Where are the Best Unknown Vacation Spots in the U.S.?

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Ships in a harbor with a colorful sunset in the background

Eager to travel, but want to avoid crowds? Many of the top vacation destinations are overrun with visitors, and we are all looking for hidden gems. That’s why I went in search of the best unknown places to visit in the U.S.A.

I solicited many of the top travel bloggers and asked a simple question: What are some cool, low-key vacation spots in the U.S. that people need to visit now?

I learned about many off-the-beaten path destinations that I’d never heard of, but they all sound incredible! I’ve compiled the list of these hidden gem vacation spots in the U.S. that won’t have the crowds, but will fulfill the wanderlust in you and your family.

Are you looking for white sand beaches, rugged mountains, crowd-free national parks, or quaint little towns? My fellow travel writers have you covered and will help you discover 22 of the best hidden vacation spots in the U.S!

Apostle Islands, WI

Green trees on sandstone cliffs dropping into a lake

If you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path vacation in the U.S.A, I recommend the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, the scenic archipelago in northern Wisconsin, at the southern tip of Lake Superior. It’s a heaven for outdoor enthusiasts and for those who are looking for a quiet vacation spot in the Midwest.

The islands are famous for high cliffs of sandstone with many large arches and caves that are home to jaw-dropping ice formations in winter. There are also plenty of sandy beaches, some of which are considered the best beaches in Wisconsin.

The best thing about the Apostle Islands is that they offer plenty of options for outdoor activities. Whether you love kayaking, hiking, or camping, the Apostle Islands are perfect for nature lovers.

The city of Bayfield, Wisconsin, located on the shore of Lake Superior, is the main starting point for exploring the lakeshore. Make sure to spend at least one day here, and take photographs of the historic mansions. Some of them were converted into hotels, thus they are the perfect places to stay. I recommend the Old Rittenhouse Inn.

If you prefer your own space and a kitchen, this condo with a waterfront view and balcony is a great choice!

For a unique on-the-water experience, stay aboard this 2-BR yacht!

Another fabulous thing to do in this natural paradise is taking a ferry cruise between the islands. Most cruises depart from Bayfield. Almost every island has its own lighthouse, but they are all different. There are nine lighthouses in total, so you could spend an entire day “lighthouse-hopping!”

Birdwatching is another great leisure activity in the Apostle Islands. More than 240 species of birds migrate through the region. Make sure to bring your binoculars and learn more about endemic bird species.

Despite its beauty, the Apostle Islands archipelago is still one of the relatively unknown places to visit in the U.S., so hurry and visit before the crowds come!

— Contributed by Paulina from Paulina on the Road

Boise, ID

A river running through mountains dusted with snow near Boise, ID

One of our favorite off-the-beaten-path destinations in the U.S. is Boise, Idaho. While almost everyone knows the city, not many people put it on their list when thinking of places to vacation, which makes it the perfect vacation spot if you want to avoid big tourist crowds.

Boise is a hip, up-and-coming city and excellent for anyone who craves a nature-based vacation. Boise has it all, whether you love mountain biking, hiking, tubing, skiing, or fishing.

Our favorite pastime in the city is to tube down the Boise River and to spot all the animals that call the river home, including bald eagles, mink, osprey, and red tail hawks.

Boise is also a great jumping-off spot for nearby day trips. Rent a car, and within 1-2 hours, you can visit Bruneau Dunes State Park, the tallest freestanding sand dune in America or Kirkham Hot Springs, a natural hot spring with hot waterfalls nestled along the Payette River.  

When choosing where to stay in Boise, it’s best to stay in downtown to be close to the center of everything. The Grove Hotel is a favorite spot for visitors to the city. The hotel is in the heart of the town and a 10-minute walk to the Boise River.

For a more “local” experience, stay in this beautiful, newly-renovated apartment in an historic home.

Need more space? This 4 BR, 2 Bath cottage is in a great location to enjoy everything the area has to offer and sleeps up to 10 guests.

Two to three days is enough to get a glimpse of Boise’s main spots, while five days will allow you to dive deeper into what Boise has to offer.

