You don’t need to leave the United States to experience a tropical vacation. There are plenty of cities, territories, and areas within the U.S that can offer you beautiful tropical scenery. Enjoy your stay at one of these tropical places to enjoy white sand beaches, hot weather, watersports, and much more.
While famous options from Florida, California, Hawaii are well known to many, other spots like the U.S Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico aren’t as renowned. Here is a guide on popular, exotic, and overlooked tropical places you might not be as familiar with.
Top 20 Most Tropical Places In the USA
1. St. John, USVI
St. John is the smallest of the three tropical islands that make up the US Virgin Islands. Like its neighbors, St Thomas and St Croix, St. John is a tropical paradise with awe-inspiring beaches brimming with sea life and plenty of natural attractions.
Places you should consider seeing in St. John's beautiful coastlines are Leinster Bay, Haulover Bay, and Scott Beach. For sights of marine life like sea turtles, try out Maho Beach, Honeymoon Beach, and Francis Bay.
You can, as expected, enjoy different watersports at St. John. This includes paddleboarding, snorkeling, kayaking, fly-fishing, and wakeboarding. The luxurious beachfront resorts in St. John offer their own water activities you can sign up for. There are plenty of hiking trails to explore since it holds the US Virgin Islands National Park.
It's important to note that St. John is more secluded and less commercialized than other islands in the USVI. Since the area's less populated, those wanting more privacy and seclusion may prefer it.
2. Miami, Florida
Miami is the perfect tropical spot—sunny weather, endless miles of pristine beaches, and a vibrant tourist scene. For years, Miami has remained one of Hollywood's favorite locations, and it's easy to see why.
You can do a lot in Miami, Florida if you have the time. An abundance of sandy beaches and amiable weather makes Miami an ideal location to enjoy different water sports. You can jet ski, surf waves, ride speedboats, or even kayak with friends.
Perhaps you want nothing more than to soak up the sun and have a relaxing time watching other tourists? You can visit a less-crowded place like Soho Beach instead of tourist favorites like the famous South Beach.
Miami never sleeps, so you'll find many opportunities to have fun at night. The city's legendary nightlife scene offers everything from open-rooftop restaurants like Mila to upscale clubs like LIV.
If you're visiting with family, the Miami Seaquarium is an excellent place to visit. The aquarium has daily shows, animal displays, and exhibits. Miami has two international airports and a well-designed city transit system, making it easy for out-of-state visitors to navigate their way to and within the city.
3. San Juan, Puerto Rico
With year-round fine weather, numerous beachfront strips, and lively entertainment, San Juan island is one of the most tropical places in the US. The capital city of Puerto Rico is famous for its historical attractions, Spanish cultural influences, and rich cuisine.
Some of the top locations for vacationers in San Juan are Condado Beach, Ocean Park, Playa Escambron, and Isla Verde Beach. In particular, Isla Verde offers many options for entertainment—you can check out the Oasis casino, take a banana boat ride, or attend a beach party.
Exploring San Juan's historic sites is a worthwhile activity if you want to do more than laze at the beach. Start your journey at Old San Juan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the heart of the city. You'll find the original city wall, bastions, and Castello San Filipe del Morro, a Spanish castle built-in 1539. Apart from San Juan, there are plenty of other tropical places in Puerto Rico.
4. St. Thomas, USVI
St. Thomas is the most visited island of all the US Virgin Islands (USVI) and holds the USVI capital, Charlotte Amalie. Their port is also where all the cruise ships dock in the USVI, and you can fly in directly to their Cyril E. King Airport. While St. Thomas has a long history dating back to the 1600s, the island has a modern feel with classy hotels, upscale bars and high-class restaurants scattered around the region.
The island offers some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, like Magen's Bay Beach, Brewer Bay Beach, and Sapphire Beach. While these are great spots to visit during the daytime, visit Red Hook on the eastern end to enjoy delicious Caribbean dinner and nightlife. While St John might be slightly better in terms of beaches, St Thomas wins over it with its nightlife and higher number of restaurants.
