SAN DIEGO — It’s that time of year again — the snowbirds are returning to coastal San Diego County, and for good reason.

For those unfamiliar with the term, “snowbirds” refers to people who travel to warmer climates during the winter months.

In order to escape the bone-chilling temperatures of places that go dark and white for several weeks, some look to sunnier spots to migrate instead of hibernate.

As it turns out, there are three San Diego areas considered to be among the best hidden gem cities for those looking for a warm escape without the crowd.

Architectural Digest, a magazine that focuses on interior design and landscaping, conducted a study to determine the hot-spots — no pun intended — for snowbirds in the U.S.

Researchers with the magazine synthesized data from various sources to determine the best winter escape cities, while focusing on specific criteria that would appeal to snowbirds.

For each city, Architectural Digest considered establishments that qualified as “hidden gems” based on Yelp reviews. That criteria included those with six to 75 reviews, and with ratings between four and five stars.

Those cities were then compared across the following metrics:

  • Housing and lodging availability: 30%
    • Number of homes for sale via Zillow.
    • Hidden gem lodging options: hotels, resorts, campgrounds, bed and breakfasts, and hostels via Yelp.
  • Activities and dining: 30%
    • Hidden gem dining: bars, restaurants, bakeries, and breweries via Yelp.
    • Hidden gem activities: Beaches, parks, walking trails, botanical gardens, health retreats, and lakes via Yelp.
    • Percentage of walking trails with high ratings and light traffic via AllTrails.
  • Weather: 20%
    • UV index and average daily temperatures during the months of December through February from 2020-2023 via World Weather API.
  • Cost: 20%
    • Average cost of homes for sale via Zillow.

As for the San Diego region, the coastal towns of Oceanside and Encinitas both made Architectural Digest’s list. For locals, this may come as no surprise. These North County beach towns tend to draw in those seeking the beach life without all the hustle and bustle.

The unpretentious town of Borrego Springs, which is located in the middle of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, also made the list. Its warm air and bright night skies may have something to do with it.

Other Southern California areas among top hidden gems for snowbirds, according to this study, include Temecula, Idyllwild and Catalina Island.

Architectural Digest’s full list can be found here.

For all the snowbirds headed west this winter, the San Diego sunshine awaits.