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Chebeague Island Inn; Lark Hotels; Alyssa Powell/Business Insider
- Sometimes, you just want to slip away to a remote island. But long flight times and expensive prices don’t make it easy to jet off to the Maldives or Bora Bora.
- Fortunately, there are plenty of stunning islands right here at home in the US. We rounded up the best US island hotels from coast to coast, including luxe retreats, family-friendly resorts, historic inns, and affordable hotels for budget holiday-seekers.
- Our top properties are well-rated and meticulously researched; they are easy to access from the mainland, offer close proximity to beaches and nature, include desirable vacation amenities, and range in price from $90 to $269 to start.
- Read all Business Insider hotel reviews here.
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There’s nothing quite like slipping away to a secluded, stunning island oasis. In many cases, however, that requires lengthy flights and expensive transfers and hotels.
Fortunately, there’s no need to pack your passport — or even book a plane ticket in some cases — to have a real island vacation.
Plenty of fantastic island getaways are available close to home, from the summer colonies of New England to the beachy enclaves off the southern Atlantic coast, and the mountain wilds of California’s Catalina Island. Some are an easy bridge crossing by car, while others require a scenic ferry ride, which only adds to the allure.
Of course, you’ll want to hit the beach, and some of the best ones are found on US islands like Nantucket’s sea grass-lined shores, or the creamy white-sand beaches of South Carolina’s Kiawah Island. Similarly, Maine boasts miles of dramatic rocky coastline in the Casco Bay islands, and the Outer Banks’ Ocracoke Island offers pristine, protected national seashore, plus the chance to spot wild ponies.
To learn about other best hotels in the United States, click on a link below to jump directly to more coverage
- The best beach hotels in the US
- The best hotels for families in the US
- The best bachelor and bachelorette destinations in the US
- The best eco-friendly and sustainable hotels in the US
We’ve chosen our favorite island hotels in the US based on factors such as personal travel experiences, and hotels that are easy to access from the mainland, so you can spend more time relaxing. The best island hotels offer close proximity to beaches and nature, include desirable vacation amenities, feature fascinating architecture and history, and range in price from $90 to $269 to start. Plus, they’re beloved by fellow travelers and well-rated and reviewed on sites such as Trip Advisor, Hotels.com, and Booking.com.
These are the best island hotels that don’t require a passport, sorted by price from low to high.
The Ocracoke Harbor Inn – Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
At the southernmost tip of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Ocracoke is one of a few in a string of barrier islands that can only be reached by ferry. Its relative isolation and pristine beauty makes it ideal for those wanting a true island escape. Most of the island is undeveloped Cape Hatteras National Seashore, where wild ponies roam free.
Shops, restaurants, and bars are clustered around the village of Ocracoke, where you’ll find this quaint, family-owned inn with spectacular views overlooking Silver Lake Harbor. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles, nor is there an on-site restaurant, but the sprawling waterfront terrace is a great spot for watching the sunset with a glass of wine. There is also a patio deck with gas grills for cooking and a private dock for fishing.
Rooms are spacious and all have balconies, while larger suites offer big decks, whirlpool tubs, and kitchenettes. Most rooms have harbor views, but there are cheaper rooms facing the front of the inn. The decor won’t wow you — think basic beachy motel with wood furniture and floral bedspreads — but rooms are clean and comfortable. A continental breakfast is included in the rate and the hotel is open seasonally, from mid-March through November.
Trip Advisor Ranking: 2 out of 9 hotels in Ocracoke
Booking.com Rating: 9.2 out of 10
Pros: The inn has a fantastic harbor-front location and is a short walk to all the restaurants and shopping in the village. Guests praised the warm, friendly service.
Cons: The decor is a bit dated and feels far from contemporary. Some ground-floor rooms overlook the parking lot.
The Gates Hotel Key West – Key West, FL
The southernmost point in the mainland US, Key West is famous for its candy-colored Victorian and Queen Anne houses, eclectic bars, and spectacular sunsets. It’s also beloved for its eccentric residents, including six-toed cats and roaming roosters.
While the historic Old Town is its most charming district, New Town, at the island’s entry point, has its own distinct vibe and far more affordable hotel options.
That includes The Gates Key West, an upscale boutique hotel whose star attraction is Rum Row, a buzzy poolside bar and lounge decorated in a funky beach-shack style with a huge selection of rum cocktails. Sample conch every which way at the on-site food truck or puff on a stogie in the cigar lounge. Rum Row also hosts live music nightly Wednesday to Sunday.