St Thomas is also an excellent kid-friendly place for a family vacation. Visit Coral World, a five-acre marine park with an underwater observation tower. There is also zip lining at Tree Limin Extreme, or take the St. Thomas Skyride to experience an enthralling view of the island.
A visit to St. Thomas would be incomplete without checking out the many historical sites. Three's Fort Christian, a 17th-century Danish fortress that once served as the island's seat of government. Blackbeard Castle, a Danish fort built-in 1689, is another good place to see. There's no shortage of accommodations you can find on the beautiful island.
5. Orlando, Florida
Orlando, Florida, has been called "The City Beautiful" since 1908. You only need to spend a day in this city to understand its grandiose description.
Orlando's sunny weather is constant for the better part of the year, making it one of the most visited tropical destinations in the United States. More than 35 million people visited the city in 2020 alone.
People love Orlando for its unspoiled beaches, amazing theme parks, and exquisite cuisine. The city's a melting pot for diverse people, so be ready for a multicultural experience.
The sandy beaches are some of Orlando's biggest attractions. Famed options include Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach, Clearwater Beach, and New Smyrna Beach. They offer watersports, including snorkeling, paddleboarding, surfing, parasailing, and wakeboarding.
If you want a family-friendly experience, consider visiting one of the city's famous theme parks. Walt Disney World and Universal Resort are fan favorites, but you can also check out SeaWorld for a quieter experience featuring animal displays and exhibitions.
6. St. Croix, USVI
St. Croix is another of the three US Virgin Islands and hands-down one of the best tropical regions to vacation in the US. The island’s powder-white sands, gorgeously blue waters, and teeming aquatic life make you want to stay forever!
Some of St. Croix’s top attractions are the white sand beaches and coral reefs, the latter of which are popular among scuba divers and snorkeling fans. You can snorkel at the Buck Island Reef Monument for the opportunity to sight spotted eagle rays, parrotfish, green sea turtles, and blue tangs. Like St Thomas, it also has numerous historical landmarks to go see.
You can book a nighttime kayak trip to one or both of St. Croix’s bioluminescent bays. These water bodies contain microorganisms that emit a colorful glow at night, and seeing them is the highlight of any trip. The Henry E. Rohlsen Airport is located on the island, so it's easy to fly in directly, and there is also a ferry you can take to visit St. Thomas during your stay.
7. Florida Keys, Florida
Located in Florida, the Florida Keys are a group of islands located about 120 miles away from Cuba. These islands are notable for crystal-clear water spotless beaches, with dazzling marine life.
Each part of the Keys offers something different to adventurous travelers. You can choose to go fishing in Islamorada, described as the World's Fishing Capital. Islamorada offers exciting boat tours and kayaking spots if fishing isn't your preferred activity.
To enjoy the Keys' watersports offerings, visit Key Largo. You can enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling, and other underwater adventures. If you have enough time to explore during your vacation, explore North America's only surviving coral reef at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
Key West is the biggest island in the Florida Keys and the southernmost point in the USA. Key West is known for providing sightseers with stunning views of the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
If you want to catch one of these delightful sunsets, the Mallory Square Sunset Celebration is a free event for tourists. Paint the scenes and listen to street performers thrill you with songs as you bask in the scenery.
Stunning beaches you can relax at include Caladesi Island State Park, Sand Key Park Beach, Treasure Island Causeway. You can also see Busch Gardens, a safari-themed park featuring rollercoaster rides, animal interactions, and more.
While Guam isn't located inside the continental U.S.A., it came under American control after Spain ceded control during the Spanish-American War. For a brief period, Guam was controlled by the Japanese military until its defeat by the US Army.
Guam's rich history is evident once you leave the Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport. The local culture features American, Asian, and Spanish influences. You can find dishes that feature a mix of cuisines from various countries.
Guam is also noteworthy for its tropical weather. This small island sees average temperature readings of 80°F throughout the year. It has some picturesque beaches and some of the loveliest views of the Pacific Ocean.
