May 16, 2024 | Penelope Singh

20 Of America’s Best Tropical Getaways

Closer Than You Think

You don’t have to travel far if you’re looking for a sunny tropical vacation—the southern United States are full of beautiful beach towns and island oases. Here are some of the best.

america's best tropical getaways

Key West, Florida

With over 1,300 miles of stunning coastline along the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, Florida is a sunny paradise with endless beaches. 

It’s also where you’ll find Key West, the southernmost point of the continental U.S. Key West is a picturesque haven with palm-lined streets, incredible beaches, and charming Bahamian architecture.

Key West SunriseMax and Dee Bernt, Flickr

Key West, Florida (cont’d)

The laid-back atmosphere of the city has attracted many notable figures over the years, including Ernest Hemingway, Rita Hayworth, Gregory Peck, and Robert Frost. 

For a taste of Old Hollywood glamour, stop by the elegant Casa Marina Key West. Since 1920, this oceanfront resort has played host to countless stars, offering you the opportunity to experience the same luxury that captivated the legends of the past.

Key West Houses Florida, United StatesMichelle Maria, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Kauai, Hawaii

For the ultimate tropical vacation, head over to Hawaii. Renowned for its breathtaking islands, Hawaii is where you’ll find azure lagoons and the sweet scent of hibiscus flowers in the air. 

One of its gems, Kauai, is full of lush rainforests and majestic waterfalls waiting to be explored with a hike.

Island of Kauai, HawaiiPierre Leclerc, Shutterstock

Kauai, Hawaii (cont’d)

After a day of adventure, unwind at the oceanfront Ko'a Kea Resort on the Po'ipu Beach. Treat yourself to a rejuvenating spa session, take a dip in the pool, or simply lounge on the beach, letting the gentle sound of the waves lull you into relaxation.

Poipu Beach Park in Poipu, Kauai, HawaiiFamartin, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Amelia Island, Florida

Discover the beauty of a quiet barrier island off the northeast coast of Florida. Here, you'll find picturesque shorelines with beach grass and barnacle-covered piers. 

In the morning, you can comb the sand for seashells to take as mementos of your trip. After, head to downtown Fernandina Beach for a refreshing strawberry ice cream cone.

Amelia Island In FloridaMichael Kappel, Flickr

Amelia Island, Florida (cont’d)

When you're ready for more adventure, go for a stroll along beaches or check out the diverse wildlife at Amelia Island State Park

After a day of exploration, retreat to the luxurious Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, where you can treat yourself to a soothing massage or indulge in one of the hotel's signature spa treatments.

Amelia Island Florida, United States of AmericaTerrance Scarborough, Shutterstock

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands are an archipelago in the Caribbean. The three main islands—St. Thomas, St. John, and the largest, St. Croix— offer the best opportunities for visitors to relax and recharge. 

St. Croix is known for its laid-back atmosphere, and has lots of beautiful reefs, beaches, and hidden coves waiting to be explored by snorkeling and scuba diving.

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin IslandsThank You (24 Millions ) views, Flickr

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands (cont’d)

You can also check out the colorful and charming towns of Christiansted in the east and Frederiksted in the west. They're both home to historic sites, and incredible dining, golfing, and shopping opportunities.

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin IslandsThank You (24 Millions ) views, Flickr

Gulf Shores And Orange Beach, Alabama

The U.S. Gulf Coast is renowned for its stunning aquamarine waters. In Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, summer temperatures soar into the 80s, making these places the perfect tropical escapes.

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabamafritzmb, Flickr

Gulf Shores And Orange Beach, Alabama (cont’d)

In addition to just relaxing on the beach with a refreshing rum punch, there are lots of chances for you to go deep-sea fishing, speedboating, and get a personalized airbrush T-shirt as a reminder of all the fun.

Orange Beach, AlabamaCanadaGood Gregory, Flickr

St. Augustine, Florida

Explore the timeless charm of St. Augustine, located along Florida's Atlantic Coast and proudly holding the title of the oldest city in the United States. Here, you'll find an unforgettable blend of tropical leisure and Spanish history. 

St. Augustine, FloridaDoug Kerr, Flickr

St. Augustine, Florida (cont’d)

Founded in 1565 by Spanish colonizers, St. Augustine is a treasure trove of historical wonders. Marvel at the 400-year-old walls of the Castillo De San Marcos fortress, walk along the cobblestoned streets of Old City, or just appreciate the natural beauty surrounding the Fort Matanzas Monument.