— Contributed by Christina from Live a Wilder Life

Boothbay Harbor, ME

Sunset over Booth Bay Harbor, Maine

Boothbay Harbor is a true New England hidden gem! This adorable coastal town in Maine is the perfect spot for a relaxing summer weekend in New England. Boothbay is one of the region’s best kept secret vacation spots: even at the peak of summer, this tiny town doesn’t typically get nearly as crowded as the rest of Maine. You can explore most of the town itself in a weekend, but you will most likely want to stay longer. 

Boothbay Harbor is the perfect base from which to explore some of the most beautiful parts of Maine. There are so many things you can do from Boothbay! Make sure to take a boat ride, which is the best way to explore the rugged Maine coastline, with its many rocky islands and pretty lighthouses. 

If you want to see some fun wildlife, hop on one of the boat excursions to see whales, puffins or seals. Finally, you can take a ferry trip to Monhegan Island, which is a small wooded island with many hiking trails to discover. 

If you prefer to go on a road trip, take the scenic route to Ocean Point and have a picnic on the rocks at sunset. Another highlight of the region is the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, where you can stroll through beautiful floral plantings, pretty waterfalls and fountains, and enjoy sweeping scenic views

With a ton of delicious oceanfront restaurants, Boothbay Harbor is a true paradise for seafood lovers. Grab a basket of crispy fried clams or a freshly steamed lobster and enjoy your dinner watching the sunset by the harbor. The town is also very walkable, with many cute shops and cafes. You will love strolling by the old school ice cream and candy stands lining the streets!

One of the best hotels in town is the Boothbay Harbor Oceanside Golf Resort

If you prefer a vacation rental, this nautical-themed 1 BR apartment is in a prime location with great views of the harbor.

Traveling with the whole family? This gorgeous, light-filled 3 BR, 2.5 Bath house has everything you need, and it’s pet-friendly!

— Contributed by Julie from Wandering Sunsets

Cantil, CA

A red rock formation in Red Rock Canyon State Park

Cantil, CA is a little-known town roughly 2 hours north of Los Angeles, in Kern County. Driving down an unassuming highway, you will start to see unique red rock formations towering nearby, in the aptly named Red Rock Canyon State Park. Whether you are looking for a quick day trip outside of bustling Los Angeles or are just passing through, Cantil is worth an overnight stop to hike the state park and explore the surrounding area.  

The draw of this isolated mountain and desert park is that it is nearly unknown – even many who have lived in California all their lives are unfamiliar with the park! It is nearly empty anytime I visit. Bring your camera, as the gorgeous landscapes will surprise you.  

After spending several hours in the park, I also suggest checking out the nearby Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area, which is free entry and home to a native population of this desert reptile. 

After your day outdoors, I highly recommend spending the night relaxing before driving out the next morning (or exploring more if you like!). If you enjoy camping as I do, you can set up camp in Red Rock Canyon State Park for just $25. For those who prefer a real bed and a swimming pool, there is a Best Western nearby in California City.

— Contributed by Monica from This Rare Earth 

Cape San Blas, FL

A white sandy beach with clouds on the horizon

Cape San Blas is a hidden slice of paradise just a couple hours from Tallahassee in the Florida panhandle. 

It’s a sleepy little peninsula that is perfect if you’re looking for the best low-key vacation spots.  Relax on the gorgeous sandy beach, do some shelling, walk the boardwalks at Salinas Park Bayside, explore the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, take a day trip to St. George Island, or do a DIY lighthouse tour of the area. In the evening, have a nice dinner in Port St. Joe on the mainland. 

Cape San Blas and the area around it are still recovering from damage from Hurricane Michael in 2018, but don’t let that stop you from visiting. Spend a week there to maximize your relaxation and beach time, or enjoy a couple days if you’re passing through on a road trip. 

The primary lodging options in Cape San Blas are vacation rentals, as there aren’t any hotels on the peninsula. Use VRBO to find a vacation home in the area.

Here are three highly-rated vacation rentals in Cape San Blas to get you started:

  • 2 BR/1 Bath bungalow with large deck and enclosed outdoor shower. Up to two dogs allowed.
  • 3 BR/2 Bath condo in gated community with heated pool and tennis courts. Pet friendly.
  • 4 BR/3 Bath beachfront house with screened porch and multiple balconies. Host supplies beach chairs, umbrellas, inflatable rafts, and other equipment. Pet friendly.

