17 Best Warm Winter Vacations in the USA

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As fun as snowy weather can be, sometimes a winter vacation in New England just won’t cut it. You need warm weather, sunny skies, and maybe even a beach where you can truly relax.

Luckily, you don’t have to fly to the Caribbean to do that. There are plenty of warm winter vacations in the USA that will fit the bill.

Warm winter vacations in the USA can be just as enjoyable – and sometimes more so – than tropical getaways. The trick is knowing where to find them.

In this article, 17 travel bloggers chime in on the best destinations for sunny winter holidays in America. From Florida’s Gulf Coast to the Hawaiian Islands, these balmy destinations are all sure to keep you entertained and toasty throughout your stay. And as a bonus, you can leave your passport at home!

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1. Palm Springs, California

gold fourse in palm Springs, a popular warm winter getaway spot. Palm tree in foreground

Location: Palm Springs is located approximately 107 miles east of Los Angeles. It lies in the Colorado Desert and is 487 feet above sea level.

How to get there: You can fly directly into Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) or fly to nearby Ontario International Airport (ONT). You can also drive to Palm Springs easily from the LA area or from Las Vegas.

Where to stay in Palm Springs: The Saguaro Palm Springs is a colorful hotel located conveniently in downtown Palm Springs. It’s an excellent place to base yourself while you explore.

Enjoy a spa day, and, of course, allow for plenty of time by the pool!

Where to eat and drink: Palm Springs has many wonderful restaurants! Try Norma’s for breakfast, The Farm for lunch, and Workshop for dinner!

Why you should visit: If you are looking for warm sunny locations for a winter vacation in the US, consider Palm Springs in Southern California!

With a plethora of resorts, golf courses, and spas, as well as spectacular outdoor adventures in nature, there are so many exciting things to do in Palm Springs that you will be spoiled for choice.

Hike Indian Canyons or the Tahquitz Canyon: the palm oases here are beautiful, and there’s a seasonal waterfall at Tahquitz. Or do a day trip to nearby Joshua Tree National Park, famous for its huge rock masses and many hiking trails.

Do the scenic drive from Palm Desert to Idyllwild that takes you from the desert to the mountains in an hour. Take the aerial tram to the upper station on Mount Jacinto for superb panoramas.

Recommended by Dhara from Roadtripping California

2. The Florida Panhandle

beach on the Florida Panhandle

Location: The Florida Panhandle is the 200-mile-long strip of land in the northwestern part of Florida.

How to get there: The easiest way to reach the Panhandle is by flying into Pensacola or Northwest Florida Beaches airport. There are miles of white sand beaches that contrast with the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico, so it’s best to explore the coast by driving along the scenic 30A highway, and stopping at the beautiful beach towns along the way.

Where to stay on the Florida Panhandle: There are several great places to stay along the way, including Calypso Resorts and Towers in Panama City Beach, Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort in Destin, and Hampton Inn Pensacola Beach.

Where to eat and drink: The Florida Panhandle is also great for foodies as there are plenty of places to enjoy Southern cuisine. I recommend 5 Sisters Blues Café, The Grand Marlin, and Andy’s Flour Power. Also, head to Seaside’s Airstream Row for some of the best street food in the region.

Why you should visit: When it comes to warm winter vacations in the US, few places can match the Florida Panhandle. Millions flock here every year to enjoy its beautiful beaches—especially during spring break—yet the area is relatively quiet during the off-peak months.

Popular beach destinations include Panama City Beach – the perfect spot for laid-back vacations, South Walton for a chic upscale getaway, and Pensacola for a historic trip back in time to the first settlement in the US. 

Whether you want to sail, snorkel, scuba dive, paraglide, ride in a helicopter, paddleboard, kayak, cycle or hike, there are countless places to get adventurous along the Florida Panhandle.

Recommended by Roshni from The Wanderlust Within

ⓘ Read all our Florida articles: We’ve covered Florida spring break destinations, the best spots in Miami for Nature Lovers, the best day trips from Miami, fun day trips from Orlando, and how to do an Everglades day trip from Miami. We also have an article for people looking for warm winter vacations in the USA.

