When my husband and I were trying to decide on a honeymoon location almost six years ago, we had many constraints to consider due to our newly blended family. We wanted to find a place we both had never been before that did not involve air travel. We needed to be close enough that we could get back home to our kids in case of emergency, but we wanted a relaxing retreat where we could get some much-needed R&R. After perusing Groupon for many weeks, a very enticing image of a resort in Hilton Head caught my eye, and just like that, we had our honeymoon destination booked and paid for… and this trip did not disappoint!
So, what makes this charming low country island the perfect place for a honeymoon? Also, is it a good idea to forego tropical destinations or luxury cruises for a small island off the coast of South Carolina? Only you can be the judge of that, and it all depends on your budget, family needs, vacation goals, and preferences. However, there is a reason why this small island has won multiple awards year after year including 2018 Travel & Leisure World’s Best Award and the 2018 Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Award.
I can say that our honeymoon was the beginning of an annual beach vacation tradition with our children, and we cannot go more than a few months without wanting to go back! In fact, we fell in in love with Hilton Head so much that we plan to retire there someday. Below I share 9 reasons why Hilton Head Island is the perfect place to go for your honeymoon.
Tropical lagoons full of local wildlife, moss draped majestic oak trees, breathtaking sunsets, wide flat sandy beaches, world class accommodations, fine dining…need I say more? The town of Hilton Head has gone to great lengths to preserve the natural beauty of the island with ordinances that ensure the coastline is not filled with high rise hotels, that animals are protected (especially sea turtles!), and that natural vegetation plays a prominent role in the look and feel of the island. When you cross the bridge and enter the island you immediately are surrounded by lush greenery, palm trees, and waterways that make you feel like you are literally away from it all.
Great Value for Most of the Year
Many couples may already be cash poor after paying for a wedding, and spending a fortune or going further in debt for a honeymoon might not be an option. The wonderful thing about South Carolina is that the warmth of summer typically lasts a few weeks past when peak vacation season ends. We found a Groupon for a 4-star resort at half the cost of peak summer rates, but we went the first week of September when the water was still very warm. There were less crowds, no long waits at restaurants, and open empty bike paths. Wanting to go in May? While it may not yet be hot enough to comfortably enjoy getting in the ocean, the average high is 82 degrees and the worst of the humidity has not hit yet. This makes for much more enjoyable non-water related activities.
Resorts, Resorts, Resorts!
Hilton Head Island has a multitude of award-winning resorts to choose from. You can stay in one of the gated plantations (Palmetto Dunes, Shipyard Plantation, or The Sea Pines Resort) that include everything from 5-star hotels with all of the amenities to more private options like condos, townhomes, and single family homes. There is even a Disney Vacation Club property if you are like me and a big kid at heart! Some of the top hotel resorts for a luxury honeymoon experience are:
- Sonesta Resort
- Marriott’s Grand Ocean
- Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort
- The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa
- Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa
If you are looking for the ultimate relaxing experience, there are multiple spas around the island. The Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa offers couples massages, a steam room, and multiple services. The Sonesta Resort’s Arum Spa has a limited spa that offers a la carte services such as massages, facials, and nail services. The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa has a more complete experience that includes a steam room and sauna. Outside of resort offerings, there are multiple spas throughout the island that offer massage therapy, facials, body wraps, and other treatments.
When you visit Hilton Head Island for the very first time, you quickly realize that bike riding is a major part of the island’s culture and experience. Though the island is only 12 miles long, there are 117 miles of shared-use pathways of which 108 are paved, 6 miles of bike lanes, and 24% of arterial streets have either bike lanes or paved shoulders. Rental companies are everywhere, and all resorts also offer on-site bike rental options. If you stay in a property outside of a hotel such as a condo or house, bicycles can be reserved in advance and all of the companies offer delivery and pickup at your doorstep. You can pretty much ride around the entire island, weather permitting of course!
Most everyone agrees that long walks on the beach during the sunset are ultra-romantic, but sometimes seeing the sunset while on the water is just as fun. There are multiple types of sunset cruises to choose from, and many companies offer these experiences at various price points. A few popular options are listed below, though you should definitely do your own research and read reviews before booking with any company.
- Sunset + Fireworks Cruises (summer months only)
- Dolphin Sunset Cruises
- Sunset Dinner Cruise
- Happy Hour Cruise by Salty Dog (21+ evening cruise with a full bar, food, and live music)
- Private Charters
In addition to the dolphin sunset cruise mentioned above, you can also take a dolphin tour any time of the day. The difference in tours really comes down to how close you really want to get to the water and dolphins and how private you want the experience to be. In Hilton Head there are plenty of options:
One of my favorite things about Hilton Head is the fresh seafood that you can have right off the boat; however, if seafood is not your thing, there are plenty of other mouthwatering options. There is no shortage of wonderful restaurants on the island, and a few noteworthy options are listed below:
- The Jazz Corner – Highly rated Contemporary American/Southern cuisine with nightly live jazz music
- Michael Anthony’s Cucina Italiana – Authentic Italian fine dining, also offer cooking classes
- Wiseguys – Steaks and small plates
- The Sunset Grill – Casual southern and seafood with waterfront views
- ELA’s on the Water – Upscale bistro with seafood and steak focus and marina water views
- The Studio, An Artistic Dining Experience- Unique setting featuring original works of art and live music with internationally inspired dishes
- Hudson’s on the Dock – Fresh seafood from dock to table with beautiful views, one of only two remaining fishing fleets on the island
Visit Surrounding Towns
Hilton Head Island is ideally situated for daytrips so that you can easily visit other popular tourist destinations. If you have a car on your trip, then you can easily drive to:
- Savannah, GA (approximate distance: 50 minutes)
- Bluffton, SC (approximate distance: 20 minutes)
- Beaufort, SC (approximate distance: 55 minutes)
- Charleston, SC (approximate distance: 2 hours)
As you can see, the options are endless on Hilton Head Island. From relaxation to water sports, you can have an unforgettable honeymoon experience. For a full length guide, check out the official Hilton Head vacation planning guide here.