Readers Choice

10Best Readers' ChoiceChosen by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best

  • slide 1

    #10 - 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.

    Photo courtesy of Scott Oves

  • slide 2

    #9 - 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.

    Photo courtesy of William Dellinger/iStock

  • slide 3

    #8 - 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.

    Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

  • slide 4

    #7 - 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.

    Photo courtesy of MSMcCarthy_Photography

  • slide 5

    #6 - 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.

    Photo courtesy of Jennifer Dodge/iStock

  • slide 6

    #5 - 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.

    Photo courtesy of Amelia Island Tourist Development Council

  • slide 7

    #4 - 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.

    Photo courtesy of marcduf/iStock Editorial

  • slide 8

    #3 - 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.

    Photo courtesy of WhidbeyPanoramas

  • slide 9

    #2 - 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.

    Photo courtesy of msubhadeep/iStock

  • slide 10

    #1 - 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.

    Photo courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto/iStock

  • 10
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 1

Puerto Rico voted 'Best U.S. Island' by readers

Mackinac, Whidbey, Mount Desert, Amelia also score high

Our readers are loyal to a handful of U.S. Islands and after four weeks of voting, the #1 favorite has been tapped: Puerto Rico.  This easy-to-reach tropical destination gives travelers an exotic getaway without the hassle of international travel, and that, combined with Puerto Rico's beauty, music, food and rich cultural heritage have combined to make it a #1 destination with readers of USA TODAY and 10Best.  

In a contest which brought out droves of voters, upper Michigan's unique Mackinac Island landed a solid second place with readers. Mackinac's appeal lies in its lack of cars, and a pace which encourages exploration of this natural island by horse, foot or bicycle.  Downtown's legendary fudge shops and the rocking chairs which grace the porch of the Grand Hotel don't hurt either.

Islands at northern latitudes actually favored heavily in the winners list:  Washington state's beautiful Whidbey Island took the #3 spot, while the "down east" island of Mount Desert, Maine (home to Acadia National Park) landed in 4th.  Northeast Florida's Amelia Island, with its rolling oat-filled dunes, Atlantic beaches and charming downtown was voted into #5.   

Other winners in the contest - lovely islands well worth a visit - include Assateague Island (which straddles Virginia and Maryland); Dauphin Island, Ala; Kauai; Block Island, R.I.; and Hilton Head, S.C.

Congratulations to Puerto Rico and all our winners!  We can't think of a better travel list for summer than favorite islands which are right here in the USA.     

The full list of winners in the 'Best U.S. Island' contest category for 10Best Readers' Choice is as follows:

  1. Puerto Rico
  2. Mackinac, Mich.
  3. Whidbey Island, Wash.
  4. Mount Desert, Maine
  5. Amelia Island, Fla.
  6. Assateague Island, Va. / Md.
  7. Dauphin Island, Ala.
  8. Kauai, Hawaii
  9. Block Island, R.I.
  10. Hilton Head, S.C.

Book now:  Free travel planning help at Tripology

License the 10Best Reader's Choice Award Logo

Meet the Experts

Ben Abramson

Ben Abramson is USA TODAY's online travel editor, and has traveled all over the United States in search of the best offshore destinations. 

Libby McMillan

A longtime travel journalist, Senior Editor Libby McMillan has personally visited 10 of the nominees and loved them all.  Two more nominees are on her travel list for 2014.  While she won't admit which island is her own top favorite, she's partial to warm evenings and sunsets over the sea.   

Monica Hortobagyi

As the editor of USA TODAY's Experience Beaches website, Monica is a wealth of information on islands and secluded spots where U.S. residents go to play.  She's based on the East Coast, but Hawaii is one of her favorite places to visit.

Lydia Schrandt

10Best Photo Editor Lydia Schrandt has traveled and lived in around the world, but still counts certain U.S. islands among her favorite places on Earth.  She was enthusiastic about sourcing photos for these 20 beautiful nominees.  

RCA checkmarkVote for Other Categories!