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While January often brings visions of snowy slopes for skiing and other winter sports, if you’re tired of that chilled-to-the-bone feeling you’re probably looking to escape it, not delve into it more. Fortunately, there are many fabulous places with warm weather that can provide a quick respite or a long and exotic retreat. From destinations closer to home to spectacularly lush islands with fantasy-like beaches thousands of miles away, consider one of these top warm places to visit in January.
January is part of the high season in Aruba, drawing many visitors to enjoy beautiful beaches like Eagle Beach, often ranked among the world’s best with soft white sands framed by clear aquamarine water. It’s endless sunshine here with temperatures in the 80s and cooling trade winds to ensure you don’t get too hot while sipping your refreshing rum punch. If you want to get active, enjoy all types of water sports, horseback riding, golfing, or, for a big thrill, sky diving. There’s also plenty of beach resorts to chill out and enjoy luxury on-site perks.
Key West, Florida
Key West, located at the southern tip of the Florida Keys, enjoys pleasant temperatures in the mid-70s in January and it offers a wide range of things to see and do, including spectacular beaches, sailing, fishing, diving, kayaking, sunset cruises, and more. The nightlife is world-famous with Duval Street the center of it all, home to legendary spots like Sloppy Joe’s and the Green Parrot, an institution here since 1890 with live music on the weekend, darts, pool, and pinball in a unique open-air tropical environment. While there’s never a dull moment in Key West, day trips to Dry Tortuga National Park are possible with the strikingly clear blue waters some of the best around for snorkeling and diving, with colorful tropical fish and living coral.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
January is a popular month for visiting Puerto Vallarta, as thousands of humpback whales will be enjoying the warm waters of Banderas Bay. Plus, the weather is typically idyllic, with the average daytime high at 80 degrees. All sorts of activities in the water and on land can be enjoyed, from swimming, snorkeling, and paddleboarding to hiking and horseback riding. Some of the prettiest beaches in Mexico are found here, providing many memorable spots for strolling and soaking up the sun. In the cobblestone center, Zona Romantica, you’ll find the beautiful Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church, art, boutiques, bars, and restaurants.
Maui is known for its diverse landscapes, with everything from rainforests and a volcano to gorgeous beaches. It’s home to some of the best stretches in the islands, like Makena Beach, often rated among the world’s most beautiful. Temperatures are usually in the upper 70s in January, making it ideal for some winter sun, especially among the south and west coast. The west coast is also the place to be for Maui’s famous whale watching with thousands of humpback whales here in the winter. Join a whale-watching excursion for an up-close look or just keep an eye out on the Pacific and you might see one breaching offshore. When you’re swimming or snorkeling, keep an ear out too. The haunting melodies of the whales can be heard from up to 12 miles away.
Laguna Beach, California
Winter in Laguna Beach is typically a balmy 68 degrees while offering many fun things to do outdoors, including visits to postcard-perfect beaches popular for surfing or watching the surfers ride the big waves. At the north end of Main Beach, there are tide pools where you can search for colorful creatures like starfish and sea anemones. If you have any interest in whales, this is the perfect time for a whale-watching trip from nearby Dana Point with Capt. Dave’s Dana Point Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari. Thousands of gray whales migrate through these waters between November and April, with January being one of the season’s peak months.
Tenerife, Canary Islands
The Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago off the coast of West Africa, popular with Brits who like to escape winter cold and enjoy the year-round warmth and sunshine. While the water will be too chilly for comfortable swims, on the most popular island of Tenerife, there are many activities and attractions on offer. Hiking is especially ideal now, with the nearly 12,200-foot-high volcanic Mount Teide, Spain’s highest peak, providing awe-inspiring views from the summit. There are Jeep tours, golf courses, and even caves that can be explored. Cueva del Viento is a series of caves with over 11 miles of lava tubes and a maze of underground tunnels with lava stalactites, a lava lake, fossils and more that can be viewed on a guided tour.
