Island getaways don’t have to be reserved for the Caribbean. The USA is home to hundreds of stunning islands right in our own backyard! And while your mind might immediately think of places like Hawaii, California, and Florida, there are quite a few beautiful islands in the USA that have flown under the radar.
Each of these amazing islands has a distinctive personality. You can search for shark teeth on Amelia Island in Florida, hike stunning trails on Kauai in Hawaii, and even visit rescued bears on Baranof Island in Alaska.
If you’re looking for the most beautiful islands in the USA, this guide has you covered! And, the best part about these islands is that you don’t need a passport to visit!
In This Post:
16 of the Most Beautiful Islands in the USA Map
16 of the Most Beautiful Islands in the USA
1. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Quaint coastal gem known for being one of the most popular summer getaways in the Northeast
Martha’s Vineyard may be one of the poshest islands in the USA. Situated south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Martha’s Vineyard is a popular summer getaway destination in New England.
As a matter of fact, dozens of celebrities make their way to Martha’s Vineyard each summer, including Barack Obama, Ted Danson, James Taylor, and Spike Lee. If you’d like to see why all of these celebrities flock to Martha’s Vineyard, you’ll simply have to plan a trip to this beautiful island!
While quite a bit of the appeal of Martha’s Vineyard comes from the peace and quiet of the island, there are still a few attractions that are worth a visit.
You can relax on South Beach, stare in awe at the Aquinnah Cliffs, and pay a visit to the friendly alpacas at the Island Alpaca Company.
Keep in mind that Martha’s Vineyard is a very popular summer destination and lots of people in the Northeast flock there for weekend getaways. If you visit during the off-season, prices are cheaper and there are fewer crowds.
How to get there: Martha’s Vineyard is located off of the Southern shores of Cape Cod. Therefore, you can’t drive there and the only two options to get there are via ferry or air. I recommend taking the ferry from Cape Cod and you’ll reach Martha’s Vineyard in about 45 minutes. For more information regarding the ferry, click here.
Where to stay: See all Martha’s Vineyard, MA hotels
2. Sanibel Island, Florida
Known for beautiful beaches and some of the best shelling in the entire world
Due to its shell-strewn shores, Sanibel Island has made a name for itself as “the shell capital of the world.” In fact, it even has some of the best beaches in the USA. This 33-square-mile island boasts all types of shells, including conch shells, lightning whelk shells, olive shells, and more!
A few of the best places to go shelling on Sanibel Island include Bowman’s Beach, Lighthouse Beach Park, and Blind Pass Beach.
And while you might be tempted to spend your entire trip to Sanibel Island, Florida looking for these natural treasures, there are other things for you to do as well.
You can stop by the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, go birdwatching at the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, and look for local finds at the Sanibel Farmers Market.
Don’t forget to head to Captiva Island while you’re in Sanibel Island. Only 11 miles separate the two. From a local’s perspective, I highly recommend enjoying a romantic dinner at one of the many eclectic restaurants on Captiva Island.
How to get there: Fly into Fort Myers at Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW). Then, rent a car and enjoy your 45-minute drive to Sanibel Island from the airport. Alternatively, you can do an epic Florida road trip and eventually make your way to Sanibel Island.
Where to stay: See all Sanibel Island, FL hotels
3. Block Island, Rhode Island
A cute beach town with a Victorian charm that’s known for fishing, hiking, sailing, bicycling, and pretty beaches
With 10 square miles of land and a population of 1,000 people, Block Island, Rhode Island is a little hidden gem.
While people in New England visit Block Island during summer getaways, Block Island’s appeal isn’t known throughout the rest of the country.
During your stay on Block Island, you’ll simply want to take your time and enjoy some much-needed rest and relaxation.
After waking up late and leisurely sipping on your morning coffee, you can then head out to explore the island. You can enjoy one of the island’s many beaches, tackle a hike at Clay Head Preserve, or gape in awe at the beauty of the Mohegan Bluffs.