Rooms are bright and modern, with hardwood floors, exposed beams, whitewashed pine platform beds, and colorful original photographs by an acclaimed local photographer.
Standard King rooms are spacious at 300 square feet, but we recommend upgrading to the Scene category for a private poolside terrace or views of the bay.
Trip Advisor Ranking: 32 out of 51 hotels in Key West
Hotels.com Rating: 8.4 out of 10
Pros: The rum-based “Mary Pickford” welcome cocktail sets a fun, breezy tone from the start, and the lively Rum Row lounge is a great alternative to the jam-packed bars along Old Town’s Duval Street.
Cons: Gates Hotel is far from all the Old Town attractions (though there is a free daily guest shuttle), and there is no full restaurant on-site. Many lower-category rooms overlook the parking lot.
Pavilion Hotel – Catalina Island, California
Located 22 miles off the Southern California coast and an hour-long ferry ride from Long Beach, Catalina feels like a tropical island retreat with its palm-fringed beaches and sparkling blue waters.
The picturesque town of Avalon is the gateway to this mountainous island. There, you’ll find most tourist attractions including the Art Deco Catalina Casino and the white-sand Descanso Beach.
The four-star Pavilion Hotel is ideally situated in Avalon, mere steps from popular South Beach and the bustling Pleasure Pier. The highlight is its tranquil courtyard, a cozy spot with a fire pit surrounded by palm trees and tropical flowers. There, guests gather to enjoy free nightly wine and cheese socials with great views of Avalon Bay. Other perks include access to the Descanso Beach Club, free use of bicycles, and complimentary luggage service to and from the Avalon ferry terminal, which is a necessary amenity you’ll be glad to have.
Rooms are fairly traditional in style with dark wood furnishings, beige carpeting, and blue accents. Entry-level standard accommodations measure a roomy 322 square feet, but the basic bathrooms could use an upgrade. It’s worth the extra $40 to upgrade for the Superior category, which offers outdoor space. Pricey suites feature spacious balconies with ocean views.
Trip Advisor Ranking: 4 out of 20 hotels in Avalon
Booking.com Rating: 9.4 out of 10
Pros: There are plenty of freebies included in the room rate (though there is a daily $30 resort fee per room) that add value, including complimentary breakfast, free use of bikes, Descanso Beach Club access, and a free tour of the historic casino.
Cons: Standard rooms lack views and many guests found that the hotel overall felt a bit dated. There is no on-site restaurant or bar, though the Avalon Grille (where breakfast is served) is just around the corner from the hotel.
Inn at Stonecliffe – Mackinac Island, Michigan
It’s just a 20-minute ferry ride from the shores of Lake Huron to this four-square-mile island, but once here, it feels like you’ve traveled back in time. A Victorian village is perfectly preserved amid the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages (cars have been outlawed here since 1898). As the town can quickly become overwhelmed with summer day-trippers, those seeking a quieter stay should venture a bit further, and stay overnight.
Set two miles northwest of downtown, on a bluff overlooking the Straits of Mackinac, this elegant B&B is housed in a grand Tudor-style manse that dates back to 1904. Gleaming wood floors and original wood-paneled rooms are complemented by period-style furnishings. Outside, rolling green lawns offer gorgeous views of the water and the Mackinac Bridge. Food-wise, there’s the fine-dining Cudahy Chophouse restaurant, as well as the more casual cocktail bar and lounge, and amenities include a heated outdoor pool.
Rooms in the historic manor are classically decorated with wood furnishings, including some with four-poster beds, and floral prints. Entry-level rooms are located on the second and third floors and offer views of the front lawn or the bridge, while larger Manor rooms have water views. There are also suites in a separate house, which include air-conditioning, kitchenettes, and balconies. Breakfast is included in the rate and adds nice value. The hotel is open seasonally, generally from May to October.
Trip Advisor Ranking: 8 out of 12 hotels in Mackinac Island
Booking.com Rating: 8.9 out of 10
Pros: The mansion has an idyllic setting with water views and lovely grounds. Staying here feels like you’ve been transported to another era.
Cons: While the vibe is quieter, the Inn at Stonecliffe is far from the center of town, restaurants, and shopping. And as the island is car-free, you’ll have to walk or arrange for a “taxi,” which in this case is a horse-drawn carriage.
Chebeague Island Inn – Chebeague Island, Maine
A 15-minute ferry ride across the Casco Bay from Yarmouth, Maine, Chebeague Island is one of those quintessential Maine islands made up of dense forest, rocky coastline, secluded coves, and sandy beaches.
