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20 Best Cheap Warm Winter Destinations In USA (2023)

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Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Nicole

Once the temperatures cool, and rain or snow begins to fall, it is time to start thinking about a warm winter escape. One of the best things about the United States is that it is so large that you can go down hill skiing in one place and sunbathe at the beach in another without ever having to leave. In California, you can do both in the same state! The other amazing thing is that there are fantastic tropical getaways within America that are inexpensive and budget-friendly. Here are 20 of the best cheap warm winter destinations in the USA for a spectacular vacation.

Table of Contents

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Best Affordable Warm Winter Vacations In United States

Here are 20 of the best reasonably priced warm winter holidays in the USA. They are all located in the southern United States or in Hawaii.

I have included the best free or low priced things to do, inexpensive food or restaurant choices, and good accommodation options that are for the budget traveler. I have also described how best to get to the destination from the airport, especially if there is good public transportation, or whether it is necessary to rent a car. Finally, the expected weather in December, January, February and March is set out to help you with your packing.

best inexpensive tropical winter beach destinations in usa
Key West, Florida (Photo courtesy of Angela from Fitting In Adventure)

Key West, Florida

Key West is the only place in the United States where you can experience the Caribbean vibe. As you unwind with a fruity cocktail and embrace the island time, locals will remind you that you are closer to Cuba in Key West than to Walmart.

While island destinations are usually considered expensive, there are several low-to-no-cost activities to do and affordable accommodation options in Key West making it a reasonably priced warm winter vacation destination in the USA.

First on the list, regardless of your budget, is the famous Nightly Sunset Festival in Mallory Square. Here, you can join tourists and locals for a free carnival-like atmosphere and celebrate the stunning sunset.

Strolling down Duval Street is a fascinating experience, even before you visit historic bars like Sloppy Joe’s, Tony’s, or the Chart Room. These bars were once frequented by famous authors who called Key West home, including Ernest Hemingway, and they helped Jimmy Buffett kickstart his music career.

If you’re a Parrothead, you can’t miss visiting Shrimpboat Sounds, where you’ll find Jimmy Buffett’s studio in the sticker-covered building near the marina. Around the corner, you can grab a sandwich at B.O.’s Fish Shack, reportedly one of Jimmy’s favorite spots.

While Key West has many festivals throughout the year, few are annual, but all are fun. Check the Key West calendars as you plan your trip for festivals and musicals in the small theaters. You’ll find local-specific musicals that reference the island’s happenings.

Cheap Food

For budget-friendly eats, check out Happy Hours at most restaurants. You’ll find some fantastic prices for delicious dishes.

Additionally, you can swing by Fausto’s market to pick up some groceries. Buffett fans will recognize the market name from Jimmy Buffett songs.

Best Way To Reach Destination

You can fly directly into Key West, but if you want to experience all of the Florida Keys, fly into Miami and drive down. The 150-mile drive is beautiful and filled with quirky stops and great food.

Weather

Average highs in winter are 76 °F with average lows of 68 °F. Most days reach low 80s in the afternoon. There is barely any rain in winter.

Inexpensive Accommodation

Angela from Fitting In Adventure says, “Accommodation in Key West ranges from high-end to budget-friendly, and prices vary according to the island’s happenings. However, if you’re looking for a cheap option, there are campgrounds on Stock Island nearby, and a military family camp just 3 miles from Mallory Square if you qualify as a service member.

For other moderately priced accommodation, take a look here. Don’t forget to add your ideal price per night in the filters on the lefthand side.

best affordable warm winter destinations in america
Big Sur, California (Photo courtesy of Dylan from the Traveling Families Club)

Big Sur, California

Big Sur is a beautiful section of California‘s Coastline located between Monterey and San Simeon where the mountains, quite literally, meet the sea. Big Sur is overflowing with natural beauty from sprawling white sand beaches to lush redwood forests. Big Sur is full of amazing ways to pass the time while hardly spending a dime. It is a fantastic low cost warm winter holiday destination in America.

While Big Sur is most famous as a summer destination, it is worthwhile at any time of year. The moderate central California climate ensures that it never gets too cold, and while there is a higher chance of rain in the winter, there are still plenty of sunny days to be had. 

Pfieffer Big Sur State Park is a can’t-miss destination when visiting Big Sur. You can hike along the Big Sur river to beautiful swimming holes in the Big Sur Gorge, or through lush redwood forests to cascading waterfalls. 

Not far to the south, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is home to the picturesque McWay Falls, a stunning 80-foot waterfall that drops directly on the beach. Easy hiking paths throughout the State Park provide not only great views of the falls but of the coastline to the north and south as well. 

Numerous beautiful white sand beaches stretch along the Big Sur coast. Garrapata State Park, Andrew Molera State Park, Pfeiffer State Beach, and Sand Dollar Beach are all excellent places for an afternoon picnic with a view. 

A $10 State Park parking pass will gain you access to all the State parks in Big Sur for the day. 

Cheap Food

If you are looking for a great lunch at a decent price, the General Store at the Big Sur River Inn, or a little further to the south, the Big Sur Deli, have great options for picnic lunches. 

Best Way To Reach Destination

You can access Big Sur from the south or north. From the south, you will drive to San Simeon and then head north along Highway 1. From the north, you will head to Carmel and then head south along Highway 1.

If you are flying your best bet will be to fly to Monterey, or possibly San Jose, then rent a car and head south. 

Weather

On average, Big Sur only gets 8-9 rainy days per month from December to March (about 3″ of rain each month). Winter temperatures in Big Sur range from the mid 40’s in the evening all the way up to the high 70s during the day. 

