Top 5 U.S. Island Getaways: Beaches and Beyond - United Hub
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Top 5 U.S. island getaways: Beaches and beyond

By Bob Cooper, September 09, 2016

An island getaway is always an appealing plan, but you don't have use your passport and trade your dollars for foreign currency — or wait for winter when everyone else goes. Here are five U.S. islands you'll enjoy visiting without having to travel to another country.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Unless you count islands within five miles of the U.S. mainland — Long Island, for example — Nantucket is the largest island off the East Coast. It's also far enough away to feel like a distant island even though it's only 25 miles from Cape Cod. Why go? First, there's the historic district of the island's only town (also called Nantucket), the whaling museum, the shipwreck museum and three lighthouses to visit. Second, there are the 23 beaches with good swimming, kayaking and surfing, and all of them can easily be reached on two wheels. Bikes can be rented in town and bike paths fan out over most of the 14-mile-long island, so it's easy to go car-less.

Harbor in Avalon, California

Catalina, California

One hour after departing Long Beach harbor aboard a Catalina Express ferry, you'll reach an island where L.A.'s traffic and pollution have vanished. Island traffic is mostly electric golf cart rentals and the air is ocean-cooled and clean. This will inspire you to hike into the hills of the 22-mile-long island (95 percent of it undeveloped), soar down a 4,000-foot series of ziplines over a canyon, take an ocean kayak out on the water — or just lay on the beach to people watch. Avalon, the town where you'll disembark, has many inns, restaurants, the historic Catalina Casino, the 1,184-seat Avalon Theatre (nightly movies) and the newly expanded Catalina Island Museum — which tells the history of the island, a haven for midcentury film stars.

Lighthouse on San Juan Island in Washington

San Juan, Washington

San Juan Island offers far more than cool breezes along its 73-mile shoreline. After the flight to Seattle, a nearly two-hour drive to Anacortes, and a one-hour scenic car ferry to Friday Harbor, you'll want to rest up at your inn for the days ahead. Lovers of the outdoors can be filled with whale-watching from land at Lime Kiln Point State Park (orcas visit through September) and strolling two-mile-long South Beach at American Camp, part of the island's San Juan Islands National Historic Park. Art-lovers will prefer the 20-acre San Juan Islands Sculpture Park and recently opened San Juan Islands Museum of Art. Additional attractions are The Whale Museum, wine-tasting, an alpaca ranch and a lavender farm.

Aerial View of Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu, Hawaii

“Hawaii Five-0" paints a distorted picture of Hawaii, which has the sixth-lowest crime rate and second-lowest murder rate of all 50 states. But safety is not the main reason why Hawaii's most populated island, Oahu, is a favorite of vacationers. The island's beaches are legendary, from big-wave surf spots on the North Shore to Honolulu's Waikiki, perfect for beginning surfers and advanced sunbathers. Rainforest hikes in the mountains are breathtaking. Family attractions are abundant, topped by the Polynesian Cultural Center and Kualoa Ranch. The blend of American, Asian and Native Hawaiian cultures is reflected in everything from the fusion cuisine to the fashion scene. And the energy of the Waikiki tourist district pulsates day and night, with new rooftop restaurants cropping up every week.

Ocean View, St. Thomas

St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.

Unlike most Caribbean islands, no passport is required to visit St. Thomas, the most populous and popular of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The dollar and the English language have reigned for generations, with 2017 marking the centennial of U.S.V.I.'s admittance to the U.S. But the main reasons to visit are the dozens of beaches; snorkeling and kayaking in the aquamarine waters just off shore; Caribbean-cuisine restaurants and nightlife in the harbor city of Charlotte Amalie; and the views and exotic plants at Phantasea Tropical Botanic Garden (opened in 2015) in the mountains. There's also plenty of history — two castles named for infamous pirates and a Danish fort, all three built in the 17th century — if you can drag yourself away from the beach.

If you go

Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your island getaway.

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