Selecting the best retirement destination can be challenging. Here are some of the top options where cost of living, active lifestyle, and having access to quality healthcare are key.

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Deciding where to spend retirement is a complex question—one based on many variables, not the least of which is the cost of living. Additional factors most of us weigh when contemplating our golden years include recreational opportunities and the quality of the local healthcare offerings. 

Juggling each of these requirements in order to identify a suitable location can be challenging at best—especially if you're also hoping to remain close to extended family (because it's no secret that being able to spend time with children and grandchildren can also be a big priority for many retirees).

Plenty of data crunchers have examined at least a few of these questions to help you sort through the decision-making process. WalletHub, for instance, issues an annual report ranking the best places in the United States to retire, which takes into consideration affordability. The website also publishes, separately, an annual look at the top cities in the United States for an active, recreation-filled lifestyle.

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U.S. News and World Report, meanwhile, has its own ranking of top retirement destinations, and a separate annual list of states that best meet citizens' health care needs, a study that considers three factors: healthcare access, healthcare quality, and public health.

Is your head spinning yet? Because sorting through all of these lists, reports, and rankings can certainly be dizzying. To help weed through it all, here's a closer look at five of the destinations that received admirable marks across nearly all of the studies.

Orlando, Florida


The Sunshine State continues to dominate all other options when it comes to providing much of what retirees are looking for—affordability, recreation, and adequate healthcare. Though there are varying opinions when it comes to exactly which Florida city to settle in.

In the various WalletHub studies, Orlando consistently lands at number one. It's the top choice in the country as an overall retirement option, and as a city with a plethora of recreational and entertainment opportunities to keep you busy. 

The U.S. News and World Report study of best retirement destinations in the country awards eight of its top 10 spots to Florida cities (though, puzzlingly, Orlando is nowhere to be found). According to U.S. News and World Report, which bases its retirement ranking on affordability, health care, and overall happiness, you'll want to set your sights on Sarasota, Naples, Daytona Beach, Melbourne, Tampa, Fort Myers, Port St. Lucie, and Pensacola.

When it comes to healthcare offerings and quality, the state of Florida comes in at 25 out of the 50 U.S. states, putting it squarely in the middle of the pack.

Atlanta, Georgia


Watch out, Florida: The Peach State is coming for you. Georgia took the top spot on a Bankrate 2021 study of best places to retire, unseating past winners such as Florida and Tennessee. But it's Atlanta in particular, the state's capital, that you may want to seriously consider. The city is number 10 on WalletHub's list of best places to retire and fared even better on best cities for recreation—landing at number seven. (If the grandkids are coming to visit, you'll have plenty of places to get out and explore with them, including the Georgia Aquarium, Piedmont Park, and Fernbank Forest.)

The cost of living here is particularly favorable for those on a fixed income. The Bankrate study, for instance, says Georgia ranks very high on its affordability index. This is due to a low cost of living and a light tax burden. The state is also known for its affordable home prices. The weather is another notable bonus in Georgia, with an average annual temperature of 64 degrees.

On the downside, the state doesn't fare all that well for health care. On the U.S. News and World report ranking, it lands at 43 out of 50.

Scottsdale, Arizona


Another warm-weather option, Scottsdale lands at number three on the WalletHub list of best retirement choices (its affordability ranking on the retirement list is 20 out of 182 cities studied) Scottsdale is also among WalletHub's top 15 best cities in the nation for recreation. The state of Arizona, meanwhile, does well on U.S. News and World Report's healthcare study, coming in among the top 25 overall and number four specifically for health care quality, which tracks preventable hospital admissions, Medicare plan ratings, and the quality of nursing homes and hospitals.

Another factor contributing to Scottsdale's high marks as a happy place for retirees (though it may not necessarily be a qualification you've considered) is the fact that a significant portion of the city's population is 65 or over.

Denver, Colorado


After Florida, Georgia, and Arizona, you have to take a slightly deeper dive down the various rankings to find options that score respectably across multiple studies and rankings. The Mile High City lands at number six on WalletHub's choices of top retirement destinations based on affordability, quality of life, and more. And with its proximity to the Rocky Mountains, and all sorts of skiing, hiking, and biking, it should also be no surprise Denver is a top-ranked recreation city (number 14 on the WalletHub list).

Finally, healthcare: Colorado is 10 on the U.S. News and World Report index, which is a pretty stellar score. (In the sub-category of just health care quality, Colorado scores even better—fifth in the nation.)

Cincinnati, Ohio


If you don't mind the cold, Cincinnati may be worth putting on your retirement radar. Landing right behind Denver on WalletHub's choices of top retirement destination options (number seven), the city also scores very respectably for recreation—number four out of 100 cities. 

Cincinnati is consistently lauded as an affordable place to live and has a cost of living index well below the national average. As for recreation, Cincinnati is known for its Riverwalk, well-developed parks system, biking trails (such as the Loveland trail), and hiking opportunities at the Mitchell Memorial Forest. 

When it comes to health care offerings and quality, Ohio is ranked 19 out of 50 for health care access by U.S. News and World Report.