The Best Islands to Visit in December for US Travelers

Rich vegetation of Bathsheba beach, East coast of Barbados island, Caribbean.

This article has links to products and services we love, which we may make commission from.

Whether you are planning a family vacation, a much-needed couples getaway, or a long-awaited trip with friends, our guide to the best islands to visit in December reveals the hottest and some cooler islands.

For each island, we discuss why people visit in December, what the temperatures are like, the kind of weather to be cautious of, and fun things you can do there.

Most islands have sandy shores to laze about and various water sports, especially underwater, if you are feeling a little more adventurous!

Get ready for rum, food, and some serious tanning.

You may also like our guides on winter sun US locations and the best beaches in December.

Islands To Visit in December

Our guide to the best islands in December starts with an overview of possibilities on the east coast; then we’ll head over to the west, so buckle up for a smooth ride.

Florida Islands to Visit in December

Amelia Island, Florida, For Golf and Restaurants

Amelia Island is called the “Isle of Eight Flags”.

This is a historical island within the barrier islands on the Florida Coast.

It has a history of Spanish, French, British, and American rule, which makes for interesting culture and food. 

It has great luxury resorts, sparkling sandy beaches, golf courses, dunes, and a boardwalk.

There is plenty of room for beach sports that will ensure you stay fit on your winter vacations. 

You may also find our guide on free things to do in Jacksonville, FL, useful.

Amelia Island near Fernandina Beach, Florida.

Key Largo, Florida Keys For Plane Tours and Snorkeling

Key Largo is the self-proclaimed dive capital of the world. 

You can find many gorgeous coral reefs, including the world’s largest artificial reef, the 510-foot USS Spiegel Grove, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and the African Queen.

Here, you can dive to see the unique Christ of the Deep, Christ of the Abyss by Guido Galletti.

You can also take a plane tour to see the gorgeous blue water and sandy beaches from above. 

Key Largo is also featured in our guide to the best beaches in the US.

Underwater statue Christ of the Abyss by Guido Galletti

Key West, Florida Keys For Drinks and History – Personal Favorite

If your idea of a festive vacation in December is a lively location, consider Key West in the Florida Keys.

Plenty of waterfront bars overlook the historic seaport and louder bars along the party area of Duval Street.

Boats Historic Seaport Key West Florida

Keep a close eye on the waters around the port, as you might just see a manatee; sitting by the dock is one of our favorite things to do here; you never know who you might end up chatting to.

History fans may want to take a picture with the southernmost point in the continental United States buoy, visit Hemingway’s House, or the Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters.

Dine on Lime Key Pie, and watch out for the roosters trying to steal a bite!

At sunset, head to Mallory Square.

Key West is a really fun New Year’s Eve destination, there are two midnight drops; the conch drop and the red shoe drop.

Marco Island, Florida For Shell Collecting

Marco Island has so many things to do, you will definitely not get bored.

Shelling at Sand Dollar Island will leave you with a collection of gorgeous seashells to bring home. 

In addition to shelling, birding is a very popular, exciting activity across all Florida islands.

Take a 2-hour mammal, birding, and shelling tour with Get Your Guide

It is estimated that there are over 400 dolphins that use this area.

Watch for the Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia floridana) at Marco Island!

We featured shelling as one of the best free things to do in Southwest Florida.

Funny Burrowing owl Athene cunicularia tilts its head outside its burrow on Marco Island, Florida

Sanibel Islands, Florida, For Biking and Kayaking

The Sanibel Islands in Florida have 25 miles of high-quality paved trails, and renting a bike allows you into all the secret spots that cars can’t reach, like Sanibel’s pioneer cemetery.

There are different beaches to visit, such as Bowman’s Beach, Lighthouse Beach, and Blind Pass, which make up one white sand beach stretching 12 miles!

The beaches are covered in millions of shells brought in by the Gulf of Mexico tides. 

Kayaking allows you to explore the mangrove tangles, and you just might have an up-close encounter with a dolphin. 

Stroll through the Sanibel Historical Village, which is only staffed in the winter, perfect for your December island vacation!

This is where seven pioneer buildings were moved from their original island and restored.

Sanibel Island is a good option for those looking for cooler Florida temperatures, averaging around 64.4F compared to July at 82.6F.

Check out our Florida bucket list, too.

Lighthouse Point at Sanibel in Florida, this Lighthouse is an historical landmark in Sabiel Island

Siesta Key for Quartz Sand – Love It Here

Who doesn’t want to visit the number one beach in the US in December?

