Head South for the Winter
Not even eggnog and mistletoe can cancel out gray skies, so don’t feel bad about packing up your Christmas cheer and taking it to the beach.
If you want to shed a few layers of warm wool but don’t want to forget the true meaning of the season, the island of Puerto Rico could be your safe haven. Get your beach fix, trek through El Yunque Rain Forest and spend a little time in Old San Juan. Experience new sights and sounds without completely leaving Christmas behind thanks to a mixture of spirituality, island- style festivities and modern accents. Nochebuena (Christmas Eve), typically the largest day for feasting and festivities, will provide the chance to try lechon asao (roast pig), pastels (dough filled with meat and wrapped in banana leaves) and coquito, the traditional holiday beverage made with coconut milk and rum. Sounds like the right recipe for a well-rounded holiday.
Avoid standard commercialism and enjoy the gifts of island beauty instead. Visit a landmark that puts others to shame (Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Botanical Gardens, The Hana Highway just to name a few…) and set yourself up in comfortable accommodations that give you easy access to the warm sand those mainlanders will be missing. Many holiday travelers bring a few decorations, but the beaches should be enough to put you in a celebratory mood. You’ll soon see palm trees, fusion dinners and the hula make for a very merry holiday.
Maybe you’d prefer to stay in the lower 48 but are still very much inclined to feel the sand beneath your toes come Christmas morning. The Florida Keys don’t require a passport or a winter coat, and spending a holiday here can be whatever you want it to be. This place is known for being independent-minded and colorful to the extreme, so dress up in a Santa suit if that’s what floats your boat, because no one’s going to judge (although, with highs in the 70’s and lows in the 60’s, you might be more comfortable in T-shirts and sandals). Happy hour, sunset shenanigans at Mallory Square and frequent art festivals make every day a celebration, so it’s no stretch to find that Christmas in the Keys equals fine holiday fun.
Truly get out of town this holiday season and hit the Bahamas, a place well-equipped to cancel out the winter doldrums. A tension-free romantic getaway or a family trip out to prove that Christmas doesn’t have to be all about stress and stocking stuffers will be the resulting benefit of this island adventure. Play it cool by hanging out on the beach and ditching all time-keeping devices, but do remember one thing: December 26 marks the day of Junkanoo, an incomparable Bahamian celebration with colorful costumes, music and dancing. In addition to enjoying some quality beach time, expanding your world view makes choosing to get out of town an excellent decision.
Helpful Holiday Beach Tips
Book flights and make rental reservations several weeks in advance. You know you want to escape the weather and stress that late December usually piles upon you, so stop putting it off and just take the non-traditional plunge.
If you’re doing the gift thing, don’t waste your time with bows and paper. With airport security being what it is these days you might have to re-do a pretty wrapping job, so consider waiting or just going natural.
Because ice and snow tend to cause snarls at busy airports like Chicago and Detroit, try to take a flight that routes through a southern hub and go direct if possible.
We’re creatures of habit, so bringing a few special items (decorations, snacks, whatever) along might make you feel more at home. Consider it the holiday equivalent of a security blanket.
Come Christmas morning you might feel a little guilty to be greeted with ocean breezes rather than brisk winds, but don’t let your conscience bring you down. You chose to do it differently, and that’s a good thing.