A villa at JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa

This December, book a restorative stay at JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa. (Photo: Marriott International)

Tips + Trends

From Snowy Spots to Balmy Beaches, Where to Travel in December for Every Type of Traveler

December is the perfect time for illuminated destinations, from a castle of light to a bioluminescent bay. You’ll find deals in the off-season of early December and Instagram-worthy celebrations around the world toward month’s end.

Scroll down for destinations that are sure to inspire, whether you’re looking to amp up on adventures, focus on wellness, take in cultural sites or dive into local cuisine.

As always, check for travel guidelines and closures before planning your trip.

Wellness Buff

Vagaru Island, Maldives

Soak in sapphire Indian Ocean views from your private villa at the JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa. If you’re looking for a serene getaway, the villas offer pristine beach access — and each villa floats over the Shaviyani Atoll.

Book a stay during the second half of December, the start of the warm, dry season. At the JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa, sample a beachside eight-course dinner, dine at the unique treetop Thai restaurant and stay pampered with the spa’s many wellness treatments. Think caftans.​

Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Costa Rica invites travelers to unwind in December, the start of the dry season. With temperatures in the 80s, the weather is warm and inviting.

Relax in a poolside cabana at El Mangroove, Autograph Collection, and snap a selfie in your balcony hammock overlooking the Gulf of Papagayo. Hop on one of the resort’s tour boats to explore the vibrant green jungle that hugs the coastline. Nearby attractions include hiking biodiverse Santa Rosa National Park, a tropical forest.

The Food and Drinks Lover

New Orleans, Louisiana

The St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans at night
The St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans shines brightly during the holiday season. (Photo: Marriott International)

New Orleans is a delicious December destination revolving around Réveillon (Creole for “awakening”). In the Réveillon tradition, which began in the 1800s, families celebrated with a meal after Christmas Midnight Mass. On Christmas Eve, St. Louis Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals in the U.S., hosts Midnight Mass.

Restaurants, including historic Antoine’s, offer gourmet Réveillon menus and nightcaps to warm you throughout the month — and they’re lovely a lovely way to partake in the tradition even if you don’t celebrate Christmas. For this foodie’s dream, you’ll get better December rates than during Mardi Gras, and there’ll be fewer crowds, too.

Vancouver, Canada

Nab a deal in off-season December at The Westin Bayshore, Vancouver, overlooking Vancouver Harbor and its surrounding snowcapped mountains. Dining is where Vancouver shines. Michelin-starred Burdock & Co. offers a decadent menu including Northern Divine Caviar with tarragon, crème fraîche and tater tots.

The city is also a craft cocktail paradise, and The Keefer Bar regularly tops Canada’s best-of lists. Warm up with a Night of a Thousand Eyes (vodka, coffee liqueur, amaro, espresso, salted caramel kasu and sesame).

The best day trip to work off your noshing is skiing at Whistler Blackcomb, just over an hour away. And nearby, Bright Lights of Stanley Park offers an Instagram-worthy tunnel of lights and festive selfies with local celebrities — firefighters.

New York City

The Big Apple is iconic in December, so bundle up and window-shop Fifth Avenue and visit Strawberry Fields in Central Park for John Lennon’s peace monument: the “Imagine” mosaic. This is a walking city, so work up an appetite for some of the most iconic dining in the world. Hit Katz’s Deli for a mountainous pastrami on rye, take in the iconic design of the underground Grand Central Oyster Bar and make a reservation for celebrity-spotting behind a seafood tower at Balthazar.

End the month in style with a New Year’s Eve package in Times Square at the New York Marriott Marquis and watch the ball drop from one of two terraces at a VIP gala that includes dinner. Dress is formal (black-tie optional), so pack your glam.

The Outdoor Enthusiast

Livingstone, Zambia

Aerial view of Victoria Falls in Zambia
Victoria Falls is a must-see on a trip to Livingstone, Zambia. (Photo: Getty Images)

For outdoor adventurers who want to take in the sights, LivingstoneZambia, has much to offer. Book a Zambezi River cruise (options abound, from photo safaris to sunset dinner cruises) and watch curious hippos pop up along the ride. Hike the lush rainforest (pack hiking boots and a raincoat), and snap photos of rainbows spanning Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

December is summertime, just after the dry season, so the Zambezi River is low enough to take a guided hike to Danger Point (carefully) for a view of the gorge. Capture waterfall sunset selfies from Lookout Café on the Zimbabwe side.

Cayman Islands

If your White Christmas dream is powdery beaches, December in the Cayman Islands is ideal. By this month, hurricane season has passed and temperatures are in the 80s — perfect for time spent by or on the water.

The Cayman Islands offer many opportunities to reconnect with nature, and you can choose your own adventure. Go night kayaking on a glowing Grand Cayman Bioluminescent Bay, or commune with “locals,” from snorkeling at the Turtle Centre to swimming with gliding rays at Stingray City

Sydney, Australia

Aerial view of Sydney, Australia
Enjoy the summer sunshine of Sydney in December. (Photo: Getty Images)

Pack light — December is summer in Australia. Outdoor adventurers should bring swimwear for surfing at Bondi Beach and swimming at Gordon’s Bay. After surfing and swimming, grab rooftop snacks at Coogee Pavilion — all on a 3-hour coastal walk.

The New Year’s Eve fireworks soaring over Sydney Opera House (worth a tour while you’re Down Under) are one of the best displays on Earth. Book a NYE Pier Party through Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel at Circular Quay. Then look up and be awestruck by the fireworks display. In Sydney, you’ll be ahead of many time zones, so you can enjoy posting fabulous selfies from the future.

The Arts and Culture Seeker

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland, in the winter
Edinburgh sparkles with a layer of snow. (Photo: Getty Images)

For a winter-wonderland vacation, visit Edinburgh in December. There are many festive sights and events, including the magical Castle of Light, which sees Edinburgh Castle covered in tapestries of projected light, and the light trail at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Warm up with Glayva (a spiced Scotch whisky liqueur) while shopping at decorated kiosks along George Street’s festive Christmas Market, and dine at nearby landmark The Dome beneath glowing columns.

Key West, Florida

With a laid-back groove and plenty to explore, it’s clear why artists from Jimmy Buffett to Tennessee Williams called Key West home. You can even meet descendants of Earnest Hemingway’s six-toed cats at the Hemingway Home, the writer’s former house-turned-museum on the small Florida island.

While in Key West, don’t forget to applaud the nightly Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square, featuring exciting performances, artisan goods and food vendors.

Staying in the area through New Year’s Eve? You can catch the shoe drop, in which a drag queen, perched in a giant high-heeled shoe, is lowered to the ground during the countdown to midnight, and party on Duval Street. The Courtyard by Marriott Key West Waterfront is near the celebration and has a beach for private toasting. With temperate weather typically lasting through the winter months, a light jacket should do.

Best Places to Travel by Month — See All 12

January | February | March | April | May | June

July | August | September | October | November | December