivating. December's Ullr Fest is also a special treat for travelers. The festival is a local favorite held in honor of Ullr, the Norse god of snow. (We're hoping he blesses us with plenty of powder.)

There's also plenty to explore in nearby towns like Frisco and Leadville; less than an hour away, you can take a rejuvenating dip at Indian Hot Springs. Or, weather permitting, head to Rocky Mountain National Park to marvel at its natural beauty.

Related: The best ski resorts in the US for your next trip to the slopes

If you're still in Breckenridge come January, you're in for a spectacle. During the International Snow Sculpture Championships, artists carve massive snow blocks into stunning creations.

TPG tip : Hyatt Vacation Club at The Ranahan offers a spectacular Rocky Mountain retreat with premium skiing, winter escapades, boating, mountain biking and year-round family-friendly outdoor activities. It's available for about $205 in December, or 21,000 World of Hyatt Points per night.

Truckee, California

best us islands to visit in december

Of all the best places to visit in December in the USA, Truckee is one that tops our list. Come wintertime, the destination transforms into a snow-draped haven. From peaceful snowshoe treks to exciting family sledding spots, there's something for everyone here. For skiing enthusiasts, some of the region's best slopes await. Beyond winter sports, the stunning beauty of nearby Lake Tahoe is a must-see.

After a day in the snow, explore downtown Truckee. It offers museums full of rich local history, and its numerous breweries and eateries provide a taste of the town's culture. You can even opt for a guided tour of the town.

Related: From hidden gems to big names: Here are 11 of California's best ski resorts

TPG tip : Book a stay at SpringHill Suites Truckee for about 37,000 Marriott Bonvoy points or $282 per night.

Dorado, Puerto Rico

best us islands to visit in december

Seeking a warm winter getaway? Dorado sits on Puerto Rico 's stunning Caribbean coastline, and it boasts white-sand beaches perfect for surfing, swimming and many family-friendly adventures.

A short drive away, San Juan immerses you in a vibrant blend of culture, music and culinary delights. Here, you can experience cultural festivities throughout the year, savor delicious local dishes and sway to the rhythms of salsa, bomba and plena echoing from the city's picturesque squares.

Beyond that, the region offers thrilling activities like hang gliding and paragliding. For those keen to explore, guided tours can lead you to hidden beaches and lush tropical paths. Don't miss out on the YuYu Cave — a captivating and educational spot for young adventurers who love nature.

TPG tip : Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve is a great home base for exploring the area and is available from $1,645 or 215,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

best us islands to visit in december

During the holidays, Zurich becomes a festive paradise. Streets shimmer with lights, and Christmas markets spring to life. Highlights include Burkliplatz's candle dipping, the enchanting "Marlitram" fairy tale tram and the singing choirs at Werdmuhleplatz, accompanied by its famed "Singing Christmas Tree."

Christkindlimarkt at Zurich Main Station, one of Europe's largest indoor Christmas markets, boasts a radiant tree adorned with Swarovski crystals. The nostalgic Dorfli market in Old Town offers a vintage charm with fondue and artisanal goods.

For a warm treat, stop by Cafe Felix and choose from a medley of hot chocolate iterations. Or, savor history at the luxury confectioner Sprungli, which has been in operation since 1836. For elevated dining, Restaurant Felsenegg provides fondue with a stunning city view.

Beyond these, visitors can skate, toboggan or take a scenic fondue eTukTuk ride. Zurich's thermal baths and saunas overlooking Lake Zurich promise relaxation. For artsy souls, the "Herzebaracke" floating theater offers diverse performances by the lake from Nov. 1, 2023, to March 10, 2024.

TPG tip : Stay near the heart of town at Crowne Plaza Zurich for around $146 or 30,000 IHG rewards points per night.

best us islands to visit in december

In December, Japan lights up in celebration, offering visitors a magical experience. From Tokyo's Omotesando Illuminations, aglow with around 900,000 lights, to Ashikaga Flower Park's radiant 5-million-light display, the country is a spectacle. Mie Prefecture's Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination lets guests immerse themselves in LED light fields and explore captivating light tunnels.

Meanwhile, Kobe's touching Luminarie shines in remembrance of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake victims. December also welcomes ski enthusiasts as Japan's winter sports season begins.

From the breathtaking views at Shiga Kogen Ski Area in Nagano — with its Olympic-endorsed slopes — to the sought-after resorts in Niigata — easily accessible from Tokyo — skiing here is a dream. But there's more to Niigata than just skiing: Indulge in its renowned hot springs and savor its exquisite seafood, rice and sake.

TPG tip : Book a room at the Conrad Tokyo for $389 or 95,000 Hilton Honors points per night.

best us islands to visit in december

Dubai in December is a whole different vibe. The scorching heat takes a backseat, making way for cooler days. This means beach picnics, outdoor adventures and late-night strolls become even more inviting. And then there's the festive buzz. Everywhere you look, from the towering skyscrapers to the cozy lanes, Dubai sparkles with holiday decorations.

