Tropical Vacation Destinations Right Here In the U.S.

You don't always have to leave the country to experience a relaxing tropical vacation. Check out these U.S. destinations that still boast those tropical vibes -- no passport required!

Dreaming of a tropical vacation?

We are talking about silky, white sands on the beach and crystal clear waters. Palm trees sway in the warm breeze as you take a sip of your pina colada. Perhaps later you’ll go snorkeling around coral reefs, before trying the mouthwatering cuisine from a five-star restaurant.

From the over-the-water bungalows in Bora Bora to the nature reserves of the Seychelles, a relaxing tropical vacation is definitely on everyone’s travel wishlist. But there’s one thing that these paradise destinations have in common: they’re not exactly cheap.

There are a lot that factors into the cost of a vacation. Between the cost of lodging, food, drink, excursions, and other activities, costs start adding up quickly. Add travel to that, and you’re definitely spending a pretty penny to get away from it all. Plus, transportation to a destination is exponentially more expensive when it’s in some far-off location.

So, how do you get that relaxing, tropical vacation without some of those tropical vacation prices? You stay home! Well, sort of.

There are actually plenty of locations right here in the United States that can give you those tropical vibes, but for less than it might cost to fly to the Maldives. And, you won’t even need a passport to get to these destinations!

Key West, Florida

Key West, Florida
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Florida is full of beachy locales. I could definitely write an entire article on Florida beaches alone. But when it comes to relaxing, tropical vibes for the ultimate vacation, Key West takes the cake.

Sitting only about 90 miles north of Cuba, you’ll feel like you have left the country for the Caribbean. All of the wonderful pastel conch-style houses help! Key West is the kind of place where you stretch out on a hammock between two palms. If you feel like moving, go grab some of the freshest, straight-off-the-boat seafood there is. Or, grab a drink at Florida’s oldest bar.

Of course, there are more adventurous things you can do here, too. This island is known for diving and snorkeling, as it has the only living barrier reef in the continental U.S. You can also dive to explore a shipwreck, go for a swim with dolphins, get your heart pumping with thrilling watersports, or check out the nightlife scene.

Santa Catalina Island, California

Santa Catalina Island, California
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For anyone on the west coast, California’s got Santa Catalina Island for you. Located 22 miles off the Southern California coast, white sand beach is an oasis. There are several beautiful beaches here, with soft sand and crystal clear waters.

On the north side of the island you’ll find Two Harbors, a resort town. You can, of course, relax on the sands of the beaches. You’ll also find world-class scuba diving, kayaking, fishing, and other water activities. Take in the sights while hiking or biking, or just relax and enjoy the renowned hospitality at your resort.

Related: When All-Inclusive Resorts Are Worth It, and When They’re Not

To the south is the city of Avalon, where you’ll find cabanas and a beachside restaurant lining Descanso Beach. Head out on the ever-popular Bison Expedition and learn how the herd ended up on the island, or head underwater to see the abundant marine life on the Undersea Sub Expedition. In Avalon, you’ll also find the Lovers Cove marine Preserve, the Catalina Island Museum, the Botanical Gardens, and the Catalina Casino.

Maui, Hawaii

Coastline of Maui, Hawaii
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Choosing only a single Hawaiian island is pretty difficult, I must say. However, Maui makes my list for the ultimate tropical trip.

When we are looking at tropical getaways, gorgeous beaches are a must! Beaches on Kauai are more difficult to get to, and could require hiking. And the Big Island has the fewest beaches, so it’s not the best for anyone looking to relax in the sand. Maui, on the other hand, has all the magnificent beaches that you want for your relaxing trip. Plus, it’s a little less packed when compared to Oahu.

Aside from relaxing on the beach, you’ll also find hiking trails, helicopter tours, and plenty of watersports to keep you busy. Fine Hawaiian regional cuisine will keep your tastebuds happy, too.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico
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Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory, which means that U.S. citizens can travel to the island without a passport – even though it’s not technically part of the country. For our purposes, it counts!

This charming Caribbean island is one that you don’t want to miss. And especially if you’ve never visited before, San Juan is a great first destination. It is the capital and largest city, so there is plenty to do.

There are obviously plenty of beaches to visit here. El Escambrón is a picturesque beach protected by a coral reef. However, if you really want to get away from it all, catch a short boat ride to the island of Culebra, which is home to the world-famous Flamenco beach.

There’s a lot more than just beaches here, too. You’ll find amazing traditional Puerto Rican food, sweeping ocean views from the fortress of El Moro, nightlife, cobbled streets, and buildings dating back as far as the 16th century.

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