9 Underrated U.S. Destinations to Visit for Nature Lovers
Renowned national parks, soaring mountains and scenic coastlines, the United States is home to some of the world’s most famous natural wonders. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find a collection of underrated U.S. destinations, from Charleston to Mackinac Island, that offer you access to adventure and natural beauty without the crowds.
With over 400 million annual visitors to HotelsCombined, we’ve compiled a list of the most underrated U.S. destinations to visit for nature lovers. Skip places that are teeming with people and instead, discover new natural wonders to add to your bucket list. If you’re a nature lover, this list will get your wanderlust-fueled wheels spinning.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Beloved for its historic charm and horse-drawn carriage tours, Mackinac Island is a top pick for the most underrated U.S. destinations for nature lovers. Mackinac Island State Park covers more than 80% of this car-less island, offering plenty of quiet landscapes you can explore via bike, kayak or boat.
Top Activities in Mackinac Island
- Go on a sunrise paddling tour to see some of the island’s famous rock sculptures.
- Explore 113 kilometres of natural and paved pathways by bike or by horseback.
- Enjoy a relaxing day of fishing on the Straits of Mackinac.
Dating back to 1887, Grand Hotel Mackinac Island offers a long list of family-friendly facilities. In addition to a golf course, tennis courts and swimming pool, there is also a luxe spa, landscaped gardens and multiple dining options, from fine dining to an ice cream parlour. You can also kick back on the world’s largest front porch, which overlooks the Straits of Mackinac.
Each of the rooms is individually decorated, adorned with colourful wallpaper and featuring beautiful island views. Accommodations range from interior and lake-view rooms to one and two-bedroom suites and a private cottage with a separate living and dining area.
- Arch Rock (2.2 kilometres)
- Devil’s Kitchen cave (1.8 kilometres)
- The Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House and Insect World (1.6 kilometres)
Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 261 – USD 1,029
Guest Rating: 9
Address: 1 Grand Avenue, Mackinac Island, Michigan, United States
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Hood River, Oregon
Nestled in the Columbia River Gorge, Hood River is a quaint town on the West Coast and one of the top underrated U.S. destinations for outdoor recreation. Along with a lovely historic downtown, this Columbia River town is a hotspot for windsurfing, while kiteboarding, hiking and biking are other top pursuits for nature lovers.
Top Activities in Hood River
- Learn how to ride the waves on a kitesurfing lesson with Cascade Kiteboarding.
- Go skiing on Mount Hood in winter or try mountain biking in warmer months.
- Follow the scenic trails to Horsetail Falls and along the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.
Columbia Gorge Hotel & Spa offers a romantic ambience with beautiful gardens and Columbia River views. Spacious rooms feature flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi, while some add fireplaces and antique canopy beds. Perched on the cliffs, Family Suites boast two interconnecting rooms and Columbia Gorge views.
Planning a romantic date? The hotel’s elegant Simon’s Cliffhouse and Valentino Bar has a stylish setting and a menu of American dishes with a European twist. Afterwards, you can treat yourself to a day of pampering at the lavish on-site spa.
- Seneca Fouts Memorial State Park (6.5 kilometres)
- Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (7.4 kilometres)
- Multnomah Falls (49.7 kilometres)
Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 95 – USD 329
Guest Rating: 8.8
Address: 4000 Westcliff Drive, Hood River, Oregon, United States
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Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is well-known for its Southern charm and historic sites, but it also ranks high on our list as one of the top underrated U.S. destinations for nature lovers. With year-round sunshine, the city is ringed by marinas and tranquil waterways where you can venture into the great outdoors.
Top Activities in Charleston
- Hit the surf breaks at Folly Beach, a laid-back area with a popular fishing pier.
- Feel the wind in your sails aboard a sunset catamaran tour, deep-sea fishing excursion or Charleston Harbor boat cruise.
- Hop in a kayak and paddle the waterways on Shem Creek, home to friendly dolphins.
Embrace true Southern hospitality at The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina, which features a private beach, multiple pools and luxury spa. On-site games include bocce, life-size chess, volleyball, cornhole and crab hunting, while dining ranges from award-winning dishes at Charleston Harbor Fish House to a beachfront tiki bar.
Patio Deluxe Rooms are perfect for two, offering king-size beds, fireplaces and patios, while Harbor Deluxe Rooms boast balconies with Charleston Harbor views. Designed with families in mind, the Family Harbor Room has a sitting room, fireplace and a separate room with two twin beds.
- Patriots Point (500 metres)
- Hog Island Trail and Observation Deck (850 metres)
- Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park (2 kilometres)
Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 216 – USD 446
Guest Rating: 9.4
Address: 28 Patriots Point Rd, Mount Pleasant, Charleston, United States
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Washington D.C. has practically an endless list of attractions to see, including historic landmarks and world-renowned museums, but it’s also an underrated spot for those who love the outdoors. Step outside and discover the city’s beautiful green spaces that are ideal for hiking, biking, kayaking and boating.
