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San Diego in January: Local Tips for Weather, Things to Do & Events

One thing is consistent about San Diego in January this year. So far, a few days in, it’s sunny with blue skies. It’s the kind of winter weather that people from cold weather climates fly in to enjoy.

Except, this year, they can’t. We’re under a Regional Stay at Home Order with no end in sight. However, as usual, I will list out what residents can do around town this month and what it’s normally like to be here in January for those of you planning trips in the future.

And, thankfully, there are plenty of you.

You can save on tickets, tours, and hotels through my affiliations. If you make purchases through the links in this post, I may be compensated.


San Diego January Weather

San Diego weather in January is a mix of crisp air and sunshine. If you didn’t know it, you’d think that some of the photos I’m about to show you were taking in the summer.

Our Microclimates

San Diego has four main microclimates: coastal, inland valleys, mountains, and desert — in that order.

Along the coast, we have a pretty temperate climate with the most humidity thanks to the ocean. Inland valley communities like Escondido, where the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is, will have colder mornings (it can be frigid there December–February) because cold air sinks into the valleys. Mountains may see snow if there’s a big storm and the deserts also have cool mornings but warmer days.

Most tourists will stay in the coastal region, along the beach neighborhoods and perhaps venture into the inland valleys to golf, taste wine, or visit the Safari Park.

Residents, however, are taking San Diego day trips to the mountains during normal times. This is because we don’t see the seasons change along the coast.

Blue Skies in Winter

The Unconditional Surrender statue on a sunny day in downtown San Diego.
I took this photo of the Unconditional Surrender statue in downtown last January.

You’d think that we’d receive a ton of rain in January, but we typically don’t. In fact, we renovated our backyard last January, so I was in-tune with rain. It only drizzled two times briefly that month.

Here are the San Diego January weather stats:

  • Average temperature (high/low): 65°F/49°F
  • Rainfall: 2 inches
  • Days of rain: 7
  • Days of sunshine: 72%
  • Daylight: 10.2 hours
  • Ocean temperature (high/low): 60.3°F/58.1°F

Can You Go to the Beach in January?

Of course, you can go to beaches in San Diego in January.

You will find more people than in December on the beach exercising and surfing (probably for exercise).

Maybe it’s the crisp air but the beach sunsets are particularly beautiful. I took this last January from Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach.

Ocean Tips

The ocean is cold in January. There’s no getting around it. The hearty will be fine for a quick swim but you’ll need a wetsuit otherwise. You can rent them at various surf shops around town, even for kids.

You CAN still take surfing lessons or learn how to stand-up paddleboard. Both fulfill any exercise-related New Year’s resolutions.


Advice for Booking Hotels in January

January is a GREAT time to book San Diego hotels. From the time winter break ends to President’s Day weekend, rates are at some of their lowest points of the year.

If you are visiting to sightsee or take advantage of the many outdoor activities in San Diego, you will get the most bang for your buck if you come in this low season.

Plus, it’s less hot than it is in the summertime. I love walking around San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park in January. It’s so pleasant on a sunny day.

Just note that beach valet services may be limited in January but you can ask me or call the hotel in advance to see if they are on offer.


Or, Start a New Year by Rejuvenating at Our Destination Spas

Before the Regional Stay at Home Order went into effect, I had quite a few people booked into our destination spas in January. After the year we all had, I think people were looking to invest in themselves — I can tell you from personal experience that you feel better when you return home.

Did you know that some of the best destination spas in the world are right here in San Diego?

There’s no better way to kick off a new year than by rejuvenating at Golden Door or Rancho La Puerta (just across the Tecate, Mexico border) for a week (they also offer shorter stays). Through me, you have access to benefits at both spots. I can also book you into Cal-a-Vie.

Or, I would recommend a weekend at Rancho Valencia. It’s a Relais & Chateaux property which means the food is outstanding, but you can eat well and take advantage of their many wellness offerings. They typically have a long roster of fitness classes, tennis, sports courts, and even a yoga pavilion.


San Diego January Events

San Diego events in January are a little slim this year but it’s typically a light event month anyway.

Farmers Insurance Open

Golfers and spectators look forward to the Farmers Insurance Open PGA tournament every year at the end of January at Torrey Pines Golf Course. This year, the dates are January 25-31, with no spectators onsite.

But you can watch from home and get a feel for what our weather is like in January. The course itself is gorgeous.

Of course, the center of the action is at my favorite La Jolla hotel, The Lodge at Torrey Pines, which overlooks the course. It’s tough (if not impossible) to secure reservations near and during the tournament (it’s sold out this year), but it sure doesn’t hurt to try.

GRANDSTANDS AND VIEWS

My favorite rooms at The Lodge at Torrey Pines are Palisade Rooms because they have ocean views and overlook the 18th hole. The hotel builds the tournament grandstands usually starting late December so you may see them in your view if booking suites or Palisade Rooms.

Jurassic Quest at Del Mar Fairgrounds

You can drive through dinosaurs at Del Mar Fairgrounds thanks to Jurassic Quest, the nation’s largest touring dinosaur exhibit.

From adorable baby dinos to a fierce T-Rex, guests embark on the adventure of a lifetime led by a thrilling-for-all-ages audio tour as they view 70 photorealistic dinosaurs that move and make sounds, all from the comfort of their own vehicles. 

