By heading off on vacation to one of these warm places in January, you’ll feel relaxed and rejuvenated for the year ahead.
Some of the best warm destinations in January are right on our doorstep—think the Caribbean, the Bahamas, and Mexico. Or, for a more far-flung escape, look to the tropical white shores of Indonesia or the extraordinary Galapagos Islands.
From temples and markets in Bali to the Bahamas’ paradise beaches, escape the cold in favor of one of these warm destinations in January.
This string of around 700 coral islands, scattered across 5,382 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean close to Florida, makes for a mood-lifting January getaway. With little rain, warm days, and plenty of sunshine, January is a failsafe time to visit the Bahamas.
You could spend time exploring downtown Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, on New Providence. The city’s National Art Gallery and swashbuckling Pirates of Nassau Museum are a short walk from the John Watling’s Distillery for sips of velvety rum.
Climb Nassau’s Queen’s Staircase, too. This 66-step, 102-foot steep staircase, carved out of limestone rock by 600 slaves between 1793 and 1794, offered a direct route from Fort Fincastle, above, to the city. Tropical plants and vines line this hand-carved staircase, which still leads to the 18th-century limestone fort on Bennet’s Hill.
Head to Paradise Island for a day of aquatic fun on some of the best beaches in Nassau. Connected to Nassau by the Atlantis Bahamas Bridge, it’s home to the pink-hued Atlantis Resort that towers over the island.
Here, travelers can snorkel among the replicated ruins of Atlantis. Swim alongside spotted rays, barracuda, eels, sharks, and the endangered smalltooth sawfish within the Ruins Lagoon. If you’re not keen on snorkeling, marvel at the lagoon’s tropical sea life from within the Great Hall’s marine exhibit.
A short boat ride from Nassau, you could dig your soles into the soft sand on Pearl Island, home to curly-tailed lizards, hermit crabs, and the Antillean nighthawk. Enjoy a swim in the mellow water, try paddle boarding or kayaking, and savor a Bahamian lunch of fried fish with peas and rice.
Blue Lagoon, also known as Salt Cay, is just a three-mile boat trip from Nassau and home to more gorgeous beaches and snorkeling in the Bahamas. The pull here is a gorgeous cyan-hued lagoon with enticing crystalline water and a coral reef teeming with tropical fish.
Bimini, too, is a Bahamian paradise, with superb snorkeling and a laid-back lifestyle. Relax in a hammock, or go big-game fishing, following in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, who loved fishing here.
You could join a snorkeling tour to swim among reef sharks, too. Or head out on a local fishing boat to see how conch is harvested.
If you have family in tow, there’s no better January Bahamas destination than CocoCay. With spectacular waterslides, the biggest wave pool in the Caribbean, a zipline, and a tethered hot air balloon, the thrills come thick and fast here. Parents can join the fun—or perhaps relax in a luxurious overwater cabana for the day.
With piercing turquoise water, palm tree-lined shores, and temperatures hovering around 80°F, Cozumel, an island off Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, is a haven of tranquility in January.
Enjoy tacos and tequila beneath swaying palms on a trip to Playa Mia Grand Beach Park on the island’s west coast. There’s a waterpark, swim-up bar, kayaks, an over-the-ocean inflatable park, and a recreated underwater Mayan city to explore.
In-the-know snorkelers head straight for Punta Sur, an area rich in marine life enveloping the southern tip of Cozumel. Look for turtles, clawless lobsters, and rays among the psychedelic coral reef, where a staggering 262 species of fish and 105 types of coral are found.
Take a slow-paced but exhilarating boat ride into Punta Sur’s lagoon and you might spot more wildlife, including basking crocs and exotic birds.
To learn about pre-hispanic Cozumel, bookmark a visit to the San Gervasio archaeological site, where Mayan women once worshiped Ixchel, the goddess of love and fertility. Join a guided tour at the site to learn about the various temples and look out for darting iguanas and green lizards as you explore the crumbling Mayan ruins.
Belize is among Central America’s best warm destinations in January, with the country’s dry season perfect for sunbathing, snorkeling, rainforest hikes, and nature-watching.
Explore Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a vast UNESCO-protected landscape of mangrove forests, atolls, coastal lagoon, sand cays, and estuaries, with wildlife including American marine crocodiles, manatees, eagle rays, and marine turtles.
Caye Caulker Island, roughly 21 miles northeast of Belize City, is a tropical paradise with sun-warmed aquamarine water and bright-white sand. It’s an idyllic spot for snorkeling in Belize and swimming among the ocean life and is the second-largest atoll in the marine reserve, with colorful houses, food shacks, beach bars, and watersports available.
For the ultimate adventure in Belize, travelers could embark on a visit to Crystal Cave, found amid a jungle trail within St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park. Opt for a guided tour, with guides equipped to lead travelers into the cave via a moderate ramble beneath a canopy of tropical broad leaves.
You’ll then need to climb into the cave, and with its narrow pathway often slippery, it’s essential to wear the correct footwear, such as sturdy hiking boots. Inside, you’ll be greeted by a remarkable display of rock columns, stalactites, stalagmites, and the diamond-bright crystalline formations that give the cave its name.
Grand Cayman is one of the best warm destinations in January, as it’s right in the midst of the island’s dry season, with little rainfall.
Relax on the powdery Seven Mile Beach, which unfurls along the island’s west coast. With watersports, sun loungers, restaurants, and bars, this beautiful Grand Cayman beach is the perfect day trip.
Experience bucket list-worthy Stingray City, a series of shallow sandbars surrounded by coral reefs that see travelers waist-deep in clear water, snorkeling, and swimming with beautiful stingrays.
For an adventure on dry land, one of the best things to do in Grand Cayman is to go to Hell. This millions-of-years-old geological site is made up of serrated, smoke-gray rock formations, in stark contrast to the lush greenery that surrounds it. Wander among the curious spiky rocks and send a postcard back home—straight from Hell.
Another popular Grand Cayman attraction is the Cayman Turtle Centre, where visitors can feed and snorkel with these gentle marine creatures in a man-made lagoon. The center is home to a green sea turtle breeding program, with the beach by the center’s breeding bay a nesting site for female turtles.
A trip to the protected Galapagos Islands offers the opportunity to kick start your year with an unforgettable wildlife experience.
January is the perfect time to visit this Pacific Ocean volcanic archipelago, some 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. At the start of the year, the waters begin to warm up, sea turtles nest, and marine iguanas flex their vibrant colors.
Snorkel, hike, and swim among the islands that influenced Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
The Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island, provides the opportunity to learn more about the wildlife of the Galapagos, including giant tortoises, waved albatross, blue-footed boobies, sea lions, Galapagos penguins, and flightless cormorants.
Look to the sapphire-blue waters around the Galapagos to spot some of the region’s famous marine life, including hammerhead sharks, manta rays, sperm whales, and bottlenose dolphins.
Go in search of flamingos, iguanas, mockingbirds, and Darwin finches in the salty lagoons behind Santa Cruz’s sandy Las Bachas beach, one of the best Galapagos beaches.
Search for Galapagos hawks on Bartolomé Island. There’s a small breeding colony of Galapagos penguins here, too, located in a cave behind the shard-like Pinnacle Rock on the north of the island. The penguins can often be seen frolicking in the water around Pinnacle Rock.
Swimming is permitted on the northern beach, adjacent to Pinnacle Rock, where green sea turtles nest from January to March. From here, visitors can follow the trail that leads to the southern beach. Though swimming is not permitted, black-tipped sharks can often be seen close to the shore.
On the arid island of Isabela, the largest of the Galapagos, Vicente Roca Point is a haven for bird life, including brown pelicans, nazca, and blue-footed boobies. It’s also one of the best places to go snorkeling in the Galapagos with penguins, green sea turtles, sharks, rays, parrotfish, and wrasses forming an underwater wonderland.
This Caribbean island offers dreamy beaches, lush rainforests, and a vibrant capital, San Juan. Puerto Rico also happens to be one of the best warm destinations in January, with sunny temperatures in the 70°s and early 80°s.
Hike some of the 25 miles of trails within El Yunque National Forest—the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System—in the east of Puerto Rico.
This sacred forest spans 28,000 acres of emerald-covered mountains, laced with Puerto Rican waterfalls, lagoons, natural pools, and bamboo groves. Start at El Portal Visitor Center to figure out which route best suits your ability. You may even spot the endangered Puerto Rican parrot on the trail that circles the visitor center.
El Yunque is a wildlife lover’s dream, with a dazzling display of birds, trees, bats, and lizards, including the onomatopoeic coquí, a native tree frog species named after the “co-kee” sound it makes.
If this is your first visit to Puerto Rico, you may want to spend it soaking up Old San Juan. Located on an islet connected to the main island by three bridges, Old San Juan is a time capsule of Puerto Rico’s past, centered on the San Juan National Historic Site. Here you can discover the centuries-old San Felipe del Morro and San Cristóbal fortresses wrapped within the old city walls.
The 16th-century Bautista Cathedral is a must-visit, too. It’s the oldest church in the United States and the resting place of San Juan’s founder, Juan Ponce de León.
