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From May through September, nearly every coastal California town faces almost constant crowds. And although they stay fairly warm and pleasant all year, winter is definitely a slower time for tourism. But if you can get away during the months of December, January or February, you just might find that this is the best time to visit the coast. You may not be able to swim in the ocean (though you just might), but you’ll be rocking short sleeves instead of a parka. Still, if you are coming from a colder climate, it’s nice to have some winter vacation ideas.

If sunny weather is important, we recommend sticking to Central or Southern California. Here are our suggested spots for warm winter getaways:

Huntington Beach

More on Huntington Beach Pier at Sunset

Huntington Beach winters are mild, with temperatures averaging about 63 degrees during January. But the beaches are clean and clear, offering a break from the typical tourist season. And if you go for New Year’s Eve, you can take part in the annual Polar Plunge on New Year’s Day. Diving into the water will definitely feel a lot better there than in some of the other cities where the event takes place.

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach Inn

Laguna is one of Orange County’s most fashionable towns, rich in both culture and scenery. Strolling along Laguna Beach’s clean, warm sand during December or January will be a treat compared to some of the country’s colder climates. You can expect 65-70 degree days, fewer crowds and more small local events in the winter.


People enjoying a sunny day on the beach of Venice, California

Other than colder water and slightly cooler weather, the Venice Beach area in the winter is similar to its summers: artist and creative types, quirky shops, good restaurants, and sandy shoreline. Ocean Front Walk is like a 3-ring circus in the best way.

Hermosa Beach

Dark clouds dominate the sunset at the Hermosa Beach Pier.

The city of Hermosa Beach gets into the holiday spirit with a Sandsnowman Competition on December 10. It’s winter temperatures average about 65 degrees with highs in the 80s. The Strand, a paved boardwalk that borders the beach, is a great place to walk or bike by day and people watch by night.

San Clemente

San Clemente Bicycles

With winter temperatures often reaching well into the 70s, it’s no wonder San Clemente, the Spanish Village by the Sea, is a popular destination when the rest of the country is cold. The San Clemente Pier is a local icon, and the historic Casa Romantica is a must-see.

San Diego

Ski Beach Mission Bay San Diego BryceApr16 (6)

There’s never a bad time to visit San Diego, but it’s an especially charming winter destination. You’ll still face some crowds due to the abundance of attractions in the area, but they’ll be more mellow than in the summer. There’s always a lot going on in San Diego, but if you hole up at a destination resort like Paradise Point, you can enjoy a relaxing retreat from the world.