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The 5 Best Islands in America to Visit Now

Now that summer has officially begun and Americans are ready to hit the road again, you might be looking for a tropical destination. Though international waters may be calling to you, it’s safe to say there are still plenty of folks who aren’t ready to take off for travel abroad. Instead, The Manual has rounded up some of the best islands in the U.S. to visit this summer. From posh villages to remote islands with tons of outdoor adventure activities, these islands are well within reach without having to pull out your passport.

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Santa Catalina, California

pebble beach in California

If you skip across Los Angeles and head straight off of the coast, you’ll find a stunning island that’s a lovely place to spend time. Santa Catalina offers everything you might want from a laid-back island. There are beaches for relaxing and catching some rays, shops to explore and even a number of outdoor adventure activities. From parasailing to kayaking to the island, there are plenty of ways to have fun around the island. You can even book a whale watching tour or explore sea caves for other forms of sea life. It’s easily an unforgettable way to escape the city.

Cumberland Island, Georgia

sunrise behind sea oats

Cumberland Island is just off the coast of Georgia with a ferry that launches from St. Mary. The island is a nature preserve as well as a place of historical significance. No cars are allowed on the islands with very few exceptions, but there are wide sweeping sand beaches with plenty of room to relax and enjoy the sun. You can explore the ruins of Dungeness which was a mansion built by James Oglethorpe that wild horses now roam through. Plum Orchard, the Carnegies’ former home, is also open for tours. Ride a bike around the island to explore and overnight at the Greyfield Inn for a touch of Southern charm.

San Juan Island, Washington

San Juan Island sunrise

San Juan Island is easily within reach by car ferry from Seattle, and it’s well worth the ride. The island, as well as Orcas Island, which is more rural but still has adorable towns, offers stunning landscapes and a reprieve from the city. In the waters around the islands, orca whales live year-round and can be spotted from the ferries or islands. Once you’re on the island, you can enjoy a bistro lunch and shop around before taking a kayaking or biking tour of the island. Fishing charters are also possible. But to make the most of what’s on the island, spend a full weekend there.

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

Martha's Vineyard

A classic, Martha’s Vineyard , Massachusetts continues to be one of the best islands you can visit in the United States. Apart from its breathtaking scenery, New England style, and white sand beaches, the island continues to be a favorite among many for its shops and eateries. Those who want to relax in style and eat well will find this luxurious spot to have everything they could need. So take time to slow down, take the bike to town and spend an afternoon shopping around before enjoying a leisurely dinner at one of the many great restaurants.

Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai, Hawaii

Naturally, the islands of Hawaii are undoubtedly among the first islands many Americans likely think of visiting without going abroad — even if the flight is still substantial. For a refreshing island with plenty of beautiful landscapes, try visiting Kauai . This island covered in tropical rainforests is home to many amazing views of the lush greenery, waterfalls, and the ocean below. The island boasts tons of vibrant flowers and plenty of wildlife, so it’s a perfect place to disconnect from the world and tune into your surroundings. Not to mention, Waimea Canyon is here and should be on your Hawaii bucket list.

So no matter what corner of the country is most convenient to you, there’s definitely a wonderful island retreat within reach. Just pack your bags and don’t worry about the passport. Enjoying a tropical or oceanside escape is so much closer than you might have realized.

Editors' Recommendations

Molly Harris
Molly Harris is a freelance journalist, cyclist and outdoor enthusiast. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Lonely…
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