Inexpensive Accommodation

Dylan from the Traveling Families Club says, “The best way to stay in Big Sur on a budget is definitely camping. There are a variety of campgrounds throughout the area. Pfieffer Big Sur State Park, Limekiln State Park, Kirk Creek, and Plaskett Creek are all great options. Camping in Big Sur is popular year-round so you will want to try to make your reservations six months in advance. 

If you are planning a last-minute trip you will likely have the best luck at a private campground. Our favorite is Ventanna Campground. 

There are other great camping destinations all within a short drive of Big Sur. 

If you’re not a camper and are still hoping to find accommodation on a budget your best bet will be either Big Sur River Campground and Cabins or Riverside Campground and Cabins. Alternatively, you can find reasonably priced accommodation in the nearby town of Carmel and drive down each day.”

best budget-friendly tropical winter getaways in united States
Kauai, Hawaii (Photo courtesy of Sierra from Island and Alpine)

Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai, Hawaii is the perfect place to spend an inexpensive tropical winter getaway in the US with its incredible scenery and amazing things to do. The island of Kauai is filled with so many free activities that budget travelers will be hard pressed to see it all in one visit.

Kauai is filled with incredible hiking opportunities such as the Maha’ulepu Bluff Trail, the first few miles of the Hanakapi’ai Trail to see the Na’Pali coastline (reservations required), and the Awa’awapuhi Trail in Kokee State Park.

Snorkeling is the best way to experience the island underwater. Bring your own snorkel or rent one inexpensively from Snorkel Bob’s. The North Shore will likely be too rough for snorkeling in the winter, but Poipu Beach Park will be perfect and calm.

While the North Shore is too rough for snorkeling in winter, it is the best place to watch experienced surfers tackle the waves! Head to Tunnels Beach or Hanalei Bay to see them in action.

To experience more of Kauai’s culture, be sure to take advantage of the free events that happen regularly around the island. The hula show in the Poipu Shopping Village is fantastic as well as the one in the palm grove at the Coconut Marketplace.

Travelers lucky enough to be on Kauai for the holidays will love the festive, twinkling lights in the palm trees and Santa on a surfboard for their annual Festival of Lights. Winter also includes whale watching season so bring binoculars along.

Cheap Food

Plenty of budget-friendly places to eat are sprinkled around the island. Head to Mark’s Place for a hearty plate lunch or Porky’s Kauai for their famous pineapple sausage. Tiki’s Tacos will satisfy the need for fish tacos.

Don’t underestimate local grocery store delis and farmers markets for fresh produce and prepared seafood.

Best Way To Reach Destination

Travelers will need to fly into Lihue Airport on the island of Kauai. Most flights will have a short layover in Honolulu.

Transportation to most any town on the island is easy to do by taking the Kauai Bus. TheKauaiBus app is handy for downloading the schedule.

Weather

Average highs in winter are 78°F with average lows of 68°F. Because Kauai is a tropical climate with a rainforest, you can expect around 4-5″ of rain in each of December, January and Feburary, and only 3.3″ of rain in March. There is more rainfall on the North Shore.

In addition, you can expect around 17 days of humidity in December and more like 12 days of humidity the rest of the winter months.

However, there will be plenty of sunshine around the island. The rain makes for beautiful green gardens and rainbows, so it’s worth a little in the end!

Inexpensive Accommodation

Sierra from Island and Alpine says, “The Kauai Beach Club is a beautiful and comfortable hostel with great rates. Campers will want to check out facilities like Camp Sloggett in Kokee State Park.”

best budget friendly warm winter holidays in usa
Saguaro National Park, Arizona (Photo courtesy of Monica from This Rare Earth)

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Saguaro National Park is found in Tucson – a small city in the southern end of the state of Arizona. This sprawling desert landscape is covered with endless tall saguaros, short barrel cacti, and jagged desert shrubs. This all sits against a background of purple and red mountains stacked up into the clear blue sky. It is an ideal budget friendly outdoor destination for a warm winter escape in the United States.

This National Park is split up into two sections – Saguaro National Park East and Saguaro National Park West. The East side is known as the Rincon Mountain District. It is the larger of the two and has plenty of hiking options.

The West side is known as the Tucson Mountain District and has the most cacti and vegetation. Be sure to visit both sides of Saguaro National Park as there is a lot to see. 

Visitors to the east side should drive the Cactus Forest Scenic Loop. This route is an 8 mile paved road that showcases the best of the National Park, and features several trailheads for hiking and scenic viewpoints.

The west side, on the other hand, is perfect for sunsets. Bright red hues bathe the desert landscape. With a high concentration of cacti here, photographers are sure to get some stunning shots. 

The park is bisected by the city of Tucson, and to drive from one side to the other will take between 30-60 minutes, depending on traffic.  

Cheap Food

Stop for dinner within the city, as Tucson is known as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. Explore Mexican inspired cuisine at two well priced restaurants, Charro Vida or El Berraco.

Best Way To Reach Destination

Out of towners will likely fly into Tucson International Airport, which is around a 30 minute drive to both sections of the Park (depending on the time of day), by car or taxi.

Weather

Winter is the best time to hike in Saguaro because the temperatures are ideal. Average highs start at 66°F in December and reach 76°F by March. Average evening lows are between 41°F -48°F. There is very little rain.

Inexpensive Accommodation

Monica from This Rare Earth says, “The Doubletree by Hilton near the Tucson Airport is moderately priced and a perfect place to stay as it is right in between both sides.”

best low cost warm winter vacations in america
Miami, Florida (Photo courtesy of Antonio Cuellar from Unsplash)

Miami, Florida

Miami is a vibrant and exciting city that attracts visitors from all over the world. While the city has a reputation for being expensive, there are plenty of free and reasonably priced things to do that won’t break the bank. With the right planning, Miami is one of the best cities to visit in the USA for an affordable warm winter trip.

One of the best things to do in Miami for free is to visit the beautiful South Beach area. This iconic attraction is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Miami.

