Best Sailing Destinations In December

Best Sailing Destinations In December | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

August 30, 2022

December is cold and dull in some places, but many parts of the world continue to enjoy warm sailing weather year-round.

The best sailing destinations in December are in the South Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and off the Southeast coast of the United States. Much of the Pacific should be avoided due to tropical storm activity.

In this article, we'll go over the best tropical sailing destinations to escape a cold or stormy December. These destinations have less extreme weather during the late year, and they're often pleasant and safe for winter sailing.

We sourced the information used in the experiences of winter sailors. We also referenced meteorological guides to help determine which locations are prone to storms.


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Is it Safe to Sail During December?

It can be just as safe to sail in December as it is during any other month, as long as you choose the right destination. Some areas are famous for treacherous December weather, while others always feel like a tropical paradise during the winter.

Soon, we'll cover some of the finest December sailing destinations in the world. But first, we'll go over a few places to avoid if you're looking for a smooth ride.

December Sailing Destinations to Avoid

Typhoons are the biggest tropical threat during the month of December, and much of the warm Pacific has its typhoon season around this time.

But what is a typhoon, and why are they dangerous? In short, a typhoon is a hurricane or tropical cyclone that occurs in the Pacific ocean. These storms can be hundreds of miles across and churn at peak intensity for many days.

They are a constant threat to the South Pacific during the winter months and a nightmare for sailors. Thankfully, the Atlantic hurricane season is mostly through by December, and some parts of the Pacific rarely (or never) experience typhoon activity.

As far as general sailing is concerned, avoid northern latitudes due to cold weather and the South Pacific due to tropical storms.

The parts of the Pacific near Canada and Alaska get bitterly cold, and the North Atlantic—well, the North Atlantic is self-explanatory, unless you like icebergs.

Best Places to Sail During December

December sailing is possible—and even preferred—in some regions of the Atlantic. During this time of year, temperatures are still warm but much milder than the blistering tropical summer months. Here are the top five places to sail during December.

1. The U.S. Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands is one of the easiest and most pleasant journeys to make during December. This chain of islands, located adjacent to the British Virgin Islands, are actually U.S. territories and open to free exploration by U.S. citizens. The U.S. dollar is also the official currency, and English is the official language.

The U.S. Virgin Islands offer stunning scenery and plenty of opportunities to explore pristine coral reefs. These islands are a popular destination for scuba divers and snorkelers.

Additionally, there are plenty of anchor-outs around the islands where you can meet other people and toss in the anchor without damaging the reefs.

One of the best parts about sailing to this tropical paradise during the winter is its lack of travel restrictions. American citizens only need to show a government-issued ID (like a driver's license) to enter the islands, and you don't even need to go through customs.

2. The British Virgin Islands

As a close runner-up, the beautiful British Virgin Islands earn the number two spot on our list. These islands are located within a day's travel (by sea) from the U.S. Virgin Islands, and they're currently a territory of the United Kingdom.

The British Virgin Islands are another great English-speaking tropical destination for winter sailing, and the region's hurricane season ends months prior to October.

It can get a bit drizzly in the Virgin Islands during December, with an average of 12 rainy days during the month. But the temperature highs are in the mid-80s, and the lows are in the high 70s, so it's not too hot and not too cold.

The British Virgin Islands are home to several well-known tropical resorts, which are still very much open for business during December. During this time, there are plenty of boating activities to participate in with people from all around the world.

3. Barbados

Barbados is one of the gems of the Caribbean and one of its most beautiful destinations. Formerly an English settlement, the island now hosts an enormous amount of British, Canadian, and American tourism each year.

Barbados is friendly to sailboats, and there's plenty to do on the island during the off-season months. There's plenty of places to anchor out and dock, and the island is home to several luxury resort locations.

Barbados is known for its beautiful architecture and stunning natural beaches, such as St Nicholas Abbey and Carlisle Bay. The island is quite affordable too, and drinks and food are available everywhere.

With December temperature highs in the mid-80s and lows in the mid-70s, this tropical island is the perfect destination for escaping to paradise during the cold and wet winter months of the continental United States and Canada.

4. The Florida Keys

But what about domestic destinations? Sometimes, it makes more sense to 'stay local' when sailing away as a snowbird or finding something fun to do during the winter months.

The Florida Keys are the ideal location, and they continue to be extremely popular with locals and mariners from all other states and countries. This unique archipelago is the only one of its kind and one of the most scenic in the world.

The Florida Keys are a chain of islands descending off the southern tip of the state. They're part of the State of Florida and thus still under United States jurisdiction. That means no passport is necessary, and there's plenty of activities to do with friends and family.

Some of the small islands in the Florida Keys are extremely picturesque. They're little sandbars surrounded by reefs in baby blue water with palm trees dotted around periodically. It's some of the best tropical scenery in the United States.

The cost of traveling the Florida Keys is relatively low, as it's not far from reasonable docking and fueling locations in the mainland United States. Additionally, it's exceedingly safe and patrolled well by police and the United States Coast Guard.

5. The Hawaiian Islands

Not all of the best December sailing destinations are on the East Coast. The best place to sail in the Pacific during this time is none other than Hawaii. These islands are part of the United States, and they host some of the best tropical getaways in the world.

Hawaii is advantageous for a number of reasons. For one, there are several islands to visit, which include active volcanoes (that often erupt slowly so spectators can watch) and untouched tropical rainforests teeming with wildlife.

Additionally, you can reach Hawaii from the mainland United States in a safe and somewhat reasonable timeframe—20 days for a good-sized cruising sailboat.

The challenge of sailing to Hawaii isn't getting there from the West Coast—it's getting back. Reliable trade winds carry sailboats almost directly to the islands, but a significant northern tack is required to return against the trade winds.

Still, hundreds of sailors make the trip each year alone or during the Trans-Pac races. With the right amount of planning, a few weeks of sailing to warmer weather on the empty Pacific Ocean can be life-changing.

Additionally, Hawaii is generally out of the range of typhoons, so December sailing between the islands and the mainland United States doesn't have nearly as many risks as other warm pacific sailing destinations in December.

December brings very little rain to the islands and temperatures in Hawaii range between a high of 82 and a low of 67. Many people on the island consider December to be cold. But from Portland or Seattle, sunny days in the 70s and 80s are a dream compared to gray weather and a 45-degree average high temperature.

Best Sailing Destinations In December
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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