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Warm Places to Travel in December

This winter, skip the snow and head someplace warm instead. From December to March, here are our favorite warm-weather winter escapes:

Central America & the Caribbean:

Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
Trade in your frozen landscape for a view like this. Photo © Kevin Wells / iStock.

Why go: For the adrenaline rush as you zipline above the treetops.
Costa Rica will amaze you, with opportunities for immersion in nature, wildlife-spotting, and fantastic photography everywhere. Boat safaris wind through monkey-lined rivers, mangroves, and canals. Treetop excursions provide panoramic forest, volcano, lake, and ocean views. Exhibits and nature trails showcase reptiles, amphibians, insects, and plants. Parks, reserves, and refuges, spanning more than a quarter of the country’s landmass, protect the immense biodiversity that makes Costa Rica unique.

Prefer to be thrilled? Imagine yourself zip-lining through the cloud forest, rafting over raging rapids, rappelling down waterfalls, exploring mysterious caves, or summiting Costa Rica’s highest peak. Although diminutive in size, Costa Rica is vast in opportunities for rip-roaring adventure.

To relax or reenergize, pamper yourself in paradise with hot springs, mud baths, yoga, and wellness retreats. Several beaches on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts are known for their remoteness, tranquil sunrises, or rainbow-colored sunsets. Costa Rica’s laid-back pura vida attitude will change you.

Start planning your adventure with Moon Costa Rica.

 

Belize

Why go: To snorkel the second-largest coral reef in the world.
“The Jewel,” as Belizeans affectionately call their home, has a spectacular living reef—the second largest in the world—with premier diving and snorkeling. A handful of its 200 offshore islands offer the kind of seclusion and dreamlike surroundings that continue to provide both luxury and romance. Virgin rainforests boast more than 30 percent protected land. The largest cave system and the tallest waterfall in Central America are here. Riverbanks are home to singing birds, giant iguanas, and roaming jaguars. Miles of turquoise Caribbean water and golden sand and a dazzling array of marine life—from whale sharks to the rare seahorse—are the lures of the coast.

Beyond its natural wonders, Belize is an unexpected cultural and sensory feast. This is a Caribbean country at heart, with splashes of ancient Mayan, African, and European influences. That mélange underpins every aspect of life, from a cuisine of coconut rice and beans, tacos, and mashed plantains to annual celebrations of both Caribbean and Latin Carnivals.

In Belize, no two days are the same. Canoe down to the farmers market to sample fresh pupusas. Scour ancient Mayan ceremonial caves and cool off under waterfalls. Drink cashew wine from a Kriol vendor. Hike through rainforests filled with medicinal trees to the roar of howler monkeys. Laze around a beachfront village all day and dance barefoot to Garifuna drums at night. A small country with a big heart, Belize will continue to surprise and teach you. That’s the jewel you’ll take home.

 

 

Aruba

Why go: To kitesurf turquoise waters (or just relax on a soft, white beach).
Look out the window when coming in for a landing on Aruba, and you’ll be struck by the contrast between the intense blue of the Caribbean Sea and the snowy white of the beaches. Some of the most stunning beaches in the Caribbean line the west coast of the island, with turquoise waters as calm as any lake at spots like Palm Beach and Eagle Beach. And a visit to Aruba isn’t complete without exploring beyond the beaches and hotels: At Arikok National Park you’ll find hiking trails, native species, and incredible geological formations, including Conchi (Natural Pool), a dramatic spot for swimming created by cooled lava rock.

On the north coast you’ll encounter a lunar landscape of coral rock and pillow basalt, while spume from the crashing waves surges high. Also rife for exploration are the island’s caves, dunes, rock formations, and coves. The best part about Aruba is that there’s little divide between island dwellers and visitors. Don’t be surprised to find a table of islanders sitting right next to you at a resort restaurant or casino any night of the week. This congenial relationship with vacationers has made Aruba the most popular repeat destination in the Caribbean.

The richness and variety of this “One Happy Island” can fulfill the vacation needs of honeymooners, singles, families, and adventurers. This is a place where modern luxury and the rugged landscape exist side by side. Your Aruban vacation can be whatever you want it to be—the choice is yours.

Find your happy place with Moon Aruba.