3. Marco Island, Florida

Toys in the water on a beach in Marco Island, Florida.

Location: Marco Island is 18 miles south of Naples and about an hour’s drive (48 miles) from Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) in Fort Myers.

How to get there: Fly into RSW and either rent a car (always a good choice) or take an airport shuttle.

Where to stay on Marco Island: The J.W. Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort is the premier hotel on Marco Island.

Where to eat and drink: The Snook Inn is a popular place. It’s right on the water and has excellent burgers and steaks.

Why you should visit: When winter sets in and you just need to feel the sun on your face and sand in your toes, there’s no place better than Marco Island in southwest Florida. Marco is easy to get to and set in a beautiful location, just about as far south as you can go on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Marco Island has plenty of unique things to do for a winter getaway to a tropical destination. The sun is bright, but the temperatures are moderate in the mid-to-high 80s (F). Winter is Florida’s dry season, so the humidity is low. Bring shorts, sandals, and your favorite swimsuit and you’re good to go.

Located just south of the city of Naples, Marco Island sits on the edge of the Everglades and at the start of the 10,000 Islands, so there’s plenty of sun, sand, and surf. If you long to laze by the water, beach combing, sun bathing, and shelling are favorite relaxing pastimes, and there are 6 miles of pristine white sand beaches that are never crowded.

If you get tired of the sand and waves, why not rent a yacht and explore the Gulf Coast? You could also check out the nearby deserted islands with a jet ski rental, go paragliding, hike, kayak, or take an airboat ride in the Everglades. Alternatively, you can book one of the boat tours on offer and enjoy manatee or dolphin watching, or perhaps enjoy a romantic sunset cruise on the water.

When you need a day off from fun in the sun, Marco Island’s many boutiques offer excellent shopping. In the evening, relax with a cocktail at a sunset happy hour at the JW Marriott’s Kane Tiki Bar, then enjoy dinner at a wide range of restaurants.

Recommended by Lori Sorrentino at Travlin Mad

4. Charleston, South Carolina

church steeple behind buildings in Charleston

Location: Charleston is located on the South Carolina coast.

How to get there: Charleston International Airport (CHS) has lots of direct flights from surrounding cities, making it quite easy to get here.

Where to stay in Charleston: Charleston has tons of great accommodations, but if you want to be in the action of Downtown Charleston, check out the HarbourView Inn, which is one of the few hotels located on the water.

Where to eat and drink: While in Charleston, two great places to get food and drinks include the famous Poogan’s Porch and Husk.

Why you should visit: Charleston is easily one of the most charming and historic cities in the south. With great food, warm weather, and lovely sites, there are tons of things to see and do.

During a visit, some of the best things to do in Charleston include viewing the many historic mansions. Some of the most noteworthy mansions are the Williams Mansion, the Nathaniel Russel House, and the Boone Plantation mansion. 

Charleston also has beautiful and historic churches. The French Huguenot Church, Saint Phillip’s Church, and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church are some of the most noteworthy to see.

Additionally, make sure to walk down some of Charleston’s charming alleys and streets! One of the best cobblestone streets to walk down is Chalmers Street, and one of the most famous roads to go down is King Street. King Street is known as the shopping district of Charleston and has tons of shopping, food, and bars. 

Recommended by Sam Opp from Find Love and Travel

5. San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan fort and city, one of the best warm winter destinations in the US

Location:  The US territory of Puerto Rico is located in the Caribbean Sea.

How to get there: Fly into San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU)

Where to stay in San Juan:  Stay at the Hotel El Convento in Old San Juan to experience its historic vibe.

Where to eat and drink: Dine at Barrachina to sample authentic Puerto Rican dishes in a 200-year-old historic building. The restaurant is also famous as the birthplace of the piña colada.

Why you should visit: San Juan, Puerto Rico is an excellent travel destination – especially as a warm-weather location to escape winter! Since it’s in the Caribbean, you’ll enjoy warm tropical weather during your visit to Puerto Rico.

