Every year, millions flock to Hilton Head, a barrier island off the southern shores of South Carolina. It’s been that way for decades now, and the place has developed something of an old-money reputation, between the beach homes, golf courses and marinas for retirees and snowbirds from up north. There’s also a booming vacation-rental market, and it can be overwhelming to pick between hotels, all-inclusive resorts and a weekend townhome. Read on for our favorite picks of the best hotels and vacation rentals on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. And book your break with Culture Trip.
The cartoon charm of Disney takes root on the South Carolina coast at this special waterfront resort, styled after a 1940s hunting and fishing lodge. Studios and villas are spacious, with views of the inlet or the surrounding forest, and stylish interior details include sage-green wood paneling, floral bed runners and marbled kitchenettes, making each accommodation feel like a home away from home. The resort offers a shuttle service to the Beach House 1mi (1.6km) away – here, you’ll get prime beach access and Disney favorites including Mickey-shaped pretzels.
Marriott’s SurfWatch is a beachside resort that’s perfect for extended stays – choose between two- and three-bedroom villas big enough for eight to 12 guests, plus full kitchens, separate living areas and in-unit washers and dryers. Guests tend to stick around at SurfWatch – some rooms have ocean views, others of the winding garden and lake in the middle of the hotel grounds. At Burkes Beach, the hotel’s Sea Salts Beverage Company bar serves up cleverly named drinks like the Lowcountry Lemonade, Marshside Mule and Atlantic Breeze – lie back and luxuriate.
Want the excitement of the beach without the hassle of dealing with the crowds? Try this five-bedroom, five-bath condo in a secluded spot right off the shore, with a short, private path leading to the ocean. The property is tailor-made for large groups – it sleeps up to 16 guests – and it’ll never feel cramped, what with its spacious living areas, industrial-size kitchen and outdoor lounging spots by the pool. Attractive details, including floor-to-ceiling beadboard, cushy couches and attached balconies, make rooms feel open and airy, too.
The posh Omni Hilton Head resort is part of Palmetto Dunes, a resort and vacation rental community with 11mi (18km) of lagoon, bike trails, tennis and pickleball courts and three golf courses. The 300-plus studio suites move beyond your typical sand-and-seashells decor, with touches such as tufted floral headboards and chevron curtains, along with mini-kitchens and unbeatable views of the beach or lagoon from the balconies. Don’t miss dinner at HH Prime, one of the hotel’s nine dining options, for dishes made with locally caught seafood, say, low country she-crab soup, shrimp and grits, and Atlantic salmon.
This two-bed, one-and-a-half bath condo is conveniently located off one of the island’s main intersections and just a few steps from the beach. Palm-print bedspreads, floral wallpaper and black-and-white diamond tiles add punches of color and style to the place, which sleeps up to four. The complex also has additional benefits, among them an outdoor pool and tennis courts, along with bike trails that lead to Coligny Plaza, a nearby shopping center with restaurants. There, dine at Skillets Café & Grill, an all-day breakfast bistro, or the Sandbar, which mixes Southern and Caribbean comfort foods.
Why settle for a hulking anonymous chain hotel when you can settle in at the Sea Pines Resort, a boutique spot with just 60 guest rooms? Suites are elegant, with two-poster beds, sleek ottomans and ample lighting. All stays are tailored to each individual’s needs, which explains perks including customized water bottles, daily coffee-and-tea service and complimentary shoe-shine services. A short drive from the beach, the resort is close to one of the island’s main thoroughfares and local dining spots.
You can breeze right onto Shipyard Beach from this 340-room resort, where you’ll probably have a space overlooking the surf or the lagoon-style walk-in pool below. The hotel’s interiors are fun and punchy, with pops of bright red contrasted with rich suedes and leathers. Heyward’s, the resort restaurant, is the place to be come dinnertime – think hush puppies, fried green tomatoes and Florida grouper served with lobster cream sauce. Don’t miss the spa, either, for some impressive treatments – not least the tropical coconut milk and nut oil body scrub or island-inspired packages to pep you up from head to toe.