We’re a couple of California kids. Having both grown up near the beach (Bobby’s from Dana Point and Alli’s from San Diego), we like to assume that we know exactly what we’re getting when we head to the coast. We know how to beat the traffic, where to park, what to bring, and how to (attempt) to avoid the crowds. You could say we’re experts when it comes to Southern California beaches, because that’s all we’ve ever known… until now! While on our cross-country roadtrip we visited Hilton Head Island, in South Carolina, and it was unlike any stretch of coastline we’ve visited before. It’s been named the “Top Island in the United States” by Conde Nast Traveler, and “#2 Island in the World” by Travel+Leisure Magazine, and we have to agree.
Hilton Head Island is one of America’s best kept secrets.
With over 12 miles of breathtaking coastline, Hilton Head Island is world-renowned for their white sandy beaches, crystal clear warm water, and easy accessibility. Their wide, flat beaches are perfectly walkable (many even ride their bikes!), and ideal for visitors of all ages. Not to mention they’re also extremely dog-friendly, with varying “off-leash hours” (you can find those here) throughout the year. Sally had the time of her life during our stay in Hilton Head, and we loved the ease of walking from our room to the beach, in a matter of minutes. Which brings us to...
Hilton Head Island knows what vacation-goers want, and they deliver. There are numerous stunning hotels, inns and resorts on the island, including six AAA four diamond award winners! Whether you’re looking to be pampered poolside, or for a more stripped back, cost-effective option, Hilton Head Island has something for everyone.
We stayed at the Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island, nestled right along the pristine Hilton Head Island coastline, on eleven lush and beautifully landscaped acres. We didn’t want to leave. We swam in the lagoon-style swimming pool, took naps in their covered cabanas, spent our mornings and evenings on the beach playing with Sally, drank wine on our balcony…. It was perfect.
*We’ve started compiling a list of places that we would return to one day when we have a family, and this resort is now on the list. If you have children, they have a “Just Us Kids” children’s club that families were raving about!
THE OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
If there’s one thing Hilton Head Island knows how to do, it’s how to have fun. There’s world-famous golf courses, every kind of water sport, over 50 miles of paths for walking and biking, and so much more. It’s one of those destinations where you can pack your itinerary full of adventures and excursions, or you can plan to do nothing but relax in the sun. We opted for a little bit of both!
One day we went kayaking with Outside Hilton Head, where we got an up-close look at the islands rivers and marshes and the many oyster beds nestled along the water. We opted for an hourly kayak rental, but they also offer daily tours that are led by a local nature guide.
Another day we went ziplining with ZipLine Hilton Head, on a thrilling two-hour eco-adventure zipline tour! Not only did we have a blast zipping through Hilton Head’s massive live oak trees, but our friendly guides also taught us a lot about the wildlife on the island - and the views were absolutely incredible!
There are over 250 restaurants on Hilton Head Island, and we tried all of them. KIDDING! (But that might be a goal…) We did eat out quite a bit, and we were really impressed with the culinary scene. From candle-lit fine dining with an stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean at Ocean Lounge, to live music and catfish by the water at Skull Creek Boathouse, to our morning coffee and fresh-baked croissants at Hilton Head Social Bakery… we can definitely say we ate our way through the island. And there wasn’t one meal we didn’t love!
Even beyond the dog friendly beaches, Hilton Head Island has so much to offer when it comes to traveling with your pup. The many walking trails, parks, and dog friendly patios made our time there with Sally incredibly easy - and the Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island couldn’t have been more accommodating to Sally! We took her almost everywhere with us, and judging by her snores at night, she was truly living her best life on Hilton Head Island. (See a helpful list of dog friendly options here.)
While we’ll always be California kids at heart, we’re learning that there’s something really exceptional and unique about the coastal towns along the East Coast. Hilton Head Island is a perfect mix of laid-back coastal vibes, mixed with Southern hospitality and island flair. We loved every second of our time on the island, and hope we convinced you to give it a visit yourself (with your pup, of course)!