5 Amazing Islands That You Don T Need A Passport To Visit

Puerto Rico

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© Zixi Zhou / Unsplash

© Zixi Zhou / Unsplash

This US island territory between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean is a melting pot of African, Spanish, Latin American and US influences. Best of all, you can explore the tropical rainforests, colonial-era architecture, spectacular mountains and sandy white beaches in Puerto Rico without needing a passport.

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Canada

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US citizens looking to enter Canada by land or sea are able to do so with a valid Passport Card or Nexus card. Although air travelers can still use the Nexus card, the Passport Card cannot be used, and a Passport Booklet will be needed instead. The Nexus card is great for those who regularly travel between the two countries, as it is designed to expedite the process and costs less than a Passport Booklet.

Mackinac Island

At the top of Lake Huron in Michigan, this tiny 3.8-square-mile island is 80 percent preserved state park and has prohibited the use of motor vehicles since 1898, making it a seriously endearing retreat. Activities here are unsurprisingly laid-back. Think: biking, swimming, and lounging on the beach, interrupted from time to time for a leisurely game of bocce or tennis. The town’s main attraction? An abundance of fudge purveyors, hawking their sweet treats. Stay at the grand (and newly renovated) Mission Point, an 18-acre property that offers every activity imaginable (golf, croquet, arcade, flower-pressing classes, you name it), lending it a wonderful old-school summer-camp vibe.

11. Marco Island — Florida

Mit4711 / Getty Images Sandwiched between Naples and the Everglades on the Gulf Coast is Marco Island — a barrier island full of canals and wide, sugar-sand beaches. You can search for shells on Tigertail Beach and South Beach, or simply bask in the near-perfect tropical climate, where the water temperature at the beach averages a balmy 78 degrees, and the weather rarely drops below 50.

Pulau Ubin ($8 for a return bumboat ride)

This is the best known and most-visited (by tourists, not NS men) island after Sentosa. But it couldn’t be more different from the latter. You’ll be rewarded with one of Singapore’s last kampungs, surrounded by jungle and mangrove swamps, and flanked by views of the sea.

So what to do on Pulau Ubin? Why, cycling of course. Rent a bicycle from any of the bicycle shops along the road from the ferry arrival area. Prices range from $8 to $20 per day but it’s advised to take a sturdy mountain bike. 

A popular route is to ride out to the Chek Jawa Wetlands, a unique ecosystem that includes beaches, mangroves, forest and more. The seven-storey high Jejawi Tower there is also worth the climb for a panoramic view of the jungle. 

NParks holds guided tours on weekends but they’re all fully booked for now. You can try your luck and register for the waitlist and pray that people drop out. A tour costs $60 and accommodates a maximum of 5. 

For the more adventurous thrill-seekers who know what they’re doing, the Ketam Mountain Bike Park is where you can clock a solid 10km around the Ketam Quarry. The quarry is one of 5 inactive quarries on the island that you can cycle to some for some birdwatching, or you know, to get that Instagram pic.

Guess what, you can also camp on Ubin at designated campsites (Jelutong, Mamam, Urban Living Lab) and can even bring your own food to cook. Unfortunately, NParks has suspended camping for now due to Covid-19.

Price of bumboat tickets to Pulau Ubin from Changi Point: $4 each way since mid-2020, which adds up to $8 per round trip. Bring cash! 

Operating hours: 7am to 7pm (recommended to leave before sunset)

Bicycle rental: approx $8 to $20 for a day. Prices and timing vary at individual shops. 

Tip: Opt for sturdy mountain bikes and don’t always go with the cheapest option as the bikes may not be in the best condition to navigate the Ubin trails. Get a helmet too and heed the signs that tell you to dismount your bike and push as there have been fatal accidents.

