Summary

  • The United States has over 18,000 islands waiting to be discovered, from famous tourist islands like Maui to hidden gems on lakes and coasts.
  • Catalina Island in California offers a unique blend of island paradise, baseball history, and wildlife, including a bison herd protected by the National Park Service.
  • From hiking in Isle Royale National Park in Michigan to luxury beach resorts on Amelia Island in Florida, there are amazing United States islands for every kind of trip.



The perfect island escape is a popular bucket list item for many travelers, but actually traveling to one may seem out of reach. While the United States has numerous famous tourist islands, including Maui of the Hawaiian islands, which has many bucket list experiences to enjoy, there are currently over 18,000 islands in the US waiting to be discovered.

From barrier islands along the coast to hidden gems situated on lakes across the country, there are countless islands for every kind of day trip. Whether travelers are hoping to sunbathe on a white sand beach or hike among bison and wildflowers, the perfect island day trip is just waiting to be discovered on any of the following amazing United States islands to visit.

UPDATE: 2023/12/02 23:40 EST BY NICOLE HANSEN


Even More USA Islands to Explore!

With thousands of landscapes to explore, the islands of the US are some of the most unique parts of the country. This list has been updated with even more US islands to visit on vacation. Updates have also been made to the hiking trails and ferry fees to represent current closures and changes. Time to go island hopping in America!


Related: 10 Most Beautiful Mediterranean Islands To Visit In 2024


13 Catalina Island, Los Angeles County, California

Off the Los Angeles coast, known for cruise stops, wildlife, and Baja California food

Boats in the harbor in Avalon, Catalina Island, California, CA, USA
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Boats in the harbor in Avalon, Catalina Island, California, CA, USA

Catalina Island is perhaps one of the most unusual places to visit in California, as well as one of the most historically significant US islands. A strange combination of island paradise, baseball history, and bison grazing lands, Catalina Island has something to attract all audiences. The inhabited part of the island, Avalon, is relatively compact. This, paired with the exceptionally high gas prices that come from island living, means that most people use golf carts to explore the island.


Beyond the borders of Catalina’s million-dollar mansions are the undeveloped acres of shrubbery. Numerous native species can be spotted by exploring this region, including the Catalina fox, a smaller cousin to the mainland red fox. There is, however, one truly over-sized resident in Catalina. A herd of bison, left behind after an old western movie was filmed on the island, calls Catalina home. Now protected by the National Park Service, tours of the bison herds are one of the best things to do on Catalina Island.

Visiting Catalina Island

Hiking Trails

12 Isle Royale, Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Rock Harbor Lighthouse, Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
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Rock Harbor Lighthouse, Isle Royale National Park, Michigan


Not every island in the United States is settled in the ocean. Many of the best US islands to visit for a scenic vacation, like Isle Royale in Michigan, are tucked right in the middle of a lake. Isle Royale is situated on Lake Superior and is so untainted that cars are still not allowed on the island.

Despite the lack of motorized vehicles, there is still plenty to enjoy on Isle Royale. A popular destination for backpacking, boating, fishing, and hiking, Isle Royale is a bit of a step back in time.

Visiting Isle Royal Island

Hiking Trails

Isle Royale is closed annually from November 1 to April 15. Also, no cars are allowed on the island.


11 St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Part of the 90 islands and islets of the Virgin Islands, great for hiking, snorkeling, swimming, and boating

The beautiful Trunk Bay Beach in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands 
Photo by Josh Duncan on Unsplash

The beautiful Trunk Bay Beach in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands 

The US Virgin Islands are classified as territories instead of states, and, as a result, are frequently forgotten. Despite their underrated status, the Virgin Islands are some of the best islands to visit in the US. With three large islands and over 50 smaller islets and cays, travelers can enjoy an island getaway as well as take advantage of some cheap island hopping among the US Virgin Islands.

Of the Virgin Islands, Saint John is perhaps the most unique stop. Saint John is the smallest of the three major Virgin Islands and has everything from luxury resorts to budget campsites. As part of the free-to-visit Virgin Islands National Park, St. John is also the perfect place for a relaxing day on the beach or hike along the island.

Visiting St. John Island


Hiking Trails

10 Wizard Island, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Situated in Crater Lake, superb for hiking, scenic viewing, and boating

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Via: Unsplash

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon is a gorgeous lake formed as a result of a volcanic eruption. 

It is no small feat to stand out against a masterpiece of Mother Nature like the deepest lake in the United States. In the center of Crater Lake (one of the USA’s incredible natural wonders) lies the 316-acre Wizard Island, a cinder-cone island that stands as the last reminder of the dormant volcano whose remains formed the famous lake.

Named because of its resemblance to a wizard’s hat, the best way to visit the island is via boat tour, with both half and full-day options available. Once on the island, visitors can hike to the summit or simply explore the perimeter of this untainted patch of land.


