Skip to Content

32 Warm Places to Visit in December in USA (Best Spots to Escape the Cold)

There’s nothing quite like a warm getaway to escape the cold, dreary weather. The USA has some pretty incredible vacation spots that are perfect for winter. Feel the sunshine at these amazing destinations: warm places to visit in December in the USA!

warm places to visit in December in USA view of colorful mountains and beach with lingering clouds
Views of #19 below😍

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, see my disclosures.

To find warmth in the USA in December, you’re pretty much heading south. From island vacations to coastal destinations and deserts, there’s so many beautiful and adventurous places to beat the cold.

This list of warm places to visit in USA in December includes spots you’ve definitely had on your radar – but perhaps more intriguing are the underrated places you haven’t heard of!

Whether you’re looking for a vacation destination to get outdoors and active instead of cooped up, a perfect location to spend your holiday break, or you’re just looking for the best beach to visit in December, you’ll find a bit of everything on this list!

Map of the best warm places to visit in USA in December

From Hawaii to Florida, there’s so many ideas on this list! Use this map as a visual of the destinations, then check out the photos and tips below on what to do in each location.

By the way, since I’m actively crossing places off my bucket list but haven’t been everywhere yet, I’ve asked some fellow travel writers to help with this list.

Let’s get to it!

Must-see video: best warm December vacation ideas

Warm places to visit in December in USA

Starting this list off with a bang! When all you want in December is warmth, these are the perfect vacation destinations for you!

1. St Croix, US Virgin Islands

view of city and bay of St Croix USVI best warm places to visit in December
Gorgeous St Croix in the United States Virgin Islands

Average temp: high 82, low 72

Wishing for warmer temps in December? Well St. Croix might just be the perfect spot for your winter getaway! The largest and least visited of the US Virgin Islands, St. Croix is an tropical oasis while escaping the cold.

Just at the start of the dry season, December is a perfect time to visit St. Croix. It’s a festive time of year with Christmas events and festivals across the island, including the Crucian Christmas Festival.

If you’re looking for the perfect beach in December on St. Croix, then Sandy Point Beach is it! Open on the weekends, it’s a National Wildlife Refuge, and one of the longest beaches in the US Virgin Islands. It’s closed during sea turtle nesting season, typically April through August, so December is the perfect time to visit!

For a true taste of the Caribbean, visit a rum distillery. St. Croix is home to Captain Morgan Rum Distillery and Cruzan Rum Distillery. Or, visit one of the 150+ sugar mill ruins on the island to soak in some history.

Other popular activities are hiking for those turquoise water views, taking a day trip to Buck Island National Wildlife Refuge and visiting Fort Christiansvaern.

There’s so many things to do in St. Croix, you won’t get bored! It’s one of the very best warm places to visit in USA in December, and one you’ll love!

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

2. Monterey, California (one of my favorite warm US destinations in December)

Big Sur view of rugged coastline with wild flowers beach blue water
Driving Big Sur, California near Monterey

Average temp: high 61, low 45

One of the ‘coolest’ warm places to visit in December in USA is Monterey, California. Known for it’s mild temperatures year-round, it’s a great spot for a winter getaway.

December is especially a great time to visit Monterey because the marine fog has mostly dissipated, versus the summer or early fall when it’s still lingering around. Crowds are fewer and prices are reduced, which is awesome for enjoying the area attractions.

Monterey is home to one of the United States best marine sanctuary, making it one of the best spots in the US for wildlife viewing! Take a kayak tour of the Monterey Bay or witness seals and sea otters in their native habitats at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

Spend a day – or more experiencing Big Sur and one of the best scenic drives in the US, just south of Monterey. There are so many things to do in Big Sur that you’ll find something you love! Chase waterfalls, relax on beaches or get active on a hiking trail with incredible views of the coast.

Be sure to visit Cannery Row where you’ll find shopping, dining and plenty of entertainment options for all ages. It’s home to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the best things to do with kids in Monterey.

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

3. San Juan, Puerto Rico

Warm places to visit in December in USA Best winter sun destinations Warm places to visit in USA in December Warmest place in US in December view of Puerto Rico ruins ocean and city in distance
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Average temp: high 85, low 67

San Juan is a must on any Puerto Rico itinerary, no matter when you vacation, but December is a particularly wonderful time to visit. Hurricane season is officially over, and daytime temperatures are in the low 80s, making is a great time to explore and hit area beaches.

The holidays are celebrated with verve all through the month. Old San Juan, the city’s historic district, is decked up in holiday lights and nativity scenes.

Enjoy Puerto Rican eggnog, an alcoholic concoction made with rum, coconut milk, and sweet spices. You’ll also find live music in the streets, and, leading into Christmas, folks singing Christmas carols at night. Very festive!

December is also perfect for sightseeing. Be sure to visit the historic forts of Old San Juan, and walk the colorful alleys to snap photos of the beautiful facades. 

The balmy weather makes December a great time to spend time of the many idyllic beaches in San Juan and just beyond, from the beaches of Isla Verde to Luquillo. For more beach time, plan on a day trip to Culebra Puerto Rico!

It’s also a great time to visit El Yunque, the tropical rainforest near San Juan. Hike amidst lush vegetation and waterfalls and take in the views from the observation tower. 

Hotel El Convento is a great place to stay in Old San Juan! It’s housed in a beautiful historic building. 

Recommended by Dhara of It’s Not About the Miles

4. Maui, Hawaii

maui coastline rocky shore against ocean cliffside

Average temp: high 80, low 66

If you’re looking for the best winter sun destinations, look no further than Maui. Home to incredible scenery like gorgeous beaches, tropical rainforests with beautiful waterfalls and epic adventures, Maui is an awesome place to visit!

