As the weather gets colder, it’s time to start planning a winter vacation. The United States may not seem like a tropical vacation hub, but there are actually more accessible islands than one might think. Here are 10 island destinations and all the details you need to plan your next getaway.
1. Martha’s Vineyard
This quaint island sits just off the coast of southern Massachusetts. Explore all 100 square miles of this lush island, accessible by plane or boat. Although the weather is not as warm as tropical destinations, the island is a pleasant getaway year-round. The island is larger than many think, with six distinct towns, all with their own special features. Edgartown, a bustling whaling town, contrasts largely with Chilmark, famous for its bosky forests and charming beaches. Take a trip to this famous Cape Cod destination for a cozy Atlantic experience.
Famous for its dramatic landscape, the Garden Island embodies the natural image people often imagine when thinking Hawaii. Kauai is home to surging waterfalls, balmy rainforests, lush valleys, and staggering mountains. This tropical island is warm all year, making it a perfect winter getaway. Embrace the friendly island culture as you explore the island and its rich history. For a warm vacation not too far from home, take a trip to this island paradise.
3. Santa Catalina Island
Just 26 miles off the coast of Long Beach, this biologically diverse island is one of the eight Channel Islands off of Southern California. Catalina was once a trade hub for Native American tribes, but is now a popular tourist destination. Set sail on the Catalina Express, which transports passengers from Long Beach through a layer of thick fog to the island. You will arrive in the island’s only incorporated city, Avalon, where you will find no shortage of activities during your stay. Snorkel in the pristine waters of Descanso Beach, where you can swim with the vivid Garibaldi fish, or explore historic Casino Point, once a premier gambling destination, which now functions as a scuba diving park for divers of all skill levels. If you’re looking for a getaway where you can explore the ocean and bask in the sun, check out Catalina Island.
4. St. Thomas
Although it’s only 32 square miles, St. Thomas is packed with things to do and see. First settled in 1500 BC by indigenous islanders, this island was sighted by Columbus in the 15th century and later became a trading hub for the Dutch. After being occupied by the British and later sold to the United States, St. Thomas is now a US territory and a popular vacation destination. The island’s rich history is visible anywhere you go, whether it’s in Market Square, once a bustling slave market, or the Synagogue of Beracha Veshalom Vegmiluth Hasidim, the oldest functioning synagogue in the country. If you’re looking to relax, the island offers snorkeling, sailing, shopping, and sightseeing. Check out the vibrant nightlife and try out some of the best restaurants in the Virgin Islands. This island is a fascinating and beautiful destination to visit any time of year.
5. Kiawah Island
Named for the Kiawah Indians who once inhabited the island, Kiawah is a barrier island off the coast of South Carolina. Today, the island is a pristine beach and golf resort, and offers myriad activities for guests. With over 10 miles of beaches, this warm town is a welcoming destination for your next vacation. Explore the Atlantic in a kayak or on a paddleboard, or explore the wooded side of the island by hiking or biking. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of an alligator, bobcat, river otter, or any of the hundreds of species that call Kiawah home. This ecologically diverse location is a great vacation spot to escape the cold weather.
6. Orcas Island
If you’ve never taken a trip to the San Juan Islands, you’re in for a treat. Orcas Island is the largest of the islands, situated in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Washington. Orcas is packed with different ways to enjoy the gorgeous natural scenery, from biking to camping to watching the whales the island was named for. Enjoy Moran State Park, home to Mount Constitution, the tallest mountain on the islands. The opportunities for exploration are endless, whether you’re an adventure junkie who loves the outdoors or a townie who prefers strolling through the streets. Although it’s no tropical beach vacation, you’re sure to fall in love with this charming island.
7. Santa Cruz Island
Managed by both the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy, Santa Cruz is the largest island in California, at over 96 square miles. Diverse flora and fauna inhabit the island, in the vastly different ecosystems on the island. Santa Cruz is home to cliffs, caves, canyons, mountains, valleys, and beaches, all of which provide a home for the hundreds of species that live on the island. A dozen mammal species, almost 150 species of birds, and many other reptile, amphibian, and marine animals call Santa Cruz home. Come explore the rich history of the island, and learn the story of the Native American civilizations and European exploration. This fascinating island is a culturally and biologically intriguing destination, perfect for anyone looking for a warm getaway.
8. Puerto Rico
Recently devastated by Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is in need of economic support. The main way you can help out is by supporting the island’s main source of income, tourism! Come take a trip to the Island of Enchantment, where you’ll discover a tropical paradise you never knew existed. Puerto Rico’s extravagant culture and intriguing history are weaved into everything on the island, from the tasty island food to the colorful houses of Old San Juan. Hike in the lush rainforests of El Yunque, home to the jade Puerto Rican parrot, a specimen you won’t find anywhere else. Explore the massive Spanish forts of Castillo San Cristóbal, or kick back on a white sand beach. This island is one you need to visit!
9. Anna Maria Island
This barrier island lies just off the coast of Florida, providing expansive beaches and an unobstructed ocean view. Anna Maria was made for vacation, so expect to relax upon arrival! The town of Anna Maria has cute shops and unique restaurants, as well as museums and aquariums. Stroll or bike down a beachside boardwalk, or hike along the trails in the park. Families can enjoy mini-golf, segway tours, or horseback riding on the beach. This island is the ultimate warm-weather retreat, and has activities everyone will enjoy.
Guam is an American territory in an area of the Pacific Ocean known as Micronesia. Although it was discovered by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and purchased by the United States in 1898, the island was initially settled by the Chamorros over 4,000 years ago. Guam happens to be the closest island to Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench, the deepest point in any of the oceans. Snorkeling around the island is incredible, as most of Guam is surrounded by a coral reef. Warm and tropical year-round, this island has little temperature fluctuation due to its proximity to the equator. The Chamorro culture is evident all around the island, in heritage sites like the massive stone pillars of Latte to the Spanish-influenced architecture of towns like Asan-Maina. This tropical island is a culturally rich island destination waiting for you to come explore!