When winter chills arrive, so do thoughts of warmer climates. Fortunately, there are many warm winter vacation destinations that are senior-friendly, not only because they are affordable and easy to get to, but also because they offer a variety of attractions, outdoor activities and opportunities for relaxation. Here are a few of our favorites.
Palm Springs, California
Once the top winter weekend getaway spot for Hollywood stars, Palm Springs still retains a glamorous air. Whether you enjoy playing golf, relaxing by the pool, shopping or hiking, Palm Springs is a relaxing, senior-friendly vacation destination. Winters in Palm Springs are warm and dry, with average January daytime temperatures of 71 degrees. You can stay at an upscale resort or historic inn, find a moderately-priced hotel room, relax at a B&B or rent a vacation condominium.
If you stay on or near Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs' iconic main street, you can easily sight-see, dine and shop without a car. To explore Palm Canyon, ride the historic Palm Springs Aerial Tramway or get to Palm Desert or another Coachella Valley community, you'll want your own vehicle.
While Pensacola's winter temperatures are a bit cooler than Palm Springs', this Florida panhandle beach community has plenty to offer. Outdoor enthusiasts can golf, fish, kayak, zip line and stroll miles of beach. Pensacola's cultural scene includes dance performances, musical theatre and concerts at the Saenger Theatre and the Pensacola Little Theatre's many productions at the Pensacola Cultural Center. History buffs will enjoy the National Naval Aviation Museum, Veterans Memorial Park and Pensacola's historic buildings.
Consider taking a walking tour of Historic Pensacola Village, starting at the Tivoli High House on Zaragoza Street. Stay at a hotel, B&B or beachfront vacation condo, or bring your RV and relax at one of Pensacola's RV parks. Wherever you stay, you'll probably need a car to get around.
Each of the Hawaiian Islands has its own distinct character. Maui, Hawaii's second largest island, is a perfect warm weather destination for nature lovers and for travelers who simply want to relax on a beach or balcony. If you enjoy hiking and discovering fascinating plants and animals, plan a daytrip to Haleakalā National Park. Haleakalā itself is a dormant volcano. Rent a car and drive to the Summit Area to explore the crater, watch a stunning sunrise or sunset and look for native plants and animals. Stay after dark for a stargazing experience you won't forget.
If time permits, head to the park's Kīpahulu District via the famously winding Hāna Highway to see waterfalls, seashore vistas and the bamboo forest. Stop by the Whaler's Village Museum in Lāhainā to learn about the island's history, then head to a nearby beach for a snorkeling or windsurfing session. Consider renting a condominium with an ocean view, particularly if you'd like to save a little money on your meals by doing some of your own cooking.
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Mexico's Riviera Maya stretches south from Puerto Morelos and Playa del Carmen to Tulum and spreads inland to Coba. This strip of coastline, surely one of the most beautiful in the world, is home to several archaeological treasures from the Maya civilization, including the beachfront Tulum Archaeological Zone. You'll find more Mayan ruins in Muyil, near the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve's lagoon and canals, and in Coba. The Riviera Maya's cenotes, or underwater sinkholes, attract divers from around the world. (Tip: Always take a buddy when you swim in a cenote; it's possible to get lost in this network of underwater caverns.)
You can rent bicycles and snorkeling equipment if you'd like to explore the beaches, or head to an ecopark to enjoy snorkeling, cycling, animal exhibits and cultural demonstrations. Golfers and shoppers will be right at home on the Riviera Maya, too. You can stay in a boutique hotel, all-inclusive resort, spa hotel or even a beachfront bungalow.
For tropical temperatures, biodiversity, beaches and outdoor adventures, consider taking your winter vacation in Costa Rica. This Central American country has set aside almost 25 percent of its land as protected areas and national parks, giving residents and visitors a unique opportunity to explore volcanoes, rainforests, rivers, beaches and canals. As you discover the rainforests of Manuel Antonio National Park, the rivers of Tortuguero National Park or the Arenal Volcano, stop to view and photograph Costa Rica's tropical birds, sea turtles, monkeys, sloths, big cats and marine life.
Whether you enjoy hiking, rafting, riverboat touring, horseback riding, sailing or zip lining, you'll find plenty to do in Costa Rica. Of course, you can also relax on the beach or stroll through San José, Alajuela and other Costa Rican cities. For a truly Costa Rican experience, take a local coffee tour or chocolate tour. Lodging options include resorts, small hotels, bungalows, B&Bs and eco lodges.