One way to enjoy the impending Christmas season is to go to a place where it snows and Santa wears thick clothes, but if you are dreaming of a white Christmas but not for the cold and snow, a winter getaway on a white-sand beach is probably more your style.

Beach travel is often the reason that many families with children are able to travel together, because once you arrive at your destination, there is almost nothing more to worry about. It is a good way to unwind, relieve stress at the end of the year, forget about work and just spend hours and hours on the sand, tanning and watching your kids enjoy the surf (just don’t forget the sunscreen).

The Global Times has picked a few beach destinations that best suit a one-week or so holiday from China, with direct flights available for all the locales listed here. From Sanya’s Yalong Bay to Thailand’s exotic Phuket to the romantic Maldives, each one is a recipe for a memorable and sun-drenched Christmas.

Sanya and Xiamen
A bit closer to home (and forestalling the need for a visa), Yalong Bay in Sanya floors visitors with its unbeatable combination of proximity, luxury and class. It’s full of accommodations, from international hotel chains to local guest houses. They also offer world-class golf courses perched in the most idyllic of settings, which is a treat for golf lovers. Divers must visit Wuzhizhou Island, the first commercial diving site in China, in order to get a taste of the ultra-clear water, which offers visibility up to a whopping 27 meters deep.

A bit further north but hardly ensconced in winter’s gloom, the island of Gulangyu, off the coast of Fujian Province, is known as the "Garden on the Sea". It only takes a two-minute ferry ride from the city of Xiamen to reach the charming outpost, a mixture of European and traditional Chinese-style architecture.

The Philippines

Over seven thousand separate blocks of land gives this island nation one of the longest coastlines in the world. With such a big a foundation, it’s not surprising that it possesses more of the world’s greatest beaches than any other country.

Other than the already-too-famous Boracay, there are other great places to explore for a bit of winter warmth. Camiguin has long been considered one of the most beautiful places in the country, and some people refer to it as a veritable Garden of Eden. Bursting with waterfalls and hot and cold springs, this mesmerizing paradise is definitely worth going more than once.

If you’re looking for a more tropical-island, Hawaii-esque feel, then Pagudpud is the place you want to visit. It’s like Kauai on steroids, boasting strong winds and waves (great for surfers) and crystal-clear sea water for swimmers. Another surfing mecca is Siargao, where ice-blue waves can reach several meters high. Aside from the waves, Siargao also features beaches still unspoiled by tourists and urban blight. Equally worth a visit, El Nido beach is a dreamscape of beautiful, quiet ocean views, towering marble cliffs and a variety of tropical birds. 

The Maldives
Unlike other hot (yet perhaps more affordable) spots in southeast Asia, the Maldives, the destination of all destinations, stands out in multiple ways: the postcard-perfect, breathtakingly blue scenes, mostly seen at the diving sites that are considered to be some of world’s best; the irresistibly cute thatched-roofed cottages overlooking the Indian Ocean; the sun-kissed, sandy beaches; the gorgeous, clear sky dotted with millions of bright white stars.

In case you haven’t guessed already, the Maldives is a place best visited with a loved one, because like everybody says, there is something extremely sexy about this sinking paradise.

But be warned, the Maldives is not for budget travelers. Still, it’s not impossible to enjoy a very nice seven-day holiday that includes everything listed above within a budget of 40,000 yuan ($6,278) for two. The key to saving money is to go during off-peak times; a round-trip flight on Singapore Airlines, for example, costs around 6,000 yuan per person before the Chinese New Year rush, which is a real bargain and saves you 40 percent over the comparable time during Spring Festival. The fancy resorts work the same way, saving you 30 percent or more if you can squeeze your holiday into those nontraditional timeslots. Once you book the flight, you know you’re set for both a complete chill-out and warm-up.

Another thing to keep an eye on is your environmental impact: as the archipelago in the middle of Indian ocean is sinking at a rate of about one centimeter per year; 80 percent of its 1,200 islands are no more than one meter above sea level, and within 100 years or less the Maldives could become totally uninhabitable. It goes without saying that saving the environment is saving us.

Keep this in mind during your visit, and you will appreciate the stunning beauty and tranquility of this place all the more.

Let’s start with the biggie in the north: Halong Bay, with its numerous sandstone islands – without any exaggeration a true photographer’s paradise. The beaches are some of the best in the whole world; the abundance of lakes inside the islands makes Halong one of the most spectacular places to explore.

The best way to do this is to take a little boat out onto the water, where you can enjoy amazing jagged rocks, many of which have caves that you can sail right through.

For travelers who don’t have enough time to go through all the islands in Halong Bay, make sure you check out Cat Ba, long-considered the most significant and picturesque spot. Another must see is Do Son Seashore, which sits on a modest peninsula around Haiphong and is shaded by quaint sandalwood and pine tree-covered hills.

Moving toward the south, you’ll discover one of the hidden-treasures of Vietnam: some of the world’s most wonderful seashores for skimboarding and boogey boarding, both activities which have been growing in popularity but are still probably not the first thing that comes to mind when considering a trip to the country. But with a coastline over 3,400-km long, there’s undoubtedly something for everyone.

Packed with pillow-soft powdery sand, amazing lagoons and hidden coves, the beaches of Southern Vietnam remain warm and inviting year-round. The best time to visit is often between December and May, when the air is dense and humid but the weather hasn’t moved on from its sunshine-drenched, pre-typhoon lull. Seafood picnics can even be enjoyed amidst some outdoor casinos, where you’ll gamble away both your time and money in utter jubilation.

According to VietnamOnline.Com, an informational gateway for Vietnam travel, December marks the beginning of the short winter in Nha Trang, the liveliest beach resort in the south of Vietnam. The good news is that the rainy season ended this month, to be replaced by the "wet" season (read: humid), meaning that you’ll be able to spend more time walking on the sand without being caught in a shower.

Much of Nha Trang’s downtown can be visited on foot, including the cluster of restaurants and bars just across from the main beach, which also hugs the area’s biggest hotels on the main road alongside the beach.

Although hardly as hustle-bustle busy as Phuket or exciting as Boracay in the Philippines, with its many sports activities, Nah Trang would be a good place to celebrate a hot Christmas for families. It is a great place to relax for a few days, but if you have time to discover a bit more of the country’s history and old traditions, keep moving.


Welcome to the land of smiles! Thailand is definitely one of the most colorful countries in the world, with a long history and rich culture on full display. Often, the toughest decision when visiting is which of the thousands of gorgeous beaches to see first.

The "most-popular" title goes to Patong Beach, Phuket, which also happens to be the largest in the country. Though highly-commercialized, tourists never get bored here.

If you’re looking something a bit more special, take a boat to Koh Phi Phi, a small but gorgeous island that’s just one and a half hours away.

The original "beach" from the Leonardo DiCaprio film of the same name, Koh Phi Phi is a lot humbler than Patong and equally majestic.

Walk on the soft sand, hike the gorgeous cliffs and do as much photo-snapping as you can.

For those going as a family, we recommend Hua Hin Beach, which is a few hours’ car or train ride from the capital Bangkok. It attracts both local tourists and international visitors, especially those from Europe, which explains the preponderance of Italian and German restaurants in the island.

Other than rituals like lounging on the beach or swimming, you can go horseback riding, hiking in the nearby mountains or, if you’re willing to venture a bit further, trekking to one of the Thailand’s most beautiful national parks, Sam Roi Yot, for a tropical-jungle treat.

Diving enthusiasts must go to Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, which is a small white sandbar featuring a stunning view amidst well-priced accommodation and restaurants. The easy way to get there is to fly to Samui first and from there hop on a ferry boat.

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