Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer | Apr 13, 2017
With the mention of fruity cocktails, seafoam-colored waters, and cloudless horizons, you may immediately think of a luxury cruise to Bermuda or all-inclusive five star resorts in Costa Rica.
While these tropical escapes remain high-profile destinations for millions of travelers each year, you don’t need to leave the country to enjoy “island time.” Better yet, you don’t need to spend your week of relaxing in a crowded hotel with hundreds of tourists.
These underrated locales are right here in the United States and will transport you off-the-beaten-path for a wanderlust-worthy vacation—sans the spring break crowds.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Go for the: Golf Courses
Located west of the Florida panhandle, this coastal community fringes the Gulf of Mexico, and is known for its aquamarine waters and mild temperatures. The leisurely pace and “small-town USA” vibe make Gulf Shores a more relaxing choice than other regional hotspots like Panama City or Myrtle Beach—both of which tend to feel overcrowded and commercialized.
Not to mention, golf enthusiasts can enjoy access to some of Alabama’s premier 18-hole courses, while savoring the finest in Southern hospitality.
Go for the: Snorkeling & Untouched Nature
The striking shoreline of Honokalani (in Waianapanapa State Park) is tinted black from the area’s volcanic residue, and surrounded by lush rainforest vegetation. This off-the-grid locale is more pristine, secluded and untouched than its touristy counterparts and is a must-visit detour along the storied “Road to Hana.”
[Source: Jessica Thiefels, 2017]
This slice of Hawaiian paradise offers world-class snorkeling, hiking and nature explorations such as the lava caves, arches, tubes and cliffs etched into this exotic, rugged landscape.
Go for the: Deep Sea Fishing
This small Florida town was dubbed the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” in the 19th century and has all the charm of an artsy seaside hamlet, combined with the lure of sugar-sand beaches. But you don’t just visit Destin to relax on the beach. Quite the opposite: you visit to get out on the water for deep-sea fishing.
“Destin has the quickest access to deep blue water that is unrivaled by any other port along the coast. Big game fish, like marlin, wahoo, sailfish, tuna, and dolphin feed on other game species that live in deep blue water,” explains fishing experts at CharterFishingDestin.com. They continue, “For fishing enthusiasts who target big saltwater game, this means less travel time and more prime deep sea fishing.”
If Destin is your next vacation spot, get ready to put your fishing skills to the test.
Pismo Beach, California
Go for the: Wildlife Sightings
Nestled between the urban spectacle of Los Angeles and the bohemian spirit of San Francisco, this craggy shoreline is flecked with sand dunes, palm trees and nature galore. Outdoor enthusiasts will find their appetite for adventure satisfied with numerous activities and wildlife encounters amidst a classic “1950s California” backdrop.
[Pismo Beach – Source]
There’s no shortage of exploration opportunities in this beach town, from tide pooling and clamming to riding horseback through remote trails to visiting the famed Monarch Butterfly Grove. So don’t forget your walking shoes at home.
Go for the: Kayaking & SUP
This Southwestern port city is more than just a pit stop for cruises en route to some Caribbean retreat. With its Spanish colonial architecture, quintessential Texan pride and casual pace of living, it’s so much more.
In fact, Galveston offers a variety of options to make a splash in the ocean waves with kayaking on the Intracoastal Waterway or learning to paddleboard in the turquoise inlets, which frame this barrier island. As the state’s mantra would suggest, “Everything is bigger in Texas;” Galveston keeps this reputation going strong.
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer is a long-time lifestyle and health and fitness writer. As the managing editor of Natural Awakenings, she gets to explore and research a wide variety of health and wellness topics. She recently returned from travels in South America with her husband, and is looking forward to their next big trip. Follow her healthy musings and adventures on Instagram.