It's not just about twinkling lights, though. The city pulses with events — think bustling markets, lively performances and the aroma of seasonal treats filling the air. Against the backdrop of the vast desert and the iconic skyline, the festive cheer feels even more special. So, if you're dreaming of a mix of relaxation, retail therapy and rich culture, Dubai is your go-to.

TPG tip : Book a room at La Ville Hotel & Suites City Walk for $586 or 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, or stay at the lavish Atlantis The Royal .

The Bahamas

best us islands to visit in december

Traveling to the Bahamas becomes a breeze this December, thanks to several new flight routes. Delta Air Lines is launching a direct flight from New York's LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Nassau. For travelers on the West Coast, there's good news, too: American Airlines is rolling out direct flights from Los Angeles and Seattle to Nassau.

Not to be left out, JetBlue is introducing a weekly nonstop service from LA. Once you touch down, the Bahamas offers a plethora of experiences. Dive into the clear waters, explore the world's third-largest coral reef or swim with the wild pigs.

And if you're into sailing, December is the prime time to visit. Events like The National Family Island Regatta showcase the region's rich maritime heritage.

TPG tip : Book a room at the French Leave Resort for $749 or 80,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Or, for sheer indulgence, opt for the luxurious Rosewood Baha Mar , where rates start from $715 per night.

Morristown, Arizona

Just a quick 50-minute drive from Phoenix, Morristown is the perfect desert escape in December. The weather's a treat with comfy temperatures in the 60s and 70s — a lovely switch from Arizona's intense summer and the cold weather of other destinations.

If you love the outdoors, you'll be in your element. Morristown's desert beauty is a big draw, with opportunities to go hiking or 4x4 riding.

At night, the town's clear December skies, away from bright city glows, offer some top-notch stargazing. Witness the breathtaking Geminids and Ursids Meteor Showers, peaking on Dec. 14-15 and 22-23, respectively. And there's more to the celestial show: Mark your calendar for the New Moon on Dec. 13, the Winter Solstice on Dec. 22, and the Full Moon on Dec. 27.

TPG tip : Book a stay at Castle Hot Springs , which is an American Express Fine Hotels + Resort partner. Platinum cardholders receive 12 p.m. check-in (when available), room upgrade at check-in (when available), daily breakfast for two, $100 property credit to be used during the stay, complimentary Wi-Fi and 4 p.m. checkout guaranteed.

New York City

best us islands to visit in december

New York City in December is an enchanting experience. Imagine skating below the gleaming Rockefeller Center tree, surrounded by the city's sparkling skyline. Fifth Avenue transforms into a festive paradise, with its department stores showcasing captivating holiday window displays.

Brooklyn's Dyker Heights is a must-visit for those who admire festive lights. The neighborhood's homes are grandly decorated for the holidays, and dedicated bus tours guide visitors through the most brilliantly lit blocks.

But the magic doesn't stop there. You can also catch a classic holiday show at Radio City Music Hall, wander through the winter markets at Bryant Park or Central Park, and marvel at the giant holiday ornaments scattered throughout the city.

TPG tip : Book a stay at the Park South Hotel for $480 or 23,000 Hyatt World points, or check out TPG's favorite hotels in New York City .

best us islands to visit in december

December is the perfect month to explore Uganda. The landscapes are at their greenest, yet the weather stays dry. This combination is ideal for gorilla tracking, an experience you won't forget. Boat safaris also shine in December. As water sources become a focal point in the dry terrain, spotting the Big Five becomes even more thrilling.

While Uganda is gaining attention, it's still a quieter East African destination. Venture beyond the natural wonders, too. The capital, Kampala, is a city full of surprises. From the lively Equator Bar in the Sheraton to the unique crocodile tail delicacy at The Lawns, there's much to savor. And if you're into art, the Afriart Gallery showcases contemporary pieces.

TPG tip : Book a stay at Hilton Garden Inn Kampala for $170 or 37,000 Hilton Honors points.

Related reading:

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  • The 18 best places to travel in 2023
  • 6 real-life strategies you can use when your flight is canceled or delayed
  • 8 of the best credit cards for general travel purchases
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best us islands to visit in december

Why Now is the Best Time to Go to Hawaii's Largest, Most Secluded Island

When is the best time to jet off to the largest of Hawaii’s islands, known for its diverse climates, active volcanoes, and tropical beaches? 

During my travels, I explored every corner of this island for over two weeks at the beginning of December. Although it is considered to be the rainy season, I found it a great time to visit. And there wasn’t even that much rain.

