Time off from work and school around the holiday season means it’s easier to plan getaways to the country’s tropical destinations, where the stresses of everyday life, and sometimes the weather, can melt away under a clear blue sky and the warmth of the sun. Top vacation spots in the U.S., with tropical climates, of course, vary from the seclusion of the U.S. Virgin Islands to the lively streets of Miami, and the sunny Texas coast to the lush Hawaiian Islands, and plenty of others in between.


Related: 10 Tropical Places In The US That Only Feel Exotic & Faraway

10/10 Key West

Visit the southernmost point in the country and choose from a variety of activities in the tropical paradise that is Key West, such as all kinds of water sports, pristine beaches, craftsman-style architecture, fun clubs and nightlife, and several historic sites.

Shop on Duval Street, the town’s hippest location for unique stores, bars, and cafes, and check out the famous Sloppy Joe’s bar, a favorite of the late novelist Ernest Hemingway. There’s also the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum that visitors can explore. Walking tours are the best way to see the island’s neighborhoods and gardens, and soaking up the sun on any of Key West’s beaches lets travelers experience the holiday season from a different point of view.

9/10 South Padre Island

South Padre Island, a barrier island off the coast of Texas, is a family favorite thanks to its calm Gulf of Mexico waters, perfect for youngsters. Visitors travel to the destination for water sports, fishing, and birdwatching. A nature-lover’s paradise, the island is home to the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center and the South Padre Island Dolphin Research & Sealife Nature Center, which offers boat tours of the region.

Families are bound to find excitement at Beach Park at Isla Blanca, a 25-acre waterpark with water slides and a zip-line, and Sea Trek, an underwater Scuba experience. Locally run tour companies keep adults entertained with parasailing and banana boat ride adventures, plus dolphin tours and snorkeling excursions.

8/10 St. John, U.S.V.I

St. John is the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, and while St. Thomas and St. Croix have their own excellent vacation activities; it’s St. John that has a 5,500-acre national park, which protects more than half of the island from development and keeps nature at the forefront of island priorities.

Considered one of the best places in the Caribbean to snorkel, thanks to its clear blue waters, St. John also is known for its abundance of sea turtles in near-shore waters. Aside from lounging and relaxing at one of the island’s pristine beaches, visitors spend part of their holiday getaway exploring the destination’s three dozen hiking trails inside the national park.

7/10 Waikiki, Oahu

Think Oahu, and gorgeous Waikiki Beach, America’s top beach destination, quickly leaps to mind, with its surfers, dug-out canoe wave rides, and lively beach vibe, all against the backdrop of the Diamond Head volcanic crater. Located on the south shore of Honolulu, the beachfront is lined with high-rise hotels and resorts. Restaurants and shops are just a few blocks away, and boat tours and water sports abound, including surfing lessons.

The world-famous Waikiki Beach area has other activities, too, such as the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium. The Waikiki Historical Trail makes for an educational outing, and Hawaiian heritage is always at hand, with luaus and other traditional events happening up and down the popular beachfront, making for a unique holiday season celebration.

6/10 Maui

The Hawaiian island of Maui has more than 30 miles of beaches, both white and black sand, that are perfect for surfing and windsurfing, swimming, and snorkeling. One way to spend a holiday season vacation is to find just the right spot at Makena Beach State Park, one of the island’s top beaches. It’s a white-sand beach about two-thirds of a mile long, and since it’s a state park, it has remained undeveloped.

On the island’s west shore, Ka’anapali Beach is known for its great cliff diving opportunities, and holiday travelers can choose from five hotels located on the popular 3-mile-long beach.

5/10 San Diego

This Southern California city boasts 17 miles of coast and scores of beaches for holiday-makers looking for sun and fun. Visitors can settle in at Mission Bay Park, with its 19 sparkling beaches. It’s an ideal location for swimmers, surfers, rowers, water skiers, and recreational boaters, and there’s a nature reserve at its northern end at Crown Point.

Water-based entertainment options abound at SeaWorld on the Mission Bay coast, which offers not only marine animal shows but also thrill rides such as Shipwreck Rapids, a tube-based ride that begins as a winding river and becomes a whitewater rapid before ending with a waterfall finale.

4/10 Miami

Aside from its popular beachfront, Miami has much to engage the holiday visitor. One don’t-miss is the Art Deco Historic District in South Beach, running along Ocean Drive and on Collins and Washington avenues. Known for its geometric shapes, simple lines, and bold colors, the art deco era reached its peak in the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s. Many boutique hotels are designed in the art deco style, and tourists can stroll through the district to view the buildings.

There are many historical sites to see in Miami, including the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, in the Coconut Grove neighborhood. Built in the early 20th century, the waterfront mansion shows the best of the Gilded Age and is renowned for its Italian Renaissance gardens. The 70-room main house features gilded panels, fresco ceilings, marble floors, and many historical items dating from the 15th century.

3/10 San Juan, Puerto Rico

Holiday visitors can discover Old San Juan‘s history, with its ancient forts and 100-year-old pastel-colored buildings. Old San Juan is an islet connected to the main island of Puerto Rico. Visitors looking for a beach vacation can head to Escambron Beach, located between Old San Juan and Condado. Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular at this beach, which offers great views of the old town.

Condado Beach offers easy access to a calm-water area, Playita del Condado, and to Condado Lagoon, where vacationers can paddle board and kayak. The centrally located Condado Beach is within a short walk to restaurants, casinos, and shops.

2/10 Santa Catalina Island

This Southern California island is situated off the coast of Long Beach and Newport Beach, and it’s just an hour’s ferry ride from the mainland. Visitors can relax at Descanso Beach Club, a private beach that’s open to the public. Rent a private beach cabana and spend the day swimming and sunbathing.

Travelers seeking some excitement can visit the Catalina Casino or opt for something more low-key, such as a round of miniature golf at Golf Gardens. Youngsters will undoubtedly enjoy a glass bottom boat tour or an undersea sub expedition. Restaurants are found in the towns of Avalon and Two Harbors, and for nightlife, tourists can check out the Harbor Reef Saloon and Patio Bar.

Related: Tropical Destinations You’ve Never Heard Of (Worth Visiting)

1/10 Coronado Island

Coronado Island is just minutes across a bridge from downtown San Diego but is a tropical world apart from the hectic city life. It offers wide beaches with gentle surf, upscale houses and mansions, and the famous Hotel del Coronado. The island’s quaint Main Street features plenty of dining and shopping choices.

Coronado Beach is considered the most gorgeous beach in San Diego, offering sailing, paddle boarding, surfing, and kayaking, plus romantic Venetian-style gondola cruises, making for a special holiday treat.



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