Enjoy plenty of sunshine and pleasant temperatures in Tucson, which typically hover around the mid-60s in January. While there are no beaches here, there’s plenty of beauty to be found in the desert, particularly in Saguaro National Park, ideal for hiking with miles and miles of scenic trails and wildlife to watch for, including Gila monsters and desert tortoise. In town, enjoy the El Presidio Historic District, one of the country’s oldest inhabited sites. The district was built on a prehistoric Hohokam Indian site dating back to the 18th century, while the original fort (presidio) reflects the city’s development from an 18th-century walled compound to a 20th-century mercantile center. The Old Town Artisans marketplace is fun to browse or buy, filled with works by Tucson and regional artists.
Bequia, St. Vincent & The Grenadines
Bequia is one of those islands that most people would love to be stranded on. There are no sprawling resorts or casino hotels but you will find plenty of secluded beaches for snorkeling and a lush, hilly interior along with food shacks selling fresh seafood and beach bars serving cocktails that can be sipped to relaxing reggae tunes. January is a great time to visit, with temperatures in the mid-80s and little rain. Plus this island is one of the Caribbean’s less-visited isles, which means crowds are practically unheard of.
January is one of the best months to travel to the Philippines with the weather warm but not too hot and humid, and little rain as this is the dry season. Palawan is frequently named the very best island in the country and among the best in the world with stunning white sandy beaches and incredibly clear water in shades ranging from pale aquamarine to deep turquoise. A snorkeler’s and diver’s paradise, there are towering limestone cliffs, shipwreck sites and abundant marine life, including whale sharks with opportunities to swim alongside them.
Belize is home to the world’s second-largest barrier reef making it one of the top spots for snorkeling and diving. There are countless secluded beaches with wide open spaces where no one else is around. If you’ve got a big budget, you can even stay on your own private island. The average temperature is a balmy 78 in January and the water is close to the same if not a bit warmer. The Great Blue Hole, one of the most popular attractions in the country sits in the center of an offshore atoll known as Lighthouse Reef, an island of coral 60 miles from Belize City. It’s the “holy grail” of diving sites and thanks to its depth of 480 feet, it boasts a surreal shade of blue that makes it look like a massive pupil in a sea of turquoise.
In the “Land Down Under,” January is the peak of summer, bringing the opportunity to snorkel and dive the Great Barrier Reef and enjoy barbecues on beaches like Bondi Beach, one of Australia’s most famous. It’s just a 15-minute drive from downtown Sydney for plenty of fun in the sun and a coastal walk that follows the shoreline for nearly four miles along sandstone cliffs. Beyond the beach, visit the famous Sydney Opera House, climb the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, wander through the botanical gardens, and explore the many museums and galleries.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
There are few who aren’t familiar with the unique Galapagos Islands, located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. It’s a microcosm of evolution known for its close encounters with wildlife with the lack of predators allowing the animals to thrive. You can snorkel right alongside a marine iguana and walk through a maze of sea lions while a Galapagos giant tortoise lumbers by. Whales, Galapagos penguins, blue-footed boobies and flightless cormorants are just a few of the other creatures here. As the archipelago is in the Southern Hemisphere, January is the heart of summer and while it might rain a bit, there’s usually plenty of sunshine and average daytime highs are around the mid-80s.
The Cook Islands
If you’re thinking way off the beaten path, how about the Cook Islands? Similar to Bora Bora but not nearly as well known, this is one of the best off-the-grid travel experiences in a setting that fantasies are made of. Even the largest and most popular, Rarotonga, sees relatively few visitors. It’s a great place for the usual beach and water activities while offering the chance to learn more about the Polynesian culture by visiting the Cultural Village and attending an Island Night show where locals share their traditions and history through food, song, music and dance.
Isla Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox has been called North America’s very best island destination. Located off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, in January, the weather is pretty much perfect, around the mid-70s with bright blue skies and glorious sunsets. The month also falls at the end of the period for bioluminescence that can be observed at the stretch of beach behind the Margaritaville St. Somewhere hotel. Enjoy peace and tranquility with no cars and no high-rise buildings, just unspoiled white sandy beaches and charming fishing villages. Locals and visitors get around on foot, bicycle, or golf cart.