How to get there: Block Island is located 12 miles off the coast of Rhode Island 21 miles off the coast of New York. The easiest way to get to Block Island is by taking a ferry from Long Island. Be sure to bring a book or download some movies on your phone because you’ll be on the ferry for a little less than three hours. For more information about the ferry, click here.
Where to stay: See all Block Island, RI hotels
4. Florida Keys, Florida
Tropical paradise known for chill vibes, world-class seafood, scuba diving, and epic sunsets. Also the southernmost point in the Continental United States
The Florida Keys are a collection of islands in southern Florida. A couple of these islands, including Key Largo and Key West, have made names for themselves as some of the best islands in the USA.
In order to experience everything that the Florida Keys has to offer, you’ll have to take on a scenic Florida Keys road trip. While you can technically do this drive in one day, I recommend spreading the drive out over a few days.
Some of the best stops in the Florida Keys include John Pennekamp Coral Reef National Park on Key Largo, the Morada Way Arts District on Islamorada, the Turtle Hospital on Grassy Key, and the “Southernmost Point” buoy on Key West.
Once you get to Key West, you should definitely enjoy dinner at the Southernmost Point Guest House. They have the BEST lobster pizza and cocktails. If they ask if you want to add an extra shot of liquor to your drink, just say yes. You won’t regret it. Be sure to make a reservation during the sunset hours so you can enjoy your dinner with a gorgeous view.
How to get there: The easiest way to get to Key West is by flying into Key West International Airport. But, I highly recommend flying into Miami International Airport and road-tripping to the Keys. The views are epic and there are so many fun stops along the way.
Where to stay: See all Key West, FL hotels
5. Amelia Island, Florida
Popular vacation spot known for world-class golfing, delicious seafood, chill beaches, and shark teeth
Situated in Northern Florida, Amelia Island is an under-the-radar gem, and one of the best small beach towns in Florida. And there a couple of things that make this hidden island special.
First of all, Amelia Island is the only place in Florida where you can go horseback riding on the beach! And second, Amelia Island’s beaches are filled with shark teeth. As a matter of fact, it’s known as one of the best places to find shark teeth in all of Florida.
And while those two activities are the highlight of this Floridian island, there are other activities to do on Amelia Island. You can stroll through downtown Fernandina Beach, kayak in Lofton Creek, and dine at the award-winning restaurant known as Salt.
How to get there: Fly into Jacksonville International Airport and then drive 30 minutes to get to Amelia Island
Where to stay: See all Amelia Island, FL hotels
6. Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Known for laid-back vibes, beautiful marshlands, golfing, and beautiful beaches
Located off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, Kiawah Island is certainly one of the most beautiful islands in the USA.
This little island is filled with gorgeous nature, luxurious amenities, and friendly animals. In other words, regardless of where your interests lie, you’ll be able to find something that you’d like to do on Kiawah Island.
If you’re a nature enthusiast, you can catch the beautiful sunrise or bike the 30 miles of trials. If you’re an animal lover, you’ll want to keep an eye out for loggerhead turtles and deer. And if you’re a fan of luxury, you can golf at an oceanfront PGA golf course and dine at one of the high-class restaurants of Freshfields Village.
How to get there: Fly into Charleston International Airport and then drive around 40 minutes to get to Kiawah Island
Where to stay: See all Kiawah Island, SC hotels
7. San Juan Islands, Washington
Known for sea kayaking and orca-whale watching
The San Juan Islands, an archipelago located near the U.S.- Canada border, are a gorgeous, nature-filled paradise. There are actually 172 islands in this archipelago, but only four are easily accessible.
While at the San Juan Islands, you can go whale watching, test your fishing skills, or tackle an awesome hike.
And if you’re looking for activities that aren’t nature-focused, you can also find out about the historic Pig War, visit one of the many lighthouses, or stroll through the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park.
How to get there: Anacortes is your gateway to getting to the San Juan Islands. You’ll drive two hours from Seattle to Anacortes and then you’ll take a ferry to Friday Harbor. For more information about the ferries, click here.
Where to stay: See all San Juan Islands, WA hotels
8. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Known for pristine beaches and incredible golf courses
Hilton Head, officially known as Hilton Head Island, is one of the most popular beach destinations in the US South. And with its sandy shores and Southern charm, there’s no question of why!
