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.

  • Hawaii - The Big Island
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    Hawaii - The Big Island

    #1 in Best Winter Vacations

    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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  • Rome
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    #2 in Best Winter Vacations

    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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  • Jackson Hole
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    Jackson Hole

    #3 in Best Winter Vacations

    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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  • New Orleans
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    New Orleans

    #4 in Best Winter Vacations

    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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  • Phuket
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    #5 in Best Winter Vacations

    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
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    St. Lucia

    #6 in Best Winter Vacations

    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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  • Jasper National Park
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    Jasper National Park

    #7 in Best Winter Vacations

    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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  • U.S. Virgin Islands
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    U.S. Virgin Islands

    #8 in Best Winter Vacations

    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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  • Rio de Janeiro
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    Rio de Janeiro

    #9 in Best Winter Vacations

    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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  • Whistler
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    #10 in Best Winter Vacations

    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
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    #11 in Best Winter Vacations

    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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  • Costa Rica
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    Costa Rica

    #12 in Best Winter Vacations

    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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  • Turks & Caicos
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    Turks & Caicos

    #13 in Best Winter Vacations

    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.

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  • Tulum
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    #14 in Best Winter Vacations

    You'll encounter thick tourist crowds from December through February, but Tulum, Mexico's warm winter weather is perfect for exploring the area's cenotes and lounging on its beaches. For more breathing room at popular sights like Tulum's Mayan ruins, plan an early morning visit. You'll also want to book your hotel well in advance to secure the best rates.

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  • Auckland
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    #15 in Best Winter Vacations

    December to February (Auckland, New Zealand's summer season) may be the priciest and most crowded time to visit, but the city's 70-degree weather and calmer winds are ideal for adventurous pursuits like bungee jumping and skydiving. For a more leisurely vacation, sip a flat white at a cafe or venture to Waiheke Island for wine tasting.

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  • Lucerne
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    #16 in Best Winter Vacations

    Whether you want to ski or get in the holiday spirit, Lucerne, Switzerland, has you covered. The city's snow-covered streets, festive lights and multiple Christmas markets make it especially charming in the winter, while its proximity to a handful of ski resorts gives you a variety of options for winter sports. When you need to warm up, unwind at one of Lucerne's spas.

  • Barbados
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    #17 in Best Winter Vacations

    Travelers will enjoy pleasant daytime temps in the 80s in Barbados come wintertime. To make the most of the weather, relax on the beach, then go for a stroll on the Barbados Boardwalk or in Hunte's Gardens. However, because this is peak season, room rates are expensive and the island's beaches and caves fill with throngs of tourists.

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  • Quebec City
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    Quebec City

    #18 in Best Winter Vacations

    Winters here are known for being chilly (average highs hover in the 10s and 20s), but this Canadian city's charms make bundling up worthwhile. Old Québec's historic buildings are decked out in Christmas decor throughout December, while fun events like Carnaval de Québec and the Mois Multi art festival take place every January and February.

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  • Zihuatanejo
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    #19 in Best Winter Vacations

    For adventurous travelers eager to enjoy a leisurely winter getaway, the resort city of Zihuatanejo, Mexico, may be worth considering. You can spend your days lounging on tranquil beaches or partake in a variety of outdoor activities, such as scuba diving, golf and biking. If you love animals, save time for a visit to the Crocodilarium or a swim with dolphins.

  • Seville
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    #20 in Best Winter Vacations

    Seville, Spain's winters offer mild weather (daytime highs hover in the 60s while lows rest in the 40s), affordable room rates and thinned tourist crowds, making this season a great time to sightsee. After admiring the Gothic architecture at Catedral de Sevilla, check out the city's holiday markets and Three Kings Day festivities.

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