Caribbean Destinations Without a U.S. Passport
Did you know that only 46% of Americans actually have a passport? It is hard for me to imagine since I have had a passport since I was 15 years old but I know there are a variety of reasons why people don't have one. The good news is there are some tropical places to visit in the Caribbean WITHOUT A US PASSPORT!
This list is also handy for anyone who wants to plan a destination wedding, a family reunion, multi-generational trip, or a corporate reward trip. One of the biggest challenges is picking a destination when not everyone in your group has a passport.
Puerto Rico is one of the biggest islands in the Caribbean, and it has much more to offer than rain forests. It also has bio-luminescent lagoons, mountains, coral reefs and white-sand beaches. Puerto Rico is a transportation hub for the Caribbean so it can make it easier to get airfare. The island is only 100 miles long and 35 miles wide but is both earthy and cosmopolitan at the same time. The capital of Puerto Rico is San Juan and it has some of the best nightlife in the Caribbean. It also has the uniqueness of Old San Juan that has cobblestone streets lined with shops, restaurants and historical attractions dating back to the 16th century. You can easily make San Juan your main base as it has a range of luxury hotels to select from. Don't miss the El Yunque National Forest which is the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest system. For another experience, there are two smaller islands, Vieques and Culebra, where there is an even more relaxed vibe in beautiful natural settings.
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS (USVI) Actually, the USVI are a chain of about 50 Caribbean islands but there are only three that are widely visited by mainstream travelers: St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John. Each has a distinct appeal of its own, but one thing they share is an array of first-rate beaches. If you have the time and budget, you could island hop between these islands either by local air or by ferry.
Despite its small size (14 miles long and 4 miles wide) this is the most developed of the three islands and in fact, the whole Caribbean. The island has steep green hills running across the middle of the island and beautiful beaches surround its shores. You can find many hotels, villas, resorts, small inns and private residences mixed with public and commercial structures. The main hub for all the action is in the capital, Charlotte Amalie. Some like to call it the "duty-free mall of the Caribbean" so make sure to bring an extra suitcase with you. This island is great for the lively nightlight, activities and attractions.
St. Croix This is the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands (84 square miles) and the Danish influence is still strong. The two major towns on St. Croix, Christiansted (capital) and Frederiksted, are charming towns with cobblestone streets, forts and Danish yellow-brick buildings. The countryside around them has deserted sugar mills, plantation houses, rolling green hills and cattle farms. There is a rain forest, three golf courses and several large parks, including one that's partly underwater. It is also a diver's mecca so don't miss it if that is one of your passions.
St. John If you are a nature-loving type, you will want to head to St. John, where two-thirds of the island has been reserved and protected as a national park. This is the smallest of the three major Islands and people love it's laid-back and quirky ambience. The island is only 19 square miles but is considered the most scenic and the most unspoiled of the three main islands. Don't miss the Underwater Trail, a 675-foot guided underwater snorkeling trail, located at Trunk Bay in the Virgin Islands National Park.