Jingle bells, Santa smells, Rudolph ran away—to Hawaii like any clever reindeer would. There is something to be said about spending Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Years at home. However, you can just as easily skip the tangled tinsel and chipmunk carols and go somewhere exotic. Think about it: Imagine yourself somewhere new, somewhere warm, somewhere where fruit is best served in a martini glass. Here are some of the top international spots to spend the holidays:
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Perhaps you’ve heard of Belize? In recent years, this Central American locale has become a refuge for anyone looking for paradise on the cheap. Part luxury, part hippie, there’s a tremendous feeling of well-mixed cultures. Park your umbrella in Ambergris Caye, the beach town that plays host to prime swimming opportunities and a vivacious nightlife. Spend the afternoons in the warm waves snorkelling through the depths looking for groupers, coneys, and angelfish, or dive into the Great Blue Hole as adventurers have done for decades. For above sea level haunts, take a peek inside the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave, which is an ancient Mayan burial ground. Remember to show your respects, as there are still skeletons popping through the earth. If you feel shaken up from a day with the dead, there’s one Belize cure-all: booze! Downtown Amergris Caye is home to a number of late-night spots with strong, colourful drinks to match your non-Christmas floral shirt. Cheers, indeed.
If there is one place that’s worth travelling to any single day of the calendar year, it’s Hawaii. Soft beaches, exotic plants, and succulent luau pigs are just some of the island state’s attractions. When you’re ready to escape the snowflakes, head to Maui. Sunbathe, swim, kayak, and get that tan while everyone is shivering back home. While you’re on the island, hop onto Hana Highway, the winding coastal road that passes by waterfalls, gorges, and black-sand beaches. As you’re making your rounds around the island, keep your eyes on the sea. Winter and spring are the mating seasons for humpback whales. You can spot their fluked tails and crown of their heads from the roadside, the coast, or on a whale watching boat if you don’t mind in indulging in a few touristy activities during the holidays.
Really want to get away this holiday season? How about booking a trip to Jupiter? Jupiter, Florida, that is. While Miami and Key West tend to get the majority of the winter retreat attention, don’t discount this luxurious slice of paradise. Home to a number of celebrities, this is a city that does first-class in a big way. For starters, you simply can’t beat the sight of the Atlantic Ocean. Blue as a sapphire, the view is priceless as you take a long coastal bike ride, watch the turtle hatchlings crawl to sea, or paddle a kayak out into the waves. Once you’re ready to head in, make your way to Abacoa Town Center, which features designer boutiques, fine dining, and live music. Just try not to gawk if a celebrity sits next to you as you indulge in an extra piece of key lime pie.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Surprised to see Vietnam on the list? Not only is this one of the top countries to visit in 2015, it’s a fantastic destination during the winter season. Yes, you can explore the beaches along the South China Sea, but Vietnam’s appeal is less frolic and more pho—especially in the bustling areas like Ho Chi Minh City. In Ho Chi Minh City, people dart through shops and alleyways just like the motorcycles zip through the streets, so watch your step. And once you’re done shopping and checking out historic sites like Saigon Skydeck and Emperor Jade Pagoda, grab a hot bowl of pho. There are hundreds of stalls offering sights, smells, and flavours you simply can’t find anywhere else. Worn-in pots, knotted hands, and quick smiles are the only signals you need to find a pho spot worth trying. Whether you want to sit and eat on the cheap plastic chairs inside the stall or find an area along Saigon Port, it’ll beat dried-out turkey any day.
This holiday season, ditch the mittens and pack the sunscreen. You have an exotic vacation waiting for you.
Which city is your favourite winter holiday retreat?