The weather on the Big Island is filled with microclimates as varied as its landscapes, ranging from sunny beaches to windy mountaintops. So, here’s a quick guide to the visitor seasons:

  • Peak Season:  March, June to August, and December to January
  • Off-peak Season (and Best Months):  April to June, September, October.
  • Rainy season:  November to March
  • Dry season:  April to October

Now, let’s take a closer look at the seasons, cool events to see, and what the weather is typically like. Whether you’re planning a short getaway to the Big Island or a longer adventure, sunbathing on Green Sand Beach, or watching the lava flow at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park , this is the best time to visit Big Island Hawaii.

Best Time to Visit Big Island

Best time of year to visit.

Compared to the mainland, Hawaii has incredible weather all year round, so you really can’t go wrong any time of the year. But to maximize the sunny days and the fewer people, the best time to go to the Big Island is from April to June and September to November. 

These months fall in the island’s dry season, with mostly sunny weather and fewer crowds. Plus, with the island less packed, you can snag some better deals on accommodations and activities.

Best Time for Good Weather

Come to the island during the dry season between April and October if you’re after that perfect mix of sunny skies and comfortable temperatures. That being said, the temperature throughout the year doesn’t vary too much, and even having gone in the rainy season, I still experienced plenty of sunny days.

However, if you want to avoid the heat and humidity, plan your visit in the winter months between November and March when temperatures are slightly cooler.

Best Time to Avoid Crowds

For fewer crowds, avoid the peak season months when school is out of session and Hawaii becomes a tourist hotbed. This would include spring break, the summer months, and winter holidays. 

The Big Island has relatively less tourism than places like Maui and Oahu. However, these months still see an influx of tourists overall and higher prices for accommodations and activities.

Cheapest Time to Visit

For cheaper accommodation and activities, come during the off-peak months or, at the very least, avoid the school holidays and the summer months. Flights are significantly more expensive, plus hotels can be more than 30% more expensive.

Worst Time to Visit Big Island

If there’s a time you might want to skip the Big Island, it’s during the peak of summer, specifically July and August. These months aren’t just sweltering, but the island gets crowded with families on summer break. Plus, prices for accommodations and flights can skyrocket, making it a less ideal time for travelers looking to make the most of their budget.

Seasons of Big Island

Spring (march to may).

From March through May, the island gradually shakes off the mild chill of winter, with temperatures comfortably sitting between the mid-60s to low 80s Fahrenheit. In the uplands, the cherry blossoms in Waimea draw locals and tourists alike. Down at the beaches, the ocean is tranquil, ideal for snorkeling and swimming, with sea life becoming more active and visible. 

Rainfall is present, but often in short, refreshing bursts. These bursts come with the bonus of colorful rainbows, which are amazing to witness in waterfalls like Rainbow Falls. 

Key Events: 

  • Kona Brewers Festival (March) :  This festival at the King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel Luau Grounds in Kailua-Kona features microbreweries from all over delivering their best brews.
  • Merrie Monarch Festival (March-April) :  This week-long event follows Easter Sunday and is a huge deal in Hilo. It’s a dance competition celebrating Hawaiian culture, art, and history.
  • Big Island Chocolate Festival (April) :  Held at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort, this event is all about chocolate with tastings and cooking demos.

Summer (June to August)

From June through August, the island’s beaches and attractions are bustling with families and adventurers looking to soak up the Hawaiian sun. Temperature-wise, balmy days average between 85°F and 90°F, though the humidity may be overwhelming on some days. 

Go on snorkeling and scuba trips during the summer, as the dolphins and manta rays are very active. On land, the fields and forests are alive with wildlife, and the longer days mean more time for hiking through the volcanic landscapes or lounging on black, green, or white sandy beaches—yes, there are all three colors!

Summer is also festival season. The Kona Marathon, the Annual Cultural Festival, and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Cultural Festival are opportunities to dance, eat, and laugh with the locals.

Summer does bring crowds. Schools are out, families are vacationing, and everyone wants their slice of paradise, meaning popular spots can get pretty packed. And with the demand, prices for accommodations and activities shoot up, making budgeting a bit more of a challenge.

  • King Kamehameha Day Celebration Floral Parade (June):  Streets lined with colorful floats, marching bands, and dancers, all paying homage to King Kamehameha I.
  • Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Cultural Festival (July):  Get ready for a day packed with traditional crafts, music, and hula that celebrate the rich culture of Hawai’i.
  • Big Island Jazz & Blues Festival (June):  This event brings together some of the biggest names in jazz and blues for a series of concerts.
  • Parker Ranch Independence Day Rodeo and Horse Races (July 4th):  This event features traditional rodeo competitions, horse races, and many family-friendly activities. 
  • Mango Festival (July):  The Mango Festival celebrates all things mango with cooking demonstrations, tastings, and workshops. Learn about the different varieties of mangoes, their health benefits, and how to incorporate them into your cooking.

Fall ( September to November) 

The pace of life gently slows down in Autumn with vacationers returning to school and their jobs. The island feels more ‘local.’ With the peak tourist season behind them, you’ll find local events, from small-town rodeos to community markets.

