Bucket List August 24, 2021
Discover A Tropical Paradise When You Visit These 17 Natural Oases In America
There’s a reason tropical vacations are so popular. Brilliant sunshine, white sand beaches, aquamarine waters as far as the eye can see; the tropics are a little piece of paradise here on earth. A vacation to a tropical paradise isn’t just beautiful; it’s good for the mind, body, and soul. However, these glorious getaways are often inaccessible, due to location, cost, and logistics. But here’s the thing: there are some truly wondrous
natural oases right here, in America. These are places that will have you checking your passport to make sure you are, in fact, still in the U.S. From desert retreats to inland islands, and everything in between, you’ll discover a tropical paradise when you visit these 17 natural oases in America.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
Big Sur - California
Everything about Big Sur, California, is spectacular, from its turquoise waters and white-sand shores, to the boldly colored flora and fauna dotting its coastal mountains and hillsides. The area is home to an abundance of beautiful
beaches and waterfalls
that truly feel as though they belong on a hidden Pacific Island. Big Sur has been voted "Best Place to Play Hooky" and "Best Romantic Getaway" -- and that's exactly what it is. If Hawaii feels a bit out of reach, Big Sur is an equally extraordinary tropical destination that's right here on the U.S. mainland.
Olympic National Park - Washington
Olympic National Park, 3002 Mt Angeles Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98362, USA
Olympic National Park is tucked away in the extreme northwest corner of the U.S. It's home to a breathtaking wild coastline that's lined with old-growth forests and glacier-capped mountains, several waterfalls, and pure, unfiltered Washington wilderness. Olympic National Park gets more than 12 feet of rain per year, and this is why you'll discover a lush temperate rainforest within the park. At
Hoh Rain Forest
, you'll come across some of the most spectacular natural wonders in the world: Giant western hemlocks, Douglas-firs, Sitka spruce trees, and thriving ferns and mosses. Olympic National Park is a real-life Garden of Eden; a perfect paradise that needs to be on your bucket list.
Pacific City - Oregon
One of the most visually stunning areas on the Oregon Coast, Pacific City is a vision. This beach town is located beneath the large headland of Oregon's
, and offers unrivaled views of some of the most notable landmarks in the Pacific Northwest. Pacific City is marked by a towering sand dune, which provides access to the top of Cape Kiwanda and its sweeping ocean views. Sandy beaches, startling blue waters, perfect panoramas, and powerful surf (yes -- you can surf in Oregon!) make Pacific City a dream of a place to visit.
Grand Teton National Park - Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA
Every year, millions of people travel to Wyoming to visit Yellowstone National Park. While the nation’s first National Park certainly deserves all of the attention it gets, there's another national park within striking distance of Yellowstone, and it's a hidden paradise hiding right in plain sight.
Grand Teton National Park
is 310,000 acres of mountain and valley land, filled with dozens of alpine lakes that sit in the foothills, up in the canyons, and on the valley floor. Jenny Lake is one of these beautiful bodies of water, and the way the Tetons reflect in its clear-blue waters is positively dazzling. Though it isn't the largest lake in the park - that honor belongs to Jackson Lake - it is home to a luxury lodge, primitive campground, and miles of untouched shoreline that will make you feel like you've stepped into your very own tropical paradise.
Havasu Falls - Arizona
Havasu Falls, Arizona 86435, USA
The Grand Canyon is a must-see destination and at the top of countless bucket lists. But there is so much more to see and do at Grand Canyon than the popular overlooks and tourist spots. In fact, there is a beautiful natural oasis hiding deep within the canyon: the mesmerizing blue-green
. This waterfall is 98 feet tall and tumbles from a split in the canyon's iconic red rock. It receives its stunning cerulean color from a high calcium carbonate concentration in the water, and it looks too beautiful to be real. The falls are located on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, and they control access to the waterfall and the surrounding land. Visitors cannot access this area by vehicle; but rather, must hike or ride an animal to reach the village. Due to the location of the falls on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, visitors must make a reservation and
receive a permit
to camp and hike to the gorgeous, picture-worthy falls. But trust us: it is absolutely worth the planning and effort, as Havasu Falls is one of the most spectacular hidden oases in the country.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument - Utah
Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, Utah 84716, USA
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument covers an expansive 1,003,863 acres within the Utah wilds, spanning five climatic zones, from low-lying desert to coniferous forest. It's one of the richest and most beautiful treasures in the American Southwest, full of deep canyons and unique geological features. Within this vast landscape, there is an emerald-green waterfall that you may mistake for a desert mirage, but it's absolutely, wholly real.
