The United States, often celebrated for its vastness and diversity, is a land of remarkable contrasts and hidden gems that make it a treasure trove for exotic destinations.
From rugged plateaus to tropical beaches, the country’s impressive landscapes and intriguing attractions make it one of the most appealing places in the world.
Below, I’ll cover everything from unique national parks to famous landmarks in the US. Simply put, these exotic places in the USA will take you on a journey through captivating natural and manmade wonders filled with rich histories and traditions.
29 Exotic Places to Visit in the USA
Table of Contents
- 29 Exotic Places to Visit in the USA
- 1. St. John, US Virgin Islands
- 2. Antelope Canyon, Arizona
- 3. Crystal River, Florida
- 4. Santa Fe, New Mexico
- 5. Glacier Bay, Alaska
- 6. Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada
- 7. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
- 8. Vieques, Puerto Rico
- 9. Joshua Tree National Park, California
- 10. Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
- 11. Napa Valley, California
- 12. Luray Caverns, Virginia
- 13. Death Valley, California
- 14. Fairbanks, Alaska
- 15. Key West, Florida
- 16. Catalina Island, California
- 17. Great Sand Dunes, Colorado
- 18. Byodo-In Temple, Hawaii
- 19. Big Sur, California
- 20. Skagit Valley, Washington
- 21. Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
- 22. Solvang, California
- 23. Cannon Beach, Oregon
- 24. Yosemite Falls, California
- 25. Apostle Islands, Wisconsin
- 26. Hoh Rain Forest, Washington
- 27. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
- 28. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
- 29. Acadia National Park, Maine
- Wrapping Up: 29 Exotic Places to Visit in the USA
From Crystal River to Fairbanks, the USA is most certainly home to some of the most beautiful towns in America. So, without further hesitation, here are 29 of the most exotic places in the USA.
1. St. John, US Virgin Islands
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After a remote island vacation? Technically an American territory, St. John is a tropical destination and the smallest of the US Virgin Islands.
Once here, discover secluded beaches laden with turtle nests and crystal-clear waters worthy of world-class snorkelling. With delicious rum and crunchy fried plantains, it’ll be hard to leave this paradise.
Home to the Virgin Islands National Park, St. John offers stretches of pristine seashore and untouched jungle. The island is home to many different species, but common animals you may see here are mongoose, goats, deer, and iguanas.
2. Antelope Canyon, Arizona
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Antelope Canyon is a sacred site of the Navajo People. Due to its striking appearance, it’s also one of the most photographed slot canyons in the entire USA.
Over millions of years, erosion has sculpted the soft Navajo sandstone into the Upper Canyon and the Lower Canyon. Each is just as impressive as the other, with some of the Upper Canyon’s walls reaching up to 120 feet.
When the light filters through the cracks, the result is a soft mirage of reds and oranges, making for a swirling embrace that’s both visually appealing and unforgettable.
The best way to experience this marvel is to venture alongside a local Navajo guide on a guided Lower Antelope Canyon tour.
3. Crystal River, Florida
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Crystal River is a coastal townhome known for its pristine waterways, spring-fed rivers, and manatee-filled bays.
That’s right, you read that correctly. Crystal River is actually one of the few places in the world where you can swim in nature with these gentle giants. The water here is so blue and clear that you’re in for a spectacular visual treat filled with unforgettable wildlife interactions.
Top attractions in the area include Three Sisters Springs, Hunter Springs Park, and Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. The town itself is home to an array of quaint shops, restaurants, and bars.
4. Santa Fe, New Mexico
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As the oldest capital city in the USA, Santa Fe is a town bursting with tradition and heritage. Its buildings are indicative of ancient Pueblo architecture, featuring terraced designs and open-air plazas.
Santa Fe’s rich Native American history is coupled with a dazzling art scene that makes the town a creative and cultural hotspot.
Surrounded by mountain ranges, the city has a semiarid climate, bringing it more sunny days than rainy days. Some top attractions here include the Santa Fe Plaza and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.
5. Glacier Bay, Alaska
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Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a frozen utopia known for its rugged snow-capped mountains, massive glaciers, and evergreen forests. Located in southeast Alaska, it’s about 3.3 million acres large.
Unlike other national parks, there are no roads here, meaning you’ll have to travel to the park by plane, boat or cruise ship.
With over 1000 glaciers, 300 plant species, and 40 species of mammals, the park is a testament to the area’s ecological significance. With global warming on the rise, it’s simply a must-visit destination for those looking for an otherworldly experience.
6. Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada
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Lake Tahoe is a large freshwater lake on the border of California and Nevada. In fact, it’s the largest alpine lake in North America.
Did you know that the deepest part of the lake is tall enough to cover the Empire State Building? Plus, the waters here are so crystal-clear they give off a transparent blue or emerald colour. With 72 miles of shoreline, a sailing cruise is just one of the many idyllic activities that revolve around water.
Combine this with hiking, biking, skiing and snowboarding, and you’re in for a real treat upon your visit to Lake Tahoe.
7. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
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Apart from being home to grizzly bears and grey wolves, Yellowstone National Park has more geysers and hot springs than anywhere else on Earth. This is in part due to the area’s underground volcanic activity.
The springs’ appearance is mindblowing, showcasing an electric combination of blues, greens, yellows, and oranges. These bright colours are due to the bacteria living in the warm water.
You must definitely stop by the Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful geyser, two of the park’s most popular hydrothermal features.
8. Vieques, Puerto Rico
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Located just six miles off Puerto Rico’s mainland, Vieques is a Caribbean paradise known for its remote beaches and globally renowned bioluminescent bay.
Puerto Rico is home to three bioluminescent bays, but the most impressive has to be Vieques’ Mosquito Bioluminescent Bay. In fact, this bio bay is the brightest in the world. Come nighttime, watch as the ocean turns into a mesmerising shade of neon blue.
If you plan on going to Vieques, be sure to check out this fantastic nighttime bioluminescent bay kayak tour.
9. Joshua Tree National Park, California
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This park is named after the thousands of Joshua Trees that dot its deserts. These distinctive trees (well, they’re not actually trees – they’re technically succulents) are known for their twisted and gnarled branches that end in spiky leaves.
Once here, it’ll seem as if you’ve been transported to a celestial realm that resembles some form of Martian terrain.
With the park’s miles and miles of hiking trails, you’re bound to witness an abundance of wildlife (see if you can spot the native bighorn sheep). Plus, you’ll see some of the most spectacular sunsets and bright, starry night skies, as well as glorious geological formations.
10. Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
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Speaking of otherworldly experiences, Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah will take your breath away with its beautiful, barren landscape. The salt flats cover about 30,000 acres and stretch for 12 miles long and five miles wide.
As its name suggests, this terrain consists of vast, cracked surfaces with intricate, polygonal patterns that are beautiful to look at. You’re in for a real treat when the sun’s rays bounce off the reflective surface.
Bonneville Salt Flats offer free camping areas, scenic picnic spots, as well as the perfect photoshoot destination.
11. Napa Valley, California
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Napa Valley is renowned for its rolling hills covered in vineyards, framed by the Mayacamas Mountains in the west and the Vaca Mountains in the east. It’s one of the smallest and most diverse wine-growing regions in the world.
With hundreds of stone-arch bridges, flowing streams, and lush grapevines, the scenery here is similar to that of the wine regions in France or Spain.
Two of the most picturesque wineries in Napa Valley that won’t disappoint in views or atmosphere are Pine Ridge Vineyards and Inglenook. Alternatively, you can join a wine-tasting tour with guides who know all the best spots to indulge in Napa’s fruity flavours.
12. Luray Caverns, Virginia
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As the largest cavern in the eastern US, Luray Caverns is a series of underground limestone caves with towering rock formations and rooms the size of cathedrals.
The caverns started forming over 400 million years ago, with the oldest formation in the cave considered to be around seven million years old. You can even do a private tour through the caverns that will take you along paved pathways as you discover jaw-dropping pre-historic stalactites and stalagmites.
There are other attractions on the grounds, too, including the Garden Maze, the Rope Adventure Park and the Shenandoah Heritage Village.
13. Death Valley, California
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Death Valley is known as one of the (if not the) hottest places on Earth in summer. Although it at first appears barren, many people travel here to witness mystical scenes and some of the best stargazing in the world.
Visit Racetrack Playa, a dry lake with mysterious moving rocks that leave tracks as they travel. You should also definitely stop by to see Badwater Basin, which sits 282 feet below sea level, officially making it the lowest point in North America.
From golden sand dunes to chalky mountains to cracked salt pans, Death Valley falls nothing short of enticing.
14. Fairbanks, Alaska
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At first glance, Fairbanks doesn’t appear very exotic. However, what makes this city stand out is the fact that it’s one of the best places in the world from which to see the aurora borealis.