  • Jan. 1-10, 2021 (closed Monday & Tuesday, Jan. 4-5) 
  • Wednesday and Thursday: 1 p.m.-8 p.m. 
  • Friday and Sunday: 9 a.m.-8 p.m. 
  • Saturday: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. 

Things to Do in San Diego in January Now

Your best bet for enjoying life outside of the house is going to involve outdoor activities. Some outdoor tours are still running and there are many ways to fulfill a New Year’s resolution that involved health and wellness — oftentimes for free.

Plus, I challenge you to add this to your resolution or to-do list. Try something new in San Diego this year.

Go Tide Pooling

I sound like a broken record but you can visit our best San Diego tide pools. In 2021, afternoon minus tides happen between January 10-16 and January 24-31 with a few other dates mixed in. Check the online tide charts.

A few weeks ago I walked the tide pools in La Jolla along the La Jolla seal trail, roughly between La Jolla Cove and Children’s Pool Beach.

There were a lot of people not practicing the best tide pool etiquette, so please be mindful that you’re not one of them. You can take shells from these areas but please remember that the animals in the tide pools use them for habitats.

You can’t take shells from tide pools in the protected La Jolla Ecological Reserve (around La Jolla Cove).

Visit San Diego Botanic Garden

A bromeliad with a "B" sign in the Hamilton Children's Garden.
Please visit them!

I would highly recommend a walk or day out with the kids at the San Diego Botanic Garden. It’s open as an outdoor recreation facility. You can clock in some serious steps on the 4 miles of trails, get garden inspiration, and let the kids safely play outside in the Hamilton Children’s Garden (and learn about plants and the environment).

I can’t tell you what a respite this place is given our current climate. You will need to purchase a ticket online and make a reservation.

Visit an Outdoor Shopping Area & Malls

If you are comfortable, pick up your essentials or even a new book from retailers in Westfield UTC mall or shops in the Village of La Jolla, Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach, North Park, and more. Retailers are permitted to be open at 20% capacity.

Go Gray Whale Watching

A whale tail sticking out of the ocean with a boat of onlookers in the distance

It’s officially whale watching season in San Diego! And, many of our Whale Watching tours are running with enhanced health and safety measures in place.

If you’re not comfortable heading out to sea, you can try viewing from land. This is the month when they swim south to Mexico to give birth. So, they swim closer to shore. When they swim back north with their calves they tend to swim in deeper water further out.

Popular places to try to see them from land include:

Take Your Dog on an Adventure

My dog sniffs seaweed on Pacific Beach in San Diego.
My rescue pit bull, Ruby, loves Pacific Beach.

While the gyms are closed or offering limited services, you can seriously get your exercise outside. Take your dog with you to off-leash and on-leash dog beaches in San Diego.

We like Law Street Beach in Pacific Beach but there’s also North Beach in Coronado, Del Mar Dog Beach, and other on-leash options. Just check to be sure that you go when dogs are allowed and what the leash requirements are.

I’m receiving quite a few emails asking for dog-friendly ideas so stay tuned as I compile a list.

Order Take-Out

San Diego restaurants can use our support now more than ever. Before you use a food delivery app, please check with the restaurant to see if they are offering local delivery if you can’t pick up your order. Beaumont’s in La Jolla has been offering local delivery. Even Cesarina in Point Loma will deliver to La Jolla (gather your friends for an order to help them out).

The goal this month, especially, is to leave as much money in their pockets as possible.

Keep in mind that many are also offering pantry staples that you can eat on future days. I picked up granola from The Cottage in La Jolla recently. You can pick up condiments and sauces from Juniper & Ivy. My point is to think about how they can help you beyond the meal you need.


What to Wear in San Diego in January

What to pack for San Diego in January involves sweaters, long-sleeved T-shirts and a medium-weight jacket if you plan to be out in the evenings.

Here’s what to put in your suitcase:

  • Face coverings — required everywhere you’re not 6′ away from someone
  • Medium weight jacket for the evenings (I wear a light Patagonia or Lululemon puffer jacket in later afternoons and evenings)
  • Athleisure and hiking shoes for outdoor activities
  • Portable umbrella
  • Bathing suit and warmer cover-up
  • Rashguard or UV shirt for sun protection and warmth
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Flip flops for the beach and pool
  • Shorts for beachgoing
  • T-Shirts (mostly long-sleeved)
  • Pants or jeans
  • Sweaters or sweatshirts
  • Comfortable walking shoes for sightseeing
  • Casual wool/warm dress or collared shirt, sweater, and nice jeans (if you plan to dine in one of our nicer restaurants )
  • Sweaters and sweatshirts
  • Ugg boots (residents are wearing them — I’m wearing them daily around the house and sometimes out)
  • Wetsuit, if you have one (otherwise they’re easy to rent)

Real fur is not well-received in Southern California so leave it at home.


Lifestyle: What Residents Are Up To

This year is getting off to an unusual start. However, I can tell you that residents in my circle are getting back into the swing of things and are looking forward to a better 2021, fingers crossed.

Exercise and wellness are top of mind in addition to keeping the kids sane, too. But, most of us are home, with occasional excursions to the beaches and open outdoor facilities to try to stay, well, sane.

If you live here, please share your thoughts about San Diego in January!

Weather and temperature sources: seatemperature.org, currentresults.com, NOAA

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