— Contributed by Megan from Red Around the World

Deer Isle, ME

A kayaker paddling in the water with woods in the background

There are many famous New England destinations in America’s Northeast, but one of the best-kept secret vacation spots on the East Coast is Deer Isle, Maine. It’s located in Penobscot Bay, in Maine’s Downeast region.

The island has a laid-back atmosphere, and the nature reserves are the main reason to visit. For hiking, fishing, and kayaking, Deer Isle is a perfect destination. There are plenty of guided hikes and kayak excursions that you can book in the quaint, picturesque town, or you can bring your own equipment and chart your own course.

The best time to visit Deer Isle is during the summer months while the weather is pleasant, and even in the peak tourist season, the island isn’t packed with visitors. The island is, however, full of small family-owned businesses to buy homemade foods and shop at local boutiques.

There are also plenty of things to do for families besides outdoor activities. For example, enjoy the experience of Discovery Wharf, designed to educate visitors on marine life and local species. Stonington Opera House Arts is a historic community theater that is used for local productions as well as family movie nights and other unique performances.

While in Deer Isle, stay at the Inn on the Harbor, or, for a unique experience on a budget, the Deer Isle Hostel.

If you’re looking for a true getaway, stay at this secluded 2-BR, 1.5 Bath cottage! Relax in the rocking chairs on the outdoor deck and enjoy the water views and peaceful atmosphere.

Spending a few days on Deer Isle, Maine is a great way to get off the beaten path and see a part of the United States that is still relatively undiscovered. You can easily see the island in just three days, but you may not want to leave, because it’s such a relaxing and charming destination.

— Contributed by Derek and Mike from Robe Trotting

Durango, CO

An old steam engine train with orange cars

If you are looking for U.S. vacation spots with fewer crowds, more mountain views, and plenty of activities to keep your party busy, I highly suggest heading to Durango, Colorado. This small city is located in southwestern Colorado and sits near the New Mexico border.

Getting to Durango requires a car and either a 5.5-hour drive from Colorado Springs or a 3.5-hour drive from Albuquerque, New Mexico. But it’s well worth the road trip for a long weekend.

When you arrive, you’ll have a plethora of activities to choose from, including a walk through the historic downtown filled with boutique shops, brewpubs, museums, and art galleries. Head to the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum to get a glimpse into the rich history of the town and surrounding area. Another great local museum is the Durango Fish Hatchery and Wildlife Museum.

For outdoor lovers, there is so much to do in and around Durango – especially in the summer. Whether you are exploring the Animas River Valley, white water rafting, or heading on a hike – you won’t be disappointed. If you find yourself in Durango in the winter – don’t fret! Purgatory Resort is a great way to explore the San Juan Mountains on your skis or snowboard.

If you need a place to stay while visiting you can either camp at the Junction Creek Campground as we did or check out this gorgeous, newly-remodeled 3-BR cabin only a mile from downtown.

— Contributed by Ashley from Impact Winder

Fort De Soto State Park, FL

Greenery on sand dunes overlooking a beach

A long causeway of interconnected islands leads you to pristine, beautiful beaches just minutes from the hustle and bustle of St. Petersburg, Florida. Most visitors come here for the award-winning powdery sand beach. Families enjoy the shallow swimming in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, while others comb the waters looking for that perfect shell. Even the dogs have their private beach playground.

However, nestled in a hidden sand bunker is Fort De Soto Park’s Historic Fort and Museum, and it has its own story to tell.

The fort was built in 1894 during the Spanish American War to protect Tampa Bay shipping from enemy ships. Materials to build the mortar battery were scarce, so the engineers used locally-sourced Coquina (shells & limestone). The twenty-foot thick walls are impenetrable to cannon fire.

Climbing the stairs to the top of the battery bunker gives panoramic views of the Skyway Bridge, the pier, and the gorgeous beaches. You can only imagine how soldiers stationed here must have felt in the hot scorching summer sun. Walk behind the battery walls, and you will find the mortar guns used to protect the fort.

Take time to visit the Quartermaster Museum if you want to learn more of the history. The fort is on the National Register of Historic Places, a true hidden gem that most do not know exists.