Picturesque coastlines dot Guam's landscape, and these can be good spots for relaxing with your spouse, family, or even by yourself. Visit any of the island's well-known beaches, including Tumon Beach, Gun Beach, Ritidian Point, and Ypao Beach.
9. Maui, Hawaii
Maui is the quintessential Hawaiian tourist spot, boasting long stretches of beaches, lush landscapes, and many opportunities for adventure-seeking people. Maui is definitely worth visiting if you want to spend your holiday in Hawaii.
Unlike its more famous sibling, Oahu, Maui Island is more secluded, making it perfect for private getaways. With fewer people streaming around, you can enjoy the beach and other natural wonders here without much disturbance.
Visit Maui's beautiful beaches, including Kaanapali Beach, Big Beach, and Hamoa Beach. They’re particularly unique, as they come in different shades. There are red sand beaches (Kaihalulu), white sand beaches (Wai’anapanapa), and black sand beaches (Kaanapali)—all within the region.
Maui's secluded nature makes it a great choice for honeymooners and nature lovers. If you look hard enough, several unspoiled areas provide private time with your significant other.
Families might also prefer Maui to other tropical locations. Maui's beaches are safer and less dangerous for swimmers and children with tranquil waters and subdued waves. However, caution should always be taken when in the water, and non-swimmers should consider staying out from the deep.
10. Tampa, Florida
Tampa is located along the Gulf Coast, which stretches between the southern and southwestern ends of Florida. With closeness to picture perfect beaches on the Gulf Coast, Tampa checks the box for an excellent tropical vacation spot. There are plenty of fun things to do like zip-lining, canoeing, and checking out theme parks and aquariums.
As with other cities in Florida, Tampa has near-perfect weather and stays sunny most days out of the year. It’s the perfect place to stay to upgrade your tan or absorb the thrills it offers. Famous landmarks worth seeing are the Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Tampa Museum of Art, and Adventure Island.
Visit Cigar Bay to get a taste of Tampa's nightlife scene. Sample some of the area's world-famous cigars and party until the wee hours of the morning. According to Forbes, Tampa was listed as one of the busiest travel destinations in the country.
11. American Samoa
American Samoa is a territory of the United States of America in the South Pacific that covers seven islands in the South Pacific’s Samoa Archipelago. This means you can travel there without a visa, and you’ll need minimal documentation when you arrive.
With a tropical climate, American Samoa is ideal for both private getaways and family island vacations. Perhaps the only issue you may confront is the region’s remote location and a shortage of major airlines offering direct flights. But this can also be an advantage, significantly as it reduces the number of tourists—which allows you to enjoy your holiday more peacefully.
American Samoa has many famous attractions for sightseers. The beaches here are well-groomed and provide excellent opportunities for watersports. Beaches like Palagi Beach and Carter Beach are suitable for diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, and more. You can also work on your tan during your stay, especially at the beaches in Alega village.
American Samoa hardly fits the stereotype of a tourist town, so you won’t find many high-end luxury hotels in the city. However, you’ll have access to homely B&B (bed and breakfast) establishments, and these often have convenient amenities like Wi-Fi and laundry services.
The island's tropical climate gives it a unique combination of flora and fauna that you can explore during your visit. A popular landmark is the National Park of American Samoa, which houses endangered animal species and plants. Another one is Ofu Beach, a three-mile stretch of water teeming with aquatic life that’s a must-see for travelers. Don't forget to visit the National Park of American Samoa, which is composed of three islands.
12. Oahu, Hawaii
Oahu may be Hawaii’s third biggest island by size, but it receives the most visitors. This isn’t surprising, as Oahu has some of the best leisure and recreation facilities Hawaii offers. It’s also loved for the lively and welcoming culture of the island, nature sites, and historical monuments.
Oahu has over 112 miles of alluring coastline, and there are several different beaches available to explore. The North Shore is home to the Ehukai and Waimea Beaches, which draw a considerable amount of surfing enthusiasts. The South Shore is where you find gorgeous beaches like Waikiki, noted for their leisure options and entertainment.
