As winter begins to take hold, it can inspire even the most stalwart of us to want to escape to somewhere warm. While any sunny destination will likely be a welcome change from the cold, there are a few locales scattered throughout the world that can offer the best combinations of favorable weather and delightful attractions for a holiday during December.
From Europe to the US, here are some of the best destinations in the world that are particularly good options to consider for your December getaway.
Baja California Sur, Mexico
At the southern end of the Baja California Peninsula lie some of the most luxurious resorts, bluest Pacific waters, and most spectacular landscapes in the whole of Mexico. As far as tourism, the region is dominated by the resort towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, which is where you’ll find the majority of the state’s beach hotels and luxury accommodations.
Both cities are located on the south shore of the peninsula where the winter weather is notoriously gorgeous. In December, you’ll encounter very little rainfall, breezy, warm days, and far fewer tourists than you would find in the spring high-season. And it’s a particularly good time of year for whale watching, as this is when whales travel south seeking warmer parts of the Pacific.
The Canary Islands
The warmest European destination in December, the Canary Islands have long been a titan of the resort season. Because they’ve been catering to winter tourists for so long, there is a wealth of infrastructure in place for visitors: hotels, dining, and shopping are all plentiful, with a myriad of options for every budget.
Of the islands, the warmest during December is usually Gran Canaria, known for its wide, busy beaches and vibrant nightlife. Though many folks vacation right in Las Palmas, home to the island’s only airport, on the southern shore is the quaint resort town of Maspalomas where you’ll find fewer crowds, calmer water, and a nearby nature reserve with vast sand dunes that will make you feel like you’re in another world.
The second most populous city in Kenya after its capital Nairobi, Mombasa is home to a bustling old town, delectable culinary traditions, and sits just adjacent to some of the most spectacular beaches in all of Africa. Mombasa has a tropical climate, so although rain is typically frequent, December is one of the driest months of the year.
While there are a few prime, white-sand beaches right by the city, just a short drive can bring you to even more wild and unspoiled stretches of coastline. The most popular beach outside of the city is Diani Beach, which has soft, white sand, sparkling blue water, and a multitude of options for dining and lodging nearby. You can choose from all-inclusive resorts just steps from the ocean or rustic beach camps inspired by the rugged beauty of the surrounding jungle.
A British Overseas territory in the mid-Atlantic, the small island of Bermuda is famous for its picturesque, pink sand beaches. It is known as the “shipwreck capital of the Atlantic”, as it is ringed by coral reefs that have infamously snagged hundreds of approaching ships over the years. Though dangerous for boats, these same reefs are perfect if you’re a fan of diving or snorkeling, particularly in December as hurricane season will have just ended.
Probably the most compelling attractions on the island are the magical Crystal and Fantasy Caves. This incredible cave system is replete with thousands of crystalline speleothems and subterranean lakes, though thankfully you’ll find a boardwalk constructed just so visitors like yourself can more easily explore.
Rio de Janiero, Brazil
Home of some of the most famed beaches in the world, Rio de Janeiro is synonymous with its coastline, and unlike its northern counterparts, December marks the beginning of summer. Keep in mind that summer in Rio is hot. Temperatures can occasionally exceed 90º F, but the steamy nightlife and rich culture are well worth braving the heat.
The most popular beaches in Rio, claimed by pop culture for everything from songs to movies, are Copacabana and Ipanema. These are also the busiest stretches of sand, where you’ll find both towering resort hotels as well as beach bars and restaurants. If you have time, try also to visit some of the beaches north of there just off of the city center like the Praia Flamengo. In comparison, the vibe seems nearly the opposite: much more local and far fewer crowds.
Long famed for its near-perfect white sand beaches that seem to poke right out of the jungle, Phuket is Thailand’s most popular resort destination. While it is a fantastic city to visit in its own right, it also serves as a gateway to a number of nearby islands and municipalities that draw thousands of tourists every year.
Now re-opened to tourism, travelers can fly directly into Phuket from abroad without transiting in Bangkok, making it exceedingly easy to visit. Once there, you can cross off the unique majesty of Phang Nga Bay from your bucket list: the warm, turquoise water and impossibly tall limestone cliffs of Thailand’s most famous bay is the biggest draw to the region and a must-see while you’re in town.
An island nation in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is comprised of over a thousand individual coral islands arranged into 26 distinct atolls. The island chain stretches across the equator, and in December its tropical climate is tempered somewhat by a break in the rain and humidity, with the latter half of the month experiencing dry, balmy days and breezy sunsets.
The Maldives is famous for its over-sea bungalow resorts which range in size from quaint but well-appointed huts to elaborate, modern villas. While the Maldives isn’t renowned for catering to budget travelers, there are some relatively reasonably priced options available for those who don’t mind a typical beach bungalow or hotel.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Home to both the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and the world’s largest shopping mall, Dubai has made a name for itself as a city of excesses. No other city in the region is more renowned for offering the most luxurious and ostentatious attractions, and in December, when the most intense heat has subsided, is the perfect time to experience this truly unique locale.
Dubai was already a city where you can go scuba diving in a mall and sleep in a hotel on a man-made island, but from December of 2021 until March of 2022 you can attend the city’s most ambitious event to date: the World Expo 2020. You’ll be able to taste the world’s finest cuisine, try out the most advanced technologies, and experience the most lavish World’s Fair that has yet been held.
Key West, Florida
This tiny island at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys is easy to reach from Fort Lauderdale or Miami, but it feels like it’s an entire world away. The self-proclaimed “Conch Republic” is home to tropical weather, its famous frozen cocktails, and a distinct culture and vibe from the rest of Florida.
December might be the perfect month to visit Key West, when the humidity ebbs somewhat and its notoriously quirky locals erect elaborate – and sometimes hilarious – displays for Christmas. Temperatures will rarely dip below 70º F, even at night, and the water is just warm enough to go snorkeling without a wet suit.
Called the “City of Eternal Spring,” Medellín is world-famous for maintaining a nearly constant perfect temperature, but in December you’ll find considerably less rain than other times of the year. The end of the month in particular is when you’ll begin to feel a considerable decline in humidity, with the week around Christmas being particularly auspicious for having clear skies.
This landlocked, high-altitude Columbian city is obviously not a beach destination, but lovers of culture and the arts will feel right at home. You can tour the former home of one of the most famed scholars in Columbia’s history turned museum at the Casa Museo Pedro Nel Gómez, or marvel at their exquisite collections of contemporary art both domestic and from around the world at the Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín.