It's not called "America the beautiful" for nothing. Each of these islands comes with its own charm, whether it be white sandy beaches, off-shore lobster excursions or stunning hikes up volcanos. Each of these stunning rocks can be reached by plane, boat or car, and will quickly have you realizing just how beautiful this country of ours is.
You may not find white sandy beaches and palm trees in the quaint San Juan Islands of Washington state, but you will find majestic mountain views, orcas and miles of lavender farms, which is just as good (in our opinion). The San Juan islands are just a hop and a skip (on a float plane) from Seattle, but feel like a light year away. Going on an orca cruise is a must and so is scouring the islands for antiques in many of their shops. Book a stay in the Friday Harbor House and wake up to sounds of boats coming in and the salty smell of the sea every morning. While there, stop by the Pelindaba Lavender Farm and pick up some lotions or fresh sprigs to tuck into your suitcase.
For some people, an island isn't an island unless there's an aqua ocean and sandy beaches. And if that's your cup of tea (or margarita) then pack your bags and head to St. John. The smallest and least commercially developed of the Virgin Islands, St. John is a true getaway, with few roads on the island and miles of uninterrupted, unspoiled natural beauty. Take a boat onto Cruz Bay and go snorkeling off Waterlemon Cay or spend your day basking in the beauty of Coral Bay. A day in St. John is also not complete without a stop at the Dolphin Gourmet Market or Woody's Seafood Salon. We love the Westin for its amazing spa, water views and round-trip ferry service to the airport.
Where better to spend a weekend or week away than in the "happiest seaside town in America," Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Although it's known for golf (they have five award-winning golf courses and hosted the 2012 PGA Championship), the beautiful beaches, proximity to Charleston and Low Country charm are really what wins tourists over. A must is to visit the 10-mile stretch of beach, but if you're in the mood for hiking or nature-watching, visit one of the 10,000 acres of natural woodlands. Stay at the Kiawah Island Resort in one of their vacation villas, with access to the private beach, pools and golf course.
There are no bad islands to visit when you're going to Hawaii, but Kauai is one of our favorites. For one, it's the least commercially developed of the islands, giving you more natural beauty "bang" for your buck. Kauai, which is known as the "garden island" is a post card of natural beauty, with tall trees, dark mountains, lush greenery, sandy beaches, pristine aqua-blue water and bright coral reefs. A visit to the Haena Beach Park should be on everyone's list for the amazing scuba and snorkeling. We also suggest the Kalalalu lookout, which sits above Waimea Canyon. You'll have views of bridges, mountains and waterfalls, and may even spot a dolphin. Stay at the St. Regis Princeville for their spacious guest rooms, stunning views of Makana Mountain and superb customer service.
Food, festivals and family: If those are three must-haves for your next vacation, quickly book your stay on beautiful Amelia Island in Florida. Amelia is home to two major festivals during the year, the Concours d’Elegance and the renowned Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival. The first festival is all about antique and elegant cars. The shrimp festival is about, well, shrimp! In addition to festivals, the island is known for quiet, family-friendly beaches, charming historic district and community theater, as well as water sports and bike trails. We love the Elizabeth Pointe Lodge for a place to stay. It's right on the beach, has stunning views and very cozy accommodations.
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