Winter weather is dry and warm making it a perfect opportunity to take a stroll along the famous Ocean Drive and admire the colorful art deco architecture that lines the street.

You can also spend a lazy day soaking up the sun on the beach and people-watching. It’s the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the warm Florida sunshine without spending a dime.

In addition to South Beach and its affordable dining options, Miami also has many other free and inexpensive attractions to explore.

The Perez Art Museum Miami offers free admission on the first Thursday and second Saturday of each month. The nearby Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a stunning historic mansion and garden that’s open to the public for a small fee.

Cheap Food

Miami offers numerous affordable restaurants and markets, such as the longstanding La Camaronera Fish Market in Little Havana, famous for its fresh seafood.

For cheap and tasty Cuban cuisine, head to Little Havana’s El Mago de las Fritas and try their fritas – a Cuban-style burger made with beef and chorizo and topped with shoestring fries.

Best Way To Reach Destination

It’s extremely easy to get to Miami. In addition to the city’s main international airport, MIA, there’s a slightly smaller airport in Fort Lauderdale that tends to be less crowded and is only a short drive away.

Florida also has an extensive long-distance bus system, so you can easily travel from cities like Jacksonville, Tampa, or Orlando to Miami.

If you prefer to travel by train, Amtrak provides multiple routes to the city from nearby cities and from as far as New York City.

Weather

Average highs in winter are 78°F with average evening lows of 65°F. You can expect around 1.5″ of rain over 4-5 days each month.

Inexpensive Accommodation

Rachel from Wander U says, “To save even more, consider budget-friendly options for accommodation in Miami like budget hotels, including the Ithaca of South Beach Hotel, and hostels like Freehand Miami.

Renting an apartment or VRBO can also be cost-effective, especially for groups with choices like Ocean Drive Studio Apartments and Cozy Studio with Pool.”

best cheap warm winter trips in usa
Palm Springs, California (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

Palm Springs, California

Located in the middle of the Sonoran desert region is Palm Springs, which is renowned for its warm weather and stunning views. Coupled with its abundance of inexpensive activities makes it an excellent cheap warm-weather winter escape in America.

For starters, you can visit the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens where you can observe over 500+ different desert species and tour through various interactive exhibits. You’ll also have the chance to interact with some of the beautiful wildlife up close.

If you have an appreciation for aviation and history, you can take a trip to the Palm Springs Air Museum where you’ll get to see numerous military aircraft. What’s nice about this museum is that almost the entire staff is composed of veteran volunteers who are more than happy to talk about their personal experiences working with some of these aircraft.

If you’re looking for something unique to do and visiting at the beginning of December, consider attending the Indio International Tamale Festival. This is a free two-day gastronomic event that includes live music, carnival games, and, of course, delicious food!

So if you’re ready for a economical warm destination to visit in the winter, be sure to consider Palm Springs.

Cheap Food

For a tasty, yet affordable bite to eat, check out John’s Restaurant. It’s a popular spot amongst locals with all kinds of classic American dishes, such as burgers, fries, and BBQ food.

Best Way To Reach Destination

Fly into Palm Springs International Airport. From there, you can reach downtown Palm Springs with a 10-minute bus ride or an even shorter Uber or taxi.

Weather

Unlike most areas across the United States, the city enjoys average high temperatures in the 70s°F during winter months and an average low temperature of about 50°F with only a day or two of rain per month.

Inexpensive Accommodation

Kristin from Global Travel Escapades, “A nice and affordable hotel is 7 Springs Inn and Suites. The hotel offers lovely mountain views and rooms are fitted with a little kitchenette if you want to save additional money by preparing some easy meals in your room.”

best tropical beach places to visit in the usa in winter to escape the cold
Oahu, Hawaii (Photo courtesy of Pexels)

Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu, Hawaii is a great option when searching for a low priced tropical city in the USA in December, January, February or March. Getting to the island is the main cost to consider because once you’re there, the tropical paradise offers a variety of free or very inexpensive activities.  

There are a lot of affordable things to do on Oahu. Spending time on the beach is a must-do activity when visiting. And thankfully, it’s a free way to enjoy your vacation. Oahu offers countless beaches and areas to explore, so you can even enjoy different locations throughout your trip. 

Snorkeling is one of the most cost-effective ways to enjoy your time at the beach. You can bring your own or rent them once there, and then, you’re free to spend hours in the gorgeous water exploring. Taking in the fish and coral is a true experience to remember. 

There are lots of hikes near Honolulu that would be easy to reach by rental or by bus. Consider Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse Trail, a 2.0 roundtrip hike on a paved path that gives you breathtaking views of the Ocean almost the entire way.

Cheap Food

South Shore Grill in Honolulu is known for their delicious food and generous portions at a great price point. 

Oahu is known for its low cost shaved ice dessert. It is a very inexpensive treat, especially if you go to one of the many shops outside of Waikiki.

Best Way To Reach Destination

Honolulu Airport is the main travel hub on Oahu. You do not need to rent a car to enjoy Oahu. The Honolulu Bus System is a comprehensive and well organized system.

If you wish to explore the island on your schedule, you can rent a car by the day and avoid paying high hotel parking fees.

Weather

Average highs in winter are 80°F with average lows of 68°F. There isn’t a lot of rain – you can expect around 2″ of rain over 6 days each month.

Inexpensive Accommodation

Candice from CS Ginger says, “Hotel Renew is a wonderful, budget-friendly hotel to consider when visiting the Waikiki portion of Oahu. It’s clean and comfortable, in an excellent location, and best of all, is easy on the pocketbook.”

best low priced warm winter cities to visit in the United States
Austin, Texas (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

Austin, Texas

Travelers looking for a warm vacation in winter in the US on a budget will be thrilled to head to Austin, Texas. This vibrant city is filled with delicious places to eat, outdoor and indoor places to explore, a thriving music scene, and plenty of reasonably priced and amazing things to do.

