6 Tips for First-Timers Visiting Kiawah Island

visiting kiawah island

6 Tips for First-Timers Visiting Kiawah Island

If you’re visiting Kiawah Island for the first time, you’re in for a treat! The breathtaking barrier island — situated just off Charleston’s Atlantic coastline — brims with natural beauty. From its abundance of shore birds and wildlife to its 10 miles of pristine beach, it offers unspoiled wonders at every turn.

Before visiting Kiawah Island, some insider tips can help you plan the vacation of your dreams. With over 30 years of island living and nearly 20 years experience hosting vacationers, we are sharing our must-know tips for first-time visitors to Kiawah Island. Read on to learn more.

visiting kiawah island beaches

1. Leave bulky beach gear at home.

There’s no need to use valuable travel space for beach gear because beach chairs and umbrellas are available for daily rental, courtesy of the Island Beach Service.

More of an adventurer than a sunbather? You can rent other fun stuff from us directly like boogie boards and bikes, as well as portable beach chairs if you don’t mind carrying them to the beach yourself.

2. Visit West Beach for old school Kiawah charm.

When it comes to the beach, first-timers often wonder about the difference between West Beach and East Beach. Both are lovely, lush and serene, and they’re located about one mile apart on the same 10-mile stretch of pristine beach.

The West Beach area is the “original” Kiawah, developed in the mid 1970s with a bike-to-everything mentality. A lot of changes are happening here in advance of the 2021 PGA.

The Cougar Point Golf Course has been completely redesigned and is now open for play, as are the tennis courts. Still to come is a new state-of-the-art conference center along with a brand new West Beach Inn.

visiting kiawah island accommodations

3. East Beach is the place for families visiting Kiawah Island.

East Beach, developed in the 1980s, is anchored by large, central Night Heron Park. The site of family-friendly social events throughout the summer, it also features a basketball court, soccer field, a small grill/picnic area and a picturesque lagoon

Also in East Beach is Kiawah’s high-end, swanky hotel – The Sanctuary. The hotel boasts three notable restaurants, shopping, and a spa—all available to guests of Kiawah Island Getaways. The East Beach area also offers tennis, golf and the East Beach Conference Center, which sports a small grocery store and a food court.

4. Save your appetite for Kiawah’s diverse dining scene.

Be sure to check out casual local favorites like perfectly prepared burgers at King Street Grille, or treat yourself to a special evening of prime seafood and sweeping ocean views at The Atlantic Room at Kiawah’s Ocean Course Clubhouse.

There are so many memorable dining experiences waiting for you on and around Kiawah Island, it’s impossible to try them all in one trip. But with our dining guide, you can give it your best shot!

visiting kiawah island bike trails

5. Know which perks come with your stay.

When you stay with Kiawah Island Getaways, you have full access to restaurants, tennis, Kamp Kiawah, the spa services at the Sanctuary and, of course, the beach.

You’re able to play five of Kiawah’s golf courses, including the Ocean Course, Turtle Point, Osprey Point, Cougar Point, and Oak Point. Two of Kiawah’s courses are private: The River Course and Cassique. You must be accompanied by a member of the club to play these two courses.

6. Do your homework on accommodations.

When selecting your Kiawah vacation accommodations, it’s important to know that all villas are individually owned and managed. As a result, no two properties are identical. Be sure you check out the full property descriptions and interior photos—and, even more importantly, the reviews—to avoid “surprises” on arrival.

You should also make a point to consider the type of vacation you want to have, the accommodation type that best suits your needs, and what location is most suited to your group’s interests.

We take pride in speaking with vacationers and helping them decide which accommodation is best for them, whether they’re coming for a romantic getaway or a multifamily vacation. Don’t miss our Must See video tours for in-depth looks at our properties and to virtually “meet” us—your hosts! We’re always available via phone and email to discuss Kiawah and answer any questions you might have.

visiting kiawah island rentals

Visiting Kiawah Island offers a bounty of options — and a range of pitch-perfect accommodations no matter the area. That includes posh, beachfront pads with panoramic ocean views, cozy cottages tucked amid lagoons and woodlands, and spectacular oceanfront villas brimming with southern charm. Start planning by perusing our Kiawah Island accommodations today.

Snag a Table at These Must-Visit Restaurants on Kiawah Island

restaurants on kiawah island

Snag a Table at These Must-Visit Restaurants on Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island is a stunning barrier island that brims with maritime forests, a varied marine habitat, snap-worthy vistas, and, of course, mouthwatering dining. From fresh catches to authentic French cuisine, restaurants on Kiawah Island offer something for all tastes.

Whether you’re into barefoot luxury, romantic sunsets, or afternoons spent on the beach, you’ll find options like private chefs, top-tier grocers and restaurants galore to feed your appetite.

Read on to discover our foodie and family-friendly restaurant faves — and more — on Kiawah Island, or just a stone’s throw from it.

la tela kiawah island

Casual Spots

Sometimes dressing up is the last thing you want to do. Fortunately, you can chill over good meals at several well-loved restaurants on Kiawah Island or minutes from it.

In the mood for authentic Mexican fare — think tacos, burritos, enchiladas and flautas? Look no further than El Mercadito & Taqueria, 15 minutes from Kiawah Island on John’s Island. Just be sure to wash it all down with a frosty margarita or large, ice-cold mug of beer.

About 15 miles from Kiawah, you’ll find also find cafe and farmers’ market The Tomato Shed, a welcoming, Paula Dean-like haunt known for southern standbys like tomato pie, collard greens, and squash casserole. Not your cup of tea? They serve a mean hamburger, too.

Have a basketball or baseball enthusiast in your midst? Find common ground at flat-screen-filled King Street Grille in Freshfields Village. Gather with your clan over classic appetizers, fresh salads, perfectly prepared burgers, and classic wings. Visiting during the off-season (Oct-April)? You’ll be privy to half-price burgers on Wednesdays and half-price salads on Tuesdays.

If you’d rather indulge in Italian, La Tela Pizzeria in Freshfields Village offers some of the best Neapolitan-style pies and Italian cuisine around. There’s also a top-tier wine list, making it date-appropriate, too.

loggerhead kiawah island

Looking to take in the views? Overlooking the Sanctuary pool (hotel guests only) and Atlantic Ocean, Loggerhead Grill is a must for casual dining and tropical cocktails, as well as locally caught seafood, sandwiches and burgers.

Special Occasion Dining

When the mood strikes, dining out can — and should — be an affair. Fortunately, restaurants on Kiawah Island and in the surrounding communities are well suited for nights to remember.

For French-inspired southern fare, head to Fat Hen, 15 minutes away on Johns Island. Whether you settle on seared duck, braised chicken, the quiche of the day, or salmon Bearnaise, expect Instagram-worthy eats for the ages.

Just minutes away from Fat Hen, Wild Olive, also the creation of celebrated Chef Fred Neuville, turns out Italian fare like tagliatelle alla Bolognese in a cozy-yet-streamlined, cucina-like dining room and bar.

For another French fare alternative, try Hege’s Restaurant in Freshfields Village. Known for its simply prepared dishes made with fresh, seasonal ingredients, it’s a pitch-perfect option for celebratory dinners.

If you want to go all out, reserve a table at The Ocean Room at Kiawah in the Kiawah Island Golf Resort. Then, tuck in to prime steaks and seafood amid leather chairs, a clubby bar area and posh dining room with sweeping views of the sea.

For another resort option, there’s the Ocean Course Grill. Affording panoramas of the shimmering Atlantic Ocean and Pete Dye’s sea breeze-swept, masterpiece golf course, it provides a jaw-dropping backdrop for a seaside breakfast, casual midday meal, or sunset cocktails.

Perhaps you’d prefer some authentic Lowcountry cuisine? FIG in Charleston is the spot for locally sourced, seasonal fare, like baked snowy grouper plated with spring shallots, asparagus, vin blanc and Champagne sabayon.

r kitchen kiawah island

In search of something even more unique? Consider R Kitchen (also in Charleston), an ultra-intimate, sans-sign-speakeasy, serving a nightly, five-course dinner to handful of guests.

