Four Island Escapes One Direct Flight Away from Boston

From Amelia Island to Puerto Rico, here's where you can get quickly from Logan Airport.

Courtesy photo. A 13-mile stretch of Florida coastline at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island.

Another day, another dreary forecast. If you need to see the sun now, but don’t want to use vacation days flying to a far-flung destination, you can be on these island’s warm sandy beaches in a little less than five hours.

Amelia Island

Both Delta and JetBlue offer a nonstop flight from Logan that lands in Jacksonville International Airport in Florida in just under three hours. From the airport, it’s about a 45-minute drive to the Ritz-Carlton, which sits on miles of coastline dotted with sand dunes. Explore the beach, enjoy ocean views poolside, or play a round of golf on the resort’s 18-hole championship course. Feeling a bit more adventurous? Drive about 15 minutes to the Amelia Island State Park where you can explore the beach on horseback astride a trail horse from the Kelly Seahorse Ranch or bike on the paved six-mile long Timucuan Trail Pathway, keeping an eye out for colorful birds.  When the sun sets, the Ritz offers an evening shuttle service to the nearby historic downtown Fernandina Beach where you can shop for antiques, browse art galleries and grab a bite at the famed Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen, helmed by celebrity chef Kenny Gilbert.

Hilton Head Island 

By summertime, the South Carolina island fills up with tourists, so the spring season is the perfect time to visit. There are plenty of nonstop flights into Charlotte, North Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina or Savannah, Georgia each about two and a half hours long, so the choice really comes down to how much time you want to spend in the car when you land. The shortest drive, about an hour, is from the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. Both the north and south end of Hilton Head offer challenging golf courses and beautiful beaches, but since this is a short trip, we recommend staying centrally at the mid-island oceanfront Westin, which also has its very own 6,530 yard golf course. In the mood to explore? Hop the ferry to the tiny Daufuskie Island, a rustic spot perfect for a day trip with cafes, a micro-distillery and an indigo dye studio. Don’t leave without breakfast at Harold’s Diner. The small shack on the side of the road gives zero indication of the mouthwatering food with no frills inside.

Courtesy photo. Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel Island is popular with swimmers and seashell gatherers.

Sanibel Island 

Before theme parks and hordes of tourists took over, this was Florida. Hop a direct flight on JetBlue to the Southwest International Airport in Fort Meyers and drive less than an hour to the Island Inn, opened in 1895 by Will and Harriet Matthews. The 49 beachfront rooms and cottages have been updated, but still feel steeped in history, and there are bicycles, kayaks, and paddleboards available for rent. If you spend the afternoon fishing, the kitchen staff will prep and cook your catch. Sanibel has worked hard to retain its natural beauty and over half the island is dedicated to wildlife refuges. A favorite is the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge where you’ll encounter endangered species such as the West Indian manatee and loggerhead island turtle. Looking for a souvenir to bring back? A seashell won’t be hard to find on the island, which is also known as the “Shell Capital of the World” and is home to the only museum in the United States devoted to shells. 

Wyndham Grand Rio Mar, Puerto Rico. USA. Photography by: Victor Elias Photography.

Rio Grande, Puerto Rico

It will feel like an entirely different world from Boston, but the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico is less than a four hour flight from Logan. Drive about 40 minutes to the east end of the island and check into the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort, where a private, mile-long beach is waiting just for you. Swap the sand for the jungle floor one day and travel about 10 minutes to the 28,000-acre tropical forest, El Yunque, where you can spot over 240 species of flora and fauna and more than 50 different varieties of birds on the hiking trails. Experience another natural wonder when the sun sets by booking a nighttime kayak tour of the nearby bioluminescent bay and watch the marine microorganisms light up like underwater stars as you paddle through.