Best Places to Travel in January in the USA

Searching for the best places to travel in January while staying in the USA?

You are right, you don’t have to go overseas to find a place where you can enjoy your winter vacation.

BUT, since there are very many of you readers with different tastes, I will divide this content into a couple of categories.

Choose whether you want a:

  • budget travel in January.
  • no budget restriction on travel in January.


  • warm locations in January.
  • cold locations in January.


Best places to travel in January while on budget

Let’s start with warmer temperature locations:

Warm locations: Big Sur

If you are looking for something relaxing that doesn’t hit your wallet too much, I’d advise checking out Big Sur.

Usually, Big Sur is very populated as it’s in the top 35 tourist attractions in the USA, but January is perfect as people are far-in-between with their cars, leaving you to enjoy Big Sur in all its glory.

You will just need a car, either yours or rented, and then the fun can begin.

big sur in January

What I would recommend is visiting Pfeiffer beach that’s along the way. It has sand that’s purple, which is very unique and rarely seen anywhere else.

The whole scenery is just jaw-dropping. If you are lucky, you might see some whales just off-shore.

The temperature depends on the weather, but generally, you won’t have to put on winter clothes, as Big Sur is far enough in the south.

TIPS for Big Sur

  • There are huge areas with no internet, so plan ahead. Download offline Google Maps for easier navigation.
  • Take some snacks with you. Although the drive itself is relatively cheap, the food ain’t. Restaurants are quite costly, so take some food with you in case you don’t want to pay the price.
  • If you want to stop, then stop. Every 5 minutes you will see a landscape that just makes you want to capture a picture.
  • To avoid hotel costs, plan to do a little camping trip. There are plenty of places to do that. Here is one of the good ones for example.


From Big Sur to San Diego

To get that warm weather, I’d advise traveling south along the sea towards San Diego.

san diego in summer

San Diego is not very hot in January either, but the temperature is definitely better, especially during the day when the sun can roast you like a marshmallow. At night, take a jacket with you as the wind can get a bit chilly.

In San Diego, the beach is perfect and the attractions are all over the place.

In addition to surfing, Zoos, restaurants, and sightseeing, there are many rodeo events that many are not aware of, so keep an eye out for them as well in the event calendar.

All in all, the housing market is very expensive there, along with hotel prices, but it does not mean that tourists have to pay significantly more. San Diego is still a very budget-friendly place to visit, especially in January!


Cold locations: New England

Some specific sports in New England can really be called a winter wonderland, especially with scenery like this:

new england mountains on winter

As we are still in the budget category, skiing is still an option. Many say that ski resorts are too expensive, but actually, they don’t have to be.

It’s all about how you manage your money. It’s usually expensive because the skiing equipment is crafted to the science, and renting them is expensive. Plus, the market isn’t that huge so they up the price.

What I would do is, find the cheapest plane, or even travel by car. The location in New England could be your own choice. Here are some good ski resorts.

The best way to choose a ski resort would be to look at the location and see if there is a nearby town that doesn’t offer too high prices. Some of these towns do look very beautiful. Here is a list of them for you to choose from.

As was said previously, skiing can be expensive, but if you do a one-time investment and buy skiing equipment yourself (which costs 1-2k) and buy a season pass, you can travel to ski for around 2,000-3,000 dollars initially, and then the costs are 1-2k cheaper.

All in all, the New England region is very beautiful during winter, and I definitely recommend visiting it in January if you like the cold weather.


Best places to travel in January with no Budget Restriction

As previously, let’s start with:

Warm locations: HAWAII

I mean, it’s the ultimate place to go in January. Temperatures there hover at around 79-80F, which is plenty for anyone.

One of the locals from Reddit made a nice post on what to visit and what NOT to visit in Hawaii (added pictures) that I’ve used in my visits as well last year:

Aloha! I’m a long-time resident of Kauai and I’d like to provide some friendly advice to visitors. If a place is described as dangerous, please don’t go there. Hawaii is in general a much more lenient state when it comes to liability concerns, so if somebody says it’s dangerous, then it should register as a level-10 red flag by mainland standards. I am inspired to write this after having a conversation last week with a parks staff who witnessed the anguishing aftermath of a visitor drowning recently. I can’t imagine the pain of flying home with an empty seat next to you.

Here are some safer, better, and more beautiful alternatives to places where visitors really should not go.

