Maybe you don’t have a passport, or maybe you don’t want the hassle of a laborious immigration experience. Maybe you want to arrive at your Caribbean destination, get your bag and immediately head to the beach. Well, if you’re a US citizen or a green card holder, there are a host of places you can visit — no passport required, just a government-issued photo ID. These are the best ones. (Note that you will need to do a quick USDA bag screening on the way back, with a customs check in the USVI.
When it comes to the US Virgin Islands, it’s not really close — St John is a natural paradise, covered by parkland, peppered by white sand beaches with crystal-clear water and imbued with a funky, eclectic, always-relaxed vibe. When it comes to no passport-required islands, this is tops.
It’s famous for its Playa Flamenco, consistently rated (including by us) as one of the best beaches in all of the Caribbean, but Culebra is so much more. Part of the Spanish Virgin Islands with its sister isle, Vieques, Culebra is an ultra-laid-back, beachy isle unencumbered by large hotels. In fact, this is really a villa or guest house destination.
Puerto Rico’s beach hub, Vieques is very much a developing tourism destination. It’s got one major branded the hotel, the hip W Vieques, and a host of very cool boutiques like El Block and Hix Island House. Oh, and scores of wild horses roaming around the island. Anything more you need to know?
One of the most cosmopolitan islands in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico has it all — culturally rich cities like Old San Juan, a major rainforest, El Yunque, a surfing town called Rincon and, of course, lots and lots of rum. (We prefer Ron del Barrilito, as do in-the-know locals). Puerto Rico is a rich palette, and it’s up to you to choose how to paint your vacation.
Its status as one of the Caribbean’s most popular cruise hubs makes this a major Caribbean shopping destination; but it’s also a massively fun destination, whether you’re checking out the beaches at Lindquist Beach and Magens Bay or taking a banana daiquiri at the Mountain Top. St Thomas has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a luxury resort like the Ritz-Carlton or an intimate, beachy boutique like the famous Bolongo Bay.
Perhaps the best-kept secret in the US Virgin Islands, St Croix is quickly developing as the USVI’s culinary hub, with a host of hot new restaurants helmed by up-and-coming chefs. This is a great villa destination marked by a thriving US expat community. But the star here is historic Christiansted, a charming, walkable town that is a unique jewel in the Caribbean.