The beach is a welcome respite anytime, but it can be even more special during the holiday season. You might be looking for the sun, the warmth and the comfort of the sand between your toes. You don’t have to be a heat worshiper because even though the beach is in a cold climate it sure can still have some magic, especially if the crowds are elsewhere.
Frankly, it’s hard to go wrong with a beach vacation. For you, it could be a bonus if the seaside town is full of holiday festivities, and you can also get your fill of merriment. However, you might just want sun, beach, and peace and quiet; I am fine too. If you’re wondering where to go for your year-end beach vacation, start here.
1. Flamenco Beach, Puerto Rico
It is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. Talk about calm turquoise waters. At Flamenco Beach in Culebra there are hardly any waves. You know what that means: great snorkeling, swimming, and a very calm respite, perfect for lying in a lounge chair. You’ll love the authentic Puerto Rican cuisine at the kiosks, and as for the holiday spirit, it’s contagious here. Puerto Rico has the longest vacation period in the world. Hey, it’s 45 days. It begins the day after Thanksgiving and continues through mid-January with the San Sebastián Street Festival (Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián), known locally as “Sanse”. The people of Puerto Rico love any excuse to celebrate with music and food, to share the holiday spirit with a traditional “coquito” in hand, and so do you.
2. Stuart Beach, Florida
Stuart Beach just received a $ 2.7 million renovation of its facilities. There are covered picnic areas, beach volleyball courts, basketball courts, snorkeling, kayaking, and the new Seaside Cafe. The “Sailboat Capital of the World” is famous for fishing off its coasts. The waterfront restaurants and bars are very lively, especially Stuart Boathouse and Riverwalk Café and Oyster Bar. Board the free tram to get a taste of the city’s fascinating history. Holidays are a big deal with Christmas on Main Street Tree Lighting Festival, which features live music, face painting, balloon art, and more. Then there’s the Stuart Christmas Parade and Stuart Christmas Boat Parade, which typically start at the Jensen Beach Causeway and float near Sandsprit Park and Twisted Tuna in Port Salerno.
3. Jekyll Island, Georgia
Throughout the holiday season, there is plenty to do on Jekyll Island. Enjoy Holly Jolly Light Tours, via a ride on Jekyll’s happiest wagon, to see over half a million lights around the island. Relax and admire the lights of Beach Village at the Historic District. Feel the spirit with holiday drinks and music to sing along to. Don’t deprive yourself of silly fun. Then there’s the Holly Jolly Jekyll Light Parade, the fireworks on December 11-18, and the chance to have breakfast with Santa – something your kids won’t want to miss.
4. Espadilla Beach, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
If you are looking for something unique, spend your vacation at the Igloo Beach Lodge. Not only is it a short walk from Espadilla Beach, it’s only a short walk from Manuel Antonio National Park. Make like an Eskimo with these igloo-style accommodations. Nearby there are hiking and whitewater rafting, horseback riding, and wildlife tours. Igloo Beach Lodge offers bonfires and beach picnics for an additional fee, in addition to having a full-service restaurant called Casa Planta by celebrity chef Matthew Kenney.
5. Goose Rocks Beach, Kennebunkport, Maine
It is the largest and most scenic beach in Kennebunkport. When it comes to the revelry, locals say few cities in America can hold a candle in Kennebunkport. The coastal town is famous for its annual Christmas prelude, an 11-day holiday that resembles New England. Highlights include Dock Square tree lighting, Cape Porpoise Lobster Trap tree lighting, hat parades, outdoor Christmas markets, Christmas carols, costume contests, the Santa Claus arriving by lobster boat, and more. They were ranked # 2 Christmas Cities in America by HGTV. To feel right at home, try the new Tides Luxury Beach residences across from Goose Rocks Beach.
6. Miami, Florida
No need to convince you to take the road to Miami with its 20 miles of Atlantic coast. You can do Christmas things but in the sun. Visit Santa Claus at the Miami Zoo and see the Zoo Lights show and the 26-foot-tall Christmas tree. Admire the holiday lights at Pinecrest Gardens and attend holiday concerts on the Banyan Bowl stage. Art Basel Miami Beach, North America’s most comprehensive international contemporary art fair, is a must-see. For a bit of history, there’s Holiday Décor at Deering Estate. Top designers create a sense of nostalgia inspired by Florida’s pioneer days, and each building has its own theme to explore and enjoy.