While visiting the park, stay at their wonderful campground. They have a reservations system through the county, and they are pet-friendly. Sites are large and offer easy access to the beach. bike rentals, the gift store, and canoe/kayak rentals.

— Contributed by Wendy from Travel the Parks

Grand Rapids, MI

Tall, glass buildings next to a river with a bridge in Grand Rapids

Located in the heart of western Michigan, the vibrant city of Grand Rapids is known as Beer City, U.S.A., and makes for a unique vacation destination. With over 25 craft breweries, the city is a haven for beer lovers. Some of the major breweries include Founders, Perrin and Brewery Vivant. One of the best things to do in Grand Rapids is to take a beer tour.

Grand Rapids is also an art city with tons of small galleries and art shops. In addition, the city is home to some fantastic art museums, including Fredrick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park and the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Grand Rapids hosts the international art competition, Art Prize, which brings thousands of visitors to the city each year.

The city has many lodging options, including small boutique hotels, like the City Flats Hotel or luxurious 4-diamond hotels, like the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. Upgrade your lodging and book one with a view of the Grand River, which flows right through downtown Grand Rapids.

Make sure to check out some of the fantastic places to eat in Grand Rapids, including Eastown’s and Yesterdog (featured in the American Pie films). Other great places include Palio (Italian), Le Bon Macaroon (French dessert), Cygnus 27 (located on the 27th floor of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel), The B.O.B (5 food venues all in one building), and Butchers Union (Whiskey and Steak).

With its central location, Grand Rapids is within 30 miles of Michigan’s lakeshore beach towns, including Holland, Grand Haven, and Muskegon, all of which have that great small-town feel plus amazing beaches.

— Contributed by Sara from WanderMoore

Great Basin National Park, NV

A rocky hiking trail surrounded by mountains

If you’d like to visit a national park, but don’t want to deal with the crowds that these popular parks usually attract, Great Basin National Park in Nevada is one of the best low key vacation spots in the U.S. 

While Great Basin doesn’t get the hype of some more famous national parks, it is a secret gem of gorgeous and unique terrain. The fact that most people have never even heard of Great Basin means you can actually experience solitude while exploring the rugged landscape and the groves of ancient bristlecone pine trees, some of the oldest trees in the world.

Great Basin comprises 77,180 acres of land, so you’ll want to spend at least a few days here to fully experience the variety of terrain. During your visit, you can camp at one of the five developed campgrounds in the park. 

| Related Reading: How to Stay Warm and Comfortable in Your RV in Winter

While in Great Basin, don’t miss a ranger-guided tour of the Lehman Caves (which requires reservations and a small fee). These limestone caves were formed by water and feature a bunch of neat natural features, like stalactites and stalagmites.

When you want to hike on your own, you can attempt the challenging hike to the summit of Wheeler Peak, or one of the other many fantastic hiking trails in Great Basin.

With so much gorgeous land to explore and so few visitors, Great Basin National Park exceeds expectations and is one of the best — and least crowded — vacation spots in the U.S.

— Contributed by Allison from She Dreams of Alpine

Hamilton, MT

Big blue sky with puffy clouds over a small town surrounded by mountains

Hamilton, MT is a small town in the Bitterroot Valley, known as the “Banana Belt of Montana” because of the moderate temperatures compared to the rest of the state. It is the ideal vacation destination for anyone who loves the outdoors, American History, or small-town life.

This town is right along the historic Lewis and Clark Trail and an hour’s drive from Big Hole Battlefield. You can also check out some of the ghost towns nearby, and even go looking for gold and sapphires, like the miners that lived in those towns.

Visit the local Daily Mansion, former home of the copper baron, Marcus Daily, or take a drive on the backroads up Skalkaho Highway or the Magruder Corridor.

Love wildlife? Explore Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge or take the two-hour drive to the National Bison Range. Be sure to check out the local Farmers Market and some of the amazing annual festivals, like the Celtic Festival, Logger Days, and Hard Times Blue Grass Festival.

Hike, bike, backpack, off-road or fish during the summer and ski, snowmobile or snowshoe in the winter. There are also many natural hot springs and hot spring resorts in the area.

The best place to stay if you are looking for Western hospitality, is the Deer Crossing Bed and Breakfast.

