If you have a love for travel, you’re probably looking forward to the next chance you can take a beach vacation. You might also long for the opportunity to leave town for a few days over the holidays to spend time relaxing with loved ones and reflecting on the year.
Now is a great time to start planning a Christmas beach vacation. It’s the perfect time of year to escape frigid temperatures for a few days of sun at a tropical destination.
Here are some of the best places to spend Christmas on the beach in 2021. And don’t think you have to forgo a Christmas tree or meal with family. You can still celebrate all day long—you’ll just have a little more sun and sand than usual. This is Christmas at the beach, after all.
For a quick getaway from just about anywhere on the east coast, set your sights on Nassau in the Bahamas. Nassau is one of the easiest places to reach from the U.S., but that doesn’t mean it feels like anything you’d find in the States. It’s colorful, friendly, welcoming, and has fantastic food, so it’s a perfect place to celebrate Christmas on the beach if you want to swap your mashed potatoes for ceviche.
For a unique Christmas, spend the day at the Atlantis Resort—home to some of the best beaches in Nassau—which packs an incredible amount of adventure into one huge destination. Walk (or take a waterslide) through a shark tank, explore a sprawling marine aquarium, swim with dolphins, visit the Aquaventure Water Park, or rent a private cabana for two by the pool or beach. There are also plenty of family and adults-only activities offered around the holidays.
For a special Christmas Day celebration, book a trip to Balmoral Island, just off the coastline. The private beach resort has everything you need for a perfect Christmas at the beach, including beach loungers, snorkel gear rentals, a restaurant and bar, and opportunities to get in the water with stingrays and dolphins. It’s just a quick ferry ride to the island, and beach floats and tubes are available so you can spend Christmas leisurely floating around in the sun.
Read: Snorkeling in Nassau
Aside from beachside fun, spend the day indoors having a culinary holiday at the Bahama Barrels Winery, housed on the grounds of a historic church from the 1930s. Oenophiles will probably know that it’s quite hard to grow grapes in the Bahamas, so the winery sources grapes from around the world to make incredible blends and varietals on-site. Visits usually include a tour, a hands-on winemaking class, and even a chance to make your own custom blend—now there’s a perfect Christmas present.
Scuba divers or snorkelers keen to spend Christmas on the beach should head to Curacao, where the on-land activities are amazing but the underwater world is even better.
Spend Christmas Day at Blue Bay Beach, where you’ll find water sports like snorkeling and kayaking, beachside massages, beach bars and restaurants, and loungers in the sand with thatched sunshades. Taking a sunset catamaran tour to toast to a great day with loved ones as the sun sets is perhaps one of the best things to do in Curaçao.
You could also choose to find your beach bliss at Mambo Beach, a well-developed and happening beach not too far from Willemstad. If you want a blend of both toes-in-the-sand beach time and a bit of shopping and dining, Mambo Beach is a great bet. There’s excellent snorkeling and scuba diving at the beach, and there’s also a cove protected by rocks if you’re traveling with kids or prefer a spot to sit in the water with no waves.
There are plenty of restaurants, shops, and boutiques on the boulevard just off the beach, so if you need a break from the sun, you can stop into a small artisan shop and pick out the perfect Christmas gift—for friends or yourself.
With so many beautiful beaches, scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities, incredible outdoor adventures, and ancient history, Cozumel is a must-visit destination any time of year. But it feels especially exotic and luxurious to spend Christmas on the beach here while watching dolphins frolic just offshore as you sip on fresh coconut juice.
If your goal for the holiday is to spend as much of it on the sand as possible, Playa Mia may be the spot for you. In addition to having a wide-open beach, sun chairs and loungers, kayaks, snorkel gear, and even an inflatable over-the-water obstacle course for adults, there’s more just off the sand. That includes several pools, a lazy river, a hydro-massage hot tub, and, of course, a swim-up cocktail bar. The weather is almost always warm and sunny in Cozumel, so you may want to swap your normal Christmas hot toddy for a tequila sunrise instead.
If you prefer a more adventurous holiday, Cozumel is still a top pick. There are several Mayan ruins near Cozumel, including San Gervasio, dedicated to birth and fertility goddess Ix Chel, and Chichen Itza, a massive Mayan city eventually taken over by the Spanish in the mid-1500s. For a destination so close to the U.S., Cozumel offers the chance to spend a Christmas completely unlike the holiday you’d have back at home.
Is there any island destination more laid back or filled with happier people than Jamaica? And is there anything more luxurious than being able to say, “We’ll be spending this Christmas on the beach at Montego Bay?”
Relax the day away in the warm sunshine at Montego Bay, especially if the whole point of your well-deserved getaway is to spend Christmas at the beach. Relax in the sand at Doctor’s Cave Beach, explore the shops and boutiques just off the shore, or grab a frisbee and play in the surf before taking a piña colada break. You could also opt to spend the day at the Bamboo Beach Club relaxing under a private cabana. Be sure to text a view of your feet in the surf to friends and family back home.
