Where to Go in December: Best Luxury Travel Destinations and Where to Stay
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Hilary Stockton

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Where to Go In December: Best Luxury Travel Destinations and Where to Stay


What are the best places to visit in December? For anyone looking for Christmas and New Year's, I advise planning a year in advance for popular resort destinations, although city breaks can be planned with less lead time. And even planning a year in advance, there are places, such as the Four Seasons resorts in Hawaii, that aren't bookable unless you're a repeat guest that goes there every year, because these repeaters have first priority, and everyone else is relegated to a wait list (see Hawaii Vacation for Christmas and New Year's? 6 Reasons to Go Another Time).

But just as important as knowing which resorts are effectively impossible to get into is knowing which places are likely to be sunny, and which will be in the midst of a rainy season. While there are no weather guarantees, most guests would prefer not to visit a tropical paradise where there's a good chance of rain on a daily basis.

Happily, there are a number of places with excellent weather in December, and if you can get away in early December, before holiday peak season, some of them are still available over the next 2-3 weeks.

1. The Maldives

We try to explore new places around the world, but there's a reason we've been to the Maldives three times in 4 years. The combination of beautiful views, fantastic snorkeling and diving, private villa accommodations and great service is hard to beat among luxury resort options. Plus, unlike say Bora Bora, you can fly great first class and business class products at least as far as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or Singapore, such as Etihad First Apartment on the A380, Emirates A380 First Class, and Singapore Suites on the A380. While our trips have been in shoulder season, such as May and November, the best times to visit are December (especially later December) to April, when it tends to be drier; rainfall is more frequent in the months of May-November.

Where to Stay

Cheval Blanc Randheli

This is by far my top recommendation in the Maldives, now that we've stayed there. Even the "entry level" Water Villa we stayed in is over 2500 square feet and has its own over 40 feet long infinity pool. Blackout shades and lights are controlled both manually and from an iPad, and there's a butler's pantry with a full size fridge and real freezer, as well as complimentary (and stylish, given that Cheval Blanc is the luxury resort brand of Louis Vuitton) beach bags (different style for men, women and children), espadrilles and slippers. Your traveling clothes, up to 3 pieces per person, are also laundered or dry cleaned complimentary. Our best meal ever in the Maldives, and one of the best in our lives, was at the resort's signature restaurant, Le 1947, and Paris-quality macarons were just some of the welcome treats awaiting us on our arrival. My husband is a pretty low key guy and doesn't make many demands, but he is adamant that we have to return here for a longer stay. And my son was practically in tears when we made him leave the kids' club, which he loved, to catch our flight back.

Virtuoso Benefits

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Full Breakfast daily for up to two in-room guests
  • $150 USD Food & Beverage credit to be utilized during stay in any of the resort's restaurants, bars or for room service, i.e. "Carte Blanche" (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Cheval Blanc Randheli: View from Water Villa


Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru

If your budget doesn't quite extend to Cheval Blanc, I recommend Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru (which is actually possible to access by speedboat from Cheval Blanc, if you want to stay at both resorts but not go back through Male). As at Cheval Blanc Randheli, each of you has a bike for use during your stay, and it's even personalized with your initials to avoid mixups. The villas aren't as spacious or as luxurious as at Cheval Blanc, but you're closer to Haanifaru Bay, where you can snorkel with mantas, and there's even a "Manta on Call" offering where you carry a phone as you enjoy the resort and are only called when there are lots of mantas to see, then whisked off on in a speedboat to snorkel with them.

Kids will love the kids' club here as well, which includes both a splash pool and outdoor play area with trampoline and pirate ship, as well as air conditioned in door area for arts, crafts and games. 

Four Seasons Preferred Partner Benefits

  • Daily full American breakfast for two people per bedroom, served through In-Room Dining or in the hotel restaurant (including buffets)
  • Spa credit of USD100 once during stay (not applicable to products)
  • Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of check-in (excluding signature suites, villas, and private residences)
  • Complimentary basic Internet in all guest rooms, complimentary premium Internet in all suites.

Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru


2. New Zealand

Whether you're a Lord of the Rings fan or not, New Zealand is a gorgeous destination, with great hiking, water sports from diving to fishing, alpine scenery, and great wine and food, especially at the initimate luxury lodges. What's not to like? We've only had two short trips there, but certainly hope to find time to visit for longer to explore more of the country.

And December is a good time to go weather-wise, as it's summer time in the southern hemisphere and there tends to be less rain than during March-September (well, except Queenstown, which is actually best visited in February and April).


