Forget the Passport: 7 Best U.S. Islands to Visit

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Want to experience an island getaway, but don’t feel like renewing your passport? There are plenty of amazing island vacation destinations located within American borders. From tropical to temperate, the U.S. has a destination for everyone who enjoys being beachside — and we’re not just talking Hawaii.

Read on to learn more about 7 island getaways that will give you the relaxing vacation you deserve. Get out there and enjoy the sand, surf, sport, and more that all these hotspots have to offer!

1. Anna Maria Island, Florida

Anna Maria island is a laid-back Florida treasure — a subdued alternative to its Key West counterparts. While visiting, be sure to lounge and take a refreshing swim at renowned Bean Point Beach. TripAdvisor also recommends that visitors try their hands at relaxing activities like golfing and fishing during their stay. For those who’d prefer to remain indoors (that is, in the air conditioning), check out the Anna Maria Island Historical Museum for details on the remote island’s rich history.

Source: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

2. Hilton Head, South Carolina

At just 12 miles long and 5 miles wide, Hilton Head may be small, but with its abundance of shopping, sports, restaurants, trails, and pristine beaches, this South Carolina island truly has something for everyone. Hilton Head is especially famous for its golf courses, writes USA Today, but that is hardly all it has to offer. Try a peaceful, natural retreat by hiking or biking on the island trails, play a game of tennis, or experience the natural fauna of the island through an afternoon of birdwatching. Of course, you’re on an island for a reason — so hit one of the many strings of clean, white beaches to get your fill of sun and surf. 

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

3. Nantucket, Massachusetts

Experience the old-world charm of New England through one of its most famous islands, situated 30 miles south of Cape Cod. Condé Nast remarks upon the island’s history of seafarers, a rich and folksy background highlighted by cobblestone roads and quaint seaside gardens. The island measures at just 50 square miles, according to TripAdvisor, so visitors are rarely in need of a car — instead opting to shuttle, walk, or bike around the island scenery. Enjoy beachfront vistas, sand dunes, charming lighthouses, and historic mansions during your stay — and don’t forget to try a bowl of authentic New England clam chowder!

Source: Miguel Pereira/Cover/Getty Images

Miguel Pereira/Cover/Getty Images

4. Kauai, Hawaii

The different islands that compose Hawaii each lend themselves to different personality types. While you won’t regret any decision you end up making (come on, it’s Hawaii), Kauai, the northernmost island, is a winner on all fronts. According to Condé Nast, this island is considered more laid-back than the others, offering visitors a very inclusive, comfortable environment. If relaxation isn’t your cup of tea, Go Hawaii suggests a hike through some of the most dramatic sights Hawaii has to offer, such as Waimea Canyon, “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” You can also see the island by boat — or by open-door helicopter ride if you dare!

Source: Al Bello/Getty Image

Source: Al Bello/Getty Image

5. Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated U.S. territory, meaning that you don’t need a passport to jump on a flight down to the Gateway to the Caribbean. While you’re here, see the lush rainforests, enjoy the white, tropical beaches with sapphire-blue waters, and immerse yourself in the island’s dramatic and vivacious culture. While you’re down here, be sure to see capital city San Juan, notes Trip Advisor. The city’s vibrant neighborhoods and rich history make for an unforgettable and enchanting cultural experience. Of course, be sure to reward yourself with a tour of the Bacardi Rum plant!

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

6. San Juan Island, Washington

It’s no tropical vacation, but temperate wildlife lovers enjoy the occasional seaside jaunt themselves! Washington state is home to some of the lushest forestry in the U.S., and San Juan Island is one of the most beautiful and remote places to enjoy it. Whale watching at Lime Kiln Point State Park, swimming, and kayaking are just a few of the activities visitors can expect to enjoy along San Juan Island’s shores. During your stay, be sure to take a stroll through Friday Harbor, a walkable area featuring museums, marinas, breathtaking vistas, and sites of historical importance. As a bonus, pick up some sweet, fragrant lavender at the nearby Pelindaba Lavender Farm.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

7. St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

While it’s hard to go wrong with any of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. John, the third largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is significantly less crowded and commercialized than nearby St. Thomas. This affords St. John a slightly more intimate feel, while also allowing visitors to marvel at the surrounding natural landscapes. According to BootsnAll, over 11,500 acres (about two-thirds) of St. John are designated as a U.S. National Park. Visit St. John to explore remote white beaches, scenic roadways, an abundance of walking trails through abandoned plantations and forestry, and underwater coral gardens offshore.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated that St. John was the second largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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