Oh, December. 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 occassional 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.
It’s time to trade flurries for frozen drinks and put your bikini to good use. In your not-so-distant future, we see hours lazing on the glimmering shores of a far-away beach and eating fresh coconut. We’d deem that the polar opposite of arctic. To inspire your steamy getaway—and all the torrid antics likely to ensue—we’ve pulled together a list of hot spots worthy of your PTO. From sun-drenched domestic destinations to exotic islands with balmy climates, here are 15 awesome warm places to visit in December.
For a tropical escape, set your sights on Singapore. December brings daytime temperatures in the mid-80s and lower humidity. It’s also the wettest month. If, err, when, it rains, you can always duck into Takashimaya Department Store. Definitely check out Gardens by the Bay. Adjacent to the Marina Reservoir, it’s home to the iconic Supertrees and the Cloud Forest. Hungry? Run, don’t walk, to a hawker center for delicious local delicacies. As you're knocking sights off your checklist, be sure to stop by Marina Bay Sands. The jaw-dropping panoramas from the infinity pool and observation deck will be etched in your memory forever. Trust us! For the ultimate in overnight indulgence, shack up at the revamped Raffles Hotel Singapore. 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.
Average daily temperature in December: 84°F
2. St. Barts
Extravagant superyachts. Upscale restaurants. Designer boutiques. Five-star resorts. Sublime beaches. Boujie fêtes. It’s no secret why heaps of well-heeled jet-setters flock to Saint Barthélemy—the French-speaking Caribbean island affectionately referred to as St. Barts—in the winter. If you’re an A-lister or earn a seven-figure salary, you visit during la plus haute saison (the last two weeks of December through New Years-ish). Sky-high rates are the price of entry. If you’re on board with that, welcome to heaven on earth. With that in mind, consider splurging on an elegant stay at Le Barthelemy Hotel & Spa or Villa Marie Saint Barth. Insert you hobnobbing with the glitterati and getting waited on hand and foot. Another bottle of rosé, madame? Oui! When in St. Barts. (Just a heads up that many properties require a minimum reservation of at least a week. So, start stockpiling your vacation days now.)
Average daily temperature in December: 81°F
3. Tulum, Mexico
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 kaftans and been-through-the-ringer vintage Gucci sandals. In December, bank on places being busy AF. But, in our humble opinion, it’s worth dealing with a few extra bodies just to be in Tulum. 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 Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve or explore the Tulum Ruins. When the midday munchies strike, head to Taqueria La Eufemia for fish tacos (it’s got dope vegan options, too). Afternoons are for hammocks, Mayan clay spa rituals and margaritas. For dinner, Hartwood never fails to satisfy. (Just be prepared to wait for the critically acclaimed, wood-fired fare.) To cap off the evening? Dancing underneath the glow of the disco ball at Gitano.
Average daily temperature in December: 76°F
4. South Beach, Florida
Picture-perfect weather and no passport required. South Beach has long lured travelers with its sandy stretches, sunny skies and glitzy ambiance. In keeping with that reputation, there are many fashionable hotels. And while you may have to pay peak-season rates in December, it won’t be insane since competition is so fierce. But, with all due respect, you don’t fly to South Beach to hole up in your room. Gain access 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.
Average daily temperature in December: 73°F
5. The Maldives
A honeymoon haven that’s a hit with celebs and royals alike, The Maldives exudes romance. Of course, newlyweds aren’t the only folks drawn to this slice of tropical paradise in the Indian Ocean. It’s equally alluring for couples, families, groups of pals (ever heard of a buddymoon?) and your proudly single bestie. “Regardless of vacation style—active, adventurous, laid-back or somewhere in the middle—everyone will discover a matching itinerary in The Maldives,” says Christie Hudson, senior communications manager at Expedia. Swim with cute sea turtles, visit Malé’s bustling fish market or unplug on the pristine beaches. Wondering where to stay? With so many lavish accommodations, that’s a super tough decision. The recently opened Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi promises swish villas, plus an overwater spa and cinema. You definitely can’t go wrong with The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort.
