15 Places You Can Take an Island Vacation Without Leaving the U.S.

Colleen Stinchcombe
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15 Places You Can Take an Island Vacation Without Leaving the U.S.
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Photo: Christian Vierig/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images.

Beaches are beautiful, but there’s something about being surrounded on all sides by water that makes an island feel even more special than a typical beachfront. The only issue: Traveling to an island in the Caribbean, Baltic, or South Pacific can be so time-consuming and expensive that it’s easier to put off that idyllic island vacay than it is to make it work.

So why not go sans visa and travel to an island within the United States?

MORE: 9 Healthy Summer Wellness Retreats You Can Actually Afford

You might not have realized it (I know I didn’t), but there are actually more than 100 islands in the United States—meaning that Instagram-worthy trip you’ve been dreaming of might be more within reach than you thought.

Here, 15 U.S. islands you can travel to on your next domestic vacay. Whether you’re traveling off the coast of Georgia, taking a ferry ride outside of Washington, or taking that long-haul flight to the middle of the Pacific, you’re sure to end up somewhere beautiful.

Originally posted on SheKnows.

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STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Orcas Island, Washington
Orcas Island, Washington

The largest island in the San Juan Islands of Washington, Orcas Island has a charming small-town feel with several eateries and hotels to choose from in the main village of Eastsound. Go inland to hike Mount Constitution, excellent hiking with views of the Olympics and Mount Baker, or peruse the pristine beaches and keep an eye out for the local summer whales in the distance.

Photo: Stuart Seeger/Flickr.
STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Santa Catalina Island, California
Santa Catalina Island, California

At 22 miles long and 8 miles across, Santa Catalina isn’t a huge island, but it packs a beautiful punch. There’s only one city on Santa Catalina, Avalon, but it contains several hotels, shops and restaurants. Take a zip line eco tour or dolphin cruise or just take a relaxing scenic drive around the island.

Photo: Getty Images.
STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Channel Islands National Park, California
Channel Islands National Park, California

Technically, Santa Catalina Island is part of the Channel Islands, but here we’re talking about the Channel Islands National Park, which offers absolutely stunning views and pristine waters. Be ready to really get cozy with nature, though — the island doesn’t contain any lodging besides camping facilities, and you’ll need to bring in all your own food.

Photo: Kevin Fitz/Flickr.
STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Fire Island, New York
Fire Island, New York

Fire Island is a barrier island off the shore of Long Island, and the permanent population is just 292 — but of course, the summer brings in lots of visitors. There are no paved roads on the island, making it a quiet, beautiful area with several choices for hotels, motels or resorts to stay at. You can get around by walking, biking or taking a golf cart.

Photo: Getty Images.
STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Marco Island, Florida
Marco Island, Florida

A barrier island off the coast of Florida, it’s also the largest island in Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands area. Enjoy the white sand beaches, where you may spot leaping dolphins in the water. Fishing and golf are popular activities for vacationers, and there are dozens of luxury hotel options. Or go the rustic route and lay your head down at one of the campgrounds on the island.

Photo: Getty Images.
STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Mackinac Island, Michigan
Mackinac Island, Michigan

Not all islands are oceanic — Mackinac Island is located in Lake Huron. At 3.8 square miles, it’s a tiny place, but it’s full of things to do. Take a ferry over to the island and stay at one of the 1,500 resorts. Take a bike ride to view the incredible mixture of architecture, from Victorian style to Gothic Revival, Greek Revival and Richardson Romanesque to the oldest on the island, 19th-century Native American structures.

Photo: Getty Images.
STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Nantucket, Massachusetts
Nantucket, Massachusetts

Thirty miles south of Cape Cod by ferry, Nantucket is a National Historic Landmark District — oh, and island — in Massachusetts. If you’re fascinated by 18th- and 19th-century maritime New England towns, this is the island for you. Check out the island’s lighthouses, beautiful beaches and historic museums as well as it’s thriving theater and arts scene.

