A tropical vacation is a perfect way to recharge in the sun and destress after months of frosty conditions. Travelling over end-of-the-year holidays can be an exciting experience. Experiencing other cultures’ seasonal celebrations is enlightening. And forgoing traditional festivities for peace and solitude on the beach is a pleasant change of pace. These tropical destinations should be on your list for December travels this year. No matter what you’re celebrating, these trips will be worth the travel and deliver lasting memories.

Jamaica

Heading to Jamaica for your Christmas retreat allows you to combine the best of two worlds: fabulous, warm weather and festive celebrations. Many Jamaican traditions surround Christmas, so if you want to indulge in the season, this is the spot. Enjoy the local decorations, including “pepper lights” on trees and houses, an abundance of poinsettias, and even locally-grown pine trees. Don’t miss the Christmas Eve “Gran markets,” where vendors sell food, drinks, and last-minute gifts, and everyone parties while enjoying live music. For the best Christmas experience in Jamaica, stay at an all-inclusive resort in Ocho Rios so you can travel to nearby Linstead for their unmatched market and celebrations.

Cuba

If you’d rather avoid the typical Christmas celebrations, head to sunny Cuba. The festivities are more muted and often go unnoticed. Touristy hotels will cater to the Christmas themes but take a little drive off the beaten path, and you’ll avoid the traditional decorations. Havana is an excellent place for those who want a lively food and music scene that extends well into the night. For a more peaceful beach vacation, head to Varadero and find all-inclusive resorts perfect for solo, couples, and family travellers.

Aruba

Another popular Caribbean destination, Aruba, boasts stunning beaches alongside varied cultural traditions that mix its colonizers’ Spanish and Dutch influence with indigenous celebrations, music, and food. Spending the holiday on this island is a truly eclectic experience! You can easily drive around and enjoy the Christmas lights displayed throughout towns or relax on the beach and watch the fireworks over the water on New Year’s Eve.

Photo: Galyna Tymonko via 123RF

Grenada

Are you eager to explore different Christmas traditions and immerse yourself in a different culture? Grenada’s Christmas masquerades are legendary and involve parades full of locals dancing to traditional music in lavish costumes. The cuisine during the season is also top-notch, with traditional drinks like a ponche-a-creme (eggnog) and dinner options like oil down (a delicious stew with various meats, vegetables, and coconut milk).

The Philippines

Looking for something tropical outside the Caribbean? Head to The Philippines, where some communities celebrate Christmas for several months! Stay in San Fernando and experience their traditional lantern festival for a magical and breathtaking kaleidoscope in the sky. Consider lodging in one of the many hostels for a chance to make instant international friends. For a quainter experience, stay in Vigan, where you’ll encounter fewer tourists and more hidden gems as you explore this Spanish colonial city.

Thailand

For a tropical vacation over Christmas that doesn’t have to feel festive, head to Thailand. This Buddhist country does not publicly celebrate Christmas, so you won’t have to navigate large-scale celebrations or closed attractions. Take advantage of travelling at this time to leave the holiday’s hustle and bustle behind and enjoy this tropical nation’s peaceful and spiritual nature. Relax at an all-inclusive resort at the beach or stay in Bangkok and experience a vibrant art, music, and culinary scene.

Malta

If heading to the Mediterranean sounds appealing, make Malta your destination. With dozens of lavish, baroque-style cathedrals, this island near Italy is awash with carolers and festivities during the Christmas season. Stay in Sliema for more upscale accommodations, the capital city of Valletta for the best views of the illuminated cathedrals at night, or Mellieha Bay (aka Ghadira Bay) for a beach vacation complete with picturesque wildlife.

Whether escaping the traditional Christmas festivities or celebrating in a big way while soaking up the sun, these tropical destinations are sure to help you create lasting holiday memories.

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