Where to eat on Pulau Ubin: There are 4 main restaurants near the Ubin jetty — Encik Hassan, Cheong Lian Yuen, Sin Nam Huat, Season Live Seafood. Around the village are also several stalls selling snacks, drinks, fruits and local desserts.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by David (@pingo_david) on Nov 25, 2018 at 12:21am PST

Mount Desert Island: Don’t Miss

Acadia’s Cadillac Mountain offers visitors the chance to be among the first people in the continental U.S. to see the sunrise. Despite the name, no strenuous hiking is required — Cadillac is easily accessible by car. Head to picturesque Southwest Harbor for the requisite lobster lunch or dinner at Beal’s Lobster Pier. If you must get your toes in the sand, Sand Beach just outside of Bar Harbor beckons, but the water will be too “brisk” for all but the heartiest swimmers, even in summer.

Lewis and Harris, Scotland

Low tide at Uig Beach on the Isle of Lewis and Har
Low tide at Uig Beach on the Isle of Lewis and Harris, Outer Hebrides in Scotland. (Picture: Shutterstock)

Getting to the Outer Hebrides is no mean feat, but it’s worth it to take in the breathtaking mountains, rocky plateaus, rugged coastlines and sandy beaches. Lewis and Harris is the largest island in Scotland, and it’s unlike any other place on the mainland. The Gaelic language is central to the Outer Hebrides, where 61% of islanders speak it, so Lewis and Harris will feel like a different continent altogether to the uninitiated.

How to get there: Connecting flights from London to Stornoway via Edinburgh can take over three hours.

 

4. Key West, Florida

Key West is as close to the Caribbean as you can get without leaving the continental U.S.; in fact, you can actually visit the Southernmost Point in the U.S.! Your family will enjoy the history of Key West, which includes the Ernest Hemingway House, along with the colorful homes and delicious restaurants along and around Duval Street. And while the beach isn’t the main attraction (head to Islamorada or Marathon for that), full-service resorts beckon families to relax with private stretches of sand and surf, sparking pools, children’s activities, onsite dining and more.

Recommended Hotel: Southernmost on the BeachThis resort provides a little bit of everythingaccess to the beach, bike rentals, organized activities and a swimming pool. Best of all, it offers a quiet location at the end of Duval Streetclose enough for convenience, yet far enough to avoid the party scene.

San Juan Islands

This archipelago of more than 170 islands in Washington state might not spring to mind when you think of island vacations, but it has a Pacific Northwest allure all its own. The three largest islands (Lopez, Orcas and San Juan) are easily accessible by ferry — no passports or special ID required — and charming Friday Harbor is a hub for activities of all kinds, from shopping and the arts to kayaking, horseback riding, and golf.

Northern Mariana Islands

鸿 孟 | Adobe Stock
鸿 孟 | Adobe Stock

These Micronesian islands have been governed by many in their long history: first by Spanish colonists in the 16th century, then Japanese forces during WWII, and finally, the United States since the Battle of Saipan in 1944.

The islands rely heavily on tourism from their northern neighbors Japan and Korea as well as the United States. History buffs will find much to see in Saipan, the largest island of the Marianas, which is home to several war memorials and museums. Adrenaline junkies can dive the Grotto, a limestone cavern whose 70-foot-deep waters are home to sea turtles and reef sharks, or take a boat to the nearby lagoon surrounding Managaha Island.

Stay: While the Mariana Islands are relatively remote, several major hotel operators, including Hyatt, run four- and five-star properties on Saipan.

Are There Any Exceptions?

Be careful with flight routings. If you’re not going to be traveling with a passport, make sure that you buy a direct flight to the U.S. Virgin Islands or one that only passes through the U.S. or U.S. territories on a layover. If you were to buy a flight with a stopover in say, Costa Rica, you’ll need to have your passport, as this would count as traveling internationally. In this case, you wouldn’t be allowed to board the plane if you couldn’t show your passport. 

Likewise, on your way home, if you were to book a flight that would stop over in Bermuda or Mexico (or any other international country), you would need to have a passport in order to board that flight. 

Mersea Island, Essex

Beach huts at West Mersea at sunset. (Picture: Shu
Beach huts at West Mersea at sunset. (Picture: Shutterstock)

There’s plenty of islands off the Essex coast that are separated by a system of waterways, and Mersea Island is big with foodie-types who love ultra-fresh seafood. The most famous restaurant on the island is the BYO Company Shed, housed in a tiny black hut where the owners also farm, shuck and sell oysters to day-trippers.

