The winter season is here and finals are coming to an end. As you log off for the semester (finally!), replace your classroom sessions with some surf sessions and take some time away from tests, essays, and roommates by heading to the beach! Don’t live anywhere close to a beach? No worries! The best beach destinations for winter don’t have to break the bank.
No matter the weather where you are, these beach destinations bring year-round warmth. Instead of spending the holiday season trapped indoors by the winter ice and snow, trade your mittens and winter coats for bathing suits and suntan lotion. Here’s 13 of the best beach destinations for winter to avoid the cold!
1. La Jolla Beach, Southern California
Located in sunny southern California with crystal-clear water, abundant wildlife, and a variety of hip restaurants and shops in town, La Jolla is a prime winter beach destination. Winter waves in this season maintain a steady 2ft and under height—perfect for those looking to grab their wavestorms and try their hand at an afternoon surf session. Bonus: every winter, La Jolla is home to the world’s largest population of leopard sharks—not harmful to humans and perfect for that Instagram-worthy ‘I swam with sharks’ picture!
Average January temperature: 66°F
2. Pink Sands Beach, The Bahamas
One of only seven pink sand beaches in the world, the Pink Sands Beach on Harbor Island is perfect for a winter trip you’ll never forget. With soothing waters maintaining a 70-75°F average, December is peak season for travelers looking for calm tides and natural beauty. Enjoy elegant resorts or affordable student hotels, work on that suntan you lost while studying in the library, and build memories with your college BFF’s before winter break ends.
Average January temperature: 78°F
3. Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos
The stunning Grace Bay Beach is located on the northeast coast of Providenciales Island. This pristine beach is the hallmark of Turks and Caicos—with the perfect mix of natural and luxurious vibes, it’s one of the best beach destinations for winter. Turks and Caicos experiences consistent and beautiful weather year-round, so you can escape the winter whenever you visit. With over 3 miles of white sand; calm, shallow waters and pristine beach conditions, Grace Bay is a must for your winter beach bucket list.
Average January temperature: 82°F
4. Elafonisi Beach, Crete, Greece
Elafonisi Beach definitely deserves a spot on your best beaches list—with stunning pinkish sand, warm lagoon-like waters, and a very wild feel, Elafonisi Beach is a unique beach experience! In fact, it’s actually an island. It’s separated from the mainland by the shallow water and sandbars that only disappear under about three feet of water at high tide. Facilities are limited to palapa-covered sun loungers and a handful of tavernas for fresh seafood. Even better: the wide shallow lagoon is a shelter for rare loggerhead sea turtles. Go snorkeling or just enjoy the warm waters—these turtles are very shy, but you might be able to spot one if you’re lucky!
Average January temperature: 57°F (but the water is actually warmer than the air temp, at 61°F!)
5. Laguna Beach, California
Feeling in the mood for a funky beach town with an artsy vibe? Look no further. Known for its vibrant art galleries, coves, beaches, and gardens, Laguna Beach is an artist’s paradise. After visiting the Laguna Art Museum and Laguna Gallery for some inspiration, you can bask in the golden sand under the California sun. For those with the spirit of wanderlust, check out Victoria Beach and snap a pic by the Pirate Tower, an eerie 60-foot castle built in the 1920s. From hiking, museums, to pristine beaches, the options are endless!
Average January temperature: 68°F
6. Key Largo, Florida
If you’re looking for a beach getaway with more to do than just lay on the beach, Key Largo is a great place to go. From glass-bottomed boat tours and snorkeling in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park to swimming with dolphins, visiting wildlife preserves or biking along the Overseas Trail spanning the Florida Keys, Key Largo is home to plenty of activities and adventure, too. Of course, the beaches won’t disappoint either—soft white sand, views as far as the eye can see and an average water temperature of 74°F even in January.
Average January temperature: 73°F
7. Isla Holbox, Quintana Roo, Mexico
If you want to get off the beaten path in Mexico without sacrificing views or sunshine (or perfect beaches!), you can’t go wrong with Isla Holbox. This car-free island isn’t far from Cancun, yet it’s much less crowded. Bonus: most of the beaches in Holbox have colorful hammocks strung up over the water, making for the perfect spot for relaxing (and for an Insta pic, of course). Not a napper? There’s plenty else to do too—go kite surfing, explore nearby cenotes, take a boat or kayak tour, or rent bicycles to ride around the island. The nearby nature surrounding the bright blue waters means Isla Holbox is the perfect place for adventurers and beach-lovers alike.