Temperature-wise, the mercury returns to the comfortable 70s to low 80s°F, with the humidity dialing back to more crisp, pleasant evenings. The ocean remains invitingly warm, with excellent conditions for swimming, snorkeling, and even catching the early season waves that start to pick up on the island’s surf spots.

The more competitive prices are here. Since fall is considered a ‘shoulder season,’ you’re likely to snag some excellent deals on accommodations and activities.

  • Annual Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival – Kona Style (October):  This month-long festival celebrates the music of Hawaii’s unique guitar style.
  • Hawaii Food and Wine Festival (October):  This epicurean adventure spans three weekends to munch through the best local cuisine, wine, and cooking talent.
  • Ironman World Championship (October):  Witness the pinnacle of human endurance at the Ironman World Championship in Kona.
  • Kona Coffee Cultural Festival (November):  Celebrate Kona’s world-famous coffee with nearly 50 events over 10 days, including tastings, farm tours, and barista competitions. 

Winter (December to February) 

Winter on the Big Island brings cooler evenings and the sight of humpback whales breaching off the coast. With temperatures still ranging from mid-60s to low 80s°F, the island remains a warm escape for those fleeing colder climates. 

Lush rainforests receive nourishing rains, while the summit of Mauna Kea may even boast a delicate dusting of snow. Beach days are still a joy, with warmer ocean currents. Surfers also find their paradise, with the winter swells providing some of the year’s best waves. 

Despite being part of the high season due to holiday travelers, the rest of the season sees moderate tourism, and you’re likely to find some off-peak prices on accommodations and activities. 

  • Waimea Twilight Christmas Parade (December):  Floats, bands, and dancers light up the night, spreading cheer throughout Waimea.
  • Christmas With The Chefs Fundraiser (December):  Local chefs share their talents with delicious dishes, all in support of local culinary students.
  • Hawaiʻi International Music Festival (January):  Experience the world through music at this festival that presents artists from around the island.
  • Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival (February) :  Waimea turns pink with cherry blossoms, and there’s live music, a Malasada 5K run, and a Spring Festa. It’s a beautiful blend of Japanese and Hawaiian culture.

Big Island Weather By Month

This is a detailed month-by-month analysis of the average high and low temperatures, along with precipitation levels, at Big Island:

Before you Close That Tab…Where to Next in Hawaii?

Hawaii may have been the site of a family vacation when I was twelve, but having gone back for a month as an adult is even better. If you’re looking for other places in Hawaii too, check out these other posts I have on the archipelago.

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When is the best time to jet off to the largest of Hawaii’s islands, known for its diverse climates,...

The Best Snorkeling Destinations in the World, From the Maldives to Iceland

By Kaila Yu

Image may contain Water Nature Outdoors Underwater Adult Person Leisure Activities Sport Swimming and Water Sports

For ocean lovers, there’s nothing more sublime than dipping underwater to explore the the best snorkeling in the world. The vast array of whimsical marine creatures and landscapes never ceases to amaze and delight, whether you're dipping into Caribbean waters off the Grenadines, or witnessing the biodiversity of the Red Sea . Factor in the scientifically proven healing power of ocean immersion, and there’s no question a snorkel session can bring instant relaxation and peace.

Whether you're looking to travel for a weekend trip or an extended getaway, consider hitting the reset button with a snorkeling trip before returning to the hectic bustle of everyday life. Below, we cover the best places to snorkel worldwide, from overwater bungalow-dotted waters to swirling seas of tropical fish, dolphins, and manta rays. We've got a remote Asian island , a Hawaiian beach resort, a French Polynesian sparkling lagoon, and so much more. So what are you waiting for? Dive in.

This gallery has been updated since its original publish date.

Image may contain Leisure Activities Person Sport Swimming Water Water Sports Nature Outdoors Underwater and Adult

Mamanuca Islands, Fiji

Fiji is known as the soft coral capital of the world for its over 390 coral species. Snorkeling is accessible almost anywhere throughout Fiji’s over 300 islands and 500 plus reefs and inlets. The tropical waters here are nutrient-rich, attracting large marine creatures such as reef sharks, bull sharks, tiger sharks, dolphins, turtles, and manta rays. Although snorkeling is lovely all over Fiji, the Mamanuca Islands, an archipelago 30 miles west of Nadi are home to an extensive barrier reef and calm lagoons with plenty of visibility, kaleidoscope flurries of rainbow-hued reef fish, and thriving coral gardens.

Where to stay: VOMO Fiji , an all-inclusive private island resort, boasts some of the most untouched snorkeling, and guests enjoy daily guided snorkel safaris.

Image may contain Ocean Outdoors Nature Water Sea Animal Sea Life Reef Coral Reef Sponge Animal and Invertebrate

Sipadan, Malaysia

Sipadan is located in the Celebes Sea off the coast of Sabah, Malaysia 's easternmost state on the island of Borneo. Best known for world-class diving, and described as an “Untouched Piece of Art” by oceanographer extraordinaire Jacques Cousteau himself, the snorkeling here is equally stunning, with easy viewing of otherworldly coral formations, sea turtles, and bumphead parrotfish.

