Best Winter Beach Vacations in the U.S.
White sand and warm waters are closer than you think. When winter's chill sets in, escape to one of these laid-back, sun-drenched spots. No passport needed. we’ve highlighted 15 top destinations for winter sun. From undiscovered gems off the coast of Louisiana to tried-and-true Florida hot spots, these places are bringing the heat.
Saint Simons Island, Georgia
Beautiful beaches pair with Southern hospitality to create the ideal setting for a winter sun vacation in Saint Simons Island. Unwind on your rental’s screened-in porch or unfurl your towel at the beach—you can’t go wrong in Georgia’s Golden Isles. While you’re here, explore the salt marshes in a kayak, tour the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum, and dine on succulent seafood straight from the Gulf.
Orange Beach, Alabama
Most people don't automatically associate the phrase "beach retreat" with Alabama—but don't tell a local that. Alabamians are adamant that their Gulf Coast beaches are among the most beautiful in the country. The sand is 95 percent quartz, meaning it's snow-white and sparkles in the sun, and the waters are as blue as any you'll find in Florida. Nine-mile Orange Beach has everything you need—warm water, lots of room to spread out your beach blanket, and restaurants just off the sand. Dolphins love the waters around here so much that Dolphin Cruises Aboard the Cold Mil Fleet guarantees sightings.
Located along a beautiful string of Gulf Coast beaches, Orange Beach offers thrilling fishing charters, dolphin-sighting cruises, breathtaking nature hikes, and lots of seaside fun. Choose from waterfront condos and apartments, or rent a spacious beach house, so your whole family can join. Don’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy winter sun in Orange Beach.
EAT: Gulf Shores Steamer is a rarity in these parts: a beachside seafood joint that doesn't fry everything in sight. In fact, the folks here don't fry anything. Instead, the fresh fish, shrimp, crabs, and oysters are steamed or grilled—and always delicious.
EASY ESCAPE FROM: Mobile, Ala. (54 miles; about 90 minutes by car), Pensacola, Fla. (29 miles; about one hour by car), St. Louis (four-hour flight to Mobile).
In this South Texas hotspot, savvy travelers skip crowded East Beach (which gets overrun in March with spring breakers) and head to the more secluded West Beach or Galveston Island State Park. Both have wide expanses of sand that are perfect for trolling for shells or soaking up some sun. Once you're out of the water, the historic Strand district, along Strand Street between 25th and 11th, is worth a stop. Buildings from the 1800s have been restored recently and now house restaurants, antiques stores, and many galleries full of fine art and photography. The town's other big attraction is the Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Indoor Waterpark, which attracts families with its water chutes, speed slides, wave pool, and, for the adults, enormous 30,000-person hot tub with a swim-up bar.
Gather your whole family and head to Galveston for a blissful winter beach vacation. Here, you’ll find sprawling beach parks and a wealth of kid-friendly attractions, like Moody Gardens, plus plenty of waterfront homes that sleep more than 10 guests—the perfect combination for any getaway. Whether you’re looking to sunbathe or discover nature, Galveston is sure to satisfy your winter wanderlust.
EAT: A few blocks inland from the waterfront is Postoffice Street, where you can get authentic gumbo and a cold brew at Little Daddy’s Gumbo Bar , known as the best place to get gumbo on the island, or try the Ceviche Corinto at Latin-influenced Rudy & Paco's.
When it comes to winter beach vacations, Kapolei is as inviting as it gets! Situated on the coast of Oahu, Kapolei serves as a giant playground for its visitors. From snorkeling in Paradise Cove to golfing at Ko Olina Golf Club, there’s an adventure for everyone. Grab your swimsuit and sunscreen, and see for yourself why travelers describe it as “paradise found!”
Pack your sunscreen and snorkel gear—Paia’s calling! Known for its epic waves, iconic beaches, and frequent sea turtle sightings, Paia is a dream for warm weather seekers. Get a bird’s eye view of the island’s stunning coastline on a helicopter tour, take a private surfing lesson, or simply bask in the sun outside. Whether you choose a beach condo just steps from Ho’okipa Beach Park or a secluded home surrounded by palm trees, there’s no better way to experience Paia’s natural beauty than with a stay in your own private rental.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach is one of those winter beach vacations everyone in your family can appreciate. It boasts a vibrant boardwalk brimming with games and entertainment for the kids, stellar nightlife for the adults, and plenty of family-friendly activities everyone can enjoy together. Rent a condo overlooking the water and wake up every morning to the sound of waves washing over the sand.
Sunset Beach, North Carolina
Sprawling beaches, idyllic nature preserves, and pristine golf courses: what’s not to love about Sunset Beach? Situated on the southeast coast of North Carolina, halfway between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington, this winter sun vacation spot offers something to suit every interest. Mornings here are for leisurely beach strolls, while afternoons ought to be spent casting your fishing line from the Sunset Beach fishing pier. Rent a home right on the water and enjoy panoramic beach views around the clock.
Long Beach, California
Located in the heart of Southern California, Long Beach offers everything from upscale shopping and state-of-the-art museums to waterfront trails and laid-back beach parks. While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of attractions like the Aquarium of the Pacific and legendary Queen Mary, don’t forget to spend some downtime soaking up sun at the beach. A beautiful beach house will provide the perfect starting point for new adventures and lasting memories.
Half Moon Bay, California
Drive just 45 minutes south of San Francisco and you’ll find Half Moon Bay, a charming coastal town that offers a true escape from the big city. Horseback ride in the sand at sunset, stroll around Pillar Point Harbor, or toast to a fabulous trip at Half Moon Bay Distillery. Need a break from the beach? Head inland to explore the awe-inspiring redwood forests. With something to satisfy all interests, this sunny enclave in Northern California is the perfect setting for winter beach vacations.
Catalina Island, California
Whether it’s a romantic getaway you’re after or a fun-filled trip with your friends, Catalina Island is an obvious choice. The scenic island lies southwest of Los Angeles and is known for its jaw-dropping coastline, abundant wildlife, and friendly atmosphere. Whether you cruise around the island in a golf cart, soar through the treetops on a zip line tour, or just plant yourself in the sand, you won’t be disappointed. Rent a home carved into the cliffs or an apartment right near the water, and make the most of your time here.
Marco Island, Florida
Whether it’s a morning at the beach or an afternoon relaxing on your waterfront rental’s balcony, strawberry daiquiri in hand, Marco Island provides the perfect place for a winter sun escape. Cruise through the sparkling seas to nearby Keewaydin Island, or relax in the white sands of Tigertail Beach. Besides its breathtaking beaches, Marco Island boasts beautiful bike paths, soothing spas, and plenty of options for entertainment. If you’re seeking winter sun, head south to Marco Island!
St. Petersburg, Florida
With its nickname the “Sunshine City,” it’s easy to see why St. Petersburg ranks among the best winter beach vacations. When you need a break from the sun, check out the colorful exhibits of the Chihuly Collection or explore the Dali Museum. Have kids in tow? Watch your little ones light up with glee at the Great Explorations Children’s Museum.
Saint Augustine Beach, Florida
Saint Augustine is one of the best winter beach vacations because it blends oceanside bliss with rich history and small-town charm. Step outside your vacation rental and explore the cobblestone streets downtown or grab a boogie board and play in the surf. You’re sure to feel at ease in St. Augustine!
Chincoteague Island, Virginia
While Chincoteague Island’s wild ponies have helped put this charming beach town on the map, it’s unspoiled beaches, lack of high-rises, and slower pace of life are what continue to make it a great place for winter beach vacations. Explore the uncrowded Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, follow the bike trails around the island, or birdwatch from your rental’s back deck. Chincoteague Island is full of off-the-map treasures that will make your getaway unforgettable.
Grand Isle, Louisiana
Although it’s just a two-hour drive from New Orleans, when you arrive in Grand Isle, you’ll feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of city life. This destination is known for its deep sea fishing, so hit the open waters on a private fishing charter. Prefer to stay on land? Pack a picnic for the beach and enjoy lunch with a view. Choose from a variety of beach rentals, and book a winter beach vacation your whole family will love this season.
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