No passport? No problem! Just because its winter doesn't mean it's cold everywhere in the U.S.
Picture this: you forgot your passport on the way to the airport. Perhaps a lost or expired passport is keeping you from escaping to balmier climes. But what if you didn’t need one at all for your sunshine destination? Well-known hot places you can go without a passport include Hawaii, Florida, and California, but did you know that you can head further afield to sun-drenched paradises and tropical islands sans a travel booklet as a U.S. citizen? From Caribbean cities to pristine Pacific beaches, here are 11 warm-weather places you don’t need a passport to travel to.
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Of all the places you don’t need a passport to visit, Hawaii is perhaps the dreamiest. With its year-round sunshine and six major islands on the Pacific, Hawaii offers something for just about every kind of traveler, including multi-generational families, thrill seekers, couples looking for romance, and groups of friends. Oahu is home to the state capital Honolulu, the much-adored Waikiki Beach, and legendary surf breaks. Maui is famous for its resorts at Kaanapali and Wailea, sublime and secluded Hana, and the spectacular Haleakala volcano (fret not, it’s dormant). Lush, green Kauai, with its photogenic peaks and scenic Na Pali Coast hiking trails, offers an Old Hawaii vibe. Hawaii, the Big Island, is where adventure-seekers can find it in Volcanoes National Park atop 13,803-foot Mauna Kea and on night dives with giant manta rays. Low-key Lana’i is all about relaxation and golf.
Where to Stay: On Oahu, it’s hard to top the location and historic ambiance of The Royal Hawaiian or the laidback beachfront fun at Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. On Maui, Wailea Beach Resort – Marriott Maui has Hawaii’s longest hotel water slide, while beachfront Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea boasts three pools, including the adults-only Serenity Pool with luxury cabanas customized by celebrated fine art photographer Gray Malin. On Kauai, enjoy stunning sunsets at the Sheraton Kauai Resort in Poipu and a condo setting close to Hanalei Bay at The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas. On the Big Island, affordable Outrigger Kona Resort & Spa won’t break the bank, while the Fairmont Orchid offers upscale pampering amid manicured grounds. And on Lanai, the recently renovated Four Seasons Resort Lanai is ideal for working on your tan and your golf game. Kids and families can have a Moana-inspired dream vacation at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Oahu.
Related: The Best Things to Do in Hawaii
INSIDER TIPFlying between two islands is relatively cheap and quick (25-45 minutes), so double your fun by dividing your time between two of them: Combos we love are Oahu and Maui (for dining and spas), Kauai and the Big Island (for hiking and Hawaiian lore), and Maui and Lanai (for golf and luxury).
U.S. Virgin Islands
Swap the red tape of passport applications for red wine during roaring sunset dinners in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), a three-island playground in the Caribbean. U.S. citizens do not require passports to experience the turquoise waters of St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John, which are U.S. territories. The average temperature is 82 degrees in summer and
77 in winter—perfect for outdoor adventures, weeks-long cultural celebrations, and, of course, beaching. Airport-freeSt. John is the smallest and least developed, which brims with fantasy crescent beaches and national park hiking trails (Virgin Islands National Park takes up two-thirds of the island). St. Thomas’ capital Charlotte Amalie is a hub for shopping and dining (try local dish fish, and fungi), while St. Croix Virgin Islands is known for its Danish heritage and rum culture.
Where to Stay: Lodge at Wyndham Margaritaville Vacation Club St. Thomas for a Key West-inspired vibe on the island’s East End, or all-inclusive Bolongo Bay Beach Resort for family-run hospitality, complimentary water sports, and delectable a la carte dining. On St. Croix, consider sea-facing The Buccaneer for 340 acres of relaxation space, or Tamarind Reef Resort, Spa & Marina for a lovely beach and a multi-lane lap pool that’s open year-round. On St. John, check into Sea Shore Allure which is renowned for excellent service, the 47-acre heaven-on-earth that is The Westin St. John Resort Villas, or the stylish suites at secluded Gallows Point Resort.
Related: Best Hotels in St. Croix
INSIDER TIPIf you crave the quaint authenticity of St. Croix but want to spend a day checking out Charlotte Amalie’s duty-free shops on St. Thomas, book a ferry or seaplane transfer between the two islands and enjoy both.
Miami isn’t just warm, it’s hot. In fact, Miami is officially the hottest city in the U.S. according to holiday rental search engine Holidu which analyzed data from World Weather Online. The city enjoys 343.57 hours of sun every month and an average monthly temperature of 78.7 degrees Fahrenheit, making this one of the best places to travel without a passport. The heat is on all year long for alfresco dining, garden visits, snapping art walls (the Wynwood Walls are a must-see), lazing on the sand, sleek rooftop pool dips, or sipping cocktails at legendary beach bars (Nikki Beach is a place to see and be seen). Whether you want to join the nonstop party on South Beach or savor the newly elevated restaurant scene downtown, this city has got you covered.
Where to Stay: For party vibes, book a renovated Art Deco hotel in Miami or South Beach, such as the Kimpton Surfcomber Miami, South Beach or Royal Palm South Beach Miami. To luxuriate at a lower decibel level, stay downtown at the sophisticated Mandarin Oriental Miami or retreat to wellness-focused Carillon Miami, which has a healthy roster of body and mind therapies.
Related: The 10 Best South Beach Hotels
INSIDER TIPTraveling with kids? While downtown Miami and South Beach aren’t particularly geared to younger travelers, laidback Key Biscayne is. With its bike paths and beaches, it’s an ideal playground for kids who love to swim, cycle, and interact with nature—and you can also enjoy the upscale amenities of The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami.
You can bask in the Californian sunshine for more than 350 days a year in stylish Palm Springs. Palm Springs weather is like no other: The San Jacinto mountain range shields this desert city from coastal weather, so there’s little rain—85 percent less annual rainfall than the U.S. average. This arid playground is home to iconic architecture, desert panoramas, and it’s a great (and often surprisingly affordable) getaway spot. It also has a natural beauty that’s best appreciated via the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which offers stellar views over the desert. Food-wise, this sunny oasis also satisfies at Purple Palm for weekend brunch and people-watching, Eight4Nine for fresh Pacific Coast cuisine, and at Workshop Kitchen + Bar, a destination restaurant with seasonal menus and strong cocktails.
Where to Stay: Options range from sprawling resorts to quirky boutique hotels. Book Ace Hotel and Swim Club for its 1960s vintage vibes and party ambiance that includes all-day bar service at the pool or ascend to Kimpton The Rowan Palm Spring’s rooftop pool—the only sky-high piscine in the city. Stay and play at Colony Palms Hotel for its historic mid-century Hollywood glamour and vibrant mosaic-tile décor or rent an A-lister-worthy house with top-notch amenities via AvantStay Palm Springs.
INSIDER TIPTo satisfy your sweet tooth, head to Over the Rainbow Deserts to sample made-from-scratch treats baked daily.
Tucked between the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico is one of the best Caribbean islands to travel to without a passport. Being an official U.S. Commonwealth, you’ll need no more than a government-issued photo ID to board a plane to the island of enchantment. Once you get there, you’ll be spoiled by its riches: accessible rainforests (El Yunque), photogenic neighborhoods (Old San Juan), superb surfing and diving as well as eco-adventures like zip-lining just outside San Juan. You can taste the island with knowledgeable culinary ambassadors courtesy of Flavors Food Tours, earn a mixology certificate at the visitor center of Ron del Barrilito (the oldest rum brand in Puerto Rico), or crack open an ice-cold Medalla at Vivo Beach Club in Isla Verde which has an on-site brewery, a restaurant, and prime plane-spotting potential.
What Puerto Rico does best, however, is come alive post-sunset with cool eateries—such as prix fixe 7-20 course Puerto Rican food concept Orujo by chef Carlos Portela— along with sexy salsa clubs, flashy casinos, and impressive speakeasy bars like La Factoria.
Where to Stay: For sun worship by day and fun worship by night, stay in or near San Juan at the neo-retro chic La Concha Resort or the once-austere convent-turned-boutique hotspot Hotel El Convento in the heart of Old San Juan. The Caribe Hilton promises comfort, style, and history in the place where the piña colada cocktail was created (a government declaration confirms it), and if your budget allows, Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve is a luxurious haven of relaxation.
INSIDER TIPExperience local cuisine and culture at La Plaza del Mercado de Santurce (aka La Placita), a colorful market by day, and local hang-out (with alfresco mojito service) at night.
Known for its golden desert landscapes—including landmark Camelback Mountain—as well as the state’s top golf resorts, sunny Scottsdale is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Winter temps hover in the low 70s (far more pleasant than summer highs in the 100s) and the thriving Old Town rocks an artsy vibe with galleries, local crafts, and food markets. Plus, the Phoenix/Scottsdale area’s culinary scene impresses, melding Southwest flavors with French techniques (at Vincent’s on Camelback) and local produce with Arizona wines (at FnB). Other must-dos include the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Taliesin West and a sunrise hike up Camelback.
Where to Stay: Top Scottsdale, Arizona Resorts include golf-and-spa-centric Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North, downtown’s Hotel Valley Ho with its restored 1950s décor, the mid-century-meets-artsy style of the Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows, and Andalusian-inspired Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia which boasts sweeping Camelback views.
INSIDER TIPThe 4,000 species of plants cultivated and curated at the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden are especially compelling at sunset (and the gardens stay open until 8 pm apart from on special occasions).
The Caribbean by Cruise Ship
If you’re wondering how to travel without a passport to the Caribbean, a cruise might just be the answer. You can leave the U.S. without a passport by booking a roundtrip cruise to the Caribbean Islands (or Mexico) that departs from and returns to the same U.S. port such as Fort Lauderdale to Fort Lauderdale, or Miami to Miami. These closed-loop itineraries only require passengers to present an original birth certificate and a valid state-issued photo ID (like a driver’s license). You’ll be able to experience the warmth and culture of multiple Caribbean islands in one week andyou only have to unpack once.
Which Ship to Sail: Closed-loop cruises not requiring a passport include Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge, which offers dreamy itineraries visiting The Bahamas, Mexico, Grand Cayman, Belize, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and St. Kitts from Fort Lauderdale. Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, which debuted in April 2018, sails five and seven-night Caribbean cruises from Miami, calling on Honduras (Roatán), Mexico (Cozumel), St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, and Perfect Day at CocoCay, the line’s private island in the Bahamas. Norwegian Bliss sails the Caribbean for seven nights from Miami, calling at Honduras, Belize, and Mexico (Costa Maya and Cozumel), and from Los Angeles, you can experience the Mexican Riviera for five or seven days. Carnival Horizon, which launched in spring 2018, sails six-day Eastern Caribbean cruises from Miami to Nassau, Grand Turk, Amber Cove, and St. Maarten. The six-day Western Caribbean itinerary visits Ochos Rios, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, while the eight-day Southern Caribbean routes make stops at Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, and the Dominican Republic.
INSIDER TIPAvoid making these ten most common first-time cruiser mistakes, like booking the wrong cabin for your travel needs and passing up specialty restaurants.
If you suffer from the winter blues, this cheerful city at the tip of the Florida Keys, 150 miles from Miami (and home to the southernmost point in the United States), has a cure: brilliant sunshine and vintage architecture painted in pleasing pastels and upbeat brights. Key West, where even mellow folks are known to get rowdy when exploring Duval Street, also has bars—plenty of them—and quirky local traditions. Head to Mallory Square for the daily gathering to celebrate the sunset. Visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum to learn about the author’s love of Key West and his many six-toed cats, the descendants of which still live here. And, of course, order some favorite local treats: a salt-rimmed margarita, crispy conch fritters, and zesty key lime pie.
Where to stay: Margaritaville Key West Resort & Marina for its central location and Jimmy Buffett-inspired vibe and décor, Casa Marina Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton for its indoor and outdoor spa treatments (beach massage, anyone?), and Southernmost Beach Resort for its live entertainment, multiple palm-fringed pools and secluded sunbathing pier.
