Hilton Head, a small island off the coast of South Carolina, could be classified as the biggest travel secret everyone already knows about. While many people have heard of it, and a good amount of those are loyal visitors, few are familiar with what the island has become following a recent renaissance.
Hotels and restaurants
The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa and the Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island both recently completed $30 million in renovations, updating their rooms, grounds and amenities.At the Westin, guests get access to three golf courses, three pools, tennis courts and the first Heavenly Spa in the continental United States. The Sonesta has added the Arum Spa to its 11 semi-tropical acres, including a 1,650-square-foot oceanfront deck and a 10,000-square-foot ballroom.
The island’s boom can be measured by culinary changes as well. Top-tier restaurants have cropped up, ranging from trendy steak and seafood places like WiseGuys to higher-end venues like HH Prime. For casual, beachy bites, visit Bomboras Grille, and don’t miss a stop at the hidden gem Jazz Corner for live music and a delectable multi-course dinner.
Back to nature
All that being said, amazing hotels and outstanding food can be found throughout America. So what makes Hilton Head stand out? A signature feature that’s been strictly preserved is the environment itself.
Wildlife, coast lines and plant life are protected and cannot be encroached upon by new developments, making the limited spaces for development exclusive and competitive — to the benefit of residents and travellers alike. It also means the island will never be turned into a commercialized commodity where strip malls line the waterfront and high-rises block the view.
For the ultimate nature experience, visit Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, which offers over 4,000 acres of intact marsh and maritime habitats.
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Another reason for the island’s appeal is how convenient it is to reach. For example, New Yorkers and Bostonians started flocking down when JetBlue began offering two-hour express flights from both of those hubs to Savannah/Hilton Head Airport in February 2014.
You’ll need to arrange transportation between the airport and your hotel, but having a car to get around between the island’s beaches, restaurants and other activities is going to make the trip a lot easieroverall. The drive is a swift scoot along highways for just under an hour.
When to go
Summer, of course, is prime time for an island getaway. However, this is also when the hotels have their highest rates and the beaches get overrun with tourists. To get a more intimate feel for the island, we recommend going in spring or fall. The weather will still be beautiful (it’s the South, after all), and some of the island’s most popular activities, like golfing, biking on the beach, nature trails, kayaking with dolphins, zip-lining or any of the numerous adventures around the popular Sea Pines Nature Preserve, are available all year round.