Siesta Key is located near Sarasota on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, and it has been voted the best beach in the USA.

Free parking and modern restrooms, showers, a cafe, and a shop are available at the beach.

It is disabled and pushchair access to the best, manned by lifeguards.

From the beach, you can walk to access point seven, which leads to Siesta Key Village, where you’ll find ice cream shops, restaurants, and bars.

From Siesta Key, you can also take a day trip to Longboat Key and the bustling Anna Maria Island or head to the mainland to catch a show, shop, or dine in Sarasota.

We have personally visited in winter and couldn’t recommend it enough.

Sandy path leading to Siesta Keys Beach at Florida

Best Caribbean Destinations in December

Something to note for all Caribbean islands is that during December, many receive rain for at least ten days.

However, they are still warm, gorgeous, and ripe with activities! 

Barbados For History and City Life

You can take an expert walking tour to ensure you get all the essential facts about the colonial buildings in Barbados. 

The island is full of beaches and botanical gardens.

You can also tour Harrison’s Cave, which you can access via a tramway. 

Mid-December is the best time to visit in December.

Barbados is also featured in our guide to the best Caribbean islands to visit in October.

Rich vegetation of Bathsheba beach, East coast of Barbados island, Caribbean.

Saint Lucia For Beaches and Luxury Resorts

Saint Lucia is a unique island for the pair of mountains on its west coast called the Pitons.

It contains volcanic beaches, reef-diving sites, luxury resorts, and fishing villages.

There are many waterfalls, including a 15m-high waterfall called Toraille. 

If you aren’t looking to hike, take a leisurely segway tour through a gorgeous nature trail. 

Saint Lucia has an average temperature high of 84F and 73F for the low. 

Beach with view to Piton mountains in Saint Lucia

Antigua For Hikes With History

Antigua is circled by coral reefs and is located in the middle of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean. 

It has over 95 miles of beautiful coastline to spend hours lounging and exploring. 

You can also walk trails up to Shirley Heights, a former military lookout with panoramic views.

View of Galleon Beach from Shirley Heights, Antigua, Caribbean

Aruba For Sailing 

Like many other tropical islands scattered around the US’s coast, Aruba is known for its white beaches. 

Aruba is also called the Happy Island because of its serene, desert-like weather.

This island does not receive much rain and has an average high of 87F in December. 

Take a sunset sailing tour to see the colorful coast of Aruba in style. 

Saint Martin For Food and Cruises

Saint Martin is known for its unique fusion cuisine, and its national foods are conch dumplings and callaloo soup

Yvette’s is frequently cited as the best place to eat on the island!

The island is split in half with the northern French side, Saint-Martin, and a southern Dutch side, Sint Maarten.

To get a great overview of all the island has to offer, take a delicious tango dinner cruise

And for views, head to Fort Louis in Marigot!

Do note that in December Saint Martin is one of the rainiest Islands in the Caribbean at an average of 13 days. 

Marigot, Saint Martin town skyline from Fort Louis in the Caribbean

Curacao For Blue Water Tours

Curacao is most famous for its orange and blue colored liqueur. 

Only the ones made in Curacao use the peels of the Laraha orange, which is unique to the island. 

Curacao is hot at an average high of 87F in December and rain for an average of 12 days. 

The largest cave on the island is called the Blue Room, and you can visit it with this speedboat snorkeling tour

Tortola For Laid back Coves

Tortola is known for its high-quality spices since the island has great growing conditions. 

Smugglers Cove is a well-known attraction of Tortola and a gorgeous beach to lounge on. 

In addition to the beaches, you could also visit Callwood Distillery at Cane Garden Bay, which calls itself the oldest distillery in the Caribbean. 

Callwood Distillery has been in the hands of the Callwood family since the late 1800s, and today it is operated by Michael Callwood and his family.

Tortola also contains Sage Mountain National Park, the highest peak in the US Virgin Islands at 1,716 ft.

Tortola has an average high of 80F and an average amount of 14 days of rain.  

Smugglers Cove on Tortola

St. Croix, Virgin Islands For Coral Reefs & Enslaved History

The biggest Virgin Island, St. Croix, is the best spot for snorkeling and diving in the clear blue ocean. 

You can enjoy a 4-hour snorkeling and boating tour to Turtle Cove and Honeymoon Beach. 

Estate Little Princess is a National Register of Historic Places listed building with a history dating back to the 1700s, which is still evident in its Danish architecture.

