For a relaxing beach getaway, the South Carolina barrier island of Kiawah doesn't come to mind nearly as often as we think it deserves. It's home to 10 miles of sand, 30 miles of trails, and activities like beach yoga, evening concerts, and even gator tours. Onshore, Kiawah Island Golf Resort is essentially the only hotel travelers can check into, but never fear -- with 11 restaurants, three pools, a spa, and five golf courses, the resort offers enough amenities that you won't want to stray far. Here, your guide to the island:What to Do
The Heron Park Nature Center is the first stop to explore the resort’s nature program , which offers everything from birding for beginners to gator walks. Most tours last one hour and cost $10-$20 per person. For a more active day, take a stand-up paddleboard tour from Mingo Point or rent bicycles to explore the cyprus tree-lined trails that crisscross the island. Not in the mood for sand between your toes? The resort has four pools (including an adults only pool at the Tennis Club) to cool off on a hot day. Even the most serious adults will want to take a ride down one of the slides at Night Heron Children’s Pool.
Where to Splurge
There's something to be said about pampering yourself, especially while you're at the beach. One of the best ways is with a spa treatment at the Spa at the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. Whether you swing the clubs or not, the Golf Ball Massage (you guessed it, using golf balls) is a must to work out knots ($185 for 60 minutes). If you plan to spend any time at the beach, a favorite splurge is having beach chairs, towels, and a beach umbrella delivered to you by the resort’s beach services team. For $25 per day, or $100 for one week, you can walk to the beach with only a hat, sunscreen, and a great book.
Where to Eat
Cherrywood BBQ & Ale House serves up a plate of brisket with golf course and lagoon views, often speckled with gators sunning themselves in the late afternoon and early evening. Just a few minutes outside the resort gates, Lokal Seabar at Bohicket Marina on John’s Island is a great choice for lunch or dinner. You can’t go wrong with oysters, fish tacos, or shrimp and grits as you sip a margarita while boats float down the river.
Where to Stay
You don't need to throw your entire budget out the window to stay in one of the premier or private homes on the island. Guests can choose from one of 255 hotel rooms in the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort or from a variety of resort villas scattered along the property. We love homes the Turtle Cove Villas, which offer a central location to the beach, tennis, and golf courses and views of ponds (maybe gators, too). These condo-style homes provide an affordable way to have everything you need for a week at the beach, including a fully stocked kitchens and laundry. Prices start at $199 per night for a one-bedroom scenic villa, depending on the season.