Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Filed Under: Resorts, South Carolina

Many people are familiar with the coastal islands off North Carolina, but fewer are privy to the coastal islands of South Carolina. Kiawah Island is one of these hidden gems, loaded with 10 miles of pristine beaches and approximately 10,000 acres of natural woodlands. Located only 21 miles from Charleston, SC, Kiawah offers sun, sand and a short drive to a city chock-full of Southern charm.

Kiawah Island is privately owned and is home to a well-designed beach resort with amenities and activities to meet the needs of the entire family. Most of the beach is private and access is limited to resort guests, with the exception of the island's Beachwalker State Park, which offers public parking, lifeguards and restrooms.

It's a paradise not only for beach lovers, but also for golfers, tennis players and nature buffs. There are 5 championship golf courses that are well known throughout the golf community and that were put on the map by many a professional tour, including the Ryder Cup, which has been played on these greens. And Kiawah golf isn't just for the pros - resort staff offer workshops and classes for players of all levels. Tennis players will be equally pleased to find the resort's selection of clay and hard courts as well as clinics and mini-camps for adults and children. The resort's 21-acre Night Heron Park has sand volleyball, basketball and soccer, in addition to nature programs and fishing. Walking and paddling tours give insight into the island wildlife, which includes alligators, loggerhead turtles, snakes, lizards and a variety of bird species.

The Kiawah beach stretches as far as the eye can see and the warm weather keeps the water temperature comfortable from April through October. And during the cooler months, there are plenty of pools to choose from. Those visitors able to tear themselves away from the beach or greens for a day can head to nearby Charleston to take in the culture, shopping and Southern charm of this popular South Carolina city.


5 of 5
A wide range of children's and family activities keep the whole brood busy.
4 of 5
The water is clean and warm from April through October, and generally calm.
4 of 5
The dunes break the wind on the beach and provide a beautiful background; however, the beach narrows to a wide ribbon during high tide.
5 of 5
Kiawah is an idyllic setting offering the best of beach, sport and proximity to a nearby city.
Non-Beach Activities
5 of 5
There is something for everyone on either the resort or in nearby Charleston.

Where to Stay

Best Luxurious Inn
Planters Inn
Web Site:
Only 30 minutes from Kiawah Island, in the heart of historic Charleston, is the stately Planters Inn. A luxurious choice for vacationers who prefer to spend their days on the beach and their nights in the city, this inn showcases Southern civility and Old World charm at its finest. Start the day with breakfast in bed served on fine silver and then set off to explore the city - just blocks from the Battery, Old Market, Waterfront Park, historic mansions and fine antique shops. Looking to make a royal splurge? Check into the Proprietors Suite, which features a king-size, 4-poster bed covered in a canopy along with a whirlpool bath and living room decorated with antiques and original art.

Best Family Hotel
Villas at Kiawah Island Resorts
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Afraid a hotel environment might cramp your family's vacationing style? Enjoy the amenities and luxuries offered by the Kiawah Island Resorts while staying in one of the island's vacation villas. Located throughout the island, these cottages range in size from 1 bedroom to 4 bedrooms. All maintain a homey feel - some even offer a screened-in porch and fireplace. Villas at the West Beach Village are located in the center of the action, near the Inn, shops and restaurants, while East Beach Village is located in a quieter location near Night Heron Park. Each village offers cottages that provide the view of your choice - oceanside, poolside or just a few putts away from one of the resort's golf courses.

Most Romantic Inn
Two Meeting Street
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Entering Charleston's South of Broad neighborhood, you may think you've stumbled into a stage set for Gone with the Wind. Nestled within a landscape of lush gardens and fragrant flowers, Two Meeting Street may be a drive from Kiawah Island but one that is well worth it. Romance is certainly in the air, which is no irony - the inn was a wedding gift from father to daughter when it was built in 1892. Owned and operated by the same family since 1946, the inn offers up Southern hospitality in each of the nine uniquely decorated rooms.

Food & Drink
Where to Eat

Best Oceanside Fine Dining
The Atlantic Room
Web Site:
To end a perfect day at the beach with a perfectly planned out evening, enjoy a fine seafood feast while taking in sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. At the Atlantic Room, located in the Kiawah Island Resort complex, seafood creations are the main draw, including crab cakes, raw oysters and daily specials. Folks who prefer something other than fish can enjoy beef dishes and other Southern specialties. An added bonus - Sunday Champagne Brunch offers all of this and more served up buffet-style.

Best Dining in Charleston
82 Queen Street
Web Site:
Enjoy a meal of Lowcountry classics on the brick patio or in one of seven formal dining rooms in this Old Charleston setting. Serving upscale dishes, 82 Queen Street offers everything from seafood specials to fried green tomatoes and grits. The She Crab soup is award-winning, and the Key Lime pie receives rave reviews every time!

What to Do

Best Kid Stuff
Kamp Kiawah
Web Site:
Kamp Kiawah - a mini daycamp for children 3 to 11 located in Night Heron Park - is a dream for parents and children alike. Supervised by Kiawah Resort program staff, Kamp Kiawah offers children something new each day. Different activities include tie-dye day, crabbing excursions, sand sculpting, and a wild day of water games and activities known as "Splashtastic Day." There are both half-day and full-day programs available that let children interact with one another while taking advantage of all the resort has to offer. For older kids, there are teen programs during the week run by the resort's college interns.

Best Golf
The Ocean Course
Web Site:
Pro or amateur, all players feel like stars when playing the well-known Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. Renowned architect Pete Dye designed these greens, which were the setting for the 1991 Ryder Cup. Golf aficionados may recognize this course as the site of the legendary "War by the Shore," which also took place in 1991, when the Americans reclaimed the Cup from the Europeans after 6 years. But beware - Golf Digest bestowed the title of "America's Toughest Resort Course" on the Ocean Course for good reason.

Best Nature Experience
Island Paddling Tours
Web Site:
Kiawah Island is not only known for its beach, but also for its diverse ecosystems, which include marshland and a variety of wildlife. Take in this beauty while gliding through the water and reeds in a canoe or kayak. There are plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with fish, birds, turtles and other wildlife. A variety of trips offer tours by kayak or canoe of the marsh, back rivers, ocean and even the secluded Botany Island. Check the age limitations for various trips - most require teens to be 16 years or older, though in some cases children 12 years of age or older may attend with an adult.

Best Rainy Day Activity
South Carolina Aquarium
Web Site:
If rain ruins a day at the beach, head to Charleston for shopping, culture and a trip to the new aquarium. It's divided into different sections that reflect the geography of South Carolina - the mountain forest, the Piedmont, the coastal plain, the coast and, of course, the ocean. Special programs educate guests about reptiles, local wildlife and the survival tactics of certain animals living in the wild. For younger guests, aquarium staff tells stories about animals during "Animal Tales," while older guests can inquire about the animals in the ocean tank and get the inside scoop on their eating habits. Finally, children will love the hands-on discovery tank, where they can meet the ocean critters they've been swimming with in the Atlantic.

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