Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Caribbean Weather in January: Best Islands to Visit

© 2019 Scott S. Bateman
© 2019 Scott S. Bateman

Caribbean weather in January has average high temperatures in the mid 80s Fahrenheit for southern islands and low 80s for most northern ones.

Rainfall is low to moderate for most major destinations. The best islands to visit during the month are in the western and southern Caribbean. For the warmest temperatures, the farthest south, the better. In contrast, the Bahamas, which are close to Florida, have average daytime temperatures in the upper 70s Fahrenheit and are five to 10 degrees cooler than most Caribbean islands.

January is a good month for anyone who likes their Caribbean climate with a little less heat, lower chances of rain and maximum comfort while shopping or doing other land activities.

It also is one of the most popular months of the year to visit for northerners who want to get away from cold and snow.

10-Day Weather Forecasts | See Caribbean monthly weather in: January - February - March - April - May - June - July - August - September - October - November - December

Caribbean Water Temperatures in January

Caribbean water temperatures stay between the daytime and nighttime air temperatures for each destination. For most islands, that means an average water temperature in the low to mid 70s Fahrenheit.

The cooler daytime weather in combination with strong trade winds also means water temperatures are not always warm enough for swimming this time of the year, especially in the mornings.

Our winter visit to Cancun found the water too chilly for swimming. Trade winds create a wind chill that makes swimming even more uncomfortable at times. Water temperatures are much more comfortable at Aruba, Curacao, St. Lucia, St. Maarten and other southern islands that have warmer air temperatures.

The best time to go swimming is in the afternoon when the sun has heated up the water to a more comfortable level. Vacationers might want to shop or take part in land excursions and activities in the mornings. They can go to the beaches in the warmer afternoons.

Western Caribbean Weather in January

Air temperatures: Western Caribbean weather in January is warm but not unbearably hot like the 90-degree heat of the summer.

As a result, cruises are especially popular from January through April because of the moderate temperatures and the lower levels of rain along the the Central American coast. January is an especially dry time of year for most western Caribbean destinations.

The four most popular islands are Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Roatan. All of them become one of the hottest regions of the Caribbean during the summer.

In January, their peak temperatures average in the low 80s Fahrenheit or high 20s Celsius, according to historical records from government meteorological agencies.

Belize, Costa Rica and Panama, which are less popular western Caribbean destinations, also have peak temperatures in the low 80s Fahrenheit or high 20s Celsius.

Caribbean temperatures in January by destination
Caribbean temperatures in January by destination. © Scott S. Bateman

Rainfall: What matters even more for these Central American cruise stops is the fact that their average rainfall is much lower in January than most other months of the year.

Costa Rica in particular has a high risk of rain in January, but it is mostly in the mountainous interior. Belize also has higher rainfall in the interior for the same reasons.

The western islands usually average about two to three inches of rain in January, so the odds of a good day are high.

Eastern Caribbean Weather in January

Caribbean rainfall in January by destination
Caribbean rainfall in January by destination. © Scott S. Bateman

Air temperatures: In the eastern Caribbean, January temperatures range from the high 80s Fahrenheit in St. Lucia and St. Thomas to the low 80s for most other islands.

The eastern Caribbean stretches more north and south than the western Caribbean, and as a result the northern destinations are cooler during January.

The Bahamas aren’t geographically part of the Caribbean Sea because they lie in the western Atlantic. But they are lumped into the Caribbean region because they are islands and located close to the actual boundaries of the Caribbean.

They also are north enough to be much cooler than the other locations. January is a good month to visit there for golf and other land activities but not a good month for swimming and other water activities.

Turks and Caicos, which lies southeast of the Bahamas, is only slightly warmer. Once again, the water is less comfortable for anyone who likes sunning and swimming.

Go farther south to find warm daytime temperatures that average in the low to mid-80s Fahrenheit or high 20s Celsius.

Rainfall: One thing that the Bahamas has in its favor during January is a low level of rainfall, which is another reason why it is a good month for land activities.

Other islands also do well including Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Dominican Republic, St. Lucia and Trinidad.

Water temperatures: The farther south the better. Islands such as Aruba, Curacao, St. Lucia and Barbados are more likely to have water temperatures comfortable for swimming.

But as someone who visited Aruba in February, warmer water temperatures are not always a sure thing. On our visit, the water was too cool for swimming.