There are many excellent things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico. You’ll want to focus your attention on historic Old San Juan. This compact area is chock-full of amazing options, and it is very easy to explore by foot.

Some of San Juan’s top attractions are its historic fortresses which made up the city’s defenses, along with the fortified city walls. Stroll in the shadow of the city walls via the El Paseo del Morro National Recreational Trail. This will lead you to the El Morro fortress guarding the entrance to the bay. If you’re a history buff, you’ll definitely want to tour San Juan’s forts!

San Juan has a unique character due to the mix of cultures on the island of Puerto Rico. You’ll enjoy the Spanish flair evoked by San Juan’s many plazas and fountains, as well as Puerto Rico’s laid-back vibe and natural beauty.

ⓘ TIP: Since Puerto Rico is a US territory, the dollar is the official currency. However, Spanish is the first official language of Puerto Rico, with English being the second. Brush up on some Spanish basics like ‘hola’ and ‘gracias’ to be a polite visitor!

Recommended by Lisa Garrett of Waves and Cobblestones

6. Joshua Tree National Park

Rocks and Joshua Trees in Joshua Tree National Park

Location: Joshua Tree National Park is located in southeastern California, east of San Bernardino and Los Angeles, and north of Palm Springs.

How to get there: The closest airport to Joshua Tree is the Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) But, many travelers choose to land at LAX in Los Angeles, because the airport is much bigger, so you’ll find more flight options, usually at cheaper prices! It’s a 2.5 hour drive to the park from Los Angeles, and an hour from Palm Springs.

A car is definitely recommended for getting around Joshua Tree National Park, and you can rent one at any airport. Whether you’re driving from the west or from the east, you can take Highway 62 to get to the park from the north, or I-10 to get to the south entrance! 

Where to stay in Joshua Tree: There are tons of options for places to stay, and you can find some really unique Airbnbs in Joshua Tree. Check out this desert tiny home, go glamping in an Airstream, or even stay in a UFO!

Where to eat and drink: For food, head to Pie for the People for some amazing local pizza, or Natural Sisters for healthy sandwiches and organic pastries.

Why you should visit: Joshua Tree National Park is definitely worth a visit if you want to see the unique views of the boulder piles, cactus gardens, and the bristled Joshua Trees that the park is named for. It’s a great place for hiking, whether you want to check out short, easy nature walks or longer treks through the desert!

The park is also extremely popular for rock climbing, and you’ll find climbs to try no matter how experienced (or inexperienced) you are. When you’re exploring in the park, stick around after the sunset – the remote desert landscape is one of the best places to see the night sky, and you’ll find yourself in awe of the sky full of stars.

Just outside the national park, you’ll find the town of Joshua Tree – which is known for being a quirky, unique place that’s fun to check out as well! It’s a popular place for artists and creatives, so the town is unique and quirky, with fun local shops and restaurants, as well as spiritual centers.

It’s also a great getaway in the winter, because while most of the US is cold, Joshua Tree’s temperatures are pretty perfect in the winter – warm and sunny, without being too hot!

Recommended by Anna of Anna Tee

7. Sedona, Arizona

red rock formation in Sedona Arizona

Location: Sedona is a beautiful town in northern Arizona surrounded by beautiful red rocks.

How to get there: The closest airport to Sedona is Flagstaff Airport (FLG). However, it is a small airport, and you may find expensive flights with lots of connections. The Phoenix International Airport (PHX) is the closest large airport and is about two hours away. Sedona is about 4.5 hours away from Las Vegas.

Where to stay in Sedona: The Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock is a wonderful place to stay in Sedona. It has lots of great amenities like a spa and pool. It is mere minutes from Bell Rock and has beautiful views of the Arizona desert.

What to eat/drink: Hideaway House is a highly-rated and popular Italian restaurant located in the Tlaquepaque Arts Center in downtown Sedona. Another really great place to eat is the Creekside American Bistro, which is located in the same art center.

