These Beach Resorts Go All Out for the Winter Holidays
With dazzling displays, indulgent banquets, and festive parties, these seaside hotels will have you feeling merry and bright
We welcome winter in the West in all its forms, from snowy weekends holed up at a cozy lodge retreat to ski holidays spent under bluebird skies. But after the first few freezes, we start to dream of something warmer. Leave the snow and party planning behind in favor of a beach vacation that you’ll never forget. Pretty soon, you’ll be doing more than dreaming of a sandy Christmas at the beach with these barefoot luxury resorts where Kris Kringle arrives by outrigger canoe, elves show up for turndown service, and feasting is a nightly occurrence.
Terranea Resort, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Courtesy of Terranea Resort
Starting with Thanksgiving and continuing through the winter holidays, Terranea, near L.A., celebrates in an extravagant fashion with mega buffets, wine pairing dinners, and cider stations at the hotel’s nine restaurants. Resident elves take care of turndown service, bringing sweet treats and stocking stuffers, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus make guest appearances for breakfast. If you need a quick boost, the Sense of the Season vanilla spice brown sugar scrub at the spa will ease away any Grinchy moods. This month-long celebration is practically a tradition for many Angeleno families who escape to this 102-acre icon along the Pacific.
Montage Laguna Beach, Laguna Beach, CA
A tall tree wrapped in gold lights marks the spot for holiday cheer at the Montage Laguna Beach. But, this time of year, the real draw at this white-glove-service resort is the food. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, a 12-station buffet serves up slow-roasted meats, root vegetable salads, and warming soups—all of which will ensure the entire clan sleeps right through Santa’s arrival. Reserve an afternoon for holiday high tea or sip cider while decorating gingerbread houses with the help of the pastry pros. On New Year’s Eve, parents can toast 2020 at the lobby party, while kiddos take to the ballroom for a bash complete with karaoke, dinner, and a movie.
Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, Puerto Vallarta, MX
For a home-style holiday—though on a much grander, posher scale—cruise down to the all-suite, all-inclusive, all-luxe Grand Velas in Puerto Vallarta. Guests can pre-select from an online shop for gifts that get delivered to the room (along with a decorated tree) before arrival, and each of those purchases comes with a donated toy for a pediatric cancer nonprofit. Santa arrives via helicopter when the entire resort transforms into a tropical winter wonderland with human-size gingerbread houses, candy stations, sandcastles, and nativity story plays. Not bad for those who would rather spend Christmas at the beach instead of waking up to a foot of snow.
Park Hyatt Aviara Resort Golf Club & Spa, Carlsbad, CA
Park Hyatt Aviara, in the dream townof Carlsbad, brings the North Pole to its lobby with giant, themed chocolate sculptures. The hotel’s pastry team (which includes Food Network champ Al DiBartolo) whip together 75 pounds of sugar, 50 pounds of molding chocolate, and 50 pounds of cereal for the show-stopping pieces. The sweet display stays in the lobby all season, but the real treats await outside the hotel, where 200 acres holds an Arnold Palmer golf course, two pools, and access to the Batiquitos Lagoon wildlife sanctuary, home to more than 100 types of birds. Back inside the Spanish Colonial hotel, you can get in the spirit by crafting your own gingerbread house or pine wreath.
Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina, Kapolei, HI
There’s a good reason why the Four Seasons on Oahu’s rugged western shore got its name of Ko Olina, which translates to “place of joy.” Post up in a plunge pool overlooking the Pacific’s turquoise lagoons, and you’ll quickly get it, too. The joy is amplified in December with carolers, a chic maker market, the Cartier Giving Tree (a 30-foot Doulas fir, on which guests can place ornaments with donations from $10 to $1,000 for the Boys & Girls Club), and the Honolulu Wind Ensemble holiday poolside concert. Learn the hula during the New Year’s luau complete with knife dancing and a massive island-flavored buffet.
Hotel del Coronado, near San Diego, CA
There’s a reason why the 131-year-old Del shows up on every list of top holiday hotels: The beach resort embodies the festive spirit in every way. Yes, there’s the picture-perfect beachside ice skating rink. And the towering tree in the lobby simply charms with its Victorian-inspired ornaments and twinkling lights. And sure, the exterior light display is stunning. But beyond the magical setting, the Del also celebrates the season with heart by giving back. This year, the December 20 Polar Bear Tea party doubles as a Toys for Tots drive with little ones encouraged to bring a gift to donate. Another reason to feel good about spending Christmas at the beach!
Grand Wailea Maui, A Waldorf Resort, Wailea, HI
Grand Wailea Maui, a Waldorf Astoria Resort
At Grand Wailea in Maui, Santa gives guests a warm aloha when he comes to town on an outrigger canoe on Christmas Eve. The season kicks off in early December with a tree lighting ceremony, featuring more than seven miles of twinkling white lights along the driveway and up the 25-foot tree, and continues with a nightly menorah lighting. Amplifying the merry vibes, Grand Wailea matches every dollar donated when you buy a Boys & Girls Club ornament. New Year’s comes hot and spirited with 12 days of holiday-themed cocktails leading up to the occasion and a fireworks show on the big night.