INSIDER TIPKey West gets its fair share of cruise ships, so if you see one anchored offshore, know that the shops, restaurants, and sights in town are likely overrun. Hang out by your hotel pool until after 4 pm, when most cruise ship passengers will be heading back onboard.
The San Diego weather here really does live in that sweet spot. The temperature is 60 to 85 degrees year-round which is ideal for enjoying everything from a day at the beach to an invigorating coastal hike or a perfect round of golf. San Diego also has something for everyone. Families can check out the 400-odd animals at the world-famous San Diego Zoo (in 1,200-acre Balboa Park), the splashy entertainment at SeaWorld, and colorful, creative fun at Legoland California. History buffs can admire the Victorian architecture of Hotel del Coronado and retrace the city’s founding (and enjoy local Mexican cuisine, too) in Old Town. Couples can sip wine at myriad tasting rooms (including one set amid vineyards at Orfila Vineyards & Winery), sample local California IPAs at craft breweries, and enjoy creations by celebrity chefs like Brian Malarkey’s Herb & Wood.
Where to Stay: From grand old beach resorts to chic downtown digs, appealing accommodations include historic Hotel del Coronado; ever so sophisticated The Pendry in the Gaslamp Quarter (complete with a Moët & Chandon Vending Machine), and the chic, design-centric Kimpton Alma San Diego downtown.
INSIDER TIPFor a change of pace, head into the mountains about an hour east of San Diego and spend an afternoon checking out the wineries and bakeries (apple pies are the specialty) in historic Julian.
Temperatures may dip into the 60s from December to March, but this city known for its 22 atmospheric, moss-draped squares and citizens who embrace the eccentric makes a fine and affordable destination for fans of classic architecture, low-country cuisine (upscale at Elizabeth on 37th and family style at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room) and even craft breweries and distilleries (check out Service Brewing Co. and Ghost Coast Distillery). Historic home tours—three not to miss are Andrew Low House, Davenport House Museum, and Mercer Williams House—are a highlight of any Savannah visit, along with strolls through Bonaventure Cemetery and Forsythe Park. Oh, and practically everything is said to be haunted here, too.
Where to Stay: For a romantic getaway, it’s hard to beat circa-1868 inn The Gastonian. Marshall House offers both a central location and historic charm, while The Kimpton Brice is a warehouse-turned-modern-luxury hotel mere moments from Savannah’s famed River Street.
INSIDER TIPSave room for a treat at Leopold’s, which has been dishing up the city’s best ice cream since 1919. The homemade bourbon-infused caramel Savannah Socialite is to die for.
South Padre Island
You know a grand old time is on the cards when your vacation spot has the largest beach bar in Texas (where everything is extra-large). Adrenaline junkies and water babies unite on tropical South Padre Island for the myriad of water activities available: horse riding, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing, wakeboarding, and parasailing over sparkling blue water. South Padre Island blends wild nature with adventure in the Lone Star State; there are sand dunes, scenic wetlands, amusement parks, and beaches with professional sand sculptors offering lessons in sand castle building. Best of all, the 54 kilometers of beaches on South Padre Island are welcoming throughout the year: the mercury seldom dips below 65 degrees, and islanders see more than 300 days of sunshine. South Padre Island is in the Central Time Zone, so if you’re coming from the East Coast, you’ll gain an hour of vacation.
Where to Stay: Enjoy your sunny playcation with a stay at Hilton Garden Inn South Padre Island Beachfront, which is just minutes from the water. You’ll never be bored or hungry at Isla Grand Beach Resort with its on-site tennis court, outdoor pool, and multiple dining and entertainment venues (don’t miss the nightly live music at The Quarterdeck Lounge).
INSIDER TIPThe SpaceX Boca Chica launch site is just across the bay from South Padre, meaning that space lovers can potentially catch sight of rocket launches and landings. Keep track of launch schedules to be able to witness them right from the beach or drive to the SpaceX facility, Starbase.