Dreaming of a vacation getaway during the holidays? From Key West to Kuai, we found luxury accommodations, beautiful views, and plenty of holiday fun.
WHERE: South Beach
BEACH FORECAST: High 77, low 62
PERFECT FOR: Couples who love the Miami scene
PACK: A bathing suit, a glam dress for nights out
WHY GO: The Sagamore epitomizes South Beach’s Art Deco look and salsa beat. The hotel exudes minimalist élan within the heart of the club and restaurant scene. Choose from guest rooms, oceanfront suites, penthouses, or two-story bungalows. Visit the RikRak Beauty Bungalow for a Miami mojito pedicure.
HOLIDAY FUN: Festive cocktails include peppermint and gingerbread martinis; eggnog is served poolside; 305/535-8088 or sagamorehotel.com.
WHERE: Key West
BEACH FORECAST: High 77, low 67
PERFECT FOR: Nightlife-loving couples and families with active, older kids
PACK: Waterproof sunscreen for parasailing, a tennis racket
WHY GO: Despite being within walking distance of Duval Street, the city’s main drag, the Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa has Gulf-view rooms and a tucked-away feel. The resort’s Jala Spa is a must for rejuvenating treatments, including hot stone massage.
HOLIDAY FUN: Christmas dinner is served at SHOR American Seafood Grill overlooking the ocean; 800/233-1234 or keywest.hyatt.com.
WHERE: Palm Coast
BEACH FORECAST: High 67, low 49
PERFECT FOR: Golfers, families with young kids and teens
PACK: Your clubs, binoculars for manatee sightings
WHY GO: Just south of historic St. Augustine, Hammock Beach overlooks two miles of pristine Atlantic shoreline. Stay in a luxury suite, multiple-room villa, or rental home. Two championship golf courses, eight pools, and a 117-foot charter yacht will keep everyone busy.
HOLIDAY FUN: Children can eat breakfast with Santa on Christmas Eve morning. Holiday movies by the pool are followed by s’mores; 866/841-0287 or hammockbeach.com.
WHERE: Palm Beach
BEACH FORECAST: High 76, low 60
PERFECT FOR: Couples in need of luxe leisure, shoppers
PACK: Yoga pants for classes, a pareo for poolside lounging
WHY GO: Each guest room has stunning views of the sea; some have generous patios. Just a short drive from Worth Avenue (think Chanel, Hermès, Tiffany), the hotel caters to adults as the island’s newest contemporary hot spot.
HOLIDAY FUN: Enjoy holiday music during Christmas brunch and dinner and dancing on New Year’s Eve; 561/540-6440 or omphoy.com.
WHERE: Huntington Beach
BEACH FORECAST: High 64, low 48
PERFECT FOR: Active singles, the family that surfs together
PACK: A light jacket for nights by the fire pit, board shorts
WHY GO: The only Huntington Beach hotel located near the iconic intersection of Main Street and the Pacific Coast Highway—in the heart of Surf City—the Shorebreak is in the midst of shopping, dining, and live entertainment, all within earshot of the crashing Pacific.
HOLIDAY FUN: Sip complimentary happy hour wine and eggnog starting two weeks before Christmas; shop for last-minute gifts on The Strand just outside the hotel; 877/744-1117 or shorebreakhotel.com.
WHERE: Rancho Palos Verdes
BEACH FORECAST: High 67, low 46
PERFECT FOR: Nature-lovers, extended families
PACK: A wide-brim hat to wear poolside, golf shoes, binoculars for birding
WHY GO: On 102 oceanfront acres, Terranea Resort offers luxurious hotel rooms, bungalows, and oceanview casitas and villas. Try your swing on The Links golf course, or take a dip in your choice of three pools. (One has a 140-foot water slide.) Award-winning chef Michael Fiorelli oversees mar’sel restaurant, which features seasonal ingredients from his kitchen garden.
HOLIDAY FUN: Elves share hot chocolate, apple cider, and holiday stories by the fire; you can also take classes on how to make gingerbread “sand castles;" 866/802-8000 or terranea.com.
WHERE: Pebble Beach
BEACH FORECAST: High 60, low 43
PERFECT FOR: Foodies and golfing couples
PACK: A snuggly sweater for cool nights and long walks
WHY GO: Prominent figures such as Sir Winston Churchill and Charles Lindbergh have frequented the property since Pebble Beach Golf Links opened in 1919; today, there are three courses to choose from. Non-golfers can hike, bike, kayak, ride horses, and play tennis. Just outside the south gate of Pebble Beach is the storybook village of Carmel-by-the Sea, home to white beaches and leafy streets lined with charming shops and art galleries open for holiday shopping.
HOLIDAY FUN: The entire resort is decked for the holidays—down to the cider and martinis festooned with candy canes. A spectacular New Year’s Eve celebration will showcase Mediterranean decor and cuisine; 800/654-9300 or pebblebeach.com.
