December Beach Travel Guide

Tobago Cays, Grenadines
This is the place you daydream about at work all winter—a handful of impossibly crafted (and uninhabited) islets, with water melting from Tanqueray color to indigo to cobalt and then sapphire, cradled by a horseshoe-shaped reef. The beaches here are pristine—due in large part to the protected status of the surrounding marine reserve—and the snorkeling is some of the best in the Caribbean. The catch: You have to either bunk on a nearby island—and the options include the pricey resorts of Palm Island and Petit Saint Vincent—or drop anchor from your own boat. But once you see photos of this place we trust you'll figure out the details.

Ao Tapao, Koh Kood, Thailand
Koh Kood is as far as you can get in eastern Thailand before you hit Cambodia, and it is one sweet spot to stop and soak in some rays. On the west side of the island, Ao Tapao is the worldly embodiment of heaven, with fine-grained sand, dense jungle, and see-through water. The shifting tides show different faces of the beach, but one you'll want to catch is sunset, which brings the cover-shot aspirations out in even the most timid photographer.

Vivonne Bay, Kangaroo Island, Australia
Rated the top beach in Australia by a Sydney University team (yes, they probably got paid for that), Vivonne Bay boasts a long curve of sand graced by a deep turquoise sea. The top rating probably had something to do with Vivonne's broad appeal: Surfers love it for the warm, peeling waves but calm-water swimmers can have their cake too, near the mouth of the Harriet River. True to the island's name, wildlife abounds, including, of course, kangaroos.

Jimbaran Bay, Bali, Indonesia
Bali is synonymous with South Pacific dreaming, and Jimbaran Bay offers the best of Bali: chalk-white sand before cobalt waters, beaming days, and some of the most famed sunsets on the island. Luxury resorts and villas sit tastefully in the background, draped in frangipani and, throughout the island, locals greet you with wide, warm smiles and open hearts.

Osprey Beach, Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos
It's not that this beach elicits the "oohs" and "aahs" of a perfect sliver of sand—it doesn't—but a few hundred feet from the water's edge the underwater scenery gets downright astonishing: Imagine diving vertical walls that drop from 40 to 7,000 feet, accessible via an eight-minute boat ride from shore. Visibility here consistently averages 100 feet—a good thing when huge manta rays swoop by—and water temps hover between 78 and 84 degrees. Hemming the backside of the beach is one mellow main street: More people walk it than drive it, and it's dotted with small hotels, cafes, beachfront bars, and (of course) dive shops.

Playa Blanca, Costa Rica
In a country known for dozens of superlative beaches, it's hard to single one out. But Playa Blanca is worthy of accolades: a kilometer of white sand beach with nice snorkeling and warm, clean water is bordered by a 750-acre reserve, all with the laid-back vibe of Central America. Waves are small here though, so there's no surfing scene.

Troncones, Mexico
Visitors to the Ixtapa-Zihuatenejo area on Mexico's west coast probably hear a lot of "you should've been here 20 years ago" remarks. Head 45 minutes north and you'll feel like you've found that time machine: Troncones is a sleepy fishing village dotted with casual, ocean-front restaurants, nice rental villas, a top-notch yoga retreat, and enough empty beach to satiate most purists. The water is clear, 80 degrees, and teeming with life, including passing whales during winter.

Frenchman's Cove, Jamaica
There's an unsolved riddle here; namely: How on earth did the most lush and scenic stretch of Jamaican coastline fall of

Published: 26 Jul 2007 | Last Updated: 22 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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