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Kiawah Island Tips For First-Timers

Visiting Kiawah Island for the first time? We’ve put together this extensive guide of the best tips and tricks to make the most out of your vacation! Whether you’re looking for an action-packed family adventure or a laid back island-style retreat, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to find out more about our renowned beaches and golf courses, recommended activities, entertaining adventures, local shops and dining, the best souvenirs to take home, and even our favorite vacation rentals with unique accommodations. 

1. Experience 10 Miles of Pristine Beaches



Kiawah Island is home to 10 miles of interrupted paradise with white sandy beachfront, sunny blue skies, and sparkling waves of the Atlantic Ocean. This expansive beachfront comprises three areas: East Beach, West Beach, and Vanderhorst Plantation. East and West Beach consist of many private and communal boardwalks, while Vanderhorst is a secluded community of private homes with private access. 

East Beach Village offers numerous villa and cottage communities centrally located just a quick walk from beach access, as well as private homes in neighborhoods with communal beach access. 

West Beach also offers many villas and cottages with community beach access, and even multiple private homes with nearby community boardwalks. 

Vanderhorst Plantation features only private homes– some with community beach access just a quick walk away and others with direct access right from home.

2. Book a Tee Time on Award-Winning Courses



Looking to hit the links on your first trip to Kiawah Island? You’re in luck! Kiawah is ranked among the Top 25 Golf Islands in the World, featuring courses designed by top golf architects and played by some of the best legends. 

The Ocean Course is ranked the #4 Public Golf Course in the US and is a true test of skill for avid golfers as a par 72 course with 18 holes designed by Pete and Alice Dye.

The Oak Point Golf Course was awarded the 2019 Charleston Golf Course Owners Association “Course of the Year” for its strategic challenges and fresh design, featuring a par 72 and 18 holes designed by Clyde Johnston.

Osprey Point Golf Course is widely-known as one of Kiawah’s most challenging championship Audubon certified courses. Tom Fazio led its design and renovation ion 2024, leading to its notability and challenging layout.

The Turtle Point Golf Course has seen rave reviews from fans and golfers across the nation. The par 72 course features 18 holes to test Jack Nicklaus’ “mind over matter” strategy.

Cougar Point Golf Course underwent thorough renovations and designs led by Gary Player, now winning over locals and visiting golfers alike. This par 72 course features 18 holes with stunning marsh views.

3. Cycle Through Miles of Leisure Pathways



One of the best ways to explore the island is on a bike! Kiawah Island encompasses more than 30 miles of pathed bike paths through the island’s most popular resort areas. Not sure where to start? We’ll cover a few!

Beachwalker Park is the best place to take a slow ride along the shoreline through 10 miles of beachfront. Grab your bike and head out to the beach after high tide for hard-packed sand, prime time for watching dolphins, and cool breezes as you ride by.

Bike over to Mingo Point for a family picnic! Located just outside the main gates of Kiawah Island, Mingo Point is famous for its Lowcountry Oyster Roasts and tranquil setting on the banks of the Kiawah River. Park your bikes, refuel with a picnic by the water, and rent a kayak or SUP to play on the water. 

Biking on Kiawah Island extends past the guardhouse and through Freshfields Village! Just minutes from the main gate, Freshfields Village features luxury open-air shopping, amazing restaurants, fabulous markets, family-friendly festivals, and more. You can even follow the pathways over to Bohicket Marina with boat rentals, charters, eateries, and more on Seabrook Island.
Local’s Tip: Rent bikes, chariots, trailers, helmets, and more from Surfscooter Bike Rentals for 5% Off when you stay with Kiawah Exclusives!

4. Go on an Exhilarating Family Adventure



Kiawah Island welcomes adventurers of all kinds with charters and fishing, golf and tennis facilities, outdoor activities, water activities, and more! Enjoy a one-of-a-kind adventure on your first trip to the island for a memorable and unforgettable vacation.

On Kiawah, water activities are endless with boat tours, fishing charters, surf lessons, dolphin watching, pirate adventures, group paddle tours, kayak tours, and more throughout the Kiawah River and Atlantic Ocean. 

Looking to discover the great outdoors but on land instead of water? Kiawah has something for everyone! Check out local bike rentals, golf courses, tennis centers, shopping centers, beach accesses, kids’ camps, and beyond.

Bringing a furry friend? Good news, Kiawah Island offers pet-friendly adventures to include Fido! Explore the beach, shopping centers, trails, and more with your furry friends. Check out our Pet Friendly Vacation Rentals for the perfect homes and villas to accommodate you and your furry friend!

5. Enjoy Island-Style Shopping & Dining



Slow down your pace after an adventure and switch to island time with family-friendly shopping and decadent dining on Kiawah Island. There’s no shortage of dining and shopping in Freshfields Village with classic Lowcountry cuisine, signature seafood dishes, and beachy open-air shops. 

Freshfields Village is a charming open-air shopping destination with a diverse selection of high-end stores, salons and spas, cafes and restaurants, and family-friendly events throughout the year. It’s the one-stop shop for all the shopping and dining you need to explore on your first visit.

6. Take Home a One-of-a-Kind Souvenir 



If you’re looking for a unique souvenir to take home to remember your first Kiawah Island vacation, we’ve found the perfect spot! The best gifts and take-home souvenirs are handmade, artisanal, and one of a kind.

Visit Freshfields Village for a weekly Farmers Market every Monday throughout June, July, and August from 3 pm – 7 pm. Get your pick of handmade goods, Lowcountry crafts, and unique gifts all season long! Including grass baskets, hand-painted pottery, flower arrangements, and more.

7. Sit Back and Relax in a Luxury Vacation Rental



We know there are few things more precious than your time on vacation with friends and family and where you spend that time can make or break the entire trip. Kiawah Exclusives is a locally operated Kiawah Island company that takes pride in offering first-class service to our guests before, during, and after your stay.

We’re here to recommend properties to you based on your unique needs, share our favorite activities with you, help you plan your stay, and make the most out of your first vacation to our slice of paradise!

Our vacation rentals range from comfortable oceanfront villas to private luxury homes. Whether you’re a couple looking for a 1 bedroom villa, a large family searching for 5+ bedrooms, private pools, or pet-friendly rentals, there’s something for everyone.

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