A tour of the Capitol Building will give visitors a great rundown of Texas history. There are also beautiful grounds to explore. Free tours are offered daily every half hour.

Downtown Guided Walking Tours are also offered daily showing visitors landmarks and information about local heroes. A self-guided mural and street art tour is always a great time.

Outdoor enthusiasts will love all the outdoor parks and trails that Austin has to offer. Take the Ann and Roy Butler Trail on two feet or by rented bike.

McKinney Falls State Park is a beautiful option for wildlife. It also offer paths through the trees and along Onion Creek, and the ability to see two sets of waterfalls, Upper and Lower McKinney Falls.

Zilker Park is the perfect place for a picnic along Lady Bird Lake with the city in the background. Walk along the lake or rent a paddleboard or kayak for a fun and cheap activity.

Music lovers will want to plan their trip in January around Red River’s Free Week. Musical artists will perform at various venues in the area giving travelers the opportunity to sample the local music scene.

Cheap Food

Breakfast tacos are an Austin staple and pretty inexpensive too. Check out Tacodeli for several great options.

Home Slice will fit the bill for pizza while queso from Torchy’s Tacos’ should not be missed. No one should visit Austin without some barbecue, and Brown’s BBQ is delicious.

Best Way To Reach Destination

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is where travelers will want to arrive. Downtown is less than half hour away and can be accessed via the CapMetro train.

Weather

Average highs in winter range from 62°F in January to 74°F in March with average evening lows in the mid 40s except for March where it is 53°F.

You can expect around 1.7″ of rain over 4 days in each month. Most days will be dry, but if a storm passes through it will likely be very brief, likely for only an hour or two.

Inexpensive Accommodation

Sierra from Very Truly Texas says, “Camping at McKinney Falls would be a great option for travelers who would like to be out in nature. For those who prefer to stay closer to the action in downtown Austin, Firehouse Hostel is a perfect choice.”

best reasonably priced warm beach destination in america in winter
Amelia Island, Florida (Photo courtesy of Erin from Super Simple Salty Life)

Amelia Island, Florida

The small town of Amelia Island is located off Florida’s Atlantic coast, almost to the Georgia state line. This location allows for a budget-friendly American warm winter beach destination that embodies the southern culture and slower pace of life, but also maintains that “Old Florida” vibe.

With beautiful dune-lined beaches, huge live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, world-class hotels, golf courses, and top-notch seafood, Amelia Island is truly a hidden gem. Once a bustling harbor town back in the 1880’s, parts of the island still maintain this maritime charm.

One of the best experiences when planning a weekend on Amelia Island is to take a boat cruise to the neighboring Cumberland Island, which is only accessible by boat, kayak, or seaplane. Nearly 200 wild horses live on the island which otherwise remains untouched. The boat tour is an inexpensive way to see such a natural wonder. Bonus, guests can bring food and drinks aboard!

Another great thing to do is to visit one of several state parks on the island. From climbing on driftwood at Driftwood Beach to exploring the fort ruins at Fort Clinch State Park, these parks are inexpensive to visit or stay for the day.

Cheap Food

A local favorite and must-see is the Palace Saloon in downtown Fernandina Beach, known for being the “oldest bar in Florida”! Remaining open since 1903 and even surviving through prohibition by selling ice cream, this bar is a fun place to enjoy a cheap drink and good music. 

Best Way To Reach Destination

The closest major airport is in Jacksonville, Florida. With just a 30-minute drive, you can leave the big city and arrive at this coastal town.

Weather

The weather on Amelia Island is temperate and remains warm year-round, with temperatures remaining in the high 60’s to high 70’s even in the middle of winter. Evenings are cool at around 49°F. You can expect around 3″ of rain over 7-8 days each month.

Inexpensive Accommodation

Erin from Super Simple Salty Life says, “Camp overnight at one of the parks! Florida state parks are meticulously kept with large, quiet sites and tons of shade.

Fort Clinch has over 60 campsites and offers tent and RV camping as well as cabin rentals.”

For those not fond of camping, find an excellent low-cost hotel here.

best low-price warm winter beach destination in ussa
San Diego, California (Photo courtesy of Sam from Find Love And Travel)

San Diego, California

San Diego is an incredible place to visit during the winter for some warm temperatures and sunlight, and surprisingly inexpensive for California.

Some of the best things to add to your San Diego itinerary that are free to do include relaxing on beautiful beaches, enjoying hiking trails, exploring parks, and more. 

In fact, one of the most famous parks to enjoy is Balboa Park. This incredible park includes several museums, many free gardens, beautiful architecture, hiking trails, and large lawns on which to relax. It is a must when visiting San Deigo. 

Also, make sure to head to La Jolla to see the sea lions and seals relax on the rocks. If you decide to swim, you may even have them in the water next to you.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is another beautiful and free place to visit in San Diego. These sea cliffs offer stunning views of the ocean and make for a great place to watch the sunset in San Diego. 

Cheap Food

You can always find delicious and authentic Mexican food all around San Diego. However, Old Town San Diego is not only a historic place in San Diego worth exploring, but also offers lots of moderately priced food options from sit-down restaurants to grab and go.

Best Way To Reach Destination

The best way to reach San Diego is to fly into San Diego International Airport.

Getting around San Diego is best done by car. This is because aside from downtown San Diego, everything else is pretty spread out. 

Weather

The temperature is generally around high 60s in the wintertime with evening lows in the 50s. There is a little rain over a few days each month.

Inexpensive Accommodation

Sam from Find Love And Travel says, “An inexpensive hostel in downtown San Diego to check out with good reviews is the Gaslamp Hostel. This is in a prime location in downtown San Diego.”

