Why go on vacation when you could live on vacation?
Island living isn’t just for socialites and lottery winners. We found some surprisingly affordable island homes (OK, and a few pricey ones) that could make you start dialing your real estate agent with one hand while grabbing your surfboard with the other.
Life is beautiful in Volcano Village, a town on the Big Island that’s home to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. In addition to living near (but not too near) the famed lava flows, craters, and Kilauea Volcano, you’ll be neighbors with a rainforest where you’ll find ginger growing wild alongside the dirt roads. The local vibe is rustic and artsy: There’s a large number of artists living here (like the award-winning painter Gail Duituturaga), and the after-dark nature walks at Volcano Arts Center are a popular community activity. In addition to paint brushes, you’ll also want to bring something else to fit into the neighborhood: A car—96 percent of residents get around by driving, according to our What Locals Say survey.
This one-bedroom, one-bathroom cabin backs up to the Olaa Forest Reserve, surrounding the property with lush greenery you can enjoy right from the front porch of the petite home. Who needs more than 490 square feet inside when you’re sitting on a quarter-acre of paradise?
Mustang-Padre Island is the kind of laid-back town where visitors become locals. (And, in the case of one local, a year turned into a plan to “stay here for a very long time.”1) Recreation is practically a full-time job here, whether you want to spend the day at a waterpark (the Schlitterbahn Riverpark), surfing at Whitecap Beach, or even take a horseback riding outing on the sand (it’s possible at Horses on the Beach, a stable with shore-loving horses). If you prefer a slightly wilder experience, the Mustang Island State Park to the north and Padre Island National Seashore gets you closer to nature. One local2 says the turtle releases on the beach are not to be missed.
This two-bedroom, three-bathroom townhome takes the permanent vacation idea one step further: It’s right on the grounds of Nemo Cay Resort. The home’s open concept living room has plenty of space for entertaining the guests who will be flying in from everywhere to visit.
The San Juan Islands in Washington offer island living for people more at home in a light fleece than a swimsuit. Unspoiled forest covers much of the land, especially on Stuart Island, one of the northernmost islands in the archipelago. Technically, it’s a state park—and though it’s a separate island from the town of Friday Harbor, it still shares the same name and ZIP. While you won’t find bars and restaurants here, you will find two things: Dogs (90 percent of locals say Friday Harbor is dog-friendly) and fishing (the island is near Canadian fishing waters). Instead of a Saturday out on the town, residents take to hiking trails, kayaks, boats, or their golf carts to explore nature.
This three-bedroom, two-bath home immerses you in wildlife without sacrificing creature comforts. Everything from furniture to an inflatable dingy is included. All you have to bring is a book and your fishing gear.
Famous for having some of the best shell-collecting beaches in the country, the island of Sanibel has a much more peaceful vibe than other famous Florida beach towns. (Residents vouch for this, with 82 percent of locals describing Sanibel as quiet.) The side on the Gulf is where you’ll find a handful of upscale resorts and hotels, while the bay side is mainly residential. These “zones” are divided by Periwinkle Way, where you’ll find most of the bars, cafes, entertainment, and shopping options. In other words, you can easily avoid tourists when you need to—or join in on the fun whenever you want. At the Lazy Flamingo, locals and visitors frequently get acquainted over a beer and some of the island’s best seafood.
This three-bedroom, three-bathroom home calls The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club its home. The interior was designed to be flooded with sunlight during the day, but the best spot in the home is actually on the screened lanai that runs the length of the front of the house.
Named for a group of Bahamians who settled in Key West in the early 1800s, Bahama Village is a lively stretch of Key West with pastel buildings and an enduring sense of history. (The tropical plants and many of the old structures can be traced back to the neighborhood’s earliest residents.) You can eat at a restaurant that was once a boxing ring where Hemingway liked to referee (Blue Heaven, where reservations are a must) or take part in the yearly Goombay Festival, a tribute to the neighborhood’s Caribbean roots. While it’s a neighborhood that can attract travelers, the authentic character of Bahama Village gives residents a genuine neighborhood vibe.
This petite two-bedroom, two-bathroom home is a beautiful example of one of the area’s historic “cigar maker’s cottages.” (It’s also three blocks north of the southernmost point of the continental United States.) While the exterior has antique charm, the interior has been updated to fit modern-day needs.
Located across the bay from San Diego, Coronado feels like a small town that just happens to overlook a major city. One What Locals Say respondent described Coronado as “so safe a child could ride his bike home.”3 Main Street is Orange Avenue, a palm tree-lined boulevard home to businesses like the family-friendly Coronado Brewing Company and the retro Village Theater. On weekends, head to the ocean-side of the island to enjoy the white sand of the Coronado Beach and Dog Park.
This two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo on Orange Avenue stands out for its unique curb appeal. The unusual architecture gives the loft-like interior interesting focal points like an open staircase and a vaulted ceiling in the master bathroom.
As the largest island in South Carolina, you’d expect Johns Island to be filled with all sorts of tourist activity. Instead, it has a largely residential character with a handful of restaurants. The scenery is classic Low Country, with marshes and magnificent old trees—like the Angel Oak, a famous landmark that stands 65 feet tall and dates back 1,500 years by some estimates. So, it’s not really surprising at all that 100 percent of locals described Johns Island as “quiet.”
Positioned in a more remote corner of the island, you’ll feel like you own the whole thing in this four-bedroom, five-bathroom home. Secluded from the main roads, the truly impressive house includes flourishes created by Charleston artisans, six porches, an elevator, and an all-important grilling deck.
Ready to find your own place in paradise? See what’s available in your favorite neighborhood right here, on Trulia.
1 Rebeccajo2010, August 2018: “I have lived here over 2 years with the intent to stay only one year. I love this area so much, I have decided to stay here for a very long time. I love the laid back atmosphere, with the business world so chaotic. It is so nice to come home to paradise 🌴💕 “
2 Rebeccajo2010, October, 2018: “Turtle releases are always amazing. The beach to bay is an event I look forward to every year. The Bob Hall Pier has local bands that play great music and they have delicious food and friendly service.”
3 Ellee, 2011: “Very clean and nice. the beach is beautiful also! so safe a 3rd grader could ride his bike home. a lot of traffiic.”