Top Activities in Washington D.C.
- See the city on two wheels on the Capital Crescent Trail, Chesapeake & Ohio Towpath and Mount Vernon Trail.
- Escape the bustle of the city in Constitution Gardens and Rock Creek Park.
- Go sailing, canoeing, kayaking and enjoy scenic cruises along the Potomac River.
Ideally located on Pennsylvania Avenue, JW Marriott Washington DC is within walking distance from the White House and National Mall. On-site dining is highlighted by American cuisine at Avenue Grill, while 1331 Lounge is a chic space to enjoy a cocktail and Chef’s Market offers in-room healthy dishes. Speaking of staying fit, the fitness centre is open 24 hours.
Many of the rooms boast stunning city views, such as the 1 King, Monument View, which also features a king-size bed, mini fridge, coffee maker and plush sofa. Families will appreciate the extra space and two double-size beds in a JW Premium Room, while spacious Junior Suites add separate living areas.
- United States Botanic Garden (2.7 kilometres)
- Tudor Place Historic House & Garden (4.3 kilometres)
- Rock Creek Park (5 kilometres)
Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 237 – USD 540
Guest Rating: 8.5
Address: 1331 Pennsylvania Avenue, Downtown Washington D.C, Washington D.C., United States
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Palm Springs, California
With its year-round sunshine, most people associate Palm Springs with celebrity-filled hotspots, lavish spas and colourful boutique hotels. This desert oasis is the perfect setting for lounging by the pool, but it’s also home to stunning scenery and outdoor adventures that make it one of the top underrated U.S. destinations for outdoor enthusiasts.
Top Activities in Palm Springs
- Enjoy the hiking trails, scenic vistas and unique rock formations at Joshua Tree National Park.
- Climb aboard the Aerial Tramway for a four-kilometre ride up 2,500 metres for beautiful Mt San Jacinto State Park views.
- Visit Moorten Botanical Garden to see over 3,000 cactus and native African desert plants.
Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel is an oasis in the desert, renowned for its beautiful rooftop pool with San Jacinto views. Dine on shared, seasonal plates at 4 Saints or tuck into the fresh Mediterranean-inspired far at Juniper Table. Rent bicycles and explore the area, then book one of the in-room spa services.
Looking for a room with a view? Standard rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows with mountain, desert flats or city views, while Specialty rooms add private balconies. Couples will love the Spa Suite’s king-size bed, deep-soaking tub and private balcony.
- Moorten Botanical Garden (2.8 kilometres)
- Palm Springs Art Museum (300 metres)
- Palm Spring Aerial Tramway (10.5 kilometres)
Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 250 – USD 2,166
Guest Rating: 9.3
Address: 100 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, California, United States
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The Adirondacks, New York
While The Adirondacks in New York is certainly a haven for outdoor lovers, it’s one of the top underrated U.S. destinations because it’s still off the radar for many travellers. Not only will you find opportunities for skiing and snowboarding at Whiteface Mountain in winter, but spring and summer offer hiking and boating at Saranac Lake.
Top Activities in The Adirondacks
- Admire the cascading waterfalls and raw natural scenery at High Falls Gorge.
- Enjoy tube rides, water rafting and river crossing at Ausable Chasm.
- Go leaf-peeping in autumn at Schroon Lake Region, a popular area for boating, hiking and fishing.
One of the best spa hotels in New York, The Whiteface Lodge evokes the Gilded Age of splendour. Families will love its luxury facilities, including indoor and outdoor pools, hot tubs and seasonal ice rink, as well as a bowling alley, ice cream parlour and movie theatre. Enjoy gourmet cuisine at Kanu restaurant, or pull up a seat by the fire at the laid-back Peak 47.
One Bedroom Junior Suites feature queen-size beds and jetted tubs, while Superior Suites add an in-suite fireplace and private balcony. Two and three-bedroom suites are available for larger groups, and Presidential Suites boast lavish living spaces with chandeliers, a luxury tub and gourmet kitchen.
- Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum (3.1 kilometres)
- Lake Placid Club (4.8 kilometres)
- Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort (18 kilometres)
Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 313 – USD 746
Guest Rating: 9.3
Address: 7 Whiteface Inn Lane, Lake Placid, New York State, United States
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The Florida Keys
Often overlooked by Florida’s other white sandy beach destinations, The Florida Keys is one of the top underrated U.S. destinations and the perfect place to combine natural scenery with outdoor adventures. It’s full of chances to join water-based activities, such as snorkelling, fishing and sailing, while epic road trips allow you to soak in views of the area’s crystalline waters.
