A US passport is one of the most powerful in the world. However, a valid ID card and your birth certificate can be all you need to visit some of the most gorgeous vacation spots.
If you think you’ll be limited to mainland US, think again. You may be surprised at the number of tropical islands and climates you can access.
Whether you’ve lost yours or are waiting for a replacement, here is a list of 12 places that American citizens can visit without a passport:
- St Thomas
- St John
- St Croix
- Puerto Rico
- Mariana Islands
- American Samoa
- Florida and US States
- Closed Loop Cruises
If you’re looking for winter vacation ideas or a new summer getaway, we will ensure you can start booking your trip as soon as possible.
1. St Thomas (US Virgin Islands)
One of the best tropical vacations without a passport has to be a trip to the US Virgin Islands (USVI).
The US Virgin Islands (previously a colony of the Dutch, Danish, and Norwegian nations) have a fascinating history with old buildings and fortifications like Blackbeard’s Castle still standing.
The hilly volcanic nature of the islands makes it a picturesque place to explore in between some world-class sunbathing on Magens Bay. Cruise ships also love to stop over at St Thomas because of its hugely-attractive duty-free shopping.
2. St John (US Virgin Islands)
If you want to side-step the bustle of cruise tourists, take a short hop over to St John. The island temperatures rarely drop below 78 degrees—perfect for a warm and glorious climate all year round.
The Virgin Islands National Park preserves around 60% of the land here. This little slice of heaven is best known for scuba diving, snorkeling, and hiking trails through tropical rainforests.
Perhaps you might like to try snorkeling along Trunk Bay or Maho Bay Beach as you stay in a luxurious St John villa.
3. St Croix (US Virgin Islands)
Don’t spend all winter wrapped up against the wind chill. Get on a plane and do what the smart geese do—fly south!
The many beaches of St Croix offer both lively and more secluded experiences too. Christiansted is the largest town to visit, with walking trails through the sweet-smelling Frangipani trees and underwater trails for snorkeling.
It’s also a dream for history buffs. According to the official website, “St. Croix has flown the flags of Spain, The Netherlands, England, France, the Knights of Malta and Denmark.” So, be prepared for plenty of historical landmarks and an array of cultures.
The islands of Hawaii may seem like an obvious choice for exotic places to travel to without a passport, but let’s get specific.
First of all, there are 8 main islands in this archipelago (chain) of over 130 islands. However, you may not know that these are the tips of the highest mountains in the world—most of the mass is submerged beneath the Pacific Ocean.
The lush and tropical climate hovers in the 70-85-degree temperature range. This makes it wonderfully warm and comfortable for exploring, beach life, and general relaxation.
Second, did you know that one-third of all the pineapples in the world are harvested in Hawaii? You’ll find this delicious fruit (technically a cluster of berries) often accompanies some of the best cuisine and beverages on the islands.
At Exceptional Villas, we have some fabulous Hawaiian villas that can become your home from home. We are particularly fond of the luxury villas Kauai has to offer and the Maui vacation rentals. (There is a hammock waiting for you with your name on it!)
Each one of the islands has its own unique personality. So, your no-passport vacation experience can include some island-hopping to take in all of the diversity of the 50th state.
Never underestimate the beauty of these islands. Their unique geographical location makes them the most isolated population center on the face of the Earth (2,390 miles from California, 3,850 miles from Japan, 4,900 miles from China, and 5,280 miles from the Philippines).
The Hawaiian alphabet may only contain 13 characters, but they all spell “sublime”. At only 5 hours from LAX to Honolulu, you can swap “hello” for “aloha” in no time.
5. Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is a unique Caribbean vacation destination that lies a mere 1,000 miles southeast of Miami. This unincorporated territory of the United States allows free movement of tourists from the mainland using government-approved proof of citizenship.
The history of Puerto Rico shows it played a key part in the Spanish Empire, so it’s no wonder the islands have retained their Spanish flair. The influences are still seen today in the place names, the language, and delicious tapas available from endearing restaurants throughout the town of old San Juan.
The island of Culebra also lies 17 miles east of Puerto Rico. Famed for its white sand beaches and active reef bustling with marine life, it can be another addition to your passport-free travel list.
