Warm weather holiday hero

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St. Martin (Sint. Maarten), Caribbean from The best warm-weather destinations to spend the holidays

The Best Warm-Weather Destinations to Spend the Holidays

24 great spots for a sunny retreat
Warm weather holiday hero

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Whether you’re looking to escape the cold or you just want some sunshine for the holidays, these summery destinations may be just what you need this winter. From Hawaiian islands to the Caribbean, and places like Cairo and Dubai in between, here are 24 postcard-perfect spots for a warm-weather holiday — or a vacation any time of the year.

Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai, Hawaii

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For a warm-weather vacation as perfect for lazing on the beach as it is for outdoor adventures, consider Kauai. This Hawaiian spot is the oldest of the islands, with views like towering cliffs draped in greenery, plunging valleys, sparkling waterfalls and rolling hills. Start your adventure on the west side of Kauai at the scenic canyon nicknamed “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” The geological wonder is 14 miles long, 1 mile wide and more than 3,600 feet deep. An aerial tour of the Napali Coast will unveil scenic areas largely inaccessible by land or water, like Manawaiopuna Falls, which was a backdrop in "Jurassic Park." For an artsy, small-town stroll, Hanapepe Town is on the southwest side of the island. It’s home to shops, eateries and art galleries. And if you’re there to take part in the holiday spirit, there’s a light festival right on the island as well as a Christmas Day Luau.

Key West, Florida

Key West, Florida

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Florida’s Key West is a great family-friendly place to visit for the holidays. There are plenty of free activities, parks, beaches and playgrounds to keep the little ones entertained between sightseeing and snorkeling. If you’re there to ring in the New Year, the pre-ball-drop parties in Key West are a big deal. You can choose the party vibes of the Ocean Live Music Sunset Sail or opt for the Glass Bottom Boat Sunset Cruise & Reef Eco Tour for family-oriented fun. There are also several options for things to watch “drop” on New Year’s Eve, from a giant conch shell to a pirate’s wench to a drag queen named Sushi atop a red high heel. Whether you’re there for a celebration or not, Florida is one of the best winter vacations in America for a reason. With both Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastlines, it’s all about the beaches.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

 Big Bend National Park, Texas

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If you prefer the great wilderness over sandy beaches, Big Bend is all yours. Big Bend is one of the best places for stargazing in North America, and has the least light pollution of all of the national parks in the lower 48 states. There isn’t a lot that compares to lying down and looking up at millions of stars. The holidays are a particularly busy time for the national park, so it is best to come prepared with alternative plans for lodging or camping outside of the park. The Santa Elena Canyon in the park is right on the border between the U.S. and Mexico for an added treat.

San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico

San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico

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This destination was voted top city in the world for two years straight by Travel + Leisure. Readers cited the city’s art scene, mountain views, rich history and cuisine among other things. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. In San Miquel de Allende, you can experience a traditional Mexican Christmas with Noche Bue and Las Posadas, a nine-night celebration commemorating Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. There’s plenty to do even if you’re not celebrating with the locals — you can take a trip to the botanical garden, El Charco del Ingenio, that was declared a Peace Zone by the Dalai Lama during his visit to México. On your trip through the popular city, stop by to see a Toltec pyramid and visit a historic cathedral. If you’re trying to escape the cold, temperatures in San Miguel de Allende hover in the 70s and 80s in the winter months.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico

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The festive city of San Juan is the perfect place to experience true Puerto Rican culture, and its mix of old and new makes it especially appealing. The city boasts its blend of cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, with modern things like craft cocktails, contemporary restaurants and an energetic nightlife. Not to mention the glittering sandy beaches. Another sell for winter-season travelers, San Juan has the self declared “longest holiday season in the world.” On the island, la Navidad lasts about 45 days, starting right after Thanksgiving Day and extending through mid-January. The festivities cap off with the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, also known as la SanSe. For a non-holiday expedition, make a day trip to El Yunque, the only tropical forest in the USDA national forest system. Recovery efforts are still underway after hurricanes Irma and Maria swept through, but there are trails that have been restored and opened. Because Puerto Rico is a United States Commonwealth, it’s one of the easiest islands in the Caribbean to visit for U.S. travelers, who won’t need a passport, have to exchange money or worry about their cell phone coverage.

St. Martin (Sint. Maarten), Caribbean

St. Martin (Sint. Maarten), Caribbean

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St. Martin/St. Maarten is sure to be a fascinating getaway. The small island is split in two — one half is Dutch and one half is French. St. Martin/St. Maarten boasts 37 beaches, so whether you’re into diving, surfing, windsurfing or relaxing and basking in the sun, there is something for everyone. If you’re looking for a couples retreat for some alone time over the holidays, there’s a secret little spot called Lovers' Beach, nestled in the rocky coastline of "Pointe Arago.” It’s the smallest beach on the island and can accommodate only two people at a time. And if you’re feeling ambitious, visit a third island by taking a quick 12-minute flight from St. Martin to Saba Island.

Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos

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This country, a territory of Great Britain, is home to 40 islands, with Turks and Caicos divided into two groups, the Turks Islands (Grand Turk and Salt Cay) and Caicos Islands (Providenciales, North Caicos, Middle Caicos, East Caicos, South Caicos and West Caicos). You can spend your holiday relaxing on the beaches surrounding Providenciales, or you can dive into the turquoise waters to explore the sea. Choose from snorkelling tours, kayaking eco-tours and boat charters. And if you’re an expert diver, the Bohio Dive Resort’s dramatic ocean floor drops off rapidly to as deep as 7,000 feet. The islands host several holiday events, which can be a great complement to a vacation taken around that time of year.

Martinique

Martinique

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If your idea of a warm-weather holiday is planned around delicious food and glistening beaches, the French Caribbean island of Martinique is your match. The captivating island combines the food, culture and finesse of the French with beautiful landscapes of the Caribbean. For starters, visit Martinique’s bustling capital, Fort-de-France, and its windy pathways, seafront restaurants and multicolored homes. At Chez Carole, sip some homemade rum and try the country’s signature codfish fritters, coconut chicken and stewed octopus. And if you’re a fan of bananas, visit the Banana Museum for a fun and informative trip to the heart of a plantation where they grow 60 different varieties of the fruit. For a quiet adventure, take a kayak eco-tour where the only sounds you’ll hear are different types of wild animals living between land and sea.

Curaçao

Curaçao

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Sunny skies all year long make Curaçao a perfect vacation destination, whether it’s simply to escape the cold or to have a bright Christmas. Curaçao has over 35 beaches and many are tucked into intimate coves along the coast, ideal for a couples trip or a self-care vacation. If you want to ditch the beach for a day, head to the Curaçao Sea Aquarium to learn about ocean life and get an up-close look.

Zanzibar, Tanzania

Zanzibar, Tanzania

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Zanzibar is home to plenty of idyllic beaches, balmy weather and warm tropical waters. The coral reefs and marine diversity also make it a perfect under-water destination for snorkelers and divers. Besides the clear waters, Zanzibar is well known as the “Spice Island” due to the farming and processing of aromatic spices like cloves, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemongrass and black pepper. For a day trip, visit spice plantations and get a peek inside the process and history of these crops and their medicinal and culinary uses around the world.

Cairo, Egypt

Cairo, Egypt

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Cairo’s extended sunny mornings and breezy evenings may give curious travelers the urge to explore a city of art, architecture and cultural activities — especially during the holiday months as the temperatures start to cool down in an otherwise sweltering place. It’s a city full of rich culture and textbook architecture. The Pyramids of Giza are a must-see attraction when visiting Cairo, as they are the only remaining monument on the list of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.” If you’re looking for some souvenirs to take home, check out the Khan El Khalili bazaar, an open-air vintage market with things like leather goods, embroidered clothing and hand-carved woodwork.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

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One thing that makes Cape Town exciting is that it's home to Cape Point, which claims to be the spot where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet (although it’s not alone in making that claim). Sure it’s scenic and warm, but the element of South Africa’s apartheid history should not be ignored. Visitors can plan a trip to Robben Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site that served as a prison for over 200 years and housed Nelson Mandela. If you plan a visit around the end of December, Cape Town’s biggest New Year’s celebration happens at the V&A Waterfront property, with lit-up trees and sparkly light installations. You can also head up to Table Mountain to watch the fireworks from a distance with panoramic views of Cape Town.

Bali, Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia

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Bali, located 8 degrees south of the equator, has a typical tropical climate — warm and humid all year round with a dry season and a rainy one. Dry season is between April and September and the rainy season is usually between November and March, so plan accordingly. The Bali temples should be on your list, rain or shine. The archaeological remains, breathtaking views and peaceful ambience of Balinese temples are perfect for a rejuvenating trip. And if you visit close to the New Year, there are tons of NYE extravaganzas to choose from, from beach-club parties to fireworks displays.

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

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The capital of Thailand can be overwhelming for tourists, but those who venture off the beaten path will find that Bangkok is a city full of surprises. Temples, red-light districts, sky bars, museums, art galleries, parks — they have it all. Bangkok is well-known for its street food and variety of flavors in each bite.

Dubai, U.A.E

Dubai, U.A.E

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If you want to spend your holidays in style, glitz and glamor, look no further than Dubai. Dubai’s New Year’s Eve celebrations are world-famous for being over-the-top, with extravagant pyrotechnic shows at Burj Khalifa and water-music dance at the Dubai Fountain. Another place to consider is Dubai’s Global Village, a multi-cultural park with countless global food spots, live music and unlimited entertainment. The Dubai Mall is one of the world’s largest shopping centers, with more than 1,000 stores and more than 160 food and drink sellers. For quintessential holiday vibes, you can also go ice skating at the mall, catch a movie or stare into the Dubai Fountain — a 900-foot-long pool where spurts of water dance amid colored lights.