Those wanting a more private and calmer experience can head to the Island’s Western area. Ko Olina and Turtle Bay are secluded beaches with gentle waves and reduced crowds. The Eastside has slightly more popular beaches like Makapuu and Waimanalo, but these are relatively deserted and great for both families and individuals.
Other activities include visiting the USS Arizona Memorial—a monument honoring individuals from the Pearl Harbor bombing. Enlist for a whale watching tour, especially during December and May when humpbacks migrate to the island for the mating season.
13. South Padre Island, Texas
South Padre Island is a resort town located off the Southern Coast of Texas. With beautiful coastlines, calm waters, and sunny weather, South Padre is one of the best tropical locations to vacation in the USA. It’s especially popular among college students during Spring Break.
The island is a wonderland of sorts, especially if you’re big into watersports. Various companies rent out equipment for sea kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, and surfboarding. For a more thrilling experience, try parasailing over miles of seawater solo or with a friend!
South Padre has other things going for it aside from its beach. The food here is delicious, and some restaurants even allow you to bring in fish and get it cooked. Rent fishing equipment and visit the Laguna Madre to find a catch.
The town is also a perfect place for animal lovers. While at the Laguna Madre, visit Sea Turtle Inc., a rehabilitation center for injured sea turtles. Another option is to book a dolphin-watching cruise to see the bottlenose dolphins that live in the Laguna Madre. South Padre Island makes for an excellent and affordable beach vacation.
14. Island of Hawaii
It's hard to include only a few places in Hawaii when the entire island itself is a tropical paradise. Hawaii, fondly known as the Big Island, is truly a remarkable place for tropical vacations. It’s home to active volcanoes, including Kilauea, and some of the world's best beaches. This is probably the only place in the US where you can walk through lava tubes, gawk at a volcanic eruption, and walk across fields of cooled lava.
But the Big Island is more than just angry volcanoes. It’s an exciting tropical destination with predictable weather, fine beaches, and visually appealing landscapes. The local culture also provides a draw for travelers and offers exciting festivals, culinary options, amongst other things.
An excellent location to put in your itinerary is Hapuna Beach State Park. Known for crystal-blue water and soft sands, the beach is a favorite among visitors. You can sunbathe, snorkel, swim, or surf—there are many options available. Magic Sands Beach is another nice location to enjoy relaxing in the sun, wakeboarding or riding the waves.
Hawaii has lots of sights that you can check out. The Tropical Botanical Garden is a conservatory that houses more than 2,000 species of tropical plants and attracts both tourists and nature lovers.
Akaka Falls State Park, which covers both Akaka Falls and Kahuna Falls, is another visit-worthy location in Hawaii. The Akaka Falls are the highest in the region, falling over 442 feet. With lush greenery, including bamboos, orchids, and ferns, the surrounding area has an idyllic feel and makes for great pictures.
15. Laguna Beach, California
Laguna Beach is a coastal city in Orange County, California, with a small population of under 24,000 people. Laguna Beach’s biggest claim to fame is its exquisite beaches, although it also gets acclaim for its local arts scene and natural attractions.
Laguna Beach has seven miles of coastline, making it one of the best tropical vacation spots. Beaches are plentiful here, and you can choose whichever suits your fancy.
Treasure Island Beach is good if you want lovely oceanfront views and cozy coves to explore. For more action, Crystal Beach is what you need. You can kayak, snorkel, and, if you’re lucky, see some sea lions and seals!
Thalia Beach is another location to enjoy watersports, especially for beginners. If you’re confident in your surfing skills, head over to Thunder Beach to catch some serious waves. This is where most pro surfers congregate, so it’s not the most beginner-friendly.
Main Beach is the de facto city center and can get quite crowded. However, it’s also a great place to meet people and play beach sports, including beach volleyball and soccer.
If you want to get away from the crowds, consider taking a self-guided walking tour throughout the city. Discover Laguna Beach’s history and famous landmarks through good ol’ wandering among their many beach walks. If you have enough time on your trip, the Joshua Tree National Park is only 2.5 hours away.
