Best Things to Do in Kiawah Island – Beach, Golf, Activities, Resorts, Day Tours, and Best Time to Visit

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Unveiling the captivating charm of Kiawah Island, South Carolina, unveils an unexpected paradise. Think sun-kissed trails that meander through untamed beauty, pristine beaches whispering tales of the Atlantic, and a wildlife encounter that gets your heart racing – all this and more make Kiawah Island an unforgettable escape.

Best Things to do in Kiawah Island
Best Things to do in Kiawah Island

And let’s not forget the irresistible Southern cuisine that seduces the senses. As a must-visit destination, this island extends an invitation for exploration, relaxation, and taste sensation beyond compare.

So buckle up, as we journey through the enchanting locales and discover the diverse ‘Things to do in Kiawah Island’ – a treasure chest waiting to be opened.

Enjoy the Kiawah Island Beach

Kiawah Island has 10 miles of wide sandy beaches that are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, surfing, kayaking, fishing, or just strolling along the shore.

The beach is also home to many wildlife species, such as sea turtles, dolphins, pelicans, and sandpipers. You can join a naturalist-led tour to learn more about the ecology and history of the island’s coastline.

One of my favorite memories from Kiawah Island was watching the sunrise over the ocean from my balcony.

The colors were stunning and the sound of the waves was soothing. I felt so peaceful and grateful to be there.

Play Golf

Kiawah Island is a golfer’s paradise, with five world-class courses designed by renowned architects such as Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Gary Player, and Clyde Johnston.

Each course offers a different challenge and scenery, from the oceanfront Ocean Course that hosted the 2021 PGA Championship to the marshland Osprey Point Course, to the woodland Turtle Point Course. 

You can book a tee time online or through the resort’s concierge service.

I’m not a very good golfer, but I enjoyed playing at the Cougar Point Course with my friends.

The course was scenic and well-maintained, and the staff was friendly and helpful. We had a lot of fun trying to avoid the water hazards and bunkers.

Explore Nature

Kiawah Island is rich in natural beauty and biodiversity, with 123 acres of parks and 30 miles of hiking and biking trails.

You can rent a bike from the resort’s recreation center and explore the island at your own pace, or join a guided tour to discover the island’s flora and fauna. 

You can also visit the Heron Park Nature Center to learn more about the island’s wildlife and conservation efforts.

One of the highlights of my trip was taking a kayak tour through the salt marshes.

I saw many birds, fish, crabs, and even an alligator. The guide was very knowledgeable and explained how the marshes function as a vital ecosystem.

It was an amazing experience.

Visit Historical Sites

Kiawah Island has a rich and fascinating history that dates back to the 17th century when it was inhabited by the Kiawah Indians who helped the English colonists settle in Charleston.

You can visit some of the historical sites on the island, such as the Bass Pond Site which was once a plantation and rice mill, or the Arnoldus Vander Horst House which was built in 1803 and served as a summer residence for several prominent families. 

You can also take a day trip to Charleston to see more historical attractions, such as Fort Sumter, Rainbow Row, and Magnolia Plantation.

I love history, so I was very interested in learning more about Kiawah Island’s past. I visited the Arnoldus Vander Horst House and was impressed by its architecture and furnishings.

I also learned that it was used as a hospital during the Civil War and as a hunting lodge in the 20th century.

Enjoy Dining and Shopping

Kiawah Island has a variety of dining options to suit every taste and budget.

You can enjoy fine dining at The Ocean Room or The Atlantic Room, casual dining at Cherrywood BBQ or Jasmine Porch, or grab-and-go options at Beaches & Cream or Southern Kitchen. 

You can also sample local specialties such as shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, or pecan pie.

I loved eating at The Ocean Room, which is the only steakhouse in the U.S. to earn both Forbes Four Star and AAA Four Diamond ratings.

