As summer fades away and autumn starts knocking on the door, you might find yourself already longing for warm sunny days and dreaming about pampering among the palm trees in a faraway tropical paradise. For the modern-day working family, such exotic destinations with blooming beaches and brilliant white sands may seem like nothing more than an unobtainable dream – especially right before the start of a new working season. However, many American vacationers forget about the exotic destinations in America's backyard.
If your family had a busy summer or you simply can’t bear to see the season come to an end, these five U.S. island destinations offer an inviting tropical climate year-round and can be reached without a passport.
U.S. Virgin Islands
The U.S. Virgin Islands have the effortless beauty of the Caribbean with the convenience of being a U.S. territory. Parents only need their birth certificate and a photo ID; for kids, the photo ID is not required. The Virgin Islands consist of the three main islands—St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John—each with its own unique attractions and charm.
St. Croix boasts the most spectacular views of the Caribbean’s lapis lazuli waters. You and your family can stroll down Frederiksted Pier to scuba dive, go snorkeling, fish, or swim. St. John is two-thirds national park, home to the Reef Bay Trail & Petroglyphs, a 937-foot hike through the remains of four sugar estates and ancient petroglyph rock carvings. Not to be outdone, St. Thomas is home to the Islands’ most popular beach, Magens Bay, which boasts calm, blue waters and white sand sure to take your breath away.
An unincorporated U.S. territory since 1898, Puerto Rico is a Caribbean paradise bursting with colorful Spanish culture. San Juan, the social and cultural center of the island, is an ideal spot for your family to explore as you bask in the tropical year-round summer.
Families find solace in Puerto Rico’s beautiful sandy beaches and crystal blue water, where they can relax in the sun or go for a dive in one of the island’s many excellent diving sites. However, the beaches are far from the only thing Puerto Rico has to offer: families can tour Fort San Cristobal, promenade through Pigeon’s Park to feed the birds, explore the Kids’ Museum full of exciting and interactive activities (in English), and take a hike on one of the Caribbean National Forest’s beautiful trails.
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Each of Hawaii’s five islands—Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Hawaii, and Lanai—offer distinct vibes and attractions to create any type of vacation imaginable.
Oahu is the home of Honolulu and the Waikiki district; here you can shop, drink, and dine in the city before exploring the stunning beaches and hiking trails. Those seeking to get closer to nature should make Maui their destination: take the kids on a whale-watching cruise, check out the Maui Ocean Center aquarium, or relax on some of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii.
On Kauai, you can find kid-friendly beaches for the younger tots to take a dip while the older kids can hang-ten with surfing lessons. Hawaii, or the Big Island, is for families that seek adventure: in addition to touring the island's active volcano, you and your kin can enjoy a variety of fun activities such as horseback riding, snorkeling with manta rays, and hiking. Finally, Lanai: This island's main draw is the Four Seasons Resort, ideal for families looking to splurge.
American Samoa is a collection of five volcanic islands in the South Pacific. With a smaller, more casual tourism infrastructure, American Samoa’s charm is for those families who yearn to escape into nature. Inundated with the vibrant Samoan culture, the islands boast gorgeous natural attractions, such as mountains, rainforests, and coral reef-filled waters.
The islands of America Samoa offer plenty to give kids the adventure of a lifetime: explore exotic rainforest terrain on the Cloud Rainforest to Reef Hike, snorkel in the shallow atolls, or make an educational visit to see the fish, turtles, marine mammals, and coral protected in the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, one of the most populated marine sanctuaries in the world.
Northern Mariana Islands
An archipelago of 14 islands nestled in the Pacific Ocean, the Northern Mariana Islands make for an amazing travel destination. Saipan, the most popular island and center of tourism, invites you to soak up the sun on Micro Beach, tour historical sites such as the preserved shipwrecks and artifacts from the Pacific War that dot the coast, and explore countless other attractions, like the breathtaking view from the Bird Island Lookout or the Grotto, a limestone cavern with warm waters ideal for snorkeling.
Stepping away from the beaches, the island's indigenous wildlife offers a great learning opportunity for kids. The Saipan Zoo contains fruit bats, coconut crabs, and other animals unique to the island chain that can be viewed in close proximity.
Taking your family on a last-minute exotic getaway may appear impossible, but the impossible becomes possible if you know where to look. As American territories, these five exotic destinations, reachable without the hassle of obtaining passports, can send your family on an adventure like no other.