With May (and then June, July and August) right around the corner, we officially declare it “time to travel.” Though our Instagram feeds might have us longing for a jaunt to the Maldives, stingy vacation policies in the US often make it impossible to travel such distances if there’s any hope of actually enjoying the destination between long-haul flights. (This isn’t even to mention the budget required for such exotic vacations!) Luckily, we live in a vast and diverse country with hundreds of islands, many of which rival more far-flung locales. Here, seven such destinations we recommend you add to your calendar this summer.
Really, you can't wrong with any of the Hawaiian islands, but Lanai is one you may be over-looking. If you're in need of real downtime, away from crowds and tourist traps, you'll want to consider booking a stay at the Four Seasons Lanai to enjoy beautiful beaches, scenic hikes, sailing, snorkeling and more. While this isn't exactly a rustic, "island" experience (there's a Nobu onsite, after all), it can definitely compete in terms of luxury and relaxation with anywhere you'd need a passport to travel. Summer temperatures hover in the mid-70s to high-80s range.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
One of the most charming things about Mackinac Island—at least if you're from traffic-congested Los Angeles, like us—is that it's a car-free zone. And while we might be primed to covet French street signs and other such foreign objects when it comes to our Instagram stream, there's something magical about good ole' Americana, too. That feeling is perfectly encapsulated on this Michigan island and its historic resort, the aptly named Grand Hotel. You can also try the newer Mission Point Resort if you're looking for a place to stay, and expect to indulge in quaint activities such as bocce ball, croquet and the like. Temperatures in the summer range from 76 degrees to 84 degrees or, in other words, are practically perfect.
San Juan Islands
If you're looking for a vibe that's a bit more adventurous, you may want to head northwest to the San Juan Islands of Washington state. Here, hiking, kayaking, fishing and whale watching (from May to October) on are all non-negotiables for your agenda. The islands are made up of approximately 175 islets, so we recommend you stay in Friday Harbor, from where you can easily explore. Note: Temperatures are cooler here (think mid-60s), so it might not be right for someone looking to tan while enjoying fruity drinks.
St. John, US Virgin Islands
If you want to dance on tables with the world's elite (to the great dismay of your accountant), St. Barth's is the place to be. If you just want to escape to a beautiful island without having to cross customs, however, try US-owned St. John instead. The Caneel Bay resort is absurdly beautiful, remote and surrounded by a national park, so we recommend booking there unless, of course, you're looking for something a little more rustic (read: affordable), in which case we suggest you check out the Concordia Eco Resort. While St. John is most popular in the winter, when the snowbirds flock, prices are lower in the summer for those who can withstand hotter temps.
If you're looking for something a bit quieter than Miami but have traditionally avoided the Florida Keys because of their sometimes less-than-chic reputation, we encourage you to reconsider. Islamorada is just around an hour and a half south of the Miami airport, and your friends don't necessarily have to know that the coconut plantation on which you're staying is located in the US. Expect temperatures in the high 80s, low 90s over the summer.
Vieques, Puerto Rico
Vieques is an island off the coast of Puerto Rico, and Hunter S. Thompson once said it's the only place where he felt at peace, which is quite the endorsement. Stay at The W and enjoy snorkeling, sailing and beautiful beaches that are part of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. While you're in the area, don't miss the bio-luminescent plankton at Mosquito Bay.
Sea Island, Georgia
This private island, part of "the golden isles," is home to the rather epic 5-star resort The Cloister. Enjoy fishing, horseback riding, boating and more on this charming Southern island. Sea Island is located about 60 miles from historic Savannah, GA, and summer temperatures hover in the high 80s.