10 All-to-Yourself Islands
1. Near La Paz, Baja
Arriving on Isla Espíritu Santo feels like sailing into a Maxfield Parrish painting—burnt sienna cliffs jutting out of cerulean waves. This desert isle’s population is big—if you count pelicans, parrot fish, and dolphins. If you count people? It’s uninhabited.
All to Yourself moment: Snorkel around Los Islotes, volcanic islets where young sea lions dive off the rocks, pirouetting below you.
Get there: By boat from La Paz. Day trips with kayaking $105, 2-day camping safaris (through Oct) $360; –Jenny Cunningham
2. San Juan Islands, WA
Served by its own ferry, Lummi Island has the rugged look and emerald beauty of its sister islands, but without the crowds of the bigger ferry circuit. At the Willows Inn (from $135), which has a virtually empty beach for guests, get extra privacy in the Farmhouse Suite ($230).
All to Yourself moment: There’s no sign for the Otto Preserve’s 90-plus acres crisscrossed with wooded trails.
Get there: By ferry from Gooseberry Point near Bellingham. co.whatcom.wa.us/publicworks/ferry –Rebekah Denn
3. San Francisco Bay
Smack in the middle of the bay, Angel Island is a car-less hiker’s paradise, with knockout views of the city and the hills of Marin County. Once the last ferry leaves, the only people left are those who scored one of the island’s 11 campsites ($30/night).
All to Yourself moment: Evening at Ridge campsite 4 feels like a private VIP showing of the sun’s descent behind the Golden Gate Bridge.
Get there: By ferry from S.F. (blueandgoldfleet.com) and Tiburon (angelislandferry.com). –Lily Gahagan
4. Channel Islands N.P., CA
Most visitors to the Channel Islands head to Santa Cruz, but true solitude seekers should hit Santa Rosa Island, where you can camp ($15/night) amid 84 square miles of flowering canyon, powder-sand beach, and groves of Torrey pines.
All to Yourself moment: Hike 4.5 miles (one way) through Lobo Canyon, where your reward is an edge-of-the-world rocky shoreline.
Get there: From Ventura, it’s 21/2 hours by ferry. $65 for day-trippers, $90 for campers; islandpackers.com –Ken McAlpine
5. Near Portland
Portlanders drive 10 miles west and over the bridge to bucolic Sauvie Island to shake off city life. Farms and nurseries burst with pumpkins, squash, corn, and flowers alongside flat scenic roads used by joggers and bikers.
All to Yourself moment: In this migration month, it’s just you and 250 species of birds on the 1.5-mile path around Virginia Lake, lined with evergreens, wetlands, and lakefront viewing stands.
Get there: Pick up a map at the grocery store by the Sauvie Island Bridge. $7 parking for designated wildlife areas; sauvieisland.org –Susan Hauser
6. Kodiak, AK
For being the country’s second-largest island, Kodiak is remarkably intimate. Fog drifts through moss-cloaked, bear-loving forests, and only puffins break the silence at remote beaches.
All to Yourself moment: When your kayak drifts into a hidden cove on Anton Larsen Bay, the whole world shrinks down to that single moment with your few companions: sea lions, otters, and breaching humpback whales.
Get there: Kodiak is an hour from Anchorage by plane. –Matthew Jaffe
7. San Juan Islands, WA
Patos Island is the San Juan you haven’t heard of—probably because the only way to get there is to charter a boat to its unnamed beaches and seven campsites ($12/night). Walk the 1.5-mile forested loop trail, check out the tidepools, pick blackberries, or just relax on a bluff.
All to Yourself moment: Watch harbor porpoises feed just past the lighthouse.
Get there: Take a ferry to Orcas Island, then a water taxi ($250 round-trip for up to 6) to Patos. –Kathryn True
8. Grand Teton N.P., WY
A 1-square-mile isle in the middle of Jackson Lake, Elk Island, with stunning views of Mt. Moran, is Wyoming’s largest. This month’s scenic breakfast and dinner cruises are fun (and tasty), but you can easily reach the island on your own if you’re willing to paddle.
All to Yourself moment: Snag one of the two first-come, first-served campsites (free with $25/vehicle park entry). Then start the next day with a sunrise paddle down the eastern shore.
Get there: On a cruise (from $36) or by kayak ($48/day). –Dina Mishev
9. Great Salt Lake, UT
Day-trippers are drawn to Antelope Island for its starkly beautiful windblown landscape. Picture miles of empty hiking and mountain biking trails, quiet roads for cyclists—even a surprise herd of free-range bison roaming around.
All to Yourself moment: Leave the beach frolickers behind for the secluded 5.6-mile round-trip Lakeside Trail, with views across the chalky blue lake.
Get there: Antelope Island State Park is about a one-hour drive from Salt Lake City. $9/vehicle, $3/bike park entry –Jeremy Pugh
10. Just off Kailua, Oahu
A half-hour from the frenzy of Waikiki, the low-key town of Kailua is the shove-off point for even greater solitude. Paddle about an hour across warm, turquoise Kailua Bay to North Mokulua Island, one of a pair of protected bird sanctuaries known as the Mokes. En route, keep an eye out for the endangered honu (Hawaiian green sea turtle).
All to Yourself moment: Head out first thing in the morning for the best chance of being alone. Once on shore, wander east along the beach for the most secluded spots with views of the 34-mile-long Ko‘olau Mountain Range.
Get there: By kayak from Kailua. From $39/half-day; guided tours of the Mokes $125 –Julie Chai