When winter comes calling and changing leaves are replaced by habitual flurries, it's time for a sunny escape. Here, 10 of the best beaches around—each begging us to flee the cold this December.
Trunk Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
Velvety-soft sands, mild island breezes, and serene, crystalline surf greet visitors at Trunk Bay in tropical St. John. Even in December, you’ll find agreeable weather at the Virgin Islands National Park shoreline, where average land and sea temps hover in the 80s. While sunbathing is one of the main draws, you can always snorkel the Trunk Bay Underwater Reef Trail, a 225-yard-long family-friendly path dotted with colorful fan coral and exotic marine life.
Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos
Scoot on over to the Northeast coast of Providenciales (Provo, if you want to fit in) and you’ll find the 12-mile-long, barrier reef-protected Grace Bay Beach. The postcard-perfect stretch of white and pink sand consistently lands international ‘best of’ lists for its impossibly turquoise waters, calm surf and nearly year-round sunshine. Winter in Provo—get a load of this—means air temps in the mid 80s while the ocean remains tepid as well, in the mid 70s.
Laguna Beach, California
Late November and certainly December may spell out descending temps and snow flurries for most regions of the US, but on the West Coast, Cali still clings to a sliver of sun. Drive yourself down the state’s rugged coast on the scenic Pacific Coast Highway and make a pit stop in Laguna Beach. Though the luxe Orange County town was sprung to reality TV fame in 2004 thanks to a high school-age Lauren Conrad (and co.), it’s an indisputable destination in its own right with mild temps and eight miles of rambling coves and beaches, including downtown Main Beach—Laguna's “Window to the Sea.”
The Baths, Virgin Gorda
If you’ve never heard of Virgin Gorda, let us properly introduce you. The 8.5-mile mountainous island, the third largest in the British Virgin Islands, is home to one of the Caribbean's most visited natural wonders: the Baths. On the southern end of the isle lies a maze of eroded, volcanic granite boulders, tidal pools, natural cave tunnels, and rocky grottoes that attract holiday-makers in search of primo snorkeling spots.
Pink Sands Beach, Bahamas
Though most dedicate the bulk of their Bahamian trips to Nassau or Paradise Island—AKA mega-resort central—those in the know hop a ferry to Harbour Island to spend a lazy day on Pink Sands Beach. The three-mile expanse of coral reef-protected shore is laid-back in all the ways that its resort-town siblings never could be. Serene Atlantic waves meet a crowd of friendly locals and few visitors, and bet you didn’t guess it: pale pink sand. An added bonus? The sand is always delightfully cool to the touch, so you can walk barefoot without worrying about burning your toes.
Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda
The 21-mile-long island of Bermuda isn’t aching for beautiful beaches, that’s for sure; so topping our list takes quite a lot. One of our highest regarded is the fine, white and pink-sand Horseshoe Bay. The Atlantic shoreline, rimmed with limestone rocks and dotted with intimate coves, is named for its curved shape. While the beach can be overrun by overzealous sun-seekers, you can easily jaunt to nearby vacant inlets—like Rocky Port Royal Cove (AKA Baby Beach) to the west, and Peel Rock Cove to the east—to avoid the masses. If you’re down for some time in the water, don’t miss out on killer snorkeling; parrot fish, angel fish and snappers are just some of the colorful aquatic species you may encounter.
Smathers Beach, Key West
We’re going to be upfront on this one: rumor has it that the sand on Key West’s Smathers Beach isn’t native to Florida, but...the Bahamas. After hurricane season comes and goes each year, dutifully wiping away the beach’s shore, the state ships in the good stuff from the Caribbean to replenish and rebuild. Despite borrowing one of its best assets from international beaches, the spot is especially popular among Spring Breakers, sunbathers, and those in search of an exceptional sunset. Since the tide isn’t strong enough for surfing, it’s particularly ideal for swimmers and snorkelers, and it’s also conveniently located—just a mile or so from Duval Street in Old Town, one of the liveliest areas in Key West.
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Grand Anse Beach, Grenada
Situated in the Caribbean Sea between Trinidad and Tobago, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is Grenada, an isle home to no less than 45 pristine beaches. More than a few are certainly worth their salt, but it’s the 2-mile, palm and almond tree-lined Grand Anse, on the southwestern coast, that steals the show time and time again. Despite drawing hoards of locals and throngs of cruise ship shoobies, it’s large enough to accommodate everyone without feeling congested. Take to the calm waters for a dip, or go extreme sport-mode and try your luck water-skiing, parasailing or sea kayaking.
Mauna Kea Beach (Kauna’oa Bay), Hawaii
One thing every Big Island vacationer should know: all BI beaches are public access (read: completely free!), and while there are a handful to choose from, Mauna Kea (also known as Kauna'oa Bay Beach) is our go-to. Since access is controlled by the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, the quarter-mile, sublime stretch keeps crowds to a minimum. The hotel has only 40 parking spots for non-guests, so your best bet is to get there bright and early—by 9 a.m., otherwise you’ll be stuck staking out a spot. Daytime visitors can bank on sloping white sands that feed into a gentle surf, while those who make nighttime pilgrimages are treated to manta ray sightings as a result of the hotel’s floodlights which attract their favorite snack: plankton.
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Spanish Wall Beach, Rincon, Puerto Rico
If you’re looking for a beach far off the beaten path (sorry for the cliche, but it's apt), the largely ‘secret’ Spanish Wall is one few tourists make it to. This is in part because the shallow and secluded coast—at the very western top of Rincon, where the Atlantic crosses paths with the Caribbean—requires a hike from the wildly popular Domes Beach along the Domes Trail. Word to the wise: not only is the unspoiled stretch still relatively toasty in the winter, but that’s when surfers will actually find the best breaks.