Warmest Places to Visit in America During December (Photo: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images )
As the winter snowflakes start to fall, escape the cold to one of America’s sundrenched paradises. December is the time for family, fun and festivities, but there’s no reason to shiver through the holiday season when you can bask in the sun at a tropical resort, cast your line for swordfish in the sea or take a romantic stroll along a sandy beach. From the tip of the Florida Keys to the warm waters of southern Texas to the volcanic coastline of Hawaii, December is the perfect time to visit one of America’s warmest vacation destinations.
Island Hopping in Hawaii
December typically offers good weather throughout Hawaii’s tropical islands. The average daytime high hovers around 78 degrees Fahrenheit, with nighttime lows dropping about 10 degrees lower. Don’t drift far from the beach if you want to stay warm, because Hawaii’s higher elevations experience cooler temperatures. Pack a jacket to play it safe, so you can enjoy attractions such as Maui’s Haleakala volcano, which sits at 10,000 feet above sea level. On Maui, take a boat trip to the half-sunken crater of Molokini, where you can join a snorkeling or scuba diving tour to explore coral reefs and swim with sea turtles. Kayak below the cliffs of the Na Pali coastline of Kauai, or boat along the coast of the big island to see hot lava careen into the Pacific Ocean. December 7, Honolulu celebrates Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and throughout November and December surfers compete in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing at Oahu’s North Shore.
Adventure in the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are typically dry and warm in December, with little rainfall and daytime highs in the 70s Fahrenheit. Pair that with water temperatures averaging 72 degrees Fahrenheit, and you’re set for a warm, relaxing vacation. You’ll only need a shorty wetsuit if you snorkel or dive in the Keys, where you can explore the United States’ only living coral barrier reef. Discover shipwrecks, shallow reefs and deeper dive sites throughout the 120-mile island chain. Kayak through pristine mangroves – where you might spot a dolphin or sea turtle – or hop aboard a deep sea fishing charter for a chance to take home a trophy. In Key West, you can bask in December’s warmth, while enjoying the annual Harborwalk of Lights and lighted boat parades.
Catch Some Rays in San Diego
Mild weather rules Southern California year round. In San Diego, December’s average daytime high is 65 degrees Fahrenheit, perfect for soaking up the sun without breaking a sweat. Take a guided whale watching tour for an up-close view of the Pacific’s giant mammals as they migrate south. Or visit the San Diego Zoo to get acquainted with gorillas, polar bears and colorful birds from around the world. Stroll along one of San Diego’s many beaches, including dog-friendly Ocean Beach, surf-lovers’ San Onofre Beach or Pacific Beach, home to a collection of festive restaurants, bars and cafes. On Tuesdays, shop for fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables at the Pacific Beach Farmers’ Market and on Saturdays, head to Old Town to buy handmade arts and crafts at the Old Town Artisans’ Market.
Get Casual on South Padre Island
If you venture to South Padre Island, leave your ties behind, because Texas’ southernmost beach town has banned neckties. If you disobey, you’ll be issued a T-shirt and a warning. December highs in this laid-back beach town hover around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, warm enough for a stroll along the beach or an ankle-deep wade in the Gulf of Mexico. Hop on the city’s free WAVE shuttle bus to Port Isabel, to explore the town’s historic lighthouse and museums, or take a boat tour with the Dolphin Research and Sea Life Nature Center to visit with porpoises, dolphins and a host of other wildlife. Throughout December, you can participate in daily bird walks, on Sundays you can shop at the weekly Farmers’ Market and on Wednesday evenings you can root for your favorite crustacean at the Quarterdeck Lounge’s Crab Races.
Megan Hill is a Seattle-based writer with more than 10 years of experience. She has served as a writer and editor for websites and nonprofit organizations, as well as a reporter for magazines such as “Seattle Met,” “Seattle Magazine” and “Edible Seattle.”