The 7 Most Relaxing Destinations in the U.S., Travel Experts Say
They have suggestions for beach bums, nature-lovers, and those who prefer "active relaxation."
There are so many ways to relax, which is why much of it comes down to personal preference. Are you fond of cat naps, or would you rather cozy up with a good book? We can quibble over the specifics, but it's hard to argue with the fact that there are few things sweeter in life than a relaxing vacation. We all relish the opportunity to kick back and let our worries about work, life, and everything in between slowly fade away. With that in mind, we've put together a list of spots that will help you chill out. Read on for recommendations from our travel experts for the seven most relaxing destinations in the U.S.
Long Beach Peninsula (Washington)
Relax and unwind on a peaceful peninsula in Washington state—the self-proclaimed "World's Longest Beach."
"Whether you crave a peaceful stroll to a lighthouse along rocky cliffs, a leisurely pedal along waving dune grass, a breezy walk on the wide, sandy beach, or a quiet dinner at an award-winning local restaurant, you'll find it here," Alisha McDarris, travel journalist and founder of Terradrift, tells Best Life. "Which is perhaps why artists of all stripes have flocked to the strip of land surrounded by water for years: for relaxation, reflection, and the inspiration only nature can supply."
She adds that there's no shortage of things to do on the peninsula, including surfing, bikes paths, and festivals, and a charming Cranberry Museum. But according to McDarris, its "most endearing attribute" is the low-key atmosphere.
Long Beach Peninsula is a popular destination, so McDarris recommends planning your visit in certain seasons. "The best times to visit are spring and fall if you're looking to beat the crowds and soak up the maximum chill vibes," she notes.
Vero Beach (Florida)
Nestled right between the larger hubs of Daytona and Fort Lauderdale on the East Coast of Florida is a hidden gem—Vero Beach.
"The beaches are lovely and quiet, and there is a definite lack of high-rises and large condo complexes," Pam Howard, owner and author of the travel blog Our Adventure is Everywhere, tells Best Life. "This is the beach you go to when you want to rent a house (or stay in one of the smaller resorts on the ocean) and just spend time by the water."
You'll be secluded and away from the crowds, Howard explains, with "enough delicious restaurants" to keep your satiated. On a day when you have more energy, she also recommends taking an airboat tour or popping into some of the boutiques in downtown.
"Although lovely year-round, Vero Beach is especially enjoyable in the summer when you can comfortably swim in the ocean, or in the spring and fall when it's nice to sit outside without the heavy Florida humidity," Howard adds.
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If beaches aren't your idea of a relaxing trip, consider heading out west to explore Sedona, Arizona—especially if you're looking for a spiritual refresh.
"Known for its stunning red rock formations, it's the perfect place for a relaxing holiday," Jessica Schmit, of the travel site Uprooted Traveler, says. "This small city has become something of a New Age epicenter, thanks to the local lore that some of its rock formations are vortexes, emanating healing, and rejuvenating energy."
According to the official website for Sedona, these "mysterious cosmic forces" are a draw for many travelers, but that's not all that this spot has to offer. "Whether or not you buy into [the spiritual aspect], the town has exploded with vendors and services to help you relax and reset, from aura reading and Reiki healing to hot yoga classes and good ol' fashioned massages," Schmit explains.
Head to one of the city's "bougie resorts" to take in stellar views, per Schmit's recommendation, or soak up some vitamin D while enjoying "active relaxation" on one of Sedona's many hiking trails.
In case you didn't know, Guam is a U.S. territory—meaning you don't need a passport to check out this exotic and relaxing spot. Kristin Lee, travel expert and owner of the travel blog Global Travel Escapades, points out that it's not part of the continental U.S., but if you're willing to hop on a flight, you'll be glad you did.
"Guam presents visitors with stunning scenic views of clear blue waters and experiences extremely consistent tropical weather year-round," Lee explains. "Thus, there's really never a bad time to vacation at the island destination."
Avoid the most popular spot, Tumon Bay, if you want an isolated vacay separate from the crowds, Lee says. Instead, she recommends paying a visit to Tagachang Beach. "Some of the other activities available include cruising down a river in the Latte Jungle or snorkeling through the gorgeous waters!" she says.
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The North Shore (Minnesota)
A relaxing trip in the midwest is best spent on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota, according to Dan Meyer, founder and director of experiential travel program BACK&PACK.
"The drive along the North Shore (from Duluth to Grand Portage) is beautiful in and of itself and arguably one of the most scenic drives in the midwest," he says. "There are many scenic overlooks along the way, as well as dramatic cliffs, lighthouses, waterfalls, and rocky beaches perfect for skipping rocks. If you can time your visit with the fall colors up there, it's simply spectacular."
The North Shore is also ideal for that snowy, cozy getaway. There's plenty of winter activities, too—including stargazing and the chance to glimpse the Northern Lights. Even better, Meyer says that crowds are less of a concern thanks to Lake Superior's size.
"Lake Superior is so large that visiting it doesn't tend to come with the same hassles (traffic, crowds, etc.) as somewhere like Lake Tahoe or Crater Lake," he explains "It's easy to find secluded spots and accommodations, and immerse yourself in nature along its coast."
Meyer recommends checking out the artsy hub of Grand Marais or taking a boat ride to Isle Royal State Park. "This park is a bit lesser known, but—in my opinion—that makes it all the better," he says. "If you spend a few nights camping, you're almost guaranteed to spot tons of moose and other wildlife.
The Beaches at Olympic National Park (Washington)
Another Washington destination to make the list is Olympic National Park—specifically its beaches. According to Jenny Sullivan, of the travel blog Traveling in Focus, these sandy spots are a haven for those seeking peace of mind.
"The park's beaches are some of the most stunning in the country, with their rising sea stacks and forested coastline," Sullivan gushes. "Whether you're looking for an idyllic spot to watch the sunset, take a leisurely stroll, search for hidden treasures along the shoreline, or explore the tide pools, they are sure to provide an experience like no other."
If you're doing some soul-searching, Sullivan confirms that you'll be able to "find some space that is solely yours" along over 70 miles of coastline (even if the park is more crowded).
"The serenity of Olympic National Park's beaches is unparalleled, making it the most relaxing place in the U.S.," she says. "Here, you can truly escape from your everyday worries, enjoy the beauty of nature at its finest, and find your inner peace."
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A list of the most relaxing destinations in the U.S. wouldn't be complete without mention of Hawaii. If you're looking for the most relaxing spot to visit, consider checking out Maui, Justin Crabbe, CEO of private jet charter company Jettly, says.
"With its pristine beaches, lush tropical landscape, and laid-back atmosphere, Maui is the perfect place to unwind and relax," Crabbe says. If you want a break from your zen-like state, you can also explore the water by snorkeling or kayaking, or take the time to indulge in some delicious local cuisine, he adds.
"The combination of stunning views, peaceful beaches, and warm weather makes Maui one of the most relaxing destinations to visit in the U.S.," Crabbe tells Best Life. "Whether you're looking for a family vacation or a romantic getaway, you'll find everything you need on this beautiful Hawaiian island."