16. Santa Catalina Island, California
Santa Catalina Island is another West Coast place perfect for a tropical vacation. Santa Catalina Island forms part of California’s Channel Islands and is known for its rich wildlife, great beaches, and fanciful resorts. It doesn’t matter if you want to relax or play—Santa Catalina Island has something for everyone. Its beautiful natural landscapes also make it a popular spot for outdoor summer programs for children.
Descanso Beach Club is a beachfront resort with a seaside restaurant, lounging areas, private massage rooms, and other creature comforts. Thrill-seekers can use the beach for snorkeling, kayaking, ziplining, and other recreational activities.
You can also visit the town of Two Harbors to get a better feel of the island. Although a rustic seaside village, Two Harbors offers great accommodation options, restaurants, cafes, and anything else you need to have a wonderful stay. For recreation, there are many outdoor activities to choose from, including scuba diving, snorkeling, mountain biking, and boating.
17. Isla De Vieques, Puerto Rico
Isla Vieques is a small island off Puerto Rico’s east coast. While the island’s history includes years of heavy-handed Spanish rule and involvement in WWII, it's becoming a tourist hotspot. Endless miles of unspoiled beaches, a biodiverse environment, and welcoming locals makes Isla Vieques a perfect place for tropical vacations, along with some of Puerto Rico’s other islands.
Popular beaches at Isla Vieques include Media Luna, a horseshoe-shaped beach with great views and quiet waters, and Playa La Chiva, which has some of the island’s best snorkeling spots. Apart from beach hopping, there are many food trucks to try some local food and thrilling jungle hikes you can do.
Consider putting Mosquito Bay on your must-visit list as well. Home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of light-emitting dinoflagellates, the bay lights up at night, and you can witness it via a kayak trip. It can be quite the sight to see fireflies underwater, so don’t forget to go see them.
18. Block Island, Rhode Island
It’s best to travel to Block Island between May and October when the weather is fine and business is brisk. You won’t find many people outdoors in winter, nor will most establishments open their doors.
If you can plan your visit properly, there’s a lot of fun to be had at Block Island. Start your trip at Ballard’s, which is arguably Block Island’s top resort. You get access to a private beach, loungers and umbrella rentals, beach volleyball, and even a waitress service. Overnight stays are also allowed if you want to pass the night at this scenic location.
Other things to do at Block Island include swimming at the secluded Mansion Beach and using the hiking trails to climb up Mohegan Cliffs for amazing views of the beach below. The town also offers an assortment of culinary delights, idyllic Victorian-era inns, and the famous lighthouses.
19. Hayden Island, Oregon
Hayden Island is considered one of Oregon’s best-kept secrets. Oregon’s sole island community, this tiny town, has all the coastal charm and beach vibes you hardly get anywhere else in the region. If you live in Northwestern US and don’t want to travel thousands of miles to enjoy a tropical paradise, Hayden Island is your best bet.
Hayden Island has so much water that locals live in floating homes. The upside is that you get more opportunities to do everything from swimming to kayaking in the island’s waters. In particular, the Columbia River has some of the premier kayaking trails in the Portland Region.
The food scene is another hard-to-match aspect that would be challenging to find anywhere else nearby. Restaurants like Jantzen Bar & Grill and Island Cafe offer amazing food and stunning panoramic views of the island.
20. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island is among South Carolina’s most popular islands—and for a good reason. It boasts incredible beaches, top-tier golf courses that host PGA tourneys, and fine local dining. It’s a pretty small island, so you can get around in a car or even a bike. There are over 60 miles of bike trails connecting across the entire area.
A popular stop for tourists is Coligny Beach Park, Hilton Head’s most prominent beach. Visitors can mill around, get a tan, play in the water, or lounge in a chair. It’s easy to get involved, as plenty of beach equipment is available for rent.
Alder Lane, Islanders Beach Park, and Burkes are other terrific options if you wish for more seclusion. Apart from lounging on a beach, you can kayak to nearby resorts, go on fun guided tours, bike along the beach trail, and check out the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge. If you're looking to enjoy a tropical vacation, this is as close as you can get in South Carolina.