If the lack of sunshine where you live is turning you into a Grinch and you don’t have exciting plans for Christmas, why not leave winter behind and enjoy a sunny holiday this year? These fabulous places are sure to make you forget all about the cold, and perhaps give your Christmas spirit a boost too.
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In the land Down Under, Christmas falls during the first month of summer. So while we’re digging our cars out from several feet of snow, Australians are enjoying cookouts on the beach. Why not celebrate with them? Just do your reveling with kangaroos, sun and the sand instead of snowmen and reindeer. You could even spend Christmas day diving with colorful fish along the Great Barrier Reef or just savor a legendary barbecue at the beach, reveling in those 80+ degree temperatures – and perhaps building a man made of sand, instead of that cold stuff.
Winter on Kauai is an exciting time. Not only will you enjoy a balmy, tropical Christmas, but the island offers a number of fun holiday events throughout the month of December, including the Festival of Lights, a lighted Christmas parade and Christmas hula concerts. This is also the season for whale watching, with majestic humpback whales migrating to the islands’ warm waters to mate and birth their young. The island also gets some incredible surf during the winter – a perfect spot for those that would love to go surfing on Christmas day. Of course, you can also just enjoy relaxing on the golden sands of Poipu Beach or viewing the numerous stunning waterfalls.
Canary Islands, Spain
With average daily December temperatures in the mid-70 degree range, along with more than 900 miles of spectacular coastline, the Canary Islands offer the perfect chance to soak in the sun and the sand over the holidays. Say goodbye to the winter blues by unwinding by the sea, sipping some of the unique wines indigenous to the region, or explore the islands’ soaring volcanoes. If you’re the adventurous type, consider spending the holiday sailing with Adventure Under Sail. Hop aboard the ship in San Juan de la Rambla, Tenerife for an eight night cruise on December 20 sailing to Santa Cruz de la Palma where fireworks, festivals and lots of fun in the sun are the order of the day.
If you’re idea of the perfect holiday includes beautiful beaches, a unique culture and plenty of delicious food, Thailand might be calling. Just trade that Christmas ham or roast beef for a holiday of Pad Thai and satays on a picture-postcard beach. The “land of smiles” offers a warm welcome and a warm climate with gorgeous islands, diverse wildlife and Buddhist temples to explore. If money isn’t an issue, you might even hop aboard a private yacht heading out to the Similan Islands.
Sri Lanka offers a lot more than sunshine and beaches, you’ll find a fascinating culture, rich history, ancient cities, an abundance of wildlife and affordable accommodations. Explore the jungle from the back of an elephant, watch glorious sunsets or visit Nala National Park for a chance to see the island’s largest population of leopards along with a variety of beautiful birds, monkeys, crocodiles and elephants. For the ultimate active, eco-friendly stay at bargain rates, consider staying at The Green Rooms where electricity comes from a renewable source, furniture and fixtures are made locally or nearby and the guesthouse doesn’t have a negative impact on the local fishing village. A one-week package including accommodation, breakfast, lunch and three hours of surfing and yoga instruction each day can be had for around $700.
United Arab Emirates
Shopping enthusiasts may want to head to Dubai, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates to hit the massive Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping center by area, housing more than 1,000 stores, not including its two anchor department stores and more than 160 food and beverage sellers. You can also go ice skating, catch a movie, be mesmerized by the dazzling Dubai Fountains – a 900-foot-long pool where spurts of water dance amid colored lights, and visit the Dubai Aquarium. This complex sits at the heart of the mall and houses more than 33,000 underwater creatures in one of the world’s largest tanks. If Dubai’s a bit too much, head to the nearby island haven of Abu Dhabi, where you can kayak the waters of the Arabian Gulf.
South Africa is another fantastic place to visit that gets the luxury of basking in the summer sun during the December. Enjoy endless sunshine and bright blue skies while searching for elephants, giraffes and zebra on an aerial safari in a hot air balloon, cuddle with lion cubs at Ukutula Lion Park or visit a penguin colony on Boulder Beach near Cape Town. The very daring can even spend Christmas Day diving with Great White Sharks in prime shark locations around Cape Town, for an especially unforgettable holiday
Tucked within the warmth of the dazzling Mediterranean, Cyprus not only offers picturesque beaches at the edge of azure colored waters, but this island nation boasts all types of activities for adventure seekers, like bungee jumping, sailing, snorkeling and fishing. History buffs will be in paradise with the numerous cultural and religious monuments that are relics of its sacred past. If you find yourself missing the Christmas snow, just head to the Troodos Mountain villages for a more traditional winter wonderland.