Castillo de San MarcosRed Lemon, Shutterstock

Maui, Hawaii

Take a breathtaking drive along the scenic road to Hana on the island of Maui. Along the way, you’ll see the island’s natural wonders, like striking black-sand beaches, charming country farms, and luxurious resorts.

Hawaii Mauidronepicr, CC BY 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons

Maui, Hawaii (cont’d)

If you prefer to explore on foot, Maui has hiking trails that will take you to majestic cliffs and waterfalls veiled in mist. 

For relaxation, check out the The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua. It’s a serene oasis with rugged shoreline, lots of shade from the palms trees, and world-class championship golf courses.

The Ritz-Carlton Maui, KapaluaMichelle Maria, CC BY 3.0 , Wikimedia Commons

Dauphin Island, Alabama

Keep an eye out for the fins of dolphins cutting through the calm waters surrounding this island. Located south of Mobile Bay in the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll have to cross a three-mile-long bridge to reach this tropical paradise.

Dauphin Island, Alabamafaungg's photos, Flickr

Dauphin Island, Alabama (cont’d)

There’s no shortage of accommodations on the island, offering everything from cozy beachfront rentals to stylish pastel resorts. 

The best ways to see the island's rich natural beauty is by exploring its underwater wonders at the Alabama Aquarium, seeing the incredible birdlife at the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, or delving into the island's intriguing past at Indian Shell Mound Park.

Indian Shell Mound Parkmindy, Flickr

South Padre Island, Texas

Escape to this enchanting barrier island located near the southern tip of Texas. With 34 miles of pristine white-sand beaches, crystal-clear warm waters, and mild weather, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

South Padre Island, TexasStuart Seeger, Flickr

South Padre Island, Texas (cont’d)

From thrilling fishing and boating adventures to visits to the Birding, Nature Center, and Alligator Sanctuary, there's no shortage of cool activities on the island. 

You can also relax at the Isla Grand Beach Resort's waterfront café, where you can enjoy a refreshing margarita while taking in the stunning ocean views.

South Padre Island, Texascarol m. highsmith, Rawpixel

Catalina Island, California

Off the coast of Southern California lies Catalina Island. With its stunning beaches, majestic mountains, and diverse accommodations ranging from luxurious resorts to scenic campsites, it’s easy to see why travelers love this island.

Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, CaliforniaKen Lund, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Catalina Island, California (cont’d)

In Avalon, The Hotel Atwater stands as a timeless landmark, welcoming guests since 1920 to experience the charm of Catalina Island. Adventure also awaits with lots of opportunities for snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, mountain biking, and zip-lining.

Hotel Atwater Santa Catalina IslandFelipe Sanchez, Shutterstock

Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu is an island paradise in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, where every moment feels like a dream come true. From the urban charm of Honolulu to the awe-inspiring waves of the North Shore and the pristine sands of Waikiki, Oahu makes for an unforgettable vacation.

Oahu, HawaiiGeee Kay, Flickr

Oahu, Hawaii (cont’d)

While you’re there, you’ve got to try some shaved ice, a popular Hawaiian treat. Then, head over to Diamond Head (Leahi), a world-famous volcanic crater offering panoramic views of the island. 

Or, lose yourself in the beauty of world-renowned Waikiki Beach, where sparkling blue-green waters beckon you to unwind and soak up the sun.

Waikiki Beach SunsetAlan Light, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Santa Barbara, California

Welcome to the enchanting world of Santa Barbara, often called the "American Riviera”. With its palm trees, lush gardens, beaches, and bustling harbor, Santa Barbara instantly captures the hearts of visitors.

Santa Barbara, CaliforniaMichael Theis, Flickr

Santa Barbara, California (cont’d)

Embrace the sunny weather and Pacific Ocean views as you enjoy outdoor activities like hikes and bike rides. There are also lots of opportunities for fishing trips and rounds of golf against the backdrop of stunning natural beauty.

Santa Barbara Harbor 2015Caroline Culler, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Daufuskie Island, South Carolina

Tucked away between Savannah and Hilton Head Island lies an idyllic retreat full of Spanish moss, salt marshes, and winding coastal waterways—the South Carolina Lowcountry. 

Here, you can indulge in the beauty of the landscape and the cuisine as you feast on seafood boils, shrimp and grits, and hearty gumbo.

Daufuskie Island, South CarolinaU.S. Embassy and Consulates in Canada, Flickr

Daufuskie Island, South Carolina (cont’d)

Accessible only by ferry, this beautiful island offers a serene, car-free environment where you can leisurely bike under gorgeous canopies to reach the seashores. There are lots of other activities for the whole family, from boating and horseback riding to guided tours

Daufuskie IslandCharles W. Bash, Flickr

Tybee Island, Georgia

About 18 miles from Savannah, Tybee Island is a coastal paradise with grassy sand dunes and its iconic black-and-white striped lighthouse. Indulge in the simple pleasures of fresh shrimp and a refreshing Tropicália IPA while relaxing under an umbrella at a beachfront café.

