Fresh snow is charming in December. Actually, let’s rephrase that: fresh snow is charming in early December. Really, from the day before Thanksgiving up until December 7 (give or take a few days), snow is downright magical. But when the brittle cold sets in, the snow stops feeling novel and becomes a nuisance in your driveway, and your lips are chapped seemingly beyond repair, a warm-weather vacation starts to sound rather appealing. For those staying in the country this winter, a far-flung island escape might be out of the question, but the U.S. is home to many idyllic beach towns that stay temperate (i.e., ranging from the 50s to the 70s) all year long. If your family is in need of a sun-filled getaway, rent a beach house at one of these charming U.S. destinations. Even if it won’t be tanning weather in some of these locales, you’ll be stunned at just how quickly the tension in your shoulders releases at the first sign of waves and vitamin D.
Hilton Head, South Carolina
Every year, Hilton Head Island seemingly gets more popular, and yet, with their inviting beaches, vibrant Gullah culture, and burgeoning culinary scene, that’s wholly unsurprising. There’s just something about the 12 miles of beach and low country charm that keeps tourists coming back for more. With no shortage of family-friendly activities, Hilton Head Island has an impressive Coastal Discovery Museum, the historically important Mitchelville Freedom Park (the first free village in the United States), hiking at Sea Pines Forest Preserve, and of course, beaches galore. If you’re looking for an expansive Southern-style beach house with a wraparound porch, consider Burkes Beach or Coligny Beach.
Hermosa Beach, California
The best beach town in Los Angeles is a hotly contested travel topic. From the chilled-out shores of Venice Beach to the star-studded stretch of beach lining Malibu, the LA beach scene is unrivaled. But for a quiet beach week with the family, we’d recommend going south to Hermosa Beach. Largely considered the local’s beach, Hermosa is sleepy enough to be relaxing, luxurious enough to feel California glam, and is right along the beachfront biking path, The Strand, such that you can easily ride north to Manhattan Beach or south to Redondo. While in Hermosa, treat yourself to a waterfront rental, set aside some quality time for paddleboarding or surfing (rent from E.T. Surf), and pop into Manhattan Beach for dinner at M.B. Post.
Anna Maria Island, Florida
A Gulf of Mexico barrier island on Florida’s western coast, Anna Maria Island is just north of Sarasota and south of Tampa and St. Petersburg. Between the warm Gulf of Mexico waters, the sparkling turquoise waves, and the seven miles of white sand beaches, this island feels particularly Caribbean. Anna Maria Island has a retro resort town feel; the buzzing main drag (Pine Avenue) has charming boutiques and terrific seafood restaurants, and because of strict architectural regulations, the old-school flair has been impeccably maintained. The beach house rental market is competitive down on Anna Maria Island—so plan ahead to scout the perfect house with a private pool.
La Jolla, California
One of the most luxurious beachfront communities on the West Coast, La Jolla (which literally means “The Jewel”) is a San Diego enclave known for its particularly regal stretch of Pacific Ocean. Rent a beach house in La Jolla Cove, where you can walk down to the beach, but also enjoy views from on-high of waves crashing toward the bluffs. Hike through Torrey Pines State Park, snorkel in the cove, or take a kayaking tour with La Jolla Sea Kayaks. Your family will love popping into San Diego for dinner in the Gaslamp Quarter, but will find unwinding on your deck in the evenings with some local ice cream just as pleasant.
There is no domestic winter beach destination more iconic than the Florida Keys. And Islamorada is a village of six keys, but is still just 90 minutes from Miami. Because Islamorada is such a sprawling Keys community, there’s entertainment for everyone in the family here. A known sportfishing destination, Islamorada is also a botanist’s dream thanks to Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park’s tropical forest, and an intriguing destination for history buffs, with the ruins dating back to the 1800s at Indian Key Historic State Park. You can also just spend your days lounging on the beaches, or even charter a boat to hop between the six primary Islamorada islands: Plantation Key, Windley Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, and Lower Matecumbe Key.
Tybee Island, Georgia
Often called Savannah’s Beach, because it’s only 18 miles from the city, Tybee Island quiets down in the winter, leaving plenty of opportunity for walking along the shores of this barrier island. Book a home via Southern Belle Vacation Rentals—they have upscale, large homes, many on prime oceanfront real estate or boasting private pools. Rent a boat for the day and take your whole family to Little Tybee Island (even the pup can come), or try your hand at fishing on the Tybee Pier & Pavilion. Beachview Java & Juice will become your favorite morning spot, and when you finally have to bid farewell to your idyllic beach house, close out your time here with a sunset meal at AJ’s Dockside.
Surfside Beach, Texas
A favorite weekend trip for Texans, this Gulf of Mexico coastal town, about an hour south of Houston, offers four miles of sugar-sand beaches. Ideal for families with young children, Surfside actually has Splash Pad Park for the kiddos, the adults can surf with rentals from Breaker Sports Surf Shop. Life revolves around the beach in Surfside—it’s all about boating, fishing, tanning, swimming, and surfing here. And because renting a beach house is popular all year around, there are plenty of home rental agencies to help you find the perfect waterfront home.