After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season dies down, you may be itching for a weekend away, especially if your in-laws camped out on your pull-out couch for an entire week like ours did. From the playa to the mountains, we’ve rounded up the top destinations for easy and affordable travel this month, whether you’re looking to ring in the New Year or avoid the soul-crushing first couple weeks back at work. After all, vacation time resets this month. Here, the best places to travel in January.
1. YOSEMITE VALLEY, CALIFORNIA
Breathing in the incredibly crisp, fresh air as you gaze out into Yosemite Valley is not only fan-freaking-tastic, but it’s a rite of passage for most travelers both domestic and international. Bathing in nature’s spoils of “the valley”, which was carefully carved by Ice Aged glaciers throughout the centuries and still actively taking shape today is even better when you consider there’s nonstop flights as low as $80 on Skycscanner. Even better, the often snow-peaked park is virtually empty at this time of year despite those great flight and lodging deals. Sure, below-freezing temps might require a parka at night, but you’ll be fine with a well-insulated coat during the daytime—in fact, if you layer smart, you may not even need it with temps hovering in the high 40s/low 50s.
Truly seeing Yosemite means making the drive out to Glacier Point for supreme panoramic shots; hike past Bridalveil Fall and on the Mist Trail, which can often live up to its name; getting up close and personal with Half Dome and El Capitan, the subject of Free Solo, that NatGeo doc that needs to be next in your queue on Netflix if you haven’t seen it. You can take in the fact that, yes, some guy climbed basically a vertical sheet of rock without a rope as you sit by the fire at the Ahwahnee Hotel, a historic, landmarked lodge you should look to enjoy to whether you decide to stay there or not. Another favorite activity: Mountain biking in nearby Stanislaus National Forest. You don’t even need to be a pro. Just bring along one of those Haibike XDURO NDURO e-mountain bikes, which have a special Bosch pedal assist motor to make it wayyyyy easier.
After you’ve had enough of nature, load up into your rental car and drive to the small, charming western town of Mariposa. Many of the Yosemite area’s best eats can be found here, including Savoury’s, which has a robust menu that won’t disappoint any palette, and 1850 Restaurant and Brewery, known for their crazy good burger, local beers and rustic throwback décor.
Where to Stay: There are many lodges and campgrounds both in and directly outside the park, but most pale in comparison to Autocamp, the most memorable stays you can have near Yosemite. Think of it like if the Apple store had a baby with a campground—it’s here that you can get in on the stylish, slightly hipsterish trend of staying in a cozy Airstream surrounded by a park with lots of little creature comforts close by. There’s the contemporary lodge, where provisions—everything from hummus and cheese to Topo Chico and fully pre-portioned meals ideal for your Airstream’s outdoor campfire—can be purchased; an outdoor heated pool and heated furniture for lounging; and plenty of fire pits to roast S’mores in.
2. BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
Kick off your year with a warm-weather sailing in the Caribbean surrounded by gorgeous aquamarine water, unspoiled white-sand beaches and lush tropical landscapes. Yep, BVI is an absolute paradise, and a variety of yacht charter companies like The Yacht Week and The Moorings operating around the islands can make your dreams of becoming a yachtie (minus the drama of Below Deck) a reality. You’ll do as much or as little sailing as you want and get to small private islands and other destinations you can’t access any other way. Plus, there are many parties to be had and wellness and adventure activities if you’re not slightly hungover from the night before. However you decide to see the islands of this volcanic archipelago, though, you won’t want to miss the white, sandy beaches of Jost Van Dyke, the rum distillery on Cane Garden Bay or the raucous floating bar Willy T’s, where tradition says you should jump into the water naked.
Where to Stay: On land, BVI is laid-back Caribbean, unfussy with beach shacks and rum bars that push the Painkiller, BVI’s famous cocktail. Embrace the islands’ rustic charm and go glamping at the Anegada Beach Club. Its colorful, luxury palapas are on a tranquil stretch along the Atlantic coast of BVI’s northernmost island, a short walk from snorkeling at Keel Point. Reopening this January on Virgin Gorda after a four-year closure is Rosewood Little Dix Bay, a ridiculous little slice of luxury set amongst 500 acres that stretch across a half mile of beach. One look at the updated guest rooms—which can be accompanied by butler services, so you never have to lift a finger—and we promise you’ll start saving up every penny you have for your next sanctuary splurge stay.
3. MONTREAL, CANADA
If you’re not afraid of a little cold, many destinations are a bargain during the winter, and Montreal serves as just that: A great urban winter wonderland. In fact, it even embraces hiver by hosting Igloofest, the coldest music festival (and dance party) in the world, which is held outdoors on the Old Port waterfront from January 16 until February 8. But you don’t have to warm your body to the beats of electronic music to enjoy the town, because Montreal is bursting at the seams with Euro-French vibes, and it’s also blessed with enough indoor, enclosed cultural institutions to keep you busy and warm for a weekend—like the incredible Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Stewart Museum, and even a casino that’s minutes from downtown. The city also boasts a serious food scene—notables include Pastel, Bouillon Bilk, Elena, Nora Gray and Monarque—and plenty of nightlife and even some wintry romance when you do journey outside. We’d suggest strolling the cobblestone St. Paul Street in the old city and ducking into the lively restaurants and shops there, all tucked into the neighborhood’s 17th-century buildings. Or, explore the hip and vibrant Mile End district.