It’s especially great in December because the rainy season hasn’t hit yet and the crowds of summer are gone, making it more affordable and more enjoyable. If you go in the first 2 weeks of December, you’ll avoid the holiday pricing.

Be sure to relax on Maui’s beautiful beaches! For year-round snorkeling fun, Black Rock at Kaanapali Beach is a must. Don’t forget your snorkel gear so you can go when you want! Or, watch the surfers at D.T. Fleming Beach on the North Shore.

If you’re looking for adventure, hike the Waihee Ridge Trail. You’ll get epic views of the valley and coast. Just be sure to wear hiking shoes for this one – the trail can get muddy after it rains.

And if you’re up for a road trip, driving the popular Road to Hana is an experience you’ll never forget. Be sure to make it to Wai’ānapanapa State Park and see the black sand beach (reservations required).

For a more remote drive, consider the Kahekili Highway. This one-lane road offers stunning views and adventure like hiking, waterfalls and more.

Maui is an ideal destination for the best beaches in December, and one you’ll definitely want to consider!

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

5. St. George, Utah

large canyon green valley orange rocks at sunset
Snow Canyon State Park, St. George

Average temp: high 56, low 31

One of the most unique spots on this list of warm places to visit in USA in December is St. George, Utah. Nestled on the southwest corner of the state, it’s just minutes away from Arizona and Nevada.

A great launching spot for a Utah national parks road trip, St. George is located about an hour west of Zion National Park. You could certainly take a day trip to Zion, but it may have a bit of snow in December.

There’s so many things to do in St. George. The downtown is rich in history, with museums and parks to learn about the region in years – and centuries past. From the dinosaurs to the Paiute natives and then finally settled by Mormons in the 1800’s.

Of course there’s plenty of outdoor activities in St. George – even in December! Snow Canyon State Park is just 15 minutes north of town, and worth the visit. With 20 miles of hiking trails through petrified dunes, lava tubes and of course, stunning overlooks, it’s a hiker’s dream.

For more adventure, consider a sunrise hot air balloon ride near the city. Or, rent a sled and sandbar at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, a little over an hour south of town.

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

6. Siesta Key, Florida (another favorite on this list of warm places to visit in December in USA)

view of yellow lifeguard stand with teal ocean in distance in Florida
The stunning Siesta Key Beach, Florida 😍

Average temp: high 74, low 55

Ranked as one of the best beaches in the USA over and over again, Siesta Key is an amazing getaway. Although high’s in the mid 70’s may not seem like great swimming weather, it still means you can enjoy this beachy destination.

You’ll get more of the beach to yourself in December, which is one of the perks of traveling to Siesta Key in winter. Fly a kite or build a sandcastle. Take beach chairs or a lightweight beach towel and just enjoy the sound of the gentle waves hitting the shore.

And when you need a break from the beach (if that’s even a thing😉), you can head into Siesta Key Village where you’ll find the cutest town square. With boutique shops and restaurants, there’s plenty to do here, too. Be sure to try Meaney’s Mini Donuts & Coffee House (the cinnamon ones are the best).

With so many things to do in Siesta Key, there’s truly something for everyone! You’ll love this beach town, as it’s one of the best warm places to visit in the USA in December.

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

7. Temecula, California

best winter sun destinations Temecula winery with hills in background
Southern California wineries in Temecula, California

Average temp: high 67, low 47

If you are ready to escape the cold, snowy weather for somewhere warmer this December, look no further than Temecula, California. Located in Southern California, just an hour’s drive from San Diego, this city has plenty to do – including wine tasting, shopping, and more! 

In December, Temecula’s high temperature is just shy of 70°F, with only 2 days of precipitation, so you can expect warm, sunny days. And there’s no better way to enjoy the beautiful weather than with a visit to Temecula Valley Wine Country!

Temecula is home to 50+ local wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms. Some of the best wineries in Temecula include Wilson Creek Winery, Leoness Cellars, and Baily Vineyard & Winery. 

December is a fabulous time to visit Temecula because of the fun holiday events you can attend, like the Temecula Chilled Holiday Market and Santa’s Electric Light Parade in Old Town Temecula. Despite the warm weather, you can even ice skate at the Peltzer Ice Skating Rink or Temecula on Ice during the holidays. 

Old Town Temecula is a fantastic location to base your trip if you want to walk around and soak up the sunshine, as it’s one of the best winter sun destinations in the US.

You can eat at some of the best restaurants in Old Town Temecula, like The Goat & Vine or 1909 Temecula, or you can shop at the dozens of quaint boutiques selling unique items, like wine-barrel furniture, olive oils and more. 

Carter Estate Winery and Resort is the perfect place to stay for your warm-weather getaway to Temecula, CA. Located on a gorgeous vineyard, this resort allows you to wake up in the heart of wine country every morning! 

Recommended by Brittany of Travel By Brit

8. South Padre Island, Texas

sunset on the beach with waves and two birds
Sunset on South Padre Island, Texas

Average temp: high 72, low 57

If you’re looking for an amazing warm destination to visit in December in the USA, then South Padre Island is the perfect destination for you. 

After all, temperatures are usually around 72 degrees during the day and then around 57 degrees in the evening throughout the month of December.

Plus, the weather here is usually pretty dry, making it the perfect place to relax, take a walk through the Padre Island National Seashore, and enjoy the single biggest undeveloped barrier island in the world. 
Additionally, December is off-season. Therfore, crowds will be minimal and hotel prices will be quite reasonable. 

As a result, you can quietly enjoy some of the best things to do in South Padre Island, like take some time to explore the historic Port Isabel Lighthouse from 1852. In fact, it’s the only lighthouse on the coast of Texas that is open to visitors and makes for a fun place to visit. 