Photo: Getty Images.
STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Mount Desert Island, Maine
Mount Desert Island, Maine

At 108 square miles, Mount Desert Island is the sixth-largest island in the contiguous U.S., and Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the island, is the first place in the continental U.S. to see the sunrise every morning. Acadia National Park is a strong attraction for the island, but it’s also home to several small towns, like Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor and Bass Harbor.

Photo: Paul Geffen/Flickr.
STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Hilton Head, South Carolina
Hilton Head, South Carolina

As a barrier island 20 miles northeast of Savannah, Georgia, Hilton Head offers 12 miles of beaches, 33 golf resorts and more than 250 restaurants. If you’re looking for a luxury island getaway, this will do it for you. Be on the lookout for wildlife too — alligators, sea turtles, manatees, dolphins and hundreds of species of birds all call the island home.

Photo: Getty Images.
STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Jekyll Island, Georgia
Jekyll Island, Georgia

One of four islands of the Golden Isles of Georgia, Jekyll Island is part solid ground and part tidal marshland. A causeway allows cars to drive onto the island. Tour the maritime forest, kayak with dolphins and meander around Driftwood Beach, where numerous bleached and preserved trees create a surprising landscape.

Photo: Getty Images.
STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Padre Island, Texas
Padre Island, Texas

The largest of the Texas barrier islands at 113 miles long and 1.8 miles wide, Padre Island is also the second-largest island in the contiguous U.S. (after Long Island). Watch the sunset from Bob Hall Pier, revel in the Padre Island National Seashore or go bay or deep-sea fishing in the waters that surround the island.

Photo: Getty Images.
STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Kodiak Island, Alaska
Kodiak Island, Alaska

Islands aren’t just about sandy beaches. Kodiak Island in Alaska is as much about whale watching and salmon fishing as it is about bear viewing and gazing upon gorgeous glacially carved mountains. Looking for fossils at Fossil Beach and spotting buffalo are popular activities too.

Photo: Andrew Petersen/Flickr.
STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Maui, Hawaii
Maui, Hawaii

You can’t talk about U.S. islands without talking about Hawaii. Although you’re unlikely to forget about this gorgeous American gem, it’s worth reminding that you don’t need any fancy visas to visit the beautiful islands. Hike the dormant Haleakala volcano, drive the incredibly scenic Highway 360, and snorkel in the beautifully clear ocean waters.

Photo: Getty Images.
STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | St. John, US Virgin Islands
St. John, US Virgin Islands

Hawaii gets a lot of attention, but fewer people remember that the U.S. claimed it’s own part of the Caribbean in 1917. Saint John is the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and a full 60 percent of it is national parkland. Snorkeling, horseback riding and learning about the island’s colonial history are all popular activities. The island is still recovering from 2017's Hurricane Irma, but most of the tourism industry — like hotel rooms, airport arrivals and cruise ships — is up and running again.

Photo: Bukowsky18/Flickr.
STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | American Samoa
American Samoa

Another underrated island that's part of the U.S.: American Samoa. These emerald islands are steeped in history and culture, and the islands lack a massive tourism industry, leaving them feeling relatively uncrowded and fresh. Go diving in the National Marine Sanctuary, snorkel in lagoons and sample traditional Samoan foods like palusami, which is a coconut and onion filling wrapped in taro leaves.

Photo: NOAA Photo Library/Flickr.

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  • STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Orcas Island, Washington
  • STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Santa Catalina Island, California
  • STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Channel Islands National Park, California
  • STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Fire Island, New York
  • STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Marco Island, Florida
  • STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Mackinac Island, Michigan
  • STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Nantucket, Massachusetts
  • STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Mount Desert Island, Maine
  • STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Hilton Head, South Carolina
  • STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Jekyll Island, Georgia
  • STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Padre Island, Texas
  • STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Kodiak Island, Alaska
  • STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | Maui, Hawaii
  • STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | St. John, US Virgin Islands
  • STYLECASTER | Places to Take an Island Vacation | American Samoa

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