Best Winter Vacations

Some travelers are enchanted by winter's first snowfall, while others are itching to escape the season's frigid 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.

  • St. Lucia
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    St. Lucia

    #1 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 to the Caribbean and accommodations on the island, you'll quickly forget the steep premium after a few hours of lounging on the beautiful sands of Anse Chastanet and Reduit Beach. After a day in the sun, sip some of the island's cocoa tea (made with local cocoa, spices and milk) in lieu of your typical hot chocolate.

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  • Jasper National Park
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    Jasper National Park

    #2 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 both cross-country and downhill skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating and fat biking. But remember to check for road closures and conditions before you visit: Some areas are not accessible until February or March, while others like the iconic Icefields Parkway require driving with snow tires.

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  • Rome
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    Rome

    #3 in Best Winter Vacations

    Travelers who don't mind donning cold-weather attire to see iconic attractions like the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps and the Colosseum should consider visiting the Eternal City in the winter. Average highs in the 50s keep many of Rome's notorious summer crowds at bay, plus visitors can warm up inside one of the city's museums or with a cappuccino or a plate of fresh pasta.

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  • Turks & Caicos
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    Turks & Caicos

    #4 in Best Winter Vacations

    The winter months are the priciest times to visit this group of Caribbean islands, but their stellar weather (daytime temperatures hover in the 70s and 80s) makes the high rates worthwhile. Visitors can relax on the islands' world-class 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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  • Rio de Janeiro
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    Rio de Janeiro

    #5 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 seaside city's famous sands. After a couple of days of swimming and sunbathing, trek through Tijuca National Park's nearly 10,000 acres of tropical rainforest. Additionally, you can still catch a futebol match in early December.

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  • Lucerne
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    Lucerne

    #6 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. Plus, you can easily access a variety of ski resorts that surround the city to shred powder. When you need to warm up, unwind at one of Lucerne's numerous spas.

  • Costa Rica
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    Costa Rica

    #7 in Best Winter Vacations

    In December, most of Costa Rica ushers in its dry season, leaving only pleasant 70-degree temps to accompany you during your time in Central America. The versatile weather means activities like hiking, riding horses, mountain biking and zip lining through the rainforest are all on the table. 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. Whichever winter month you choose to arrive, remember to save time for lounging on some of Costa Rica's beautiful beaches.

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  • Hawaii - The Big Island
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    Hawaii - The Big Island

    #8 in Best Winter Vacations

    The Big Island appeals to winter travelers keen on escaping chilly temps and snowy conditions back home. The Hawaiian island's warm weather is ideal for hiking and wandering the stalls at the Na Makua Invitational Christmas Gift Fair. What's more, surfers can skip more popular Hawaiian surfing destinations to enjoy the Big Island's underrated swells, which are at their best come wintertime. Prime spots to catch waves include Honolii Beach Park and Kahaluu Beach Park.

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  • Quebec City
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    Quebec City

    #9 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, making an evening stroll through the neighborhood feel magical. Plus, fun celebrations like the Carnaval de Québec and the Mois Multi art festival are on the city's events calendar every January and February.

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  • Dubai
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    Dubai

    #10 in Best Winter Vacations

    Dubai's warm winters are the perfect respite from snow-prone locales. Daily highs in this United Arab Emirates city sit between the upper 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 in the middle of the desert, hit the slopes at the Mall of the Emirates' massive indoor Ski Dubai complex.

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  • Cartagena
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    Cartagena

    #11 in Best Winter Vacations

    Nestled along Colombia's Caribbean coast, Cartagena is a warm-weather retreat overflowing with historic sites. The most notable attraction here is the Walled City of Cartagena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with colonial architecture and Caribbean Sea views. Should you crave more incredible water vistas, head to Playa Blanca or take a boat to the nearby Rosario Islands. Winter (especially around Christmas and New Year's) is a popular time to visit, so you'll want to book your flight and hotel several months in advance.

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  • Phuket
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    Phuket

    #12 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 pluses. Phuket offers outstanding weather come wintertime: You'll avoid the region's monsoon season and enjoy 90-degree beach weather. Because the threat of rain isn't an issue, you can cross outdoor sights like Big Buddha and Wat Chalong off your bucket list. Another bonus: You can get out on the water to explore by boat.

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  • Seville
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    Seville

    #13 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. Avoiding the scorching summer temperatures means you can take your time admiring the Gothic architecture at Catedral de Sevilla and the Real Alcázar palace. Additionally, winter is when the city hosts holiday markets (in December) and Three Kings Day festivities (on Jan. 6).

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  • Zihuatanejo
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    Zihuatanejo

    #14 in Best Winter Vacations

    For adventurous travelers eager to enjoy a leisurely winter getaway, consider the resort city of Zihuatanejo, Mexico. The city's primary attractions are its tranquil beaches, such as Playa La Ropa and Playa Los Gatas. On days when you need a break from lounging on the sand, you can partake in a variety of outdoor activities, including scuba diving, golf and biking. Once it's time to eat, savor a plate of fresh seafood at one of the city's waterfront restaurants.

  • Whistler
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    Whistler

    #15 in Best Winter Vacations

    Winter sports enthusiasts flock to this Canadian locale in British Columbia to zip down the world-renowned 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. Regardless of when in winter visitors choose to visit, they can expect daytime temperatures to hover between the mid-10s and mid-40s.

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

    #16 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. Keep in mind, the islands welcome strong Christmas winds in December and January, so be sure to pack a windbreaker. Also consider accessing the islands via an eastern Caribbean cruise if you want to avoid spending a lot of money on accommodations.

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  • Tulum
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    Tulum

    #17 in Best Winter Vacations

    Tulum, Mexico's warm winter weather (think: highs in the 70s and 80s) is perfect for exploring the area's cenotes and lounging on its numerous beaches. You'll encounter thick tourist crowds from December through February, so 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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    Auckland

    #18 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 inviting weather offsets these drawbacks. Highs in the 70s and calm winds provide an ideal setting for adventurous pursuits like bungee jumping and skydiving. For a more leisurely vacation, sip a flat white at a cafe or stroll through Cornwall Park. No trip would be complete without going wine tasting on Waiheke Island and hiking on Rangitoto Island.

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  • Lake Tahoe
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    Lake Tahoe

    #19 in Best Winter Vacations

    While winters in Lake Tahoe bring plenty of snow, the season's relatively mild daytime temperatures in the 40s make this picturesque lake on the California-Nevada border a superb destination for powder hounds. You'll have several ski spots to choose from, including Squaw Valley, Heavenly and Northstar California ski resorts. When you need to warm up, test Lady Luck at a local casino or cozy up by a fire at one of the area's lodges. Room rates increase during this peak tourist season, so book your accommodations well in advance.

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  • Gatlinburg
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    Gatlinburg

    #20 in Best Winter Vacations

    Travelers trek to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, from across the country to take advantage of its prime access to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While the park itself becomes less hospitable as the weather cools (highs range from the low 30s to the mid-50s), visitors can still enjoy activities like camping and hiking. Plus, Gatlinburg is home to Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park and Ski Area, which offers everything from ski and snowboard trails to an ice skating rink to a snow tubing course. Winter rates peak around the holidays, so plan accordingly.

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