Then, learn about local wildlife at the Sea Turtle Conservation Center. In fact, this amazing wildlife rescue center helps upwards of 100 turtles per year and is an ideal place to learn all about these fascinating creatures. 

You can also visit the South Padre island Birding Center and admire local populations of Buff-bellied hummingbirds, White Ibis, and Red-winged Blackbirds as you stroll along the picturesque boardwalk here. 

Then, pamper yourself at the Sapphire Spa before spending the night at the swank Hilton Garden Inn South Padre Island to create the ultimate getaway. South Padre Island is one of the best warm places to visit in USA in December.

Recommended by Victoria of Texas Travel 365

Warm places to visit in December in USA, continued

Can you believe this list?! Just 25% through it and there’s so many more adventures to have. Let’s keep going!

9. New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans storefront brightly colored with holiday decorations
New Orleans in December

Average temp: high 65, low 46

If you’re looking for a place to escape winter’s frigid clutches and have a little fun in December, there is no better place than New Orleans! While the weather in New Orleans can be oppressive at certain times of the year, December is ideal as it averages in the 60s – 70s which is perfect for sightseeing!

You might think The Big Easy is only a party town during Mardi Gras – wrong! December ushers in plenty of its own one-of-a-kind holiday fun.

The beginning of December kicks off with the Krewe of Jingle – a downtown holiday parade with special appearances from Mr. and Mrs. Clause. New Orleans knows how to host a parade, so this is one you should make sure you don’t miss!

In the middle of December, head to historic Lafayette Square to enjoy the LUNA Fête festival. Over a long weekend, the city celebrates with awe-inspiring light shows; it generally brings in over 100,000 attendees!

In addition to the holiday fun, another great way to get to know the city is on a walking tour. This is an especially great activity if this is your first time visiting New Orleans — there are a range of tour options, from learning about Voodoo to exploring the chic Garden District.

New Orleans is a fun city and one of the best warm places to visit in December.

Recommended by Rebecca from Veggies Abroad

10. Oahu, Hawaii (a destination full of the best beaches in December)

warm places to visit in USA in December view of teal water beach along hillside
Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, Oahu

Average temp: high 82, low 67

When you think of a warm December getaway, Oahu may be one of the first destinations to come to mind. And with its stunning white sand beaches, epic mountains, and abundant wildlife, it’s no surprise this is one of the most popular destinations, come December. 

Thanks to its location close to the equator, Oahu enjoys temperatures in the low 80s in December, although you may experience a rain shower or two. These showers usually only last for a few hours and should not be too much of a hindrance on your outdoor adventures. 

Many visitors primarily focus their explorations of the island to Honolulu, but there’s so much else to see and do here. For example, one of the best things to do in Oahu in December is to watch the professional surfers take on the big waves of the North Shore. Check out the Banzai Pipeline or Waimea Bay Beach Park, which can see waves up to 25 feet in height! 

While snorkeling along the North Shore is probably not advisable in December, given the aforementioned monster waves, you can still check out some of the best snorkeling in Oahu by heading to Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve, just 10 minutes east of Honolulu.

Here, the waters stay calm year round, where you can swim with and observe the 400 species of fish, turtles and other marine life. Bring your own snorkel gear to hit the water when and where you want while on Oahu!

For a conveniently located home base during your stay, consider The Modern Honolulu, just steps away from Waikiki Beach, both a family-friendly and adults only pool and an excellent onsite restaurant. 

Oahu is one of the best winter sun destinations in the US, and one you won’t want to miss!

Recommended by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

11. Disney World, Orlando, Florida

warm us destinations in December teapot with holiday flowers and dinner in distance
Winter decorations in Orlando

Average temp: high 75, low 55

The happiest place on Earth, aka Disney World, is an easy pick for any families out there looking for iconic warm places to visit in December in USA. 

After all, Disney World comes alive at this time of year with festive holiday decor and fun seasonal events like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. 

Plus, the weather at Disney in December is super comfortable throughout the month since the average high is 74 F and the average daily low is 56 F. 

However, to avoid insane crowds, try to time your visit for the first week of December. This is when kids are still in the school and when the park is less crowded. 

You should also try and buy Park Hoppers so that you can avoid more crowded parks on an as needed basis. 

Additionally, try and visit Magic Kingdom on Party Days and avoid parks with extra Magic Hours to get the most out of your visit. 

Then, make time to enjoy seasonal activities like Tony’s Most Merriest Town Square Party (an add-on experiences for extra fees), Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Dessert Party at Tomorrowland Terrace or Plaza Garden Viewing (another add-on event), A Frozen Holiday Wish (happens nightly all month long) and more. 

You can also attend the International Festival of the Holidays at Epcot before spending the night at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. It’s probably the best Deluxe resort in Disneyworld and features an island theme that is accentuated by leis that are presented to you as you walk in the door.

Recommended by Victoria of Disney Trippers

12. Augusta, Georgia

warm places to visit in USA in December view of city with boats and river
View of the Augusta Riverwalk in Augusta, Georgia

Average temp: high 60, low 41

One of the most underrated spots on this list of warm places to visit in USA in December is Augusta, Georgia. A southern city full of charm, Augusta is known for outdoor recreation, historical sites and hist vibrant restaurant scene.

Tour downtown finding fun murals, shopping and dining. A foodie’s delight, Augusta is known for outdoor patios, which you’ll find especially inviting in the warm sun during mid-day. Bring layers for the evenings as it gets chilly!

One of Augusta’s top attractions is the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park. Walk the trails and soak in the peaceful nature all around you. Or, get a little more active on the 32 miles of biking trails through the Forks Area Trail System.