Singapore

Singapore

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It may be summer skies all year round in Singapore, but the holiday spirit is in full swing if you plan for a December or January trip. With markets and carol singers, Christmas at Gardens by the Bay is the annual “Christmas Wonderland” celebration where even the gardens come to life. Also around this time of year is a three-week-long extravaganza celebrating art from painters, street artists and artisans.

Boracay Islands, Philippines

Boracay Islands, Philippines

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An influx of visitors temporarily closed down Boracay to tourists for six months in 2018. That “rehabilitation” period was used to restore the island to its former glory and it has since reopened with a limit on the number of daily visitors. White Beach is the most popular destination, bordered by a sandy pedestrian highway where vehicles are banned and bare feet are recommended. If you do head there for the holidays, expect to be surrounded by restaurants, bars and dive shops. The ocean is full of romantic sailboats giving rides, and the scenic sunsets, live music and fire dancers round out the Islands.

Gisborne, New Zealand

Gisborne, New Zealand

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If you have a strong interest in food, wine and surf beaches, Gisborne is a city you won't want to miss. Gisborne is the first city in the world to see the sun rise each morning, which means locals and tourists have plenty of daylight hours to enjoy the outdoors. As the unofficial “Chardonnay Capital of New Zealand”, Gisborne also has a comprehensive wine trail leading to boutique wineries. Several wineries offer custom tours tailored for individuals or groups and spare travelers the hassle of driving. Christmastime in New Zealand is mostly about relaxation and basking in the shade of the Pohutukawa, the country’s official Christmas tree that boasts bright red blooms through December.

Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia

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Some of the world’s most beautiful beaches like Bondi and Manly have become beacons for people from all over the world, and are located not far from the city center in Sydney. But if the crowds aren’t for you, there are also plenty of other quieter beaches to explore like the northern beaches of Avalon and Cronulla. Another spot you won’t want to miss is the Three Sisters rock formation at Blue Mountains. Visitors can rock climb, go on a walking tour or get a panoramic view of the mountains while on a cable car.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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No matter what season you visit Rio, you can't pass up relaxing on the shores of Copacabana or Ipanema. But the Brazillian city also has spectacular sites like Tijuca National Park and Sugar Loaf Mountain. You can also venture into charming neighborhoods like Santa Teresa and Lapa to get a taste of the local scene. Rua Jardim Botânico should also be on your list — the botanical garden has more than 6,000 indigenous and exotic species of plants, and everything from orchids to jasmine-mango heliconias. And if you’re spending Christmas in Rio, don’t miss the city’s best-known and iconic symbol of the Christmas season, the Árvore de Natal da Lagoa (The Lagoa Christmas Tree). The 86-foot floating tree gets lit up on Dec. 1 and twinkles until January. Stick around to countdown the New Year at Copacabana Beach for the biggest New Year's Eve party in Brazil.

Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia

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Cartagena is an exquisite colonial city in Latin America. It’s nestled on the Caribbean coast and features modern architecture in addition to the colonial look. The city’s bustling nightlife, cultural festivals and landscapes make it a top destination for a holiday getaway. A visit to Catagena won’t be your typical beach vacation, but instead one immersed in history, art and theater. To get a sense of Cartagena’s history, head up to Convento de la Popa, a huge convent built by Augustinian monks in 1607 on the highest hill in the city. And on almost every street in Cartagena you can find hand-woven bags, scarves, shoes and more locally made products in multiple colors.

Tenerife, Spain (Canary Islands)

Tenerife, Spain (Canary Islands)

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Tenerife, just west of Morocco, is an island full of experiences. You can get lost in nature, relax on the beach, climb a volcano or play a round of golf. In November, Tenerife sees a bit of an off-season, so hotel prices may drop a bit. But no matter when you visit, there’s guaranteed sunshine almost all year round. Playa de las Américas is the island's main resort, attracting singles, couples and families, alike. The southwest coast of Tenerife is a great spot for whale watching. Over 20 species are found right off the coast, including baleen whales, killer whales, dolphins, pilot whales and blue whales. Also in Tenerife sits the world’s third highest volcano. At more than 12,000 feet, Teide volcano is Spain's highest peak and showcases two ecosystems. With local guides, you can get an immersive experience and take in the breathtaking views from the mountain refuge. And don’t leave the island without trying the food, especially the local ocean-fresh shrimp.

Crete, Greece

Crete, Greece

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Crete is the largest island in Greece, where visitors can admire the remnants of ancient civilizations, explore glorious beaches, mountainscapes and valleys. This destination is especially fit for the more athletic. Crete is ideal for canyoning and canyon hiking, and trekking through its famous gorges. And if you are ready to set off on any of these warm weather trips to escape the cold make sure to pack the items you should never vacation without

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