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Michelle Gross, Contributor
Vacationing on the island of Hilton Head, known for white sand beaches and warm waters teeming with dolphins, evokes a sense of nostalgia even for first time visitors. The South Carolina island’s Lowcountry marshes, majestic live oaks dripping in Spanish moss and famed red and white striped lighthouse recall a bygone era. The southern paradise also offers a little something for everyone. Golfers can play on one of the island’s many manicured courses, while water lovers can go paddle boarding on a lagoon or jet skiing on the ocean.
There are a wide range of hotels to choose from too including beachfront resorts, villas and condos. Don’t expect the over-the-top glamour that comes with a five-star stay in nearby Kiawah or Charleston. Hilton Head does low-key luxury best, and that’s part of the magic. So, slow down, and consider planning a stay at one of the 10 best hotels, resorts and rental houses on Hilton Head Island.
Best Hotel For Golfers And Sports Enthusiasts: Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort
Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort
Who Will Love It: Golfers and families looking for a vacation rental with the amenities of a resort
All-Star Amenities: Three championship PGA golf courses; Toptracer driving range; 23 clay tennis courts; Palmetto Dunes Buggy; near Shelter Cove Harbour and Marina
What Not To Miss: Sunset drinks and dinner at the Dunes House; wine dinner at Alexanders; a bike ride around the lagoon
The name Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort is a bit of a misnomer. The collection of rental properties—including one to four-bedroom rental homes, newly updated vacation villas and condos—are spread across 2,000 acres in the heart of Hilton Head Island. There’s a minimum three-night stay in the Palmetto Dunes community, but the wide variety of accommodation options make the resort a smart choice for families and groups. Serious sports enthusiasts will also find plenty to do with three championship golf courses including a public par-70 George Fazio Course and private Arthur Hills-designed course. A full-service marina, massive tennis center with 23 clay courts and over 50 miles of paved bike trails add to the unique vacation community’s draw. Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort also has a lagoon for kayaking or canoeing.
Guests can make reservations at Alexanders Restaurant and Wine Bar, which hosts regular wine dinners and cooking demonstrations, or go fast casual at the Woody Wagon food truck and beachfront the Dunes House.
Best Hotel For The Whole Family: The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort And Spa
The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort And Spa
Who Will Love It: Families looking for beachfront access, good restaurants and plenty of pool time
All-Star Amenities: Heavenly Spa by Westin; award-winning tennis and pickleball facilities; seaside painting classes; on-site bike rentals for exploring the island; cabanas and daybeds by the pool; access to the Port Royal Golf and Racquet Club
What Not To Miss: The new Lowcountry Adventure Package includes boat trips to nearby islands and bike rides around town
Stretching along the quieter northern part of Hilton Head, the Westin Hilton Head Island—featuring modern design and coastal-chic décor—is an ideal getaway for the whole family. Parents will love the multiple dining options—the Westin has four restaurants—and cozying up with a glass of wine by the fire pits at night. Kids can frolic in the family-friendly pool and play on the soft sand beach just out front. Guest rooms have balconies with stunning ocean and island views.
A true resort, the Westin also has a Heavenly Spa offering soothing treatments and guests get access and complimentary transportation to the scenic Port Royal Plantation Golf and Racquet Club nearby.
Best Luxury Hotel For Couples: The Inn And Club At Harbour Town
The Inn And Club At Harbour Town
Who Will Love It: Couples looking for a romantic getaway
All-Star Amenities: Infinity edge pool; access to Harbour Town Golf Links and Sea Pines Beach Club; seasonal beach concierge service
What Not To Miss: A game of golf at the revered Harbour Town Golf Links at the Sea Pines Resort; exploring the Sea Pines Resort Forest Preserve on horseback
On the southern end of the island, the Inn and Club at Harbour Town—set along 5,000 oceanfront acres—has been the luxury hotel of choice for couples and luxury travelers visiting Hilton Head for more than 50 years. The country club style hotel has 60 elegant guest rooms and a relaxed beachfront setting.