Average daily temperature in December: 86°F
A speck in the ocean, across a narrow channel from its more frequented counterpart, St. Kitts, Nevis is beloved by a select group of in-the-know travelers who relish its care-free attitude, relaxed pace, unspoiled natural splendor and some amazing history (Alexander Hamilton came from Nevis). Sure, it’s tiny—covering a total of 36 square miles, you can journey from one side of the island to another in a mere matter of hours—but that's part of the charm. You'd be foolish to write off this hidden gem because of its size and under-the-radar status. It’s not like there’s a shortage of beautiful scenery or leisurely pastimes. Hike to the summit of Nevis Peak for sweeping vistas or book a rainforest expedition. The adventures don't end with trekking. Scuba enthusiasts won't want to miss Booby High Shoals. We wouldn't fault you for posting up on Pinney's Beach and swigging rum punch.
Average daily temperature in December: 82°F
7. Okinawa, Japan
December is definitely the off-season in Okinawa (for the geographically challenged, that’s in the far south of Japan). Bet on blue skies and a blissful absence of crowds. It’s not going to be scorching, but that’s far from a problem. In fact, it makes for more pleasant conditions to take advantage of the myriad outdoor activities, such as hiking and whale watching. How about snorkeling and scuba diving? Yes, still totally doable. Depending on your threshold for chilliness, you just might need to throw on a wetsuit. Walking along palm-fringed boulevards in jeans and a T-shirt sounds lovely, too. In the winter you won’t have to worry about Habu snakes. (Google 'em, but please don’t say we didn’t warn you.) And since hotel prices are more wallet-friendly, resplendent room at The Ritz-Carlton, Okinawa go for a fraction of what you’d pay in the summer. To ensure you score the best deal, aim to book well in advance.
Average daily temperature in December: 65°F
8. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Most people associate Ho Chi Minh City (also called Saigon) with its role in the Vietnam War. But that’s only a small piece of the complex and oftentimes chaotic puzzle. Packed with history, culture and energetic personality, the former capital demonstrates both resilience and a penchant for the past. French colonial landmarks mingle with ancient temples and sleek skyscrapers. You get a lot of bang for your buck in Ho Chi Minh City. 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 Bến Thành Market promises to be a highlight of any visit. More pho, please! If all that's still not enough of a guarantee that Ho Chi Minh City is the perfect place for your December trip, note that it’s a great jumping-off point to explore the majestic Mekong Delta.
Average daily temperature in December: 80°F
9. Perth, Australia
When you think about traveling Down Under, Sydney probably springs to mind. But you couldn’t pick a better destination for an Aussie vacation than Perth—particularly if you’re a fan of art, culture and sandy shores. The capital of Western Australia is having a major moment, seeing double-digit growth in tourism over the last year, based on Expedia data. Why? Well, for starters, Perth brims with galleries, museums and riverfront dining. 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 Cottesloe Beach, a popular spot for swimming and riding waves that appears plucked off the pages of a glossy travel magazine. And since it’s in the Southern Hemisphere, December is the beginning of summer. So, you can soak up plenty of sun and surf.
Average daily temperature in December: 71°F
10. San Juan, Puerto Rico
It's hot, hot, hot in Puerto Rico. As one of the bigger Caribbean islands, it has quite a few choices to fuel your wanderlust. For our money, you can’t beat the capital and largest city (though the allure of Cidra isn't lost on us). 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 Condado district flaunts resorts, casinos, nightlife and restaurants, which leads us to the food. We're salivating just thinking about heaping plates full of tostones, pasteles and mofongo. Round-trip flights in December will set you back approximately $510. Not exactly a bargain, but in comparison to other warm-weather locales, it's very reasonable.
