Image: Surfing Santas
Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Laguna
Families staying at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, Calif., get treated to a surfer Santa who arrives in a red woody car with a surfboard on top and a big bag of candy canes. Santa comes a little early to take part in the tree-lighting ceremony, then joins the kids during a holiday story hour.
updated 12/21/2010 10:04:25 AM ET 2010-12-21T15:04:25

Sliding down a chimney is so cliché. But a Santa who skydives? Now that’s a holiday spectacle worth traveling for. And that’s how he’ll arrive this year at the Four Seasons Mauritius, which orchestrates a dramatic new entrance for St. Nick every year (last year’s was by pirate ship).

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Santa, of course, visits lots of resorts over the holiday travel season. But the Four Seasons and other hotels are taking that visit to a spectacular new level, giving travelers one more reason to jet off to a relaxing resort during a traditionally stressful time.

Slideshow: Best hotel Santas

Experiencing these dramatic arrivals may take some planning. Sometimes, Santa makes his entrance on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Other times, he shows up as early as November (and may make return visits to accommodate guest schedules). Either way, it’s usually not going to cost you extra: in keeping with the Christmas spirit, Santa’s activities are included in the resort fee.

Even better, Santa usually sticks around and makes himself available for photo ops, mingling with guests at a children’s party or joining them for a swim.

So what qualifies as a great entrance? At the Oberoi, Sahl Hasheesh, on the Red Sea, Santa ditches his reindeer and arrives by camel. He and his caravan then join a children’s party with gifts for all the kids, who also get a chance to go for camel rides. And Santa makes sure that each child gets a stocking filled with holiday cookies.

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You don’t have to travel to an exotic location to experience a dramatic entrance. At the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, hotel guests are all given jingling bells to welcome Santa, who arrives in a classic horse-drawn sleigh. There’s a life-size ice sculpture of his sleigh and reindeer, and a holiday party known as the Gingerbread Ball.

This year, don’t settle for an ordinary hotel Santa. Pack up the kids and your holiday gifts and check out these resorts where Santa’s entrance is—like the holiday season itself—extraordinary.

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation

Photos: Holiday lights

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  1. Shaanxi Province, China

    A Christmas tree installed with lanterns, measuring over 10 meters high, is illuminated beside sculptures of ancient people in the background of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda on Dec. 24, in Xian of Shaanxi Province, China. Christmas is becoming increasingly popular in Chinese consumer culture, along with the Valentine's Day in February and Halloween in October. (China Photos / Getty Images Contributor) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Russia

    Fireworks explode around a Christmas tree in the center of the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia on Friday, Dec. 24. (Ilya Naymushin / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Beijing, China

    People take pictures on a stairway at a shopping mall in Beijing, China, on Wednesday, Dec. 22. (Diego Azubel / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Washington, D.C.

    The National Christmas Tree is seen in front of the White House on Dec. 9 after President Barack Obama and his family helped light it. (Molly Riley / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Beirut

    Fireworks explode as a giant Christmas tree and an old building in Beirut are illuminated Dec. 9 during the "Beirut Celebrates 2010" Christmas parade. (Mohamed Azakir / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. New York

    The 78th annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is pictured between sculptures of angels after the Nov. 30 lighting ceremony in New York. (Shannon Stapleton / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Moscow

    A Christmas tree is installed Dec. 2 in Moscow's Red Square with St. Basil Cathedral in the background. (Mikhail Metzel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Winterberg, Germany

    The historic center of Winterberg, with the St. Jakobus church in the background, is festively illuminated Nov. 24 for Christmas. (Julian Stratenschulte / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Hong Kong

    From left, a 30-meter pyramid made up of crystal blocks is lit up Nov. 29 in front of skyscrapers in Hong Kong's financial business district during the Christmas lighting ceremony. (Ym Yik / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Washington, D.C.

    People attend the Christmas tree lighting ceremony on the west front of the U.S. Capitol building Dec. 7 while the Washington monument glows in the distance in Washington, D.C. This year's tree, a 67-foot Engelmann spruce, came from Wyoming's Bridger-Teton National Forest. Strands of energy-efficient LED lights and hand-made ornaments from Wyoming residents decorate the tree. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. London

    Buses drive under the Christmas lights on Oxford Street Nov. 23 in London. (Ian Gavan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Tokyo

    A couple walks toward a Christmas tree at a shopping mall Nov. 24 in Tokyo. (Yuriko Nakao / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Beals Island, Maine

    Albert Carver looks at a 50-foot-tall Christmas tree made of lobster traps Dec. 2 on Beals Island, Maine. Some of the top lobster-fishing ports in New England are claiming bragging rights about who has the biggest and best Christmas tree created from lobster traps. The groups that put up the trees say they draw attention to the ports' maritime heritage, bring people together and raise money for good causes. The tree in Beals helps raises money for the Beals-Jonesport Fourth of July festivities and the one in Gloucester benefits a nonprofit devoted to the arts. (Robert F. Bukaty / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Berlin

    A vendor for Christmas stars awaits customers Nov. 22 at the Christmas market on the Alexanderplatz in Berlin. (Markus Schreiber / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Gelsenkirchen, Germany

    A couple walk with their dog toward an illuminated Christmas tree Dec. 1 in front of a manor house in Gelsenkirchen, western Germany. (Martin Meissner / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Dortmund, Germany

    Children play with their sled in front of the house of Lutz Pingel, which is decorated with Christmas lights, on Nov. 30 in Dortmund, Germany. Each year several owners set up fairy lights at their houses for Christmas. (Ina Fassbender / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Frankfurt, Germany

    Hundreds of people gather at the Christmas Market in Frankfurt, Germany, which officially opened Nov. 24 with the lighting of the tree. (Michael Probst / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Tbilisi, Georgia

    An illumination resembling a Christmas tree is displayed Dec. 2 at the monument to St. George at the Freedom Square in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. (Shakh Aivazov / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Cali, Colombia

    People look at illuminated Christmas decorations Dec. 6 in Cali, Colombia. (Jaime Saldarriaga / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. London

    Choristers perform in front of Westminster Abbey's Christmas tree Dec. 6 in Westminster, London. (Facundo Arrizabalaga / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Warsaw, Poland

    Christmas illuminations decorate the Royal Route on Dec. 2. in Warsaw, Poland. (Radek Pietruszka / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Dortmund, Germany

    People stand at a Christmas market stall in front of Germany's biggest Christmas tree Nov. 25 in the city center of Dortmund. The 45-meter tree is made of 1,700 Norway spruces and illuminated by 48,000 lamps. Christmas markets have been a German tradition for about 600 years and are found in nearly every city in Germany during the advent season. (Martin Meissner / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Palawan city, Philippines

    Fireworks light up the sky Dec. 1 near the 120 foot-tall Christmas tree display at the Baywalk in Palawan city, Philippines. The Philippines, the largest Roman Catholic state in Asia, observes one of the longest Christmas holidays in the world, beginning with dawn masses on Dec. 16 to the feast of Three Kings in January. (Romeo Ranoco / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Rio de Janeiro

    Fireworks explode from a Christmas tree Dec. 4 during the lighting ceremony at Rodrigo de Freitas Lake in Rio de Janeiro. (Sergio Moraes / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Berlin

    Trees illuminated by Christmas lights are reflected in a puddle Nov. 25 in Unter den Linden street in Berlin. (Thomas Peter / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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