The trees are bare, t-shirt weather is a distant memory and the nights are long (and freezing) – winter is well and truly upon us! Hot chocolate has become a staple of our diet and ice skates have been broken out to try and make the most of the freezing temperatures. Some people love the change, but let’s be real, most of us are pretty over it by this point. It can seem impossible to escape the cold as you sit in your car and wonder what the chances are that you make it to work without scraping your windows (if you know, you know), but there is still hope! The good news is that there are a ton of warm destinations in North America, with amazing hostels, to help you get a break from the cold without spending all your (much needed) coffee money. Here are our top 22 places for warm winter vacations in the USA:
Honolulu’s long sand beaches, plethora of activities, and beautiful hostels make it one of the best winter escape destinations in the USA. The average January high is 80˚F (26.7˚C), so you’ll be out of your winter jacket and into your swimsuit in a hurry! It’s ideal for all the beach bums, shop-til-you-droppers, history buffs, outdoor adventurers, AND party animals! Dive into that book you’ve been meaning to finish, take a Pearl Harbour tour, or hike up Diamond Head State Monument to get a completely unique view.
Koko Crater Railway Trail
📷: Remi Yuan
Maui is the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands. Much like the rest of Hawaii, it enjoys warm summer weather year-round; however, the southern part of the island receives less rain than the north in the winter months. Swap your snow boots for some hikers and head to Haleakala National Park to feel like you’re on another planet or make the trip to Molokini Crater for some amazing snorkelling.
📷: Farid Askerov
Kailua-Kona is on the west side of the Big Island. Slightly warmer than Honolulu, it has an average high of 81˚F (27˚C) in January and about two days of rain. Since you’re likely to get a ton of sunny days, it’s the perfect place to kick back and soak up some rays before you go home and are back to covering every inch of skin from the cold once again. The adventurers out there will love the volcano tours, boat tours, surfing spots, and snorkelling.
📷: Ian Stauffer
Haleiwa has long stretches of sandy beach, picturesque palm trees, and a quaint vibe; but its biggest claim to fame is being along the North Shore of O’ahu, the surf capital of the world. The North Shore waves are among the biggest in the world, so not ideal for the average person, but watching the amazing surfers do their thing is bound inspire you to find something smaller and take a lesson! But there’s also nothing wrong with just enjoying a cold drink on the beach, nicely out of harm’s way 😉.
📷: Simon English
San Francisco is relatively cooler in January than the other places on this list; but remember, it feels a lot warmer when you’re coming from full on winter! The average high is about 57˚F (14˚C), which is a great temperature to walk or bike around without getting too hot. Take some city tours, see the Golden Gate Bridge, and visit the eclectic museums (look for the free museum days)! Also, look out for one of the festivals that are often taking place in the San Fran area, you’ll be reminded of how nice it is to walk around without wearing eight layers of clothing.
📷: Ivana Cajina
Los Angeles is best known as the film and television capital of the world, but it’s also the perfect place to run if you need to escape winter. The average high is around 65˚F (18˚C), so you won’t be melting but it will certainly be a welcome break from the blowing wind and snow! Bask in the city’s stardom as you stroll down Hollywood Boulevard, head out to the Santa Monica Pier, and check out the bumping nightlife along the Sunset Strip (without having to pay to coat-check your winter jacket!).
📷: Gerson Repreza
Similar to Los Angeles, San Diego’s average January high is around 65˚F (18˚C) and the days are usually quite sunny. San Diego’s beaches are really what make it one of the best winter escape destinations, so you should definitely make the trip to Coronado Beach; or, if you’re looking to escape into nature, head to Torrey Pines State Reserve to see some outlandish scenery. Make a stop at the Gaslamp Quarter to check out the city’s historic heart while enjoying the fact that your toes aren’t frozen for the first time in months.
📷: Monty Lov
You’ll be enjoying a high of about 62˚F (16°C) in Austin in January. That might not be hot enough to go swimming in Hamilton Pool, but it’s perfectly comfortable to go out and experience Austin’s live music scene. If you really do fancy a swim, head to Barton Springs pool, which has an average temperature of 68-70°F (about 20°C) and is perfect for year-round swimming. Austin has a massive selection of quirky shops, trendy cafes, tasty restaurants to choose from too, there’s no way you can see them all!
📷: Tomek Baginski
With weather similar to Austin, Houston is a great place to take a break from winter by lounging around in parks and walking around the city without having to worry about bundling up. You might even want to grab a seat on a patio while you enjoy some TexMex (a patio? During winter!?); and afterwards, make the rounds of Houston’s colourful street art scene for some fancy Instagram photos. Although not exactly a “summer” activity, Houston has some massive shopping malls that are at least worth seeing while you’re there, or head to the Space Centre Houston to get a tour of NASA Johnson Space Centre!
📷: Felipe Galvan
Miami is pretty much always warm, and there’s also hardly any rain through the winter months. The average high in January is about 73°F (23°C), which isn’t awful beach weather, especially when you’re coming from the blistering cold! You’ll want to spend most of your time along Miami Beach, basking in the sun, and enjoying the refreshing drinks and exciting atmosphere.