WHERE: Redondo Beach
BEACH FORECAST: High 67, low 46
PERFECT FOR: Active couples, families with kids of all ages
PACK: Binoculars for sea lion watching, deck shoes for sailing adventures
WHY GO: This laid-back local icon recently completed an $11 million renovation. Guest rooms and private patio luxury suites are available. Redondo Beach is a visual throwback to the 1960s, with vintage surf shops and the area’s famous horseshoe-shaped pier.
HOLIDAY FUN: Blue-and-silver decorations deck the halls; holiday dinners include turkey with all the trimmings; 800/468-4292 or hotelportofino.com.
WHERE: Los Cabos
BEACH FORECAST: High 70, low 43
PERFECT FOR: Casual couples, families with older children
PACK: Binoculars for spotting whales, strappy sandals
WHY GO: On one of the widest stretches of beach in the area, this five-star, all-inclusive destination offers oceanview suites with a patio or terrace or a swim-up suite. When you’re not at the spa or enjoying live entertainment, taste your way through seven on-site restaurants.
HOLIDAY FUN: Lighted gardens set the mood; each restaurant has holiday meals; 800/227-2356 or barcelo.com.
WHERE: Los Cabos
BEACH FORECAST: High 70, low 43
PERFECT FOR: Couples, workaholics who need pampering
PACK: A cute cover-up for afternoon tea, a shawl for cool outdoor dinners
WHY GO: This hacienda-style resort has oceanview and oceanfront suites overlooking the Sea of Cortez. In addition to the beach, you get four pools, tennis courts, and discounted greens fees at nearby golf courses. Stop in the Sueños del Mar Spa for holistic wellness treatments.
HOLIDAY FUN: A gigantic metal tree-shaped structure is decorated with angels, nochebuenas (poinsettias), and sparkling lights; 888/496-3879 or zoetryresorts.com/casadelmar
WHERE: Los Cabos
BEACH FORECAST: High 70, low 43
PERFECT FOR: Parents who need couple time, food lovers
PACK: A stylish swimsuit, flip-flops for the beach
WHY GO: This is Cabo’s newest luxury resort. The 22-acre private beach club, resort, and residential community is located on 1,600 feet of Medano Beach. Spacious Mediterranean-style units boast terraces, villas with private infinity pools, a beachfront restaurant, an on-site Kids Club, and spa.
HOLIDAY FUN: Scope out the holiday sand castle competition from December 27 through December 29; 866/300-0084 or haciendacabosanlucas.com.
BEACH FORECAST: High 79, low 68
PERFECT FOR: Families with young children, leisure-loving couples
PACK: Dressy attire for dinner, your favorite bathing suit for the poolside bar, hiking boots for exploring the rain forest
WHY GO: Princeville, one of the settings of the classic film South Pacific, impresses with its dramatic cliffside location on Kauai’s North Shore. When you’re not transfixed by the natural surroundings, there are golf courses, tennis courts, pools, and a healing Halelea Spa. Tempting dining options range from ultra-chic Kauai Grill to the bathing suit-friendly Nalu Kai Grill & Bar.
HOLIDAY FUN: Navigate Hanalei Bay with Santa aboard Kuupaaloa, the resort’s traditional Hawaiian sailing canoe, or take a gingerbread house-building class; 877/787-3447 or stregisprinceville.com.
BEACH FORECAST: High 83, low 77
PERFECT FOR: Foodies and active couples
PACK: Dancing shoes, an underwater camera, hydrating body lotion (it’s the dry season)
WHY GO: This sophisticated boutique resort looks like a red-roofed Mediterranean village dotted on the hillside along two miles of Grand Anse Beach’s white sand. Twenty-one villas feature large sitting rooms, full kitchens, and balconies. For complete pampering, visit the on-site Moi Spa for West Indian remedies (think organic and herbal treatments) and dally on the private beach for secluded lazing. Feeling active? Kayak the calm Caribbean Sea, go snorkeling to see octopi and seahorses, or sail on a resort-owned Hobie Cat.
HOLIDAY FUN: Tasteful decorations and delicious seasonal dishes infused with Caribbean zest are resort owner Peter de Savary’s holiday vision. On Christmas Day, guests gather around the tall fir tree, walk on the beach before opening presents, enjoy a five-course lunch, and listen to live entertainment at night. The fun continues on Boxing Day (a holiday celebrated by Brits on the 26th) with a traditional English breakfast; 866/720-2616 or mountcinnamongrenadahotel.com.
BEACH FORECAST: High 85, low 77
PERFECT FOR: Couples and active families
PACK: Your lucky golf ball, comfortable shoes for shopping, a light rain jacket (it’s the wet season)
WHY GO: The new Hyatt Regency resort is on the picturesque Dutch-owned island of Curaçao, about 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela. All rooms boast waterside terraces, and the grounds encompass three pools, a private sandy beach, and an 18-hole Pete Dye-designed golf course. Bonus: No translator necessary; locals often speak at least four languages, including English.
