Chestnuts roasting on an open fire may be charming, but for a holiday treat that travelers will cherish long after the gifts have been opened, head down to the Caribbean.
Both adults and children will love spending a snow-free vacation surrounded by the friendly folks of the Caribbean. Whether you are looking to extend a Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah stay or desire a great way to ring in the new year, the balmy breezes and sandy beaches of the islands offer an assortment of unforgettable experiences.
Caribbean residents are among the most devout Christians in the world, so Christmas on the islands is a joyful time. Each island has a unique culture around the holiday, with special food, traditions, and celebrations. Check out Netherlands Antilles for visits from Sinterklaas, watch the Christmas Boat Parade in Bermuda, or join in on the month-long Crucian Christmas Festival.
After Christmas Day, there's the opportunity to cut loose in one of the region's raucous New Year's parties. Whether it's looking back at the Old Year's event in the British Virgin Islands or being among the first to greet the New Year in the U.S. in St. Croix, the Caribbean has a party to suit your taste when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st.
The islands of the Caribbean are full of amazing villas that can accommodate groups both large and small, at a price that can easily compete with what you'd pay at a comparable resort. Experienced villa rental companies like WheretoStay.com and Wimco can help with stocking the villa with supplies and groceries, hiring a private chef, or making restaurant reservations.
Nearly every cruise line in the Caribbean offers special Christmas and New Year's cruises, which includes food and entertainment for a single rate. While each ship has a unique itinerary, expect all of them to provide a special menu on Christmas Day and a rockin' party to welcome the new year in style.
Royal Caribbean is known for being family-friendly, and of course for families with small kids, it's hard to beat a few days at sea with Mickey Mouse and pals aboard Disney Cruise Line. Singles and couples may prefer to find a smaller vessel, which typically is geared more towards adults vacationing without any little ones.
Some of the best holiday memories involve food, and it's as true in the Caribbean as it is back home. From pastels to pork rolls, rice with pigeon peas to rum eggnog, there are great authentic Latin and Caribbean holiday dishes and recipes for a tasty island holiday feast. Visitors shouldn't miss out on the various street food options, including Jamaican meat patties, jerk chicken, roti, and even curried goat.
In December, the Caribbean's average daily temperature is in the high 70s. During the evening, the lows will be around 73 degrees F, while the daytime highs hit about 83 degrees F. The Hurricane season ends in November, but there could be a passing shower, so remember to pack an umbrella. During the evening, the weather cools down so women should bring along a shawl or light sweater, while men will want a pair of trousers.
The Caribbean is home to many of duty-free ports, like Charlotte Amalie in the U.S. Virgin Islands. These outlets offer discounts on luxury items like jewelry and perfume as well as rum and other liquor. For souvenirs with more of an island flavor, check out authentic Caribbean gifts like a ship in a bottle, spices or confections.