And our final Charleston favorite, Hall’s Chophouse, serves up prime USDA steaks, vegetarian, and vegan options, as well as the most memorable Sunday brunch you’ll ever attend. Choose from entrees like prime rib eye steak benedict and southern sweet baked potato pancakes while enjoying live entertainment from gospel singers.

bobby trigg kiawah island

A Chef Just for You

Have you ever wished you had a chef all to yourself — one who will cater the whims of picky eaters, exotic tastes and vegetarians at once? Perhaps you’re an entertainer at heart — yet the idea of doing the planning, shopping, preparing and cleanup proves daunting. In that case, there’s no need to visit restaurants on Kiawah Island at all because our Kiawah Island private chef offers the fix.

When you make your reservation, you’ll have the opportunity to arrange for our chef to cook for your friends and family.  He is a cookbook author and former restaurant owner who has cooked for prestigious settings and presidential dinners.  An evening with our Chef guarantees delectable eats and at-home family fun.

Makings of Great DYI Meals

If you enjoy cooking, preparing meals doesn’t feel like a chore. However, grocery shopping just might.

seafood kiawah island

Our advice? Skip wandering the aisles and instead pre-arrange to have groceries delivered to your property post-arrival. GroceriesAhead.com simply requires that you be there to accept your delivery.

Have a hankering for fresh seafood? Consider local go-to The Village Market in Freshfields Village, or mainstay Huff’s Seafood for fresh, seasonal catches. Or swing by Cherry Point Seafood Company on Wadmalaw Island, where fresh-plucked catches are snagged right off the boat.

kiawah island rentals

Refined Accommodations near the Best Restaurants on Kiawah Island

Whatever you decide, return to a fab home near restaurants on Kiawah Island. From luxury penthouses overlooking the ocean to cottages amid marshland and beachfront villas, our Kiawah Island accommodations are yours to discover.

Find One of the Best Southern Beaches at Kiawah Island

Find One of the Best Southern Beaches at Kiawah Island

A barrier island with a maritime forest, flora and fauna-rich maritime habitat, and one of the best southern beaches hands-down, Kiawah Island has something to offer for every traveler.

Whether you’re looking for toes-in-the-sand tranquility, bicycling adventures, or afternoons on the court or green, find your happy place on our stretch of sand in South Carolina. See why generations of families have made Kiawah Island their go-to getaway.

best southern beaches biking

The Best Southern Beach for Biking

Ever wished to explore the best southern beaches by bike? In addition to the 30-plus miles of paved bike paths on Kiawah Island, there’s a 10-mile-long stretch of pristine, bike-able beach fringed with flat, hard-packed sand.

Not sure which trail to take off on first? Check out our guide to choosing from the best trails on Kiawah Island.

Here’s the best part: when you stay with Kiawah Island Getaways, you can opt to have bikes and gear waiting for the whole family upon your arrival. Learn more about our bike rental program here.

couples kiawah island

Tranquility at Every Turn

Fully, thoughtfully planned for relaxation from the get-go and brimming with peaceful nooks amid natural beauty, this island was named for the Kiawah Indians, who inhabited it prior to the 1670 arrival of the English in South Carolina.

But its storied past — think reformed pirates, affluent plantation owners, enterprising lumbermen and Kuwaiti investors — has given way to a place that lets you escape the outside world and leave the stresses of daily life far, far behind.

Here, the beach affords a respite, one where you can curl up with a good book under an umbrella, build sandcastles or enjoy a picnic as the water laps the shoreline. And the sunsets? Well, they’re legendary.

golfing kiawah island

World-Class Golf

After sunning and swimming on one of the best southern beaches, you may look for additional ways to pass downtime. Our advice? Hit the green: Kiawah Island offers its share of championship golf, including two private and five public courses.

When you’re looking for a challenge, look no further than The Ocean Course. Only the fourth course to have hosted each of the PGA of America’s major championships, it’s slotted to welcome the 2021 PGA Championship. It’s been suggested that no other golf course in the world outside of Ireland and United Kingdom and Ireland is as impacted by wind. Players can experience an 8-club difference on holes based on the direction and strength of the wind.

tennis kiawah island

Tennis, Tennis and More Tennis

Featuring one of the world’s top tennis resorts, Kiawah Island Golf Resort offers expert instruction and programming for both novices and pros. With a tennis complex in West Beach and another one in East Beach, guests of Kiawah Island Getaways will always be close to a court.

