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7 gorgeous U.S. islands for your next beach vacation (no passport required)

Leave the passport at home

Maui HawaiiDo you want to escape to paradise without a passport? When it comes to beach vacations, the United States boasts an array of stunning islands that rival any international tropical destination. Whether you are looking for soft sands, crystal-clear waters, or vibrant marine and wildlife, these islands offer it all and more. Let’s dive into the top seven U.S. islands that promise sun-soaked adventures and ultimate relaxation. 

1. Nantucket, Massachusetts

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Situated about 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Nantucket, Massachusetts, is the embodiment of New England charm. This cozy beach town features cobblestone streets, historic cottages, and a laid-back coastal vibe. Additionally, Nantucket features some of the most pristine beaches on the East Coast, such as Madaket Beach and Ladies Beach. When you’re not lounging on the beach, you can stroll through the quaint town center, lined with boutiques, galleries, and restaurants featuring seafood delicacies such as the world-famous lobster roll. Outdoor enthusiasts can take part in activities like biking along the island’s scenic trails or embarking on a whale-watching excursion.

2. Maui, Hawaii

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You can’t feature a list of the best U.S. islands without mentioning the gorgeous state of Hawaii. Blessed with lush landscapes, golden beaches, and a vibrant culture, Maui offers visitors a slice of paradise unlike any other. Its diverse terrain ranges from the dramatic cliffs of the Hana Highway to the volcanic slopes of Haleakalā National Park, where travelers can witness beautiful sunsets above the clouds. Maui is also full of incredible beaches to explore. Big Beach, which is located inside Mākena State Park, offers crystal-clear water, silver sand, and views of black lava cliffs. The popular resort town of Lahaina is also peppered with popular beaches like Lahaina Beach and Kahekili Beach Park.

3. Culebra, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico
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Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a passport to go to Puerto Rico, as it is a U.S. territory. So, pack your bags and head to Culebra, which stands as one of the best U.S. islands for a relaxing beach vacation. Culebra boasts some of the clearest waters in the Caribbean, making it a hotspot for snorkelers and divers looking to explore the region’s colorful coral reefs. The horseshoe-shaped bay containing Flamenco Beach is known for its shallow waters, white sand, and calm atmosphere, while the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge is known for being the home of nesting sea turtles and diverse bird species. When visiting Culebra, make sure to check out the town of Dewey, which is known for its narrow streets, Spanish-style architecture, and delicious food and drink.

4. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Hilton Head
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Hilton Head Island in South Carolina is Southern charm at its finest. Known for its miles of immaculate beaches, Hilton Head offers something for every traveler. Golfers can tee off at world-class championship courses, nature lovers can explore the island’s lush forests, and knowledge-seekers can enjoy a visit to places like the Coastal Discovery Museum and the Harbour Town Lighthouse Museum. Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina is at the center of all of Hilton Head’s incredible activities. Here, you can enjoy shopping and dining opportunities, boat tours, and live music. 

5. Oahu, Hawaii

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Known as “The Gathering Place,” Oahu, Hawaii, is home to the state capital, Honolulu, as well as the iconic Waikiki Beach, which draws in thousands of visitors from around the world every year. This stunning beach is widely recognized for its incredible surfing opportunities, so don’t be surprised if you stumble across a surf competition when visiting the area! Oahu is also a great place to visit for history buffs, as the Pearl Harbor National Memorial is located on this island. Outdoor enthusiasts will also find no shortage of fun things to do, such as hiking to the summit of Diamond Head Crater, snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, or celebrating Hawaiian culture at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

6. Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island
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Mackinac Island, Michigan, is known for its historic landmarks, gorgeous scenery, and timeless charm. Accessible only by ferry, Mackinac Island transports visitors back in time with its horse-drawn carriages and charming Victorian architecture. Mackinac Island is completely car-free, aside from a few emergency vehicles, so visitors get from place to place via walking, biking, or carriage. When visiting Mackinac Island, you can indulge in the island’s world-famous fudge, head out on a sailing excursion through the crystal-clear waters, and tour the island’s renowned Grand Hotel. Because this island is so far north, it can become a frozen oasis during the winter months. Therefore, you’ll want to visit Mackinac Island in the warmer months to enjoy the seasonal attractions. 

7. Channel Islands, California

Channel Islands
thanasispp / Pixabay

If you are on the hunt for a West Coast island, then check out the Channel Islands of California. The Channel Islands are made up of five small islands just off the coast of Southern California. These islands are known for their untouched beauty and are some of the best islands for adventure-seekers. Travelers can explore sea caves, hike scene trails, and snorkel in clear blue waters. Santa Cruz Island, which is the largest island in the chain, has incredible sea cliffs and many opportunities for activities like kayaking and camping. During your time on the islands, make sure you check out the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center to learn about the indigenous Chumash people who once inhabited the area.

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