10 Island Vacations You Can Take Without Leaving the Country

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We love jetting off to an idyllic island for the week. But the whole standing in line at customs thing? Not so much. Our solution for satisfying that sense of wanderlust that doesn’t include dealing with all the hoopla of an international trip? Well, it’s simple. Plan a low-maintenance vacation to one of these ten dreamy islands in the United States. You don’t even need an adapter doodad for your hairdryer (or a passport, for that matter).


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1. Captiva Island, Fl

Sometimes you just want to recline on a beach chair and dive into a good book without being disturbed by the pressures of everyday life. The soft, sandy beaches and laid-back vibe of Captiva Island beckon relaxation-seekers keen to do just that. This quiet slice of paradise off the coast of Fort Myers is a getaway that actually allows you to get away from it all. It’s so chill that traffic lights aren’t a thing.

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island vacations jekyll island
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2. Jekyll Island, Ga

Once a haven for America’s wealthiest families (what’s up Morgans, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts?), today Jekyll Island, off the stunning Atlantic coast of Georgia, is a fascinating mash-up of historic mansions, contemporary cottages, spellbinding natural landscapes, incredible wildlife and luxury resorts. Where else can you wake at sunrise to the sound of endangered birds chirping, visit impossibly picturesque Driftwood Beach, scarf down fried oysters at a seaside eatery, sip a nightcap overlooking the waves and snooze on sumptuous 1,000-thread-count sheets?

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island vacations chincoteague island
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3. Chincoteague Island, Va

Remember reading Misty of Chincoteague in middle school? If you were obsessed with Marguerite Henry’s nostalgic novel (join the club), it’s worth taking a trip to Chincoteague Island, off the coast of Virginia, to see the fabled wild horses IRL. You might even glimpse a pony wandering past while sunbathing on the sandy beaches or taking a scenic stroll. If that wasn’t enough wildlife, Chincoteague Island also has world-famous oyster beds and clam shoals. Basically, this place is pure magic.

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4. Mackinac Island, Mi

A tiny 4.35-square-mile dot in Lake Huron, between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas, Mackinac Island is a beloved summer destination with a sort of frozen-in-time charm. To that end, there aren’t chain restaurants, big-box stores or even cars. However, you will see plenty of people traveling around by bike, horseback and buggy. If you need us, we’ll be watching the sunset over the coastal bluffs as our troubles fade far into the distance.

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island vacations maui
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5. Maui, Hi

The 50th state feels a world away from the continental U.S. (the fact that it’s nearly 2,500 miles from the mainland probably has something to do with it). While each of the Hawiian islands wows in its own way, we keep returning to Maui. Offering an irresistible mix of black-sand beaches, legendary surf breaks, dramatic mountains, waterfalls, lush rainforests, volcanic craters and verdant valleys, the pinch-me gorgeous Valley Isle is well worth the long-haul flight.

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island vacations san juan islands
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6. San Juan Islands, Wa

OK, the San Juan Islands are technically an archipelago, but that shouldn’t disqualify them from getting your vote. Nor should that fact they’re devoid of white-sand beaches. Because what these northwest Washington idyls lack in tropical diversions, they more than make up for in rugged natural beauty. After whale watching at Lime Kiln Point State Park and getting a whiff of the massive Pelindaba Lavender Farm, we’re confident you won’t be missing that piña colada one bit.

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island vacations hilton head
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7. Hilton Head, Sc

Hilton Head is a popular destination for golfers. But even if you don’t know the difference between a putter and a wedge, there’s still a ton to do. This not-so-sleepy Southern island draped with Spanish moss turns on the charm with its beautiful shoreline, historic architecture, natural scenery and abundant wildlife. Hang out on picture-perfect Coligny Beach, go for a sunset bike ride, visit Harbour Town Lighthouse & Museum and peep wading birds at Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge.

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island vacations nantucket
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8. Nantucket, Ma

Nantucket conjures images of wind-swept beaches, shingled cottages, wharves and VIP vacationers. This 19th-century whaling hub off of Cape Cod is a magnet for celebs (Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Sharon Stone, Ben Stiller and David Letterman, just to name a few) looking to get away from it all. High-profile holiday goers aside, we love visiting Nantucket because it’s like being inside a living postcard—with breathtaking photo ops at every turn. New Instagram profile pic, anyone?

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9. Catalina Island, Ca

With mountains, world-class dive sites, beaches and swaying palms, Catalina Island pretty much sells itself. Still need more convincing? (That seems unlikely...but alright.) Let us turn your attention to charming towns, great restaurants and oceanfront resorts. Whether you’d rather spend the day flying through the treetops on a zip line tour, swimming with sea turtles, trekking to the top of Mt. Orizaba, dining al fresco or catching some rays by the pool, it’s all up for grabs.

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island vacations block island
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10. Block Island, Ri

Accessible via ferry or small plane, Block Island has sandy beaches, rolling dunes, coastal cliffs and iconic lighthouses. That’s on top of the heaps of history and New England charm. So, yea, a trip to this seaside darling between May and October is basically a no-brainer. Your biggest decision? What to do first. Our vote? Well, it's a tie between sipping specialty cocktails at Ballard’s and admiring the views from Mohegan Bluffs.

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Lindsay Cohn is a travel writer and serial trip planner who has visited 46 countries across six continents (and counting). When not globetrotting, she’s most likely either doing...

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Freelance PureWow Editor

From 2015-2017 Hannah Loewentheil held the role of Editor covering entertainment, food, travel and all things nyc.