Perhaps the hotel’s biggest perk is access to the revered Harbour Town Golf Links at the Sea Pines Resort golf course which has views of the Harbour Town lighthouse and some of the most challenging holes in golf. The Sea Pines Resort offers a host of activities for couples who don’t golf as well such as horseback riding on the resort’s 605 acre preserve, tennis or pickleball and a beach club.
The resort’s upscale American grill restaurant Links is one of the most romantic on the island with golf course views, caviar service, jumbo lump crab cakes and signature cocktails like the Southern Gentleman with pecan infused Markers Mark.
Best Lowcountry Luxury Hotel: Montage Palmetto Bluff
Montage Palmetto Bluff
Who Will Love It: Travelers and honeymooners looking for a truly luxe southern stay
All-Star Amenities: Bowling alley; adults only pool; complimentary bicycles for exploring
What Not To Miss: A guided bike ride through the property; a boat ride down the May River at sunset; a decadent treat at the s’mores cart
The Montage Palmetto Bluff—just a 10-minute drive from Hilton Head in Bluffton—is in a league of its own when it comes to luxury hotel offerings in the Lowcountry. The hotel is on a 20,000 acre preserve on the May River and feels more like a village than a hotel with Colonial architecture including two stately chapels (the Montage Palmetto Bluff is a wonderful choice for an elegant wedding) and a range of accommodation options. The 170 guest rooms, suites and cottages are nestled between century-old oak trees. This is a five-star stay to be sure with guest rooms featuring marble bathrooms with double vanities, deep soaking tubs and separate showers and the sense of place amenities the Montage brand is known for.
From the bowling alley to the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course to the gorgeous riverfront marina and boat landing, there’s no end to the activities. Spa Montage has wellness instructors and specialists, and the hotel’s naturalist is always on hand to take guests on a tour of the property and explain the history of the Lowcountry. Guests can set out to explore the preserve on their own by bike Montage-style with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and a picnic in hand.
Best Hotel For Business Travelers: Marriott Hilton Head Resort And Spa
Marriott Hilton Head Resort And Spa
Who Will Love It: Business travelers; groups on team-building retreats
All-Star Amenities: Beach access; indoor and outdoor pools; restaurants and bars; tennis complex; meeting rooms and event spaces
What Not To Miss: Beachfront dining at Ocean Blu Café
Travelers looking to mix business with pleasure will find a good fit in the Hilton Head Marriott Resort and Spa. The hotel has 46,000 square feet of meeting space and a conference center as well as a prime stretch of white sand beach.
Between training sessions and board meetings guests can break for indoor and outdoor pool time, a game of tennis or teeing off at nearby PGA Palmetto Dunes Golf Club. Indulgent spa treatments like an invigorating body scrub are a reservation away at Spa Soleil. Dining options draw inspiration from the ocean including the seafood restaurant Blue and the breezy oceanfront bar and lounge Liquid.
Best Wellness Hotel: The Sweetgrass Inn At Hilton Head Health
The Sweetgrass Inn At Hilton Head Health
Who Will Love It: Health and wellness seekers; solo travelers
All-Star Amenities: Fitness center; True Restaurant
What Not To Miss: A sunrise walk on the beach and treatment at Indigo Spa
Hilton Head Health, lovingly referred to by locals as H3, is the island’s only all-inclusive holistic health and wellness retreat and offers everything from weight loss weekends to seven-day Living Well retreats. If you’re enrolled in a program at Hilton Head Health, you’ll be able to book a room at the property’s Sweetgrass Inn.
The elevated lodging has 30 comfortable and relaxing guest rooms and a spa specializing in restorative and holistic treatments like deep tissue massages. The resort’s True Restaurant serves nutritious dishes that never lack in flavor like lobster tacos and quinoa encrusted salmon. Guests can learn how to make the same dishes at home in H3’s state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen. Guests can treat themselves to daily beach walks, pool classes, water sports, oceanfront yoga and meditation.