During the Aurora Season, which is August 21 to April 21, you can see the magical northern lights in Fairbanks almost every night. The keys to seeing the most striking aurora borealis are clear, dark skies, and Fairbanks, fortunately, has a relatively low precipitation level.
Are you intrigued by America’s “Last Frontier?” Check out these interesting facts about Alaska to learn more about the snowy state.
15. Key West, Florida
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Key West is an island in the Straits of Florida famous for its turquoise waters and quaint Caribbean houses. It’s a sought-after tropical destination where you can expect dreamy beach days with lots of rum and key lime pie.
Aside from inviting waters and delicious food, Key West is packed with Caribbean culture and history. For literature lovers, be sure to visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. To learn more about the island’s fascinating Cuban past, head to the San Carlos Institute.
Snorkelling, swimming with dolphins, and sunset cruising the water on a catamaran are some of the best activities to enjoy here.
16. Catalina Island, California
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About 22 miles south-southwest of Los Angeles lies Catalina Island – a renowned, rocky isle famous for its dazzling waters and near-Mediterranean atmosphere.
Here, you’ll find charming coastal towns, world-class scuba diving, as well as a variety of wildlife (including the elusive Santa Catalina Island Fox).
Enjoy the island’s wide array of water-based activities, such as parasailing, jet skiing, and sailing. If you’re after some Ibiza vibes, head to Descanso Beach Club to park off on a shaded cabana and enjoy some delectable cocktails.
17. Great Sand Dunes, Colorado
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Home to the tallest sand dunes in North America, the Great Sand Dunes National Park is bound to be unlike any nature preserve you’ve ever experienced.
You’re sure to be blown away by the dramatic Saharan-esque nature of this area. The dunes were formed nearly half a million years ago from the perfect combination of wind, water, and sediment.
When you visit, spend some time exploring Star Dune, Hidden Dune, and High Dune. Enjoy fantastic activities such as sandboarding, sand sledding, hiking, stargazing, and camping. Staying overnight in the park is very sought-after, and you may even have to book months in advance.
18. Byodo-In Temple, Hawaii
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In need of a little zen? Take a trip to the foothills of the Ko’olau Mountains in Hawaii. Here, you’ll find the Byodo-In Temple – a smaller replica of the original Byodo-In Temple in Japan, which is a United Nations World Heritage Site.
Although this is a non-practising Buddhist temple, whether you wish to pray, meditate, or take in its serene beauty, you’ll feel free here. The beautifully landscaped grounds are home to hundreds of peacocks and koi fish – there are even scattered waterfalls and meditation niches throughout.
You can visit, appreciate, and pay your respects at the temple at the small cost of $5 or less.
19. Big Sur, California
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It’s no surprise that California is one of the most beautiful states in the US, with numerous exotic destinations of its own, and Big Sur is no exception. This area is an acclaimed stretch of coastline known for its pristine wilderness and untouched nature.
With its rugged mountains, remote beaches, and redwood forests, it’s no surprise that the 90-mile stretch of coastline is considered California’s gem. Expect lush national parks and long, winding roads that will leave you astounded.
Some unmissable spots here include Pfeiffer Beach and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park – ideal places to hike, picnic, or simply take in the views.
20. Skagit Valley, Washington
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Skagit Valley is home to the largest tulip festival in the USA by acreage of tulips, number of farms, and days of blooms. The farmlands here turn into a colourful paradise during the month of April. You’ll witness over 300 acres of farmland that turn into a floral frenzy aptly called the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.
RoozenGaarde (where the festival takes place) in Skagit Valley is a popular springtime spot that sees millions of tulips bloom. If you can’t make it in April, try to go in March, where the same area sees not tulips but blooming daffodils at the La Conner Daffodil festival.
You’re in for a real visual (and olfactory) feast.
21. Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
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Do islands, geology, and molten rock tickle your fancy? Yes? Then, Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii is the perfect place for you.
The park encompasses Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, two of the world’s most active volcanoes. Since 1823, Kīlauea has erupted 61 separate times. On average, both volcanoes tend to erupt every two to three years.
From short walks to scenic drives, there’s plenty to do in the national park. Keep an eye out for interesting rocks as well as colourful fauna and flora while you learn more about Hawaiian folklore and geological wonders.
Top Tip: One of the best ways to get a true feel for the park is on a volcano and waterfall helicopter flight.
22. Solvang, California
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Solvang, also known as “the Danish Capital of California”, was originally founded in 1911, when three Danish immigrants purchased 10,000 acres of land in the Santa Ynez Valley. It’s a quaint, charming town featuring traditional Danish architecture.
