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If you find yourself day-dreaming about the best beaches in December for watersports and lazing in the sunshine, who can blame you? As the northern winter draws in and temperatures drop, it’s natural to think about an escape to the sun.

The obvious first choices are all in the Caribbean, from Cozumel, off the coast of Mexico, to islands such as St. Kitts or Aruba. Names such as The Bahamas, or the U.S. Virgin islands, conjure up images of lying on golden sands, soaking up the sun’s rays.

Of course, the southern hemisphere is enjoying its summer in December. That’s when beaches in New Zealand or the Galapagos come into their own.

Wherever you go, nothing beats a beach for the perfect vacation moment. Is there anything more relaxing than being stretched out on a sun-lounger on an exotic shore, tropical juice in hand?

Knip Beach, Curacao

Aerial view of Knip Beach, Curacao

Knip Beach, Curacao

The two beaches of Grote (Big) and Kleine (Little) Knip in Curaçao offer visitors a delightful choice. Picture-perfect Grote Knip is ideal for sunbathing and relaxing, while Kleine Knip is a snorkeler’s delight.

The bigger beach sits in a small cove, people jumping and diving off the cliff at one end. It’s notable for its soft, powdery sand and remarkably clear water.

If you find idyllic Grote Knip a little too busy make your way around the headland to Kleine Knip. Both Curaçao beaches are named for Landhuis Kenepa, a former plantation whose history is now told in an onsite museum.

Punta Sur Eco Beach Park, Cozumel

White sand beach of Punta Sur Eco Beach Park, Cozumel

Punta Sur Eco Beach Park, Cozumel

Dry season in Cozumel starts in December, and you can expect temperatures topping 80℉, the sea blissfully warm for swimming.

Punta Sur on the southern tip of the island is home to some of Cozumel’s best beaches, lagoons, and coral reefs. Snorkel or dive among sea turtles, or just relax with a cool tropical drink on a sun-lounger.

The scenic Celarain lighthouse makes an excellent destination for a stroll along the sands. Nearby is El Caracol, a small Maya site dating to around 1200 AD.

Orient Bay Beach, St. Martin

Fine sands of Orient Bay Beach, St. Martin

Orient Bay Beach, St. Martin

The “Saint-Tropez of the Caribbean”, Orient Bay Beach is on the French side of St. Martin. Sitting on the Atlantic-facing, north-west coast, it’s one of the best beaches in December for surfing.

The beach is the better part of a mile long, and its white sand is filled with sunbathers, and swimmers. As well as offering some of the best surfing in the Caribbean, it’s a place to try out parasailing, kitesurfing, or windsurfing.

Orient Bay Beach is well supplied with good restaurants, bars, and cafés. In December, you can expect temperatures around 75-80ºF, with the water reflecting a similar comfortable range.

La Caleta Beach, Cadiz, Spain

Golden sands of La Caleta Beach in Cadiz, Spain

La Caleta Beach in Cadiz, Spain

The smallest of the three beaches in the Spanish beach town of Cadiz is justifiably the most popular. With golden sands, plenty of open-air bars, and a lively atmosphere, it’s always busy. While you may not be tempted to swim in December, this is a lovely spot for strolling and people watching.

La Caleta sits in a small cove with a castle protecting each end. A promenade connects the two, well supplied with restaurants, flamenco bars, and within easy reach.

The center of Cadiz is close by, with its magnificent Cathedral, enriched by the wealth of the Americas. The Mercado Central, humming with fish and other produce sellers, is another photogenic stop.

Galleon Beach, Antigua

Pebbly beach of Galleon Beach

Galleon Beach, Antigua

The old anchor on Galleon Beach may be one of the most photographed sights on Antigua. The white sand ringing the bay’s calm turquoise waters, with thick green tropical greenery behind, makes for an irresistible image.

Very close to English Harbour, the beach can actually be reached by car, but is much easier (and more fun) by water taxi. That makes it much quieter than many others on Antigua.

You can swim or experience snorkeling in Antigua, hopefully seeing turtles, and stingrays. Average water temperatures in December are normally a comfortable 81ºF.

Reduit Beach, St. Lucia

Calm waters of Reduit Beach, St. Lucia

Reduit Beach, St. Lucia

Arguably the best beach on St. Lucia sits on Rodney Bay backed by a marina, several luxury resorts, and Rodney Bay Village. That means you have access to every type of restaurant, bar, and watersports facilities.