Where to stay: After snorkeling, lounge in one of the ethereal overwater villas at the Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort .

Image may contain Nature Outdoors Water Underwater Ocean Floor Person Leisure Activities Sport and Swimming

Silfra, Iceland

Divers and snorkelers worldwide come to swim Iceland's famous Silfra fissure inside Thingvellir National Park , a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s the only place in the world to snorkel inside the crack between two tectonic plates. To beat the cold, you’ll snorkel in a dry suit, dipping into some of the most transparent water in the world with a whopping 120 meters of visibility. As this glacial water has been filtered for decades underground, it's so pristine that you’re encouraged to drink it.

Where to stay: Thingvellir National Park is a thirty-minute drive from Michelin-recognized Greenhouse Hotel , a sustainability-minded hotel with mountain views from all rooms.

This image may contain Animal Jellyfish Invertebrate and Sea Life

Palau , a nation of 250 islands in the western Pacific, is home to dozens of unusual seawater marine lakes connected to the ocean by tunnels and channels. Only one, Jellyfish Lake on Eil Malk, can be visited, and can be filled with millions of—you guessed it—jellyfish. Floating through swarms of these gelatinous beings is definitely an out-of-body experience, but don't worry—their non-poisonous stings can hardly be felt.

Where to stay: An overwater bungalow at the Palau Pacific Resort on Koror or hop on the Four Seasons Explorer , the brand’s liveaboard dive and snorkeling boat, which set sail for the first time in the region October 2023.

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Image may contain Outdoors Nature Land Ocean Water Sea Shoreline Coast Beach Scenery Island and Ice

Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Australia 's Bait Reef has some of the most eye-popping coral formations in the world. Most famous are The Stepping Stones, made up of nearly 20 flat-topped pinnacles lined up like soldiers in formation on the southwest side of the reef. Each rises from a depth of 80 feet and stop only three feet from the surface. They are completely covered with coral. Be on the lookout for the small tropical fish that swarm around the tops of the stones.

Where to stay: Without a doubt, the InterContinental Hayman Island Resort is worth it for its sublime seclusion.

Image may contain Nature Outdoors Water Underwater Ocean Floor Adult Person Animal Reptile Sea Life and Turtle

Exumas, Bahamas

Located in the northwestern West Indies, the Bahamas’ over 3000 islands and cays are easily reached by a quick plane hop from Miami . The largest Caribbean archipelago also houses the third-largest fringing barrier reef worldwide, the 190-mile Andros Barrier Reef. The 360 cays making up the Exumas are some of the best snorkeling in the Bahamas for electrically blue transparent waters and blindingly white sand beaches. Andros Island in the Exumas has the highest concentration of blue holes (sinkholes or underwater caves) worldwide. Make sure to snorkel the world’s third deepest blue hole—Dean’s Blue Hole. Although you won’t snorkel down its entire depth of 663 feet, it’s still a marvel to snorkel at its edges.

Where to stay: The Caerula Mar Club , a boutique hotel in South Andros, is just minutes away from four blue holes.

A boat in the ocean.

Hengchun, Taiwan

Come for the area’s warm waters and to snorkel at Kenting National Park— Taiwan ’s first national park. Head west to Wanlitong, a quieter snorkeling spot with coral reef ditches, valleys, pinnacles, and tunnels. Once there, hide and seek with adorable anime-like nudibranchs and clouds of small wrasse and sergeant majors. Just a ten-minute drive away is Baishawan—one of the shoot locations for Life of Pi —where you'll find white-sand beaches and clear waters with occasional dolphin sightings.

Where to stay:  Conveniently close to many beaches,  Chateau Beach Resort is just a five-minute walk from Dawan Beach and a quick drive away from several others.

Image may contain Leisure Activities Person Sport Summer Swimming Water Water Sports Palm Tree Plant Tree and Land

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

The South Caribbean waters of these 32 islands and cays are particularly unspoiled. Known as the critter capital of the Caribbean, you’ll likely encounter more marine life below the surface than on other islands. Incredible creatures you may spot include reef sharks, hawksbill turtles, flying gurnards, frogfish, sea horses, batfish, and gold-spotted eel. Visibility can stretch 100 feet or more, and there is much to explore: black coral forests, boulder fields, wrecks, jagged cliffs, deep vertical dropoffs, and swim-throughs. Don't miss Byahaut, located in southwestern St. Vincent, if you dare brave the “bat cave,” an underwater cave with hundreds of bats overhead.

Where to stay: Guests at the newly opened Sandals Saint Vincent and the Grenadines enjoy daily scuba and snorkeling excursions, included in the all-inclusive price.