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Siesta Key, Florida

Siesta Keys, Florida

Welcome to Siesta Key, a beautiful barrier island located on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Siesta Key is known for its stunning beaches with spectacular white sand and beautiful warm turquoise water, making it a popular tropical vacation destination in winter for families, couples, and solo travelers looking for cheap holidays.

Apart from the beaches, Siesta Key offers plenty of other free or inexpensive attractions like the Siesta Key Village, which is full of shops, cafes, and restaurants, perfect for a lazy afternoon of window shopping and people watching.

In addition, the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is a wonderful spot for those who want to learn about marine life and conservation.

The best free thing to do in Siesta Key is enjoy the beautiful beaches, such as Siesta Key beach. You can spend the day lounging on the beach, swimming, playing beach volleyball or having a picnic, all for free.

For those looking to meet new people or have new experiences, you can join the Siesta Key drum circle every Sunday evening for free entertainment. Locals and visitors gather on the beach to play drums, dance, and enjoy the sunset.

Cheap Food

Siesta Key Farmers Market located in the Village is a great place to walk around and get a cheap bite to eat. The market offers fresh produce, handmade crafts, and live music.

The Screaming Goat Taqueria is an amazing spot for some inexpensive Mexican food! Also, Anna’s II is a local sandwich spot that is budget friendly and a great lunch spot.

There are also a ton of creameries, pastry shops, and gelato shops in Siesta Key for a cheap sweet treat.

Best Way To Reach Destination

If you’re flying to Florida, the closest airport is Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, which is about a 30-minute drive from Siesta Key. Alternatively, you can fly into Tampa International Airport, which is about an hour’s drive away.

Once you arrive, you can rent a car or take shuttle to Siesta Key. You can also take buses, trolleys, or other public transport to take you to various destinations on the island and in the surrounding area.

Weather

Average highs in winter are 74°F with average evening lows of 57°F. You can expect around 2″ of rain over 5-6 days per month.

Inexpensive Accommodation

Rebecca from The Travel Scrapbook says, “For affordable accommodation, check out local hostels or motels such as Twin Palms at Siesta.

Oscar Scherer State Park is located near Siesta Key and offers campsites for tents and RVs at reasonable prices if you want more of a rustic camping vacation.”

best economical city holiday in usa for a warm winter escape.
New Orleans, Louisiana (Photo courtesy of Pexels)

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans is a city located in the southeastern region of Louisiana, USA. It is located on the Mississippi River, and has a rich and unique cultural history influenced by the French, Spanish, African, and Caribbean people. It is one of the best US cities to visit in winter for budget travelers looking for a warm vacation.

The city is known for an incredible music scene, particularly jazz and blues, as well as a superb food scene. This includes Creole and Cajun dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya, and delicious desserts such as beignets.

New Orleans is also famous for its annual Mardi Gras celebration which is normally held in winter, although every year the date changes. It starts on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is 40 days before Easter.

This world famous festival includes parades, parties, and colorful costumes and is an amazing spectacle to witness. However, accommodation books up fast and is more expensive than other times of the year. Accordingly, if you are traveling on a budget, it is best to avoid going to New Orleans around Mardi Gras.

There are plenty of free or inexpensive things to do in New Orleans. One such activity is exploring the French Quarter, which is full of stunning architecture, colorful street performers, and bustling markets. It is easy to lose a couple days exploring this area and venturing into the unique shops and cafes.

Visitors can also take a self-guided walking tour of the Garden District, which is known for its beautiful mansions and lush gardens.

Another option is to visit City Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country, where visitors can wander through the botanical gardens or take a stroll around the lagoon. The park also offers free concerts and events throughout the year.

Cheap Food

New Orleans is known for its delicious food, and there are plenty of affordable options for visitors. One great option is the French Market, a historic market that sells fresh ingredients for those who have a kitchen. Shopping here, you can easily come up with a meal plan for less than $100 for a week!

There are also lots of food vendors selling ready made dishes including traditional ones such as po’boys and muffulettas at reasonable prices. 

Best Way To Reach Destination

You fly into Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) which is only a 20 minute drive to the French Quarter.

Public transportation is very good in New Orleans so you do not need to rent a car unless you wish to explore outside of New Orleans. Even then, many attractions such as swamp tours or a visit to Oak Alley Plantation offer pick up and drop off options in New Orleans.

Weather

The average daytime temperatures in New Orleans is from the mid-60s to low 70s Fahrenheit. Average evening low temperatures range from the low-50s to mid-50s Fahrenheit.

You can expect around 4.7″ of rain over 8 days per month in December, January, February and March.

Inexpensive Accommodation

Allyson from the Gallivanting Spoon says, “There are several reasonably priced B&Bs that are warm and inviting, such as the Lions Inn Bed & Breakfast, the Canal Street Inn, and the Melrose Mansion.”

Did you know that you could hold your own parade in New Orleans, or hire a company that can put one together for you? All you have to do is get a permit from the city and you will get a police escort for free! For these and other amazing money-saving, safety, food and accommodation tips, please see 40 Best Travel Tips For New Orleans For First Time Travelers.

best tropical beach vacation in america in winter
Laguna Beach, California (Photo courtesy of Samantha from San Diego Explorer)

Laguna Beach, California

Laguna Beach is one of the most quintessential beach towns in Southern California. Located right in the heart of Orange County, about half-way between San Diego and Los Angeles, it boasts spring-like temperatures and sunshine galore even in the heart of winter. It is one of the best destinations in the United States for those looking for cheap winter getaways.

While swimming is too cold in the wintertime, the beaches of Laguna Beach are still worth checking out. The rugged coast line and crashing waves are the perfect backdrop for a long walk on the beach. And the best part: it is absolutely free. 