Average daily temperature in December: 84°F
11. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
When we scroll through our Instagram feed in December, it seems like everyone and their brother is in Cabo San Lucas. There must be a reason, right? Try many reasons. 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 Baja Peninsula. The basis of our affection goes deep. Cabo San Lucas delivers endless sunshine and average temperatures in the low 80s. The tranquil tides of the Sea of Cortez appeal to travelers who just want to swim without worry. On the opposite side of the spectrum, epic swells coax surfers to the famously tumultuous Playa del Amor. Known for lively clubs and bars, Cabo San Lucas doesn’t shy away from its standing as a happening after-dark destination. Adding to the appeal are tons of tasty restaurants—notably Edith's and El Farallon—as well as a string of sophisticated lodgings. Kelly Grumbach of Quintessentially Travel, a Virtuoso Agency in New York City, recommends the stunning Montage Los Cabos, which wins hearts with its incredible views of Santa Maria Bay.
Average daily temperature in December: 77°F
12. Turks & Caicos
Turks & Caicos boasts gobsmackingly gorgeous beaches. Its most privileged real estate belongs to Grace Bay, which looks like a retouched Instagram photo. Only it's #nofilter. Miles of pristine powder and calm, crystalline waters—you couldn’t dream up a more beautiful setting for a holiday. That said, sugar-fine sand and serene surf aren’t the only things that earn Turks & Caicos vacation cred. Beyond the expansive, glimmering shores and oceanfront resorts in Providenciales lies a plethora of fascinating scuba-diving sites with colorful reef creatures, coral caves and dramatic submerged walls. Presumably, you’ll be in Turks & Caicos for a few days. So, why not give windsurfing, parasailing or jetskiing whirl, too? And what’s a Caribbean getaway without savoring island flavor? Locals and out-of-towners mingle over stiff drinks, fresh-caught fish, melt-in-your-mouth ribs and live music at Da Conch Shack. Another selling point? Round-trip flights to Turks & Caicos in December cost somewhere in the ballpark of $418, according to Hopper. That’s a steal!
Average daily temperature in December: 80°F
13. Cape Town, South Africa
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 Kaap. 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. It’s not all urban escapades either. 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 ziplining 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. On the other hand, during the holidays Cape Town transforms into wonderland. “Adderley Street is illuminated by hundreds of lights, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden hosts caroling and V&A Waterfront even puts on Santa’s village,” reveals Olivia Link of Lake Shore Travel, a Virtuoso Agency in Glencoe.
Average daily temperature in December: 75°F
14. Maui, Hawaii
Say “aloha” to luaus, hula lessons and retail therapy. December in Maui is characterized by holiday traditions with a Hawaiian twist. Lahaina's historic Banyan Tree Park dazzles with thousands of colorful bulbs. Nearby, the Maui Gift & Craft Fair showcases more than 50 local artists and vendors. Resorts get into the festive mood, too. Expect loads of Christmas-themed events. We’re talking baking gingerbread cookies and decorating ornaments. Couples seeking quietude can escape the noise and splashing of kiddos by checking into a fabulous adults-only property (hello, Hotel Wailea), while families should consider the Fairmont Kea Lani—where Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive on a traditional outrigger canoe. How joyous is that? Besides mirthful and jolly pursuits, there’s lots of outdoor action. Ride the waves at Honolua Bay and Hookipa Beach. (Or, just gawk at surfers from a safe distance.) Other seasonal activities include whale watching. It's also a pleasant time to climb Mountain Haleakalā and drive the legendary Road to Hana.
Average daily temperature in December: 80°F
It might not have the notoriety of neighboring Aruba, but under-the-radar Curaçao isn't lacking in enticing attributes. 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 Playa Kalki. Adventurous travelers can also plan day trips to Klein Curaçao and go cliff jumping. Among the most compelling attractions on dry land? The sherbet-hued Dutch colonial facades framing Willemstad's harbor. 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. Bonus: United Airlines is launching a direct flight between Newark and Curaçao on December 7 (that’s on top of the non-stop routes that already fly from Miami, New York, Toronto and Charlotte), making it more accessible than ever before!
Average daily temperature in December: 85°F