While visiting Hilton Head, there are so many beaches that are worth your time, including Coligny Beach Park, Mitchelville Beach, and Dreissen Beach Park.
And if you’d like to intersperse your time on the sandy shores with other activities, you can visit the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, stop by the Harbour Town Lighthouse, and wander around Harbour Town.
How to get there: You can fly into one of two airports — Hilton Head Island Airport (HHH) or Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV). The closest of the two is HHH and it’s only five miles away from the main area. I highly recommend flying into SAV and exploring this charming Southern town and then doing a 45-minute road trip to Hilton Head Island.
Where to stay: See all Hilton Head Island, SC hotels
9. Jekyll Island, Georgia
When even the state locals visit a vacation destination, you know it’s particularly special. That’s the case for Jekyll Island, a charming town in Georgia.
Jekyll Island is a quintessential beach town, in that everything revolves around the beach. As a matter of fact, you’ll likely spend the majority of your getaway along the sandy shorelines of Jekyll Island.
A few of the best beaches on the island include Driftwood Beach, Saint Andrew Beach, and Jekyll Island Oceanview Beach Park.
If you’d like a little break from the sun and sand, you can shop in the Beach Village, ride the thrilling rides at the Summer Waves Water Park, and say hello to the animals at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.
How to get there: There are a few different ways in which you can reach Jekyll Island. Jacksonville, Florida and Savannah, Georgia are both an hour and a half away driving to Jekyll Island. You can fly into either one of these airports and drive to Jekyll Island. If you’re up for a longer road trip, you can fly into Charleston International Airport and drive three and a half hours to reach this slice of paradise.
Where to stay: See all Jekyll Island, GA hotels
10. Galveston Island, Texas
Top tourist destination in Texas once known for being Texas’ largest city
Most people looking for a beach getaway in Texas will head to Galveston Island. And that’s really saying something because Texas has thousands of miles of shoreline! In fact, Galveston Island is touted as one of the best weekend getaways in Texas.
The first thing you’ll want to do when you arrive in Galveston Island is head to the beach. A few of the most popular beaches include Galveston Beach, Poretto Beach, and Stewart Beach.
And then, once you’ve had your fair share of sand and sun, you can explore the rest of the island. You can wander around the historic district known as The Strand, pay a visit to the castle-like 1892 Bishop’s Palace, and take a lovely stroll through the Moody Gardens.
How to get there: Getting to Galveston Island is fairly easy. Most people fly into George Bush International Airport in Houston and then drive around an hour to get to the island.
Where to stay: See all Galveston Island, TX hotels
11. Catalina Island, California
Known for glitz, glamour, mountains, snorkeling spots, and gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean
While you can actually drive to many of the islands on this list, Catalina Island, officially known as Santa Catalina Island, is an exception.
Although it’s just off the coast of mainland California, you’ll either have to take a boat or a plane to reach this adorable California beach town.
Despite the fact that Catalina Island is just 75 square miles, there are a shocking number of things to do there. You can hike the Hermit Gulch Trail Loop, test your scuba diving skills, go stand-up paddleboarding, or simply admire the beautiful flowers at Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Garden.
How to get there: You can easily get to Catalina Island from one of four ports in California — Dana Point, Long Beach, Newport Beach, and San Pedro. Click here for ferry details.
Where to stay: See all Catalina Island, CA hotels
12. Kauai, Hawaii
Hawaii’s fourth-largest island known for rugged cliffs, valleys, and mountains
Kauai, Hawaii is one of the most beautiful islands in the USA. With golden beaches, cascading waterfalls, and greenery-laden mountains, Kauai is picture-perfect!
With all of its natural beauty, Kauai is a hiker’s dream island escape. There are loads of trails that are worth your time, including the Hoopii Falls Trail, the Nounou Mountain Trail (also known as the Sleeping Giant Trail), and the Mahaulepu Heritage Coastal Trail.
But, the most famous is the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast. This challenging, 12-mile trail boasts amazing views, secluded beaches, and even a hidden waterfall!