Another low-cost experience is window-shopping in downtown Laguna Beach. There are so many cute shops, art galleries and eateries that will keep you entertained for hours. Make sure you find a nice patio or a great seat by a window and people watch as well!

Cheap Food

Every Saturday morning, check out the Farmer’s Market with over 40 vendors selling produce, cheap eats, and cute trinkets. They give out free samples, too. What’s not to love?

Best Way To Reach Destination

Fly into Los Angeles International Airport and pick up your rental car for the one hour drive. Unfortunately, Los Angeles doesn’t offer good public transportation and you would have to take a minimum of 3 buses to get to Laguna Beach.

Weather

Average highs in winter are 70°F although they easily reach high 70s/low 80s on most days. Average evening lows are 50°F. You can expect around 2.5″ of rain over 5 days each month.

Inexpensive Accommodation

Samantha from San Diego Explorer says, “Lodging can be a bit expensive in Laguna Beach, but if you are willing to stay a bit inland or south of Laguna Beach, you can find some decently priced options, such as the Sonesta Laguna Hills Irvine Spectrum.

If you prefer to stay in the heart of Laguna Beach, the 14 West Boutique Hotel is a good mid-range option.”

best tropical beach getaway in usa in winter
Big Island, Hawaii (Photo courtesy of Anu from Destination Checkoff)

Big Island, Hawaii

The Big Island of Hawaii is a fantastic tropical winter beach destination for travelers on a budget. While many people assume that Hawaii is an expensive place to visit, there are actually plenty of free and affordable activities and accommodations on the Big Island.

The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park which is the main highlight of Big Island only has an entrance fee of $30 per vehicle and allows you to enjoy the park’s volcanoes, hiking, lava caves, and other attractions.

The famous black and green sand beaches on the Big Island are free to explore. Around Kona, there are lots of free beaches that are great for swimming and snorkeling.

Visiting Rainbow Falls in Hilo is another free activity.

Best Way To Reach Destination

Flying into Kona International airport is the best way to reach the Big Island. If you are visiting the other Hawaii islands, you can also take an inter-island flight and do a day trip to the Big Island.

The Big Island offers some public transport within Kona. However, if you want to explore the rest of the island you would need a rental car as the distances are long and public transportation doesn’t really extend much outside of Kona.

Weather

Big Island enjoys tropical temperatures throughout the year. Average highs in winter are 81°F with average evening lows of 69°F. There will also be about 11 days of humidity each month.

You can expect around 3″ of rain over 7 days in December, January and February. In March, there is around 4″ of rain over 9 days.

Inexpensive Accommodation

Anu from Destination Checkoff says, “Staying in Kona region of the Big Island is the best place to stay on a budget. You can find several affordable rental apartments or hotels here. There are also hostels available like My Hawaii Hostel.”

best inexpensive adventure destination in usa in winter
Crystal River, Florida (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

Crystal River, Florida

Crystal River is an attractive reasonably priced warm winter destination in the USA. It is also the chosen location for sheltering manatees! Thousands of sea cows migrate to Kings Bay and its springs to take advantage of the cozy 72 degrees water. Visitors to this coastal city can take tours to observe the mesmerizing yet unusual mammals.

While tours are a little pricey, they are worth every penny as they navigate the protected areas of Kings Bay, provide all of the equipment you need to stay warm in the water while observing the manatees, and take underwater photos for you so you have a souvenir of this magical trip.

It is worth noting that Florida law states you can’t touch manatees, you can only observe them during the “swimming” tours. Unfortunately, not all companies ensure their participants don’t crowd or pet the marine mammals. Manatees in Paradise tour company do, and they operate on small six person pontoon boats so you really do get value for money. 

Alternatively, you can view a manatee sanctuary from the Three Sisters Spring Boardwalk for $20, which includes the trolley pass from Crystal River.

Manatees do roam while sheltering in Crystal River so you might just see them for free in the waters of Kings Bay Park and Hunter Springs Park. 

Other free things to do in Crystal River include visiting the Coastal Heritage Museum, checking out the colorful murals dotted around the small city, and browsing the shops at the Heritage Village where the stores are located in old cracker houses. 

You can also see the remains of the 1800s sugar plantation which was owned by slave-owner Senator David Levy Yulee at Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park.

Amazing beach days can be enjoyed at Hunter Springs Park and Fort Island Gulf Beach for free, which have restrooms, picnic tables, and parking (paid).

If you are in town to kayak, be aware that you cannot paddle near the manatee sanctuaries, however, Kings Bay Park and Hunter Springs have boat launch spots. It is best to check with local tour operators to keep yourself right and the manatees safe. 

Cheap Food

For tasty inexpensive food, you’ll find breakfast at Tea House 650, lunch at Amy’s on the Avenue, and dinner at KC Wine Bar.

Look out for happy hour at Norton’s Sports Grill, where you’ll also find free live music. 

Best Way To Reach Destination

The closest airport to Crystal River is Tampa International Airport (TPA), which is 74 miles away so a rental car will be required. 

Weather

Average highs in winter are 71°F until March when they are 75°F. Average lows are between 45°F and 53°F . You can expect around 3″ of rain over 7 days each month.

Inexpensive Accommodation

Amanda from Hey East Coast USA says, “Your cheapest accommodation option is to reserve a private room in an Airbnb. Alternatively, you can go camping or book a cabin or RV spot at Riverside Lodge Resort and Chassahowitzka River Campground.”

best cheap warm winter destination in the united states
Pinnacle National Park, California (Photo courtesy of Michelle from Travel With Intention)

Pinnacle National Park, California

Pinnacles National Park is a hidden gem located on California’s central coast. Established in 2013, the park spans over 26,000 acres and includes a rugged landscape with towering rock formations, caves, and wildflower-covered hills. The park is famous for its unique rock formations and wildlife, including the rare California condor. It is one of the best warm winter national parks in the US offering lots of free or cheap outdoor experiences.