Where to Stay


Our son loved sampling from our 13 course tasting dinners at Cheval Blanc Randheli's Le 1947, and when we asked him what his other favorite meals were, he immediately described the one at Otahuna; he didn't remember the name of the lodge, but from his description, we knew this was the dinner he meant. And for us as well, it was our favorite dinner in New Zealand, and also among our favorite dinners period. It's not as elaborate as, say, a Michelin star tasting menu, but each preparation was utterly delicious, and served with such warmth from Chef Jimmy McIntyre and Donna, the Sommelier. See Otahuna Lodge Dining Review: Best Meal in New Zealand.

2017 Virtuoso Benefits

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Full breakfast daily in restaurant for up to 2 in-room guests, via room service
  • A complimentary lunch or picnic basketâ—¦for up to two people per room once during stay, including a bottle of New Zealand wine.
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Otahuna, Christchurch Area, New Zealand

The Farm at Cape Kidnappers

Virtuoso Benefits

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • $100 USD Equivalent Spa Services credit, (not combinable, valid on services only, not valid on products, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand


3. Amanpulo, Pamalican Private Island in the Philippines

Best beach in the world. No, not best snorkeling or diving in the world although these are nice too but not Maldives level, but if you yearn for powdery white sand that doesn't feel hot to your feet, clear turquoise water, your own private casita or villa on a private island, Amanpulo is for you. And it's not even that difficult to get to as part of an Asia itinerary, since Manila is only 2 hours from Hong Kong, then Amanpulo is a 1 hour charter flight from Manila.

Virtuoso Benefits

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Continental breakfast daily, for up to two in room guests
  • A complimentary a la carte lunch for up to two people per room, once during stay, excluding alcohol, taxes and gratuitiess
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Amanpulo, Pamalican Island


4. Marrakech, Morocco

While some clients are currently dismissing out of hand all destinations where Islam is a major religion, those who have recently visited Marrakech, Morocco have loved it. And December is nice month with many sunny days and under 2 inches of precipitation on average, and highs in the mid 60s, although evenings can be cold.

Where to Stay

Mandarin Oriental Marrakech

Mandarin Oriental Fan Club Benefits


  • USD 100 Food & Beverage or Spa Credit, per room per stay
  • Daily full breakfast for two persons
  • Complimentary High Speed Internet Access during stay
  • Personalized welcome amenity 
  • One category room upgrade, subject to availability at time of check-in

Mandarin Oriental Marrakech


Virtuoso Benefits

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Continental breakfast daily, for up to two in room guests
  • A complimentary lunch or dinner for up to two people per room, once during stay, excluding alcohol, taxes and gratuities
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Amanjena, Marrakech

5. Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa is a client favorite during the warmer and drier months of November-March. Hike majestic Table Mountain or take in the views by cable car, explore the lively Victoria & Alfred Waterfront with its great views, restaurants, shopping and live entertainment, and oenophiles can enjoy one of the many wine tours in the region. Don't miss the poignant District Six Museum, chronicling the forcible removal of 60,000 residents in the 1970s during the apartheid regime.

Where to Stay

Cape Grace

Virtuoso Benefits

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • A choice of a 50 minute traditional massage or a 50 minute Neoqi Hydrotherapy Experience, per person, per room, per stay
  • Complimentary mini bar consisting of a selection of local wines, beer and soft drinks
  • A complimentary bottle of wine, per stay, from the Virtuoso Wine bin in the Bascule Vinoteque
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Belmond Mount Nelson

2017 Virtuoso Benefits

  • Guaranteed Upgrade at time of booking
  • Buffet breakfast daily in restaurant for up to two in room guests (R100 tray charge applies to room service breakfast)
  • Early check in or guaranteed pm late check out confirmed at time of booking, subject to availability
  • Private Afternoon tea OR Evening tea for two served once during stay
  • Free use of business center
  • Complimentary internet access for duration of stay 
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
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Picture?type=large John M. commented 27 Nov 2016
Just because Vienna and Munich aren't private islands, they certainly deserve mention on a list where upper class December destinations are discussed. At least you'll feel like it's Christmas in Europe; particularly in Germany or Austria. Two destinations on the African continent and none in Europe seems lopsided.
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 30 Nov 2016
Vienna and Munich are lovely cities, but they're not where most of my clients want to go in December, given the weather. In my view they also can't compete in terms of luxury hotels with the ones I mention in the post. While there are certainly luxury destinations in the Caribbean, where it's warm, I'd also rank these lower than the places in the post in terms of level of service, which really differentiates the best luxury properties.
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