If you want more of a low-key place to spend Christmas at the beach, consider heading to Blue Water Beach. It’s a bit removed from Montego Bay, and it doesn’t get quite as crowded, but it’s just as beautiful. The area around the beach is known for its local jerk chicken shops and reggae bands at local bars, so it’s well worth a visit for more than just the beach.
Read: Best Beaches in Jamaica
Jamaica is known for its waterfalls, which play a significant role in recreation on the island. Aside from its famed beaches, you can visit Dunn’s River Falls, which is technically one waterfall but looks like a massive multi-stepped waterfall, thanks to huge boulders and trees growing up around the rushing water.
This site is one of the best places to go hiking in the Caribbean. You could also walk through Green Grotto Caves, a system formed by water movement over thousands of years. There’s even an underground lake deep into the cave.
For an English-inspired Christmas (with a bit of island flair mixed in, of course,) head to St. Kitts. In the mid-1600s, St. Kitts was home to the first British and French colonies in the Caribbean, and while Saint Kitts and Nevis is a sovereign state, the English Queen is still the symbolic head of state. As such, it retains much of its English culture with some streets that look like they could be in London. However, thanks to Creole food, exclusive beaches, and inland rainforest, it’s distinctly Caribbean.
Spend Christmas on the beach at Cockleshell Bay, a laid-back strip of sand dotted with low-key island beach bars. There’s nothing formal here, so you’ll likely be celebrating Christmas next to friendly locals also enjoying a beach day on one of the best white-sand beaches in the Caribbean.
You could also spend Christmas morning on the beach and take a ride on the St. Kitts Scenic Railway in the afternoon. It’s a double-decker open-air train that cruises past the island’s plantations, lush forest, and sweeping coastline. Or if trains aren’t your thing, head out on a catamaran or hike up Mount Liamuiga, one of the highest peaks in the Caribbean. Once you’re spending the week or so around Christmas at the beach, you really can’t make a wrong decision on what you do each day.
St. Croix is the largest of the U.S Virgin Islands, which means it has more beaches than the others. For a perfect blend of adventure and relaxation next Christmas, head to Buck Island on Christmas Day. The small island features beautiful beaches with soft white sand and turquoise blue water.
What makes it even better is that the reef here is a designated national monument, and you can take an underwater snorkel “tour” of the ocean landscape. Expect to see an incredibly diverse ecosystem with everything from tiny shrimp to three-foot-long sea turtles as you swim through the reefs, making it the best Virgin Island to visit for snorkelers and divers.
You could also consider spending Christmas at Rainbow Beach, a low-key beach fairly close to Frederiksted yet still known as one of the best beaches in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The water is calm and the gently sloping sand has plenty of places to lay down a beach towel and umbrella for a few hours. You can swim and float in the water, but there are also a few sections of underwater rocks where you can sometimes see small marine life. If you want to relax on the beach all day, you’ll love it. Or, for a little more excitement, you can rent kayaks, paddleboards, or even jet skis for exploring the coast.
Grand Cayman is home to some of the beach beaches in the world. One of those beaches in Seven Mile Beach, which is actually a long series of beaches, coves, and stunning vistas. It’s a great stretch of sand to celebrate the Christmas season on, as you can spend the whole day there. Relax in the sand on a lounger for a few hours, go for a snorkel, or pop by a local beach bar for an afternoon cocktail. You can then stroll on the beach and check out some of the nearby coves and tidepools. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to see a sea turtle or two in the shallow water.
Going to Hell on Christmas Day may not sound like a very appealing option, but it is when you’re in Grand Cayman. The “Hell” rock formation is an extremely photogenic section of the island where black limestone formations sprawl, creating a Dante’s “Inferno”-esque landscape.
In Grand Cayman, you can also spend Christmas morning just west of the beach—and yes, that puts you in the middle of the ocean. Take a quick boat ride to one of the best Grand Cayman snorkeling spots—Stingray City, a sandbar just off the shore where stingrays and nurse sharks often congregate. They’re incredibly used to people and the water is very shallow, so you can hop off the boat with snorkel gear and swim just a few feet above them. These laid-back animals are more interested in the small pieces of food floating nearby than they are in you.
St. Thomas is another great option for a beachside Christmas. After all, is there anywhere more appropriate to spend Christmas than a beach called “Christmas Cove?” The small bay is the picture-perfect place to relax for the day, whether reading a book on the sand, splashing in the turquoise-blue water, or looking for turtles while you snorkel around rock formations. There are a handful of nearby beach restaurants so you can still have an island-inspired Christmas lunch.
As appropriate as Christmas Cove is for a holiday, Sapphire Beach sounds pretty darn nice, too. A little further away from the downtown areas than Christmas Cove, Sapphire Beach is another wide-open beach surrounded by the same sparkling blue water. Treat yourself by booking a beach club or tour that includes perks like loungers, snorkel gear, and a memorable fresh fruit cocktail.
Escape to the beach next winter on a luxury Christmas cruise. You’ll be whisked from one stunning beach destination to another while indulging in world-class dining, unmatched service, and cheerful Christmas decorations on board.
Browse December cruises on our website and book your holiday vacation in paradise today.