 

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic
Visit the Dominican Republic in early December, before the crowds arrive. Photo courtesy of Lebawit Lily Girma.

Why go: To dance the night away to live merengue.
It’s no surprise that the Dominican Republic consistently ranks as the most visited country in the Caribbean. The diamond-white beaches and lavish resorts, from Punta Cana to La Romana, attract millions of sun worshippers every year. And while the blue waves, swaying palm trees, and sparkling sand are worth the trip, it’s the rest of the country that will make you fall in love.

Santo Domingo’s restored Colonial City brims with grand Spanish-style architecture, 16th-century cathedrals, and wrought iron balconies. Outside the capital, beaches are lined with rows of frituras (fried-food shacks) selling the day’s catch, served with red onion-spiced avocados and tostones (crispy fried plantains). Avid surfers and divers flock to the north, while the countryside offers enriching cultural expeditions to cacao and coffee plantations. And adventure awaits in the mountainous heart of the country, where you can hike through cloud forests and horseback ride to crisp, cool waterfalls.

The sound of merengue and bachata in the air invites you to dance, whether in the middle of a park or at a rancho típico (open-air roadside club). People gather on street corners, playing dominoes and throwing back Brugal rum or ice-cold Presidente beers from the colmado (corner shop). You’ll find constant celebration, most notably during February’s countrywide carnivals, which offer a glimpse into the country’s eclectic African, Taíno, and Spanish heritage.

Experience the DR like a local with Moon Dominican Republic.


South America:

Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands

Why go: To hike through the Amazon.
Ecuador offers a wide variety of experiences, from wandering the colonial streets of Quito to watching jewel-bright hummingbirds from a cloud forest lodge. But take a moonlit canoe journey through the Amazon, amid giant lily pads illuminated by fireflies, and you will truly fall in love with this country.

From your home base, walk to beaches, mangroves, and tropical forests and spot whales, iguanas, howler monkeys, hummingbirds, and blue-footed boobies. In less than a day, you can be in the Amazon, Andes, or Galápagos Islands.

The people are as varied as the landscape. The Amazon alone is home to 11 indigenous nationalities, including two uncontacted tribes, each with its own language and ancestral traditions. This is a country where shamans invoke jungle spirits in ancient ceremonies and Kichwa farmers gather to conduct rituals asking for rain.

Despite its wealth of attractions, much of Ecuador’s potential remains largely untapped, offering hope for a sustainable future. Be prepared, though: A holiday romance with Ecuador might just turn into the love of your life.

 


United States

Maui

Maui
Escape the cold and head to Maui. Photo © Matt Anderson/iStock.

Why go: For a little bit of aloha to break up your winter blues.
There is a prominent Hawaiian saying about Maui: Maui no ka oi, meaning “Maui is the best.” The endless stretches of golden sand are an obvious draw, but sand alone doesn’t entice millions of visitors to a 727-square-mile dot in the middle of the Pacific. Perhaps it’s more than just the thought of relaxing in a lounge chair with a mai tai in hand. Maybe it’s also the way the trade winds blow across a beach of black sand at Wai‘anapanapa State Park. Or it’s the hope of a close encounter with a giant green sea turtle while snorkeling off the coast of Napili Bay. Maybe it’s the way the setting sun reflects in the waters off Makena, both fiery and calm in the same fleeting moment.

Of course, Maui’s magic is also found in the endless adventures to be had on the island. Hike through a thick bamboo forest and find yourself at the base of a 400-foot waterfall cascading down a rocky cliff. Ride your first wave and feel the thrill of the surf as you glide across a silky blue break. Wake at 3am to drive up a dark mountainside in the freezing cold to see the first rays of light illuminate Haleakala Crater. No matter what draws you to the island, the secret to Maui’s allure lies in the many moments that stick with you long after you’ve left it behind.

Discover the magic with Moon Maui.

 

Florida’s Gulf Coast

Why go: To kayak through the mangroves.
There isn’t anywhere else in Florida where the name “sunshine state” feels truer than on the Gulf Coast, where sandals, shorts, and sunglasses are the local attire. Beyond the sandy beaches and tropical bungalows, cities like Tampa, Pensacola, Sarasota, and Naples provide all the excitement and amenities you could ask for. In Tampa you’ll find a modern skyline of glass skyscrapers gleaming in the sun, while in Pensacola, Old Florida charm and Southern hospitality still exist. And what would a trip on the Gulf Coast be if you didn’t spend the day screaming down 100-foot drops on a Busch Gardens roller coaster?