How to get there: The main airport is Lihue Airport (LIH). Alternatively, you can fly into Honolulu International Airport and then take a quick 30-minute flight to Kauai.
Where to stay: See all Kauai, HI hotels
13. Big Island, Hawaii
Known for being the largest and most volcanically active of all the Hawaiian islands
The Big Island of Hawaii is another amazing place to visit and is one of the coolest islands in the USA. This island is known for having just about every type of environment on the planet – from green sand beaches to erupting volcanoes to snowcapped mountain peaks!
You could easily spend weeks on the Big Island of Hawaii without getting bored. If you’re an animal lover, you can kayak with dolphins in Kealakekua Bay or say hello to the seahorses at Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm.
If you love the beach, Pohoiki Black Sand Beach, Kua Bay, and Papakolea Green Sand Beach are all stunning shorelines.
And if you’re a foodie, you can visit a Kona coffee farm, Two Ladies Kitchen for fantastic mochi, or tasty treats from the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Farm.
How to get there: Fly into Kona International Airport
Where to stay: See all Big Island, HI hotels
14. Baranof Island, Alaska
Eighth largest island in Alaska and tenth largest island in the United States
Most of the time when we think of the best islands in the USA, we think of warm, sunny destinations. But Baranof Island in Alaska offers a little something different.
Baranof Island is most well-known for being home to the adorable town of Sitka. While in Sitka, you can visit the Sitka Park Totem Park, say hello to the bears at Fortress of the Bear Rescue Center, or hike the Herring Cove Trail.
But if you’d like to explore more of the island, you can take a dip in one of the nine natural hot springs, explore secluded bays, and stare in awe at stunning glacial lakes.
How to get there: You can visit via cruise ship or you can fly into Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport
Where to stay: See all Baranof Island, AK hotels
15. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin
Known for having more than 240 species of birds and for having more lighthouses than any other national parks
While you might think that all of the best islands in the USA are along the coasts, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore proves that idea wrong. As a matter of fact, it is one of the most underrated destinations in the USA!
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is composed of twenty small islands in Lake Superior –and all of these islands are overflowing with natural beauty, including towering rock structures, thriving greenery, and glimmering waters!
While visiting this stunning set of islands, you can explore both sea caves and ice caves, kayak between the islands, and take a tour of Hauser’s Superior View Orchard. And if you’d like to extend your visit, you can even camp overnight in this lovely national park.
How to get there: You can take your own boat out onto Lake Superior and kayak to one of the islands that make up the national lakeshore. Alternatively, you can do a small sightseeing cruise tour. For more information about the cruise tours, click here.
Where to stay: See all Apostle Islands, WI hotels
16. Channel Islands National Park, California
Known as the “Galapagos Islands of North America”
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore isn’t the only national park worthy of this list! Channel Islands National Park in California deserves a spot as well.
Technically, there are eight islands that make up the Channel Islands, but only five of them are included in Channel Islands National Park. Two of the remaining three islands are owned by the military, and the last one is actually Catalina Island.
The five islands that make up the national park secured their place thanks to the abundance of unique plant species. As a matter of fact, across all five of these islands, there are over 150 distinctive plants.
While at Channel Islands National Park, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of the warm waters. You can swim and surf to your heart’s content. But if you’d prefer to stay dry, you can also go on a hike, go whale watching, or even camp overnight.
How to get there: You can only visit these islands via national park boats or private boats. The two closest mainland towns are Ventura and Santa Barbara. For more information about getting to the islands, click here.
Where to stay: See all Channel Island, CA hotels
Do you have any suggestions to add to this list of the best islands in the USA? Let me know in the comments below!
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Disha Smith is the founder of Disha Discovers. She quit her job in 2017 to travel the world to explore new cultures and experience new adventures. She has since been to 95+ countries and counting and has lived in South Africa, Thailand, Croatia, and Australia. She has done all kinds of travel ranging from luxury to budget backpacking, and her mission is to inspire others to discover their own sense of adventure and to help them plan a life full of meaningful experiences through travel.