Lots of beach destinations for a holiday in the sun, plus a surprising No. 1.
We know, we know. It was just Halloween and we’re already talking about Christmas.
But it’s for good reason: The best time to book your Christmastime flights is about a month out, and it’s the sooner the better when it comes to reserving a hotel for the holidays.
And this is particularly true for the most popular locales of the season.
Looking at data from where Oyster.com users booked hotels for the week of Dec. 18-25 in 2015, we found the 10 most popular Christmas destinations. So get inspired — and then get booking.
- New York City
A high-density, vertical city with tourists and locals from everywhere on the planet, New York delivers — no matter who you are or what you’re celebrating. Sure, wintertime in the city gets chilly, but with the cold comes activities such as ice-skating, perusing holiday markets, attending shows and viewing the spectacular window displays at luxury department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue.
Many hotels also get dressed up for the season with festive decorations, and some offer special holiday deals and perks, such as discounted packages and free hot cocoa.
Holiday hotel pick: Lotte New York Palace, Midtown East
Though many associate Cancun with spring break, this top beach destination is incredibly popular come Christmastime, when travelers are looking to swap snow for sun. Its turquoise waters, beautiful stretches of sand and night-long parties are the main draw, but there’s a lot to do besides going to the beach.
Cancun is the gateway to the breathtaking Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum. Even for those planning to spend most of their time in a lounge chair, these centuries-old archaeological sites are well worth a visit.
Holiday hotel pick: Golden Parnassus Resort & Spa, Hotel Zone (adults only)
- Dominican Republic
There are numerous reasons why the Dominican Republic is one of the most popular wintertime getaways; chief among them are the beautiful natural landscape, great weather, convenient flights, reasonable (sometimes strikingly low) prices, and ubiquitous merengue beats and dancing. Rum, chocolate, coffee and amber jewelry, among other goodies, are for sale everywhere as you stroll through the colonial city of Santo Domingo, and Cabarete Beach at the northern end is famous for its kiteboarding and windsurfing.
Holiday hotel pick: Dreams La Romana, Bayahibe
Sensing a trend? Though the No. 1 destination of New York City may have the more traditional, wintry Christmas appeal, travelers like to treat themselves come the holidays with vacations down to the Caribbean, and Jamaica is a top island pick. Aside from the usual draws of fantastic reggae, beautiful beaches and delicious jerk chicken, the holidays in Jamaica also mean bustling grand markets packed with vendors and revelers enjoying rum, street dance performances and fireworks — and fresh fruitcake, which is a must.
Holiday hotel pick: The Caves, Negril
Offering some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and most stunning natural wonders, virtually endless recreational opportunities, year-round temperatures that hover around 80 degrees, and a well-organized tourism infrastructure that creates a mostly seamless vacation experience, Hawaii attracts some seven million tourists each year. What’s more, the best of Hawaii — its natural attractions — can be enjoyed at little cost, and the islands make for a popular Christmastime spot, particularly among those on the West Coast.
Holiday hotel pick: Grand Waikikian by Hilton Grand Vacations Club, Waikiki
- Las Vegas
The celebration of Christmas in Sin City may seem ironic, but the truth is that Las Vegas goes over the top for the holiday, so it’s particularly popular come winter. Plus, a dry desert — versus a wet, windy metropolis — sounds kind of nice, right? Aside from red, green and gold decorations everywhere, the city gets into the spirit with ice rinks, light displays, performances (such as “The Nutcracker”), and even a Great Santa Run, usually kicked off by an Elvis impersonator in a bedazzled red suit.
Holiday hotel pick: Bellagio, The Strip
All of the Eastern Caribbean islands are popular picks around Christmas, and Barbados is one of the most visited. At first glance, it might be easy to view the white and pink sand beaches and breathtaking coral reefs of Barbados as a clichéd Caribbean island experience, but there’s more to it than that. The friendly locals (known as Bajans) maintain many British customs from their colonial past, such as afternoon tea time and driving on the left.
The local cuisine is also a hybrid: Expect to see flying fish on every menu — it’s so culturally important it’s even on the local currency — and spicy Caribbean stews served next to English fare like potatoes. Frosted with “royal icing,” a holiday favorite is a fruit-and-spice cake called “great cake.”
Holiday hotel pick: Colony Club, Barbados
Miami’s a great place to spend the holidays — especially for those already visiting relatives in Florida. In fact, many come to Miami right before or after Christmas and stay through New Year’s Eve. Its couture shopping, A-list clubs, renowned art galleries and innovative cuisine draw some pretty famous faces year-round, with paparazzi (or Secret Service) frequently in tow. But beyond the glitz, Miami is a safe, impressively clean city with a touch of small-town charm in neighborhoods like South Beach, Coconut Grove and Coral Gables.
Holiday hotel pick: 1 Hotel South Beach, South Beach
- Los Cabos
Even though Los Cabos, located on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, has a reputation for being a destination for party-seeking college students, it’s got plenty of culture, charm and natural beauty as well. And winter is a nice time to come if you’re looking to avoid the spring break crowd. Visitors can enjoy the many golf courses, restaurants, bars and resorts. And plenty of beaches provide a wide variety of outdoor sport options, including fishing, snorkeling, wind surfing and scuba diving.
Holiday hotel pick: One&Only Palmilla, The Corridor
- Puerto Vallarta
Another sunny locale in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta is a picturesque beach destination with historic white-washed buildings and cerulean seas set against a rugged mountain skyline. The massive Banderas Bay alone offers more than 25 miles of seashore. With all this ocean comes a variety of water sports year-round, like scuba diving with manta rays off Islas Marietas, boating around Los Arcos’ reefs and parasailing off of the popular Playa Los Muertos.
Other popular daytime activities include shopping in Puerto Vallarta’s mazelike markets, which are great spots to find unique gifts for the holidays. One of the best, Rio Cuale Flea Market, has multiple vendors selling wood carvings, handmade jewelry, and glass and beadwork (among many other items).
Holiday hotel pick: Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, Nuevo Vallarta
Read the original story, The Most Popular Travel Destinations for Christmas, by Jane Reynolds, on Oyster.com.