Hoopii Falls: This really should only be a “locals only” spot. There’s no parking except in front of people’s houses and you’ll see a lot of smashed glass for a reason. Furthermore, I’ve seen so many people jump in and then realize the only way to get out is to climb up a very steep and slippery rock face and then cross back across the stream which is not safe. People get hurt here all the time and it’s just not worth it! They literally had to airlift someone out of there last month who broke their leg. Uluwehe (Secret Falls) is a much better alternative with an adventurous hike plus the experience of kayaking up the river. Hanakapiai is also infinitely more beautiful and if you’re going to visit a waterfall, why not go to one of the most beautiful in the entire state. Don’t waste your time at Hoopii.

Makaleha Falls trail:

hawaii falls trail

Unless there is not a cloud in the sky and it’s been dry for a few days, don’t do this hike. The trail is unmaintained and you’ll be forced to walk in the stream bed. The Makaleha river goes from a docile trickle to a raging torrent in a matter of minutes and the walls of the valley make escape difficult or even impossible in places. The hau bush and bamboo are so thick the only view you’ll have is of the cloud of mosquitos around your head, not worth it. Also, there’s been a real issue with attacks by poorly trained hunting dogs in that area, is that something you really want to risk for a sub-par hiking experience?

Queen’s Bath:

queens bath hawaii

Enough has been written about the dangers of Queen’s Bath, so I won’t waste my time. Much safer and honestly much more beautiful tide pools abound on Kauai. Just remember to never turn your back on the ocean and if there’s water in a tidepool, that means waves get there too.

Hanakapiai beach:

Hanakapiai beach hawaii

DO NOT GET IN THE WATER and if you’re there in winter stay far up on the beach. The shape of the bay and sea floor compress wave energy and create currents that are unpredictable. Sit on the beach for an hour and guarantee you’ll see someone knocked flat on their ass and dragged halfway down the beach by a large wave that came out of nowhere. We had another drowning there last week. Enjoy the hike, and get your swimming in at Ke’e.

Glass Beach:

glass beach hawaii

There’s hardly any glass left at glass beach because people always take home a jar of it. Unless you want to get chased by a tweaker with a machete, stay away from there. It’s literally the old dump, the water is polluted, and it’s one of the most sharky beaches on the island. Just go to Salt Pond.

Kealia beach:

Kealia beach hawaii

Kealia is low-key one of the most dangerous beaches on the island. If the wind is blowing above 15 mph, don’t get in the water. The currents will pull you out and a lifeguard will have to save your ass. Plus, the bottom is rocky and often covered in logs and sticks. If you get in the way of a surfer you’re gonna catch cracks. Lydgate is a way nicer spot with non-disgusting bathrooms and much better snorkeling and swimming.

secret tunnel hike hawaii

“Secret tunnel” hike. The guidebooks are a lie (or just way outdated). It’s not a secret, the trail is overgrown and unmarked, you have to slog through waist-deep mud for an end result that’s a pretty major disappointment for the effort required to get there. (For the love of God please do not go in winter!) It’s a hunting area as well so there are packs of hunting dogs that can pose a significant danger. If you want a tunnel experience, book a tubing tour or do the ATV tour through the Wilcox tunnel. The views and hiking experience from the nearby Kuilau/Moalepe trails are far far superior to anything you’d experience on the “secret tunnel” hike.

The reality is the absolute best hikes, views, adventures, and places to cross of your bucket list are in the state parks and other main visitor areas. Leave the out of the way spots for the locals who are going there to hunt, fish, or surf in peace. It would be like going to the Grand Canyon and wasting your time walking some fire road in the back country, just a waste of time and your vacation dollars.


Cold Locations: New England (again)

berkshires in winter

For winter, New England is truly the place to go, no matter what your budget is.

New England is big, so you’ll have plenty of places to go that you haven’t seen before.

One of my suggestions would be to visit Berkshires in Massachusetts. The hilltowns on the east side is really beautiful during winter and Monument Mountain is a really nice hike.

When you want some warmth in January, check out some of the local museums.

It just has that natural beauty that you don’t find anywhere else, but only in the North.

You don’t have to visit only Berkshires, as with the budget option, there are plenty of ski resorts that are extremely comfortable, depending on what your budget is. For the ski resort list, check it out above in my budget recommendations.

If you have any recommendations yourself, leave them down in the comments for others to see!

See Also: Travel Hacks for Packing Light – 80% weight reduction!


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