Where to Travel in January

January brings a world of opportunities: witness Sri Lanka’s majestic leopards, partake in Hoi An’s luminous Lantern Festival, or bask in Maui’s eternal summer.

What’s your New Year’s resolution for 2020? Don’t spend big bucks on a gym membership or torture yourself with a pointless weight loss diet. This year, why not make it your goal to see more of the world? If you don’t know where to travel in January, look no further.

In fact, January is the best time to start working towards a resolution to travel more often. As the holiday season dies down, you’ll find plenty of affordable (and warm) destinations that are waiting to be explored.

Maybe you want to check that tropical vacation off your bucket list. Or perhaps you’re ready to take that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Southeast Asia. Either way, January is a great time to fulfill those wanderlust-fueled fantasies!

So, if you’re also eager to start your New Year off with a bang, then consider jet setting to one of these unforgettable destinations.


Sri Lanka for Wildlife Spotting

Leopard in Yala National Park
Leopard spotting in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Elephants, leopards and crocodiles oh my! If you’re eager to get up close and personal with a few of these wild creatures, then book a trip to Sri Lanka in January. With over 26 national parks, Sri Lanka is one of the best destinations for a safari vacation.

Along the southern and western coast, you’ll be treated to hours of endless sunshine and temperatures reaching 85 degrees Fahrenheit. January is also the driest month, which means you’ll find an abundance of wildlife congregating at the waterholes inside the national parks.

Yala National Park is one of the best places for wildlife spotting. Here, it’s common to see leopards, elephants, and water buffalo. The Wilpattu and Udawalawe National Parks are two other popular destinations for wildlife safaris.


Tonga for Peace and Quiet

a beach with palm trees on the south pacific island of Tonga
Tonga — not a bad place to relax, right?

Imagine yourself lounging on a secluded beach without another soul in sight. Well, fly to the Polynesian islands in Tonga and you just might turn your dream into reality! January is off-season, which means lower prices and most importantly, fewer tourists.

Tonga is home to over 170 islands, of which 36 are inhabited. Even the main island of Tongatapu is still relatively unspoiled compared to the neighboring countries of Fiji and Vanuatu. But if you love the idea of spending a few quiet days in paradise, then Tonga is the place for you.

Although January is smack in the middle of the wet season, you can still expect several days of sunshine during your trip. And don’t expect efficient public transportation or even internet access – Tonga is one of the least developed countries in the South Pacific.


Tamarindo, Costa Rica for the Dry Season

beach in Tamarindo, Costa Rica
This could be YOU on this beach in Tamarindo!

One of the best times to visit Costa Rica is in January. The coastal town of Tamarindo is located on the west coast, and only sees less than six inches of rain all month. For this reason, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to soak in the warm breeze of the Pacific Ocean.

Tamarindo is made for outdoor enthusiasts. Head to the shores for beachside activities like kayaking, swimming and fishing. Or, spend the afternoon hiking through Rincon de La Vieja or looking for leatherback turtles in Marino las Baulas National Park.

However, surfing is one of the most popular activities in Tamarindo. January is a great time for beginner surfers, as the dry season guarantees blue skies and light winds. The waters are calm and consistent, and you can find plenty of surf shops and schools eager to teach you the ways of the waves.


Guatemala to Visit Lake Atitlan

Peaceful, dreamy Lake Atitlan
Peaceful, dreamy Lake Atitlan

Surrounded by charming villages and volcanic mountains, Lake Atitlan is one of the most spectacular sights to see in Guatemala. And if you visit in January, you’ll come during the dry season, which means you’ll be able to take advantage of all the activities on and around the lake.

For a dramatic bird’s eye view of the lake, hike up the Indian Nose Trailhead. Although it’s a steep 30-minute trek to the top, the stunning views of the surrounding area make it worth every step.

And for a refreshing break from the Guatemalan summer heat, take a dip in the cool waters. You can also rent kayaks and SUP boards to spend a lazy day paddling through the waves.


Hoi An, Vietnam for the Lantern Festival

Hoi An, Vietnam

Come and celebrate the full moon at the famous Lantern Festival in Hoi An, Vietnam. Once the sun goes down, hundreds of colorful lanterns are released into the Hoai River. The warm glow of the lanterns and the festive atmosphere along the Old Town is a magical experience you need to see to believe.

During the festival, you’ll also get to enjoy live music, board games and poetry readings. There are dozens of mouth-watering street food stalls and pop up along the river.

Although the Lantern Festival occurs every month during the full moon, January is one of the best times to visit. The days are sunny and the evening temperature is warm without being overly humid.


Maui, Hawaii for the Warm Beaches

a beach with footprints in Maui, Hawaii
Miles and miles of pristine beach in Maui, Hawaii

If you’re dreaming of swaying palm trees and crystal clear waters, look no further than a tropical vacation to Maui. This laid-back Hawaiian island is truly a beach lover’s dream. And even though it’s January, Maui is a great escape from the harsh winter weather.

The best beaches can be found along the western coast. Kihei, Lahaina, and Kaanapali are typically very sunny during this time of the year. That means you can spend the day working on your tan and frolicking in the ocean waves.

January is also the best time to see humpback whales. It’s estimated that over 10,000 whales migrate to Maui from Alaska each year during this time. You can take a guided boat tour or spot them from land at either Papawai Point or at the top of Pu‘u Ola‘i.

If you’re planning a vacation for the New Year, there’s no better time to travel than January. Whether you’re hiking the lush volcanoes in Guatemala or snorkeling off the sandy shores in Tonga, you should have no problem finding the right adventure for your trip.

So, make it your goal to travel more in 2020! Which part of the world would you like to explore this year?

About the Author

Jeremy Scott Foster

Jeremy Scott Foster is an adventure-junkie, gear expert and travel photographer based in Southern California. Previously nomadic, he’s been to ~50 countries and loves spending time outdoors. You can usually find him on the trail, on the road, jumping from bridges or hustling on his laptop working to produce the best travel and outdoors content today.
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