You don’t come here for the nightlife, you come here to unplug and relax. There’s just a couple of cafes, a seasonal gift shop, a post office, and only one hotel, the Chebeague Island Inn. This four-star property has stood here since the 1920s and would still lead the pack even if there were any other lodging competitors.
Out front, wooden Adirondack chairs are arranged on the rolling lawn offering spectacular views over Casco Bay and the wharf below. Inside, it’s elegantly rustic, with wood floors and comfy overstuffed chairs surrounding a huge stone fireplace. The restaurant sources ingredients from local farms and fishermen, as well as from its own garden.
The 21 guest rooms and suites are all different in layout but feature a similar classic design scheme of white walls, white-painted floors, white Italian linens, and local artwork on the walls. Views are either of the back garden or the ocean and some entry-level rooms have shared bathrooms. If you want an ensuite, you’ll pay about $100 more. The inn is open seasonally, from mid-May to October.
Trip Advisor Ranking: 1 out of 1 hotels in Chebeague Island
Booking.com Rating: 8.7 out of 10
Pros: There are plenty of free activities at the hotel including lawn games, nightly s’mores around the fire pit, and outdoor weekend yoga classes in summer. Bike use is complimentary and there are guest discounts for the nearby golf course.
Cons: There are no televisions or air-conditioning in the rooms. If you want the lowest room rate, you’ll have to share a bathroom with other guests. If you take the ferry from Portland, the ride is anywhere from 1 to 1.5 hours.
Jekyll Island Club Resort – Jekyll Island, Georgia
One of four Golden Isles hugging the coast between Savannah and Jacksonville, Jekyll Island was once the domain of the country’s elite. It’s where the Carnegies, Morgans, and Vanderbilts wintered during the storied Gilded Age.
Most exclusive of all was the Jekyll Island Club, which opened in 1888 in a fanciful turreted building featuring sweeping wraparound verandas. It’s since been beautifully refurbished with gleaming wood floors, original wood ceilings, and open fireplaces. The landmark Queen Anne-style structure is still the centerpiece of the resort, which encompasses several historic buildings, as well as a newer Ocean Club on the opposite side of the island. Scattered among the vast property are amenities galore: croquet lawns, secluded gardens, pools, multiple restaurants, several golf courses, 20 miles of biking paths, a beach club, and vast stretches of white-sand beach. Indeed it’s so lovely, Insider Reviews associate guides editor Jen Gushue says it’s where she’s traveling first as soon as it’s safe.
Rooms and suites vary greatly in size and decor depending on whether you stay in the clubhouse or one of the three historic cottages. And by cottages, we mean grand turn-of-the-century mansions. Most rooms are done up in a classic-meets-modern style with mahogany furnishings and a neutral gray and cream color scheme. Entry-level Clubhouse rooms measure between 200 and 467 square feet. The next category up is the larger Deluxe room, which features balconies or enclosed sun porches and original details like fireplace mantels. Our pick for a cottage stay is the Cherokee, with many rooms offering river views.
Trip Advisor Ranking: 2 out of 10 hotels in Jekyll Island
Booking.com Rating: 9.1 out of 10
Pros: The wealth of history of this 130-year-old property is fascinating — be sure to sign up for one of the free history tours. Guests regularly compliment the charming Gilded Age ambiance and the efficient, friendly staff.
Cons: There is a $20 nightly resort fee, as well as a state fee to enter the island. You’re not on the beach (unless you’re staying at the hotel’s all-suite Ocean Club property) but there are regular free shuttles. There is no spa.
The Wauwinet – Nantucket, Massachusetts
Nantucket is famous for its postcard-perfect downtown comprised of historic cobblestone streets, 19th-century shingled buildings, and steepled churches. A more rugged kind of beauty can be found on its less-developed northeast coast, where the five-star Wauwinet sits on a quiet stretch of Nantucket Bay beach.
The Relais & Chateaux property is the very definition of classic New England refinement, with its stately gray-shingled exterior, broad porches, and pristine green lawn dotted with white wicker chaise lounges. The hotel’s Topper’s restaurant, which specializes in seafood, is a local mainstay and its breezy waterfront terrace is especially popular for lunch.
The original 1875 inn is where most rooms are located. There are also four cottages across from the main house with larger suites. Each of the rooms is uniquely designed but all feature classic decor in soothing blue, gray, and cream tones. Entry-level rooms are on the second and third floors with garden views overlooking the hotel entrance. They’re a bit on the cozy side at around 200 square feet. Upgrade to a Superior for more space and a seating area, and know that rooms with bay views will come at a premium. The property is open from April to October, with peak pricing in the high summer season.