Want your own space while still getting a “local” experience? Stay in this cozy cottage located on a small working farm or this stunning 4 BR home located on 32 acres of a wildlife refuge.

— Contributed by Pauline from Mama Bear Outdoors

June Lake, CA

A clear, calm lake in the mountains

June Lake, a town nestled at the Eastern Sierra Nevada, enchants visitors with its numerous bodies of water, hiking trails, and stunning views. Even though it is one of the most beautiful places in California, this area does not attract crowds. You will have space to savor every corner of it.

A road (CA-158 or June Lake Loop) connects the main town, various attractions, and Highway-395. The town of June Lake has a few restaurants, a general store, and a brewery.  Keep in mind that eating and drinking offerings are limited due to the small size of the town. Nearby cities such as Mammoth Lakes offer additional variety.

June Lake, Gull Lake, Silver Lake, and Grant Lake can be accessed by car. Each lake has a corresponding marina where kayaks, stand up paddleboards and fishing supplies are available for rent. June Lake has a public beach, and Gull Lake has a waterfront park with picnic tables and playgrounds.

Hiking enthusiasts can use the well-kept trails to access Parker, Agnew, Yost, or Fern Lakes. The Reversed Peak Trail takes you to the highest point in the loop.

The Double Eagle Resort and Spa is a popular hotel. You can also stay in this romantic log cabin or, for larger groups, this beautiful 4 BR home that sleeps up to 10 people.

A weekend in June Lake will allow you to enjoy the different attractions at a relaxed pace. Add additional days if you have an interest in visiting Mammoth Lakes, Mono Lake, and/or Yosemite National Park.

— Contributed by Ruth from Tanama Tales

Lake Winnepesaukee, NH

A snow-covered lake and dock in winter

Perched at the foothills of the towering White Mountains, New Hampshire’s Lake Winnepesaukee is often overlooked by travelers outside of New England, but it’s one of the best hidden gem vacation spots in the U.S.

The state’s largest lake makes for a relaxing escape in the summer and a leaf-peeper’s delight in the fall, but not many are aware that it also makes for an enchanting visit in the late winters during the maple sugar season. The lake is close to several New Hampshire maple sugar houses, and a chance to taste fresh syrup makes bundling up in the snow worth the while.

| Related Reading: Where to Spend Winter – Vacation Rentals to Get You Out of Your House

Other seasonal activities include boating, lake cruises, hikes, ice-fishing, skiing, and snowmobiling. To cool off in the summers, numerous public beaches allow access to the lake.

There are several charming towns in the area (Laconia and Meredith being the popular ones), and each offers unique events year-round, such as a horse race, fishing tournament, sled dog races, and a water ski tournament.

Depending on the season, one can easily spend two to four days in the Lake Winnepesaukee region. Center Harbor Inn, a beach-facing B&B with comfortable, modern rooms and an open-air hot tub jacuzzi facing the water, is an ideal choice of stay.

if you prefer a vacation rental, this beautiful 3-BR chalet with stunning panoramic views is another great option, or stay in this lakefront house for outdoor grilling right on the water!

— Contributed by Supriya from Fun Travelog

Medicine Park, OK

A row of tiny, colorful houses

Medicine Park is a great weekend getaway in Oklahoma. The state’s first resort town, it was founded in 1908, just a year after Oklahoma was admitted as a state. Its first name was the “Medicine Park Summer Resort and Health Spa.”

The nearby creek is believed to have healing and medicinal properties, which is why this part of the state was selected for a health retreat. Today it’s more of a spa retreat than used for convalescing for health concerns. However, this aspect of the town is still an important part of its history.

You can come to Medicine Park to stay and enjoy the town, but you should also use it as a base to explore more of southern Oklahoma. Spend a day in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, drive over to the beautiful Turner Falls waterfall park, or just enjoy driving through the mountains in this part of the state. The Plantation Inn is ideally located for all of these activities.

Medicine Park also boasts many charming vacation rentals, including this beautifully-decorated (pet-friendly) guesthouse with a screened patio and dock or this spacious 2-BR cabin with 360 degree mountain views.

While here, enjoy some Oklahoma cuisine. You simply must try the chicken fried steak with a side of mashed potatoes, which are actually part of the official Oklahoma state meal. Other great Oklahoma staples include fried catfish and peach cobbler.