Why you should visit: Sedona is a beautiful area to explore, filled with endless hiking trails, hidden caves, and mysterious energy vortexes. Sedona is most known for its amazing hiking trails like Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Soldier Pass Trail, and Devil’s Bridge. There are so many amazing hikes in this area and the red rocks make for amazing views.

If hiking isn’t your thing, you can go on a tour that will take you through the Sedona backcountry to enjoy amazing views of the surrounding red rocks and desert, or you can rent a RZR.

You can also enjoy the downtown areas − Uptown Sedona and the Tlaquepaque Arts Center − and the nearby Jerome Ghost Town. These three areas are great for dining, shopping, and visiting art galleries.

The Sedona Airport Lookout is an amazing place to watch the sunset and also has some really easy hiking trails with views of downtown Sedona.

There are also many great day trips from Sedona, including the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, and Flagstaff.

Recommended by Candice of CS Ginger

8. Temecula, California

tables on a patio in temecula california

Location: Temecula is located in Southern California, about 1 hour from San Diego and 1.5 hours from Los Angeles.

How to get there: Fly into Los Angeles(LAX/ONT) or San Diego (SAN) and drive approximately 1.5 hours. 

Where to stay in Temecula: Carter Estate Winery & Resort

Where to eat and drink: Delicious Eatery (and Speakeasy)

Why you should visit: Temecula is a fun winter getaway convenienty located between San Diego and Los Angeles. Winter temperatures are pleasant and feel like spring – perfect for wine tasting.

Wine tasting is the biggest draw to this Southern California city, and you have plenty of options to choose from. You can either go out and explore the many Temecula wineries on your own or join one of the many wine tasting tours that will take you around – a great option if you don’t have a voluntary designated driver. You can even stay overnight at some of the wineries and wake up with splendid views of the vineyards. 

Aside from wine tasting, you can also explore Old Town Temecula, which has a bit of a “Western Town” feel with many great restaurants and cute little shops and art galleries for some shopping.

If you are looking for something even more relaxing and want to get pampered, you can head to nearby Glen Ivy Hot Springs. This day spa features natural hot springs, pools, mud baths, steam rooms in a cave and of course all the regular offerings of a regular spa, including massages and facials, manicures and pedicures and of course delicious and healthy food.

If you are up for a little more adventure, you can view Temecula from a birds-eye-perspective with a sunrise/sunset balloon ride over the rolling vineyards below, or join a fun trail ride through the countryside. Whatever your idea of a perfect winter getaway is, Temecula will probably check off a lot of your wishes.

Recommended by Maria Hesse of Maria Abroad

12 Fun Things to Do in Temecula California

9. Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Saguaro cactus in front of a red sky at sunset

Location: Saguaro National Park is located west of the city of Tucson, Arizona.

How to get there:  The closest airport is Tucson (TUS), but for cheaper flights with more options, you can fly into Phoenix (PHX), rent a car, and drive about 2.5 hours to Tucson. 

Where to stay near Saguaro National Park: Stay in Tucson. The park is divided into 2 districts, and the city of Tucson separates them. There are many chain hotels such as Holiday Inn, JW Marriott, and Best Westerns to choose from.

Where to eat and drink: Tucson is a college town so there is plenty of variety when finding inexpensive places to eat! There are a lot of restaurants with authentic Mexican food.

The food that Tucson is famous for though is the hot dog! The Sonoran Hot Dog comes topped with beans, pico de Gallo, mayo, mustard, and jalapeños. Of course, there are many variations, but the “original” place to get them is Aqui con El Nene, a food truck with multiple locations.

Why you should visit: Visiting Saguaro National Park in the winter is perfect because the temperatures are mild and comfortable. In the summer, the temperatures can be dangerously hot and inhibit your ability to explore the park. 

You should plan a visit to Saguaro National Park because the incredible Saguaro (sa-war-o) cactus only grows here! You must see these giants in person to understand their incredible size and beauty.

Saguaro Cactus can live for hundreds of years and grow to 60 feet tall and weigh over 4000 pounds! They are slow growing and most don’t get their “arms” until about 75 years old.

You’ll want to plan 2 days to visit Saguaro National Park, that way you can explore each district fully. Each district has short hikes and scenic drives running through them. 

