Best beaches for a sunny Christmas vacation
Tanja shares her favorite beaches to spend the December holiday season:
The winter is coming, and I’ve never been a fan of white Christmases. I prefer to end each year on a picture-perfect paradise beach basking under the tropical sun. The Christmas holiday season is also the peak tourist season in pretty much all of my favorite destinations in Asia. That means I usually try to book my flights and hotels early, but the hardest part is choosing exactly where to go! I love Sri Lanka and Maldives equally, and had the time of my life in Thailand one Christmas. Emerging destinations like Myanmar and Cambodia also have their own unique allures in December. I’m sure I’m not the only one who experiences this dilemma! In any case, I’ve rounded up my all-time favorite beach destinations to holiday in December. They are chosen for their beauty, value for money and facilities in the area. So, here’s the list (in no particular order):
- Bentota, Sri Lanka
When I first came to Sri Lanka (which now feels like a very long time ago), Bentota beach was all the rave. All my newfound local friends wanted me to go there. I thought a famous beach like that would be so overcrowded and dirty, like Havana. However, Bentota’s coconut palm-fringed golden shores managed to woo me! The public areas of the beach can get crowded, especially on weekends, but the seafront hotels have their own private beaches, which are much less congested. No matter if you prefer a classy gala dinner for Christmas Eve or New Year’s, or a beach party, you will find it in Bentota.
- Ngapali, Myanmar
Everyone thinks Myanmar’s only about the cultural highlights. But, if you bother to venture couple of kilometers away from Yangon over a mountain range, there’s Ngapali, one of the most pristine beaches I’ve seen in all of Southeast Asia. It has yet to suffer overdevelopment, so the white-gold beach here still holds onto its unspoiled charm. Most of the accommodations are offered by charming guesthouses. In the evenings, you could watch the fishermen dragging heavy fishing nets onto the shore, illuminated only by the multicolored rays of the setting sun. I highly recommend going there before the crowds descend.
- Koh Chang, Thailand
Despite its massive size, Koh Chang Island has managed to hide itself from some major tourist crowds like in Pattaya. It stubbornly holds onto its stunning natural beauty, just enough to captivate even the finickiest traveler. Koh Chang’s beaches are made to relax, sunbathe, eat at many beachfront restaurants and hang out at the bars listening to Bob Marley until midnight. Everyone is welcome to find their ideal beach at Koh Chang. I found mine at Lonely Beach, which is generously fringed with lush palms and had a great view of verdant mountains in the distance. Beware that it can get crowded during the Christmas season.
- Kaafu Atoll, Maldives
I firmly believe that everyone on earth must spend at least one holiday in the Maldives. Two years ago, I spent New Year’s Eve at an utterly stunning private island in Kaafu Atoll. It was the ultimate white-sand beach getaway. The beaches here were completely private, so I didn’t have to worry about raucous New Year party crowds. Instead, my resort had this superb gala dinner that was very elegant and fun. Their private lagoon was crowd-free too, and perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
- Phuket, Thailand
Phuket is the place to be for Christmases filled with parties, food, much bar hopping and of course, beach. I spent one Christmas here and stayed until the New Year’s with a group of friends and we all had a really great time. There are really good, top-class hotels here if you don’t plan on venturing outside much. The beaches are a sight to behold, but during the peak season it’s inevitable that there are crowds. I usually prefer secluded beaches, but I still loved Phuket for its intoxicating energy.
- Nusa Dua, Bali
In Bali it’s the wet season in December and January, so there can be showers. However, you can still enjoy that dreamy getaway and avoid the crowds if you know where to go. Last year, I had a wonderful sunny pre-Christmas vacation in Nusa Dua, which I’ll describe as a one-stop-shop in Bali for nature, adventure, heritage and beach. I found an almost deserted strip of golden sand to relax at, and thanks to excellent weather, swam a lot, too. Nusa Dua can be a great place to a beach bum, but I liked it between touring parts of inland Bali.
- Pemuteran, Bali
I actually came here on a wildlife tour, and discovered this very laidback beach by a sleepy village. If you don’t like the touristy-ness of Bali, come here for temples and adventure. Pemuteran doesn’t look like much, but, as they say, looks can be deceiving. There are two things I loved the most here: First is the refreshingly different onyx beach, so colored by volcanic residue. Second is the general tranquility of the area. Pemuteran’s best attractions are underwater, so come prepared for truly breathtaking dives. If you want an active Christmas, the West Bali National park is just around the corner.
- Penang, Malaysia
When I first saw the Penang Island, it was love at first sight. The beaches here are creamy white with oddly-shaped boulders taking up space here and there. There’s a beach here to suit every taste. Couple of years ago, I spent the days leading up to Christmas in peace and quiet at Monkey Beach by the Penang National Park, which was amazingly scenic and thrilling.
- Seminyak, Bali
Seminyak may not be the place you want to be if you are looking for a secluded beach. I’ve been here several times with friends and I loved it for the energy and the jaw-dropping scenery despite development. Seminyak is a great place to enjoy the New Year’s holidays with kids. I was here last December with my parents, sister, and her two kids. It was perfect. We had great hotel options, nice restaurants and very kid-friendly stretches of powder-fine sand. The hotel we stayed at was very accommodating towards small kids, and had a pool with water slides. On the beach, older kids can enjoy kite flying and surf lessons (also available for adults).
This Christmas for me will certainly be sunny! How about you?