For the ultimate castaway holiday magic, take the short boat trip (8 miles due east) of Puerto Rico’s main island to visit Isla de Vieques. This extraordinary island is predominantly a protected wildlife refuge of natural beauty where horses roam free.
You can trek through lush scenery on the hiking trails or kayak through the bioluminescent waters of Mosquito Bay. Here, microorganisms give the water a greeny-blue glow—we’d say it’s one of the best things to do in Puerto Rico!
Not surprisingly, the 2013 Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice award for “Best Island in the Caribbean” was granted to Vieques—an accolade that it still richly deserves today. If this sounds like a dream, check out our Puerto Rico vacation rentals and start planning.
6. Mariana Islands
The Mariana Islands are a crescent-shaped chain of mostly dormant volcanic islands. These military outposts across the far margins of the Pacific have evolved into fascinating tourist destinations.
Seemingly unremarkable little islands in the Philippine Sea, the Northern Mariana Islands had the geographical misfortune to lie at the heart of some of the greatest naval and land battles of World War II.
For anyone interested in the tragic history of the Battle of Saipan or the two battles of Guam, there are war memorials and military fortifications (some still in use today) to remind us of this small US outpost keeping watch from the distant reaches of the Pacific.
Regardless of your interest in the military past of these tropical islands, there is a fabulously untouched quality that’s appreciated by all who see it. These islands are part of what is called “Micronesia” (made up of around 2,000 small islands in the northwestern Pacific Ocean).
The world-famous Grotto along the Saipan coast (the largest of the Mariana Islands) is one of the best and most unique dive sites. Here, the perfectly blue underwater conditions light up incredible rock formations and sea creatures.
Remote beaches, gorgeous coral reefs that create a calm lagoon, and the color of the native life help to create an unforgettable experience like no other.
Guam is another island in Micronesia that’s also a territory of the United States. In under 8 hours, you can fly from Honolulu non-stop to Guam’s seemingly endless miles of sandy beaches, waterfalls, and coconut trees.
Aside from a vibrant modern culture, Guam has 4,000 years of fascinating history to reveal to you. From pre-colonial civilizations to Spanish forts and WWII battle sites, there are plenty of stories to unravel.
8. American Samoa
A Polynesian gem, American Samoa is another US territory covering 7 South Pacific Samoan islands and atolls (ring-shaped reefs). The islands are stunningly beautiful and feature volcanic peaks, tropical rainforests, and incredible beaches.
As it’s so remote, travel there can be tricky. Currently, Hawaiian Airlines is the only major carrier to American Samoa. They provide two flights a week round-trip from Honolulu to this tropical paradise.
Places you can travel to without a passport without getting on a plane
I am now going to focus on places you can travel to without a passport without getting on a plane. The contiguous USA enjoys land borders with two spectacular and wildly different countries. Canada and Mexico.
Since the War of Independence, the US has embraced its unique multicultural personality. However, if you’ve ever wondered what the US might have looked like if it left the British monarchy as sovereign, a trip due North to Canada might give you a glimpse behind that veil.
Of course, it’s not all cucumber sandwiches and cricket in this gigantic, modern nation. However, there are some interesting historic sites and national parks to visit.
If you are on the East Coast of the US, an amazing road trip involves a drive through New York State and then a stop-over at Niagara Falls. Spring and Fall are the least hectic times to visit the waterfalls, so why not join a boat tour (Maid of the Mist) or visit Cave of the Winds?
The Falls form a natural border between the US and Canada. So, be prepared to be wowed by Mother Nature’s greatest floor show!
Once you cross the Canadian border, it’s less than 100 miles to Toronto. This incredible city, sitting on the edge of Lake Ontario, is a hybrid of modern skyscrapers and old Englishness. (In 1815, this city was known as York.)
The myriad outdoors, historical sites, and a huge number of fun activities await you in this vibrant city.
On the US West Coast, you can grab a ferry, train, or drive due North from Washington State to enter Canada.
Vancouver seems to be the general destination for such trips, but I suggest you try White Rock—a seaside city just a few miles north of Blaine. Or perhaps visit Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, which lies just across Puget Sound.
A wide array of restaurants, theaters, and its very own castle (Craigdarroch Castle) make this a fabulous weekend getaway.
Now that we’ve covered the serene destination that is Canada, let’s look at something quite different. In my opinion, one of the best places to vacation without a passport has to be Tijuana, Mexico.