The Rincon Mountain District on the westside is home to signal hill, a short hike where you can see petroglyphs on rocks at the top of the hill.

The Tucson Mountain District has great sunset views, especially by Javelina Rocks! You can drive right to the rocks, and climb on top to watch the sunset across the desert. 

Recommended by Chantelle Kincy from Flannels or Flip Flops

10. San Antonio, Texas

aerial view of a passenger boat in San Antonio Texas

Location: San Antonio is located in southern Texas, about 150 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

How to get there: Getting to San Antonio is easy! If you are flying, SAT is the airport you will want to arrive at.

Where to stay in San Antonio: There are many hotels right along the riverwalk. These conveniently located accommodations make walking around San Antonio easy. The Hotel Valencia Riverwalk is a great choice.

Where to eat and drink: The food along the Riverwalk is amazing! Winter is the best time to enjoy an outdoor patio dining experience. Rio Rio Cantina and Las Carinas are great options for authentic Mexican food. Boudros and Pinkerton are great options for BBQ. There are so many choices and the best part is that they are all fantastic!

Why you should visit: San Antonio is one of the best warm winter vacations in the US. With temperatures in the mid to high 60s with sunny skies, it is the perfect city to explore, and 3 days in San Antonio is the perfect amount of time for a visit. 

San Antonio is famous for its beautiful riverwalk. You can jump on a boat tour and learn more about the beauty, architecture, and significance San Antonio has played in the history of Texas.

Located nearby the Riverwalk is the Alamo and the Spanish Mission sites. The mild weather makes it a perfect time to explore these outdoor locations. San Antonio offers a fabulous bus tour. San Antonio is a great place to visit if you want a Texas experience with culture, food, and fun.

Also, Austin, the capital of Texas, is only 1.5 hours away and makes a nice road trip from San Antonio.

Recommended by Lisa Mandarino from Planning Away

11. Santa Barbara, California

Building in Santa Barbara with mountains in background

Location: Santa Barbara is located along California’s Pacific coast, about 97 miles (156 km) west-northwest of Los Angeles.

How to get there: You can get to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles or San Francisco via California Highway 1.

Where to stay in Santa Barbara: I recommend Hotel Californian.

Where to eat and drink: Santa Barbara has many great vegan and vegetarian restaurants with healthy options. You can Satellite in downtown Santa Barbara has a vegan menu and makes its dishes with ingredients from local farmers

Why you should visit: Santa Barbara is one of the best places to visit in Central California and is a good option if you’re looking for a day trip from L.A. It boasts mild coastal climate, year-round sunshine and plenty of culture and history.

El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, a former military building where you can learn Santa Barbara’s history through many exhibits. El Presidio is an open-air museum that is home to El Cuartel, the second oldest building in California and the oldest building in Santa Barbara. 

The city is also home to the most beautiful courthouse in the United States built in Spanish Colonial Revival Style, the historic Mission Santa Barbara and Casa Del La Guerra – the incredible architectural landmarks that are all worth a visit. 

Begin your trip along State Street – Santa Barbara’s main thoroughfare and proceed toward Stearns Wharf, the oldest working wharf in California that dates back to 1872. From there, you can access several beaches and enjoy the incredible view of Santa Barbara’s Pacific coastline.

Santa Barbara is also a getaway to many awesome recreational opportunities like hiking, biking, kayaking, and surfing

Santa Barbara is also a gateway to the nearby Channel Islands – one of the least crowded national parks in California. Nicknamed “The Galapagos of North America,” Channel Islands are home to many rare species that can’t be found anywhere else. You can reach Channel Islands by boat from Ventura and spend all day here, although some visitors choose to stay overnight for camping.

Recommended by Daria from The Discovery Nut

12. Clearwater Beach, Florida

White sand and people in the water at Clearwater Beach Florida

Location: Clearwater Beach is located approximately 25 miles west of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

How to get there: From Tampa International Airport (TPA), Clearwater Beach is an easy 25 mile drive on Florida State Road 60 West. If you’re driving from Orlando or the Disney area, it will take you two hours by car along Interstate 4.

