Where to Go for Winter Sun in the USA

Take a trip to Phoenix, Arizona, and immerse yourself in the desert landscapes of White Tank Mountain Regional Park
Take a trip to Phoenix, Arizona, and immerse yourself in the desert landscapes of White Tank Mountain Regional Park | © Keniker / Alamy
Photo of Gethin Morgan
Campaign Production Associate21 September 2021

Missed your chance for a sun-soaked summer getaway? Or simply want to escape the biting cold of winter? Fear not, the US has plenty of vacation spots with sunny skies and pleasant climates. You might even save a buck or two thanks to the off-season prices.

Palm Springs, CA

Natural Feature, Shop, Historical Landmark
Map View
Sunrise over Joshua Tree National Park
Sunrise over Joshua Tree National Park | © Durk Talsma / Alamy
The only thing in Palm Springs that will remind you that it’s winter is the light dusting of snow on the distant mountain peaks. Winter weather here is arguably better than the sizzling desert-heat of summer. Go hiking among the distinctive flora and rock formations of Joshua Tree National Park, or visit one of the city’s many beautiful gardens. Golfers will rejoice at the year-round quality of the green, while you can also play tennis and go horseback riding. If you’re less interested in sweating and more keen on spending then how about some waterfront shopping at The River is Rancho Mirage?

Everglades, FL

Park
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Green heron (Butorides virescens) examining itself on a tree branch.Anhinga trail in Everglades National Park. Florida. USA
A green heron in Everglades National Park, Florida | © VIKVAD / Alamy
One of America’s greatest natural wonders, the Everglades National Park, is actually at its most popular during the winter months, thanks to the December to April dry season that contrasts its tropical wet summers. This is the best time of year to see Florida wildlife at its most diverse, with a range of migratory birds joining tourists for the warmer climate, and gators at their most visible thanks to shallower waters and rich watering holes. Explore via kayak, airboat, lookout towers or scenic highways – depends how close you want to get.

San Diego, CA

Natural Feature, Zoo, Historical Landmark
Map View
Dec. 14, 2014 - San Diego, California, United States - December 14, 2014_Coronado, California_USA_| A boat in the annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights passes by Coronado near the end of the Parade's route with the downtown San Diego skyline in the distan
San Diego, California | © ZUMA Press Inc / Alamy
The West Coast’s southernmost city is probably the closest you can get to a Mexican vacation without crossing the border. The weather remains lovely in autumn, a little milder in winter, but the sun continues to shine all year round. This makes beach days possible whenever you want, and much more relaxing in off-peak seasons when the tourists filter out. Enjoy incredible winter sunsets, watch the Parade of Lights in San Diego Bay in December, and keep an eye out for whale-watching tours as thousands migrate from Alaska to Baja in Mexico.

Puerto Rico

Natural Feature
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EXPOSED ROCKS PLAYA PINONES BEACH LOIZA PUERTO RICO
Playa Pinones, Puerto Rico | © Russell Kord / Alamy
It’s technically summer year-round in Puerto Rico. In fact winter and spring are arguably the best times of year to visit – you can expect lots of sun and 68F+ (20C+) temperatures on the coast and, while summer might be hotter, it’s also in the thick of the wet season. So you can chill on pristine beaches, hike the tropical rainforests or simply relax as you take in the buoyant atmosphere of the island’s welcoming culture.

Hawaii

Natural Feature
Map View
Surfer catches a massive wave in one of the first winter swells. Maui, Hawaii.
Surfer catching a massive wave in one of the first winter swells, Maui, Hawaii | © Nubbin / Alamy
Swap the Caribbean for the Pacific and you get a pretty similar result. Hawaii’s weather is even more consistent year-round, with summer lasting until October and winter maintaining average temperatures of 78F (25.5C), making it the most summery of winter destinations on US soil. As well as sunshine that would blow your mind in January, winter also boasts world-renowned surfing conditions and your best chance of seeing whales traveling with their young. Meanwhile the islands themselves remain as beautiful as ever, with a rich ecosystem of tropical flora embellishing the rainforests, rocky peaks and picture-perfect coastlines.

Florida Keys, FL

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Key West, Florida, USA - September 12, 2019: Quiet Street In Key West Florida USA
Key West, Florida | © Maria Kraynova / Alamy
If you’d like to enjoy the charms of island-living a little closer to the mainland then why not head to the southernmost point of America? This archipelago at the bottom of Florida offers pleasant 75F (24C) days, so you can bask in the sun and breathe in the refreshing ocean breeze. Whether you choose Key Largo in the north, Key West in the south, or anywhere in between, you can expect extremely laid-back energy, plus lots of festive events including boat parades and music festivals. Perfect to re-energize your dreary winter.

Phoenix, AZ

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Mountain Biking In the Arizona Desert Near Phoenix
Mountain biking in the Arizona Desert near Phoenix | © Ray Redstone / Alamy
If spending a day sunbathing poolside is what you’re after, then Phoenix might be a tad mild for you. Winter heat comes and goes in the heart of Arizona, but winter sun is far more consistent. So if you’re simply looking to spend some time outdoors, then this part of the world is perfect. The biking and hiking opportunities are endless, with 40,000 acres (16,187ha) of park and preserve land in and around the city. Mountains, forests and deserts are all nearby, or for a gentler time in the sun you can hit one of the many golf courses, open all year round.
These recommendations were updated on September 21, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh. This article is an updated version of a story created by Gethin Morgan

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