Enslaved Africans lived and worked on Estate Little Princess from 1749, when the sugar and rum plantation was founded, until 1848, when slavery was abolished on St. Croix.

You can also take a tour at Cruzan Rum Distillery, still run by the Nelthropp family, which has been perfecting this island’s preferred libation since 1760. Generations of families have worked around the distillery.

Route 82 to Point Udall car park offers a trail down a hill to Isaac Bay, a spectacular secluded beach managed by the Nature Conservancy as a turtle sanctuary specifically for green and hawksbill turtles, which may be spotted from July to December.

St Croix Scuba Diver on Scenic Reef.

West Coast Islands to Visit in December

Catalina Island, California For Cooler Temps and Wildlife

A cooler winter destination, Catalina Island has an average high of 60 in December. 

Catalina Island contains the resort town of Two Harbors in the north. 

Its highest peak is Mt. Orizaba. 

You’ll find beautiful wildlife, lovely cabanas, and great dive sites. 

You can take a full-day snorkeling tour, ending on the island. 

Hawaii Islands to Visit in December

Big Island, Hawaii For Rainforests and Volcanoes

All of the islands of Hawaii are perfect for December travel, but each for their unique reasons. 

The Big Island of Hawaii is known for snorkeling, gorgeous tropical foliage, and volcanos. 

Two of the world’s most active volcanoes are named Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, and you can tour them by visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. 

Lava flow at Kilauea volcano. Hawaii Volcano National Park

Kauai, Hawaii For Canyons and Waterfalls 

Although Kauai gets rain for an average of 16 days in December, that isn’t all bad news!

This just means that the movie-famous Jurassic Park Falls will be rapidly flowing and gorgeous for your viewing. 

Take a helicopter tour of Waimea Canyon and Jurassic Falls. 

You don’t need to worry; no dinosaurs can reach the helicopter!

Kauai, Hawaii, is cooler in December, with a high of 72. 

Kauai Hawaii blue sea, dramatic cliffs

Oahu, Hawaii, For Pearl Harbour and Waikiki Beach

Visit the historical site of Pearl Harbour, where Japanese forces staged their first attack against the United States in World War II, with this top-rated tour

Waikiki Beach is one of the most frequented white sand beaches in Hawaii. 

Oahu, Hawaii, is the warmest island in Hawaii in December, with an average high of 79.

Blue ocean. sandy beach and cliffs of Hanauma Bay at Oahu in Hawaii.

Maui, Hawaii, For Turtle Town

Ever wanted to see a sea turtle?

Well, now is your chance!

Take a snorkeling tour of Lahaina Turtle to see Green Sea Turtles, Nenue, Goatfish, Octopus, Black Durgeon, Frogfish, and Parrotfish. 

Maui is also known as “The Valley Isle” and is the second-largest Hawaiian island.

During the winter months, you can also catch sites of the migrating humpback whales. 

There’s no denying that a trip to Hawaii in December is expensive.

Check out our guide to free things to do at Maui for budget-friendly tips.

Wailea Beach Path over golden sand at Maui Hawaii

Maui is also home to Haleakalā, or the East Maui Volcano, which covers over 75% of the island!

You can do a self-drive sunset visit of the summit.

Crater of Haleakala volcano Maui, Hawaii.

Lanai, Hawaii For Garden of the Gods

Kanai has some unique attractions that make it a very memorable vacation location. 

First is Shipwreck Beach, known for its offshore wreck of a WWII tanker. 

Like the other Hawaii islands, snorkeling is very popular, and green sea turtles can be seen all around.

If you travel inland, the Garden of the Gods looks like a scene from Mars. 

Hawaii Map

Southern US Islands to Visit in December

Dauphin Island, Alabama For Quiet Birding

There isn’t much in the way of resorts or restaurants on Dauphin Island. However, you will enjoy pretty, quiet beaches.

Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuaries are the best for bird watching in this part of the gulf. 

South Padre Island, Texas, For Kite-surfing and Jet-skiing

A popular spring break destination, you won’t need to worry about the crowds in December and be able to experience all South Padre Island has to offer.

This is a great spot for beach sports and relaxation.

It also has plenty of nightlife to enjoy, including bars and delicious restaurants. 

Check out our best Texas beach towns guide for more.

Sunset at South Padre Island Beach in Texas

Which island do you plan to visit this December? Tell us in the comments.

2 thoughts on “The Best Islands to Visit in December for US Travelers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *