Last Updated on July 18, 2023
Planning a West Coast winter getaway and wondering where to go? Discover some of the best destinations in the Western USA you should visit this winter!
From tropical beaches to snowy peaks, from big cities to charming small towns, there are plenty of awesome vacation spots to visit during winter. Whether you’re into hiking, surfing, relaxing, cultural activities, skiing… you’ll find the ideal place for you and your group.
Escape the cold or embrace it with this list of the best winter destinations on the West Coast!
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Lake Tahoe, California
By Meg from Fox in the Forest
If you’re looking for one of the best winter destinations on the west coast of the USA then you can’t beat Lake Tahoe, California.
After all, this incredible alpine lake sits high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and is home to some of the best skiing in the United States.
In fact, the skiing here is so good that the region is home to upwards of fourteen different resorts, one of which, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, was the site of the 1960 winter Olympics.
So, if you’re looking to channel your inner snow bunny then Lake Tahoe is the perfect place for you. Because while you can go skiing, you can also enjoy other things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter, like skating in Heavenly Village – a place that is home to the only outdoor rink on the south shore.
You can also head to Mountain Rose and do a bit of snowshoeing at Tahoe Meadows or Chickadee Ridge before enjoying some of the best tubing in the region at Adventure Mountain at the top of Echo Summit.
Just be sure to dress warmly since highs only get to around 44F while lows dip down to 25F.
However, if you get a little chilly then you can always spend the day warming up inside your room at the Edgewood Tahoe. It’s an incredible, 5-star resort in South Lake Tahoe that will have you feeling replenished in no time since the site features a full spa.
Alternatively, you can book a vacation rental around the lake, many feature gorgeous views and great amenities.
By David & Intan from The World Travel Guy
The island of Oahu is a perfect sample of Hawaii at its best: great scenery, hikes, beaches, and warm weather year-round. Winter is a great time to visit and soak up the sun! The weather at this time is warm and nice, without being too hot. Daytime temperatures in the winter are usually around 75 Fahrenheit (24 Celcius).
Oahu is loaded with great beaches in every corner of the island, so it’s hard to know where to start. If you want to see a quieter and less touristy side of the island, drive up to the north shore! It has some of the best waves for surfing, and there’s a more laid-back feel compared to Waikiki.
Some of the best north shore beaches in Oahu to visit include Laniakea and Sunset Beach, which are both very high quality. Sunset Beach is known for its amazing sunsets (of course), and you can often see turtles relaxing on the beach at Laniakea. Just remember to keep your distance and give the turtles plenty of space.
Winter is also the best time to see whales in Oahu! The whale watching season generally runs from December to May, as this is when the whales like to come to the warm waters of Hawaii. You can often see whales from the shore at places like Makapuu, which also has a nice lighthouse that you can visit with a short family-friendly hike.
A great hotel option in the main tourist area of Oahu is the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort, located in Waikiki. For something a bit more intimate, check out the vacation homes around the island, many feature gorgeous oceanfront views and are steps away from quiet beaches.
Overall, this island in Hawaii is a fantastic place to visit in the winter!
Phoenix & Scottsdale, Arizona
By Sam from My Flying Leap
When much of the country is blanketed in snow, one of the best places to visit is Phoenix. There are a lot of fun things to do in Phoenix and Scottsdale in the winter.
The weather is simply incredible in the winter months. Daytime temperatures usually range from the 60s to the 80s, and though it can hit freezing at night, it’s generally in the 40s and 50s.
Take to the mountains in and around the city for some of the best hiking in the country. There are trails all over ranging from easy to difficult. Some of the most popular hikes are at Camelback Mountain, Piestewa Peak, the Superstition Mountains, and South Mountain Park.
Be sure to head to the Desert Botanical Garden to fall in love with the desert and enjoy the incredible weather. For a little bit of local interest and history, check out Taliesin West, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s summer home.
If you’re looking for a great hotel in the middle of the action, look in downtown Phoenix. It’s right off the highway and you can get anywhere easily. The Clarendon Hotel is a great boutique hotel option in a historic building with a fun rooftop bar. Their restaurant is wonderful as well. You’ll also find plenty of nice vacation rentals around town.
You can find almost any type of restaurant you’re looking for and many cater to specific diets like vegan or gluten-free dining. Green and the Coronado are local favorites. Most restaurants have ample options to choose from, so you can’t go wrong.
When the weather gets cold, Phoenix is at its best! Don’t miss a trip to this vibrant city during the winter.
Yosemite National Park, California
By Gabriel Glasier from Chef Travel Guide
The vast majority of the crowds that visit Yosemite National Park visit during the busy summer season, which leaves the park fairly empty during the winter months, making it one of the best destinations for a West Coast winter getaway.
Unfortunately for them, they are missing out on one of the best times to visit as the park’s granite peaks are blanketed, and the trees are flocked with snow.
The valley is at its most photogenic point, and most of the valley’s attractions are still accessible, even with a light layer of snow on the ground.
A visit during the winter can include hiking on the lower elevation trails and ice skating at the Curry Village, with views of the iconic Half Dome in the background.
For the adventurous types, many of the park’s trails are open during winter for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, where you can spot wildlife and take in majestic views away from the crowds.
The weather in Yosemite Valley can vary greatly during the winter months but remains relatively mild compared to the higher elevations in the park. The lower elevation in the valley means the temperatures are warmer, with daytime highs often in the low 50s.
Even though Yosemite Valley only gets 29 inches of snow annually, it’s best to be prepared for the weather to change in a moment. Pack some extra gear and make sure to carry chains, as they may be required if a storm hits the park.
Normally the best places to stay in Yosemite, like the Yosemite Valley Lodge, requires booking six months in advance, but not during the winter. You can book at one of the historic hotels in the park on short notice and wake up to views of the valley right from the balcony of your hotel room.
San Francisco, California
By Anu Agarwal from Destination Checkoff
San Francisco is an excellent West Coast winter destination for solo travelers, couples, and families. You can easily spend a week in San Francisco with the amazing list of things to do here.
San Francisco winters are cold but it doesn’t snow here. The daytime temperatures are still pleasant to do sightseeing and explore the city. Being on the coast, it can be quite windy so it’s always a good idea to carry a warm jacket even if it looks sunny outside.
The Golden Gate Bridge is the most iconic landmark of San Francisco and right so. It is an engineering wonder and a must-see. Walking across Golden Gate Park and exploring its many attractions, like the Japanese tea gardens and the California Academy of Sciences, is a great activity.
Fisherman’s wharf is the most touristy area of San Francisco, where you will find Pier 39 with restaurants and rides and Ghiradelli Chocolate Square, two famous landmarks.
Other fun things to do in San Francisco include driving down the crooked Lombard Street with its hairpin turns, grabbing lunch or going on a food tour at the Ferry Building, a historic marketplace, and touring the Alcatraz prison.
During the holiday season, there are ice skating rinks all over the city with the most popular one at Union Square. Union Square is a shopping hub and has the biggest Christmas tree during the holidays.
If you are looking for a great place to stay, the Courtyard by Marriott San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf is a good hotel to stay due to its central location to many attractions. Another option is to book a vacation home.
Olympic National Park, Washington
By Jessica from Uprooted Traveler
Thanks to its location along the coastline, most of Washington’s Olympic National Park experiences moderate temperatures all year round, even in the wintertime. This makes it an excellent West Coast winter getaway for those looking for outdoor adventures in the cooler months.
For example, many of the best hikes in Olympic National Park, like the Hall of Mosses in the Hoh Rainforest or the Hole-in-the-Wall trail along Rialto Beach, are still accessible and almost always snow-free. And bonus, with the crowds of the summer gone, you’re likely to get these trails all to yourself! Just be sure to pack a warm rain jacket – this is the rainy Pacific Northwest, after all!
If, instead, you’re looking for a winter wonderland, the Olympic Mountains offer those adventures as well! For example, head up to Hurricane Ridge to go snowshoeing and take in the panoramic views of the surrounding snow-capped mountain peaks.
Nearby, you’ll also find the Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard area, where you can enjoy snowboarding, skiing, tubing, or sledding in a family-friendly environment, all with a spectacular backdrop.
