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Surfing with Santa: Winter Holidays in the Sun

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Contrary to popular belief, not everyone is dreaming of a White Christmas. If you'd rather spend your holidays sipping a fruity cocktail by the beach than dashing through the snow — and traffic — consider heading to a sunny spot for your winter vacation. Here are some fun destinations for a warm-weather holiday getaway.

Sydney, Australia

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December marks midsummer Down Under, with average temperatures reaching around 72 degrees in Australia's capital. Despite the sunny weather, Sydney still has plenty of holiday cheer. The town lights up for the season, hosting events like the Christmas Walk and concerts throughout the city. Australia also has some of the best surfing in the world. What better way to catch a Christmas wave than by surfing in a Santa suit? Head up to the coastal town of Crescent Head, about an hour's flight from Sydney, to check out the annual Crescent Head Santa Surf, where hundreds of surfers ride the waves in their most festive attire.

St. Kitts

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The Caribbean Islands are particularly popular during the winter, and for good reason. St. Kitts, located in the Eastern Caribbean, has an average temperature of 86 degrees in December. The island is home to dozens of luxury beach resorts, perfect for a little holiday R&R.

Ecotourism is expanding in St. Kitts, giving you plenty of options for exploring the island's lush landscapes, such as a hike on Mount Liamuiga, an inactive volcano and one of the tallest peaks in the Caribbean. December is also Carnival season in St. Kitts, and it's unique because it celebrates both the island's African heritage and the holiday season. Check out the colorful costumes and skilled dancers at one of the season's many parades.

Honolulu, Hawaii

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The holiday season is a big time for tourism in Hawaii, with plenty to explore. Hike the iconic Diamond Head National Monument, located just a few miles from the city center. Take a dip in the clear blue waters at Waikiki Beach, a perfect spot for people-watching. Head straight from the beach to Waikiki Beach Walk for some prime shopping.

The city really shines at night during the holiday season, with the Honolulu City Lights on display throughout December. This annual attraction features dozens of colorful and quirky light displays, a giant tree in the middle of town and plenty of events, including a Christmas Parade, and the best part is that all the Honolulu City Lights events are free.

Key West, Florida

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Key West's mild winters and colorful personality make the southernmost point in the continental United States a great place for a holiday getaway. The key features lots of places to stay at any price point, from luxury resorts to smaller vacation rentals. Many great writers and public figures made Key West their vacation spot of choice in the early 20th century; head down to the historic district of Old Town to check out the Hemingway House and President Truman's vacation home, the Little White House.

For some fun in the sun, catch some rays at Smathers Beach or go on a dolphin safari. The Historic Seaport at Key West Bight gets festive in December with the arrival of the "Bight" Before Christmas festival. You haven't really seen a light show until you've seen a speedboat lit up to look like a dragon.

Newport Beach, California

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With temperatures only reaching an average of 65 degrees, Newport Beach may not be the warmest spot on this list, but the mild temperatures and sunny skies still give you the freedom to enjoy the many fun activities this gorgeous town has to offer. Ride your bikes on the beach, do some whale watching on the Pacific or check out a local winery. Newport Beach's proximity to Disneyland also makes it a great spot for families. Make sure to check out the park in all its festive finery during your stay in the Orange County area.

Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

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Not quite ready to leave the snow behind? Head to Tenerife in Spain's Canary Islands to experience the best of both worlds. Located off the northern coast of Africa, Tenerife reaches an average high temperature of around 71 degrees. While the weather's a little too cool for swimming, you can still soak up some sun on one of the island's gorgeous beaches. For a change of scenery, climb up to Spain's highest peak, Mount Teide. Winter brings a picturesque coating of snow to the volcano, making it perfect for sledding and making snow angels without getting too cold.

Evenings in Tenerife are perfect for exploring the island's quaint towns and festive displays. Head to the island's capital of Santa Cruz to check out a traditional belen, a gorgeous nativity scene. The belens are truly something to behold, intricately detailing the story of the first Christmas in its entirety. While you're there, enjoy a delicious dinner in one of the town's many restaurants or take in a show at the Tenerife Auditorium.

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Nov 18, 2015