8 Beautiful Places Where You Can Go Without a Passport
From arctic glaciers to pristine beaches, U.S. citizens can visit transportive places without a passport.
Right now, there are unprecedented delays with the State Department issuing new passports and passport renewals, due to a bottleneck after pandemic shutdowns. With 500,000 weekly applications now rolling in, there's a huge backlog for passports. And if you're one of the unlucky Americans anxiously waiting for the State Department to catch up, you may be wondering what places you can travel to without a passport.
If you don't have a passport altogether, you're also not alone. In 2022, according to the State Department, there were 151,814,305 valid U.S. passports in circulation, while the U.S. population was 333,287,557—meaning approximately 55 percent of Americans don't have a passport.
Luckily, there are many exciting places in the U.S. that you can check off your travel bucket list without a passport or visa. America is home to adorably quirky small towns, beautiful national parks, and even gorgeous beaches—all reachable without a passport. And there are even U.S. islands and some territories, such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, where you can visit without a passport.
It can get confusing, however, as there are also other U.S. territories, like Guam, where you do need a passport to visit. You may also have concerns about whether to bring a passport when it comes to closed-loop cruises, especially ones that dock in other countries like Canada and Mexico. After all, bringing a passport when you don't need it makes for just one more important thing you have to worry about losing.
To help make your trip planning as stress-free as possible, we spoke with travel agents and citizenship advisors to better understand where exactly U.S. citizens can travel without a passport—and why it's smart to travel with one in certain circumstances.
READ THIS NEXT: 5 Things You Should Never Bring on a Cruise, Experts Warn.
Why Don't I Need a Passport to Travel to Certain Areas?
If you're traveling within the U.S. and certain territories, you may not need a passport, says Tonya Waite, travel agent and founder of Belle Vie Travel.
"This encompasses the familiar 50 states and the U.S. territories including destinations like Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands," Waite explains. Travel to these areas is considered domestic travel, similar to a flight from New York to Chicago.
As far as closed-loop cruises go (cruises that depart from the U.S. to Bermuda, Canada, Caribbean, and Mexico that end at the same port), Ilisa Oman, a travel agent at One World Family Travel, assures travelers that they don't need proof of passport because of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). For this type of travel, a state-issued driver's license or ID is typically fine.
However, there are exceptions. Keep reading for specific identification requirements related to certain areas.
Where Can I Go Without a Passport?
With its stunning white sand beaches, snorkeling, and Danish colonial architecture, St. Thomas is beloved a Caribbean island. As a U.S. citizen, you don't need a passport to visit U.S. Virgin Islands, but you do need one to visit the British Virgin Islands. St. Thomas is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands, as Global Residence Index founder Mark Damsgaard notes, so you only need to present a government-issued ID with your photo.
Tropical paradise St. Croix also has pristine beaches, turquoise waters, and championship golf courses. And it's also another one of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Thus, you're not required to bring a passport when traveling to and from the island, Damsgaard says.
The smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, St. John boasts the Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve, which offers scuba diving, hiking, and prehistoric archaeological sites. Damsgaard notes that because St. John is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, you don't need a passport in order to travel there.
Northern Mariana Islands
The same rules apply to the Northern Mariana Islands, which consist of 14 tropical islands, with sandy shores and blue waters, and offer activities like windsurfing, cavern dives, and jungle treks. "U.S. citizens can visit the remote islands of the Northern Mariana Islands without a passport, but you need to have a government-issued proof of identification with you," Damsgaard explains.
An unincorporated U.S. territory, this Caribbean island features its sandy beaches, mountains, waterfalls, and the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System. If you're a U.S. citizen traveling from anywhere within the U.S., then you don't need a passport, Damsgaard says. However, by May 2025, the Real ID Act will be in effect, he adds, "so if your state isn't compliant with this Act, you will need a passport to visit Puerto Rico."
You do need a passport to visit the westernmost territory of the U.S. "In general, Guam requires U.S. citizens to have a valid passport when entering the island," Damsgaard says. "On a case-by-case basis, you might only be required to have a valid proof of identification or citizenship." However, it's better to travel with one, just in case. And it is well worth it to explore its white-sand beaches, the culture of the local Chamorro people, and unique stone structures.
An unincorporated U.S. territory, American Samoa includes seven volcanic islands in the South Pacific. "The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not exercise jurisdiction over the islands," Damsgaard explains. So, you still need to have a passport when traveling to its islands.
Closed-Loop Cruise Destinations
With 16 islands, the Bahamas feature both white and pink sand beaches, blue-green waters and coral reefs, and golf courses—making it a popular cruise destination. According to Nassau Paradise Island, an island in the Bahamas, those arriving to the Bahamas on a cruise ship that departs from U.S. soil may be able to provide WHTI documents instead of a passport. But travelers should confirm that before setting sail. Also, be careful of making sure your passport won't expire within six months of your departure.