— Contributed by Stephanie from Oklahoma Wanders

Medora, ND

Panoramic view of rock formations in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Medora is a small town in the southwestern corner of North Dakota, near the border of Montana. It is located right at the entrance of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, making it the perfect home base for visiting North Dakota’s only national park. This national park and the charming western town of Medora are one of the best secluded vacation spots in the U.S. 

Medora looks like an old western town and has a small walkable downtown area with delicious food options and even live music in the central plaza.

Summer is the best time to visit, as temperatures are rather cold most of the year. You will often find tourists and nearby locals here, as the town puts on a very popular musical production during the summer months, the Medora Musical. 

Many people stay overnight in Medora when planning a trip to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The Amble Inn is located right in the downtown area and provides the perfect location for your trip to this unknown part of the country. For a true escape, stay in this large 2-BR rustic cabin (with modern amenities) close to everything the area has to offer.

A stay of 1-2 nights is plenty of time for a visit, as you can combine your stay with hiking along the many trails of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

I highly recommend taking Painted Canyon Nature Trail, as it was a relatively easy and scenic hike. It starts right at the Visitor Center, which is a must-stop location, and takes you on a gradual descent into the canyon. There, you will see tall prairie grass and desert-like rock formations while you are walking amidst the streaks of color “painted” on the canyon. There are two scenic driving loops (North Unit and South Unit) to view the landscape, bison, wild horses, and prairie dogs that inhabit the area. 

— Contributed by Margie from DQ Family Travel

Mendocino, CA

Sun shining on a white lighthouse

Mendocino is a tiny beach town nestled along the foggy Northern California cliffs, about 3 hours north of San Francisco. It’s the perfect road trip through California wine country, or a scenic drive up the coast on Highway 1.

The town is known for breathtaking ocean cliffside views, amazing wines, and an abundance of old-world charm. Life slows down when you get to Mendocino, making it the perfect romantic weekend getaway to escape the hustle and bustle of the Bay Area.

When visiting Mendocino, you absolutely must stay at a bed and breakfast. Not only are Mendocino B&B’s incredibly charming, but there’s not a single big chain hotel in Mendocino!

I recommend staying at the Alegria Oceanfront Inn. The property sits cliffside with direct beach access. Plus, breakfast is delicious, and is often served with freshly-picked edible flowers from their garden.

Mendocino is the perfect place to disconnect and enjoy some time outdoors. Head on over to Point Cabrillo Light Station Park, just a few minutes up the coast, to explore the Mendocino headlands and watch the waves crashing on the cliffs. Go into the lighthouse itself to chat with some of the friendliest local volunteers you’ll meet.

Explore the coast by booking an ocean kayak tour, and make sure you visit the Botanical Gardens as well. Before you leave, walk through the tiny downtown area and buy some local handmade jams.

— Contributed by Ale from Sea Salt & Fog

Molokai, HI

View of the Pacific Ocean from a mountain overlook

Moloka’i, the fifth largest island in Hawai’i, sees far fewer tourists than the better-known Hawaiian islands. Visitors to Moloka’i get a rare glimpse of what Hawai’i was like before the influx of tourists: a land where dirt roads wind through expansive, untouched landscapes, and chickens roam wild, both in the countryside and in town.

Visitors won’t find luxury resorts on Moloka’i. The island has one hotel—Hotel Moloka’i—and many vacation rentals.

Paddlers Restaurant, A Taste of Moloka’i food truck, and Kanemitsu’s Bakery are must-try spots. Hotel Moloka’i’s restaurant has a patio overlooking the water.

These activities will keep you busy for 2-3 days:

  • Hawaiian cultural tour: Traverse streams, stroll through forests with guava and passionfruit trees, and enjoy lunch and a swim at a waterfall, all while learning about Hawaiian culture from a Moloka’i native.
  • Kalaupapa: Kalaupapa housed exiled Hawaiians who fell victim to Hansen’s Disease, commonly known as leprosy. Visitors can tour the grounds, but only with a guide; a few residents still live onsite. If the trail is open, you can hike to Kalaupapa; otherwise, book a tour package with a flight.
  • Kalaupapa Overlook: Spectacular view of Kalaupapa.
  • Moloka’i Museum and Cultural Center: Learn about residents of Kalaupapa and tour a sugar mill.
  • Post-A-Nut: Decorate and mail a coconut to your friends and family!
  • Snorkel or relax at the quiet beaches.