Calf Creek Falls
is a breathtakingly beautiful duo of cascades; the Upper Calf Creek Falls measures 88 feet and the Lower Calf Creek Falls measures 126 feet. Together, these waterfalls pour into a cool, beautiful pool, offering visitors a tranquil and truly wondrous place to rest and reflect.
Broken Bow Lake - Oklahoma
Broken Bow Lake, Oklahoma, USA
Hiding in the southwestern corner of Oklahoma, Broken Bow Lake is a vision. The reservoir covers 14,000 acres and is bordered by 180 miles of shoreline, making it the perfect oasis for Oklahomans looking to spend a day on the water. Boating, kayaking, swimming, and fishing are all popular pastimes at this lovely lake, which boasts sunsets that would rival anything found in a tropical locale. In a state that's known for cornfields and tumbleweeds,
Broken Bow Lake
is a welcome and wonderful little slice of paradise.
Hamilton Pool - Texas
Hamilton Pool, Texas 78620, USA
One of the most beautiful places in Texas (and the country),
features a cerulean blue pool located beneath an expansive limestone grotto. A 50-foot waterfall flows into the pool, making for a completely dreamy experience. This Texas oasis formed thousands of years ago when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to erosion. Today, it's a beloved beach and one of the most beautiful and unexpected places you can visit in the Lone Star State.
Apostle Islands - Wisconsin
Apostle Islands, Wisconsin, USA
Scattered like jewels in the icy blue waters of Lake Superior are a collection of wild islands that locals simply call "The Apostles." Wisconsin’s
are the very definition of a hidden oasis: a dreamy world filled with sea caves, emerald-green pools, deserted beaches, and lighthouses that still signal across waters littered with the wrecks of old schooners. For visitors, reaching this pure, remote beauty takes a bit of effort; but when you arrive at the islands, your hard work will be handsomely rewarded. These undisturbed beaches and pools will feel like your very own private island escape, and, just like the locals, you’ll soon be lovingly referring to Wisconsin's Apostle Islands as simply "The Apostles."
Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Lakeshore - Michigan
Sleeping Bear Dunes, Glen Arbor Township, MI 49636, USA
Michigan is often referred to as the "Third Coast" because it boasts the most miles of shoreline in the contiguous U.S. And indeed, Michigan is home to some truly beautiful bodies of water; and, subsequently, some truly wondrous natural oases.
Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park
is one such paradise; located on the north side of Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a beautiful sight to behold. Its coastal views look positively Caribbean, with stunning sunsets and perfect panoramas. And those tropical, white sand shores you're seeking? Sleeping Bear's dunes themselves are as impressive as they are scenic, with some measuring up to 450 feet tall! This is as beautiful as it gets.
Dry Tortugas National Park - Florida
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, USA
For crystal-clear waters that rival anything you'd find in the Caribbean, you'll want to venture down to
Dry Tortugas National Park
in Florida. Just 70 miles west of Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most impressive beaches in the world. Accessing such beauty takes a bit of planning, however, as the Dry Tortugas are only accessible by boat or sea plane. Pristine blue waters and white sandy shores await once you arrive at the island, which is actually a collection of
remote isles, along with one of the largest 19th century forts in the country. Because of the effort required to access it, Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the country's least-visited national parks. But with great work comes great rewards, and this slice of paradise is the very best kind of reward.