Visiting Wizard Island

Hiking Trails

  • Summit Hike: 2.3 miles, Moderately Strenuous

Related: 10 Amazing Facts About Crater Lake You Probably Didn’t Know

9 Amelia Island, Nassau County, Florida

Amelia Island from a drone, Florida, FL, USA
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Amelia Island from a drone, Florida, FL, USA

Island getaways are often depicted with white sand beaches and warm ocean waves. Thankfully, Amelia Island can provide that picture-perfect escape without having to break out the passport. This 18.6 square mile island is home to over 40 beaches, a state park, and a charming historic district.

This barrier island along the Florida coast is home not only to clean beaches and an abundance of wildlife but luxury amenities as well. With multiple world-class resorts, restaurants, and spas, as well as a golf course, this little dot of land has everything guests need for a perfect island vacation in Florida.


Visiting Amelia Island

Hiking Trails

  • Amelia Island Trail: 11.9 miles, Easy
  • Amelia Island State Park Beach Loop: 2.5 miles, Easy

8 Orcas Island, San Juan Islands, Washington

Off the Washington Coast, hot for wildlife viewing, luxury activities like golfing, and hiking

San Juan Islands, Washington
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San Juan Islands, Washington

Off the northern coast of Washington lies the San Juan Islands, a popular destination for hiking, sightseeing, and whale watching. The highlight of this archipelago is Orca Island, the 57-square-mile gem of the island chain.

Visitors can plan the perfect vacation to the San Juan Islands by prioritizing the natural beauty of the island, which involves swimming in one of the lakes, sea kayaking around the island, or hiking to the summit of Mount Constitution, the highest point on any of the islands. Guests can also play the 9-hole golf course, go wine tasting at the Orca Island Winery, or dive into the history of the island at the Orca Island Historical Museum.


Visiting Orcas Island

Hiking Trails

  • Obstruction Pass Trail: 1.4 miles, Easy
  • Turtleback Mountain South Trail: 6.6 miles, Moderately Strenuous
  • Mount Constitution Summit Hike: 7.9 miles, Strenuous

The San Juan Islands are a true summer destination. While access to Orcas Island is available year-round, some restaurants, attractions, and trails may be closed during the off-season due to weather or low crowds.

7 Angel Island, Angel Island State Park, California

Off the coast of San Francisco, good for hiking, wildlife watching, and wildflower trails

Aerial view of Angel Island at sunset, located off the coast of San Francisco, CA, California, USA
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Aerial view of Angel Island at sunset, located off the coast of San Francisco, CA, California, USA

Situated off the coast of San Francisco is former immigration stop Angel Island. At just over a single square mile, it may be hard to imagine there is much to see, but what Angel Island lacks in size, it makes up for in beauty.


A day trip to Angel Island, which is also a state park, may include hiking one or more of the scenic trails or touring the US Immigration Station. Angel Island also offers some of the best spring hikes in California, as it’s one of the standout spots in the state to enjoy natural wildflower blooms during this season, which pop up along the hiking trails and up and down the island’s coastline.

Visiting Angel Island

Hiking Trails

  • Perimeter Trail: 5.5 miles, Moderate
  • Immigration Station Trail: 2 miles, Moderately Strenuous
  • Mt. Livermore Summit Trail: 6 miles, Strenuous

Related: Angel Island Is Home To Hiking, Camping, And Plenty Of Sightseeing (And Yes, It’s Worth The Boat Ride)

6 Mackinac Island, Lake Huron, Michigan

Settled on Lake Huron, superb for hiking, traditional treats, and geological sights

Mackinac Island, MI, USA
Photo by leah hetteberg on Unsplash

Mackinac Island, MI, USA


Of the roughly 30,000 lakes that dot the Great Lakes, perhaps the most notable is Mackinac Island in Lake Huron. With 80 percent of the land designated as a state park, the natural beauty of Mackinac Island cannot be overstated. Multiple hiking trails offer ideal views of the wooded areas and limestone rock formations, including a natural limestone Arch.

The size of the island has allowed some development to thrive, although the island remains a car-free sanctuary. Travelers can enjoy many of the treats offered, including saltwater Taffy, fudge, and caramel corn, while they take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the island town. Finishing the day rocking on the world’s biggest front porch, which runs 660 feet, there is no doubt Mackinac Island is worth a visit.

Visiting Mackinac Island

Hiking Trails

  • Mackinac Island Outer Loop: 8 miles, Easy
  • Arch Rock: 2 miles, Easy
  • Mackinac Island Inner Loop: 7.6 miles, Moderate


This is another US island where cars are not allowed.

5 Kodiak Island, Kodiak Island Borough, Alaska

Large island off the Alaska coast, epic for wildlife viewing, museums, and fishing

A scenic view of evergreens, ocean, and mountains from a quiet spot along a trail on Kodiak Island, Alaska, USA
Dan Palen on Unsplash

A scenic view of evergreens, ocean, and mountains from a quiet spot along a trail on Kodiak Island, Alaska, USA

While purposefully planning a visit to Bear Country may not seem like the ideal Alaskan vacation, Kodiak Island is well worth a visit. As the second-largest island in the United States, Kodiak Island is home to a large variety of natural wildlife and human history. The island is home to four unique museums, including the Alutiiq Museum, as well as remnants of the World War II military base that once existed.