And you can’t visit Augusta without a stroll along the Augusta Riverwalk. It’s a fun, brick trail along the Savannah River! If traveling with kids, they’ll love the playground on the Riverwalk.

During December, the city has holiday festivals and markets. Enjoy historic holiday tours where you can visit homes from the 1800’s, including the childhood home of President Woodrow.

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

13. San Diego, California (perfect for this list of warm places to visit in December in USA)

view of California coast from above palm trees rocky shore and buildings
Watching for Sea Lions in La Jolla, California

Average temp: high 66, low 49

San Diego is an incredible place to visit during December. With incredible weather and tons of fabulous attractions, you can’t go wrong with visiting this Southern California City! 

You can expect temperatures around the high 60’s during the day and in the 40’s at night. Some of the best things to add to your San Diego itinerary in December include wandering through the famous Balboa Park.

Balboa Park is comprised of 1,200 acres. You can explore beautiful gardens and dozens of museums including The San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego Air and Space Museum, Museum of Us, San Diego Natural History Museum and more! Additionally, the famous San Diego Zoo is also located in Balboa Park.

The Old Town San Diego Historic State Park is another must-visit. Here you can indulge in amazing food while experiencing San Diego’s Spanish roots and history.

A special experience in San Diego during December is whale watching. Around 20,000 Grey Whales start migrating in mid-December. Seals also start giving birth around mid-December at the La Jolla Caves. You will likely also be able to see the Sea Lions in La Jolla too!

If you are in search of some additional beach time, don’t forget to check out Coronado Island. Walk along the beach, enjoy the many eateries, and visit the famous Hotel Del Coronado.

Recommended by Sam of Find Love and Travel

14. Sedona, Arizona

mountains of Sedona brightly colored red with town below
Sedona, AZ in December😍

verage temp: high 60, low 34

Sedona is the perfect sunny escape in December! Excellent for various travel styles, there’s hiking and outdoor adventures, as well as low-key things to do in town. With mild temperatures and minimal crowds, December is a great time to visit Sedona.

Take the Sedona Trolley around town to get acquainted without the worry of driving or traffic. Visit the Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village for just that – shopping.

Go hiking or horseback riding at Cathedral Rock or Oak Creek Canyon. If you’re traveling with kids, they’ll love jumping around the unique landscape at Slide Rock State Park.

Perhaps the most popular hiking trail in the area is Devil’s Bridge Trail. At 3.9 miles and rated as moderate, this trail is perfect for an afternoon hike in December! Bring your grippy hiking shoes for this one, as the rock stairs leading up to the bridge can get pretty slick.

For the best views of the incredible landscape in Sedona, head up to Airport Mesa. There’s a parking lot at the overlook so it doesn’t require much hiking at all. It’s also a great spot for stargazing!

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

15. Culebra, Puerto Rico (perfect for visiting the best beaches in December)

warm places to visit in December in USA view of white sand beach waves and palm trees
Flamenco Beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico🤩

Average temp: high 85, low 74

Quite possibly the warmest place in the US in December, Culebra Puerto Rico is an amazing destination you’ll love. Puerto Rico was previously mentioned above, but Culebra is so spectacular it deserves it’s own spot.

Culebra Puerto Rico is located just 18 miles off the eastern side of Mainland Puerto Rico. Getting to Culebra requires a ferry ride or small plane, but it’s so worth it!

Home to one of the most incredible beaches in the Caribbean, Flamenco Beach Puerto Rico is one of the best beaches you’ll ever see, and a phenomenal place to visit for the best beaches in December.

This crescent-shaped beach sits along rolling hills and its undeveloped land makes it seem from a fairytale. With plenty of parking and amenities, you’ll want to spend a day – or more – at Flamenco Beach.

Spend some time in with the sea turtles while snorkeling at Tamarindo Beach. Or, for some solitude, visit the lesser-known Zoni Beach. And when you’re hungry, be sure to head downtown to grab a bite.

For couples traveling, consider the cozy cottages with phenomenal views – Aleli Cottages. For more space, try the Oceania Villas.

You’ll fall in love with Culebra. It’s definitely one of the best on this list of warm places to visit in December in USA!

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

16. Florida Keys

warm US destinations in December to visit view of green ocean water white sand beach and sand dunes
Perdido Key Beach, Florida

Average temp: high 75, low 70

The snow is falling, the temperatures keep dropping and you’re ready to escape to a tropical paradise. One of the best warm places to visit in December is the Florida Keys!

Stretching approximately 120 miles from Key Largo to the southernmost point in the continental USA (Key West), the Florida Keys are the perfect getaway if you are looking for a mix of adventure and relaxation. With average December temperatures in the high 70’s, you’ll never want to leave! 

Your best and most affordable option would be to fly into Miami and rent a car to make the Miami to Key West road trip. From here, you can take your time exploring each island and all they have to offer. You’ll want to spend at least one night in Key Largo, Islamorada and Key West. 

The list of things to do in the Florida Keys is never-ending. Depending on how much time you have, you will have to decide between scuba diving in John Pennekamp State Park, deep sea fishing at Robbie’s, parasailing over the sparkling blue water or simply relaxing on the beach. 

After your road trip of adventures, you’ll definitely want to stay in Key West at Tiki Suites. There are 2 suites located in the middle of the ocean! You’ll have nothing but the ocean surrounding you as you relax and fall asleep to the sound of the waves. A truly once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Recommended by Jordan of The Homebody Tourist

Best winter sun destinations

Okay – let’s catch a breath here. We’re 1/2 way done. A few of my personal favorites are coming up next!

More winter sunshine ahead…

17. St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

view of st Thomas USVI boats in harbor with island in distance
Stunning St Thomas, USVI😍

Average temp: high 84, low 76

The US Virgin Islands are a great place to visit in December for a number of reasons, especially St. Thomas. First, the weather is absolutely beautiful during this time of year.

