You don’t need a passport to land the perfect beach destination. There are hundreds of US islands to visit that offer a perfect ocean-side retreat. Using a criterion of attractive beaches, good selection of restaurants and active pursuits, these are some of the best.
Block Island, RI
Floating 12 miles from the coast of Rhode Island and frequented by the notorious Captain Kidd, Block Island presents 17 miles of pristine beaches and bluffs. Picturesque Victorian and colonial homes and businesses line the main drag. The island offers trails for hiking, biking, mopeds, or horse riding, and half the island is preserved open space. Ballards, with its own one mile of beach, is a great place for seafood.
Tiny, rustic Culebra could be the Caribbean’s best-kept secret. As part of the island municipality of Puerto Rico which is an unincorporated U.S. territory, U.S. citizens do not need a passport to visit. Culebra is the perfect getaway for those looking for a cozy, friendly, small island destination. The arid nature of the island means there is no run-off from rivers or streams, so beaches like stunning Flamenco Beach have some of the clearest waters for snorkeling. In the main town of Dewey, you can rent bicycles to tour the island or just kick back at Mamicitas for great food and live calypso music.
Hilton Head, SC
Best known as a golfer’s paradise, Hilton Head also offers other active pursuits including 100 miles of bike trails, tennis, and volleyball. The iconic Harbourtown Lighthouse is situated next to an area of boutique shops and restaurants. The island is filled with lush greenery and hosts nesting turtles on its golden beaches. If visitors are looking for a relaxing getaway, Hilton Head won’t disappoint.
Marked by a buoy claiming the “Southernmost Point in the Continental USA,” bohemian Key West was home to legendary greats Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. Strolling around the colorful world-famous Duval Street, lined with shops, restaurants, and bars is an event unto itself. Toasting the sunset at the Mallory Square pier is a festive, albeit crowded daily event with delicious seafood, free-flowing drinks and live music. Visitors who want to give jet skiing a try will find many opportunities on the waters of Key West.
The second largest of the Hawaiian islands, Maui has made many a list of paradise retreats, and for good reason. In addition to its 80 beaches, nature lovers will find hikes through waterfalls, bamboo forests and tropical gardens. Not to be missed is the Road to Hana, a winding highway featuring 68 miles of dramatic overlooks ending at the Seven Sacred Pools. In Lahaina, you’ll find the massive, 137-year-old Banyan tree, as well as lots of shopping and restaurants. And of course, a visit to Maui wouldn’t be complete without attending a luau for feasting and entertainment.
12 U S Islands to Visit first published by Summer Bucket List, March 2104
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