K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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Want to enjoy an exotic beach vacation but don’t have a passport? If you don’t want to go through the hassle of getting one, we’ve got some great options in the United States. Pack your bathing suit and sunscreen and plan a sunny getaway in one of these beautiful destinations. Head to a tropical island, visit the southern stretches of Florida, or discover a hidden coastal gem in North Carolina with beautiful beaches.
If you’ve been dreaming of Fiji but don’t have a passport, Puerto Rico’s Culebra Island may be ideal. This tropical destination is, of course, part of a U.S. territory and its beaches rival that of those found in the South Pacific. Flamenco Beach in particular is regularly found on Top 10 lists of the best beaches on the planet. There are no luxury resorts, casinos, or upscale restaurants here, but it does offer an incredibly tranquil experience minus the crowds, traffic, or crime. The silky soft, white sands stretch along the entire bay and are lined with palm trees that sway in the gentle breeze, while the magnificent, shallow azure waters are ideal for snorkeling and swimming. In fact, the entire scene looks as if it stepped right out of an ad. As the U.S. military used it for decades, it kept developers at bay while leaving the beach with abandoned tanks that are now artfully decorated in colorful Caribbean patterns. You’ll also have the chance to see the bioluminescent organisms that light up some of the coastal waters after dark.
Dotted with palm trees and beach hotels, Key West is renowned as one of the best spots to experience the Caribbean without leaving the states. It boasts a similar tropical climate with frequent bright blue skies, swaying palms, picturesque beaches, and a laid-back island vibe. Whether you’re looking to let loose and get wild, or you want to enjoy peace and relaxation, you can find it here. Partiers enjoy the year-round hopping nightlife, and those who want to enjoy the outdoors can participate in activities like sailing, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, and golf. Fabulous entertainment can be had simply by heading to Mallory Square to enjoy a glorious sunset, where just before the sun goes down, the host of jugglers, animal acts, and tightrope walkers entertain the crowd.
The U.S. Virgin Islands offer a true Caribbean escape without a passport. While each of the islands, St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, all offer their own unique appeal, St. John is the ultimate paradise for those who truly want to escape the modern world. Here you’ll find one of the most stunning beaches in the Virgin Islands, Trunk Bay Beach, an unspoiled crescent of fine, white powdery sands that sit against a backdrop of gently swaying palms and shady sea-grape trees. The sea offers incredible clarity and is also home to an underwater national park with vibrant coral and colorful tropical fish. At sunset, it’s particularly breathtaking, shimmering with a brilliant golden glow. You can rent just about any type of watercraft and enjoy just about every activity you can think of on and in the water, and afterward, take a nice snooze on the soft sands.
Haleiwa sits along Oahu’s North Shore and offers the quintessential Hawaiian experience you’ve probably imagined, complete with pristine white sand beaches, swaying palms, and outstanding surf. Long known as a surfer’s paradise for its exceptional waves, the town itself has a wonderfully relaxed laid-back attitude and is considered the area’s social and artistic hub. For surfers, Haleiwa really can’t be beaten, whether it’s a sport you want to try out, or you’re a pro, there are waves for all – and you’ll also find plenty of great surf shops, art galleries, restaurants, and unique boutiques.
Fernandina Beach is a small town on Amelia Island, a barrier island off the northern coast of Florida. It offers a lively beach culture, seaside charms, and a historic downtown that’s bustling with an ever-growing foodie scene. It’s also home to Fort Clinch State Park, the largest natural shoreline area on the island with 8,400 feet along the Amelia riverbank and 4,000 feet on the Atlantic coast. The dunes are ideal for pleasant strolls, while the half-mile-long pier is perfect for fishing and taking in magnificent waterfront views. The brick fortress itself is one of the best-preserved 19th-century forts in the nation. You can stand on its outer walls and take in more breathtaking views overlooking Cumberland Sound and the Atlantic shoreline. One of the most unforgettable things to do on the island while you’re there is to go horseback riding on the beach – it’s even more amazing at sunset.
Santa Cruz is a beautiful beach town in California offering beach lovers a chance to enjoy lots of excitement along with time in the sun and the sand. Adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts will find practically an endless number of attractions, including hiking in Henry Cowell State Park just a few miles out of town, surfing at Pleasure Point, kayaking and paddle boarding at Santa Cruz Main Beach, and riding thrill rides like the Giant Dipper roller coaster at the Beach Boardwalk. The Santa Cruz Wharf is ideal for watching sea lions frolic in the water, shopping for beachwear, and enjoying fresh seafood at any one of a number of restaurants while taking in beautiful ocean views. If you want to take a break from the crowds, you can easily find that too – just take a drive north along Highway One, where you’ll find a wealth of gorgeous, and often nearly empty stretches of sand.
Guam is another U.S. territory, which means no passport is required to get to this exotic island destination. The largest and southernmost island in the Marianas, it offers a ton of things to see and do, including Tumon’s fabulous beaches, famous for incredible snorkeling with its gorgeous warm azure waters teeming with life – and, visibility of up to 150 feet. The water is crystal clear and, unlike much of the world, the coral reefs are thriving. Piti Bomb Hole includes incredibly lush and perfect coral craters that look as if it was sculpted by bombs. Between Apra Harbor, where World War I and World War II ships sank on top of each other, to Gun Beach, where stingrays go for breakfast, divers and snorkelers are guaranteed to never get bored. Head to Two Lovers Point, a cliff-side lookout, and you can soak up jaw-dropping panoramas from 400 feet above the sea.
Often referred to as the “perfect beach town,” Tybee Island hosts some of the very best beaches in Georgia and is just a short drive from Savannah. Not only will you have plenty of beautiful white sand beaches, but a picturesque lighthouse, fantastic seafood eateries like the Crab Shack and North Beach Bar & Grill, and a fun family-friendly atmosphere. Visitors can take tours to see the resident dolphins, explore two military forts and rent a beach cruiser from Fat Tire Bike Rentals to cruise around at a leisurely pace, checking out the sights.
If you’ve always wanted to visit the Mediterranean, Carpinteria, sits along California’s central coast, renowned for its Mediterranean feel and spectacular beaches. It offers a more relaxed, less-crowded atmosphere than most of the Southern California beach towns too, along with a wide sandy stretch of sand with beginner-size waves, perfect for learning to bodyboard. While mornings can be foggy, that can make for a perfect time to enjoy the pleasures of Linden Avenue, shaded by palm trees and lined with cafes, galleries, and clothing stores. This eclectic, artsy town is considered one of the state’s few remaining beach communities that haven’t lost its original flavor.
Ocracoke is the outermost island of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. This remote isle was settled in the mid-18th century and is home to the oldest operating lighthouse on the east coast, and the second oldest in the entire nation. It can be seen throughout the village of Ocracoke, offering postcard-perfect photo opportunities from the land and the sea. Ocracoke also boasts more than 250 historic structures, most using materials from scuttled ships, and it draws countless visitors with its postcard-perfect beaches, wild ponies, outstanding dining opportunities with plenty of fresh seafood served at locally-owned eateries, shopping for authentic crafts from woodcarvings to quilts, and a hopping nightlife too.