The average high temperature is about 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and the average low is only about 75 degrees. This makes it the perfect time of year to enjoy all that the islands have to offer, including the beaches, without having to deal with crowds of people.

The beaches on St. Thomas are calm and perfect for swimming, and there are plenty of water sports activities to keep everyone entertained. Magen’s Bay is the most popular beach on the island and is great for families.

Coki Beach and Sapphire Beach are also a lot of fun! Sapphire Beach, especially is a great place to base during your stay because Sapphire Beach Resort offers discounts on snorkeling equipment rental to its guests. There are also several pools and a restaurant there, in case you don’t feel like going elsewhere to eat.

December is also a great time to visit St. Thomas and the US Virgin Islands because it’s one of the quieter times of the year.

While the islands do see a significant number of tourists during the winter months, it’s nothing compared to the summer crowds. This means that you’ll be able to enjoy all that the US Virgin Islands have to offer without having to worry about fighting for space on the beach or in restaurants.

Recommended by Brodi of Our Offbeat Life

18. Santa Barbara, California

tall palm trees along beach with orange and pink sunset
Sunset at East Beach, Santa Barbara😍

Average temp: high 65, low 45

Known for its incredible Spanish architecture, wineries, expansive beaches and moderate temperatures, Santa Barbara is always a good idea. Deserving on this list of warm places to visit in December in USA, Santa Barbara offers sunshine to those wishing to escape grey skies or snow elsewhere.

Dive into culture, history and art in Santa Barbara. See a performance at the Lobero Theater, visit the Old Mission Santa Barbara, get lost in the beauty of Santa Barbara Museum of Art or shop and dine on State Street.

Of course, you’ll want to visit the beach while you’re at the California Coast! Santa Barbara is one of the best stops on a Pacific Coast Highway vacation from San Francisco to San Diego road trip. The area’s best beaches along the way are East Beach, Hendry’s Beach and Goleta Beach Park.

December is a fabulous time to visit Santa Barbara, as the city is full of events and festivities. Watch the boat parade through the harbor at Stearns Wharf. Shop for someone special at the city’s annual Folk and Tribal Arts Marketplace.

And don’t forget about New Year’s Eve in Santa Barbara! For a night to remember, try a champagne cruise, catch a drag show, do a bar crawl or so much more. It’s a great way to celebrate the end of the year!

Recommended by Nikki of She Saves She Travels

19. Kauai, Hawaii (another favorite on this list of best warm places to visit in December in USA)

warm places to visit in December in USA view of colorful mountains and beach with lingering clouds
NaPali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

Average temp: high 82, low 65

You gotta go to Kauai! It’s not only one of the best warm places to visit in December in USA, it’s also an incredible destination for adventure and relaxation! Known as ‘the garden isle’ for its lush vegetation and epic waterfalls, it has stunning coastlines unlike any other spot on this list – or in the world.

You’ll want to see the Waimea Canyon, AKA the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Explore it’s epic views from the inside by hiking the Waimea Canyon Trail. Right down the road is the Kalalau Lookout in Koke’e State Park, to see the stunning NaPali Coast.

For sunshine in December, you’ll want to stay in the Poipu area to get the least amount of rain. Popular for awesome beaches like Poipu Beach or Shipwreck Beach, the waves can be the smallest in the winter, which is perfect for a warm getaway to the beach.

Kauai is home to some amazing food too. On the North Shore, try Kalypso Island Bar & Grill in Hanalei. You’ve gotta try the acai bowls at Java Kai in Kapaa, or the famous Hula Pie at Keoki’s Paradise in Koloa. Some of the best places to eat in Kauai won’t break the bank, either, like Da Crack Mexican Grinds.

Early December is a fabulous time to visit Kauai as it’s the shoulder season. The pricing is lower than late December over the holiday, and the crowds are much fewer, meaning you’ll have less waiting at restaurants and attractions.

Recommended by Nikki of She Saves She Travels

20. Bisbee, Arizona

city of bisbee arizona buildings with mountains in sunlight
View of Bisbee, Arizona

Average temp: high 56, low 31

The quaint, little town of Bisbee, AZ is attracting winter travelers from all over the world due to its stunning beauty and quirky vibe.

Why visit Bisbee in December? It is truly the best month, boasting highs in the mid-50s and lows in the low-30s. Being an inherently dry climate, you can expect little to no precipitation this time of year. Instead, you’ll find clear skies, colorful sunsets and more stars than you can imagine. 

In visiting Bisbee you can expect a true getaway. The town is small, with just over 5,000 residents. However, what it lacks in population, it makes up for in charm.

A haven for artists and other creative types, the town is full of murals, quirky antique shops, charming cafes and relaxed breweries. Make sure to spend some time shopping in downtown, visiting the nearby ghost town of Lowell and viewing the Lavender Pit, which is an open copper mine located just outside of town.

If you’re lucky enough to spend some time road tripping in the area, you should also check out Saguaro National Park and Chiricahua National Monument, which are both less than 2 hours away. 

You can’t go wrong with booking a boutique hotel in the main part of town. If you are looking to get close to the action, try the Copper Queen Hotel. If you would like something a little bit quieter, the School House Inn Bed & Breakfast may be more your speed.

Either way, you are sure to enjoy a picturesque and relaxing stay in the heart of the American Southwest, one of the best warm places to visit in December!

Recommended by Michele of Slow Traveling Cat

21. Anna Maria Island, Florida (another one of my favorites for warm places to visit in USA in December)

florida beach with white sand teal water
Manatee Beach, Anna Maria Island

Average temp: high 74, low 55

It’s small-town charm and crisp, white beaches will draw you in. Anna Maria Island is definitely one of the most fabulous (and underrated) warm places to visit in USA in December!

