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A Guide to Active Vacations on Hilton Head Island

By Hilton Head Insider

There are two types of people on vacation. Some folks want to get away for the week with the aim of one thing, and one thing only: maximum relaxation. You might find these travelers lying by the beach or pool or on one of the many incredible local patios, enjoying lunch or dinner with a glass of wine or a book in hand. The second type of vacationer wants to shake off the stress of their day-to-day with an active vacation. With so many options to explore the Lowcountry by bike and foot, swimming or boating in the ocean and island waterways, or immersing yourself in world-class golf and racquet sports, Hilton Head Island is the perfect getaway for active travelers. We’re here to help you start planning your energetic escape by walking you through the best activities for your next trip.


There’s no better way to get active on Hilton Head Island than to get out on the open waters. For an arm and core workout with a view, rent a Stand Up Paddleboard at Island Watersports. Stand-up paddleboarding is more than just a workout, it's an immersive experience that allows you to connect with the Lowcountry’s aquatic environment. Whether you're navigating the gentle waves of the Atlantic or exploring the calm, winding creeks and estuaries, stand-up paddleboarding provides a unique vantage point to appreciate Hilton Head Island's diverse marine life and scenic vistas. Picture yourself paddling alongside dolphins, or catching sight of elegant herons and egrets as they wade through the marshlands.

If you prefer to surf or kayak, head to Hilton Head Outfitters. For those who dream of catching the perfect wave, Hilton Head Island's sandy shores and consistent swells provide an ideal playground for surfers of all skill levels. If you’ve never surfed before, not to worry. Hilton Head Outfitters also provides surfing lessons for novices. Their friendly instructors will teach you the basics, from paddling out and popping up on the board to reading the waves and riding them back to shore. Hilton Head Island’s one or two-foot waves are perfect for learning how to surf.

America’s Favorite Island® is renowned for its beaches, so a swim at the beach is a must for active vacationers! Hilton Head Island's beaches are celebrated for their warm waters that beckon swimmers from dawn to dusk. With gentle waves and gradual slopes, the ocean here is inviting to both seasoned swimmers and those just looking to enjoy a refreshing dip. 

aerial shot of beach with umbrellas


Hilton Head Island offers the perfect blend of active adventure and relaxation with its extensive biking trails. Boasting over 60 miles of leisure pathways, exploring the island by bicycle provides a refreshing, eco-friendly way to soak in the stunning scenery. The paths, which meander through the island's picturesque landscapes, make biking a delightful and accessible experience for all skill levels.

The island’s commitment to cycling excellence has earned it the prestigious Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community award from the American League of Bicyclists. This award is a testament to our dedication to enhancing biking conditions through education, promotion, and infrastructure. This accolade places Hilton Head Island among the top 34 communities in the U.S. for biking, making it a haven for cycling enthusiasts.

Whether you’re an avid cyclist or simply looking to add some active exploration to your vacation, Hilton Head Island’s bike-friendly design makes navigation a breeze. Don’t worry if you haven’t brought your own bike — numerous rental options are readily available, ensuring everyone can join in on the fun. 

Golfing & Racquet Sports

For an active vacation brimming with outdoor adventure, Hilton Head Island offers a paradise for golf and racquet sports enthusiasts. This idyllic island destination is renowned for its world-class recreational opportunities, ensuring every day of your stay is filled with engaging activities.

Golf lovers will find Hilton Head Island a dream come true, with 23 championship golf courses. Each course is set against stunning coastal and Lowcountry backdrops, and provides a unique, challenging experience for those who love to stay active through the sport. 

Suppose you prefer your active pursuits on a court rather than a fairway. In that case, the island boasts eight of the world’s top 100 tennis resorts and camps, offering tennis aficionados a range of facilities featuring meticulously maintained clay and hard courts. Whether you want to engage in a friendly match or seek professional instruction to improve your game, the island’s premier tennis resorts provide an ideal setting for an active, racquet-centric holiday.

pickleball courts aerial shot

Nature Preserves

Exploring Hilton Head Island’s nature preserves is a must for those who love to stay on the move while on vacation. Whether you’re hiking, walking, or horseback riding, the preserves provide a rich tapestry of natural beauty and adventure.

The Sea Pines Forest Preserve is a sprawling haven with an extensive network of trails, bridle paths, boardwalks, and fishing docks, inviting you to explore its diverse landscapes on foot. Each trail offers a unique experience, from shaded forest walks to sunny strolls, making it easy to immerse yourself in the preserve’s untouched splendor. The well-marked trails wind through ecosystems teeming with flora and fauna, providing a perfect backdrop for leisurely yet active exploration. Animal lovers can also explore on horseback at Lawton Stables. Head out for a trail ride under a canopy of palmetto trees and moss-draped oaks, past fishing lakes and wildflower meadows. 

Located on the south end of Hilton Head Island, the Audubon Newhall Preserve offers an accessible, lush oasis for visitors of all mobility levels. Spanning 50 acres, the easy, short strolls through verdant landscapes provide a gentler way to stay active while enjoying the island’s natural beauty. 

beach with grass

Start Planning Your Hilton Head Island Vacation

Whether you’re cycling through scenic pathways, paddling on tranquil waters, or perfecting your golf swing, the island offers a vibrant array of adventures for all interests and fitness levels. From its stunning natural beauty to its world-class facilities, America’s Favorite Island® has something for every type of active vacationer. Start planning your getaway today. 

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