The former features nine Har-Tru clay courts (one lighted), a trio of hard courts (one lighted), and a zoned practice court outfitted with a ball machine and automated retrieval. Meanwhile, the latter sports 10 Har-Tru clay courts and two lighted hard courts.

best southern beach homes

Breezy Accommodations at One of the Best Southern Beaches

Whatever your preference, soaking up the sunshine is a guarantee, given the beautiful shoreline and myriad ways it can be enjoyed. That said, you’ll find ample ways to appreciate the scenery beyond simply kicking back.

After a day of excitement, settle in to a home all to yourself just a stone’s throw from Kiawah Island beaches. Choose from penthouses with sweeping ocean views, quaint cottages surrounded by marsh, and beachfront villas brimming with upscale southern charm when you explore our Kiawah Island accommodations.

Stroll Kiawah Island with Us

Shawn and Jeanette Lawson, Owners of Kiawah Island Getaways<br> <em>Photo credits to Michael Cyra of KiawahIslandPhoto.com<em>
Shawn and Jeanette Lawson, Owners of Kiawah Island Getaways
Photo credits to Michael Cyra of KiawahIslandPhoto.com

I always enjoy strolling Kiawah Island’s beach with Shawn as the day winds down and the sun is setting. Shawn and I generally walk from Shipwatch along the beach until we reach Mariners Watch. Then we turn around. It is fun to watch the families as they pack up their chairs, beach towels, coolers and bags, slowly draw the children away from the waves and start heading back to their villas to prepare for dinner.

We talk about the day’s accomplishments, (or as is the case at Kiawah, our lack of accomplishments), we talk about our family, the houses that we see along the way, interactions with our latest guests. And as we walk, Shawn splish-splashes through the waves, which always results in me wearing wet pants. Of course, I have learned (ever since that fateful July 4th, many years ago) to hand over my cell phone to Shawn (they don’t work too well after a dip in the salty water!).

Benjmin Lawson on the beach.
My oldest son, Benjamin, taking photos the beach.

We walk with the wind in our faces, the sun setting behind us. I am always reminded of our Kiawah photographer who has taken so many photos of our family on the beach – he calls the time between 7 PM and 8 PM in the summer, the “Golden Hour”, which is the ideal time to take photos on the beach. And as I walk with Shawn, I too take photos – not of people, at least not most of the time, but of the beach, of the shells on the beach, the birds, and of the incredibly colorful, wide-open and ever-amazing cloudscapes. And if I am lucky, I will spot a rainbow over the ocean, or a small herd of deer on the beach. Of course photography is simply a hobby for me – and capturing that perfect image is illusive, always taunting me to take more.

So please enjoy my collection of Kiawah photos. And maybe some evening, as the sun is going down, we’ll stroll past each other on the beach, cameras in hand.

Kiawah Island Vacation Video - Kiawah Island Getaways, 2016
Kiawah Island Vacation Video, 2016
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Feeding Sea Gulls on the Beach

This is a fun simple thing to do with kids or when acting like a kid yourself. Take a box of saltines, or an old loaf of bread to the beach and have fun feeding the sea gulls! For extra fun – try feeding them a big red apple! The birds will almost eat right from your hands. It is soo much fun to do – and what a way to bring the nature right to you!!

Incredible Seafood!!

Shawn and I just experienced the BEST seafood restaurant yesterday for lunch – at Roadside Seafood, Folly Road on James Island. This place is a MUST for your next lunch in Charleston. Shawn ordered a basket of fried oysters and a side of onion rings, I ordered a couple tacos – the first had their famed Bam Bam shrimp and the other was appropriately named “The HOT Mess” which had a spicy sauce (loved it!!) with shark. Wow, wow, WOW! The tacos were something you would expect from a high-end restaurant, not from just a roadside-style cafe – oooh-la-la! The Hot Mess was the very best. Shawn was given sooo many oysters and onion rings that he even had a few to share with me! I had to fight him back from taking me there for dinner too!!

Check Out Angel Oak!

This is a MUST SEE when you are visiting Kiawah. Located just off the island (near McDonald’s) is the largest tree East of the Mississippi. Angel Oak is believed to be in excess of 1500 years old, its massive, draping limbs and wide spreading canopy present the aura of an angel but the naming of this tree was acquired from the tree’s previous owners, Martha and Justin Angel.