Located just an hour west of Sarasota, this island is the picturesque Florida vacation destination. Lacking chain hotels or restaurants, you’ll find boutique shops, fun places to eat and awesome beaches.

Check out the Anna Maria Pier for unique views of the island and local waters. If you’re lucky, one of the local fevers (groups) of sting rays will be lurking in the waters below! Hunt for seashells at Coquina Beach, hang out the beach at Bean Point or find some adrenaline in a parasailing adventure.

Celebrate the holidays in Anna Maria Island by visiting the cute Bridge Street, covered in twinkling lights. Or catch one of the island’s boat parades, where locals and tour companies decorate their boats with holiday lights and show them off during a water parade.

December is a special time on Anna Maria Island, and with so many unique things to do on Anna Maria Island, you won’t get bored!

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

22. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

warm places to visit in December in USA view of beach from above at sunset with city skyline bridge and ferris wheel
Myrtle Beach at sunset

Average temp: high 60, low 41

When planning a summer vacation, Myrtle Beach might come to mind, but have you ever considered retreating to beautiful South Carolina in December? This southern beach town is the perfect retreat if you’re trying to escape the cold and enjoy some warmer weather.

In December, Myrtle Beach offers weather in the 60s with mostly sunny days. Visiting this month means very little crowds, cheaper room rates at places like the Marriott Myrtle Beach Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes.

One of the locals’ favorite things to do in Myrtle Beach is to visit Brookgreen Gardens, located just 30 minutes outside of downtown. The gardens are an amazing destination year round, but from the end of November to the beginning of January, they hold the Nights of a Thousand Candles. The whole property is lit with over a million lights and almost 3,000 hand-lit candles. You can listen to holiday music, admire the lights and drink some hot apple cider, getting in the holiday spirit.

Spend another evening at one of Myrtle Beach’s famous theaters for a holiday themed show! Pirates Voyage, The Alabama Theater and The Carolina Opry all hold special holiday themed shows during December and are so much fun for all ages.

The daytimes will be warm enough to walk on the beach, eat fresh seafood outside on the boardwalk and ride the massive Ferris Wheel. Try the Sea Captain’s House or River City Cafe for some of the best food with ocean views!

Recommended by Tori of Tori Pines Travels

23. Joshua Tree National Park, California

smooth tan rocks sand and Joshua Tree blue sky
Joshua Tree National Park

Average temp: high 61, low 37

Joshua Tree is an incredible place to visit in December for warm weather and sunshine! The desert landscape means that unlike most national parks in the US, summers are too hot for outdoor adventures. 

December brings perfect weather for hiking in Joshua Tree, as daytime temperatures are comfortable, usually in the high 50s or low 60s. It does get chilly at night, so be prepared with some layers – especially if you’re camping, or if you plan to be out in the mornings or evenings!

December is also less crowded than spring or fall, when the park is most popular – but, starting your day early or staying in the park close to sunset will be the best way to avoid crowds. Some of the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park include the Hidden Valley Nature Trail, Ryan Mountain and the Lost Palms Oasis Trail.

Some other great things to do in the park include stargazing, off-roading and wildlife viewing. You can see lizards, snakes, tortoises, birds, and if you’re lucky, maybe some big horn sheep, foxes and bobcats!

When you’re in Joshua Tree, you can camp in the park, check out some of the quirky vacation rentals nearby, or stay at the Joshua Tree Inn.

Recommended by Anna of Anna Tee

24. San Antonio, Texas

river at dusk with restaurant brick sidewalk and trees
San Antonio River Walk

Average temp: high 64, low 40

If you’re looking for the best warm places to visit in December, then San Antonio, Texas should be on your radar! With sunshine and temperatures in the 60’s during the day, you’ll be exploring this fun city in warm weather, a nice escape from the cold.

The San Antonio River Walk is the shining star of this destination, but it offers visitors so much more!

Explore The Alamo – the location of the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution in 1863 (timed ticket entry required). For more history and art, visit the San Antonio Museum of Art, Brisco Western Art Museum or the McNay Art Museum.

If you’re looking for a family getaway during December, you’ll want to hit up Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Rides for kids and adults of all ages, it’s a thrilling way to enjoy your time in San Antonio.

And of course, you can’t go to San Antonio without experiencing the River Walk. There’s so much to do and see in the area. From street vendors and shops to restaurants and cool architecture, you can spend a whole day (or more) exploring the area.

A warm getaway, San Antonio just might be the perfect December getaway!

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

More warm places to visit in USA in December

From the best beaches in December to adventurous destinations off the beaten path, let’s round out this list with more incredible destinations!

25. Page, Arizona

curvy orange rocks leading upward to the sky
Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona

Average temp: high 45, low 30

If you’re looking to spend time in the American southwest, Page, Arizona is one of the best places to visit. It’s home to some of the most popular places to visit in Arizona including Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. December is a great time to visit because the weather is beautiful. 

In the month of December, the days are warmer and the night cold so it’s a good idea to make sure you bring layers. There is little to no rain here during the month of December. These are great temperatures for hiking and going on outdoor adventures in the area. 

There are lots of great places to stay in Page. If you’re looking for a unique experience, try glamping with Under Canvas. For a traditional hotel stay, consider Country Inn & Suites by Radisson or the Hyatt Place Page Lake Powell.

One of the best things to do in Page is tour Antelope Canyon. This beautiful slot canyon is one of the most famous in the country, and it’s an amazing experience to walk through. It’s gorgeous!

December is a popular time to tour Antelope Canyon, so you’ll want to make your reservations well in advance. After your tour of Antelope Canyon, be sure to leave some time to walk out to the Horseshoe Bend Overlook.

