If you prefer a summer like climate for your end-of-the-year escape, consider Miami, Puerto Rico, or Los Cabot and picture yourself sunning on the beach or poolside with a cocktail in hand. Las Vegas is entertaining any time of year, and hotels, casinos, and restaurants are open with COVID-19 guidelines in place.
Set on a plateau in the Blue Ridge Mountains at an elevation of 4,114 feet, Highlands was founded in 1875 and named for its location. A popular mountain resort area in summer, Highlands is lovely in December with temperatures averaging in the 40s with lows in the high 20s, ideal for inspiring the holiday spirit and thoughts of cozy fireplaces.
Outdoor activities continue in winter, and many trails take hardy hikers to waterfalls and scenic viewpoints. The elegant Relies & Châteaux property’s accommodations include guest rooms, suites, cottages, and cabins as well as a full-service spa and fitness center.
Temperatures in the mid 70s, beaches, shopping, and a range of places to visit and things to do make Miami an ideal December vacation destination. Or head to historic Coconut Grove in the heart of Miami for marina views, galleries, boutiques, sidewalk cafés, and a laid-back local feel.
Among the many other hotel options are the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove, W South Beach, and Novel Miami Brick ell, now offering a variety of specials, including a family road trip package. The holiday spirit arrives in Breckenridge the first weekend of December with a festival of trees, twinkling lights, animated decorations, music, and lots of Santa's, including the “real” one, who is said to carry a ripped handkerchief given to him by Mrs. Claus.
The River walk will feature decorated trees in various themes, and, while some events have been postponed or changed to accommodate COVID-19 guidelines, the holiday spirit will prevail. Snow is the main attraction for most winter visitors, and Breckenridge Ski Resort opens in mid-November with five peaks, 187 trails, 34 lifts, and new safety procedures in place.
You can even stay warm amid the snow in a heated snow cat, touring forests, mountains, and an old mining cabin, or browse the shops and stop for a hot cocoa along Main Street. LOGE Breckenridge, dog friendly and conveniently located, offers modern rooms and a casual café.
Warm, dry weather with temperatures in the low 80s and convenient flights from most cities attract travelers to this destination at the southern tip of Baja California Sur. It’s a perfect time of year, not only to escape chilly weather, but also to experience the arrival of whales on their annual migration from the Bering Sea.
The warm seas around Baa are where they give birth and raise their young, preparing them for their journey north for summer. December is also ideal for water sports like surfing, kite boarding, windsurfing, stand up paddleboarding, snorkeling, and diving.
About two hours away, Cab Pull National Park, a living coral reef, is home to marine life that includes colorful fish, whale sharks, dolphins, manta rays, and more. The Four Seasons Resort Los Cabot at Costa Palms is set on two miles of beachfront along the Sea of Cortez with your choice of six pools, golf, and a variety of activities.
It may be a bit chilly for an ocean dip, but the beaches are still lovely for strolling, biking, or just enjoying the fresh air and scenery. The annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights, a procession of about 80 decorated boats, will take place on December 13 and 20, with some adjustments as required by COVID-19 health guidelines.
Families love the mid-century modern cool Town and Country, with a new pool complex and Carlo dining spot. In the popular Gas lamp District, The Penury boasts six dining and cocktail venues including a rooftop lounge.
Ranch Bernardo Inn, set on 265 acres in San Diego’s North County, includes a championship golf course, spa, and three pools. The Hilton San Diego Bay front offers newly renovated rooms with both city and bay views.
Visitors to Lanai will find rugged up-country ideal for exploring its secluded beaches and miles of dirt roads with a four-wheel drive vehicle. In historic Lanai City, shops, restaurants, galleries, and Dole Park provide a casual, local atmosphere.
Clothing, art, home decor, accessories, books, and vintage finds make browsing fun. Hiking trails from easy to challenging provide not only a workout but also access to spectacular views of mountains, canyons, streams, and stunning rock formations.
From luxurious resorts to casual motels, the Palm Springs area offers a variety of places to stay. The Villa Royale, a stylish boutique reminiscent of old Hollywood, is filled with striking art, antiques, and unique decor.