At the northern end of the beach is Pigeon Island, with its historic fort. Built in the 18th century to keep the French occupying nearby Martinique at bay, it’s still a scenic outlook over that lovely Caribbean neighbor.

December is a great time to visit St. Lucia as the island celebrates its National Day mid-month. The preceding Festival of Light brings everything from a Lantern Parade to firework displays.

White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, BVI

White Bay in Jost Van Dyke, BVI, one of the best beaches in December

White Bay in Jost Van Dyke, BVI

Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands is a classic vision of the Caribbean, with soft, white sand, turquoise waters, and green hills. Snooze in a hammock among the palm trees and you might never want to leave.

If you can drag yourself away from the shade, you have choices that include snorkeling, sailing, or several good beach shacks. The most famous is the Soggy Dollar Bar, where the notorious Caribbean cocktail known as “Painkiller” is said to have originated.

The beach is a popular stopping point for sailors, whose habit of swimming ashore gave the bar its name. December brings temperatures around 80ºF in the shade, while the water is a similar temperature.

Palm Beach, Aruba

White sands of Palm Beach, Aruba

Palm Beach, Aruba

The two-mile-long Palm Beach is the heart of Aruba’s hotel and entertainment scene. This Aruban beach is shaded by palm trees, and well served with facilities.

December temperatures on the ABC Islands average 81°F, both for air, and sea. You’ll see the calm waters of Palm beach full of swimmers and snorkelers.

Any showers tend to fall in the afternoon, a good time to explore the beach’s many shops, restaurants, and bars. Two of Aruba’s largest shopping malls are nearby to offer plenty of other distractions.

Te Amo Beach, Bonaire

White sands of Te Amo Beach, Bonaire

Te Amo Beach, Bonaire

Bonaire is an arid island, with a major reputation among divers. Its coral reef, starting just a few feet offshore, is a protected natural paradise of diverse fish and coral species.

Te Amo Beach is a white sand beach in the shadow of the island’s tiny airport. It’s served by a food truck, but is otherwise a unique desert island experience.

Its romantic name (meaning ”I love you” in Spanish) reflects the beauty of its Caribbean setting. With turquoise water, white sand, and warm temperatures, it’s one of the very best beaches in December for the perfect vacation.

South Friars Beach, St. Kitts

Small boats lined up on South Friars Beach, St. Kitts

South Friars Beach, St. Kitts

Like the other Caribbean islands, St. Kitts enjoys lovely winter weather. Air, and sea temperatures will average around 80ºF during the month, making for perfect days in the sun.

South Friars Beach is well supplied with sun-loungers and umbrellas. The sands of this beautiful beach in St. Kitts vary from black through browns to white, depending on which part of the beach your taxi or water taxi drops you off.

Water visibility is good for snorkelers, and you might spot sea turtles or starfish. There are two major beach bars to compete for your attention, with a few other smaller options for food and drink.

Las Bachas Beach, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

Las Bachas Beach in Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, one of the best beaches in December

Las Bachas Beach in Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

While few visitors come to the Galapagos Islands for its beaches, they can make for a welcome break from hiking and snorkeling if you simply want to relax on the sand. Las Bachas in Santa Cruz Island is a long, sandy beach, ideal for swimming.

December here brings temperatures of up to 80ºF, with the water being around 73°F—very mild for these deep Pacific waters.

The Galapagos beach is home to pink flamingos, who enjoy its two lagoons. It’s named for two rusty barges abandoned by the US Army after WWII.

Magens Bay, St. Thomas, USVI

Magens Bay in St. Thomas, USVI, one of the best beaches in December

Magens Bay in St. Thomas, USVI

With December temperatures averaging 85.6ºF, the beach remains the best place to be on beautiful St. Thomas. Magens Bay, on the north coast, shows off the island at its best: white sands, blue waters, and wonderful views.

A horseshoe-shaped bay keeps the water calm, and shelters watersports enthusiasts. The water is usually dotted with swimmers, as well as kayakers, stand-up boards, and sailors.

The mile-long beach in St. Thomas is popular with frisbee and ball players, as well as those who just want to relax on the sand. A restaurant, beach bar, and shop are there if you need refreshments.