Unlike most of the island escapes on this list, Mersea is easily accessible by car, but only when the tide is out.

How to get there: A one hour, 40 minute train journey to Wivenhow, followed by a short bus journey to the Island

 

4. Magnetic Island, QLD

Affectionately known as Maggie, Magnetic Island has earned a reputation as the sunniest place in the Sunshine State, with less annual rainfall than both the tropical north and the Whitsunday Islands. Named by Captain Cook, who believed the iron in the island’s hills tinkered with his compass when he sailed past in 1770, the island has a certain allure with its unusual and unspoilt landscape. Magnetic Island National Park covers just over half of the island and will take you through rainforest, bushland and mangroves until you reach headland lookouts with sweeping ocean views.

Where to stay: Both Peppers Blue on Blue and Grand Mercure Apartments Magnetic Island are good, comfortable options with incredible views over Nelly Bay.

San Diego, California

About 70 miles of coastline, adorable sea lions and seriously talented surfers? When you’re ready to travel again, head west and you’ll find a SoCal paradise in San Diego … and you may wonder why you ever considered traveling further. La Jolla Cove is enough reason to visit; it’s a Pacific Coast dream featuring scuba diving, white sand beaches, underwater reefs and plenty of seal spotting as the Children’s Pool transforms into a safe haven for newly-born seal pups from December to May each year.

La Jolla, California

La Jolla, California

Let’s not forget about the city’s immersive zoo experience, where visitors can get a glimpse at more than 4,000 animals including koalas, giant pandas, Galapagos tortoises and much more. A stroll through Balboa Park and dinner in the Gaslamp Quarter can round out your day before enjoying another incredible sunset in a place where summer never seems to end. Get the beachside vibe you’re looking for with a stay at the one-of-a-kind Hotel del Coronado.

6. Block Island — Rhode Island

Photo By Bob Gundersen / Getty Images An easy 45-minute ferry ride from the mainland will bring you to Block Island, home to miles of beaches and the Mohegan Bluffs, impressive clay cliffs that rise almost 200 feet above the sea. Spend the morning boogie boarding at Mansion Beach before refueling with a lobster roll from Southeast Light Delights, and finish off the day watching the sun drop from Charlestown Beach.

2. Norfolk Island

Norfolk Island is a tropical delight in the South West Pacific Ocean, and the best thing is you don’t need a passport to get there. About parallel with Byron Bay, it enjoys perfect temperatures (between 19 and 22 degrees Celsius) all year round. It’s a great island escape for kids as well and Emily Bay – a turquoise lagoon with clear, warm water – is great for splashing around or a family picnic.

Where to stay: The Tin Sheds will put you in the centre of Burnt Pine (the largest town on the island) and close to nearby eateries and shops.

Sisters’ Islands Marine Park ($200 for two-way boa

Sisters’ Islands Marine Park ($200 for two-way boat charter)

Nature lovers have been eyeing Sister’s Islands ever since they were awarded marine park status a few years back. These two islands are home to some of the most untouched natural landscapes in Singapore.

The smaller of the two islands, aptly named Little Sister’s Island, is not open to the public as it’s designated for conservation and research. 

The one you can visit is Big Sister’s Island, which is teeming with marine life from eagle rays, seahorses and Hawksbill turtles to over 100 species of reef fish. There are also more than 250 species of hard corals that function to protect the shoreline from erosion. 

Certified divers can go under the sea here and explore the two marked dive trails that go to a depth of 15m. For the rest of us normal folks, NParks has guided intertidal walks that let visitors experience the island’s rich biodiversity.

At the time of writing, all these activities have been suspended for now but you can still explore the forest trails and just escape for a day out in nature. 

As there are no scheduled ferry services to the Sisters’ Islands, you’ll need to charter your own boat from Marina South Pier or West Coast Pier. Expect to pay at least $200.

Price of two-way boat charter to Sister’s Islands Marine Park: $200

Opening hours: 7am to 7pm, daily

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