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Looking for the best places to travel in December? Whether on a budget or seeking a warm vacation spot, the month still serves plenty of tropical destinations for travelers looking to trade the colder temperatures and winter snowscapes for palm trees and turquoise waters. Skip the parkas and pack the swimsuits for a rejuvenating winter escape that fits in festive cheer amid the island calm and beach bliss.
The Hawaiian islands are among the best places to travel to in December, boasting balmy 80-degree temperatures year-round. December in Hawaii brings forth holiday celebrations like the annual Surfing Santa competition on Oahu, where Santa trades his sleigh for a surfboard, and the Aloha State embraces a festive spirit with Christmas luaus. Kauai’s Poipu Beach shines with lesser December rainfall than other islands, so you can maximize the tropical weather or enjoy boutique shopping in high-end Wailea during Maui’s whale-watching season.
Belize provides an accessible and affordable Caribbean gateway with fewer crowds for those looking for the best places to travel in December on a budget. Ambergris Caye is the launching point for world-class snorkeling and diving along the magnificent 185-mile-long Belize Barrier Reef, brimming with tropical fish, nurse sharks, and sea turtles. Immerse yourself in ancient Mayan history on land at sites like the towering El Castillo pyramid at Xunantunich. With average December highs of 82°F, it’s warm enough to swim and milder than the sweltering summer.
3. Riviera Maya
Mexico’s Riviera Maya coastline offers some of the best vacations in December, captivating visitors with its talcum powder beaches, crystal clear waters in brilliant shades of blue and turquoise, towering palm trees, and ancient Mayan ruins. From the yoga retreats and chic boutique hotels in Tulum to the splashy mega-resorts of Cancun, this 100-mile corridor caters to various interests with sun-soaked getaways. Anticipate December temperatures hovering at 80 degrees for the perfect beach escape where the margaritas flow freely and history melds seamlessly with a hedonistic paradise.
4. Costa Rica
Costa Rica boasts some of the best beach vacations in December amid its lush green rainforests, where howler monkeys frolic overhead and humpback whales grace the Pacific coastline. Manuel Antonio National Park stands out for unparalleled wildlife watching, while the surf-centric town of Tamarindo offers top-notch waves and a relaxed atmosphere. December highlights Costa Rica’s early dry season, which is ideal for river activities like white water rafting. Adventurous souls can hike the Arenal volcano area and unwind in natural hot springs afterward.
5. Cape Town
Cape Town, surrounded by stunning mountains and sea, is one of the best warm vacations in December, unveiling its summertime charm. As Christmas lights adorn the vibrant Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, street performers entertain diners, and Cape Malay choirs fill the waterfront’s Christmas decor with angelic harmonies. Nearby beaches like Camps Bay and Clifton showcase beautiful white sands and spectacular views of Lion’s Head Peak. Additionally, Hermanus and Gansbaai serve as excellent spots for observing the migration of whales along the “Cape of Whales.”
Phuket is the gateway to Thailand’s exquisite Andaman Islands, making it one of the best tropical vacations in December. These islands boast signature pearl white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters teeming with coral reefs and exotic sea life. Amidst the vibrant energy of Patong Beach, Phuket offers serene hideaways like Cape Yamu, providing tranquil views of mist-covered limestone karsts in Phang Nga Bay. Visitors can journey via ferry or seaplane to idyllic tropical havens such as James Bond Island or Ko Phi Phi, featuring the stunning Ao Ton Sai Bay – an ideal setting for beach yoga, stand-up paddleboarding, and brilliant sunsets.
7. The Philippines
The Philippines presents some of the best beach vacations in December across its 7,000 tropical islands. Boracay’s White Beach offers powdery white sands and serene azure bay waters. Palawan attracts adventurous souls with island hopping and diving opportunities in remote reefs teeming with sea turtles and whale sharks. Bohol showcases the unique Chocolate Hills and tarsier sanctuaries, contrasting the volcanoes and indigenous weaving villages around Banaue Rice Terraces. Despite occasional rain in December, temperatures remain pleasant, perfect for island-hopping adventures or unwinding at luxurious beach resorts like Shangri-La in Boracay.
Sydney is celebrated as one of the top places to visit in December. Australia commemorates the holiday season with sunny backyard barbecues, beach outings, and outdoor concerts against the iconic Opera House and Harbor Bridge. As summer flourishes Down Under, temperatures typically reach the mid-70s, perfect for exploring spots like Bondi Beach amidst festive occasions or renting a Central Coast holiday home with waterfront views for extended family gatherings. A quick ferry ride takes you to Manly Beach for surfing, while a scenic road trip through Royal National Park unveils stunning coastal landscapes along the coast.
Jamaica, known as Bob Marley Island, remains one of the best places to travel to in December, offering temperatures around 80 degrees and moderate rainfall. The island exudes ‘irie’ vibes, particularly in beach towns like Negril and Montego Bay, where laid-back reggae tunes and iconic jerk chicken stalls adorn the white sandy shores. Yet, exploring inland destinations like the Blue Mountains and Dunn’s River Falls is essential for immersing oneself in Jamaica’s delightful tropical landscapes and absorbing the warm rays.
10. Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic shines as the Caribbean’s best-value, all-inclusive destination and emerges as one of the best places to travel to in December on a budget. Punta Cana offers exceptional value with its luxury suites, gourmet dining options, and comprehensive amenities all in one place, eliminating additional expenses. With December temperatures averaging 81°F, visitors can enjoy ample pool and beach time while relishing hearty Caribbean cuisine without breaking the bank.
With sunny skies, warm temperatures in the 70s and 80s, and plenty of island cheer, these destinations rank among the best tropical places to unwind this December. So, leave the parkas behind and plan to jet off to holiday paradise Caribbean or South Pacific style.