For photos of Hilton Head, and the Endless Summer villa (pictured, and mentioned below), visit our slideshow.
When you ask the locals about things to do in Hilton Head, the South Carolina island community that's overhung with Spanish moss and filled with quiet gated communities, you'll get an honest answer: not much. And that's what's good about it. While other beach destinations boast of their noisy nightlife, amusement parks, and crowded boardwalks, Hilton Head offers a different kind of vacation. That is – a purely relaxing one. Visitors wile away the summer months golfing, soaking up the sun, biking on tree-shaded paths, and enjoying the island's casual restaurants.
And while the island offers plenty of great hotels for visitors who want maid service and meals out – the excellent, newly-renovated Sonesta Resort or the Westin come to mind – vacation rental properties are the area's most ubiquitous form of lodging. The variety among these properties is endless, with everything from shaded bungalows in the wooded parts of the island to expansive oceanfront mansions. There are homes that suit large groups of friends, honeymooning couples, and families with kids. The other benefit with having so many options? There are choices for every budget. Here's just a sampling of what's available from Resort Rentals, one of Hilton Head's largest vacation rental companies. You can also browse more rentals on HomeAway, FlipKey, Airbnb, Wyndham Vacation Rentals and a number of other locally-based companies.
The Luxury Villa for a Big Crowd
Property Name: Endless Summer
Details: 8-bedroom, 9.5-bath luxury villa on the beach
This luxury property has so many bedrooms that you might lose count. Plus, it has an expansive living room, an outdoor patio with a fireplace, a swimming pool and jacuzzi, and a balcony with sun chairs off the master bedroom. And that's without even mentioning its location directly on the beach. This might sound outrageous, but if you're looking for a swank getaway with a big group of people, this type of accommodation can actually be reasonably affordable. While it easily goes for $25,000 for a weeklong stay at the height of summer, it costs under $10,000 in the comfortable shoulder-season months of May and September. Divide that by 16 people, and it's about $90 per person, per night. As long as you're not hiring a private chef for the week (a feasible option when you see the sparkling, stainless-steel kitchen), this rental can be had at an affordable rate if you book ahead.
Cost: About $10,000 per week in shoulder season; $25,000 in summer high season; $7,000 per week in winter low season
The Secluded Bungalow for a Family
Property Name: Hideaway
Details: 3-bedroom, 3.5-bath bungalow home that's a short ride to the beach; sleeps eight
This tree-encircled ranch houses offers a great place for a family to crash for a low-key getaway. A wide back deck is home to a hot tub and a swimming pool, so you won't even have to drive to the beach for a quick dip. And even if you do crave surf and sand, it's just a 5-minute ride away. The master bedroom has a jacuzzi. The living room has a wide-screen TV. What more could you ask for?
Cost: Up to $3,000 per week in summer high season; $1700-$1800 in shoulder season; $1600 in low season
The (Girlfriend/Guys/Couples) Retreat by the Beach
Property Name: Shangri-La
Details: 3-bedroom, 3-bath home that's located three houses from the beach; sleeps eight
This comfortable ranch home sleeps up to eight people, and while it may not feel as sleek as some of the others, it has two major things going for it: It's situated three houses from the beach, and it's relatively affordable. If you're with a group that needs to be in the waves all day long but can't necessarily spring for the oceanfront villa, this is a great alternative. An attractive pool deck, complete with a jacuzzi and an outdoor table and chairs for an evening barbecue, is a nice bonus. Plus, if you need to get into town, it's within easy biking distance.
Cost: $3300 per week in summer high season; $2000-$2500 in shoulder season; $1600 in low season