If you're craving an exotic beach escape to one of the best islands in the world, then head to Florida.
Floridian islands made up three of TripAdvisor's Top 10 Islands In The U.S. this year. They're so stunning that earlier this year, the tourism bureau of Ithaca, New York even begged travelers to go to forgo the city to visit Florida's islands instead. While getting to the Caribbean can be a schlep for your luggage and tough on your wallet, visiting Florida's islands will not require going through customs and are often, though not always, cheaper to get to.
Pack your bags, because we're going to the six of the Sunshine State's most stunning islands.
It's actually not one, but seven tiny islands that form Dry Tortugas National Park. The chain's open blue ocean, coral reefs and waterfront Civil War-era fort make prime snorkel spots. You can only get to Dry Tortugas by boat or seaplane, and beware: once you arrive, you may never want to come back to the mainland.
It's a quick drive from the Florida mainland, but Key Largo feels a "world away," as TripAdvisor puts it. Divers can plunge into Molasses Reef, known as one of the country's best, most accessible dive spots. Visit exotic birds and dolphins, or take a lesson from windsurfing pros.
The biggest of Florida's "Ten Thousand Islands" is a white-sand wonder from which Everglades exploration abounds. Nearby, you can take a swamp buggy or airboat tour through a tropical national preserve with panthers, bears and other wildlife. Oh, and the beaches are stellar, too.
With no chain stores, no stoplights and a population of just about 7,000 people, this place is pure, quiet island bliss. Hunt for seashells on the beach, or chow down on chicken wings at the Lazy Flamingo.
A handful of the middle Florida Keys comprise this quaint island city. Cruise rows of vacation homes and inns on charming walkways, or load up on fresh seafood at top-notch restaurants. There are plenty of seafood festivals throughout the year, too.