While the continental U.S. is too far north to be considered truly
tropical, you can still find American destinations that boast the
balmy weather, sugar sand beaches, and icy rum runners of
tropical lore. Southern reaches of the lower 48 sit within the just-
as-pleasant subtropical and Mediterranean climate zones, and off
the mainland, you can escape to the literal tropics in spots like
Hawaii and Puerto Rico without having to renew your passport.
(The territories of American Samoa and Guam also lie within the
tropics, but passports are required for those more distant isles.)
Whether they’re geographically tropical or not, these
U.S. islands, beach towns, and resorts make for the
perfect tropical-style vacation.
Key West, Florida–
Florida is the land of sun tan oil and daiquiris. With 1,300 miles of
coastline along the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, Florida is an
ideal vacation destination. It’s also home to the city of Key West in
the Florida Keys, the southernmost point in the continental U.S.
For a true U.S. tropical destination, head to Hawaii.
Home to some of the world’s best islands, Hawaii is all blue
lagoons and fragrant hibiscus. Kauai is resplendent in rainforests,
waterfalls, and beaches best seen on a hike or from your candy-
striped beach towel.
Amelia Island, Florida–
Find shorelines fringed in beach grass
and barnacle-covered piers on this quiet barrier island off the
coast of Florida. Hunt for sea turtle nests in the morning and then
head to the quaint downtown for a strawberry ice cream cone to
beat the rising heat in the afternoon.
St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands–
Welcome to the U.S. Virgin
Islands. The sugar-sand archipelago in the Caribbean is made up
of three islands, and St. Croix, the largest, has a more relaxed
atmosphere for those who want to take an actual vacation on their
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama–
Most U.S. beaches
can’t hold a flame to the aquamarine waters and soft sands of the
Gulf Coast. And, with summer (never mind water) temps in the
80s, the southern shore of Alabama is also a bona fide tropical
This tropical destination is known for its golden
strips of shore and cliffs every shade of green.
Dauphin Island, Alabama–
Be on the lookout for a dolphin’s fin
cutting through the glassy waters of this barrier island three miles
south of Mobile Bay in the Gulf of Mexico. First, you’ll have to
traverse a three-mile-long bridge to get to its white sands and
vibrant, Gulf sunsets.
South Padre Island, Texas–
This barrier island off the southern tip
of Texas is a year-round oasis. The island features 34 miles of
white-sand beaches, clear, warm water, mild weather, and lots to
Catalina Island, California–
Located off the coast of Southern California, Catalina Island is both
hot and lush, with beaches, mountains, and plenty of places to
stay, from resorts to campsites.
Oahu, Hawaii- From the sophisticated capital of Honolulu to the
massive swells on the North Shore and Waikiki’s picture-perfect
hikes, Oahu is a little paradise in the Central Pacific.
Santa Barbara, California–
Though it’s often called the “American
Riviera,” Santa Barbara could be taken for a tropical island thanks
to its abundant palm trees, lush gardens, sandy beaches, and
boat-filled harbor. Visitors enjoy the sunny climate, Pacific views,
and outdoor adventures like hiking, biking, fishing, and golf.
Daufuskie Island, South Carolina–
The Spanish moss, salt
marshes, and coastal waterways of the South Carolina Lowcountry
color this idyll sandwiched between Savannah and Hilton Head
Tybee Island, Georgia–
Grassy sand dunes and a historic black-
and-white striped lighthouse bring a quaint coastal feel to Tybee
Island, about 18 miles from Savannah.
Tucked behind a barrier reef, about a 25-minute
flight from Maui, the remote Hawaiian island of Molokai is a great
tropical vacation option. It has the world’s highest sea cliffs, as well
as Hawaii’s tallest waterfall, so you’ll never want for outdoor
adventure in its tropical environs.
San Juan, Puerto Rico–
With palm trees, white-sand beaches,
and the only tropical rainforest in the national forest system, Puerto
Rico is the Caribbean getaway of your dreams. It’s only 1,000
miles south of Miami, and you won’t need a passport to get into the