Top Five Christmas Beach Vacations

Christmas is a beautiful time of year—the festivities are in full swing, carolers fill the air with the sound of music, and, depending on where you live, the snow falls to create a sparkling winter wonderland. But sometimes it's good to get away from the biting cold of the season. A visit to a warm-weather retreat can make for a magical experience for you and your special someone. Pack your swimsuit and sunscreen for one of these top Christmas beach vacations:

1. Miami Beach, Fla.

Miami Beach, Fla.

Lined with smooth, warm beaches and shimmering waters, this Florida destination is popular among travelers during wintertime. In fact, U.S. News & World Report ranked it No. 7 among Best Winter Vacations in the country because of its combination of entertainment options, temperate climate, and wild nightlife scene. It was also recognized for its variety of boutique hotels, such as its array of Miami Beach bed and breakfasts.

Visitors can soak up some sun or take a dip in the soothing waters, then they can hit the town to discover the thrilling attractions. South Beach is bursting with bars, clubs, and lounges as well as fine dining restaurants and casual eateries. Keep your eye out for celebrity sightings: The stars are known to frequent this trendy neighborhood. This is also the place to squeeze in some last-minute Christmas shopping—it's full of boutique shops and antique stores. Throughout Miami Beach, you can find other holiday attractions, such as a seasonal ice rink and a winter-themed botanical garden. Miami Beach is also home to Santa´s Enchanted Forest, which is the largest Christmas theme park in the world.

2. Laguna Beach, Calif.

Laguna Beach, Calif.

Located in Southern California, Laguna Beach offers a warm, seaside retreat for your Christmas vacation. Settle into one of the area's quaint B&Bs before exploring the 7 miles of beach lining the Pacific. Discover the city's downtown, which is rich with shopping, dining, and entertainment options. While you're in town, be sure to check out the thriving artist community: It has been a mecca for artists since the 9th century and is home to a variety of artisans, craftspeople, and galleries. But its holiday events are what make it an ideal Yuletide destination. The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade Of Lights, for instance, is a century-old tradition that attracts more than 1.5 million people each year.

3. Grand Isle, La.

 Summerville, SC

While a less common winter destination, Louisiana's Grand Isle offers Southern charm and pleasant weather year-round for a relaxing Christmas excursion. The remote oasis is laid out along the state's expansive shoreline. It's a place of beauty with untouched natural features like windswept beaches and dense greenery. It has a little something for everyone, from regional seafood cuisine to a rich history marked by the Civil War. Sportsmen, in particular, will love it here—there are plenty of opportunities for fishing, birding, and hunting, not to mention exhilarating hikes through the wild. For holiday celebrations, the town features unique, nature-themed events such as the annual Christmas Bird Count and a tree lighting ceremony.

4. Saint Simons Island, Ga.

Saint Simons Island

For a Christmas stay in Georgia, head to Saint Simons Island and stay in one of its charming inns. The destination offers pristine beaches with waters calm enough for the young ones but suitable for surfing, kayaking, and other water sports. Visitors may catch glimpses of dolphins, sea turtles, and exotic sea birds. Make sure to explore the regional cuisine—the area is known for its Southern fare that features coastal Atlantic ingredients. There's also plenty of Yuletide fun to be had throughout December. Each year, the Golden Isles Sailing Club puts on a Christmas Boat Parade of Lights, while the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra visits the town for the Festival of Christmas Brass.

5. Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu, Hawaii

If you're looking for an American beach outside of the contiguous U.S., head to the gorgeous Hawaiian island of Oahu. The sunny paradise offers plenty of opportunity for summertime fun. Swim in the Pacific Ocean, fish off the pier, scuba dive to find colorful tropical fish, hit the course for a round of golf, or just relax on the white sands. The beaches of Waikiki are among the most beautiful on the island, but this area is also home to a thrilling nightlife—it has entertainment venues, shops and dining options as well as the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium.

Visitors staying in one of the many Oahu inns during Christmastime can also partake in the island's holiday festivities—locals go all out. The celebrations kick off in early December with the Honolulu City Lights ceremony followed by an array of seasonal traditions, including the Hula Christmas Concert and a rendition of "The Nutcracker" by the Hawaii State Ballet. For holiday shopping, stop at the Aloha Marketplace, Honolulu's historic shopping district.