Morocco offers the chance to trade that snow for an exotic land filled with rolling Saharan sands and ancient Kasbahs. If you want to escape Christmas all together, just head to some of the smaller towns and cities where the holiday barely makes a blip on the radar of locals. In bigger cities like Fez, Rabat and Marrakech, you can still experience Christmas with the numerous foreign people living and working there. On The Go Tours offers a special 8-day “Christmas in Morocco” tour which includes a camel trek through the Sahara, a tour of Marrakech, an exotic pink city of snake charmers, steamy hammams, bustling souks and hidden palaces and a Christmas dinner at Todra Gorge.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
You won’t escape Christmas in Puerto Rico, but you’re just about guaranteed to enjoy an exciting time as this lively island celebrates the holiday with lots of festivities that take place during the entire month of December and into early January. Christmas in Puerto Rico is a truly a magical time with the stunning colonial beauty of 500-year-old Old San Juan decorated with dazzling lights and colorful whimsy. This season is also a great time to get a special Christmas gift like santos, a hand-carved wooden saint, or just a good bottle of rum. Of course, you can also spend your days on the sand under gently swaying palm trees, soaking in the sunshine. After dark, listening to Jingle Bells set to a salsa beat, will make it nearly impossible not to get up on the dance floor.
This Polynesian treasure nestled between an aquamarine lagoon and beautiful Barrier Reef offers the ultimate indulgent holiday filled with sun, a dramatic tropical landscape and luxurious spas. If you’re looking for relaxation and tranquility at Christmas, away from the snow, countless obligations and chaos of urban festivities, Bora Bora may be your very best choice.
If your idea of a wonderful Christmas is an endless turquoise-colored sea, soft white sands and holiday traditions, Barbados will welcome you with all this and then some. This is a beautiful time to visit the island, with many houses and businesses decorating for the holidays. The capital city of Bridgetown is lit up in red and green, with roundabouts portraying different Christmas themes. Indulge in feasts that feature jug jug, a dish made from green peas, guinea corn flour, herbs and salt meat; Great cake, made with a combination of dried fruits, spices and a fair amount of liquor, along with baked ham. Despite the blazing sun, you can still listen to tunes about winter wonderlands, sleigh rides and open fires over the radio -while enjoying warm waters and magnificent beaches.
The Cayman Islands prove that Christmas doesn’t have to be a winter wonderland for it to be special. The people here make up for a lack of snow with lots of festive decorations, holiday activities and an incredibly warm Christmas spirit to go with the idyllic climate, including their very own Caribbean Santa, who wears shorts and flip flops. Dance to Jingle Bells with a Reggae beat, visit Santa himself on the little island off Camana Bay and take the Christmas Bus Tour of Lights which visits an historic Mission House as well as the island’s most decorated homes – it also includes a feast with traditional holiday fare like Christmas beef and Cassava Cake. Of course, you can still plunge into the warm waters with around 130 southern stingrays at Stingray City.
Mexico offers numerous destinations within its borders that are perfect for a sunny Christmas. Enjoy swimming in the warm Caribbean Sea or take a dip in the soothing mineral-rich waters of cave cenotes across the Yucatan Peninsula, filled with fresh water that has been meticulously filtered by the earth, making them so clear and pure that you can see right through to the tiny fish frolicking in the plant life below. In the beautiful Colonial city of Puebla, you’ll find plenty of Mexican delights to feast on, including mole, a spicy chocolate sauce flavored with chili peppers, cinnamon and fruit. You can also watch Las Posados, the night processions which reenact the search of Mary and Joseph for shelter downtown and throughout the neighborhoods in Puebla.