Olympic National Park is massive- almost a million acres!- so picking a conveniently located home base is imperative. Port Angeles is an excellent springboard for some of the most popular attractions in the park, including Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent – try booking a stay at the Olympic Lodge, offering an outdoor heated swimming pool and a hot tub to relax in after all your wintery adventures.
By Jessica from Uprooted Traveler
If you’re looking for a winter wonderland, look no further than Leavenworth, Washington. This town, tucked away in the snowy Cascade Mountains, is adorable, thanks to its downtown, full of Bavarian-style buildings. Whether you’re looking to stroll around a charming village or have epic outdoor adventures, Leavenworth has something for you, come winter.
For enjoying the town itself, Christmas in Leavenworth is next level, with over half a million Christmas lights decorating the Bavarian buildings lining its streets, chestnuts literally being roasted over an open fire, and carolers strolling about.
If you can’t schedule your visit in December, not to worry – Leavenworth’s Christmas decorations stay up through February and the town offers a host of other winter festivals, like the Winter Karneval and Timbrrr! Music Festival.
Alternatively, if you’d rather immerse yourself in Leavenworth’s outdoor scene, there are plenty of snowy activities to enjoy, like snowshoeing at Lake Wenatchee State Park or Plain Valley or Nordic skiing at the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club. Afterward, you can head back to town and grab a mug of gluhwein at one of the many wineries to warm up.
Leavenworth is certainly a winter wonderland this time of year- you should expect cold temperatures, ranging from the low 20s to the low 30s. If it’s any consolation, you’re likely to see some snowfall while you’re here, the perfect complement to Leavenworth’s cozy vibes.
Make sure to stay someplace with an outdoor hot tub, like the Bavarian Lodge, where you can warm up and enjoy the stellar views of the surrounding Cascades. You’ll also find plenty of cabins and chalets with a hot tub, fireplace, and great views available for rent.
By Megan from Next is Hawaii
If you’re looking for a winter getaway on the west coast that requires a little additional effort to get to (but is so worth it!), book a ticket to Kauai in the Hawaiian islands!
The reason that Kauai is the perfect winter destination is that it is tropical and will always have the temperatures that you desire! While it might be rainier than in the summer months, you will definitely find some glimpses of the sun and calm weather throughout your trip. Expect comfortable highs of around 72F (22C) all winter long and around 15 days of rain (which will be sporadic).
Since it is the low season in Kauai, you will find that tours are easier, and sometimes cheaper, to book. A fantastic tour to sign up for is a helicopter tour of the Na Pali Coast. Another great option for active travelers is to take a kayaking tour on the Wailua River to the Secret Waterfall.
However, the absolute best thing to do on Kauai in the winter is to rent a car and take a road trip! This will allow you to see the different landscapes of the island and the contrasts between places like Waimea Canyon (where it is dry with red soil) to Hanalei (where it is green and like a rainforest).
During the winter months, the beaches in the south around Poipu are calm and perfect for snorkeling and the beaches in the north around Princeville and Hanalei Bay are wild as they have the winter swells coming in. These are only a good idea for experienced surfers!
There are many hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals you can book on Kauai during the winter (and prices will be cheaper) and one of the best budget-friendly options is The Kauai Inn located near Lihue by the Nawiliwili Harbor. It has an outdoor pool and breakfast is included.
San Diego, California
By Kristin Lee from Global Travel Escapades
Another popular West Coast winter vacation spot amongst all kinds of travelers is sunny San Diego. The Southern California beach town experiences average temperatures of around 63 degrees during the wintertime, which means always perfect weather to go out and explore the city.
No trip to San Diego is complete without a visit to at least one of the numerous stunning beaches. And while the scenery and sun are often enough to convince anyone to go to the beach, the city also has amazing surf opportunities for surfers of all levels. So if you’ve been wanting to hop on a board and hang ten, there’s no better spot than San Diego.
Alternatively, if you want to spend the day hiking, check out Torrey Pines State Park. Here, you’ll find lots of winding trails that offer sweeping views of the surrounding ocean and coastal bluffs. Afterward, head downtown to grab a much-needed bite to eat. You’ll find lots of different cuisines and can explore the various districts, such as the Gaslamp district, where you can go on a food tour!