Stroll San Juan’s cobblestone streets, lined with rainbow-colored buildings with charming bars and restaurants. The city is considered the birthplace of the coconut-infused, rum-laced piña colada cocktail—a must-drink when in Puerto Rico (if you’re teetotal, it’s just as delicious without the rum).
If your idea of a relaxing vacation involves relaxing on a pristine beach, you won’t be disappointed in Puerto Rico. The island boasts almost 300 beaches, including Liquillo on the northeast coast.
This silky shore, popular for surfing, swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling in Puerto Rico, is flanked by soaring palm trees, with a playground and a selection of restaurants and bars for a laid-back Puerto Rican lunch.
If you’re in search of a far-flung January vacation, Bali, known as the island of the gods, offers just the ticket.
This Indonesian island is, in fact, a year-round destination, with always warm temperatures, attracting travelers for its colorful temples, golden beaches, and jungle-covered volcanoes.
Consider combining a trip to the soul-stirring Uluwatu Temple, a Hindu temple perched on a cliff, with a visit to Jimbaran Beach in southwest Bali.
Jimbaran’s golden shore is lined with fishing boats and a bustling fish market to one end, where Bali’s bounty of seafood is on display. After lazing on the languid shore, stop by one of the restaurants lining Jimbaran to sample a variety of barbecued seafood.
Further north, seek out spiritual Ubud, with its Hindu temples, sacred monkey forest, and green rice terraces. There are art galleries, markets, museums, cafes, and restaurants serving authentic Balinese food. Ubud has plenty of spots to indulge in a relaxing Balinese massage, too.
This city by the sea is situated on North Africa’s Atlantic coast and makes for a wonderful wintertime escape. Temperatures are mild in January and allow for exploring the city’s energetic old town and modern architecture.
One of the best things to do in Morocco is to enjoy a stroll through the Medina, the labyrinthine old town, where visitors can pick up everything from scarves to leather goods, jewelry, and ceramics, dotted with cafes and restaurants.
Wander along Boulevard Mohammed V towards Cinema Rialto, the famous Art Deco movie theater in Casablanca, before continuing to the Quartier Habous. This charming district is a melting pot of French and Moroccan culture that’s fantastic for shopping and dining. Make sure to stop by Pâtisserie Bennis Habous for its hand-made Moroccan pastries.
You can’t miss Hassan II Mosque, with its soaring 689-foot minaret. Completed in 1993, it’s the largest mosque in Morocco and one of the largest in Africa, with guided tours available outside of prayer times.
Make a lunch reservation at the legendary Rick’s Café, next to the Medina. Run by American Kathy Kriger, there’s a piano bar with brass lighting, leafy corners, and an indulgent menu of Champagne oysters, grilled steak, and lava cake. Touristy? Yes, but it’s a fabulous ode to the 1940s and well worth a visit.
Casablanca also has a selection of buzzy Moroccan beaches, including the sweeping Lalla Meryem and Aïn Diab. Both offer plenty of space for sunbathing, with surf schools, cafes, and restaurants dotted along La Corniche.
This speck of an island is one of the best warm destinations in January thanks to its sunny climate. Travelers to Barbados are naturally drawn to its beaches and coral reefs, though there are rainforests, historic plantation houses, and rum distilleries, too.
Delve into the UNESCO-listed Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, an area rich in British colonial architecture in the capital. Tour the mustard-yellow George Washington House, named after the first President of the United States, who is said to have stayed here in 1751, before becoming President.
In Bridgetown’s half-moon Carlisle Bay, several sandy beaches merge into one. Carlisle Bay is part of a protected marine reserve and, with calm, clear water, it’s perfect for snorkeling in Barbados. Don a mask to look for parrotfish, sea turtles, stingrays, and snappers.
Amenities include sun loungers, watersports, food shacks, restaurants, and bars. Try the tasty fare at Lobster Alive, where dishes include conch samosas, lobster spring rolls, and the day’s freshest catch.
In Barbados’ central uplands, you could visit Harrison’s Cave. This network of limestone caves was discovered in the 18th century, with streams, a deep pool, and still-growing stalagmites inside.
Further north, St. Nicholas Abbey is a former plantation estate, home to a magnificent house surrounded by formal gardens and shaded green gullies. There’s a working distillery, St. Nicholas Abbey Rum, where you can pick up a bottle of the amber-hued libation. Tour the estate via its heritage railway, which passes through the grounds on a steam locomotive.
Discover the best warm places in January on a luxury cruise. Browse our January cruises to destinations from the Bahamas to Bali and book your next dreamy vacation.