There are lots of other fun destinations in this area, including Las Vegas, Southern Utah and Sedona. Page, AZ is a great destination to include if you’re going on a road trip through this area, and one of the best warm places to visit in December in USA.

Recommended by Candice of CS Ginger

26. Clearwater Beach, Florida

sunset behind pier on ocean
Sunset at the Pier at Clearwater Beach, FL

Average temp: high 70, low 60

Clearwater Beach is one of the best winter sun destinations! Located just 25 miles west of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast, it’s one of the most popular beaches in the country.

Temperatures consistently stay between 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter, but the crowds are significantly less during this time of year. This makes it the perfect time to be able to relax in comfort without having to fight for a free spot on the sand or get overheated by the scorching summer sun. 

Unlike the majority of beaches on mainland USA, Clearwater Beach has powder white sand and turquoise blue water. It’s absolutely beautiful, and the sunsets on this beach are even prettier!

There’s even an entire nightly festival that was created just to celebrate the sunsets! It’s called the Sunsets at Pier 60 Festival, and it starts 2 hours before sunset every evening. When deciding where to stay in Clearwater Beach, a hotel right by the pier is your best pick to keep you close to the action. Opal Sands is a top-rated choice!

Boat tours are another popular activity during December. There are dolphin-spotting cruises and even pirate cruises for kids.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium also celebrates the holiday season. When you visit during December, you can see Christmas lights, festive habitats and even tank divers dressed up as Santa and his helpers.

Definitely consider Clearwater Beach for your next warm weather vacation in the US in December!

Recommended by Jillian of Adventure Dragon

27. Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas strip buildings at sunset
Best warm places to visit in December: Las Vegas

Average temp: high 60, low 27

You know what’s awesome? Las Vegas in winter, as opposed to summertime. 🤣 Las Vegas deserves a spot on this list because of its entertainment and food scene. Not to mention the outdoor adventures that are perfect during December!

Perfect for a long weekend away in December, Las Vegas is home to countless entertainment opportunities. Get concert or show tickets and you’ll be sure to see top-notch performances!

Of course there’s gambling and clubs, but also plenty of things to do that don’t include being on The Strip your entire trip. For some quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of the city lights, check out Red Rock Canyon scenic drive. A timed entry reservation is required in December. Bring your hiking shoes and hit the trails!

Or enjoy one of the many day trips from Las Vegas. Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam are cool to see in person. And if you’re really up for some cool sights, be sure to do a Las Vegas to Zion National Park day trip for incredible canyon views!

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

28. Gulf Shores, Alabama (must-see for warm places to visit in USA in December)

Gulf State Park beach with white sand blue water and pier in distance
Beach at Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores, AL

Average temp: high 66, low 47

Okay, if you’re looking for a family-friendly getaway to a warm winter sun destination, then Gulf Shores, Alabama is for you! Offering mild temperatures year-round and some of the best beaches on the Gulf Coast, you’ll fall in love with Gulf Shores and its sister city, Orange Beach.

One of the most fun things to do in December in Gulf Shores is a day at The Track. With go karts, mini golf, roller coaster and kiddie rides and an arcade, you could literally get lost here!

Head over to The Wharf at Orange Beach for some serious entertainment and dining. Take a Ferris wheel ride, enjoy some laser tag, grab ice cream or enjoy some water-front dining.

In December, The Wharf hosts a variety of winter and holiday festivities including an ice skating rink, horse-drawn carriage rides under twinkling lights and shopping events.

Don’t forget to enjoy some activities on the Gulf! Go for a dolphin cruise, build a sand castle, rent jet skis or go sand crab hunting at Gulf State Park.

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

29. Big Island, Hawaii (one of the best winter sun destinations)

big island best warm places to visit in December view of statues on beach
Puuhonua o Honaunau, Big Island, Hawaii

Average temp: high 82, low 67

One of the best warm US destinations in December is the Big Island of Hawaii. People can escape the chilly weather on the Mainland and enjoy a tropical island without needing a passport.

If you’re visiting the Big Island during the holidays, you can enjoy many island-style decorations and community events.

Another fun Big Island activity is stargazing at Mauna Kea. Winter is a great time to do this because the sun sets a bit earlier than in the other seasons, so you won’t have to stay up as late to see the dazzling stars.

December is also whale watching season in Hawaii. It’s best to see them on a whale watching tour.

One of the unique things to do on the Big Island is swimming with manta rays. Luckily, these manta ray tours run throughout the winter so you can participate in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The top attraction on the Big Island is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This is the only place to see lava in Hawaii. It’s important to check conditions before your trip to see if and where the lava is flowing.

The weather on Kona in December is typically in the low 80s during the day and the upper 60s at night. The Hilo side of the island is usually rainier than the Kona side.

And you should pack warm layers if visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or Mauna Kea. There is often snow at the summit of Mauna Kea!

A few great places to stay on the Big Island are the Royal Kona Resort in Kona and the Grand Naniloa Hotel in Hilo.

Recommended by Marcie of Hawaii Travel Spot

30. Catalina Island, California

view of town along bay with mountains and boats
Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, California

Average temp: high 59, low 43

Off the coast of Southern California is Santa Catalina Island, and it definitely deserves a spot on this list of warm places to visit in December in the US. Just an hour ferry ride from Long Beach, getting to Catalina Island is convenient from the LA area.

Visit Catalina Island in early December to enjoy off-season pricing and fewer crowds than later in the month. With temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s, pack layers and enjoy the sunshine on the island!

Find adventure on the water with kayaking, parasailing or a submarine tour. Enjoy the island views by soaring through the air on a zipline or hiking. Try the Avalon Bay Trail with water views, or for more of a challenge, hike the Hermit Gulch Trail.