Image may contain Outdoors Nature Ocean Water Sea Land Shoreline Coast Beach Animal Reef Sea Life and Island

The Maldives

A chain of 26 atolls and over 1,000 islands in the Indian Ocean, it’s one the world’s most geographically dispersed countries and can’t be beaten for underwater exploration. As each island is barely the size of a small estate in the Hamptons, we’re hard-pressed to pick a top spot but consider the Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa —winner of multiple Readers' Choice Awards, as your first stop.

Where to stay: Head to remote Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa for its immaculate 360-degree house reef. It’s abundant in marine life, even more so than other Maldives destinations.

Image may contain Leisure Activities Person Sport Swimming Water Water Sports Outdoors Nature Animal and Mammal

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

This Mexican Caribbean island eight miles northeast of Cancun is one of the few places worldwide to snorkel with whale sharks ethically. The government regulates whale shark tours from summer to early fall, limiting the snorkelers allowed in the water simultaneously. Freediving isn’t allowed, so you’ll enjoy a few magical moments snorkeling at the surface to keep up with these gentle, jet-fast creatures. Isla Mujeres also has the world’s largest underwater museum, with over 500 sculptures comprising an artificial reef. Head to Garrafon Natural Reef Park in southern Isla Mujeres for shallow snorkeling with colorful coral and marine life.

Where to stay: The Marriott Cancun, An All-Inclusive Resort , reopened in April 2024 after renovations as the first Marriott-branded all-inclusive and provides a packed lunch for whale shark snorkeling excursions.

Image may contain Water Nature Outdoors Aquatic Adventure Leisure Activities Person Scuba Diving Sport and Swimming

Freycinet Peninsula, Tasmania

Australia’s island state has over 3000 miles of coastline, with incredible snorkeling, especially on the east coast. Dive into the waters of Freycinet National Park; one of the most photographed places in Tasmania . Wineglass Bay is its crown jewel, often called one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Some other can’t miss snorkeling spots include the secluded Coles Bay, Sleepy Bay, or Honeymoon Bay for calm waters, sea caves, and white sand beaches against pink-toned granite mountains.

Where to stay: Immerse yourself in Freycinet National Park at Saffire Freycinet , a luxury all-inclusive resort in the park's heart.

Image may contain Plant Vegetation Land Nature Outdoors Tree Woodland Water Aerial View River and Lake

Crystal River, Florida

Crystal River is the only place in the United States to swim with gentle manatees legally. Around November to March, Florida 's manatees migrate to Crystal Rivers's warmer springs in one of the largest meetings of manatees worldwide. If you’re lucky, you’ll snorkel amongst clumps of hundreds of manatees encircling the warmest waters of the springhead. The manatees are heavily protected, but book snorkeling tours with FWC special-use permit-holding operators following all rules and regulations. You are not allowed to touch the manatees, but the manatees are allowed to touch you and likely will. They are friendly and curious creatures.

Where to stay: Plantation on Crystal River is a historic, eco-friendly resort surrounded by the natural springs of Crystal River’s King Bay. Its Plantation Adventure Center offers manatee tours and scalloping trips from the hotel’s dock.

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Moorea, French Polynesia

Often overlooked by neighboring Tahiti and Bora Bora, Moorea is a secret favorite of snorkel fans. For an up-close-and-personal encounter with black-tip reef sharks, the best place to find them is in the lagoon facing Motu Irioa. Join a full-day tour group or hire a private guide and boat if you want to really explore the area and its critters in depth.

Where to stay: The winner of multiple Readers’ Choice Awards, the Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort has the island’s longest private beach and direct lagoon access snorkeling.

Flamingos on the shores of a beach.

Bonaire is a pioneer in coral conservation as the world’s first Blue destination ; as a result, snorkelers enjoy some of the most flourishing reefs in the world. All snorkelers must pay a yearly nature fee of $40 to access the Bonaire National Marine Park , spanning the entire coastline of the Caribbean island. Luckily, it’s just 70 limestone steps down to 1000 Steps beach, a popular snorkeling destination for abundant staghorn corals, silly parrot fish, and crystal clear waters. Don’t forget to swim the Alice in Wonderland dive spot filled with gorgonian corals, glittering tropical fish, and sea turtles.

Where to stay:   Harbour Village Beach Club is an oceanfront boutique retreat with the best of Bonaire's snorkeling sites just feet away.

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Red Sea, Egypt

In South Sinai, travelers enjoy Sharm el-Sheikh as an easy snorkeling destination for all levels. Snorkeling is easily accessible from most beach resorts here in the Egyptian Riviera. Known for flourishing coral, fringing reefs, and notable shipwrecks; snorkelers are also treated to endemic marine species such as a playful Red Sea clownfish or yellow butterflyfish. After exploring Sharm el-Sheikh, it’s worth the 60-mile drive north to Dahab’s world-famous Blue Hole. Snorkeling the edges of the almost 400-foot sinkhole may leave you awestruck.

