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
Gethin Morgan

Content and CRM Executive

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.

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Palm Springs, CA

Natural Feature, Shop, Historical Landmark

Sunrise over Joshua Tree National Park

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

A green heron in Everglades National Park, Florida

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

San Diego, California

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

Playa Pinones, Puerto Rico

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

Surfer catching a massive wave in one of the first winter swells, Maui, Hawaii

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

Key West, Florida

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

Mountain biking in the Arizona Desert near Phoenix

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.

South Padre Island, TX

Architectural Landmark

South Padre Island, Texas

The further south in Texas you go the better the weather, and it doesn’t get more southern than South Padre Island. San Antonio is a beautiful city, with lots to do and a pleasant winter climate, but if you’re looking for all-out relaxation then this resort town is the place to be. Temperatures are a little milder than most places on this list but the beaches are stunning, and much quieter than in summer. Activities range from fishing to birdwatching and a range of water sports. The seafood is exceptional, as is the nightlife, which will see you party the night away before heading to the beach for a fireworks display. How about that for a bit of escapism from the bitter winters of the north.

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