HOLIDAY FUN: Twinkling lights and evergreen garlands decorate the public spaces, from the open-air great room to the restaurant dining rooms. A seaside Santa makes an appearance on Christmas Eve, and guests can indulge in holiday-themed movies on the beach, live music, and lavishly festive meals; 800/554-9288 or curacao.hyatt.com.
BEACH FORECAST: High 80, low 70
PERFECT FOR: Adventurous travelers and romantic, outdoorsy couples
PACK: Closed-toe shoes, long shorts, and bug spray for ziplining; a lightweight jacket for the cooler evenings
WHY GO: The newly renovated St. George’s Caye Resort is a remote, secluded spot on a private island just off the Belize Barrier Reef. Stay in one of 12 garden, over-the-lagoon, or oceanview, palm-thatched cabanas with porches. Experience Zen-like calm in the spa, spend hours lounging by the pool, or get your eco-adventure in by scuba diving, ziplining through the rain forest, or exploring caves.
HOLIDAY FUN: Sea stars and shells hang on the holiday tree; a mouthwatering Belizean dinner featuring fresh fish, conch, rice, and beans is served throughout the holidays; 800/813-8498 or st-georgesresort.com.
WHERE: Harbour Island, Bahamas
BEACH FORECAST: High 79, low 64
PERFECT FOR: Music lovers, couples who want romance and privacy
PACK: Lightweight sweaters, a good book to read on the private beach
WHY GO: In the village of Dunmore, pastel homes, seaside boutiques, and art galleries lead to The Dunmore resort’s cottages. The newly revamped Bermuda-style bungalows are perched on a three-mile stretch of pink sand. Most cottages boast oceanview patios; some have Jacuzzi tubs. Use your golf cart to scout the island, or stick around the beach and snorkel for parrotfish.
HOLIDAY FUN: Sing Bahamian carols with the local choir amid decorations and festive lights. Stay through New Year’s Eve for Champagne, party favors, and a live band; 877/891-3100 or dunmorehotel.com.
WHERE: South Carolina
BEACH FORECAST: High 62, low 39
PERFECT FOR: People fine-tuning their golf swings, multigenerational families
PACK: A sporty suit for water fitness, a styling cover-up for dining by the pool or beach
WHY GO: Known for its family-friendly vibe, the 10,000-acre Kiawah Island is home to five golf courses, 28 tennis courts, 30-plus miles of bike paths, and more than 12 dining opportunities. Stay in the five-diamond-rated Sanctuary hotel, with 255 rooms and large suites overlooking the rolling surf and gardens. Large families also have the option of staying in a villa or a private home.
HOLIDAY FUN: Enjoy lavish decorations, a gingerbread village, and kids’ bedtime stories from Santa and Mrs. Claus, plus storybook tea, cookie decorating, and fireside family picnics; 800/576-1570 or kiawahresort.com.
WHERE: Outer Banks, Duck, North Carolina
BEACH FORECAST: High 55, low 40
PERFECT FOR: Couples looking to sneak away
PACK: Layers for the beach (including a heavy jacket)
WHY GO: The cozy rooms and suites at The Sanderling, the only resort on the Outer Banks, evoke feelings of relaxation with views of the dunes, Atlantic Ocean, and Currituck Sound. Accommodations occupy three separate buildings and are decorated with the owners’ collection of framed vintage Hermès scarves. Be sure to pause at the Blonde Onyx Bar for a glass of port before heading to The Left Bank—The Sanderling’s award-winning gourmet (sustainable and organic) venue—to try exotic shigoku oysters with organic cucumber and Champagne gelée. Ease any holiday stress with a pampering brown sugar scrub or soothing sea stone massage at The Sanderling Spa.
HOLIDAY FUN: On Christmas Eve, enjoy late-afternoon hot chocolate and cookie decorating, then a reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol before hanging up stockings and putting out milk and cookies for Santa; 800/701-4111 or thesanderling.com.
WHERE: Cape May, New Jersey
BEACH FORECAST: High 47, low 31
PERFECT FOR: Couples, big families, history buffs
PACK: Thick sweaters for sitting around the campfire, dancing shoes for the on-site nightclub
WHY GO: Set amid a fantasia of lights, this pastel yellow beachside icon has been welcoming visitors since 1816. Updated in soothing beach resort tones, rooms have modern amenities and views of town or the Atlantic.
HOLIDAY FUN: Starting at the end of November, majestic wooden soldiers invite guests to enter the glowing “enchanted forest” to see a 13-foot Douglas fir adorned with colorful lights. Concerts, caroling, and story time with Mrs. Claus lead up to the dramatic tree-lighting ceremony and Santa’s visit. Step out on the popular Christmas Candlelight House Tours of the town’s Victorian buildings, enjoy Christmas dinner in the on-site Blue Pig Tavern, and dress up for live music at the Glitter Ball on New Year’s Eve; 888/944-1816 or congresshall.com.
Published Dec/Jan 2011. Information correct at time of publication. Rates subject to availability; contact accommodations directly for final terms and conditions.