The food was delicious and the service was impeccable. I also liked browsing through the shops at Freshfields Village, which is a charming shopping center that offers everything from clothing and jewelry to art and souvenirs.

How to Reach Kiawah Island

You can reach Kiawah Island by car or by public transport.

By car

If you are driving from Charleston, take US-17 south for about 15 miles until you reach Main Road (State Road S-10-20).

Turn left onto Main Road and follow it for about 7 miles until you reach Betsy Kerrison Parkway (State Road S-10-857).

Turn right onto Betsy Kerrison Parkway and follow it for about 10 miles until you reach the Kiawah Island Parkway (State Road S-10-1600).

Turn left onto Kiawah Island Parkway and follow it for about 3 miles until you reach the security gate. 

You will need to show your reservation confirmation or rental agreement to enter the island.

If you are driving from other directions, you can use Google Maps to get the best route and traffic information.

By public transport

If you are taking public transport from Charleston, you can take the CARTA bus route 31 Folly Road to the Freshfields Village stop, which is about 4 miles from the island.

From there, you can take a taxi, Uber, or Lyft to the island. You can also arrange a shuttle service with the resort’s transportation department.

The bus fare is $2 per ride or $7 for a day pass. You can pay with cash or use the Transit app to buy tickets online. The bus runs every hour from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.

You can check the schedule and route map on the CARTA website.

Tips to Make Your Trip to Kiawah Island Easy and Rewarding

Here are some tips that can help you make the most of your trip to Kiawah Island:

  • Plan ahead: Kiawah Island is a popular destination, especially during peak seasons such as spring and summer. It is advisable to book your accommodation, golf tee times, dining reservations, and activities in advance to avoid disappointment. You can use the resort’s website or app to make your arrangements online or call the resort’s concierge service for assistance.
  • Pack smart: Kiawah Island has a mild climate year-round, but it can get hot and humid in the summer and chilly and windy in the winter. It is recommended to pack layers of clothing that are comfortable and suitable for the weather and activities you plan to do. You should also bring sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, insect repellent, water bottles, and snacks for your outdoor adventures.
  • Respect nature: Kiawah Island is a natural paradise that is home to many wildlife species that are protected by law. You should respect their habitat and keep a safe distance from them. You should also follow the rules and regulations of the island, such as not feeding or harassing the animals, not littering or leaving trash behind, not driving on the beach or dunes, and not using fireworks or drones.
  • Have fun: Kiawah Island has something for everyone, whether you are looking for relaxation, recreation, or education. You can enjoy the beach, golf, nature, history, dining, shopping, or any combination of them. You can also explore other nearby attractions such as Charleston, Folly Beach, or Edisto Island. Whatever you choose to do, have fun and make memories that will last a lifetime

Details about Kiawah Island Beach

Kiawah Island Beach is one of the main attractions of the island. It is a 10-mile stretch of sand that runs along the eastern shore of the island.

Kiawah Island Beach is divided into five sections: East Beach Village, Night Heron Park, West Beach Village, Osprey Point Golf Course, and The Ocean Course.

Each section in Kiawah Island Beach has its own characteristics and amenities:

  • East Beach Village: This is the closest section to Freshfields Village and has easy access to shops, restaurants, and services. It also has a boardwalk that leads to The Sanctuary Hotel and Spa, which offers luxury accommodation and dining options.
  • Night Heron Park: This is the central section of the beach and has a large park that hosts many events and activities throughout the year. It also has a nature center that offers educational programs and tours for visitors of all ages.
  • West Beach Village: This is the westernmost section of the beach and has a quieter and more secluded atmosphere. It also has a golf course that is undergoing renovation and will reopen in 2022.
  • Osprey Point Golf Course: This section is located between West Beach Village and The Ocean Course and has a scenic golf course that overlooks the marshes and lagoons.
  • The Ocean Course: This section is located at the eastern end of the island and has one of the most challenging and prestigious golf courses in the world. It also has stunning views of the ocean and hosts major tournaments such as the PGA Championship.