Juniper Springs - Florida
Juniper Springs, Florida, USA
Florida is home to over
; the largest collection on the planet. But the best and most beautiful is hidden deep within the lush Ocala National Forest. Because it's here where you'll find Juniper Springs, a real-life hidden oasis. Feeding what is seemingly a tropical paradise are hundreds of small bubbling cascades, as well as massive springs, pumping out cool, 72-degree water all day long. Nestled in a verdant-green tropical forest, visitors can spend the afternoon swimming beneath the shade of Florida's palms and oaks. This gorgeous spring not only affords
views, but it also offers
an accessible, bucket-list experience for families
Jekyll Island - Georgia
Jekyll Island, Georgia 31527, USA
Georgia's Golden Isles are made up of four barrier islands -- St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, and Little St. Simons Island -- that each offer unique and unforgettable natural oases. Driftwood Beach on
is easily the most magical, however, thanks in part to its striking green trees and driftwood-covered sands. The island itself has quite the history: in 1886, Jekyll Island was purchased by the Jekyll Island Club and subsequently became one of the most exclusive islands in the world, visited by families such as the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts. Today, fortunately, this island is much more accessible, but its intriguing beauty remains. When you're out on the white-sand shores, surrounded by cobalt blue waters, you'll truly feel as though you've landed on your very own private island.
And that's a bucket-list experience you really must seek out.
Hilton Head Island - South Carolina
Hilton Head Island, SC, USA
Admittedly one of the least
oases on this list, there's a reason why
Hilton Head Island
is such a top U.S. vacation destination, and that's because it's positively perfect. Hands down, this South Carolina island is home to some of the country's most breathtakingly beautiful beaches. From the moment you drive over the iconic James F. Byrnes Bridge onto the island, you'll truly be on
. This picturesque island boasts 12 miles of beaches and is divided into 11 different locales, each of which offer something different for guests. Whether it's an adventurous beach trip or laid-back Caribbean vacation you're seeking, you're sure to find it at Hilton Head Island.
Martha's Vineyard - Massachusetts
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, USA
Over the years, Martha's Vineyard has become synonymous with prestige, luxury, and incredible beauty. This Massachusetts island sits in the Atlantic just south of Cape Cod, and is a perennial favorite for New Englanders. While Martha's Vineyard may seem as far from the Caribbean as it gets, this New England island actually is peak beach vibes. Instead of palm trees, there are lighthouses; in lieu of tiki bars, there are waterfront restaurants. The stunning
look like something you'd expect to see in Hawaii; they're streaked with a rainbow of natural colors and offer a 360-degree view of Vineyard Sound. In keeping with its air of intrigue, Martha's Vineyard is only accessible by boat or air. But if you're looking for a total
in New England, Martha's Vineyard is about as dreamy as it gets.
Assateague Island - Maryland
Assateague Island, United States
Like something out of a fantasy, wild horses freely roam on Assateague Island, a 37-mile-long island off the coast of Maryland. Assateague Island is a secluded nature sanctuary, and it's home to herds of wild horses that are free to come and go as they please. Going to
is a bit of a trek (it's accessible only by foot or by boat), but it's well-worth the effort if you're looking for a quiet, secluded, and stunning scenic oasis. Truly -- the coastal panoramas here are so sublime, you'll absolutely forget you're in Maryland. And if you're lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a wild horse, too.
Acadia National Park - Maine
Sand Beach, Bar Harbor, ME 04609, USA
Known as the "crown jewel of the North Atlantic Coast," Acadia National Park boasts picture-perfect panoramas that will take your breath away. Within
this wondrous place
, you'll find a stunning, emerald-green oasis that will completely catch you off guard. Sand Beach is a beautiful little beach that's nestled between commanding mountains and rocky shorelines on the east side of Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park. Access to this hidden oasis is provided via the Park Loop Road just south of the entrance fee station in Bar Harbor. It's worth that extra bit of planning, however; Sand Beach has 300 yards of pristine sand and vibrant turquoise waters, and truly feels like a world unto itself.
The United States is a place of such immense wonder and beauty, and while many of these hidden oases require a bit of effort and planning to access, they are all wholly, wonderfully worth it. Go out and discover your own little slice of paradise, right here in our incredible country.
Searching for more experiences to add to your bucket list? These majestic castles hidden across the U.S. are the perfect place to start!