The Best Islands to Visit Without a U.S. Passport

by  Darren Murph | May 8, 2013
Key West, Florida
Key West, Florida / Meinzahn/iStock

There are plenty of truths to travel, but today I'll focus on just two. First, traveling to a warm, sand-fringed island can help a bad day, week, month, or even year seem inconsequential. Second, traveling anywhere that requires a passport undoubtedly causes headaches – just how big the headache varies widely on your destination. The good news for U.S. citizens, however, is that there are plenty of islands within reach that boast an international vibe, yet don't require a passport. Below, I'll share a few of my favorites for those itching to burn a few vacation days without dealing with immigration lines.

Puerto Rico: Officially, this island group is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean. But for anyone who has traveled there, they'll tell you that it's absolutely nothing like the mainland. PR is one of America's most precious gems. For the most part, the original culture remains intact; Spanish is the primary language, locals live on island time, and the architecture oozes with history. There's a sense of adventure here that doesn't exist in mainland beach communities, and I dare you to find a place as gorgeous as Culebra within the contiguous 48 states.

St. John: As the smallest and least populated of the U.S. Virgin Islands, this guy is oft overlooked. True, accessing it requires a small amount of planning, as you'll need to fly into neighboring St. Thomas and then take a quick ferry over to St. John, but it's well worth the effort. Approximately 60 percent of the island is protected as Virgin Islands National Park, which is one of the most infrequently visited parks in the entire system. What you'll find are pristine, untouched beaches that are shielded by the Department of the Interior, and plenty of Caribbean flair in the local hotels and eateries.

Key West: Arguably, this is the easiest of the three recommendations to access. Daily flights from the southeast will put you into Key West, which is known by locals as the Conch Republic. You're seemingly millions of miles from even mainland Florida, and outside of how easy it is to rent a car, use your mobile phone, complete transactions and interact with the locals, you'll forget that you're actually in the United States. If you want to feel even further from the grid, hop a ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park. It's nearly 70 miles west of Key West, and if you're trying to check each national park off of your bucket list, this is one that very few people will be able to match you on.

Have any favorite passport-free islands that aren’t listed here? Tell us about them in the comments below!

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