Here, you’ll find European bakeries, boutiques, and galleries seamlessly merged with California wineries. For a full tour of the town, hop on the Solvang Trolley for a delightful excursion around the Santa Ynez Valley.
Drink, dine, and shop your way through seasonal festivals, outdoor activities, and plenty of art and entertainment.
23. Cannon Beach, Oregon
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If you’re after breathtaking beach scenery, head to Cannon Beach. In 2013, National Geographic listed this unique coastal spot as one of the 100 most beautiful places in the world.
The majestic Haystack Rock, a 235-foot rock protruding from the water, is one of Cannon Beach’s top attractions. Also, just five miles south of Cannon Beach is Hug Point, where you can witness waterfalls cascading onto the beach.
The area is home to diverse birdlife and intertidal animals like limpets and nudibranchs, so spend the day exploring the shores and collecting seaside treasures.
24. Yosemite Falls, California
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Yosemite Falls, located in Yosemite National Park, is one of the tallest waterfalls in the world, falling at a whopping 2,425 feet. Peak runoff is in the spring months after snowmelt.
For those who love a challenge and unbeatable views, you can even hike to the top of the falls. Do be warned, though, as this hike is known to be a rather strenuous eight-hours-or-so trek.
It’s a show-stopping sight and an absolute wonder to behold. Much less touristy than Niagara Falls, it’s definitely worthwhile to pay a visit here if you’re craving some cascade action.
25. Apostle Islands, Wisconsin
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Famous for its red sandstone sea caves, the Apostle Islands is a 22-isle archipelago along the southern shore of Lake Superior.
These islands showcase a unique ecosystem because they are positioned in the transitional zone between boreal and temperate forests. They’re home to diverse wildlife, including over 250 bird species and 800 plant species.
The best thing to do here is to explore the area by boat and kayak the caverns of Devil’s Island. You’ll discover stunning beaches, historic lighthouses, and incredible sandstone formations.
26. Hoh Rain Forest, Washington
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As one of Washington State’s wonders, Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park is a fantastically preserved and important ecosystem. In fact, UNESCO even awarded the rainforest the distinction of a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve.
Hoh Rainforest receives as much as 14 feet of rain in a year, which makes it one of the lushest places in the world.
The popular Hall of Mosses trail, true to its name, is an easy 0.8-mile hike that will take you through a verdant moss-covered wonderland.
27. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
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Ever heard of a hoodoo? These whimsical, towering rock spires (formed by erosion over millions of years) are what define the badlands of Bryce Canyon National Park. There are 12 hoodoo amphitheatres scattered around the park.
Within the park, the best spots to see the hoodoos are at Sunset Point and Sunrise Point. To explore the park, you can make use of the various hiking trails or take a leisurely three-hour drive that’ll take you to all 13 vantage points.
Why not try this guided scenic tour of Bryce Canyon to see its highlights and learn about how the landscape was formed a million years ago?
28. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
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This sacred spot showcases the ancient cliff dwellings of the Pueblo people. What were once thriving communities carved into the sides of cliffs is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site of approximately 600 antiquated residences.
The largest and most well-preserved cliff dwelling (not only in the national park but also in North America) is called Cliff Palace.
Mesa Verde is a very spiritual and culturally significant place. Some even say that if you stand still enough, you can hear the sounds of drums beating, children playing, and women laughing.
29. Acadia National Park, Maine
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Calling upon the ultimate adventurists – Acadia National Park is an exciting haven that’s also known as “the Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast.”
Mountains, lakes, streams and wetlands all add to Acadia’s diversity and ecological beauty.
What makes the park’s paths truly unique, though, is the presence of a large number of ladders and iron rungs that help visitors navigate the trails.
For an easy hike, try the Ocean Path. But if you’d like a bit more of a challenge, definitely hike the more strenuous Jordan Cliffs Trail.
Wrapping Up: 29 Exotic Places to Visit in the USA
From the eerie glow of Antelope Canyon’s sandstone walls to the tropical beauty of Hawaii’s volcanoes, the US offers an array of destinations that will transport you to otherworldly realms.
Each place tells a unique story, and together, they paint a vivid picture of the incredible diversity that can be found within the borders of this vast nation. So, pack your bags, set out on an adventure, and discover the exotic treasures that the US has to offer.
Looking to venture further south of the Americas? Check out these 23 incredible landmarks in Brazil.
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