A short drive from San Diego, you will be transported into another world entirely—full of culture, delicious foods, electric nightlife, and Mexican villa rentals.
There are a lot of opinions on Mexico, most of which have been inflamed by Netflix’s desire to create popular shows that focus on drug cartels and violence. However, there’s a great deal more to the country than this.
Tijuana is a fun introduction to the authentic flavor of Mexico in a manageable bite. Many thousands of US tourists make the border crossing each year.
Weekends in Tijuana are especially popular for young travelers who want to enjoy a laid-back vibe and party scene. Tequila, craft beers, melt-in-the-mouth tacos, music—it’s all waiting for you.
Art and design are two key features of this city, whether you look for them in cool galleries or the architecture. Turista Libre is a great way to see the city—leap onto these old-school buses/mobile bars and get to grips with Tijuana, its history, and culture.
It’s a noisy, busy, fun place to visit, and the same rules of behavior and safety apply here as they do back home. It’s not some lawless outpost. It’s a slice of rich and ancient culture waiting to be enjoyed.
11. Florida and Other US States
While you may have been looking further afield, staying in the US isn’t an inferior choice. Taking a road trip across several states is a dream for hundreds of thousands of people across the globe.
You could also experience Caribbean flair in the southernmost point of the United States—Key West. This quirky little island is closer to Cuba than mainland Florida with epic sunsets, vibrant nightlife, and pastel-colored gingerbread houses.
12. The Caribbean – Via Closed Loop Cruises Only
I like to call cruises “destination window-shopping”. If you’ve never been on one before, closed-loop cruises are a good way to start.
Essentially, you begin and end your cruise in a US port and visit any number of Caribbean Islands in between. This method of travel lets you experience a new and exciting destination every day or so without a passport.
After days spent scuba diving with sea turtles or soaking up the sun on the best Caribbean Beaches, each evening you are back on board to dine and relax while on the way to your next port of call.
As you flit from port to port on your cruise, you will be compiling a list of gorgeous locations that will merit a full exploration in the near future. Let Exceptional Villas guide you to the very best places to stay in these Caribbean paradises when you return.
We offer the very best in private villas. Many of our homes are fully staffed and ready to provide you with the most memorable and relaxing vacation ever. We can build a bespoke vacation for you to enjoy beach life, embrace the culture and activities of the islands, and generally step away from your hectic world back home.
A word on documentation
Traveling into all the countries and territories listed above can be achieved using a driver’s license. If you wish to travel in and out of Canada or Mexico on a regular basis, then a NEXUS and SENTRI card serve both countries, respectively.
Getting back into the US is the critical consideration when you travel across borders.
It is important that you can prove your citizenship at the US border. A raised-seal birth certificate and a photo ID (e.g. a driver’s license) should provide adequate proof. However, always check each location’s restrictions and visa requirements before you travel, as legislation can change from time to time.
You only need to live through a harsh East Coast winter to understand the thrill of jumping on a flight to somewhere hot and tropical. However, don’t discount colder options like Alaska to explore more of our great nation.
As you can see, there are many options for US citizens to travel with no passport required from the mainland. That means you can start your adventures immediately without having to get that passport (or passport card) issued or replaced.
If you need expert help considering which stunning villa rental to choose across these destinations, let our dedicated team talk you through your options.
About Mairead Moriarty
Born and raised in Co Kerry, lived in London, New York, San Francisco, Dublin. Owner of one very battered suitcase, a well-worn passport and a million memories.
It seems very fitting for a travel writer that my surname translates as ‘Skilled Navigator’. Apart from an occasion when, aged 3, I got lost in a Supermarket in Tralee, I have managed to live up to my name!
Curiosity is probably the driver that has sent me on magical mystery tours around the world. I want to ‘feel’ a place. I want all my senses to be engaged: from the history and geography that has influenced a country or city, the arts and achievements of its natives, anything and everything really.
Regardless of whether I am on a local train travelling through Morocco, or poking around in Marconi’s study in Bologna or on a canal boat weaving through the heart of the English countryside, the same rules apply - ask questions, talk to locals, eat what they eat, sit quietly with nature and simply be.
Assimilate as much as is possible so as to understand the soul of a place. That is my passion. That is the compass by which I navigate.