While it is important to be aware of the nearly 3,500 Kodiak Brown Bears that call the island home, that shouldn’t stop visitors from enjoying the Kodiak Wildlife Refuge or trying their hand at fishing off the coast of the island. Plus, Kodiak Island is a fantastic road trip destination!

Visiting Kodiak Island

Hiking Trails

  • Near End-North End Trail: 2 miles, Easy
  • Termination Point: 4.9 miles, Moderate
  • Kashavaroff Mountain Trail: 6.3 miles, Strenuous

4 Bahia Honda Key, Florida Keys, Florida

Part of the chain of Florida Key islands, great for swimming, beach activities, and ocean wildlife

Bahia Honda State Park in Calusa Beach
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Bahia Honda State Park in Calusa Beach, Florida Keys is a tropical coast with paradise beaches

There are nearly 1,700 islands in the Florida Keys, but the Bahia Honda Key, which is a state park, is worth a visit of its own. Like many Florida locations, Bahia Honda is full of white sand beaches perfect for soaking in the sun.


The warm ocean surrounding the island is ideal for swimming, snorkeling, or paddleboarding. Meanwhile, the Bahia Honda Bridge is a short half-mile walk that offers an amazing overlook of the keys.

Visiting Bahia Honda Key

Hiking Trails

  • Bahia Honda Bridge: 0.4 miles, Easy

Related: Miami To Key West: The Ultimate 3-Day Trip Itinerary

3 Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah

Set on the Great Salt Lake, great for scenic drives, hiking, and large wildlife-watching

Buffalo in Antelope Island State Park
Shutterstock

Buffalo in Antelope Island State Park

The middle of the high desert may not seem like the place to find an island escape, but Antelope Island, surrounded by the Great Salt Lake, is hardly an ordinary destination. Flanked by the shallow waters of the saltiest lake in the western hemisphere, Antelope Island, also a state park, is a snapshot of the desert plains.


Herds of bison, bighorn sheep, and the namesake antelope all call this 42-square-mile island home. Visitors can travel around the island by car or along one of the 15 hiking trails that go both around the perimeter and up to its summit. There is also a Visitor’s Center near the entrance to the island that details the history of the landscape and safety on the hiking trails of Antelope Island that often double as grazing areas for wild bison.

Visiting Antelope Island

Hiking Trails

  • Frary Peak Trail: 6.9 miles, Strenuous
  • Elephant Head and Mormon Rocks Loop: 21.6 miles, Strenuous

Due to the shallow nature of the Great Salt Lake, a raised highway has been built to allow access to the island, eliminating the need for a boat or ferry.

Related: 10 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do At Antelope Island State Park


2 Kiawah Island, Charleston County, South Carolina

Off the South Carolina coast near Charleston, good for ocean wildlife viewing, hiking, and luxury resorts

Drone shot over Kiawah Island, South Carolina, SC, USA
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Drone shot over Kiawah Island, South Carolina, SC, USA

With beach access and a sprawling golf course, Kiawah Island offers both luxury and relaxation for travelers who visit. At just over 15 square miles, there is an abundance of natural beauty on the island, paired with multiple luxury resorts that offer excursions like an up-close dolphin or sea turtle encounter.

In order to preserve the natural landscape and habitats of endangered wildlife, much of the island is inaccessible to visitors. However, there are approximately 10 miles of walkable area that allow visitors to experience the marshes and beaches, as well as the wildlife that calls this unique area home.

Visiting Kiawah Island


Hiking Trails

  • Kiawah Island Beach Walk: 13.7 miles, Easy

Much of the island is privately owned by the resorts, but the island is open to the public through Beachwalker Park.

1 Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park, California

Off the coast of Southern California, loved for hiking, kayaking, and wildlife

Smugglers Road descending to Smugglers Cove on Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park, CA, California, USA
Shutterstock

Smugglers Road descending to Smugglers Cove on Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park, CA, California, USA

The Channel Islands are a group of five islands that create the Channel Islands National Park, which is easily one of the best nature spots in California. Of the five, Santa Cruz Island is the easiest Channel Island to visit, with the most regular ferry schedule and the widest variety of activities. The park service and private companies provide regular ferries to and from the island, but once there, visitors must use their own two feet to explore (or, they can take any of the epic kayak tours of the Channel Islands’ sea caves!)


Numerous species of birds nest on the islands, and both they and a colorful array of wildflowers are easily viewed from the number of hiking trails of varying difficulties. With so much to see and do, Santa Cruz Island is a perfect day trip for those looking for an island adventure.

Visiting The Channel Islands

Hiking Trails

  • Historic Scorpion Ranch Hike: 0.5 miles, Easy
  • Cavern Point Loop Hike: 2 miles, Moderate
  • Montañon Ridge Loop Hike: 10 miles, Strenuous

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