Thus, if you’re ready for a vacation in San Diego, be sure to check out the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina. You’ll be right in the center of the city and get to enjoy waterfront views of the famous harbor!
Bryce Canyon, Utah
By Alyssa from An Apple A Plane
Bryce Canyon National Park is a highly underrated national park compared to its neighbors, Zion and Arches, but surely no less incredible! Visiting Bryce Canyon in the winter provides a winter wonderland amongst the vibrant red hoodoos. Dusted with snow, it’s like entering a magical kingdom- but from Mars!
Aside from its sheer unique beauty, visiting Bryce Canyon in the winter is ideal because this is the park’s low season. Fewer crowds mean more space to explore hidden gems.
Bundle up for temperatures ranging from 38 degrees Fahrenheit to low temperatures dropping to roughly 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The park has seen years with lower temperatures. Always check with the park’s office prior to beginning your hike in the winter to verify safety and potential route closures.
Popular amongst winter travelers at the park are snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. You can complete one of the most well-known hikes on your own, like the Navajo Loop Trail (moderate) or the Mossy Cave Trail (easy).
Don’t forget to complete the 8-mile scenic drive through the park– some of the best views are found here!
I highly recommend staying at Bryce Country Cabins from personal experience! This cozy budget option was just what I needed after a long day of hiking. You’ll also find plenty of great vacation rentals around the park.
Hermosa Beach, California
By Janelle from Make The Trip Matter
Hermosa Beach is a quaint beach town in California that has everything you need for an amazing winter getaway on the West Coast. The people are friendly and there’s great dining, shopping, or activities like beach volleyball! Located in the South Bay of Los Angeles, it’s easy to get to and surrounded by many of the best activities in southern California.
The winters are cool and mild with an average daytime temperature typically in the 60s°F. The winter high is about 68°F while the low is 48°F. There is a chance of rain, but the winters can often still be quite sunny and nice out most of the time.
Hermosa Beach gets into the holiday spirit with a giant Christmas tree on the pier as well as a few holiday events throughout the season including a local favorite known as “Hermosa for the Holidays.” This three-day event happens towards the end of November and features a street festival with art, music, shopping, dining, carnival rides, and the annual tree lighting ceremony.
The city is great for both families looking to spend relaxing time at the beach and explore the outdoors, as well as those who enjoy a plentiful nightlife. The pier is lined with bars with ocean views and places to dance the night away! Or, you can simply enjoy walking, biking, or roller-skating along the beach path known as “the Strand.”
Hermosa is also one of the few South Bay cities that has oceanfront hotels. Stay at The Beach House Hotel or Sea Sprite Oceanfront Hotel to be steps away from both the relaxing beach and activity on the pier.
Whether you’re looking for a place to party or just want to enjoy some sun and an escape from the snow, Hermosa Beach has plenty to do and is one of the best winter beaches in California.
By Candice from CS Ginger
A great place to visit in the Western part of the United States in the winter is Page, Arizona. Page is home to many great attractions to visit in the winter, like Lake Powell and Antelope Canyon, both of which offer stunning views and unique experiences.
The weather in Page is typically chilly but sunny during the winter months, making it a perfect destination for outdoor adventurers. Temperatures can get below freezing overnight.
The Horseshoe Bend Overlook is a must-see attraction while in Page, Arizona. The overlook is located just a few miles from the city and provides stunning views of the Colorado River winding through the red rocks of Glen Canyon.
Visitors can hike to the overlook or take a guided tour that will take them through Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. The hike is about 1.5 miles round trip and is considered easy, making it perfect for families and those with limited hiking experience.
Antelope Canyon is a breathtaking slot canyon located just outside of Page, Arizona. The canyon is named for the herds of pronghorn antelope that used to graze in the area. Antelope Canyon is divided into two sections, Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. Upper Antelope Canyon is the more popular of the two and can be accessed by guided tour only. Lower Antelope Canyon requires a tour guide as well but is less crowded than Upper Antelope Canyon.
Both sections of Antelope Canyon are stunning and offer visitors unique opportunities to explore the slot canyon. The canyon walls are made up of Navajo sandstone and range in color from orange to deep red. Photographers will find many opportunities to capture amazing photos while in Antelope Canyon.