The Maldives aren’t a budget option, but if you’ve got the cash, this is one of the most breathtaking tropical destinations you could possibly escape to. Located in the Indian Ocean, the islands enjoy year round warm weather along with crystal clear azure seas and pristine beaches. At Olhuveli Beach & Spa Resort, you can spend your nights in overwater bungalows, your Christmas Eve dining on lobster in a beach buffet and the holiday singing carols and sipping punch in the bar.
This strikingly beautiful Pacific island attracts tourists all year round, but many return visitors find that it’s at its most charming during the winter holidays, over Christmas and New Year. The hospitality of the locals coupled with breathtaking landscapes and interesting culture offer the ultimate relaxing escape. Tropical gardens, endless beaches, emerald lagoons and magnificent waterfalls are just a few of its highlights. Christmas is celebrated in a big way, with a 13-day buildup to the holiday with the annual “13 Days to Christmas which includes dozens of local choirs performing Christmas carols and short dramas in the beautiful Upolu village of Vaitele-Uta. Despite December being of the hottest times of the year, the sweltering temperatures do nothing to quell everyone’s Christmas spirit, with plenty of parties, hopping nightclubs and children shouting, “Merry Christmas” in English to impress visitors.
On Roatan, the largest the largest of Honduras’ Bay Islands, you’ll find average temperatures in December that range in the upper 70s to low 80s. Sitting off the world’s second largest barrier reef, you can take advantage of that idyllic weather by spending your days enjoying some of the best diving or snorkeling on earth. You’ll also find numerous sandy beaches to lounge on – perhaps even all to yourself. Join the locals in celebrating the Christmas Festival, honoring the arrival of the holiday too. The carefree ambiance on the island is intermingled with an engaging energy resulting in a “Caribpolitan” culture that provides natives, expats, and visitors alike with lots of opportunities to enjoy island life to its fullest. For the most authentic experience, Island Rose Roatan offers a wide range of vacation rentals that allow visitors to enjoy the comforts of home with the benefits of island living.
All of Costa Rica’s wide range of resort towns along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, enjoy warm and sunny weather in December. This is the dry season, which means it’s an ideal time for hitting the beaches or taking a hike through national parks and rain forests –these “jewels of the earth,” as they’re often referred to, are home to two-thirds of all animal species on the planet. At Corcovada National Park, you’ll have the chance to spot humpback and sperm whales, who swim through surrounding waters in December and January.
With its incredibly brilliant, warm waters and out-of-this-world scenery that includes many deserted stretches of sand, the Bahamas are ideal for a dream vacation any time of the year. Swim with dolphins, explore some of the world’s largest underwater caves or even meet face-to-face with sharks. Christmas is celebrated with an abundance of carnivals and festivals as well as many popular American traditions. You can choose to spend your holiday in exciting places like the famous Atlantis Resort with its own spa, casino, restaurants, waterpark and marine habitat, or enjoy more untamed, wild beauty and an authentic experience untarnished by neon lights, massive resorts and the lure of commercialism on islands like Eleuthera.
Ecuador is affordable and festive, with a long coastline dotted with plenty of wonderful beach choices. Salinas Beach, often referred to as the Miami Beach of Ecuador, offers a cheap getaway with its warm, calm waters, a long stretch of sand and all types of bars and eateries just steps away. Ayungue, about a half hour’s drive north, is a quieter spot where the locals come for inexpensive getaways and cheap eats. While you’re here, don’t miss taking a trip to Lake Quilotoa. The first time you peer over the crater rim of the dormant volcano and see the mist-shrouded waters of the lake below is something you’ll never forget.
Key West, Florida
Key West offers the chance to enjoy a Caribbean-like feel without leaving the country in the southernmost city of the continental U.S. Festivities kick off during the first week of December with the Christmas parade, but events continue throughout the month. Enjoy warm temperatures, holiday cheer, Christmas feasts and water sports like snorkeling, fishing and sailing along with glorious sunsets.
Kaikoura, New Zealand
You won’t see any reindeer or snowmen, but you’re likely to see dolphins, sperm whales, pilot whales and fur seals in Kaikoura Bay. This amazing Southern Hemisphere Christmas destination means plenty of sunshine along with holiday festivities. Just trade your traditional Christmas menu for diamond-shell calms and a variety of other fresh seafood dishes like baked grouper and green curry prawns.