One of the most interesting things to do at Pinnacles National Park is to explore the talus caves. These unique cave systems were formed by massive boulders that fell from the surrounding rocks. Visitors can crawl and climb through these caves, admiring the stunning formations. Be sure to check the park website for the caves’ open/closed status

Another must-see attraction in the park is Condor Gulch Trail. This moderate but scenic hike offers breathtaking views of the park’s rock formations. Visitors may also be able to spot the endangered California condor, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these incredible creatures up close.

Looking for an adrenaline rush? Rock climbing is a popular activity in the park. There are several climbing routes, so it is a great destination for climbers of all levels. 

Cheap Food

After a heavy day of hiking or exploring the caves, you’ll enjoy an affordable meal at Luigi’s in Gonzales. This spot is close to the National Park and an easy stop on your way to Salinas. Enjoy their fantastic calamari and a pizza.

Alternatively, for a chance to enjoy some of the best clam chowder around, head to the coastal towns of Monterey or Carmel.

Best Way To Reach Destination

Pinnacle National Park is located approximately 120 miles from San Francisco and 90 miles from San Jose International Airport. It is best to rent a car to reach the National Park and explore.

Weather

Average highs in winter are 63°F with daytime temperatures often reaching low 70s. Average evening lows are around 45°F. You can expect around 3.6″ of rain over 7 days each month.

Inexpensive Accommodation

Michelle from Travel With Intention says, “An inexpensive accommodation option is to stay in Salinas at the comfortable Courtyard by Marriott. It is then less than 40 miles to the Park. Alternatively, visitors can camp in the park’s designated campsites.”

best budget friendly warm winter vacations in usa
Big Bend National Park, Texas (Photo courtesy of Jordan from the Homebody Tourist)

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend National Park is a great inexpensive and warm place to visit in the winter months in the USA. The park is located in far West Texas and covers a massive 800,000 square miles. You have countless affordable activities from which to choose on a visit here. 

It does cost $30 to enter the National Park, but it is good for 7 days and will lead to hours upon hours of adventures. Some highlights include hiking the more than 150 miles of trails, marveling at the Santa Elena Canyon, biking, birdwatching, and stargazing! If you are up for an adventure, be sure to hike the Lost Mine Trail for epic views of the Park.

It’s also worth it to take the self-guided tour of the Terlingua Ghost Town which will take you around this 1900’s abandoned mining town. You can pick up a map at the town’s general store.

If you have additional days, make sure to check out nearby Big Bend Ranch State Park. This is a dog-friendly gem with unique hikes and scenic views. The Closed Canyon Trail is a must!

Cheap Food

After arriving, stop at the Cottonwood General Store in Terlingua and stock up on some picnic foods. If you are looking for affordable and delicious restaurant meals, head over to DB’s BBQ.

Best Way To Reach Destination

The Midland International Airport is the closest to the National Park, but you’ll still have a 235-mile drive to get to the entrance. You’ll definitely need to rent a car. 

Weather

Winter temperatures typically range from evening lows of 40 Fahrenheit and daytime highs in the 60s with less than 2 days of rain each month. It’s a great destination for those looking for a winter adventure on a budget. 

Inexpensive Accommodation

Jordan from the Homebody Tourist says, “There are so many cute glamping stays in Terlingua (Ocotillos Village has awesome stargazing tents), a wild west town, but if looking to save more money, you could also camp at one of the 4 campgrounds right in Big Bend National Park.”

best beach vacations in usa that is affordable and hot in winter
Clearwater Beach, Florida (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

Clearwater, Florida

Clearwater, Florida is an amazing beach destination to consider when looking for cheap warm spots in the USA in winter. Stacked with all the beach basics like gorgeous clear water, warm sandy beaches, and fun piers and shops to explore, this beach getaway is an all-around crowd-pleaser. 

The highlight of any trip to Clearwater is a day spent at Clearwater Beach or Sand Key Park. Open to the public, soaking up the sun and enjoying the crystal water is not an expensive way to enjoy the best of what this town has to offer. 

Pier 60, also located at Clearwater Beach, is another budget-friendly activity to enjoy while you’re in the area. Spend a couple of bucks at the bait house for supplies and snacks and waste away a day in paradise, fishing off the 1,080-foot pier. The winds might be rougher during the winter months, but fishing here is still enjoyable. 

A visit to nearby Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks is another fun way to explore Clearwater and the surrounding areas. You can wander the docks where sponges are still collected and enjoy some exceptional, inexpensive Greek food while you’re at it! 

Cheap Food

Mama’s Greek Cuisine near the Sponge Docks is a great place for casual and affordable Greek dining. It is a beautiful open-air restaurant so you can enjoy the warm breezes from the ocean while choosing from great specials each day. Don’t miss out on the Greek french fries!

Best Way To Reach Destination

Tampa St. Petersburg is the closest airport to Clearwater Beach. It’s about 10 miles away. Trolleys and ferries are available as public transportation options if you want to save money and not rent a car.

Weather

Average high temperatures during the winter months hover in the low 70s reaching low 80s many days. Evening lows are in the high 50s/low 60s. There is about 6 days of rain each month.

Inexpensive Accommodation

Candice from Exploring The Gulf says, “Sea Jay Motel & Marina is a colorful, well-kept, and comfortable place to stay when visiting Clearwater that won’t break the bank.” 

best tropical islands to visit in usa for warm winter escapes
Maui, Hawaii

Maui, Hawaii

Maui is a beautiful Hawaiian island that can be visited year-round, but there are several reasons why visiting Maui in winter can be a great low-priced experience.