📷: Jason Briscoe
Fort Lauderdale has similar weather to that of Miami, with a January high of around 76°F (24°C) and drier winter months. It’s known for its picturesque beaches, unique network of boating canals, and impressive mega-mansions; take a boat tour of the canals to get a glimpse at houses most of us could only dream of. Of course, you’ll have to make your way to the beach to touch up that tan for the rest of winter, and then finish off your day among the lit up shops, restaurants, and bars on Las Olas Boulevard.
Phoenix is the ideal place to go if you’re looking for some sunshine. It rarely rains and it’s usually about 68°F (20°C), even in the winter! The Desert Botanical Gardens will really make you feel like you’ve escaped winter, or fly high in a hot air balloon and get an unforgettable view of the desert.
Hovering around 63°F (17°C), New Orleans is the perfect destination to beat the cold and have an unforgettable cultural experience. It can be rainy, so keep that in mind when booking, but there’s plenty to do regardless! New Orleans isn’t exactly a beach destination, although there are several beaches that you can drive to; plan on spending more time exploring places like the French Quarter and seeking out unique jazz bars.
The USA has tons of places to go to beat the winter, but there are also numerous havens throughout Mexico and Central America. Here’s our list of backpacker-friendly destinations south of the border:
Tulum is one the best winter escape destinations out there. It has a wide selection of highly rated hostels, is easily walkable, and has the perfect mix of activities, history, culture, and natural beauty. The temperature can reach around 81°F (27°C) and the clear, blue ocean is about 79°F (26°C), so it’s pretty much perfect for swimming, snorkelling, and tanning! Head to the Tulum ruins, explore breath-taking cenotes, and enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine at one of the affordable restaurants near your hostel.
Dos Ojos Cenote
📷: Roberto Nickson
Cancun is known for its massive beaches, luxury resorts, and bumpin’ night life. The hostels in Cancun are absolutely stunning and highly rated, and also offer a more down-to-earth experience to their visitors than the alternatives. The weather is very similar to Tulum, so you’ll love chilling out by the hostel pool (there’s lots!) and making your way to the beach to frolic in the waves. Staying in a hostel will mean you’re in the perfect spot to have an authentic meal and then hit the town of the rest of the night.
📷: Victor Hughes
Playa del Carmen
Once again, Playa del Carmen has similar weather to Tulum and Cancun in January. It’s home to long stretches of sandy beach and crystal-clear water, and has amazing snorkelling (with turtles!). The luxurious hostels are the perfect place to have an unforgettable experience without breaking the bank.
Playa del Carmen
📷: Conor Luddy
Granada is full of highly rated, unique, and affordable hostels. It’s a great winter escape for people looking for an authentic cultural experience, some impressive history, and a bit of adventure! The average January high is about 90°F (32°F), perfect for chilling in the hostel pool. You’ll love exploring the Spanish colonial architecture, Mombacho Volcano, and maybe even a nature night tour!
San Jose is a cool city, surrounded by mountains, and accented by Spanish colonial architecture. There’s plenty of options for nature and adventure tours, and you should make time to tour the Teatro Nacional Costa Rica and the eclectic assortment of museums.
📷: San Jose
Antigua is surrounded by volcanoes and distinguished by Spanish colonial architecture. The hostels are stunning and have glowing reviews – your Instagram will be blowing up with photos of picturesque lounge spaces and comfy rooms! Wandering Antigua’s charming streets might be enough for you, but you can always head out on a volcano hiking adventure to take your winter escape to the next level.
Arco de Santa Catalina
Panama City is perfect for backpackers looking to embrace the heat with open arms. The average temperature in July is around 81°F (27°C) and it’s within a 2-hour journey of some of the most amazing beaches you’ll ever lay your eyes upon. Much like the city itself, the hostels are modern, clean, and unique. Book a hostel with a pool for a little extra bonus! It might not be your thing, but you can also make the trip to the Panama Canal to watch monster cargo ships go through the Mira Flores Locks.
📷: Alejandro Carvallo
Leave all your worries behind the moment you step onto Roatan. This relaxing island off the coast of Honduras is a Caribbean paradise with crystal clear water, diverse marine life, and postcard-worthy white sand beaches. The immaculate hostels are nestled amongst the jungle and amazingly affordable. Chill out in one of the hostel hammocks, head out to a zipline tour, or spend your days catching rays on the beach; you’ll completely forget about the snow covering your driveway…
📷: Erin Simmons
San Pedro is the perfect place for the ultimate Caribbean winter escape. The average high is about 79°F (26°C) and you’ll be surrounded by dreamiest turquoise water you can imagine. Take a snorkelling trip to Hol Chan Marine Reserve to witness the plentiful, vibrant marine life, then visit one of the relaxing beach bars as you watch the sun set; sounds like a pretty dang good day to us!