As Urban Dictionary describes, a snowbird is a northerner who migrates to the warmer south when they’re tired of layering up and shoveling snow. The concept makes total sense, especially considering there are so many amazing places that are warmer and more affordable than the global north in winter.

Us snowbirds have it good: living the good life as retirees… or those with a bunch of money to spare. But for the sake of this article, snowbirds are all travelers who are lucky enough to move to or vacation in a warmer place to escape harsh winters. Backpackers – that includes you!

From the wild beaches of South Africa’s Garden Route to the buzzing desert cities of Arizona, there are plenty of places to visit when the days get short. Whether you head to the Southern Hemisphere for their summer season or to southern Europe or USA, these are the best places for snowbirds in the WORLD…

Girl takes photo of the colorful sunset that lines the beaches of Sayulita, Mexico.
Looking for the best places for snowbirds.
Photo: @audyscala

What are the Best Places for Snowbirds?

Some people can go south in their own country for a drastic change of climate. Other countries aren’t so lucky. You could be relocating for the entire season or just for a quick vacation in a warmer climate.

Whether you’re looking for a snowbird state in the USA or you need a real change of scenery, here are 10 places worth checking out as a seasonal snowbird:

Mexico

Seba standing power pose in front of the Mexican Markets
Christmas with a twist.
Photo: @Lauramcblonde

Switch snow flurries for sunshine and head to Latin America. With incredible cuisine, world-class hospitality, gorgeous beaches, and a vibrant culture, Mexico tops most of my lists.

While most visitors choose this destination for all-inclusive hotels, year-round belting weather, and adventure at every turn, there is no denying its popularity also relates to Mexico’s low cost of living. Famous beach towns like Cancun and Cabo aren’t cheap-as-chips, but I wouldn’t recommend you settle there as a snowbird, anyway.

Surprisingly (considering I hate cities), I loved visiting CDMX in the winter too. Mexico City is a wonderland for travelers; each neighborhood is unique with gorgeous green spaces and culture crammed in every corner.

I also really loved San Cristobal de Las Casas, Sayulita, and San Miguel de Allende for my snowbird months. These smaller towns each have their own unique atmosphere and vibe, from the surf culture in Sayulita to the architecturally impressive streets of San Miguel de Allende.

If there’s one thing Mexico knows how to do well, it’s throwing a fiesta. If you’re worried about missing out on the cozy festivities of the Christmas season, worry not – Mexico has celebrations and merrymakings on the agenda.

Mexico’s tropical climate is a primary attraction as the best place for snowbirds. Instead of summer and winter, the country’s dry season falls between December and April – the perfect time for northerners to beanies with sun hats.

Mexico is generally safe for tourists, but it’s always important to stay aware of your surroundings and hone in on your common sense (especially in busy tourist areas). My advice? Avoid over-touristy spots altogether.

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    Arizona

    best camping spots in Arizona
    Don’t be fooled by my smile, it was FREEZING!
    Photo: Rock Slatter

    Following in the footsteps of its most famous attraction (the Grand Canyon, of course), Arizona is climbing the ranks as one of America’s favorite states. Incredible hikes, sun-drenched deserts, and trendy cities buzzing with activity – what more could you ask for?

    As one of the best places for snowbirds in the USA, seasonal residents trickle into Arizona starting in October until the end of the winter period in April or May. From its enviable warm weather to its warm southern hospitality, Arizona offers incredible opportunities for seasonal visitors. 

    Sure, the Grand Canyon is the crown jewel of the state, but there is a lot to say about other parts of Arizona, too. You’ll want to visit the red rock formations of Sedona, historic Tucson, and let us not forget the cultural metropolis that is Phoenix. 

    Some of the most popular places for snowbirds tend to be Yuma, Mesa, and Tucson, where travelers can find plenty of housing options for every budget. Oh, and did I forget to mention it’s also one of the more affordable states on the scene? 

    The weather could not be more suitable for snowbirds. Averaging in the 60s and 70s throughout winter. With no icky-sticky humidity, Arizona has amazing hikes and other outdoor adventures.

    As my mum says, safety first! And well, as far as safe states go, Arizona ranks towards the top. Of course, big cities like Phoenix will have their safety pitfalls, with smaller towns and villages like Flagstaff, Scottsdale, or Lake Havasu City being the most secure.

