15 U.S. Islands to Visit Without a Passport
Itching for a tropical vacation, but don't want to deal with getting a passport, the currency exchange, and any language barriers? Lucky for you, there are plenty of islands that are part of the United States—so no passport (or hassle) required!
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Located around 20 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard is a favorite destination of celebrities like President Obama, Bill Gates, and Oprah. Martha's Vineyard contains six separate towns and is a little more laid back than its nearby partner in the world of U.S. islands, Nantucket. You can gaze at the stunning Aquinnah Cliffs, stroll through the adorable pastel Gingerbread Houses in Oak Bluffs, and shop at the original Black Dog store, which is attached to a tavern with scrumptious food options.
Key West, Florida
A popular destination for cruise ships, Key West is a great spot for travelers who want an island getaway without leaving national borders. You can visit the southernmost point in the continental United States, where you'll be approximately 100 miles from the coast of Cuba; snack on chocolate-covered slices of Key lime pie in its namesake; or learn about the region's literary history—while petting cute cats—at Ernest Hemingway's Key West home and museum. Learn about some practically secret island escapes all around the world.
Ocracoke, North Carolina
North Carolina's Outer Banks, somewhat hidden gems among U.S. islands, have a devoted following of vacationers who return year after year. Though technically the entire Outer Banks consists of U.S. islands, Ocracoke is an island among islands. You can traverse most of the Outer Banks by car, but you'll need to catch a ferry to get to Ocracoke. The most popular is the Ocracoke Express, which takes a mere 70 minutes. And once you arrive, you'll find lots of peaceful beaches, bike trails, and delicious seafood eateries and homemade ice cream.
Shelter Island, New York
Shelter Island is a great getaway for the summer and autumn when the temperatures are warmer and all the seasonal businesses are open. Book a beachfront vacation rental for a romantic weekend, and have a candlelight Italian dinner at the set-menu 18 Bay restaurant. Families with children can visit the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm to learn about farm life and where food comes from. For some afternoon libations, visit the Shelter Island Craft Brewery to sample some locally made brews.
All of the Hawaiian Islands (which are U.S. islands, of course!) make for wonderful island vacations—this is a known fact. But Lanai has some unique attractions that are beacons to adventurous travelers. You can visit the Garden of the Gods, a strange, Mars-like desert landscape stuck in the middle of tropical paradise, or take a trip to the Lanai Cat Sanctuary, which is exactly what it sounds like. There are also, of course, dozens of breathtaking beaches for sunbathing and swimming, and plenty of luxurious resorts to really get the paradise experience. Next, check out these free beach getaways across the country.