Downtown Avalon is such a charming harbor town. It’s as cute as ever with brightly colored shops and homes, which reminds me more of Europe than California! Enjoy strolling the Green Pleasure Pier and grabbing some delicious food from a variety of locally-owned restaurants.

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

31. Phoenix, Arizona

phoenix arizona city skyline at sunset
One of the best warm places to visit in December in USA – Phoenix, Arizona

Average temp: high 68, low 44

One of the best warm US destinations in December is Phoenix! With sunshine and only a few days of rain, it’s perfect weather for indoor and outdoor activities.

Phoenix is a great destination for families, couples and solo travelers of all ages. One of the best places to include on your Phoenix itinerary is Papago Park. Stroll through the Desert Botanical Garden, where you can see over 50,000 plants!

Have a picnic at the Papago Ponds or hike the short 0.3 miles to Hole in the Rock. Animal lovers will enjoy spending time at the Phoenix Zoo, also located at Papago Park.

The city of Phoenix and neighboring Scottsdale really celebrate the holidays big, too. Enjoy pop-up ice skating events, various festivals and multiple light shows throughout the area, including 2 drive-through animated light shows.

And of course, you can’t come to Phoenix without eating delicious food! For the best Mexican food in town, try Taco Guild or Barrio Cafe. Or enjoy a variety of local restaurants in downtown Phoenix on 7th Street.

Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or longer vacation, Phoenix is one of the best warm places to visit in December in USA.

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

32. Destin, Florida (warm places to visit in December in USA – a must-see destination)

best beaches in December view of Destin florida beach with sand dunes in foreground
Destin, Florida Beach

Average temp: high 64, low 48

Destin, Florida is a beautiful place to visit during December. The weather is perfect for spending time on the beaches, and there are plenty of great activities and attractions to enjoy. 

Destin Harbor is especially festive during this time of year, with decorated boats and lights everywhere.  Every year in December, HarborWalk Village has the Destin Boat Parade with fireworks and activities for everyone. 

The city of Destin also has an annual Christmas Parade which covers most of the town. This parade is a must-see for anyone in town in December and features floats, marching bands, and of course, Santa Claus himself. 

Destin Commons and The Village of Baytowne Wharf both have events going on throughout the month of December. Destin Commons has pictures with Santa and Baytowne Wharf has a holiday concert series in December and even an ice skating rink!  

Other places to visit in December in the Destin area include Crab Island, James Lee Beach and Norriego Point. If you’re looking for state parks, Henderson Beach State Park is great and offers a beautiful beach, walking trails and camping. Topsail Hill State Park is in nearby Santa Rosa Beach and offers many amenities, as well. 

A great place to stay in Destin is The Palms of Destin, which is right in the heart of the city, near Henderson Beach State Park and The Track (go-karts and mini-golf). 

If you’re looking for a fun, festive and warm place to visit in December, be sure to visit Destin, Florida!

Recommended by Wayne of Always on the Shore

Warm places to visit in December in USA

Beach in Culebra, #15 above😍

Whew! What a list!

Warm places to visit in USA in December

  1. St. Croix, USVI
  2. Monterey, CA
  3. San Juan, PR
  4. Maui, HI
  5. St. George, UT
  6. Siesta Key, FL
  7. Temecula, CA
  8. South Padre Island, TX
  9. New Orleans, LA
  10. Oahu, HI
  11. Disney World, Orlando, FL
  12. Augusta, GA
  13. San Diego, CA
  14. Sedona, AZ
  15. Culebra, PR
  16. Florida Keys
  17. St. Thomas, USVI
  18. Santa Barbara, CA
  19. Kauai, HI
  20. Bisbee, AZ
  21. Anna Maria Island, FL
  22. Myrtle Beach, SC
  23. Joshua Tree National Park, CA
  24. San Antonio, TX
  25. Page, AZ
  26. Clearwater Beach, FL
  27. Las Vegas, NV
  28. Gulf Shores, AL
  29. Big Island, HI
  30. Catalina Island, CA
  31. Phoenix, AZ
  32. Destin, FL

Related content you might like:
32 Awe-inspiring Adventurous Bucket List Ideas You Gotta See to Believe

Find this post helpful? Save it for later or share it on social media!

32 warm December getaways photos of 3 beachy destinations

Kathryn

Saturday 3rd of September 2022

What a great list! So many beautiful places to access with a US Passport. We've visited 7 of these in the off season and St. Croix is probably our fave so far!

Nikki

Wednesday 7th of September 2022

Oh awesome Kathryn! St. Croix is certainly dreamy💛

Sue

Saturday 3rd of September 2022

It's always good to find a comprehensive list like this, especially to escape the cold! I'm off to Puerto Rico for the first time next year & this has really whetted my appetite too!

Nikki

Wednesday 7th of September 2022

Ah thanks so much for the compliment, Sue. I hope you love Puerto Rico, it's one of my favorites!!

Faith

Sunday 14th of August 2022

We went to Kauai this past January and definitely can understand its place on the list.

Nikki

Monday 15th of August 2022

Yes Faith! Kauai is one of my favorites in wintertime. Really, any place to escape the Midwest winters 😉

secretmoona

Sunday 14th of August 2022

There are so many lovely options here. I love that there is something for everyone whether you like the beach, thinking in the mountain or even city escapes.

Nikki

Monday 15th of August 2022

Absolutely! No matter your vacation style, there's a warm destination in December in the USA :)

Latoyia

Sunday 14th of August 2022

These are some of my favorite destinations. I had to add a few places to my bucket list.

Nikki

Monday 15th of August 2022

Aw awesome, Latoyia! I'm glad you found more spots to visit :)