Tybee Island, GeorgiaLibrary of Congress, Picryl

Tybee Island, Georgia (cont’d)

This barrier island is a sanctuary for loggerhead turtles, with the Tybee Island Marine Science Center providing a chance to learn about them and their habitats. 

For accommodations, head over to Savannah, where you'll find everything from charming boutique hotels like the Olde Harbour Inn to luxurious locales like the Perry Lane Hotel.

Tybee Island,, Flickr

Molokai, Hawaii

Escape to the secluded paradise of Molokai, a remote Hawaiian island located just a short 25-minute flight from Maui. This hidden gem is located behind a protective barrier reef and has several natural wonders that are waiting to be explored.

Molokai IslandLokuttara, Shutterstock

Molokai, Hawaii (cont’d)

Molokai is home to the world's highest sea cliffs and Hawaii's tallest waterfall, and there are endless opportunities for outdoor adventures amidst breathtaking scenery. 

For a truly authentic island experience, check into Hotel Moloka'i, where Polynesian-style bungalows, an airy restaurant, and an ocean-view pool provide the perfect blend of comfort and relaxation.

Molokai, HawaiiRobert Harding Video, Shutterstock

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is full of palm-fringed shores, white-sand beaches, and the unique distinction of housing America's only tropical rainforest. Located about 1,000 miles south of Miami, this enchanting U.S. territory welcomes visitors without the need for a passport.

san juan, puerto ricoJacob Boomsma, Shutterstock

San Juan, Puerto Rico (cont’d)

Whether you're going on rainforest hikes, lounging on the beach, or exploring the vibrant culture of Old San Juan and its culinary delights, there's no shortage of cool things to do. 

Condado Vanderbilt Hotel From DrivewayPomeroyc, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Las Vegas, Nevada

In the heart of the Nevada desert, Las Vegas has tropical oases waiting to be discovered around every corner. Take, for example, Mandalay Bay, where you'll find yourself transported to the South Pacific with its sandy beach, wave pool, lazy river, and captivating aquarium.

Las Vegas, Nevada27707, Needpix

Las Vegas, Nevada (cont’d)

For the quintessential Vegas experience head over to the Las Vegas Strip. Hidden among the glitz and glamor, you'll find lush retreats that offer an escape from the desert heat, and allow you to bask in the beauty of a tropical paradise right in the heart of the city.

Mandalay BayMiles Crisostomo, Pexels

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Situated on Florida’s southeastern coast, Fort Lauderdale is an ideal tropical retreat. With a 23-mile stretch of beaches, botanical gardens, and endless entertainment options, the city is a vibrant hub for water sports, shopping, and cultural pursuits. 

Tuesday Weld factsFlickr, Mike McBey

Fort Lauderdale, Florida (cont'd)

From surfing and waterskiing to snorkeling and diving amidst coral reefs, Fort Lauderdale's sunny beaches have something for everyone

You can also explore the enchanting Bonnet House, an historic estate with gorgeous gardens, or go on a wildlife adventure at Flamingo Gardens, home to otters, panthers, parrots, and, or course, flamingos.

Fort Lauderdale, FloridaKeanoManu, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Key Biscayne, Florida

Just a stone's throw away from Miami, Key Biscayne is an intimate island retreat, offering a true taste of paradise amidst tropical and mangrove forests. This charming barrier island is also between by two incredible state parks, each offering its own unique adventures.

key biscayne, floridaFotoluminate LLC, Shutterstock

Key Biscayne, Florida (cont’d)

Climb to the top of the lighthouse at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park for jaw-dropping views of the Atlantic Ocean. Or, unwind under the shade of coconut trees along the pristine beaches of Crandon Park.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State ParkTamanoeconomico, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Rockport, Texas

On the Gulf of Mexico, Rockport is a tropical haven with azure waters and picturesque sandy shores. There are also lots of lakes and saltwater marshes, offering endless opportunities for fly and bait fishing. The iconic Rockport Pier is one of the city’s best fishing spots.

Rockport, TexasAngi English, Flickr

Rockport, Texas (cont’d)

You can also check out Rockport Beach State Park, which is consistently ranked as Texas's #1 beach. Its crystal-clear waters have also earned it the prestigious Blue Wave Beach designation. 

Rockport TexasBayoutlaw75, Shutterstock


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