Activities at Kiawah Island Beach

Kiawah Island Beach offers many activities and facilities for visitors to enjoy:

  • Swimming: The water temperature ranges from 55°F in January to 85°F in August. The waves are usually gentle but can get rougher during storms or high tides. There are lifeguards on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day at designated areas along the beach.
  • Surfing: The best spots for surfing are near The Ocean Course or near Beachwalker County Park at the southern tip of the island. The waves are usually small and gentle but can get bigger and rougher during storms or high tides. You can rent a surfboard from Island Bike & Surf Shop or take a surf lesson from Carolina Salt Surf Lessons or Tidal Trails.

I tried surfing for the first time in Kiawah Island and it was a lot of fun. The instructor was very patient and friendly, and taught me the basics of paddling, standing up, and balancing on the board. I managed to catch a few waves and felt a rush of adrenaline.

  • Kayaking: Kayaking is a great way to explore the waterways and marshes of Kiawah Island. You can rent a kayak from the resort’s recreation center or join a guided tour to see the wildlife and scenery of the island. You can choose from different types of kayaks, such as single, tandem, or fishing kayaks. You can also opt for a sunset or moonlight kayak tour for a more romantic and magical experience.

I loved kayaking through the salt marshes with my partner. We saw many birds, fish, crabs, and even an alligator. The guide was very knowledgeable and explained how the marshes function as a vital ecosystem. It was an amazing experience.

  • Fishing: Fishing is another popular activity on Kiawah Island. You can fish from the beach, the pier, or a boat. You can catch a variety of fish species, such as red drum, flounder, trout, sheepshead, shark, or tarpon. You can rent fishing equipment from the resort’s recreation center or join a fishing charter to get expert guidance and access to prime fishing spots. You can also participate in fishing tournaments or clinics to test your skills and learn new tips and tricks.

I enjoyed fishing from the pier with my kids. We caught some flounder and sheepshead that we cooked for dinner later. It was a fun and rewarding activity that we all liked.

Day Tours from Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island is a great base for exploring other nearby attractions in South Carolina. You can take a day tour from Kiawah Island to visit some of these places:

  • Charleston: Charleston is a historic and charming city that is only 25 miles away from Kiawah Island. You can take a tour bus or drive yourself to Charleston and spend a day exploring its landmarks, museums, gardens, shops, and restaurants. You can also take a carriage ride, a boat cruise, or a ghost tour to see different aspects of the city. Some of the must-see attractions in Charleston are Fort Sumter, Rainbow Row, Magnolia Plantation, The Battery, and The Market.
  • Folly Beach: Folly Beach is a fun and laid-back beach town that is about 20 miles away from Kiawah Island. You can take a tour bus or drive yourself to Folly Beach and enjoy its sandy beach, pier, lighthouse, surf shops, bars, and cafes. You can also try some water sports such as surfing, paddle boarding, jet skiing, or parasailing. Some of the popular spots in Folly Beach are The Washout, Folly Beach County Park, Morris Island Lighthouse, and Center Street.
  • Edisto Island: Edisto Island is a peaceful and scenic island that is about 40 miles away from Kiawah Island. You can take a tour bus or drive yourself to Edisto Island and experience its natural beauty, wildlife, history, and culture. You can visit some of the attractions on the island, such as Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area, Edisto Island Serpentarium, Edisto Island Museum, and Edisto Beach State Park. You can also enjoy some activities on the island, such as biking, fishing, kayaking, and beachcombing.

I was amazed by the beauty of Botany Bay Plantation. It was like stepping back in time to see the old plantation house, the slave cabins, the rice fields, and the ancient oak trees. I also saw some deer, egrets, and pelicans on the property.

Consider reading: Best Things to Do in Folly Beach

I also liked visiting the Edisto Island Serpentarium and seeing hundreds of snakes and other reptiles. It was very educational and entertaining.