If you’re nearby, look for the new “PS I Love You” sculpture, an Instagrammable spot, especially when you stand in for the “I.” The adults-only Dive is an intimate boutique with a French Riviera vibe. The Quinta Resort & Club, with capital, suites, villas, and 41 pools is the setting for the upcoming season of “The Bachelorette.
” One of the newest, Margaritaville Resort of Palm Springs, is set to open December 1 in a completely renovated property with a casual-luxe island feel, two pools, and tiki-hut inspired cabanas. Only about 200 of the islands are inhabited, and a variety of resorts and linerboards (local cruise ships) provide a range of options for visitors.
Cruising, snorkeling, surfing, fishing, and just lying on the beach admiring the clear, turquoise sea are other favored pastimes. Open to international visitors since July, the Maldives requires compliance with their procedures, and it’s suggested to check updated information as part of planning.
Siam World, set to open in December on Noon Atoll, is an all-inclusive resort offering overwater villas, many with private pools. The Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi is conveniently located a 40-minute yacht trip from Male International Airport.
Open to visitors with specific guidelines, Puerto Rico is recovering from both 2017’s Hurricane Maria and the travel restrictions imposed due to COVID-19. The islands of Cerebra and Vie ques, just a short boat trip from the mainland, offer secluded beaches, unexplored areas, and stunning scenery.
In Old San Juan, visitors can stroll or take a free trolley to landmarks in the 500-year-old city and stay at the historic Hotel El Convent dating to 1646. El Unique Rainforest, about an hour from San Juan, offers hiking trails, waterfalls, and wildlife.
Nearby, the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve Puerto Rico is a family-friendly resort with an expansive lagoon-style pool and two championship golf courses. You may not plan to sit by the pool with December ’s chilly weather, but it’s a great time to get away from the Strip and hike among the mountains and canyons in the area.
The exciting High Roller Observation Wheel is open for a 30-minute ride with stunning views of the Strip. The Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas launched an “Elopement Package” that includes all the details and a two-night stay for couples ready to tie the knot.
Nearby slopes include Jimin Peak, Butternut, Cat amount, and Bouquet for skiers, and there are cross-country and snowshoe trails as well. Leno’s newest inn, 33 Main, offers eight Luke guestrooms and a full gourmet breakfast daily.
Historic properties, charming surroundings, and bracing December weather make Leno in the Berkshires a delightful winter getaway. The glacial last month of the year stirs visions of snow-covered hills, wooden toboggans, hot cocoa with mini marshmallows and ripping open presents while fluffy powder falls outside.
In our youth, December break meant being out of school, frequenting the local skating rink in town and competing against other neighborhood kids in sledding contests. It also meant road trips to visit grandma and grandpa at their residence upstate, or even the occasional weekend at the nearest ski mountain.
As we grew older, mulled wine and decadent, spiked eggnog joined the party. But, of course, there is another way (well many) to spend December still surrounded by friends and family that has nothing to do with freezing temperatures or icy roads.
From sun-drenched domestic destinations to exotic islands with balmy climates, here are 15 awesome warm places to visit in December. With such an array of activities for foodies, culture aficionados, luxury lovers, thrill junkies and relaxation seekers, the likelihood of running out of things to do is legitimately nonexistent.
A soulful retreat defined by good vibes, eco-chic villas, turquoise tides and jungle selfies, Tulum pulls in a Bohemian crowd with money to burn. Think: willowy, fresh-faced globetrotters rocking top knots, breezy crochet caftans and been-through-the-ringer vintage Gucci sandals.
Mornings begin with early a.m. yoga sessions taught by world-renowned instructors and artfully arranged smoothie bowls from Raw Love. Alternatively, opt for a SUP excursion to San Key'an Biosphere Reserve or explore the Tulum Ruins.
When the midday munchies strike, head to Taquería La Leukemia for fish tacos (it’s got dope vegan options, too). South Beach has long lured travelers with its sandy stretches, sunny skies and glitzy ambiance.
Gain accesses the latest “it” club and let the rhythm of house music induce gyration or, for a more mellow atmosphere (which does exist), sip sauvignon blanc at a swanky wine bar. In between late-night dance parties and shopping along Lincoln Road, you can admire the well-preserved art deco architecture that lines Ocean Drive and dine at trendy eateries owned by celebrity chefs.