Pro tip: Embrace the cold, but keep yourself warm during a winter trip to Montreal in one of those super science-y new OROS coats, which are insulated with Aerogel, the same technology NASA used to insulate the Space Shuttles to withstand temperatures of -455 degrees (!).
Where to Stay: In the heart of the Golden Square Mile, Le Mount Stephen Hotel, one of Montreal’s brightest stars on the luxury hotel scene, is worth the splurge—and with great exchange rates of the U.S. to Canadian dollar, it’s more in reach than ever. Just around the corner, The Four Seasons Montreal is the City of Saint’s latest sleek luxury offering with posh rooms that feature floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Golden Square Mile; it’s also home to Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s first dazzling restaurant in Canada, Marcus. If you’re looking to get more bang for your buck, rest your feet at AC Hotel Montreal Downtown. The modern high-rise is steps from everything you’d need.
4. HILTON HEAD, SOUTH CAROLINA
Not gonna lie, Hilton Head’s got a lot going for it right now. We’ll take you through everything you need to know about this charming beach town. For starters, there are nonstop flights into local airport SAV for as low as $66 as of press time, according to Skyscanner. Golf, horseback riding and biking are popular pastimes, but so is a leisurely stroll around Harbour Town. The red-and-white stripes of the Harbour Town Lighthouse and surrounding marina and neighborhood filled with low-key shops and restaurants are just as postcard-worthy as Calhoun Street, in nearby Bluffton. A main drag for artisan shops, art galleries and eateries, the community filled with Antebellum homes that surrounds it will charm the pants off you. There’s also a pretty sick outlet store complex nearby.
The average temp of 60 degrees means you shouldn’t plan to pack your suitcase to enjoy a day at Hilton Head’s popular beaches, but you will certainly want to pack it for fun. Take a guided distillery tour and taste your way through several of Hilton Head Distillery’s craft rums, vodkas, and whiskeys—the aforementioned dark spirits comes in flavors including butterscotch, peach, honeysuckle and even Bananas Fosters. Southern cuisine and craft cocktails are on fine display at Lucky Rooster; and at Ruby Lee’s, you can experience Gullah culture, eat seriously tasty soul food, and stay up all night long listening and dancing to the high-spirited venue’s live music.
Where to Stay: You can give your spiritual and fitness goals a kick start in the New Year at Hilton Head Health, a wellness resort that makes use of the area’s coastal surroundings. Activities on the island resort frequented by some of your favorite Real Housewives stars include everything from kayaking, beach yoga and fitness classes to cooking courses and learning stress management through crafting. Montage at Palmetto Bluff is another great option, especially if you live to spa and appreciate Tata Harper and Valmont products. The best part of the super luxe property surrounded by a nature preserve, though? Its “canine ambassadors” River, May and Cooper—the resort’s very own Labradors you can spot in the lobby daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
5. COSTA RICA
Alongside Mexico, Costa Rica was recently revealed as one of Google’s top 10 searched travel destinations of 2019, and we can see why. The Central American country is generally a safe bet filled with tropical weather and sunshine and relatively *much* cheaper to get to, according to SkyScanner, than many of the Caribbean Islands to its northeast in the winter. Obviously, there’s plenty of beach access, but there are also jungles, volcanoes, abundant biodiversity and countless outdoor activities to keep you busy: hiking, boating, fishing, swimming, surfing and snorkeling. You can see the humpback whales as they migrate north and the nesting sea turtles on the Pacific beaches, too.
This month, our gut says to stay in Tamarindo in the Guanacaste Province on the Pacific side. The primary attraction is the sandy beach that stretches along the main road. It’s home to one of the country’s best surfing beaches, especially for beginners. From here, you’ll have easy access to the caves at Barra Honda National Park, hiking, waterfalls and volcanoes of Rincon de la Vieja National Park and the tropical dry forest in Santa Rosa National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On an estuary boat ride in the region, you’ll peep mangrove and see where monkeys, birds, and crocodiles play. And that’s just some of the wildlife you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for.
Where to Stay: The wellness-focused Cala Luna is one of Tamarindo’s most sought-after stays, due to the oversized soaking jacuzzis in guest rooms and the other villa-style accommodations. The latter have their own private pools and were not talking about those little plunge pools, either—the splish splash offerings here are basically Olympic size. Meanwhile, the beach-front, adults-only Tamarindo Bay Boutique Hotel has rooms from just $170/night even over weekends this January.