There are several options for lodging near Antelope Canyon. The closest town is Page, Arizona which offers a variety of hotel, motel, and vacation home options. One of the best places to stay is the Hampton Inn Page. The hotel is located just minutes from both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon and offers free breakfast and an indoor pool.
Death Valley National Park, California/Nevada
By Agnes from the Van Escape
Death Valley is the hottest place on earth. The world’s highest air temperature of 134°F (57°C) was measured at Furnace Creek.
For this reason, winter is one of the best times to visit Death Valley National Park. In winter, average temperatures range from the mid-60s F to the low 70s F. At night, temperatures often drop below 30 F. Therefore, it pays to wear layers and pack a warmer jacket.
Moderate temperatures on sunny winter days favor hiking and exploring in the park. In summer, it is often impossible to get out of the car in Death Valley due to extremely high temperatures. In winter, you can actively enjoy the area’s remarkable geology and rock formations.
One of the best activities in Death Valley National Park in winter is hiking through the cracked Badwater Basin, a fantastic experience in winter. A visit to Zabriskie Point and Dante’s View should also be on your itinerary, as these are the best viewpoints in Death Valley.
Be sure to take the 9-mile Scenic Artist Drive with Artist’s Palette Stop, as it is breathtaking. If you have a 4WD, visit Racetrack Playa. Winter is also ideal for hiking. One of the best hiking trails in the park is the Ubehebe Crater Loop and Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.
Pack plenty of water and snacks and stay hydrated, even during winter travel. Pack warmer clothes because the temperature differences in the desert are significant. Fill up with gas before you arrive in Death Valley, as prices are much higher in the park, and gas service is limited.
One of the best hotels in the area is The Inn at Death Valley. This comfortable resort is an oasis in the desert offering an outdoor pool, a restaurant with vegetarian options, and a bar.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
By Theresa from The Local Tourist
When looking for a unique winter vacation on the West Coast, plan to visit Joshua Tree National Park. Located in not one, but two deserts, it’s a perfect place to escape the cold. With 800,000 acres in Southern California, this large park has room to roam in both the Mojave and the Colorado deserts, and each provides a different environment.
Named for the ubiquitous Joshua Tree, the park protects a surreal landscape that offers hiking, rock climbing, and birding. Don’t be surprised to see mockingbirds and roadrunners. Back road driving is one of the more popular things to do, as is star gazing. Joshua Tree is an International Dark Sky Park, which means it’s one of the best places in the world to see the stars.
Camping is also popular, but during the winter the temperatures can get below forty, so you’ll want to be prepared. The days are a balmy low- to mid-sixties, ideal weather for hiking.
The town of Twentynine Palms embraces the northern end of the park, and that’s where you can find restaurants, shopping, and a place to stay. For a true local feel, stay at the Joshua Tree Inn, built in 1949. Want something more upscale? Head south to Palm Springs and the Renaissance Palm Springs Hotel.
Catalina Island, California
By Ossama from Awesome Traveler
Catalina Island is one of the best West Coast winter getaways to escape the cold and enjoy sunny weather. The weather in Catalina island during winter is mild subtropical and warm year-round.
You’ll find plenty of fun things to do on the island. For starters, you can rent a golf cart to roam around the island. Drive around the Avalon Pier and up to the mountains for a beautiful view of the Avalon waterfront. Make sure to stop by the Wrigley Memorial and take a stroll at their botanical garden and enjoy the views from the memorial. You can also undertake the strenuous Garden To Sky Summit hike.
If you’re up for some adventure, explore the island from above on a zip-lining tour or try your hand at parasailing, both are great adrenaline-fueled activities offering sweeping views of the island.
Since Catalina is an island, you can only get there by sea or air. The easiest is to ride a passenger ferry from Long Beach‘s mainland port. You’ll also find ferries departing daily from San Pedro, Dana Point, and Newport Beach as well.
The island offers plenty of nice vacation rentals, well-located and offering all the amenities necessary for a pleasant stay. If you’d rather stay at a hotel, check out the historic Hotel Atwater giving you free access to Descanso Beach Club and within walking distance of beaches, restaurants, and shops.
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