Best Winter Vacations
Some travelers are enchanted by winter's first snowfall, while others are itching to escape the season's cold weather. To help you find the locale that best suits your winter vacation wants and needs, U.S. News compiled a list of the best winter destinations based on expert analysis and reader votes. Use these ideas to start planning your getaway, and vote for your favorite spots to help determine next year's ranking.
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The Big Island may not appeal to surfers as much as other Hawaiian destinations, but its swells are best come wintertime. Prime spots to catch waves include Honolii Beach Park and Kahaluu Beach. Additionally, the island's warm climate is ideal for hiking and wandering the stalls at the Nä Mäkua Invitational Christmas Gift Fair.
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If you don't mind donning cold weather attire to see iconic attractions like the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps and the Colosseum, then a winter visit to the Eternal City can't be beat. You'll avoid Rome's notorious summer crowds, plus you can warm up inside one of the city's museums or with a cappuccino or a plate of fresh pasta.
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For those set on shredding powder this winter, Jackson Hole makes for an excellent winter trip. In this Wyoming valley, vacationers can hit the slopes at Jackson Hole Mountain, Snow King and Grand Targhee resorts before unwinding in the Granite Hot Springs. Those who love wildlife won't want to miss a visit to the National Elk Refuge.
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Winter visits to the Big Easy feature daytime temps in the 60s, low room rates and more elbow room at tourist hot spots like the French Quarter and St. Louis Cathedral. Arrive in late December to see the festive displays at Celebration in the Oaks and NOLA ChristmasFest. On Christmas Eve, be sure to check out the bonfires on the river levees.
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You may find higher accommodation prices and hordes of tourists, but winter visits to this Thai island in the Andaman Sea feature several pros. You'll avoid the region's monsoon season, enjoy 90-degree beach weather and cross sights like Big Buddha and Wat Chalong off your bucket list without the threat of rain.
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St. Lucia's superb winter weather (think: highs in the 80s and mostly clear skies) beckons to travelers set on escaping snow and freezing temps. Though a winter visit requires shelling out some coin for flights and accommodations, you'll quickly forget this headache while lounging on the beautiful sands of Anse Chastanet and Reduit Beach.
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If you're looking for a winter wonderland filled with outdoor activities, head to Jasper National Park. In this Canadian oasis, you'll have your pick of winter sports, including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating and fat biking. But remember to check for road closures before you visit: Some areas are not accessible until February or March.
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To soak up plenty of sun this winter, vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In addition to avoiding the threat of a hurricane, you'll enjoy comfortable temps in the 70s and 80s as you sunbathe on white sand beaches. Resort rates are pricey in winter, so if you're set on saving some money, consider accessing the islands via an Eastern Caribbean cruise.
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Although room rates are inflated from December to March (Rio's summer season), splurging on a getaway during these months comes with its perks: You'll enjoy warm 80-degree weather while lounging on the city's famous sands and trekking through Tijuca National Park. Additionally, you can still catch a futebol match in early December.
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Winter sports enthusiasts flock to this Canadian locale to zip down the world-renowned ski slopes at Whistler Blackcomb. But Whistler boasts ample activities for non-skiers, too. Travelers can go bobsledding at the Whistler Sliding Centre, sign up for a snowshoe tour or simply take advantage of the top-notch après-ski scene.
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Dubai's warm winters are the perfect respite from snow-prone locales. Daily highs sit between the high 70s and mid-80s, so you can spend your vacation sunbathing on Jumeirah Beach, exploring the gold and spice souks or sandboarding at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. For a taste of winter, hit the slopes at the indoor Ski Dubai.
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In December, most of Costa Rica ushers in its dry season, leaving only 70-degree temps to accompany you as you hike, ride horses, mountain bike or zip line through the rainforest. And if you visit in January, you'll find the tiny country basking in la pura vida while reveling in its two-week-long Palmares Fiestas.
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The winter months are the priciest times to visit this group of islands, but their unbeatable weather (daytime temps hover in the 70s and 80s) make the high rates worthwhile. Visitors can relax on scenic beaches, snorkel around breathtaking reefs and tee off at the Provo Golf Club's highly regarded links. For fewer crowds, arrive before or after the holidays.