Average January temperature: 72°F
8. The Baths, British Virgin Islands
Located in Virgin Gorda, The Baths are one of the most beautiful beaches in the world—and definitely one of the most photographed! The giant boulders paired with the bright blue water make for seriously otherworldly views and scenery. There’s also plenty of hidden caves and grottos ready to be explored. You can also explore the nearby Devil’s Bay for snorkeling and more swimming and sunbathing. Plus, with winter weather rarely dipping below the 80s every day, it’s one of the best beach destinations for winter. The British Virgin Islands have loads worth visiting, but go ahead and bump the Baths at Virgin Gorda to the top of your list.
Average January temperature: 82°F
9. Papenoo Beach, Tahiti
Ready for a far-flung adventure this winter? Why not go big and head all the way to Tahiti? Ok, even if you’re just dreaming about it for now, Papenoo Beach is one of the best beaches in the world and deserves a place on your bucket list. While there’s not much in terms of amenities here, what you’re visiting for is the solitude, off-the-beaten-path quiet and natural beauty that Tahiti is so famous for. It’s truly one of the best beach destinations for winter—or anytime—in the world. If you love surfing, Papenoo is great for that, with a consistent break, or you can visit nearby spots like Arahoho Blowhole and waterfalls for more to do.
Average January temperature: 87°F
10. Honolulu, Hawaii
Where better to escape for the winter than the Hawaiian Islands? While Honolulu is the most popular spot for travelers (and the easiest to get to), there’s something for everyone in Hawaii. Looking for a buzzy city with tons of beaches? Definitely head to Honolulu and the nearby Waikiki area. Want to get off-the-beaten-path? The Big Island is a great place to do so. If you’re looking for a quieter week in paradise, Maui has some of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii. No matter where you go, you’ll be met with warm, calm waters; stunning views and sunny weather year-round.
Average January temperature: 81°F
11. Siesta Key Beach, Florida
Ready for a beachside siesta? Then we’ve got just the place for you. Siesta Key Beach in Florida is one of the best beaches in the US and if you visit for a week (or even just a weekend), you’ll see why! With some of the softest white sand in the US, tons of sunny days and warm, calm water, it’s the perfect place for swimming, sunbathing or, of course, a nap! Start your day with free beach yoga or stay up late singing karaoke at the beachside Crab and Oyster Bar. You can even go parasailing!
Average January temperature: 72°F
12. Playa Paraiso, Tulum, Mexico
If you’re looking for a true escape to a tropical paradise, how about Paradise Beach in Tulum? Besides all the insta-perfect beaches, cafes and stops in Tulum, Playa Paraiso is one of the best beaches in Mexico. Even though Tulum is growing in popularity, this beach still stays relatively quiet, making it the perfect place to relax and unwind after a long semester. Get the picture-perfect Insta shots, then hit up a yoga class or find a hammock to stretch out in for the afternoon.
Average January temperature: 80°F
13. Big Sur, California
Located on the central California coast, boasting rugged vistas between the Santa Lucia Mountains, Big Sur is a camping and adventure-seeker’s haven. The iconic Bixby Creek Bridge built in the 1930s is the hallmark of Big Sur that you can’t miss. Sleep under the stars on Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground surrounded by redwoods and rich green foliage, or hike to McWay Falls, an 80 foot tall waterfall that flows directly into the ocean. The chilly Pacific water around Big Sur is rarely warm enough for swimming, even in the summer, but Big Sur’s natural scenery and breathtaking coastline is the perfect backdrop for your winter break memories—and for your Insta feed.
Average January temperature: 61°F
Looking for more of the best beach destinations for winter? Check out our current deals on flights around the world and choose your own adventure!
Thanks to students Christina Grattan, Kaleigh Carrier and Haneen Razzouk for their beach research, recommendations and writing.
*Prices were accurate at the time of writing, but flight prices are dynamic and subject to change. All flights are priced for dates between December 22, 2021 and April 19, 2021.