Phi Phi Island, Phuket, Thailand

Beautiful scenery of Phi Phi Island, near Phuket, Thailand

Phi Phi Island, near Phuket, Thailand

Phi Phi Island’s beach near Phuket is so famous, it probably needs no introduction. Its starring role in a Leonardo di Caprio film put it on the map, and it has remained there ever since.

Fortunately, the reality still matches up well to the Hollywood vision. Tropical greenery, white powder sands, and clear waters make for the perfect island view that Thailand is known for.

In December, air temperatures average about 81°F, with water a degree or so milder. There is a chance of rain on some days earlier in the month, easing off as the weeks go by.

Maspalomas Beach, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Dunes of Maspalomas Beach in Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Maspalomas Beach in Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

If all you want in a beach is lots of sand, then Maspalomas Beach will meet your needs. Running into a vast expanse of sand dunes where you can take camel rides, it’s not what you might expect of the volcanic Canary Islands.

The landmark Maspalomas Lighthouse is at the heart of what is now a major protected nature area. However, there are also plenty of beach bars, and restaurants.

Aerial view of Playa del Inglés in Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Playa del Inglés in Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Surfers enjoy the waves at the point where Maspalomas meets the neighboring Playa del Inglés, another one of the best beaches in the Canary Islands. Be aware that, if you walk the considerable length of both combined, you’ll pass some clothing-optional areas.

Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman

White sands of Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman

Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman

Among the world’s best beaches at any time of the year, Seven Mile Beach is the social heart of Grand Cayman. It takes its name from its length (only five miles long if you want to be picky), all of which is fully open to the public.

Being Grand Cayman, you can take white coral sand and clear water for granted. December temperatures range from 70 to 84ºF, with barely any rain.

The popular Grand Cayman beach is well supplied with anything you can think of, from diving schools to top-end restaurants. George Town, Cayman’s pretty capital, is a few minutes south of the beach for even more options.

Onetangi Beach, Auckland, New Zealand

White sand beach of Onetangi Beach in Auckland, New Zealand

Onetangi Beach in Auckland, New Zealand

Waiheke Island is the palace to be near Auckland, popular for weekend breaks, and for its vineyard. Its biggest, and best beach is Onetangi, which has over a mile of golden sands.

This north-facing beach overlooks the Great and Little Barrier Islands. Behind the beach are a number of picturesque “baches”, the “bachelor” holiday homes that are such an important part of NZ Culture.

Onetangi is well supplied with coffee shops and restaurants. A hiking route will take you above the beach for ocean views, passing some impressive native trees.

Read: Best Beaches in New Zealand

Caye Caulker, Belize

View of Caye Caulker with boardwalk

Caye Caulker, Belize

Belize has long been a winter sun destination for North Americans, for good reason. At the secluded Caye Caulker, you can still see all of its appeal in one tiny, idyllic place.

Coral reefs in Caye Caulker, Belize

Belize Barrier Reef

The azure water, pristine coral reefs, and lines of palm trees are real postcard views. Nearby is the Belize Barrier Reef, famous for the Great Blue Hole — a major thrill for divers.

Once supported entirely by fishing, the island is still a great place to enjoy Caribbean seafood. It’s also a good place to try salt-water fishing for yourself.

Honeymoon Harbor Beach, Bimini, Bahamas

Brown sands of Honeymoon Harbor Beach in Bimini, Bahamas

Honeymoon Harbor Beach in Bimini, Bahamas

Reached only by a 20-minute boat ride, Gun Cay is a tiny islet south of Bimini. Its Honeymoon Harbour Beach is a beautiful spot whose name reflects the romantic, isolated setting.

However, the beach is now better known for its stingray experience. If you’ve never swum with these mesmerizing creatures, or can’t wait to do so again, this is your chance to experience one of the best places to snorkel in the Bahamas.

Stingray in Honeymoon Harbor Beach in Bimini, Bahamas

Honeymoon Harbor Beach in Bimini, Bahamas

The stingrays are fed here regularly, so are now well accustomed to humans. You can help feed them yourself, and even touch them if you feel brave enough.

The white-sand beach is the perfect spot to unwind after this thrilling experience. Swim, snorkel, or sunbathe as you soak up the sun.

Waterfront of Aruba

Aruba

Has this list of the best beach vacations in December inspired you to take off for sunnier climes? Then browse our December cruises to find the perfect vacation.

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Free Vacation Planning Services