Best Beachfront Resort For Big Groups: Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort
Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort
Who Will Love It: Families and groups of friends that like to stay active
All-Star Amenities: Ocean Tides Spa; Championship Golf Course; three swimming pools; beachfront hot tubs; studio hotel suites with mini kitchenettes
What Not To Miss: The zero-entry resort pool and kayaking or paddle boarding in the lagoon
Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort’s three swimming pools set the tone for a relaxing retreat with plenty of beach and water time. The pools include a shallow family-friendly pool with a kids splash pad and a triangular adults-only pool and hot tub with views of grass-covered sand dunes and the ocean. The hotel boasts large oceanfront rooms, suites and mini-studios, while many come with kitchenettes and balconies.
Guests staying at the Omni are also granted access to the Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort community and its 11-mile lagoon system, bike trails, massive tennis and pickleball complex and three PGA championship golf courses.
Guests will find it difficult to leave the manicured confines of the Omni with the Ocean Tides Spa offering sea-inspired treatments and one of the best steakhouses on the island HH Prime steakhouse serving savory New York strips, fresh seafood and decadent desserts.
Best Hotel Location: Beach House Resort
Beach House Resort
Who Will Love It: Beach lovers looking for barefoot luxury and a central location
All-Star Amenities: Beach access; lagoon pool; live music and drinks at the Tiki Hut
What Not To Miss: Lowcountry cuisine at the Porch; live music and drinks at Tiki Hut
The Beach House Resort’s central location next to Coligny Beach places guests in the heart of the Hilton Head action. Guests can stroll to the Coligny shopping center for boutique hopping and entertainment like movies and concerts. The Beach House Resort is also a hub of activity with a lagoon style swimming pool and the beloved beachfront watering hole Tiki Hut, which often has live music and serves frosty drinks beneath a palapa. Order a signature bourbon flight or a southern specialty like shrimp and grits at the Porch and settle into the low-key, toes-in-the-sand luxury that Hilton Head is known for. The resort’s 202 guest rooms with ocean views and private patios are also appropriately beachy with a coastal-inspired color palette.
Best Pet-Friendly Beachfront Resort: Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island
Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island
Who Will Love It: Families and pet lovers looking for a tropical escape
All-Star Amenities: Lagoon-style swimming pool; kids club, pet-friendly rooms for a fee; three restaurants
What Not To Miss: Lounging in a hammock beneath towering palm trees
Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island has a beautiful beachfront location and large contemporary guest rooms with balconies or patios for inhaling the fresh sea breezes drifting off the Atlantic. Set among lush Lowcountry landscaping and lagoons, Sonesta feels more like a tropical getaway than other resorts on the island. Grown-ups can enjoy treatments at Arum Spa or lounge quietly at the adults only pool while the kids check out the supervised Just Us Kids program.
While a luxury stay on every level, the resort is also pet-friendly so travelers can bring their four-legged friends along for an additional fee. Pet amenities include a dog bed, waterproof mats, bowls and treats, so pet parents hardly need to bring a thing.
Best Family-Friendly Rental: Lowcountry Oasis 11 Gray Widgeon
Lowcountry Oasis 11 Gray Widgeon
Who Will Love It: Families; groups of friends
All-Star Amenities: Private backyard pool; cozy fire pit; close to the beach; access to the Sea Pines Beach Club
What Not To Miss: Enjoying the sunset over the Calibogue Sound from the deck
This Lowcountry oasis is in the gated Sea Pines Resort community less than 50 steps to the beach. Featuring five bedrooms and five and a half baths, there’s more than enough space to accommodate large families and groups comfortably, and there are large spaces for gathering including two living rooms. The first floor living room has a wet bar while a great room on the second floor has a cathedral ceiling.
The house can easily be a refuge for remote work, but it will be hard to buckle down when there’s so much fun to be had. The Sea Pines Beach Resort has hiking trails, a beach club and boating, fishing and watersports at South Beach Marina. After a full day, the entire group can unwind with a dip in the pool or a glass of wine around the fire pit.
About Michelle Gross, Your Hilton Head Guide
I am a Lowcountry local by way of New York City. After spending many years visiting South Carolina, I fell in love with the idyllic locale and decided to make it permanent. I’m currently based in Beaufort, South Carolina about 40-minutes from Hilton Head Island where I love eating, drinking and exploring. I’ve traveled to all seven continents, and you can follow my travels on Instagram @pinktravelproject.