Where to stay in Clearwater Beach: The best places to stay in Clearwater Beach are the hotels located near the pier because all activities center around this location. Opal Sands is a top-rated choice!

Where to eat and drink: If you’re staying at Opal Sands, then the resort’s own restaurant—Sandbar Grill—is a good choice! It’s located right on the beach and has beautiful views of the water. Their menu primarily consists of a selection of salads, sandwiches, burgers, wraps, tacos, and steaks.

If you prefer Mexican food, the Marina Cantina is an excellent choice for rooftop views overlooking the docks.

Why you should visit: Unlike most of the other beaches found on mainland USA, Clearwater Beach has powder white sand and turquoise blue water. It’s the kind of blue that you normally have to travel all the way to the Caribbean to find, but it’s local to Florida instead.

The ocean is also warm, shallow, and calm, making it an inviting spot for dolphins and manatees to play in the wild. It’s also one of the best beach destinations for tourists who want to swim without fear of big waves or undercurrents.

Boat tours are a popular sightseeing activity in Clearwater Beach, so there are many different kinds to choose from, including dolphin-spotting tours and sunset cruises. There’s even a pirate cruise for kids!

Sunsets over the water are especially beautiful, so if you opt out of doing a sunset cruise, your next best place to enjoy the view is at the pier. Every night starting around two hours before the sun goes down, Pier 60 hosts its own special festival just to celebrate the gorgeous sunsets.

Because winter temperatures in Clearwater Beach typically stay between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and rarely drop below 60 degrees, it’s one of the best places to visit if you’re looking for a warm winter vacation in the US. Definitely consider it for your next trip! 

Recommended by Jillian Michelle at Adventure Dragon

13. Seaside, Florida

wooden staircase leading down to the beach at Seaside, Florida

Location: Seaside, Florida is located in northwest Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico.

How to get there: The closest airport to Seaside is Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP), in Panama City Beach, which is around 20 miles away. You can also fly into Pensacola (PNS) or Tallahassee (TLH), which are a little further away.

Where to stay: Hyatt Place Sandestin at Grand Blvd

Where to eat and drink: For food, you can’t beat Airstream Row. As the name implies, it’s a row of airstreams that function as food trucks. You can find everything from barbecue to crepes and more. For drinks, you can get delicious craft cocktails, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages at BFF at the Great Southern.

Why you should visit: If you’re looking for a place to relax and escape the winter blues, Seaside, Florida is the perfect spot. It’s located on the Gulf of Mexico on Scenic Highway 30A where you can enjoy warm temperatures and beautiful sunsets all winter long.

This postcard-worthy town boasts pastel-colored houses and cottages and a mix of vintage and contemporary architecture. The streets are lined with boutique shops, galleries, and restaurants, making it a charming getaway.

Seaside is known for its idyllic beaches with turquoise waters and white sand. You can lounge on the beach, build sandcastles, kayak, paddleboard, or simply walk along the shore. The best beaches in the area include Van Ness Butler Beach, Seagrove Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, and Grayton Beach State Park.

If you want to explore the town, there are plenty of small shops and galleries to explore in Ruskin Place. The artwork is beautiful, and you can find everything from paintings to sculptures. Seaside also has a few interesting landmarks, including the Chapel at Seaside, the Seaside Post Office, and the Truman Show House.

There are also plenty of outdoor things to do in Seaside Florida. You can go biking or hiking on the area’s many trails, kayaking or paddleboarding, or even take a scenic drive along Highway 30A.

Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, explore a charming town, or enjoy the outdoors, Seaside, Florida is the perfect spot for a winter getaway.

Recommended by Disha at Disha Discovers

14. Death Valley National Park, California

Person on the sand dunes in Death Valley National Park

Location: Death Valley National Park has a massive 3,000-square-mile footprint in the Mojave Desert of Southern California. 

How to get there: The closest international airports to Death Valley are Las Vegas (approximately two hours east of the park) or Los Angeles (four hour southwest).

