Have you ever dreamed of splurging on a tropical vacation in some remote location or a grand adventure across Europe? For many, the issue is finding the time and money to do it. Not only that, but if you don’t already have a passport, you’ll need to plan ahead. The great news is that you can visit some exotic locations right here in the United States, from an often-overlooked US territory to even closer-to-home spots.
- Culebra, Puerto Rico
If Fiji is your ideal getaway, but you can’t get there, Culebra, a U.S. territory, offers the ideal tropical getaway, with beaches that equal those found in the South Pacific. Culebra, which is fewer than 20 miles from Puerto Rico’s main island, is still relatively unexplored, with few huge hotels, shopping malls, or chain restaurants.
You won’t find a whole lot of nightlife on this 7-mile-long island, but you’re likely to witness leatherback turtles and the huge Culebra anole. You’ll also have the opportunity to witness bioluminescent organisms that glow in the dark in some coastal waterways. Culebra, with its eccentric independently-owned businesses and cafés providing fresh, local fare, offers a non-commercial culture and an especially unusual vibe. The best way to get there? Relaxing cruises from Miami!
- Aleutian Islands, Alaska
While the Aleutian Islands aren’t great for those hoping for sun and beaches, they are ideal for exploring nature in one of Alaska’s most remote locations. Despite the harsh climate, turbulent seas, and active volcanoes, wildlife flourishes here. It’s difficult to imagine a more distant location than this. While some of the larger islands have a few communities, you’ll see more animals than people.
The Aleutians can be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for wildlife lovers, with the opportunity to see rarely-seen critters against magnificent natural landscapes. Bird watchers from everywhere come here to add new species to their “life lists.” Grey, minke, humpback, orca, and sperm whales, as well as seals, sea lions, and walrus, all inhabit the nearby waters.
- Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to the most exotic walk in the United States. It sits between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the San Juan Mountains, resembling the Gobi or the Sahara. These remarkable formations, which are the country’s tallest dunes, reach heights of nearly 700 feet.
Hikers who make the summit will be rewarded with magnificent views of seemingly unending sand dunes. You can also sand-board and sand-sled at the highest sandbox in America. This is also an excellent location for astronomy due to its high elevation and frequent bright sky.
- Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is the oldest state capital in the United States, and as such, it has a rich history, complete with a historic main plaza that will transport you to another nation. It’s known for its variety of distinctive attractions, including a wide range of art galleries, excellent museums, and incredible architecture.
The adobe city is also known for its transforming properties; in fact, many visitors come only for the therapeutic energy of the location. Santa Fe, not surprising, has long been a sanctuary for artists, notably Georgia O’Keefe. You can go to the Plaza to get handmade jewelry and stunning pieces of art if you stay in the historic La Fonda in the downtown area.
- Kaui, Hawaii
The most beautiful and undeveloped island in Hawaii is unlike any other on the earth. While it takes a little longer to get there, the beautiful, mountainous landscape that feels worlds apart from anything vaguely American is well worth the effort. Its stunning shoreline has served as an otherworldly paradise in countless Hollywood blockbusters, including “Jurassic Park,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and the 2005 “King Kong.”
The Na Pali Coast’s soaring cliffs, Waimea Canyon, and Wailua Falls, which were featured in the 1970s television series “Fantasy Island,” are just a few of the highlights. There are few spots on the island where humans have managed to cover its tropical beauty, regardless of where you are.