    All in all, Arizona is a dream destination for active snowbirds, with countless national parks, sun-drenched deserts, and canyon terrains to explore.

    Costa Rica

    Monteverde hanging tree roots
    Pure vida, baby.
    Photo: @joemiddlehurst

    Only a select group of snowbirds set their sights on the remote haven that is Costa Rica. This is likely because of its secluded nature, which makes for a totally unique experience compared with the American states or European cities on the list. 

    More popular with adventurous visitors than old-timer retirees, Costa Rica’s lush rainforests, untouched beaches, and vibrant culture create a tropical sanctuary for snowbirds. 

    Let’s clarify one thing: you should be somewhat a fan of nature if you’re planning on spending some time here. Costa Rica is a unique tropical destination to spend Christmas, offering a tapestry of natural beauty, from the misty cloud forests of Monteverde to the magical Arenal Volcano. Whether you’re into hiking, mountain biking, birdwatching, or surfing, there is an outdoor adventure for all activity devotees here.

    One of the most important things to consider when looking for the best place for snowbirds is community. In this sense, Costa Rica is one of the easiest places to meet and socialize with like-minded travelers from across the world visiting for the same reason as you: it’s an epic place to make friends.

    Typically speaking, most snowbirds head for Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo, or Ojochal. My personal favorite, Ojochal, is super affordable and known for its Pacific Ocean views, trendy cafes, and hiking trails galore.

    When it comes to accommodation, Costa Rica caters to all budgets. Choose from luxurious eco-lodges, hotels and resorts, or rent out a self-catering beach villa or jungle cabin – the options are endless. 

    A report released in 2020 ranked the country the third safest in Latin America. A feat not to be underestimated; you can rest assured that you will be safe living in this tropical heaven.

    Florida

    Marathon, Florida Keys 1

    Hands down the warmest state of contiguous America during the country’s coldest months, Florida is the famous snowbird spot for retirees in the USA.

    Obviously… amusement parks (Disney who?), coastal recreation, beach resorts, and its association with the USA’s space exploration center. However, this coastal haven in the southeast USA also boasts an impressive livability score.

    Let’s get one thing straight – there are plenty of cities and towns to settle in in Florida. If airport access and a reasonable cost of living come into play, you’ll be well off in Orlando or Tampa. That said, Miami truly does bring the heat, and there are tons of interesting places near Jacksonville, too.

    Southeast Florida offers access to miles of Atlantic beaches along the Treasure Coast and the Gold Coast. This part of the country is subtropical year-round.

    Heck, you could even spend your winter on the Florida Keys. This is about as tropical as it gets If you’re traveling The States. Aside from white sand beaches and tropical islands, Naples, Fort Myers, and other villages in the Gulf of Mexico offer a low cost of living compared with America’s major cities – it’s a fair trade, if you ask me!

    Lucky for you, finding rentals during winter is easy-peasy lemon-squeezy. There are countless holiday homes, apartments, and houses available for long-term rentals, ranging from budget properties to lavish mansions. 

    Texas

    Sixth Street Downtown Austin

    If you’re looking to fly the coop for a much-needed dose of warm weather during the depths of winter, Texas is a solid option in the USA. Here, snowbirds go by the name ‘winter Texans.’

    Just like pop culture lets on, The Lone Star State is one of the most welcoming in the country. After just a few weeks in this top place for snowbirds, I felt like a local, at home right away. Other than Texan spirit and Southern hospitality, the state is packed with things to do for every type of personality.

    Want some of the best hikes in the USA? Head straight for Big Bend.

    Want to soak up the sunshine? The Gulf Coast will keep your chin up.

    Love music and nightlife? Austin’s Sixth Street has your back.

    Hold up, let’s go back to the Gulf Coast of Texas, which is one of the most popular destinations for snowbirds and also my favorite place on the list. Combine long beaches with golf courses and affordable day-to-day living costs, and we have ourselves a winner. 

    Texan winters are fairly mild. Of course, being such a massive state, weather differs drastically from region to region.

    The southern tip of the state, known as the Rio Grande Valley, averages between the 60s and 70s in mid-winter, while northern regions can get to 35 degrees. Basically, you’re going to want to stay below the line of Austin for the warmest weather.