7. Ocean City, Maryland
There’s plenty of holiday cheer in this beach getaway, from the Ocean City Christmas Parade to pizza night with Santa. Northside Park comes alive with the Winterfest of Lights, thousands of Christmas lights, exhibits, a 50 foot Christmas tree and more. On New Years Eve there is a fireworks display in Northside Park. If you’re looking for a cool place to stay, the Carousel Oceanfront Hotel has an indoor ice rink.
8. West Beach, Santa Barbara
You know how beautiful Santa Barbara is. West Beach will surely bring vacation smiles. In addition to the water time, you can enjoy the Santa Barbara Carriage of Lights tour, watch the Nutcracker ballet at the Granada Theater, and the annual Santa Barbara Parade of Lights. Hotel Milo sits at the gateway to West Beach and offers views of the Pacific and the Santa Barbara Coast. The setting is serene at the charming hotel with its Spanish-style courtyard, garden and swimming pool.
9. Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola Beach is so pretty you might think you are in the Caribbean. Holidays are special there. It “snows” every night in Pensacola during Winterfest in front of Plaza Wonderland on Palafox Place. Get into the holiday spirit with hot chocolate and Christmas lights hugging palm trees. There are several tram tours and memorable experiences like the Polar Express tour where tap servers guide you through the classic Christmas story. Another is the Cajun Christmas experience where you will learn about history with Christmas cookies. During this open tram ride, a guide tells stories of how Christmas is celebrated in the bayou as you make a short ride to the historic village. Of course, there are IG moments with Santa Claus or the Grinch.
10. Playa Kenepa, Curacao
What may be most important to you is how much sun you can get. Consider the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao. It is home to some of the best dive sites in the world and over 30 beaches. With so much to choose from, there is something for everyone, so don’t worry about the crowds. If you want to live like a local you absolutely want to make Sunday a beach day, that’s what they do. Head to Playa Kenepa, which consists of two beaches, Kenepa Grandi (the larger beach) and Kenepa Chiki (the smaller and more intimate beach). Both are quite isolated and there is only one road that leads to the two beaches. Kepena Chiki is popular for its snorkeling hot spots along the coast and Kenepa Grandi is known for its pristine white sands and crystal clear turquoise waters, as well as views overlooking the stunning landscape. Practice as many water sports as you want or relax on the beach, it’s your choice.
11. Galveston Island, Texas
Galveston Island is a historic seaside town located on the Gulf of Mexico, 80 km from Houston. As for the beach, is 32 miles enough? This is what you will find here. Once you’ve had your fill of water fun, keep having fun in what’s known as Texas Winter Wonderland Island. The holiday season is filled with traditions such as the Moody Gardens Festival of Lights, the Victorian Dickens on The Strand Festival and the Polar Express Train Ride at the Galveston Railroad Museum. In addition, the Grand Opera of 1894 will begin its holiday programming in mid-November.
12. Cap May, New Jersey
Cape May’s beaches are legendary. Discover them during the holidays. There is Christmas tree lighting in the convention hall. Everything revolves around the igloos and tents on the Great Lawn where you will be served creative cocktails and light snacks. Children will look forward to breakfast with Santa at Congress Hall. Word is, the place to be on Wednesdays is dinner and bingo with Blue the Pig and clauses. Make your way to the West End Garage which turns into a holiday shopping mecca. Visit Beach Plum Farm for weekend farm-to-table vacation dinners, wreath-making and more. The season kicks off with the West Cape May Community Christmas Parade on the first Saturday in December. Throughout the season there are candlelight house tours and Santa Trolley rides.
13. Dana Point, California
This seaside city is halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. There are almost 7 miles of beach for surfing, paddling, or just relaxing and watching the sunset. Of course, a highlight will be the chance to see dolphins and whales. The Dana Point Winter Festival and Tree Lighting includes a craft fair, carnival games, rides, cookie decorations and more. Consider participating in the annual Dana Fiesta of Lights boat parade, December 10-12. Take a boat ride with Santa and his holiday helpers. Keep up the good vibes with holiday movie nights and gingerbread-making sessions at Hanukkah lighting candles and the Surfing Santa and Stand-Up Paddle Board contest.