Moloka’i is perfect for anyone looking for solitude and distance from hordes of people. Pack your aloha spirit!

— Contributed by Christina and Chris from Traveling Accountants

Newberry National Volcanic Monument, OR

Birdseye view of Newberry National Volcanic Monument with two lakes

Newberry National Volcanic Monument is located in the Deschutes National Forest, about 13 miles south of Bend, Oregon. If you are into outdoor recreation, then it’s likely you’ve heard of Bend. This little-known National Monument should be on your list to visit when you are in the area. It contains the largest volcano in the Cascades.

The destruction left behind from the last eruption (which was approximately 7,000 years ago) includes incredible lava fields, a unique Obsidian flow and a cinder cone that stands 500 feet above the surrounding landscape. Amidst all the destruction are beautiful lakes and waterfalls, several options for hiking, and views from Paulina Peak that will take your breath away.

The monument is divided into three distinct areas:

  • Lava Lands Area: The northernmost part of the monument contains the Lava Butte, which visitors can summit by shuttle (or personal vehicle when the shuttle is not running).
  • Lava Cast Area: The smallest part of the monument has a lava cast forest which was created from a lava flow about 6,000 years ago. A short trail leads to the forest.
  • Newberry Caldera Area: This section of the monument is the largest with the most to do. It includes two large lakes (Paulina and East Lakes), Paulina Falls and the drive up to Paulina Peak.

Newberry National Volcanic Monument is open all-year round, but only accessible by car during the summer months due to heavy snowfall.

Lodging options: There are four campgrounds in the Newberry Caldera area. For those who don’t want to rough it, nearby Sunriver, OR has numerous rental properties.

— Contributed by Pete from Just Go Travel Studios

Roan Mountain, TN

Panoramic view of East Tennessee from Roan Mountain

Roan Mountain in East Tennessee is the perfect place to get away into the mountains. You will find great camping spots, hiking trails, and fantastic places to go fishing in this 2,000 acre state park.

With several lodging options, you are sure to find the perfect fit for your family. You can rent a cozy cabin with a fully-loaded kitchen and heating/air conditioning. There are also a variety of campsites for RVs or tent camping. The campsite is incredibly clean with bathhouses, and it’s walking distance to the pool.

The best time of year to go hiking is during rhododendron season in June. As you walk along the bald of Roan Mountain, you will be greeted with beautiful wild flowers, rhododendrons, and a beautiful old deciduous forest. You will find trails of all difficulty levels from easy to more strenuous. You might even encounter a few Appalachian Trail through-hikers since Roan Mountain is part of the Appalachian Trail.

If trout fishing is your thing, the Doe River is the place for you to be. This river is known for being one of the most productive trout streams in Tennessee. You are likely to catch rainbow and brown trout along with bass, walleye, and catfish.

— Contributed by Cyndi from Mom Elite

Titusville, FL

An empty sand beach on the ocean

On what’s known as Florida’s “Space Coast” is the city of Titusville. It’s about 45 minutes east of Orlando, 2 hours south of Jacksonville, and 3.5 hours north of Miami. Titusville is a great vacation destination, because even though it has a small-town feel, it still has a lot to do.

Titusville is home to Kennedy Space Center as well as the American Space Museum. For history buffs, there are other interesting museums in town, such as the North Brevard Historical Museum, the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum, and the Pritchard House Museum.

Nature lovers will love nearby Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a taste of “Old Florida,” with over 500 species of wildlife and 1000 species of plants. Beach lovers should head over to Canaveral National Seashore on the northeastern shore of Merritt Island. There, they’ll find the longest stretch of undeveloped beach in Florida; no condos, no shops, no restaurants. It’s beautiful and not crowded at all.

We recommend spending three days in Titusville. You’ll spend one day alone at Kennedy Space Center and one day at the beach, so a third day could be spent in town.

A couple of hotels we’d recommend are the Fairfield by Marriott Titusville Kennedy Space Center and the TownePlace Suites by Marriott Titusville Kennedy Space Center.

