Tired of hectic holidays? Does the cold turn you into the Grinch? If you’re like me and the idea of riding in a one horse open sleigh makes you shiver, then these warm, budget and outdoor friendly holiday destinations are sure to cheer you up and put you back in the Holiday spirit!
1) Ambergris Caye/Caye Caulker, Belize
December average high: 81°F/27°C
December average low: 68°F/20°C
3-star hotels from: US$50 per night for two people
Travel Zoo Deal: Secluded Island Resort, 55% Off
Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, Belize are two of the best quiet, low-key, stress-free holiday destinations. With no huge chain hotels in sight and some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world, these are a frazzled travelers ideal destination. Belize is also mostly English-speaking with a Rastafarian feel, so it’s an interesting mix of culture and convenience. I stayed at the three and a half star Ak’bol Yoga Retreat and Eco Resort in Amergris Caye and loved it! The location is fabulous for chilling in the hammocks and they also have daily yoga classes. Not to mention one of the staff members climbed a coconut tree and gave it to the chef who made me home made coconut French toast that was absolutely fantastic! Rooms range from $30-$65/night or beach front cabanas for $145-$165/night.
2) Costa Rica
December avg high: 91°F/33°C
December avg low: 70°F/21°C
December avg precip: 0.5″/1.3cm
3-star hotels from: US$60 per night for two people
Gate1 Travel Deal: 10 Day Tour of Costa Rica Including Flights
Known as the adventure travel capital of Central America, a third of Cost Rica is national parks. If you love hiking or bird watching this is a perfect holiday destination! Although it is aggressively marketed as an eco destination, Costa Rica has seen an influx in tourism. The 237-acre Curi-Cancha Reserve is less known but is a great spot to view toucans and beautiful quetzal birds whose tail plumage can reach up to three feet long. This article by AFAR.com, Alternative Ways to See the Best of Costa Rica offers some great tips on where to go to avoid the crowds.
3) Chiang Mai, Thailand
December average high: 82°F/27°C
December avg low: 59°F/15°C
3-star hotels from: US$27 per night for two people
4-star hotels from: US$55 per night for two people
Travel Zoo Deal: Thai Island Hopping for 7 Nights
Love eating, hiking and culture? Look no further! Chiang Mai is renowned for its cultural influences, with many temples and cooking schools flavoring the city. It is also surrounded with hills, mountains, and forests where you can hike to your heart’s content. Soak in more Thai culture by visiting the colorful Hill Tribes and Chiang Mai’s famous night markets. The best part about visiting Chiang Mai is that hotels are among the world’s greatest bargains, with decent private rooms available for under US$10 per night in the city center. If you want to feel like a big shot upgrade and get a whole suite for the price of an average room in the US! Remember that it gets crowded around Christmas so book early.
4) Siem Reap, Cambodia
December average high: 86°F/30°C
December avg low: 72°F/22°C
3-star hotels from: US$35 per night for two people
4-star hotels from: US$54 per night for two people
Travel Zoo Deals: Cambodia
One of several excellent outdoor holiday destinations, Siem Reap is home to the glorious Angkor Wat temples built in the early 12th century. Covering over 400 acres, it is the largest religious monument in the world. December is the best month to visit as the cooler and dryer conditions mean you can spend more time touring the temples. Opt for a hot air balloon ride at sunrise or sunset instead of a helicopter ride. It is more peaceful and easier for taking photographs. The town of Siem Reap also has some great markets, but if you want to avoid tourists and take in some culture, head to the nearby floating fishing village of Kompong Khleang. Like Thailand, Siem Reap fills up near Christmas so plan ahead.
5) Kauai, Hawaii
December average high: 79°F/26°C
December avg low: 70°F/21°C
Travel Zoo Deals: Hawaii
If less exotic holiday destinations are more your thing, Kauai is an excellent option. Not only will you enjoy a balmy tropical Christmas, but majestic humpback whales migrate to the islands’ warm waters to mate and birth their young this time of year. The island also gets some incredible surf during the winter – a perfect spot for surfing on Christmas. If it’s not raining try hiking the famous Kalalau Trail along the stunning Napali Coastline. I backpacked the trail and saw breaching whales, a pod of 75 dolphins, amazing waterfalls, breathtaking scenery and gigantic turquoise waves. However, it did rain and the trail got slippery so take walking poles! Not a hiker? A helicopter ride over the Napali Coastline is a fantastic way to see the same scenery from a different angle and get gorgeous aerial photos. Or if you just want to chill out then skip the surfing, hiking, and helicopter ride and enjoy relaxing on the beach.