Kiawah Island is a destination known for its pristine natural beauty, luxurious resort amenities, award-winning golf and tennis facilities, and intimate encounters with dolphins, sea turtles, and local wildlife in their natural habitat.
Situated on 10 miles of Atlantic coastline and surrounded by South Carolina’s lush Lowcountry landscapes, Kiawah Island is one of the most beautiful barrier islands on the East Coast. Kiawah Island has a rich and storied past, boasts endless awards and accolades, and offers guests one of a kind experiences and unique eco-adventures for a beach vacation with a difference!
Kiawah Island Boasts Endless Awards & Accolades
Kiawah Island boasts endless awards and accolades. In 2021, Kiawah Island was ranked among the Top 10 Islands in the Continental US by Travel+Leisure, Top Islands in the Continental US by Conde Nast Traveler, and Top 10 Beaches in America by Dr. Stephen Leatherman (aka Dr. Beach). Additionally, Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s tennis facilities and golf courses ranked best in the world, and among the best in the world respectively.
For the fourteenth consecutive year, The Sanctuary Hotel and The Spa at The Sanctuary received the Five Star rating from Forbes Travel Guide and, for the second consecutive year, Travel+Leisure World’s Best Awards ranks The Sanctuary the number one resort in South Carolina.
Our exclusive collection of luxury Kiawah Island vacation homes, vacation villas, and monthly snowbird rentals place you steps from Kiawah Island’s award-winning beaches, natural attraction and eco-activities for an unforgettable island vacation.
Pirates Once Inhabited Kiawah Island
Kiawah Island is more than a luxury vacation destination, there’s a rich and colorful history beneath the natural beauty! Kiawah Island was named after the Kiawah Indians that inhabited the South Carolina sea islands in the 17th century. The English colonists arrived in 1670, the land passed through the hands of high-ranking men, infamous pirates, plantation farmers, and on to the Vanderhorst family shortly before the Revolutionary War (1775 to 1783). The Vanderhorst family privately owned Kiawah Island until 1950.
Today, the Bass Pond site and Arnoldus Vanderhorst Mansion are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and, if you’re visiting Kiawah Island with kids, be sure to take a cruise with the Pirates of Charleston.
From Lumbermen to Luxury Resort Living
In 1950, lumberman and real estate developer, Charles Clance Royal, purchases Kiawah Island for logging and timber, at a price of $125,000. In 1954, CC Royal builds the first beach home on Kiawah Island, names the first street after his wife, Eugenia, and Kiawah Island slowly starts to grow. In 1974, only twenty-four years after his investment, CC Royal sells Kiawah Island on to developers for $17 million, real estate development begins, and approximately $200 million is invested into the growth of Kiawah Island Golf Resort.
The Waterways are Wild
Nearly 20% of Kiawah Island is made up of water, and those waterways are wild! Whether you’re tracking sea turtles, experiencing dolphins in their natural habitat, or fishing for a trophy catch, there’s a wild encounter for every nature lover and outdoor enthusiast on Kiawah Island. The tidal creeks, salt marshes, rivers and ocean waters abound in tranquility, wildlife, and endless opportunities for eco-friendly outdoor adventures.
For travel inspiration and to find an eco-tour or activity to suit your level of adventure, bookmark our guide to The Best Places to Stay & Play on Kiawah Island. Our Lowcountry waterways may be wild, but they’re gentle enough for every age and ability to experience.
You Can Book a Tee-Time on a Rare Public PGA Golf Course
There are not many public courses that can claim to have hosted the PGA Championships more than once! Kiawah Island Golf Resort is one of the premier golf destinations in the US with seven award winning golf courses on the narrow island, five of which are public, including the PGA Ocean Course designed by Pete and Alice Dye in 1991. The Ocean Course was designed specifically for the 1991 Ryder Cup and boasts ten seaside holes along the Atlantic coastline – the most seaside holes in the Northern Hemisphere.
Other championship courses at Kiawah Island Golf Resort include Cougar Point Golf Club, the first golf course on Kiawah Island by Gary Player (1976), Turtle Point by Jack Nicklaus (1981), Osprey Point by Tom Fazio (1988), Ocean Course by Pete Dye (1991), River Course by Tom Fazio (1995), and Oak Point by Clyde Johnson (1997). Fun fact – The Legend of Bagger Vance was filmed on the Kiawah Island Ocean Course.
You Can Bike Everywhere on Kiawah Island
Kiawah Island is one big, gated community and you can literally bike everywhere! The island boasts quiet streets for bike riding, 30+ miles of paved, shaded and scenic trails, and 10 miles of uninterrupted shoreline for beach bike rides. Wherever you stay on the island, you’re simply a short bike ride away from Kiawah Island’s top tours and activities, golf and tennis, and open-air shopping, dining and events at Freshfields Village.
Our Kiawah Island vacation rentals are scattered throughout the island making it easy to hop on your bike to get around. Guests of Kiawah Exclusives receive a 5% discount from Surfscooter Bike Rentals, a locally-owned and operated business serving visitors to Kiawah Island since 1981.
Experiences Unique to Kiawah Island
There are only a handful of spots you can horse ride on the beach on the East Coast, neighboring Seabrook Island is one of them! The Seabrook Island Equestrian Center offers horseback rides along the shoreline and scenic trail rides through the forests for Seabrook Island residents and non-residents. The horseback rides trail along Seabrook North Beach, one of the few destinations in the world where visitors can witness the rare phenomenon of dolphin’s strand-feeding.
If you’re taking a scenic drive from Kiawah Island, other experiences unique to the area include trolley tours of the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island , America’s only commercial tea plantation, and picnics under the ancient 65-foot Angel Oak on the road to Charleston, known to be the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi River.
Lowcountry Living is Easy!
It’s the laid-back Lowcountry lifestyle that attracts many of our guests to Kiawah Island, our slice of paradise on the South Carolina coastline. The Lowcountry lifestyle is about embracing a slower pace and the simple things in life – the beauty of Mother Nature, small town farmers markets, local community-led events, and sustainable living that feeds back to the local community.
Kiawah Island is internationally recognized as a destination for luxury, eco-friendly resort living. Kiawah Exclusives represent a collection of 100+ of the finest resort rentals on Kiawah Island with luxury amenities, unparalleled guest services, and a local team on hand to personalize your vacation experience. Lowcountry living is easy with Kiawah Exclusives.