Where to stay in Death Valley: For how incredibly remote and barren the national park is, it offers some surprisingly swanky accommodations, namely The Inn at Death Valley. This elegant hotel offers air conditioning and an outdoor pool if you’re visiting during an unseasonably warm spell or alternatively, offers cozy amenities for cool desert nights, like an outdoor firepit.

Where to eat and drink: The Inn at Death Valley Dining Room offers upscale American classics and hand-crafted cocktails, in addition to views of the surrounding salt flats and Panamint Mountains. 

Why you should visit: Death Valley is a land of superlatives, where you can literally stand in one spot and see the lowest point in North America and the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States! Plus, given that Death Valley famously holds the hottest air temperature record in the world, the winter is the perfect time to have outdoor adventures here. 

With an incredibly diverse landscape, ranging from salt flats to sand dunes and badlands within just miles of one another, there are so many things to do in Death Valley National Park

For example, you can start off your trip by watching the desert sky turn pink as the sun rises at Zabriskie Point, an iconically pointy badland that towers over the surrounding golden badlands. From here, you can hike the Golden Canyon trail, a 7.8 loop that will take you past soaring red rocks, swirling badlands, and white cliffs. It looks so unreal, it was used as a shooting location for the original Star Wars!

Another spectacular place to watch the sunrise is the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, the most accessible of the five different dune areas in the park. Hike your way up a dune some of which stand 100 feet highand watch the sun rise above the mountains, casting dramatic shadows on the desert floor.

No trip to Death Valley is complete without seeing Badwater Basin, which sits at an eye-popping 282-feet below sea level. These salt flats stretch on for 200 miles and offer an alien-like landscape, thanks to the coarse salt creating geometric polygons blanketing the ground.

Recommended by Jessica from Uprooted Traveler

15. Kauai, Hawaii

Prow of a kayak in the water in Kauai Hawaii

Location: Kauai is the northernmost island in the Hawaiian island chain

How to get there: Lihue Airport (LIH) is the primary airport on the Island of Kauai. Getting there is a breeze from the west coast, particularly from Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Where to stay on Kauai: There are plenty of places to stay throughout the island. If you’re keen on drier weather and calm seas for your trip, opt for the southern coast, as the north experiences a bit of rain and winter swells in the ocean.

Up north, you can stay in Princeville or Hanalei. It is extremely green, but the seas are a bit rougher during the winter months (and rain is more common). If you want a mixture of both, choose Lihue as your base for your Kauai itinerary.

Where to eat and drink: Throughout Kauai, there are plenty of places to eat and drink regardless of your dietary choices. The Kauai Juice Co. in Kapaa offers homemade kombucha and fresh juices, while the Aloha Ginger Beer Company in Lihue specializes in ginger beer made fresh with Kauai ginger.

Hanalei is teeming with plenty of options and food trucks – the Hanalei Bread Company and the Hanalei Taro and Juice Co. are two favorites. Be sure to enjoy a side of poi with your lunch.

Why you should visit: One of the best places to visit during the winter months is the beautiful island of Kauai in Hawaii! When you’re there, you will be greeted with lush landscapes and tropical weather.

One of the main reasons to visit Kauai in winter is that the temperatures are tropical and tolerable – with an average winter high of 72F/22C and 15 days of rain. Like any tropical place, it doesn’t typically rain all day long… just in spurts.

Kauai has plenty of things to do, from lush botanical gardens to dry canyons and more. Around Christmas and New Year, the island receives plenty of tourists. But it is rather quiet during the winter outside of the holidays, making prices cheaper and hotels more readily available.

During the winter months, you will want to take a road trip through Waimea Canyon and a helicopter ride over the Na Pali Coast. The mornings tend to be a bit better weather-wise, so be sure to choose a morning helicopter ride.

Kauai truly has something for everyone and the Garden Isle is the perfect winter escape!

Recommended by Megan from Next is Hawaii

16. Ojai, California

trees on a patio in Ojai with mountains in the background

Location: Ojai is located in Southern California’s Ojai Valley, northwest of Los Angeles and east of Santa Barbara

How to get there: Ojai is 15 miles from the closest train station in Ventura, or about an hour and a half drive from Los Angeles.