But the best place to be on the Gulf Coast is out on the water. Bodysurf alongside a giant winged manta ray, collect fresh scallops in the spring-fed waters of Apalachicola Bay, or explore the winding maze of mangrove islands in Everglades National Park. Sail a yacht through the canals of Tampa, and sit down to a dinner of fresh crab cakes, raw oysters, and a bowl of seafood gumbo. Experience the life that so many have come to love: a life with sand between your toes and sunshine on your shoulders, in a state whose true borders extend deep into the dark blue waters of the Gulf.

 


 

Joshua Tree and Palm Springs

Joshua Tree
The alien landscape of Joshua Tree. Photo © Jake Vacek / iStock.

Why go: For some desert magic.
Despite being such near neighbors, the spiky Swath of Joshua Tree National Park and the sleek urban chic of Palm Springs appear to have little in common. Their link is the California desert, where relentless sunshine and rocky landscapes evoke a sense of the unknown. Joshua Tree is wild, eroded, and fantastical. Its surreal rock formations were cooked up through millions of years of erosion, sedimentation, and continental collisions to form hulking, toothy piles of granite. The namesake Joshua trees, with their jagged silhouettes, run rampant among the jumbled piles of boulders.

The resort town of Palm Springs got its start in the 1920s, and its popularity escalated as a getaway for the Hollywood Rat Pack. Today, it’s a stylish time capsule with impeccable mid-century architecture, luxury resorts, boutique hotels, and retro gems tucked away against the rocky foothills. In a landscape of drama and leisure, the gleaming blue of its plentiful swimming pools competes with the crystal-blue sky. It’s these contrasts that shape Joshua Tree and Palm Springs: The confluence of nearly perpetual sun, well-watered canyons, and bubbling hot springs backdropped by snowcapped mountains and a scoured desert make any visit here unique.

Ready to go? Check out Moon Joshua Tree & Palm Springs.


Mexico

Los Cabos

Why go: To experience the Baja spirit—beyond the resorts.
Here at the end of the Baja peninsula, you can choose the perfect getaway for you. Los Cabos is synonymous with relaxation, luxury, and indulgence. Beautiful beaches beckon with sunbathing possibilities. Spas offer lavish treatments and yachts fill the marinas, while world-famous golf courses give picturesque ocean views. All-inclusive beachfront resorts call to jet-setters. Spring breakers flock here to party on the beach all day and dance at clubs all night.

Just outside Los Cabos, travelers will find a different world. Within an hour’s drive, the West and East Capes offer humbler, more authentic experiences, with mountain ranges, waterfalls, near-empty beaches, and one of the few coral reefs in North America. Two hours north, the state capital of La Paz has museums and restaurants alongside still more stunning beaches, wildlife such as sea lions and whale sharks, and abundant recreational opportunities.

 

 

The Yucatán Peninsula

Why go: To travel back in time at stunning Maya ruins.
The Yucatán has so much history, culture, and natural wonder, even an unassuming roadside town you stumble upon will be rich with stories and possibilities. It’s hard to exaggerate the number and variety of attractions here: stunning Maya ruins, vibrant colonial cities, wildlife-watching, a web of caves and underground rivers, and ideal conditions for kiteboarding and sportfishing. For divers, there are world-famous reefs at Isla Cozumel and eerie inland cenotes. And if you’re looking for a beach vacation, look no further.

The Yucatán is also a place of many stories. Maya hieroglyphics tell complicated tales of gods, kings, and conquest. The exploits of its pirates and buccaneers are still the subject of fairy tales and feature films. The colonial era was rife with the boom and bust of products like henequen and chicle. The Maya have suffered unspeakable exploitation, but not passively—in the Caste War, they nearly drove European settlers off the peninsula for good. More recent is the remarkable story of Cancún, which in a matter of decades was transformed from a mosquito-infested sandbar into one of the world’s top resort destinations. The Yucatán Peninsula is all this, and even more—a place of endless mystery and beauty, fun and fascination.

Start planning your winter getaway today with Moon Yucatán Peninsula.