Finally, watch the ball drop from an Uber VIP venue like a trig penthouse that’s reportedly owned by Pitbull. A honeymoon haven that’s a hit with celebs and royals alike, The Maldives exudes romance.
Swim with cute sea turtles, visit Male’s bustling fish market or unplug on the pristine beaches. The recently opened Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi promises swish villas, plus an overwater spa and cinema.
Hike to the summit of Nevis Peak for sweeping vistas or book a rainforest expedition. In fact, it makes for more pleasant conditions to take advantage of the myriad outdoor activities, such as hiking and whale watching.
Most people associate Ho Chi Minh City (also called Saigon) with its role in the Vietnam War. Packed with history, culture and energetic personality, the former capital demonstrates both resilience and a penchant for the past.
From budget backpacker hostels to high-end hotels (even the exclusive Park Hyatt Saigon) that won’t deplete your entire travel fund, accommodations are shockingly affordable. And it goes without saying that sampling authentic Vietnamese street food at the myriad stalls surrounding Ben Thanh Market promises to be a highlight of any visit.
The capital of Western Australia is having a major moment, seeing double-digit growth in tourism over the last year, based on Expedia data. The sprawling, 990-acre Kings Park on Mount Eliza offers a mix of botanical gardens and bushland, plus spectacular views.
Just outside the city sits Costello Beach, a popular spot for swimming and riding waves that appears plucked off the pages of a glossy travel magazine. San Juan is the rise, with Kayak reporting a 47 percent increase in interest compared to last year.
And as the country recovers from a devastating hurricane, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what’s garnering such attention. A favored port for cruise ships, Old San Juan recalls an earlier era with its blue cobblestoned lanes, Spanish colonial buildings and 16th-century structures.
In juxtaposition, the contemporary Con dado district flaunts resorts, casinos, nightlife and restaurants, which leads us to the food. Seriously, we could (and, in a moment, will) name dozens of things that fully rationalize our desire to wait out cold snaps in the southernmost tip of the Baa Peninsula.
Cab San Lucas delivers endless sunshine and average temperatures in the low 80s. On the opposite side of the spectrum, epic swells coax surfers to the famously tumultuous Playa del Armor.
Kelly Baumbach of Quintessentially Travel, a Virtuoso Agency in New York City, recommends the stunning Montage Los Cabot, which wins hearts with its incredible views of Santa Maria Bay. Its most privileged real estate belongs to Grace Bay, which looks like a retouched Instagram photo.
Beyond the expansive, glimmering shores and oceanfront resorts in Provincials lies a plethora of fascinating scuba-diving sites with colorful reef creatures, coral caves and dramatic submerged walls. Locals and out-of-towners mingle over stiff drinks, fresh-caught fish, melt-in-your-mouth ribs and live music at The Conch Shack.
Incredible hospitality, vibrant culture and a formidable dining scene make Cape Town one of the most esteemed city breaks. History buffs, budding photographers and Instagram addicts will have a blast wandering through chromatic BO AAP.
Located in the up-and-coming Woodstock neighborhood, the Michelin-star The Test Kitchen serves standout dishes such as pig head and smoked apple salad. Because the seasons are opposite, a December visit is actually an opportunity to experience the magic of summer in South Africa.
And that’s great news because Cape Town provides access to all sorts of amazing adventures, from hiking Table Mountain and zip lining to swimming in tidal pools and paragliding. To take advantage of better pricing and avoid massive crowds, experts advise travelers to focus on the first half of the month.
“Adderley Street is illuminated by hundreds of lights, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden hosts caroling and Via Waterfront even puts on Santa’s village,” reveals Olivia Link of Lake Shore Travel, a Virtuoso Agency in Glencoe. Lamina's historic Banyan Tree Park dazzles with thousands of colorful bulbs.
Just 12 degrees north of the Equator, this colorful island has an unwaveringly warm climate (the thermometer rarely dips below 75°), secluded cove-like beaches and azure waters. Offshore, you'll find extensive coral reefs teeming with marine life and renowned dive sites, such as Play Kali.
Adventurous travelers can also plan day trips to Klein Curaçao and go cliff jumping. While strolling through Curaçao’s increasingly cosmopolitan capital in December, mosey over to the light-adorned Queen Emma Bridge, which runs across St. Anna Bay, and the spirited Pietermaai District.