Where to stay: The spectacular house reef at Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh features depths for all snorkeling levels from 15 feet to 120 feet.

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Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

In Thailand , hire a long-tail boat from Tonsai Pier on Koh Phi Phi Don and high-tail it to Pi Leh Bay on Koh Phi Phi Leh. Here, you'll snorkel in incredibly clear, green water surrounded on both sides by 330-foot-tall limestone cliffs (note that the sun only hits the water between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., so plan accordingly for the best photo ops).

Where to stay: The very stylish Zeavola resort on Koh Phi Phi Don.

A mountain and shore of the ocean.

San Cristóbal, Galápagos

What’s truly special about the Galápagos is its endemic wildlife, which is extremely tame due to a lack of predators. You can easily grab snorkeling gear and jump in the waters of San Cristóbal beaches, but make time for a day trip or two, as some of the best snorkeling is only accessible by boat. Many of Galápagos' iconic creatures live on Española Island—a two-hour boat ride away—like its marine iguana, blue-footed boobies, and many sea lions. However, to truly experience the best snorkeling, book a week-long cruise with  Ecoventura —ranked by our readers as one of the best expedition ships in the world in 2022 and 2023— for daily snorkel excursions off several far-flung islands.

Where to stay:  Centrally located on the boardwalk,  Hotel Miconia is steps away from a colony of sea lions lazing on the rocks.

Mountain range on the edge of an ocean.

Loreto, Mexico

Jacques Cousteau called the waters surrounding this sleepy Mexican town the “world’s aquarium” because of its rich biodiversity. Find some of the best snorkeling in the world at Loreto Bay National Marine Park , comprised of five islands. Dip underwater in Baja California Sur’s Loreto for blooming coral and an estimated 900 species of fish, and on lucky days, meet mobula rays, bottlenose dolphins, friendly seals, turtles, and more. Danzante Island is a favorite snorkeling spot, where you can often hear the haunting calls of humpback whales underwater.

Where to stay: With its sprawling 39,000 square spa, Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto is ideal for rejuvenating between lazy dips in the water.

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Cayman Islands

One of the more unusual highlights of a trip to Grand Cayman Island is the chance to snorkel at Stingray City , surrounded by a virtual fleet of 50 of one of the ocean's most fascinating and friendly creatures. The water is shallow (less than five feet deep) and crystal clear, making it great for beginners. Visitors are given ray-appropriate treats, and snorkel gear is included in the price of admission.

Where to stay: The newly renovated Grand Cayman Marriott Resort offers a breakfast with the rays Stingray City tour.

Two boats in crystal blue waters.

Sister island to Aruba and Bonaire , Curaçao is the largest of the ABC islands. There are over 30 beaches, but the calmest for snorkeling is in the west coast’s sheltered bays. Make sure to snorkel the Tugboat shipping wreck—it’s only 15 feet deep and covered with tube sponges and coral. To meet the island’s sea turtles, head north to Playa Lagun; for more shallow wrecks with over 30 species of hard coral, go to Curaçao Underwater Park.

Where to stay: Guided snorkeling excursions, equipment, and boat rides to Curaçao’s top spots are included in the price of your stay at Sandals Royal Curaçao .

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Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Snorkeling here couldn’t be any easier with so many properties offering overwater bungalow accommodations. Don’t miss the waters off the southern tip of the main island, filled with reef sharks, friendly stingrays, and colorful fish (and the manta ray cleaning station on the east side at Anau). Guests at the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora , have unlimited access to the resort’s private section of the lagoon, winding through the middle of the resort. Sign up for the coral restoration activity with the resort’s Wise Ocean’s marine biologists to dive underwater and plant coral.

Where to stay: Our Readers' Choice Awards favorite for seven consecutive years and counting, Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora’s overwater bungalows give direct snorkel access to Bora Bora’s famed lagoon.

A shark underwater.

Rangiroa, Tahiti

Drift with the famously friendly, wild bottlenose dolphins of Tiputa Pass and tornados of reef fish at the ‘Aquarium’—a very popular snorkeling spot. Take a day trip to the Blue Lagoon to enjoy a traditional Polynesian grilled meal with swarms of silvery fish at your feet, hoping for crumbs. You can snorkel right from your dining table into the warm waters of the baby shark nursery and swim with dozens of black-tip reef sharks.

Where to stay: Stay at one of Hotel Kia Ora Resort & Spa ’s overwater bungalows and snorkel from your room into the crystal turquoise lagoon.

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A great place to first discover the underwater treasures of this independent island nation east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean is Blue Bay Marine Park. Visibility is near-perfect and it's great for beginners, as you can snorkel straight from the beach. The park is home to angelfish, damselfish, parrotfish, and clownfish—among other colorful exotics. Note: Don't forget to look up once in a while, as you'll spot airplanes landing and taking off from the architecturally impressive Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport.

Where to stay: Less than an hour’s drive northeast, Guests at Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Resort & Spa , have access to exclusive snorkeling at its private island—Ilot Mangénie.

