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Not dreaming of a White Christmas this year? There’s no reason to stay home and shovel snow when you could be enjoying a tropical island holiday – at least once in a while. These vacations will allow you to forget about the scarves, gloves and tacky sweaters. Pack your swimsuits, flip-flops and sunglasses and enjoy a warm getaway instead.
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The Caribbean Island of Cozumel is located off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and offers all the ingredients for the ultimate tropical Christmas and then some. While there’s plenty of holiday lights and decor, you’ll get to experience the local traditions. Here islanders celebrate with nine nights of songs, known as Las Posadas, while the children carry decorated branches as they sing from house to house. Of course, you’ll also be able to enjoy those white sand beaches and crystal-clear azure waters, including some of the world’s best diving and snorkeling with Cozumel surrounded by the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest coral reef system on the planet.
Kauai is not only one of the most beautiful destinations in the world but it offers a balmy Christmas and lots of fun holiday events throughout the month of December. Look forward to enjoying the Festival of Lights, a lighted Christmas parade and Christmas hula concerts as well as whale watching, as this is the season humpback whales migrate to the warm waters offshore to mate and birth their young. For those who’d like to ride the waves, this is peak time for that too. And, all-year-round it’s perfect for lounging on golden sands and visiting the island’s many waterfalls.
It’s hard to beat this Polynesian treasure with its romantic resorts and striking turquoise, clear waters framed by coral reefs and a multitude of colorful fish. During the holidays, you’ll be able to enjoy all sorts of festivities, while many resorts and hotels offer special Christmas dinners too. Stick around longer and you can dine on multi-course New Year’s Eve menus followed by fireworks on the beach. Your days will likely revolve around the warm waters, enjoying the sun and the sand, snorkeling, parasailing, fishing, sailing or simply doing nothing more than gazing out at the breathtaking scenery.
Barbados not only welcomes visitors with those dazzling Caribbean waters and powdery white sands but all sorts of holiday traditions. The homes, shops, hotels and eateries are nearly all beautifully decorated this time of year. Father Christmas even visits many of the island’s hotels. Look forward to festivals, craft fairs and massive feasts with baked hams and Great Cake, made up of a combination of dried fruits, spices and a fair amount of liquor. Of course, it may be Christmastime, but it will feel like summer with endless opportunities for water sports and hanging out on the sand.
Roatan may not be a name you’re familiar with, but it’s the largest of the Bay Islands in Honduras. December temperatures are typically ideal, hovering around the 80-degree mark. Located just off the second largest barrier reef in the world, you’ll be able to enjoy some of the best diving and snorkeling there is, along with often empty sandy beaches. Take part in the Christmas Festival that honors the arrival of the holiday while enjoying the “Caribpolitan” culture that brings natives, expats, and visitors together with lots of opportunities to enjoy island life to its fullest.
Look forward to a different kind of Christmas on Grenada that includes parranderos crooning parang while strumming a tune on their cuatro, a soda bottle or anything else that can make music. Sip holiday drinks like Christmas eggnog referred to as ponche-a-cream, and dine on special menus at many of the island’s restaurants that incorporate traditional Grenadian Christmas fare. It’s also a time to experience unique holiday traditions like the Christmas masquerades with attendees dressing in vibrant costumes to perform colorful dances, along with plenty of celebratory street parties. Masquerade bands save a special repertoire of interactive music and dance just for the yuletide season, named for the traditional masks they wear. Of course, you’ll also be able to spend your days enjoying the sunshine, beaches and warm Caribbean waters.
The locals on Grand Cayman Island are said to make up for the snow with a ton of festivities that include all sorts of holiday decor, activities and events for the holidays, along with a warm spirit that makes visitors feel welcome. Expect to find plenty of beach parties, magnificent light displays, and even tropical snow that’s created by covering the grass in white sands. There’s a Caribbean Santa, though he wears shorts and flip-flops here, while top Grand Cayman hotels host a wide range of holiday entertainment.
Lord Howe Island
This breathtaking island in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand offers the chance to enjoy summer in the Southern Hemisphere, and a destination that’s practically untouched by humans. It has just a tiny native population and only 400 tourists are allowed to visit each year, so you’ll need to plan ahead, but it’s worth the wait. The limit is in place to protect the incredibly unspoiled natural landscape which is home to a gorgeous crystal lagoon and coral reef. Enjoy Christmas Day in paradise, with BBQs on the beach, building a “sandman” instead of a snowman, and in the water snorkeling or diving among the colorful fish and sea turtles.
Malta offers a beautiful Mediterranean holiday with lots of festive decor, Christmas carolers singing through the streets and endless baroque churches overflowing at midnight mass. For an extra-special evening, head to Valletta to join the congregation at St. John’s Co-Cathedral for candlelit carol singing, though all the churches on the island will have their interiors decked out in crimson while the altars are adorned with flowers. You can also head over to Gozo island to see some of the island’s alluring natural wonders.