Top Activities in The Florida Keys
- Visit Dry Tortugas National Park by seaplane and snorkel in the clear, warm waters.
- Bike the kilometres of scenic pathways on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail.
- Go on a glass-bottom boat ride at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
Hawks Cay Resort is a secluded oceanfront resort set on the idyllic Duck Key. In addition to a private marina and multiple swimming pools, the resort features a saltwater lagoon. Parents can visit the award-winning spa, while kids will love the Coral Cay Activities & Adventure Club. Outdoor enthusiasts can try paddleboarding and kayaking, then recharge with steaks and seafood at Sixty-One Prime.
Spacious rooms are adorned with delightful coastal-inspired decor and include flat-screen TVs and furnished balconies, with some featuring sea views. Two-bedroom Penthouse Suites have in-suite telescopes and a private rooftop terrace, while luxe villas have three or four bedrooms, full kitchens and a private pool.
- Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail (11.2 kilometres)
- Curry Hammock State Park (7.5 kilometres)
- Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters (13.9 kilometres)
Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 247 – USD 2,710
Guest Rating: 8.1
Address: 61 Hawks Cay Boulevard, Duck Key, Florida, United States
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Nantucket is a picture-perfect island near Cape Cod, beloved for its soft sandy beaches, boutique shopping and local restaurants serving buttery lobster rolls. Embrace the island’s slower-paced lifestyle by spending your days biking, fishing, boating and beach hopping.
Top Activities in Nantucket
- See some of Nantucket’s beautiful beaches, dunes and wetlands by bike.
- Take the Sconset Bluff Walk to admire the island’s charming cottages and Sconset Beach.
- Cruise the harbour on a quaint tug boat, via a whale watching cruise or on a sleek schooner.
Adding a personalized touch, Seven Sea Street Inn is a true bed and breakfast experience in Nantucket. This year-round inn is tucked into a quiet tree-lined street, offering a daily breakfast of delicious baked goods every morning (like chocolate croissants and coffee cake). If you need help organizing bicycle rentals or whale watching tours, the concierge is available.
Relaxing rooms feature “cottage chic” decor and local artwork by Nantucket artists, as well as HDTV’s, air conditioning and luxuriously soft robes. There’s even a cookie jar filled with chocolate-chip toffee cookies. Families can stay in one of the private guest cottages for a kitchenette.
- Steamboat Wharf (250 metres)
- Nantucket Bike Tours (800 metres)
- Nantucket Downtown Historic District (450 metres)
Star Rating: 3*
Price: USD 149 – USD 399
Guest Rating: 9.6
Address: 7 Sea Street, Nantucket, Massachusetts, United States
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Lake Tahoe, California
With its crystal-clear waters and snow-capped mountains, you’ll be taken aback by the sheer natural beauty of Lake Tahoe. While it’s a prime spot for adventure-seeking travellers, it’s on our list of underrated U.S. destinations for nature lovers because of its long list of outdoor activities for all skill levels and hotel affordability.
Top Activities in Lake Tahoe
- Paddle board or kayak the picturesque shoreline, hidden coves and beautiful inlets.
- Work up a sweat hiking or mountain biking on the Tahoe Rim Trail in warmer months or try skiing and snowboarding at Heavenly in winter.
- Catch a sunset at Emerald Bay State Park, a stunning inlet home to a Viking-style castle.
Hotel Azure is a tranquil mountain retreat overlooking the pristine shores of South Lake Tahoe. Save money in a Double Queen, which features a flat-screen TV, mini fridge and private balcony. Need more space? Upgrade to a Deluxe Two Bedroom Suite for a full kitchen, dining area and balcony with Lake Tahoe views.
HotelsCombined visitors rave about the sparkling pool surrounded by plush loungers, umbrellas and a Jacuzzi. Visit the Game Room for a round of foosball or, depending on the season, borrow a beach cruiser or snowshoes to explore the area.
- Heavenly Mountain Resort (2.9 kilometres)
- Washoe Meadows State Park (11.2 kilometres)
- Fallen Leaf Lake (11.5 kilometres)
Star Rating: 3*
Price: USD 113 – USD 341
Guest Rating: 8.8
Address: 3300 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe, California, United States
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Enjoy Mother Nature’s Finest at These Underrated U.S. Destinations
Get off the tourist track and plan a trip to one of these underrated U.S. destinations that offer access to beautiful parks, natural wonders and scenic walks. We’ve put in the hard work for you, highlighting the top activities in each destination and recommended hotels that offer the perfect respite to relax and recharge for another day of adventure.
Which is your favourite underrated U.S. destination? Let us know in the comments below.