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With water visibility of up to 100 feet, Anguilla is a paradise for snorkelers. There are so many spots to choose from for a dip, but we're partial to exploring the monumental coral gardens (some more than eight feet tall) off Great Dog Island, inhabited only by feral goats. Here, you'll find puffer fish aplenty and even a school or two of squid.

Where to stay: Though Anguilla has a famously flat terrain, rooms at  Four Seasons Resort & Private Residences Anguilla sit atop small cliffs, giving rare island views over sprawling bays.

Dolphins underwater.

Mikura-jima, Japan

To reach the remote island of Mikura-jima, take the 7.5-hour overnight ferry—and trust us, it’s worth the trek. Located 124 miles south of Tokyo, it’s one of the few places in the world you can snorkel with wild Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins. The waters are choppy off this far-flung island, so its best suited for advanced snorkelers only. Dolphin snorkeling season is from mid-April to October.

Where to stay:  The  Tamami HASHIMOTO homestay includes accommodations, meals, dolphin swimming tours (with videography), and a village tour.

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Ilha Grande, Brazil

Ilha Grande, almost exactly midway between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, is heaven on earth—somewhat untouched, still, with deeply green jungle, turquoise water, and a totally laid-back vibe. Snorkeling here might include exploring colonial-era shipwrecks, but take a dip in the Lagoa Azul first (think Brooke Shields in The Blue Lagoon ) with delicious water temperatures in the mid- to upper-70s providing the perfect habitat for seahorses.

Where to stay: We like Asalem , set on the calm Bay of Abraäo, for its authentic simplicity (candles and gas lights at night).

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Turks & Caicos

Directly off Grace Bay Beach and protected by Bight Reef a mile offshore, the White House Reef Snorkel Trail is well-marked and a delight for anyone looking for barracuda, spiny lobster, or a harmless nurse shark or two. Take a boat cruise out to the small island of Salt Cay from January to April to swim with migrating humpback whales.

Where to stay: Wymara Resort & Villas sits on Grace Bay Beach—widely considered one of the world’s best, with white-sand beaches and simple sophistication.

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Kauai, Hawaii

It's all about the chance to swim with elegant green sea turtles in the waters off this unimaginably-lush Hawaiian island. Best months for snorkeling are October through April, especially from the south shore's Lawai Beach. You'll also find rainbow colored Wrasses and Convict Tangs—some of the more unusual fish in the Pacific Ocean.

Where to stay: Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach greets with authentic aloha spirit, ocean access to Coconut Beach’s golden sand, and an over $35 million pre-pandemic renovation.

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The Seychelles

Comprised of 115 tiny islands, the Seychelles is one of the best spots in the Indian Ocean for snorkeling. We like La Digue, Félicité, and Coco the most, purely for their intense variety of sea life including surgeonfish, Bengal snappers, and green humphead parrotfish, as well as gentle hawksbill sea turtles.

Where to stay: For the ultimate private island escape, nothing beats North Island .

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Vieques, Puerto Rico

Cast just off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico , Vieques is still an under-the-radar Caribbean destination. Most of the island was once a U.S. Navy training area and remains completely undeveloped. Green Beach has shallow, clear water, a great variety of marine life, and is rarely crowded.

Where to stay: Off the Esperanza coast, the ultra-modern, minimalist  El Blok is one of the island's best, within walking distance of top bars and restaurants.

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Maui, Hawaii

Maui has many ideal snorkel spots, but for something completely different don your gear and sail on the luxury catamaran Kai Kanani to Molokini Crater —a tiny, volcanic crescent off the island's southernmost shore. A State Marine Life & Bird Conservation District, it is home to dolphins, manta rays, turtles, and dozens of varieties of insanely colorful tropical fish.

Where to stay: You can't go wrong at the chic, cheerful Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort .

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Palawan, Philippines

Palawan continues to impress, voted one of the top islands in Asia in our 2022 Readers' Choice Awards . Day trips by boat from Puerto Princesa to Luli Island, Starfish Island, Panden Island, and Cowrie Island only take 45-minutes and will reward with sightings of Star Fish and sea snails, plus marine gastropod mollusca called "cowrie."

Where to stay: Do anything, anything at all, to book a villa at the sybaritic El Nido Pangulasian Island resort, only an hour's private flight from Manila.

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Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique

Hard to get to, but well worth the effort, the Bazaruto Archipelago of Mozambique keeps us visiting and dreaming. Barely 22 miles off the east coast of Africa, this group of six islands (Bazaruto, Benguerra, Magaruque, Bangue, Shell, and Santa Carolina) continue to top our "must-visit" list of places in the world. The entire area was declared a National Park in 1971 and hosts a plethora of snorkel and dive opportunities.

Where to stay: Stay at super-classy  andBeyond Benguerra Island , featured in our Hot List and Gold List .

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