The Central American country is home to unparalleled natural wonders, including hot springs, tropical rainforests, and one of the most important nesting spots for sea turtles. For cruises stopping in Costa Rica, as long as the cruise begins and ends at the same U.S. port, you don't need a passport to travel there, per CostaRicaCruises.com. You will, however, have to show proof of U.S. citizenship, which can be done with a government-issued ID with a photo or a certified copy of your birth certificate.
Turks and Caicos
An archipelago of 40 coral islands, Turks and Caicos is renowned for its gorgeous white sand beaches and luxury resorts. According to Travel Visa Pro, closed-loop cruise passengers can use WHTI documents in replace of a passport.
The British Virgin Islands
Part of a volcanic archipelago, the British Virgin Islands incorporates about 60 islands of varying sizes. If your cruise docks at the British Virgin Islands (BVIs), you will need to present a passport to enjoy the islands.
Cruises to Mexico highlight the country's tropical jungles, sandy shores, and ancient architecture. Similar to Costa Rica, you only need a government-issued ID with a photo or a certified copy of your birth certificate if traveling via a cruise ship that begins and ends on U.S. soil.
If you're headed to Canada on a cruise, you'll likely see beautiful natural scenery, charming shorelines, and world-class cities. The same identification requirements apply to closed-loop cruises that stop in Canada.
Within the U.S.
The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a tiny collection of islands nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, about 120 miles off the tip of the state of Florida. The tropical destination is a southern extension of the state of Florida and home to Key West, an ultra-popular vacation spot in the spring and summer. Despite being super close to the Caribbean, U.S. citizens don't need a passport to travel there.
Hawaii is the only U.S. state that is both an archipelago and located in the tropics. And you don't need a passport to visit it and take in its gorgeous beaches, Polynesian culture, or epic natural wonders. However, similar to Puerto Rico, the state of Hawaii will be instituting the Real ID Act in May 2025, so be sure to obtain your Real ID by then.
The northernwest U.S. state, Alaska—with its snowy terrain, extraordinary wildlife, and famed dog sled races—might seem a world away from the continental U.S. Alaska is home to the country's largest national park (13 million-acre Wrangell-St. Elias), highest peak (20,310-foot Denali), and longest coastline, with 66,000 miles of Arctic and sub-Arctic shorelines.
But U.S. citizens only need a Real ID to travel to Alaska; a passport isn't required. The one caveat to this rule is if you're traveling to Alaska via Canada. Those driving to Alaska from Canada, taking a ferry, or with a layover in Canada, will need to bring a passport with them.
Can Americans go to Europe without a passport?
In short, the answer is no. Whether you're flying or setting sail, you will be prompted to show proof of passport identification upon arrival to a European border control officer. "Americans need a passport when traveling to Europe and the passport must be valid for at least three months prior to your departure from a European country," Damsgaard says.
For example, let's say you've had your passport for two months and three weeks. You will be allowed into the European country, but you will not be allowed back into the U.S. until you hit that three-month validation mark.
Should I bring my passport with me, even if I don't need to?
It's better safe than sorry, Damsgaard advises. "It's better to carry your passport with you even when your destination doesn't require it," he says out of caution.
Waite agrees, noting that traveling with a passport can serve as a valuable contingency plan. "Having a passport on hand can be highly beneficial in situations such as an unplanned layover in a foreign country or any unforeseen travel disruptions," she explains.
Can I use my birth certificate in place of a passport?
Very rarely does a birth certificate carry the same weight as a passport. "Your birth certificate isn't a substitute for a passport," Damsgaard warns. "You can only use it in place of a passport when you travel to other U.S. territories or closed-loop cruises, where you need a proof of identification and nationality."
That said, if you're traveling to an unfamiliar territory or are concerned about unplanned international affairs (like a flight change), Damsgaard highly recommends bringing a valid passport just to be safe. It's better to be prepared, especially if you're traveling solo or to a destination where you don't know anyone.
What happens if you travel without a passport?
Traveling domestically, including to U.S. territories, without a passport typically isn't an issue. It's traveling internationally without a passport when you start running into problems. If you travel without a passport to a country that requires proof of one, you likely will be denied entry, says Oman. Realistically, you probably won't even make it that far because security won't let you board the plane, or a ship if you're traveling by sea.
In terms of closed-loop cruises, you could get stranded in a foreign country, due to missing the ship or a medical emergency. In those cases, you will need to go to the nearest U.S. embassy and obtain an emergency passport to fly home. Oman warns that is an expensive and time-consuming process.
From Alaska's stunning arctic landscape to Puerto Rico's lush, tropical jungles and the pristine white sand beaches of St. Thomas, there are many beautiful and transportive places you can travel to without a passport as a U.S. citizen.
But while there are several places where you can go without one, it doesn't hurt to travel with a passport in the event of an emergency or unplanned travel disruption, such as a layover or flight cancellation. In any case, double check what identification documents are needed to enter the country you're visiting.