Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips. This article was updated December 21, 2020.
So you’ve got #VacationGoals, but the rules around traveling abroad right now still seem a little hazy? Not to worry. These extraordinary destinations are totally bucket list worthy and there’s no time to start planning your future trip there like the present. The best part is that none of them requires you to spend time or money renewing your passport or standing in a customs line. That’s right—you can visit the tropical getaway of your dreams, no passport required! So when travel is in full swing again, and you’re ready to take off, consider these seven incredible escapes that offer paradise without a passport.
Puerto Rico tourism has been hit hard in the past few years, with Hurricane Maria ravishing the island back in 2017 and then COVID-19 taking its toll in 2020. And while local tourism authorities are encouraging only essential travel at this time, it’s never too soon to start thinking about a future Puerto Rico trip. After all, it’s one of the only two destinations in the Caribbean that doesn’t require U.S. citizens to carry a passport, so you’d be crazy not to add this tropical escape to your 2021 to-do list. The beaches are pristine and the temperature is always just right at a balmy 80-ish degrees year-round.
If you go, you can look forward to popular attractions like Old San Juan, Bacardi Distillery, the UNESCO site Castillo San Felipe del Morro and rainforest ziplining, to name a few. Or just kick back and enjoy drinks at a local beach bar, restaurant or in the comfort of your hotel. Depending on the type of travel experience you’re seeking, we suggest staying in or near San Juan at the charmingly chic CasaBlanca Hotel or the luxuriously swanky beachfront Condado Vanderbilt Hotel.
U.S. Virgin Islands
Just a short flight away from Puerto Rico—we’re talking around 30 minutes, people—lies another tropical paradise known as the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John. The USVI reopened for tourism back in September 2020, but there are a few extra precautionary steps the islands are asking you to take to keep everyone safe; you can find more on that here. Once you land, getting straight to the beach is a breeze because, as promised, you don’t even need to bring your passport along to gain access to this Caribbean heaven. While tourism in these islands was hit hard by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, and then COIVD-19 in 2020, the rainbow after the storm seems to now be within sight, so why not help in the rebuilding efforts by enjoying what these beautiful islands do best? Wowing tourists!
If you can’t decide which of the U.S. Virgin Islands to explore, keep in mind that each has its own unique personality. Find the one that matches yours, and you’ll be set! For example, St. John is known for it’s breathtaking diving and snorkeling spots and St. Thomas for world-class shopping. Foodies won’t be able to resist St. Croix, offering Caribbean island-style cuisine your palate will never forget. Pair your meal with some local Cruzan Coconut Rum, and you’ll quickly realize every dining experience you have from here on out will be compared to this magical moment. And will never, ever compare.
San Diego, California
About 70 miles of coastline, adorable sea lions and seriously talented surfers? When you’re ready to travel again, head west and you’ll find a SoCal paradise in San Diego … and you may wonder why you ever considered traveling further. La Jolla Cove is enough reason to visit; it’s a Pacific Coast dream featuring scuba diving, white sand beaches, underwater reefs and plenty of seal spotting as the Children’s Pool transforms into a safe haven for newly-born seal pups from December to May each year.
Let’s not forget about the city’s immersive zoo experience, where visitors can get a glimpse at more than 4,000 animals including koala bears, giant pandas, Galapagos tortoises and much more. A stroll through Balboa Park and dinner in the Gaslamp Quarter can round out your day before enjoying another incredible sunset in a place where summer never seems to end. Get the beachside vibe you’re looking for with a stay at the one-of-a-kind Hotel del Coronado.
Who hasn’t dreamt of a Hawaiian getaway? Despite serious COVID-related travel restrictions in 2020, Hawaii slowly started to reopen at the time of writing, with new safeguards in place. That aside, Hawaii is still a relatively easy and attractive destination for U.S. travelers since it’s the only true set of tropical islands to revel in full U.S. statehood. That means that the only thing standing between you and a life-changing view is a 6-hour flight from L.A. (give or take a few minutes, depending on your island of choice.) Once you arrive, say aloha to natural beauty, ample exploration opportunities and unique cultural experiences you thought you’d have to travel across the world to experience.
So, when you’re ready to go, which island will you choose? Kauai, also known as the “Garden Island,” is perfect for travelers seeking epic mountain views, stunning tropical rainforests and cascading waterfalls. Take it all in with an awe-inspiring helicopter ride. For romance in the form of extraordinary sunsets and world-famous beaches begging to be enjoyed alongside your beau, Maui can’t be beat. There’s also plenty of adventure to be found here, such as taking an unforgettable drive on the Road to Hana. For those wishing to get a little more city-center with their island escape, pick Oahu, where you’ll find everything from incredible shopping centers to ATV riding at Kualoa Ranch—the backdrop for movies, including Jurassic Park and Pearl Harbor!
At the time of writing, travel to American Samoa was still fairly restricted but this is a big trip, so you’re going to want spend some time planning anyway. While you’ll have to travel across the world to get your fill of Samoan paradise, it’s a great bet if you’re looking for a complete escape from the everyday (and right now, who isn’t?). Luckily, like the other destinations mentioned here, no passport is required to step foot on the Polynesian oasis of American Samoa, a U.S. territory covering seven South Pacific islands. You’ll find them about 1,600 miles from New Zealand and 2,200 miles from Hawaii.
This truly off-the-beaten path destination will refresh your soul as you enjoy surfing, snorkeling, fishing and hiking at its finest. For a full immersion in the islands scenic beauty, check out the National Park of American Samoa, which preserves and protects the land’s coral reefs, tropical rainforests and unique Samoan culture.
Another seemingly far away land that also grants access to U.S. citizens without flashing a passport? Guam, though it is recommended travelers bring a government issued photo ID and copy of their birth certificate. While we recommend waiting to take this trip (at the time of writing, arrivals were required to quarantine in a government facility), once the time is right to go, the Micronesian island set in the Western Pacific offers wonderful beaches, famous for comfortable and calm waters and particularly scenic views. Stick to the tourist hub of Tumon if you’re looking for luxury shopping, food and beaches that feel like home. And only pack for heat—no jackets needed here! The humidity and temperature is always on the rise, so sun worshippers have even more reason to love this intriguing getaway.
Don’t miss the Insta-worthy photo opp of Two Lovers Point, a cliff-side lookout with a unique backstory and an even more interesting view of Tumon Bay.
Key West, Florida
In a Caribbean state of mind? Stay close and head to Key West, located about 120 miles off the southern tip of Florida. You’ll get that tropical climate you’re craving, without enduring long flights—and sometimes a weekend escape is all you need to reset and recharge. Note that face masks are required in indoor pubic spaces, but you’ll probably want to spend most of your time outside anyway. From a laid-back island lifestyle to a let-loose party atmosphere, Key West has exactly the type of escape you’re seeking. And the best part is, it’s all framed by impeccable scenery. Spend an afternoon strolling the area’s iconic Duval Street and sample your way through its best Key lime pie stops. Or enjoy a lively Pub Crawl, as you experience the area’s most famous bars and pubs.
There’s also plenty of adventure to be had in Key West. Snorkel the waters surrounding the remote Dry Tortugas National Park, go diving or take out on a sailing expedition. Travel back in time at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, where the famed author lived in the 1930s. Mingle with fellow island lovers at Mallory Square, the city’s center brimming with restaurants, shops, museums and entertainment. Or perhaps, simply let it all go and relax.
Which of these paradises will become your next spontaneous escape? Go ahead and pack up now, no passport needed!
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