Trip Advisor Ranking: 8 out of 13 hotels in Nantucket
Booking.com Rating: 9.4 out of 10
Pros: There are umpteen amenities included in the rate: bicycles, beach supplies, kayaks and SUPs, morning coffee and pastries, afternoon port and cheese, and all-day refreshments that change with the season. In spring and fall, there are also complimentary activities offered, such as cooking demos and surfcasting lessons.
Cons: The only real drawback is the distance from Nantucket town. It’s a good half-hour by car or 45 minutes by boat, so don’t expect to walk. But, the hotel offers complimentary shuttle service and a free boat ride to and from town on the Lady Wauwinet (though with the latter, you’ll need to reserve your spot in the high season).
The Sanctuary Hotel at Kiawah Island Golf Resort – Kiawah Island, South Carolina
A destination unto itself, this grand five-star beachfront resort takes pride of place as the only hotel on Kiawah Island, a secluded maritime enclave 21 miles southwest of downtown Charleston.
Everything you need for a luxury vacation is here: miles of uninterrupted beach, two outdoor pools, an indoor pool, five championship golf courses, 22 tennis courts, and a top-notch spa with a mineral whirlpool, steam room, and dry sauna. It’s especially great for families, with a whole host of kid-friendly activities, from nature walks to surf camps, and pool parties.
The list of dining and drinking options is also exhaustive. There are 15 scattered around the property, at all different price points. Standouts include the swanky Ocean Room steakhouse and the alfresco Lowcountry Sunday brunch on the porch of the Jasmine Room.
Rooms are decorated in traditional style with floral drapes, mahogany furnishings, a soft yellow palette, and include marble bathrooms with deep soaking tubs and separate walk-in showers. They are also wonderfully spacious with entry-level rooms starting at a very generous 520 square feet, and include small balconies with partial ocean views. Pricier ocean-view suites have large balconies overlooking the Atlantic.
A two-night minimum stay is required on most weekends and members of Preferred Hotels & Resorts can use their points for free nights and upgrades.
Trip Advisor Ranking: 1 out of 3 hotels in Kiawah Island
Hotels.com Rating: 9.4 out of 10
Pros: With little development on the island, staying at the Sanctuary feels like you have a giant nature preserve all to yourself. With 10 miles of coastline, you might only see a handful of people — but plenty of dolphins — on a beach stroll, and expect to encounter wildlife along the hiking and biking trails, from bald eagles to alligators.
Cons: There are hefty fees for just about every activity, including bike and kayak rentals, yoga on the beach, and the use of the tennis courts. The day rate for the spa (not including treatments) is $25.
Block Island Beach House – Block Island, Rhode Island
Just 12 miles off the Rhode Island coast, tiny Block Island packs in classic Americana charm. Stroll quaint streets in historic New Shoreham town, or visit 17 miles of pristine beaches protected by lighthouses and towering bluffs.
One of the island’s landmark hotels is the former Block Island Surf Hotel, which dates back to 1873. It was reborn last year as Block Island Beach House.
The grand Victorian building has gotten a spiffy upgrade with a fresh design scheme that blends historic details — original tin ceilings and wood floors — with retro-style furnishings and fun, vintage accents. Among its three dining options are The Surf, whose waterfront porch offers stellar sunset views, and the casual Beach Bar, a great spot for outdoor cocktails.
Rooms are all on the smaller side and come in a variety of layouts and decor. Some are minimalist, with whitewashed wood-paneled walls, black spindle headboards, and a 60s-era surfboard propped up in the corner. Others, like the Vintage rooms, are seriously eclectic with brightly patterned walls, oriental rugs, and original artwork. Village-facing entry-level King rooms are quite snug, measuring just 110 to 150 square feet; for around $10 more, the Vintage King Deluxe rooms offer a bit more space.
Consider upgrading to an oceanfront room, especially one with a balcony, for the best views. The property is open seasonally, from mid-May to October.
Trip Advisor Ranking: 6 out of 7 hotels in New Shoreham
Booking.com Rating: 8.9 out of 10
Pros: As the island’s only beachfront hotel, guests have direct access to Crescent Beach, and the ferry is just a block away.
Cons: Rooms, especially the entry-level King rooms, are quite petite. Additionally, the over-the-top design in the Vintage rooms isn’t to everyone’s taste.
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