Best Resorts on Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island has several resorts that offer comfortable and luxurious accommodations for visitors. Some of the best resorts on Kiawah Island are:

Hotel NameThe Sanctuary HotelKiawah Island Golf Resort VillasAndell Inn
LocationBeachfront of Kiawah IslandDifferent areas of Kiawah IslandFreshfields Village, Kiawah Island
Star RatingFive-starPrivate villasBoutique hotel
Number of Rooms255 rooms and suitesVaries (1 to 4 bedrooms)100 rooms and suites
Room/Suite FeaturesElegantly decoratedFully furnishedModern and chic
Best Resorts on Kiawah Island

Best Time to Visit Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island is a year-round destination that has something to offer in every season. However, depending on your preferences and budget, you may want to choose a specific time to visit Kiawah Island.

Here are some factors to consider when planning your trip to Kiawah Island:

  • Weather: Kiawah Island has a mild climate that is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. The average temperature ranges from 55°F in January to 82°F in July. The average precipitation ranges from 2 inches in November to 7 inches in August. The island is prone to hurricanes from June to November, but they are rare and usually mild.
  • Crowds: Kiawah Island is most crowded during peak seasons such as spring (March-May) and summer (June-August), when many families and golfers visit the island for vacations or tournaments. The island is less crowded during off-seasons such as fall (September-November) and winter (December-February) when many visitors come for relaxation or events such as Thanksgiving or Christmas.
  • Prices: Kiawah Island is most expensive during peak seasons such as spring and summer, when the demand for accommodation, golf tee times, dining reservations, and activities is high. The island is less expensive during off-seasons such as fall and winter when the supply exceeds the demand and many deals or discounts are available.

Based on these factors, the best time to visit Kiawah Island depends on what you are looking for:

  • If you are looking for warm weather, sunny days, beach activities, golf tournaments, and family fun, and don’t mind crowds or high prices, then spring or summer is the best time for you.
  • If you are looking for cool weather, colorful foliage, nature walks, historical tours, and cultural events, and don’t mind some rain or low prices, then fall or winter is the best time for you.

Closing Thoughts on Things to Do in Kiawah Island

Catching the rhythmic whisper of the Atlantic breeze on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, I fell in love. This secluded sanctuary, rich in natural beauty and Southern charm, is a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered.

From the sun-dappled biking trails that left my cheeks flushed with delight, to the tranquil beaches where I imprinted memories in the warm sand, Kiawah Island is an oasis of leisure.

I tasted culinary delights in quaint, tucked-away restaurants, and even dared a thrilling encounter with alligators on a kayak tour! Believe me, Kiawah Island has a lot to offer that can’t be explained, only experienced.

So come on, folks, let’s immerse ourselves in the untold stories and captivating allure of Kiawah Island. It’s time to unravel the things to do in this paradisiacal playground that captivates all who step foot on its beautiful, sun-kissed shores.

Ready? Let’s go!

FAQs on Things to Do in Kiawah Island

Why is Kiawah Island so expensive?

Kiawah Island is known for its luxury and relaxation, which contributes to the higher prices. With a focus on high-end accommodations, dining, and activities, the island offers fewer options overall. This exclusivity and attention to detail result in a higher price point for visitors.

Does anyone famous live on Kiawah Island?

Yes, famous celebrities including Dan Marino, Richard Gere, Reese Witherspoon, George Clooney, Bruce Willis, and more have either owned or resided on Kiawah Island, one of the most sought-after destinations in South Carolina. However, joining the Kiawah Island Club is not mandatory for property owners.

What is the best month to go to Kiawah?

The best month to go to Kiawah Island is September to October. During this time, the weather is perfect for enjoying unique experiences and escaping the daily routine. The days are pleasantly warm, while the nights offer a refreshing coolness. Take advantage of this autumn getaway for a truly memorable vacation.

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