5. Virgin Islands National Park, St. John
[Also see our travel article “The Ten Best Vacation Islands in the Caribbean“]
Combining a chance to jet to the Caribbean and the opportunity to swim alongside schools of fish, Virgin Islands National Park seems like a no-brainer choice for a destination. The park covers nearly 65% of the island, and of course the crystalline waters also provide snorkelers a trail along which they can see the hundreds of species of fish in action. Visitors can check out fish as they dart in and out of coral reefs or seagrass meadows and possibly see how the seascape and marine traffic shift if they visit at different times during the day. Back on land, the park is home to six native species of bat, wild donkeys and lizards and frogs of all sizes.
4. Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, Hawaii
[Also see our travel article “The World’s Ten Best Places to Watch the Sunset“]
Waves crashing onto the ragged cliffs provide a stunning backdrop to Kilauea Point refuge, which deftly combines Hawaii’s world-famous beauty and the need to preserve it and its animal kingdom. Located on the island of Kaua’i, the refuge works to preserve and protect migratory seabirds and the native nene, or Hawaiian goose, which is also the state bird. There’s an established colony of nene, and albatross, boobies and various shorebirds often stop by for a visit. Offshore, visitors can spot monk seals in the water or catching some rays on the beaches, and endangered humpback whales and spinner dolphins will occasionally breach nearby.
3. Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
[Also see our travel article “Ten Incredible Destinations Off the Beaten Path“]
Alaska is full of natural treasures, not least of which is the nation’s highest mountain Mt. McKinley, in Denali National Park. But to the south of Denali lies Kenai Fjords National Park, the majority of which is only accessible by boat and contains one of the largest ice fields in the United States. Harding Icefield covers much of the inland territory, and just over half of the fjords are covered in ice. But there’s still a seemingly endless amount of wildlife in the area. In the water, sea otters, sea lions, seals, orcas and humpback whales play and hunt, while black bears, Alaskan brown bears, moose and mountain goats call the park home. The park is next to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, where visitors can camp and those with permits can fish for salmon and trout or hunt moose and caribou.
2. Everglades National Park, Florida
[Also see our travel article “Travel Guide to Miami and Its Attractions“]
It’s hard to believe that downtown Miami sits barely 45 minutes by car from the Everglades, which have achieved a near-mythical and mysterious status in popular culture, thanks to the allure of danger. Leaving the urban jungle leads straight into another one, or rather the largest subtropical wilderness in the country. Egrets, wood storks and spoonbills will please bird enthusiasts and provide a soothing counterpart to the main reason everyone comes here: it’s the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles exist side by side. See these creatures while walking or biking through the park paths. Visitors can take tram or boat rides, or rent an airboat for a more up close and personal experience.
1. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
[Also see our travel article “The World’s Best Places to See Wildlife“]
Overflowing into three states, Yellowstone is one of best things the United States has on offer. The 2.2 million acres are simply majestic, with the Old Faithful geyser, its own version of the Grand Canyon and the endless persistence to continually overcome devastating forest fires. Added to the fact that the park sits on an apocalyptic-sounding “super volcano” and the whole experience becomes transformative. And that’s not even including the 67 different mammals that call the park home. Elk, bison, grizzly and black bears, coyotes, wolverines, mountain lions and the bald eagle snap visitors to attention, realizing that the heavenly park is definitively ruled by the animal kingdom. Most controversially, gray wolves were reintroduced to the park in 1995 after a nearly 70-year absence, and it remains a point of contention among locals.