Kiawah Island is one of South Carolina’s picturesque barrier islands. The town prides itself on making visitors feel cozy and welcome. When you stay at a vacation rental in Kiawah Island, you’re never more than a few minutes away from any other point in town. Accordingly, the city of Charleston is situated just 20 miles up the coast. There are an abundance of local attractions that make this jewel of the Carolinas unique. Here are just 15 of the top things to do during your Kiawah Island vacation.

1. Tour the Surf Zone

Kiawah Island is distinguished by the ideal mix of natural splendor and artificial convenience it offers the humans who call it home. While many attractions vie for tourists’ attention, the natural environment has to be experienced to be appreciated. Tidal Trails offers guided tours around the island coast along routes that steer clear of the built-up interior of the island, and hew close to the teeming surf zone. Take a walking tour with your guide, and you’re likely to come back with pictures of eagles, ospreys, and the sea cucumber they let you pet.

2. Take it Easy at the Spa

After your time splashing in the surf, take a trip to one of Kiawah Island’s relaxing day spas. Sasanqua Spa, in particular, offers visitors to the island everything they could ask for in a mainland spa three times the size, but at a level of intimacy that makes patrons feel welcome and warmly valued. Get a massage and a facial, then go for a skin treatment before your next massage; after just one more massage, you’ll be ready to head back to your family vacation rental for dinner.

3. Visit the Village

That dinner will probably be delicious if you shopped for the groceries at Freshfields Village. Here, right on the island, you can pick up an eclectic blend of fresh farm produce from the mainland and even fresher seafood from the ocean. Pick up steak and salad fixings one night, lobster and crab the next, and then make the world’s best casserole with the leftovers the night after that.

4. Take the Kids to the Xtreme

Parents of large broods know that every child is different, and not all of them will enjoy the same things. Camp Xtreme knows this too, which is why they’ve brought together sports, scavenger hunts, and team building games for the active 8-to-16-year-olds. They also offer a fun Ninja Warrior course for the budding Bushido assassin in the family, and a STEM challenge for your future chemical engineer.

5. Play a Few Rounds of Golf

Kiawah Island Golf Resort offers world-class tennis and golf on its sprawling property, and nobody who’s serious about either sport could visit the island without at least one pass through. People who are perhaps less serious about the sports, or beginners who are just starting out, can take advantage of the resort’s daily clinics, drills, and private instruction to up their game and come back with a few strokes knocked off their handicap.

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6. Frolic With the Kids at the Sandcastle

The Sandcastle aims to please, and please it certainly does. Knowing that much of the island’s tourist trade is with families from the mainland and that most of the locals are married with kids of their own, this private club seeks to provide something for every member of the family. Guests enjoy a fully equipped gym, blazingly fast Wi-Fi, and a stocked bar that always has a game on one of its screens. Kids can splash in one of the resort’s many pools, while the grownups who need a break lounge on reclining deck chairs nearby.

7. Join the Club

The Kiawah Island Club is one of the premiere attractions Kiawah Island has between its shores. Catering to a select clientele of only the most discriminating persons, who swung by the office and applied for membership, this club offers acres of close-mown lawns and some of the most cleverly designed golf courses on the barrier islands. Tennis is also available in the club facilities, with several on-site bars, restaurants, and a pro shop where you can sit with fellow members and agonize over the bad chip you got on that par 4 fairway.

8. Shop for Keepsakes

Any great vacation leaves memories you can cherish for years to come, but only the very best send you home with a diamond tennis bracelet or elegant gold earrings. Kiawah Fine Jewelry does its part to make your vacation rental in Kiawah Island one of those “best” types of trips, with a large and beautifully laid out selection of gold, silver, and precious stone jewelry you can browse at your leisure.

9. Charter an Ocean Fishing Adventure

The first of two fishing charters to make the local attractions list, Sonny Boy Charters is distinguished by the superb customer service and excellent local know-how your fishing guides bring to the job. Often, your success or otherwise on an open-ocean fishing trip is conditioned by how much your pilot knows and whether he can get you to where the fish are biting. Sonny Boy guides show an uncanny knack for this, though you have to watch the line for the bait-stealing sharks that have learned to follow the boats.

10. Explore the Island by Bicycle

Like many barrier islands, Kiawah is long and thin, with beaches on both sides. Just inland of those beaches run dozens of miles of smoothly paved bike trails you can enjoy from the seat of a bike you picked up at Kiawah Island Bicycle Rentals. They keep a large inventory at the shop’s single island location, and if you call ahead, you might be able to get specialty bicycles for yourself, children, and any disabled adults in your group.

11. Take a Guided Tour

Half the fun of visiting a new place on vacation is exploring the local attractions. St. Johns Tours can help you do that, with guided tours setting out every day to showcase the natural wonders of the island’s tidal zone. When you book a tour through St. Johns, you and your party are outfitted with life preservers, handed lightweight paddles, and encouraged to climb aboard a paddleboard for a trip that’s like a combination of surfing, skateboarding, and walking on water. Try to time your tour for the golden moment between high and low tide; you’ll be able to get around well enough and there should be plenty to see.

12. Catch the Big One

Bluewater fishing is one of the major attractions of the barrier islands, and Saltfisher Charters takes full advantage with regular fishing charters. Sign up online or in person, stow your gear aboard one of the company’s spacious, fast-moving fishing boats, and go get an Atlantic salmon for dinner back at your vacation rental on Kiawah Island.

13. Rent or Buy Active Gear

Almost everything you do on Kiawah Island takes some kind of gear to do right, and there just isn’t a better place to rent or buy your sporting goods than SeaCoast Sports and Outfitters. Whether you’re on the island to golf, play tennis, surf, fish, or all of the above, SeaCoast has you covered with equipment sales and rentals, protective gear and clothing, and any of the myriad must-haves you might have forgotten to pack.

14. Get Your Nails Done

After the busy times you’ve been enjoying on Kiawah Island, it pays to slow things down a little and do something just for yourself. Visit Kiawah Nail Studio, not just to get your nails done, but to have an experience unique to this studio. Doing business out of a clean, relaxing environment, staff at this salon greet you at the door and flat-out pamper you like an honored guest for as long as your mani-pedi lasts. For maximum luxury, try to schedule your first visit for the day you arrive on the island, and then swing by the evening before you leave for a fill, and to have one more hour of “you” time before hitting the road.

15. Explore the Island Culture

Nestled against the banks of the island’s only river, Mingo Point is an open-air venue where visitors can fully immerse themselves in Kiawah’s unique history and culture. Accommodating events that can range from intimate 50-person weddings to 800-guest rock concerts, Mingo Point usually has the best in local dishes, beverages, and live performances for you to enjoy.

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