One thing that is consistent about San Diego in January is the weather. You can pretty much be sure of a mix of sunny with blue skies with some scattered showers during this month.

It’s the kind of winter weather that people from cold weather climates and frigid temps fly in to enjoy (hello, average high temperature of 65F).

In fact, with the holiday peak season over, January is the perfect time to visit San Diego for a crowd-free experience with excellent weather conditions.

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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 taken 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 from 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 like ever popular La Jolla, and perhaps venture into the inland valleys to golf, taste wine, or visit the Safari Park.

Residents, however, take San Diego day trips to the mountains. 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 San Diego in winter would receive a ton of rain in January, but we typically don’t. In fact, we renovated our backyard a few Januarys ago, so I was in tune with the rain. It only drizzled two times briefly that month. In January last year, it only rained a few times heavily.

Here are the San Diego January weather stats:

  • Average temperature (high/low): 65°F/49°F
  • Average rainfall: 2 inches
  • Days of rain: 7
  • Days of sunshine: 72%
  • Daylight: 10.2 hours
  • Ocean average water temperature (high/low): 60.3°F/58.1°F
  • Average wind speed: 6 mph

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) at popular spots like Ocean Beach and all along the San Diego waterfront.

Maybe it’s the crisp San Diego weather in January, but the stunning sunsets at the beach are particularly beautiful. I took this last January from Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach.

Ocean Tips

The Pacific 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 stay in 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, downtown San Diego, and Balboa Park in January. San Diego in winter is so pleasant on a sunny day (like today as I’m typing this).

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

Did you know that some of the best destination spas in the world are right here in San Diego? If you’re looking to invest in some rest and relaxation time – with a luxury wellness element – what better way to do so than with a Destination Spa visit to San Diego in January? 

I can tell you from personal experience that you feel better when you return home.

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 of these San Diego 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, a yoga pavilion, a Pilates studio, and tennis and sports courts.


San Diego January 2024 Events

San Diego events in January are typically a lighter event month in comparison to the rest of the year, but there are still plenty of annual events to attend. 

Farmers Insurance Open

Golfers and spectators look forward to the Farmers Insurance Open PGA tournament every year at the end of January at San Diego’s Torrey Pines Golf Course. For 2024, the dates are January 24-27.

(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, 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

The nation’s largest touring dinosaur exhibit comes to San Diego thanks to Jurassic Quest.

From adorable baby dinos to a fierce T-Rex, guests embark on the adventure of a lifetime at Del Mar Fairgrounds 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. 

  • January 19-21, 2024 
  • Friday, 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. 
  • Sunday: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. 
  • Standard tickets are $22 with unlimited kid admission at $36 and seniors at $19

SeaWorld San Diego’s Inside Look

Go behind the scenes at SeaWorld San Diego in January for an exclusive meeting with animal care specialists as they share what it’s like to care for the animals.

Kids and adults alike will love this educational event and be admitted to areas normally not open to the public.

The Inside Look program includes Inside the Rescue Center, Inside Orca Encounter, Inside and Underwater at Turtle Reef, Inside Animal Care, Meet Animal Conservation Ambassadors, and more.

  • January 2024 dates coming soon.

We have advice on how to buy discount SeaWorld San Diego tickets!

Poway Winter Festival

Can’t get enough of the holiday spirit? You’ll find it at Poway Community Park in San Diego this January continues with twinkling lights, popular food trucks, sledding, ice skating, roasting s’mores, and more!

  • January 12: 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. and January 13: 3:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

san diego brew festival

Beer lovers can head to the 13th annual San Diego Brew Festival in January 2024. Over 70 breweries will showcase their finest beers at this popular festival and 10 food trucks will be on hand to feed the crowds.

Cover bands will provide live musical entertainment and lawn games will be aplenty.

  • January 6, 2024
  • Located at NTC park in Liberty Station
  • General Admission from 1 – 4 p.m. costs $50
  • Early Admission from midday to 4 p.m. costs $65

San Diego Resolution run 5k/10k/Half Marathon

San Diego’s annual event means you can get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions at the San Diego Resolution Run in Mission Bay, while the rest of the country slumbers under the snow. Make this a family outing as you run along the Pacific Ocean and enjoy the San Diego skyline.

  • January 13, 2024
  • Prices from $65-$125

Kids Marathon Mile at LEGOLAND California

The 2024 Kids Marathon Mile at LEGOLAND California is a 1-mile fun run for all abilities and all ages. Starting before the park opens to the public, participants make their way through the park in a unique experience they won’t forget.

  • January 13
  • Tickets are $40

2024 Carlsbad Marathon & Half Marathon

For true endurance junkies, this scenic west coast foot race of San Diego returns with epic views and amazing course support. Run into the new year with the 2024 Carlsbad Marathon & Half marathon.

monster jam

If monster trucks are your (or your kids’) thing, Monster Jam is a fun day out for the family. 12,000-pound trucks will roar around the mud tracks at Snapdragon Stadium, and it can get loud! There’s racing, stunts, and even trucks backflipping.

Upgrade to a Pit Pass to get close to the drivers and their trucks for the perfect selfie. Plus, you’ll get an insider look at how the enormous trucks are built to compete.

  • January 13 & 14 and then January 27 & 28
  • Snapdragon Stadium
  • Tickets start at $25 on their website but you can often find deals on Groupon.

monster energy supercross

There’s down and dirty action of the two-wheeled kind when the Supercross races converge on Snapdragon Stadium. You can upgrade your race ticket to include the event’s Supercross FanFest for an inside look at how the event all comes together, including how the teams prepare and practice.

  • January 20
  • Snapdragon Stadium
  • Tickets start at $40 via their website.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. parade

High school bands, drill teams and elaborate floats will all feature in the spectacular 42nd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade along Harbor Drive, to honor Dr. King. This year will also include a MLK 5K Walk/Fun Run and festival.

  • January 14, starting at 10 a.m.
  • Harbor Drive – Embarcadero
  • You can register for the 5K via the event’s website.

Things to Do in San Diego in January

We love outdoor activities year-round in San Diego. There are many ways to fulfill a New Year’s resolution involving health and wellness – often for free (tip: Balboa Park is a favorite!).

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 know I sound like a broken record, but you should visit our best San Diego tide pools. The afternoon minus tides vary during the month of January, so be sure to 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.

Many people were 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 their 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 highly recommend a walk or day out with the kids at the San Diego Botanic Garden. 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).

Visit Outdoor Shopping Areas and malls

Check out retailers in Westfield UTC mall or shops in the Village of La Jolla, Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach, North Park, and more.

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 there are many whale watching tours to choose from.

If you’re not comfortable heading out to sea on a whale watching tour, 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, making January the ideal time for whale watching in San Diego.

When they swim back north with their calves, they tend to swim in deeper water further out to feeding grounds.

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.

Take your dog 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 you go when dogs are allowed and what the leash requirements are.

You can also look at my list of things to do with dogs in San Diego.


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:

  • 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 (it is San Diego in January!)
  • 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.


San Diego Lifestyle: What Residents Are Up To

Exercise and wellness are top of mind after a busy holiday season. But most of us are home planning for the new year, with occasional excursions to the beaches, restaurants, and other attractions.

I can also tell you firsthand that it’s been a BUSY month of vacation planning, whether you’re planning a trip to San Diego or elsewhere. People are buying theme park tickets to use six months down the road (probably to be sure pricing stays the same in an inflationary environment and also for budgeting purposes).

If you are traveling this year, plan now. If you live here, please share your thoughts about San Diego in January!

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

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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