Where to stay: I recommend Ojai Valley Inn, 905 Country Club Rd.

Where to eat and drink: Ojai Roti, Azu Restaurant & Bar, Topa Topa Brewery

Why visit: Ojai is a quaint artist town known for its relaxed atmosphere, scenic beauty, and food, beer, and wine scene. The town is very walkable. The main drag offers fine boutiques, food shops, art galleries, a movie theatre, eateries, drinkeries, and perhaps the cutest post office in California. 

You’ll also find Libbey Park, a great green space in the middle of town. Although there is no shortage of restaurants in Ojai, picnicking in the park is a wonderful lunch option, especially since the cheese shop is just a few doors down. Be sure to wander off of Ojai Avenue so you don’t miss the hidden gems like the Ojai Art Center and Barts Books, the world’s largest outdoor bookstore.

Many come to Ojai to relax and enjoy the scenery. You can enjoy relaxing body treatments at the luxurious Ojai Valley Inn, or at one of the many day spas in town. If you prefer to hike your troubles away, miles of trails can be found just steps from town and in the surrounding Topa Topa Mountains. 

Sunset is a special time in Ojai. Sip a glass of local wine and watch “the pink moment” as the Topa Topas become washed with color. The hard part will be deciding where to get the wine, which is quite prevalent in Ojai. Some of the local restaurants have wineries (Azu and Boccali) and there are a couple of wineries a short drive from the town. like Topa Mountain Winery and Old Creek Ranch Winery.

Recommended by Denise from Chef Denise

17. Catalina Island, California

Boats in a Catalina Island marina

Location: Catalina Island, also called Santa Catalina Island, is located 23 miles off the coast of Southern California, south-southwest of Los Angeles.

How to get there: You can get to Catalina Island by ferry or helicopter. It takes only one hour via a high-speed ferry and 15 minutes by helicopter.

Where to stay on Catalina Island: Book your stay in the port town of Avalon, and try to get a hotel as close to the water as possible to be closest to the action. Recommendations include the Bellanca Hotel and Hotel Atwater

Where to eat and drink: El Galleon is a great central spot for casual dining, and the M Restaurant is a great spot for special occasions. 

Why you should visit: Catalina Island is a wonderful beach destination off the beaten path. Most commonly reached by ferry, it’s a great spot for a 2-night trip, perfect for both tourists and local Californians looking for a quick getaway. 

Like most of Southern California, Catalina Island benefits from warm weather almost year-round. Winter is a great time to visit Catalina Island if you’re looking to avoid crowds. Winter is the off-season for this touristy locale, so many local hotels will be offering great deals at this time as well. 

The most popular spot to visit on Catalina Island is Descanso Beach Club, located just past the iconic round casino building. Descanso is a private beach but is open to all. Visitors can rent cabanas and lounge chairs, and enjoy drink service right on the sand. 

Catalina Island also offers plenty of other fun daytime activities, including zip lining, falconry, kayaking, parasailing, and plenty more. They even offer several jeep tours that take you up into the hills, where you can see beautiful ocean views and may even catch a glimpse of the island’s infamous herd of wild bison. 

While there is no shortage of things to do on Catalina island during the day, it does close down pretty early in the evening. Be sure to get your dinner in by about 8 pm or you risk not having restaurant options. The boardwalk along the shops at Avalon, however, provides a very nice evening walk.

Recommended by Olivia from The Girl With Blue Sails

Ready for a warm winter escape?

The next time you’re ready for a wintertime break from the cold, dreary north, consider one of these sunny winter getaways in America. From warm beaches to desert oases, there are plenty of places to find relief from the winter weather up north. And, who knows, you might just discover a new favorite destination in the process.

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages inspired her to create As We Saw It, where she documents her trips, shares practical itineraries, and offers insider tips. She’s passionate about helping fellow travelers save time, money, and hassle, and loves to discover new places to explore.

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As We Saw It