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    Portugal

    Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal
    Bloody romantic, Portugal.
    Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

    As the Euro-tourist crowds recede, make landfall in one of Southern Europe’s most exciting countries. If you’ve visited Portugal in the mid-summer season, you’ll hardly recognize it in the midst of winter. With minimal foreign crowds and traffic to navigate, the Portuguese homeland is one of the most culturally charming and historically interesting places to settle in winter. 

    Located in the Northern Hemisphere, Portugal experiences winter at the same time as North America. That said, winters here are very mild compared to. While the northern regions and highlands might get chilly, temperatures are moderate throughout winter in coastal cities like Lagos, Lisbon, and Porto.

    But the location most popular with snowbirds, people stay in the Algarve for all that sun. This golden coast, with miles of sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, and charming villages, is a dream come true for activity adventurers of both land and sea. 

    It’s equally as great for hiking, cycling, and playing golf as it is for surfing, snorkeling, and yachting. Talk about an all-rounder on the list of best places for snowbirds.

    Portugal offers that winning combination of nature, culture, and history. One of the oldest Empires in the modern world, the country is packed with ancient ruins, impressive castles and churches, and interesting museums.

    It’s also the homeland of the Portuguese population, showing off all its cultural colors in the various festivals, events, and celebrations held throughout the winter season. 

    If you’re reading this blog, chances are you love to travel. Well, if you’re looking for a good jumping-off point to explore Europe, Portugal is the place to be. Offering a safe space of warm weather and local charm, it is just as easy to pop over to the Alps as it is to spend a day roaming around Paris.

    Spain

    Woman giving the thumbs up in a hammock on a balcony with a mountain view with a deep blue sky.
    ‘avin a great time.
    Photo: @Lauramcblonde

    When that winter chill hits up north, sun-seeking snowbirds love to head south to the Mediterranean. True, the northern hemisphere experiences its winter season at the same time, but winters here are incomparable to other parts of Europe.

    If you’re after the warmest weather, you’ll want to stay south. From the mild winters of inland Spain to the temperate climate along the coastline and islands, you can choose to spend your time on pristine beaches or in the rolling countryside. For a more low-key snowbird experience, destinations like Marbella, Malaga, Valencia, Tenerife, and La Palma are bound to leave you wanting more.

    Spain is an incredible option for snowbirds after a touch of European elegance and beautiful landscapes. With its diverse regions, historic charm, and temperate winter climate, Spain offers the perfect blend of nature and culture.

    Don’t underestimate this country. Spain’s cultural treasures are as diverse as its landscapes. You could admire the iconic Gaudi architecture of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, wander through the Moorish structures in Granada, and dine out on the lively streets of Madrid. 

    If culture is what you seek, Madrid or Barcelona are incredible cities that are bursting at the seams with options when it comes to accommodations. Think charming casas in Madrid and beachfront resorts in Barca. 

    Spain is typically safe for tourists, but like any destination unfamiliar to you, it’s important you take certain precautions. People drop their guard when they are in high spirits. 

    While not exactly the cheapest place for snowbirds – compared with visiting other places in Western Europe – Spain is relatively cheap. You’ll get serious bang for your buck here, with affordable accommodation and plenty of options for food and groceries that won’t break the bank.

    Thailand

    a girl in front of a temple in thailand
    Just taking a break from it all.
    Photo: @amandaadraper

    As the northern hemisphere succumbs to short days and chilly weather, snowbirds after a change of scenery should turn their heads east. Thailand might be one of the most popular Southeast Asian countries on the map, but it isn’t without good reason.

    This incredible country sits just north of the equator, meaning it experiences year-round sunshine with a dry and wet season instead of summer and winter. Island regions towards the south of Thailand are the hottest and most humid,

    Not a fan of humidity? Worry not: northern regions if you’re visiting around Chaing Mai have a more temperate climate. 

    Other than its year-round warm climate, Thailand is an absolute treat for the senses. From the fragrant cuisine to easy-on-the-eye temples to its colorful local culture and stunning beaches, there is always something to admire in Thailand.

