10 U.S. Islands to Add to Your Bucket List—No Passport Required
ESCAPE TO A BEAUTIFUL ISLAND PARADISE WITHOUT PASSING THROUGH CUSTOMS.
You don't need a passport to plan the vacation of a lifetime. You might not even need to board a plane. There's no easier place to travel post-covid than within the U.S., and luckily, those boundaries stretch pretty far.
From Caribbean islands to retreats in the Great Lakes, these destinations are as beautiful and diverse as they are convenient to visit. It's time to pack your suitcase, you're going to want to add these 10 U.S. islands to your bucket list. And next, don't miss The 10 Best U.S. Cities Every Traveler Should See.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico has everything you could want in a tropical paradise: tall palm trees, turquoise waters, and ancient mountains covered with canopies of lush vegetation. It's the perfect place to sit on some of the best beaches in the U.S. and soak in the sun with a pina colada in your hand.
If you drive just 1.5 hours from the city, you'll find Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Park featuring stone monoliths, petroglyphs, and artifacts from the 14th and 15th centuries. Equally fascinating is Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a Spanish fort that took a staggering 250 years to build and completed in 1790.
Stay right on the water at the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino in the Condado area, famous for its vibrant dining, shopping, and nightlife scene.
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Daufuskie Island, South Carolina
Daufuskie Island is less than an hour's ferry ride from the South Carolina mainland, but it couldn't feel further away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Sandy beaches stretch as far as the eye can see, while dolphins splash in the water and alligators raise their heads from deep green lagoons. The island is rich in history with well-preserved tabby ruins, a small Gullah museum, and historic lighthouses. There are few cars on the island—most people get around by golf cart, which are legal to drive on the public roads.
Live music at the open-air bar at Daufuskie Island Crab Company, sipping rum at Daufuskie Island Rum Company, horseback riding, and golf are among the most popular pursuits.
There are no hotels on Daufuskie Island, so the best way to experience this magical place is to book a Haig Point Discovery Package, which includes accommodations in a historic mansion or lighthouse, a golf cart, and ferry transportation to and from the island, plus activities tailored to your interests.
San Juan Island, Washington
Located between Washington State and Canada in the sparkling waters of the Puget Sound, San Juan Island is drenched in natural beauty. Seals sun themselves on the beach, pods of whales swim offshore, and bald eagles circle overhead. The ferry dock is in the heart of Friday Harbor, a charming small town filled with boutiques, galleries, and incredible restaurants. At the other end of the island, a small airport accommodates visitors who arrive by seaplane. It's the perfect place to spend your days hiking, kayaking, or reading a book on a bench by the water.
Lakedale offers some of the most flexible and unique accommodations on San Juan Island with a traditional lodge, luxury yurts with private hot tubs, and glamping options in luxury canvas tents.
St Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
You don't need a passport for an amazing island vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A perfect day in St. Croix, the largest island in the territory, includes a walk on white sugar beaches, underwater diving at the Buck Island Reef National Monument, and exploring colonial-era churches before taking in the sunset in one of the area's many romantic restaurants. Come hungry, because this area is famous for fresh seafood.
Immerse yourself in local culture with a stay at The Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort, a modern luxury hotel that traces its roots all the way back to 1653.
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Mackinac Island, Michigan
When you step onto Mackinac Island, you'll be forgiven for wondering if you somehow managed to stumble back in time. Located in Lake Huron in Northern Michigan, there are no cars on the island.
Both locals and visitors get around by foot, bicycle, or horse and carriage. The architecture on the island spans three centuries and includes Victorian, Colonial, and early Indigenous structures. Whether you spend your day hiking, kayaking, or at one of the island's fudge shops on the island's historic Main Street, it's one of the most unique vacation destinations in the country.
For lodging, the beautiful Mission Point Resort is a short walk from the ferry dock and can't-miss attractions like the Monarch Butterfly House and Arch Rock.
Coronado Island, California
Beautiful Coronado Island is a short distance from San Diego and extremely easy to reach by bridge, ferry, or water taxi. The beaches are soft and white with stunning views of the San Diego skyline. The island is known for historic buildings, charming shops, and walking and biking paths along the water. Coronado Island is famous for its dog-friendly attitude, so feel free to bring your furry best friend along for the trip.
The Hotel del Coronado was made famous in the movie Some Like it Hot, with Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon, and it remains one of the most luxurious and sought-after places to stay on Coronado Island today.
Washington Island, Wisconsin
In Door County, Wisconsin, Lake Michigan stretches so far it seems to melt into the sun. It's easy to see why this Great Lakes region is often referred to as the "Cape Cod of the Midwest." While visiting, hop a ferry to Washington Island. This enchanting hideaway is a must to explore the beaches, dine on fresh seafood, and wander through orchards and fragrant lavender farms. The island only has 600 residents and downtown is a quaint collection of shops and galleries.
For a truly unforgettable stay, Dejardin's Island Cottages offer full kitchens, washers and dryers, and everything you need to live like a local within a few minute's walk of the shops, restaurants, and bars downtown.
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Bald Head Island, North Carolina
It only takes twenty minutes to reach Bald Head Island by ferry. Cars aren't allowed on the island, so islanders get around via bicycle, golf cart, or tram. Once you arrive, be sure to explore the views from Old Baldy, North Carolina's longest-standing lighthouse. The island is home to a spectacular golf course, unique shops, and amazing restaurants. Ten thousand of Bald Island's 12,000 acres are undeveloped, making it an irresistible retreat for nature-lovers.
The Inn at Bald Head Island is the perfect place for a beach getaway, offering daily breakfast, afternoon hor d'oeuvres, and upscale accommodations in the heart of Bald Island Village.
Amelia Island, Florida
Amelia Island's 13 miles of pristine beaches offer sand so pillow-soft you'd swear you were walking on air. The Amelia Island Historic District makes a case for one of the most beautiful small towns in the state, with colorful Victorian architecture and historic homes, many of which have been converted into Bed and Breakfast establishments. Amelia Island State Park offers more than 200 acres of coastal forests, salt marshes, and long stretches of sand for scrolling and beachcombing.
Some of the best views and restaurants can be found at the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island, which employs an on-staff naturalist who has created programs for guests interested in adventures like shark tooth hunting, kayaking, or birding.
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Hawaii is equally famous as a romantic getaway and a great place to visit with kids. Waimea is a quiet area of the island filled with undulating green velvet hills and cattle ranches. Don't miss the farmer's markets or the chance to take a horseback or ATV tour of the local landscape. You won't have to choose between white or black sand beaches here—Waimea is a short distance from both. In winter, the area is famous for surfing, while in summer, snorkeling and swimming are more popular activities.
Waimea's Fairmont Orchid is one of the most beautiful and luxurious resorts in all of Hawaii with 32 waterfront acres, a private lagoon with breathtaking vistas of five mountains, and fragrant tropical gardens.
For more travel tips, check out The 9 Best Places in The U.S. to Travel This Spring.