For “local” options, stay in this adorable cottage with a screened porch or this 2 BR waterfront townhouse with private dock.

— Contributed by Vicky from Buddy the Traveling Monkey

Tombstone, AZ

An old-fashioned storefront that was the site of the OK Corral

If you are a fan of Western movies or want to know more about the wild, wild West, you will love visiting Tombstone, Arizona. Tombstone doesn’t get the love that the more popular sights like the Grand Canyon or Sedona do, but that’s all the more reason to visit one of the best-kept secret vacation spots in Arizona.

Tombstone is located in southeastern Arizona, about 70 miles from Tucson. You can visit historic Allen Street, which was made famous from the 1881 cowboy gunfight outside the O.K. Corral. The O.K. Corral does daily reenactments of the shoot-out that you can watch.

I would also recommend visiting the Boot Hill Cemetery. Many outlaws are buried there, and you can actually see how they died on the tombstone. The Boot Hill Cemetery has been featured in several movies such as Tombstone, Wyatt Earp, and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

There is a lot of history in Tombstone, and it is a fantastic day trip from Tucson or Phoenix. If you want to stay longer and immerse yourself in the Wild West, spend a couple days at the Tombstone Monument Ranch or choose one of these other places to stay in Tombstone.

— Contributed by Nicole from American SW Obsessed

Whitefish, MT

A river running through craggy mountains

Whitefish, Montana is a super underrated outdoor mecca. Have you heard of it? Maybe not, but you should put it on your radar. It may be a little harder to get to than the big name locations, but that’s no reason to pass it up during your travels.

No matter what time of year you find yourself in this pocket of Montana, you’ll have plenty to do. Wintertime visitors can head to Whitefish Ski resort for some fun on the slopes, while the summertime provides a quick 30-minute drive into the spectacular Glacier National Park for plenty of adventures!

Local lakes provide water sports and public beaches to soak up the rays in summer. Head down to Whitefish State Park for the best camping spots; it backs right up to Whitefish Lake, where you can swim, kayak, and more! You can also find many great cabin rentals in Whitefish.

Along with the many outdoor options, you’ll also find lots of high-ranking eateries and bars. I’d recommend checking out the local Montana Coffee Traders for your morning cup of joe; they roast their beans just down the road.

Because of all the activities around the area, it’s well worth spending at least a week in Whitefish. In the end, you may find yourself wanting to move there!

With the recent expansion of the nearby Glacier Park International Airport, getting to Whitefish is now easier. The other option is flying into Spokane and taking the 4-hour drive around the mountains. 

— Contributed by Nick from Illness to Ultra

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Some of the best vacation spots in America are off-the-beaten path destinations in parts of the U.S. that are not known as tourist meccas. If you want to avoid crowds while enjoying nature, history, and time with your family, choose one of these hidden vacation spots above for your next vacation!

All destination photos courtesy of their respective contributors except for Apostle Islands, courtesy of David Hamilton from Pixabay and Durango, courtesy of roadtrippinwithbob from Pixabay.

Related Reading:

How to Get Travel-Ready: What You Can Do Now to Prepare for Your Next Adventure

One Day in Arches National Park

How to Choose the Perfect Vacation Rental

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4 thoughts on “Where are the Best Unknown Vacation Spots in the U.S.?”

  1. Love a beach vacation. Interested in Alantic Beaches. Favorably, North east. Can you assist? Thanks

  2. I love your websites and your emails.
    We returned from Spain on Space a in the first part of November and had a great time. We had traveled a lot all the US states especially the national parks in the states , all over Europe and I hate what is happening now. We got back yesterday from Cape Carnival Beach because we need a trip staying within FL. We used the Airbnb and they gave us a code to enter and we wiped down all surfaces for added protection since we are over 75 and did not see anyone and felt perfectly safe and prepared our own food. and spent the day on the beach. While that was good for 10 days it does not equal traveling on Space A. Will we ever return to the above days? No-one knows.

    • Hi Maggie – I’m glad you’ve found a way to get away for a while, if only a short trip! We’ve stayed in several Airbnbs since COVID, and I agree with you; as long as we wiped everything down (we did this pre-COVID anyway), ate our own food, and kept to ourselves, we felt very comfortable.

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