Readers Choice
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    Hilton Head, S.C.

    Only 12 miles long and five miles wide, Hilton Head is perhaps best known for its world-class golf courses, but this South Carolina island boasts plenty of vacation appeal off the course as well. Besides long stretch of beaches (and the water sports that go along with them), the island offers visitors plentiful options for getting outside and enjoying Mother Nature, with activities like hiking, biking, tennis, birdwatching and canopy tours.

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    Block Island, R.I.

    Tiny Block Island - only 11 square miles - lying just off the coast of Rhode Island - packs a lot of appeal in a small area. The landscape, comprised largely of rolling hills and rocky bluffs, makes it a favorite for hikers, while numerous public beaches and more than 300 freshwater pools are perfect for cooling off in the summer. Beautifully restored Victorian inns put the finishing touches on this great American Island.

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    Kauai, Hawaii

    Kauai, Hawaii's "Garden Island," enjoys some of the most dramatic natural scenery in the country, from the deep gorges of Waimea Canyon to the verdant cliffs and plunging waterfalls of the spectacular Napali coast. And then we get to the beaches - 50 miles worth and each as beautiful as the last. Just off its shores, a colorful underwater world attracts snorkelers and divers from around the globe.

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    Dauphin Island, Ala.

    Just off the Gulf coast of Alabama, Dauphin Island beckons with seven miles of white sand beaches and plentiful eco-tourism opportunities. The island is home to the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Estuarium, where visitors can learn about fresh- and saltwater species native to the state.

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    Assateague Island, Va. / Md.

    Assateague Island is where lucky visitors find themselves sharing 37 miles of pristine beaches: not with other tourists, but with the island's famed herds of wild ponies. This rare stretch of undeveloped Mid-Atlantic Coast is also home to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague Island National Seashore, both on the Atlantic Flyway, making it a prime island destination for birdwatchers.

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    Amelia Island, Fla.

    Amelia Island, Florida's northernmost barrier island, enjoys 13 miles of idyllic beach, the quaint Victorian bay side town of Fernandina, a smattering of moss draped oaks and a charm that makes the island feel more Old South than Floridian. Vacationers have been flocking to this Atlantic island since the late 19th century, when Henry Flagler helped transform the wild island into a seaside resort destination.

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    Mount Desert, Maine

    Mount Desert Island, located in the heart of Maine's down east region, features 108 square miles of natural beauty - everything from river valleys and freshwater lakes to granite sea cliffs and golden sand beaches. A majority of the island is covered by Acadia National Park, one of New England's top attractions and the setting for several fishing villages and charming maritime communities, like Bar Harbor, Bass Harbor and Northeast Harbor.

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    Whidbey Island, Wash.

    Six state parks, two historic villages and a noticeable artistic bent help define an emerald isle just 30 miles from Seattle, making Whidbey Island a favorite escape in the Pacific Northwest. While 45 miles long, the island isn't very wide, giving its roads, bluffs and beaches stunning aquatic views. After long days of outdoor adventure, the island's plentiful (and often very luxurious) B&Bs make the perfect place to rest and rejuvenate.  Whidbey is also easy to access, giving it the edge over other nearby islands.

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    Mackinac, Mich.

    One of the last car-free destinations in the U.S., Mackinac Island, sandwiched between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, seems trapped in the past, but in the most delightful way. Accommodations consist of white colonnaded turn-of-the-century hotels, while the horse-drawn carriage remains the favored form of transportation. With 80 percent of the island occupied by protected state parkland, those looking to explore the outdoors will find plenty of opportunity for hiking and biking.

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    Puerto Rico

    Puerto Rico offers a slice of Caribbean tropical paradise right in the backyard of the contiguous United States ... no passport required. The "Island of Enchantment" has something to satisfy every type of traveler - romantic sunsets, fresh seafood dinners, sun-drenched beaches, colorful and storied Old San Juan, mountains, rain forests and a melting pot of cultural influences to tie it all together.

The Experts

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