    Southern Thailand is best for beach lovers and ocean fans. In places like Phuket, Pattaya, and Krabi, you can expect to spend your days lounging on beaches, sipping on coconuts, and exploring temples. Northern Thailand is better known for its majestic mountains and local cities. Here, hiking and trekking are part of the daily fun.

    Locals are so friendly here that Thailand has even been called the Land of Smiles for its hospitable nature. Friendly people, good food, and beautiful landscapes aside, Thailand is also cheap to travel. If you budget well, you could honestly save money renting out your apartment back home and living cheaply here – and this is exactly what so many travelers choose to do!

    South Africa

    Garden Route National Park

    When it comes to the best place for snowbirds, backpacking South Africa comes in high on the list. While tossed aside by many for safety reasons and sheer distance from home, this Southern Hemisphere country packs a punch for those willing to visit.

    Since South Africa’s summer falls at the same time as the northern hemisphere’s winter, snowbirds tend to visit in the middle of the busiest season. And let me tell you, it can get busy! 

    Locals from other cities like Johannesburg and Pretoria flock to the Western Cape and Eastern Cape for the beach scene, buzzing nightlife, and beautiful weather. Seal the deal with a safari adventure, and you’ll be planning your return before you even leave the country.

    While Cape Town is an absolute gem not to be missed, I highly recommend spending some time up the East and West Coast for a bit more solitude. The west coast of South Africa is pretty remote and untouched, with some beautiful places to stay. 

    On the other side of the country, South Africa’s East Coast, linking the Garden Route with the Wild Coast and Sunshine Coast, is much busier – but for good reason. Plettenberg Bay, Knysna, St Francis Bay, and Kenton are some of the most popular local holiday spots, really worth checking out as a snowbird.

    Not to mention, South Africa has to offer some of the best quality accommodation and food for a fraction of the price you might expect to pay elsewhere. I’m talking about eight-course tasting menus with wine pairings for under $100 per person. Pair that with sparkling sand beaches and majestic beaches – it doesn’t get better than this.

    New Zealand

    Mountains, lakes, mountains, lakes.
    Photo: @themanwiththetinyguitar

    From the North Island to the South Island and across hundreds of small islands, there are countless places for snowbirds to explore in New Zealand. Unlike many other islands of the South Pacific, these ones aren’t exactly tropical. That said, if you’re from the northern hemisphere, you can swap seasons with one cross-continental flight into this Southern Hemisphere gem.

    New Zealand’s North Island is home to Wellington and Aukland, two of the biggest cities in the country. Dunedin and Christchurch on the South Island are the two other popular metropoles. As far as “big cities” go, none of these matches the hustle and bustle of concrete jungles in the USA or Europe – and that’s why we love NZ.

    But scrap the city… You need to travel New Zealand!

    New Zealand is famous for its incredible mountain landscapes, iconic volcanos, vast beaches, and Maori culture. Add that all together and we have ourselves a natural wonderland. While you might plan to spend your time surfing, horse riding, hiking, and golfing, leave some time for museums and wine tasting. 

    Onto logistics, New Zealand also offers world-class healthcare and affordable housing, meaning you can have all the fun you want while living comfortably and staying healthy. It’s also considered one of the safest countries on the planet, with barely any crime to speak of and only a few dangerous animals to watch out for – it’s a win-win!

    Get Insured Before Traveling

    If you’re desperate for some sun, last thing you want is a spanner in the works. If you’re traveling internationally, get good travel insurance that covers all aspects of your trip.

    ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

    They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

    SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

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    Final Words on Finding your Snowbird Destination

    Packing up your summer clothing, switching short days for long ones, and heading south for the winter before returning back home before the sticky heat and monsoon season commences. Sounds ideal, right?

    Well, this is the life of a classic snowbird. However, these days, snowbird status isn’t purely reserved for old folk with pension money to spend. Backpacking trips and short vacations are included in the mix. Yes, that’s you, folks!

    Snowboarding trips and alpine hikes aside, there’s no denying this is the way to live your life. Hopefully, you’ve got your eye on a couple of these best places for snowbirds. Whether to settle for a few months or just for a quick getaway, the warm weather will cheer you up and leave you energized to take on the rest of winter!

    Two pairs of legs crossed over relaxing on a blanket watching the sunset at the beach
    Finally, bitta that.
    Photo: @Lauramcblonde

    And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!