The most expensive part about Maui is getting there since your only option is a flight to Kahului Airport – though there are typically great flight deals from the West Coast of the USA. However, once you arrive, you can find many free or cheap things to do in Maui to make this an inexpensive trip.

For starters, the most popular and free attraction on Maui (aside from the spectacular beaches!) is the Road to Hana. You’ll see dozens of waterfalls, stunning beaches & cliffs, and have many hiking opportunities on this 65 mile drive. 

There are a few festivals in Maui in the winter that are worth experiencing. My personal favorite is the Maui Whale Festival which takes place during the entire month of February and gives locals/visitors a chance to celebrate the migrating humpback whales.

Another festival is the Maui Open Studios Event which gives you free access to dozens of art studios around the island. 

If you’re looking for other free things to do in Maui, you can always visit the beautiful beaches (i.e. Kaanapali Beach or Makena Beach), take a hike (i.e. Pipiwai Trail or Waihee Ridge Trail), or watch the incredible sunsets.

You can also visit local farmers markets like Kula Country Farms Market to get a more local experience. 

Overall, Maui is a phenomenal winter destination to escape the cold winter weather and enjoy some nice R&R in the Hawaiian Islands! 

Cheap Food

Paia Fish Market on Front Street in Lahaina is a fantastic economical sit down restaurant offering delicious freshly caught fish and craft beers.

Best Way To Reach Destination

Fly into Kahului Airport and pick up your rental car. There is some public transportation but most tourists do not rely on it as things are pretty spread out on Maui. It takes about 45 minutes to get from the airport to Kaanapali or Wailea.

Weather

Average highs in winter are 81°F with average evening lows of 66°F. You can expect around 1.5″ of rain over 6 days per month.

Maui’s weather makes it a great escape from colder regions, and perfect for enjoying outdoor activities such as hiking, surfing, and snorkeling.

Inexpensive Accommodation

Check out Puamana, walking distance into Lahaina, for different sized condo units right on the beach. They offer some of the best sunset viewing on Maui.

best cheap warm winter destinations in usa
Temecula, California (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

Temecula, California

Looking for a cheap warm winter vacation in America? Then, head to Temecula, California.

Visiting wineries and tasting wine are big reasons why Temecula is an excellent winter destination. If you can visit during the week, you can spend about 50% less on wine tasting with a Temecula SIP Passport and avoid the weekend crowds. You choose five wineries that you’d like to visit and you get a standard wine tasting flight at each of the wineries. 

Explore historic Old Town Temecula. In 1859, it was an old stagecoach stop and the charming architecture reflects its old west past.

Check out the oldest building in town, the Wolf Store Adobe, peek in a museum or two, and window shop the art galleries and boutiques. 

Cheap Food

While there are plenty of places for fine dining, there are also some very reasonablly priced restaurants at Temecula wineries.

At Baba Joon’s Kitchen order the Persian Tacos and grab an inexpensive bottle of white wine from the tasting room. A bottle here is the same price as two glasses. You may not taste as many wines, but with that kind of math, it’s hard to go any other way.

Another great option is Mama Rosa’s Trattoria at the Robert Renzoni winery next door. Their wood-fired pizzas and sandwiches are large enough to share on their lovely outdoor patio.

Best Way To Reach Destination

Temecula is less than 1.5 drive from Orange County, Palm Springs, Los Angeles, and San Diego, all of which have their own airports.

Public transportation in Southern California is notoriously poor. Trains to Temecula are not an option. But you can catch a bus from all of the airport cities mentioned. The closest is San Diego which you can do with two buses in 2 1/2 hours.

Weather

The average temps are in the high 60s/mid 70s and evening lows are in the mid-40s. You can expect around 2″ of rain over 4 days each month.

Inexpensive Accommodation

Denise from Chef Denise says, “Stay just outside of Old Town Temecula at the Courtyard Marriott where they always have great winter deals and a free buffet breakfast.”

best inexpensive places to visit for warm winter vacations in usa
St. Augustine, Florida (Photo courtesy of Floridas Historic Coast)

St Augustine, Florida

St Augustine is the nation’s oldest city. There are many free and inexpensive things to do in St Augustine and the weather is warm and sunny making it the perfect place for an affordable warm winter escape.

Explore the historic Spanish colonial era in St Augustine Historic Downtown with views of the beautiful beaches nearby. Join a walking tour of the Historic Downtown and pass through old houses, Spanish-style markets, Spanish restaurants, old jails, and forts.

You can also visit Fort Matanzas National Monument. It was completed in 1742 and comprises nearly 300 acres of Florida coastal landscape. The entrance to the Fort and the ferry is free from the National Monument. 

St Augustine is known for vibrant festivals throughout the year, including winter. In late November and December, there is the dazzling Annual Nights of Lights. More than 3 million lights adorn every corner of this historic district and it is truly a stunning sight to see.

Cheap Food

There are many Spanish-style local restaurants on George street, Aviles Street, or Sevilla Street for fantastic food and drinks. You will also find many inexpensive food options here. 

Best Way To Reach Destination

For International travelers, fly to Orlando International Airport, pick up rental car and drive approximately 2 hours. Domestic travelers may be able fly into Northeast Florida Regional Airport, just a few miles from the city, and rely on public transportation.

Weather

The temperature is generally warm and mild in St. Augustine in the winter months with temperatures usually ranging from the mid-60s to mid-70s.

Inexpensive Accommodation

Yukti from Travelwithme24x7 says, “A Spanish casa-styled hotel in Historic Downtown may be a little expensive. For inexpensive hotels, book something further away from this area.”

Last Word

There are many places to visit in the USA for a cheap warm winter vacation. Whether you want to visit a tropical beach, an exciting city, charming small towns, or explore national or state parks for some incredible hiking, there are plenty of options from which to choose.

the authorNicole

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