Every year, just before the first blizzard hits, Canadian snowbirds swap boots for sandals and head south. If you’re lucky enough to join the flock, here are three popular winter havens to consider—a desert retreat in the U.S., a sunny Central American getaway and an island escape in the Caribbean.
The Grand Canyon State is a snowbird favourite, offering endless sunshine and clear azure skies, perfect for plenty of outdoor activities. Its proximity to Canada (especially for those of us out west) also makes Arizona an enticing destination.
– Options for long-term accommodations vary from luxury gated communities to RV and mobile-home parks.
– Cities on the favoured list of snowbirds include Phoenix, Tucson, Mesa and Chandler.
– Snowbirds also settle in Yuma and Sun City, which has eight golf courses and is among Arizona’s largest active adult communities.
– Visit Phoenix, the state’s vibrant capital, for its lively and walkable Roosevelt Row arts district and exemplary shopping.
– Tour Old Town Scottsdale, the historic heart of the city. Browse Western-themed stores, high-end boutiques and art galleries.
– Find serenity in Sedona, in Arizona’s high desert, with its stunning red rock formations and numerous nature trails. Take in the swirling spiritual energy of the area’s famous vortexes.
– Arizona has 29 state parks, three national parks and six national forests. Hike, bike or paddle across lakes. Or opt to cross the desert in a hot-air balloon. The state shares borders with New Mexico, California, Utah and Nevada, which means many more adventures are just a road trip away.
Canadians can stay in the U.S. for six months without a visa. However, the Internal Revenue Service can determine your tax liability via the substantial presence test (SPT), which calculates how much time you’ve spent in the country over the previous three years.
This S-shaped land bridge linking North and South America is renowned for its natural beauty—pristine beaches, tropical islands, rainforests and majestic mountains. Panama’s low cost of living also attracts snowbirds looking to save on accommodations, dining options and transportation.
– Choose from a wide range of accommodations, from condominiums in the city and small beachfront homes to island resorts and mountain lodges.
– Plan an indulgent weekend in Panama City, at Hotel La Compañía, founded by Canadian developer Chris Lenz. Spanning almost a whole city block, this hotel is comprised of multiple buildings from different time periods, the oldest being the colonial wing, which dates back to 1688.
– Coronado is a popular beach town, about an hour’s drive from Panama City, with plenty of shopping and dining choices, as well as access to medical services.
– For a tropical getaway, head to Bocas del Toro, an archipelago in the Caribbean Sea, world-famous for its biodiversity.
– Boquete, a small town in the Chiriquí Highlands, is known for its cool climate, coffee plantations and dramatic mountain scenery.
– In Panama City, check out the shopping, restaurants, golf and, of course, the engineering marvel that is the Panama Canal.
– Tour the historic UNESCO-listed Casco Viejo and immerse yourself in its rich and diverse cultural heritage, including Indigenous roots and Spanish colonial influences.
– Go on a day trip to the mountain resort town of El Valle de Anton, 120 kilometres southwest of Panama City and located in the crater of an extinct volcano. Visit the crafts-andfood market and the butterfly haven, as well as the magnificent Chorro El Macho waterfall.
Canadians can stay in Panama for up to 180 days without a visa. For longer stays, Panama provides a very attractive incentive for relocating retirees, even if they only live there part-time. The Pensionado (Spanish for “pensioner”) program offers discounts of 25 percent off airfare to anywhere in the world, 50 percent off ticket prices to movies and sporting events, 20 percent off medical prescription costs and much more. To qualify, your monthly pension income must be equivalent to US$1,000 or more.
If you like a little spice to go with the sun for your winter getaway, look to St. Lucia—and not just for the marvellous Creole cuisine. This jewel of a Caribbean island offers myriad experiences both rugged and refined—relaxing sandy beaches, exhilarating epic hikes, topnotch fine dining and a whole lot more. And since English is the offcial language, navigating your adventures is a breeze.
– From short-term home rentals to longer stays at sprawling resorts, St. Lucia has accommodations to suit every personal preference and budget.
– Canadian-owned Windjammer Landing has rooms, suites and villas fronting 64,000 square feet of beach, along with water sports amenities and five restaurants.
– Tip: If you have mobility issues, ask how accessible your space is. Many accommodations at Windjammer Landing involve a steep hike from the shore, though shuttles are available.
– Upon arrival, start your explorations via the FunToSee Island boat transfer. Take in the lush topography while enjoying music and beverages on deck, plus opportunities to spot dolphins and flying fish—all these before check-in.
– Another option for water adventure is a tour with St. Lucia Bamboo Rafting. Ease along the calm Roseau River flanked by mangroves. Arrive at a white sand beach and cool off in crystal-clear waters before tucking into a delicious lunch prepared by a private chef.
– Board Knotty Girl for a speedboat ride to the famous Piton Mountains—a UNESCO World Heritage site—perhaps stopping for some stellar snorkelling along the way.
– No St. Lucia experience is complete without visiting the Soufrière Sulphur Springs, which features the world’s only drive-in volcano, replete with rejuvenating hot springs and mud baths. Follow up with a refreshing rinse at nearby Toraille Waterfall.
– In town for the first half of May? Don’t miss the St. Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival, which features classic jazz, world beats and dancing galore, plus the popular geared-to-all-ages outdoor celebration on Pigeon Island.
Canadians can remain in St. Lucia for a maximum of six weeks without a visa. Travellers must show a return ticket and a passport valid for at least three months past their departure from the island. St. Lucia requires visitors to complete an online immigration form no more than three days before arrival.
BEFORE YOU GO
Be sure to purchase insurance coverage prior to departing. Travel medical insurance from AMA Travel covers you wherever you go so you can travel worry-free. Ask about our deductible options and preexisting condition stability rider. Then, pack your swimsuit and don’t look back until spring.
READY TO HEAD SOUTH?
Trust an AMA Travel counsellor to help find the snowbird destination of your dreams—and arrange everything from flights to accommodations to travel insurance. Visit amatravel.ca to learn more.