If you’re planning a vacation to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, you’re guaranteed to make wonderful memories. Doing a little research before finalizing your dates will ensure you enjoy the best of what the island offers while avoiding peak crowds and prices.
There’s so much to love about Hilton Head, including scenic parks and wildlife, championship golf courses, and pristine beaches. If you travel at the right time, you’ll get to partake in all the fun activities.
Below, read about the overall best time to visit Hilton Head Island (or HHI) and everything there is to do. In addition, we’ll discuss other times of the year, including the cheapest, least busy, and worst.
That way, you can choose your perfect travel dates. Let us be your guide!
Why You Should Visit Hilton Head
There are many reasons to plan your next vacation to Hilton Head, especially during the best time to visit. Let’s look at a few of them in-depth.
Beautiful Beaches and Water Galore
The vast majority of Hilton Head visitors plan to enjoy its miles of pristine beaches. The sand is soft, fluffy, and light in color, so it doesn’t get too hot under your feet.
Its beaches have been awarded accolades from Southern Living Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, and other reputable publications. But what would a beach be without the ocean?
Hilton Head’s waters tend to stay temperate throughout the year and are especially comfortable and refreshing in the summer. The water’s ideal temperature makes it even easier to try water sports like surfing, sailing, snorkeling, fishing, and others.
The waters on the island’s west side, in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, tend to be calm and quiet, making them perfect for a kayaking trip.
Outdoor Sports and Recreation
Even away from the coast, there are ample opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. There are over 20 golf courses in Hilton Head. Several of them are award-winning, and the island has hosted PGA events.
If you’re not a golfer, don’t worry. Hilton Head is also incredibly bike-friendly. Many families opt to rent bikes for their vacations. They use them to get to dinners, the beach, and everywhere else.
With ample bike paths, you won’t have to worry about crossing too much traffic. Of course, if you prefer to walk, you can do that instead.
Finally, there are several wildlife preserves, nature preserves, parks, and other outdoor recreational areas to enjoy. Be sure to look around everywhere you go. You never know when you might spot a school of dolphins on the horizon.
World-Class Food and Drink
Your family won’t run out of places to dine in Hilton Head. From seafood shacks to kitchens run by James Beard Award winners, you can find delicious eats across the island. In addition, you check out local breweries and bars.
Overall Best Time to Visit Hilton Head
The overall best time to visit Hilton Head is in the late spring and early fall. More specifically, try to visit HHI from late April to early June and mid-September through mid-October. Let’s look at why.
As you can see from the section above, the best things to do in Hilton Head are mostly outdoors. Being outdoors requires good weather, and this time of year has it.
Average high temperatures in May and September are in the 80s, with lows in the 60s. It’s only a little cooler in April and November, with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s (all temperatures given in degrees Fahrenheit).
Just as critically, it’s less rainy than in the summer. June, July, and August get six or seven inches of rain each. April and May each get three, September sees five, and October falls to four.
As a matter of fact, we prefer the weather in the spring and fall compared to the busiest tourist season. The entire southeastern United States gets hot and humid in the summer.
While Hilton Head’s coastal locale helps keep things a little more moderate, you’ll still sweat. Average high temperatures hover around 90 degrees.
Fewer People Means Lower Prices
While Hilton Head is a popular tourist destination year-round, it’s jam-packed in the summer. Families travel more during this time of year, especially American families since kids are out of school.
Some families vacation in the spring and fall, but most focus on the beginning and end of the school year and other community-based obligations. Like most places, tourism is much slower in the spring and fall than in summer.
While it isn’t the least busy time to visit (see below), you’ll net better prices and deals on everything from hotels to meals. And with fewer people, you’ll have easier access to all the things to do.
Fall and Spring Events
A few exciting events happen during these months around which you should plan your stay. Below are a few of the major events, but check local events calendars before you go.
Many local businesses and more minor associations plan happenings in the fall and spring, too. Many of these are only seasonal, such as flower festivals and Halloween or Oktoberfest events:
- April: RBC Heritage PGA Tour Event
- May: Hilton Head Art Festival
- September: Hilton Head Craft Beer and Burger Festival
- October: Craft Hilton Head and Hilton Head Chili Cook-Off
Cheapest Time to Visit Hilton Head
The cheapest time to visit Hilton Head is from November-March, excluding late December-early January.
The main reason for this is the weather. Most of the best things to do in Hilton Head are outdoors. Even though it doesn’t get frigid in coastal South Carolina, it will be too chilly to do many of them.
Temperatures fall throughout the autumn, but they really turn in November. The month starts with highs in the 70s and lows in the high 50s. But it ends with highs in the mid-60s and lows in the 40s.
This pattern continues throughout the season until it starts to warm up in late March. Most days will start very cold, sometimes with frost on the ground, in the 30s and 40s.
Temperatures will climb throughout the day, reaching the mid-60s by late afternoon, and then start to fall again. While we wouldn’t call it rainy, it isn’t particularly dry. Winter sees the same precipitation as most of the fall and spring.
The Exception: Holiday Season in Hilton Head
The exception to the rule is the holiday season, especially the week of Christmas through New Year’s Day. With many home rentals on the island, Hilton Head is a popular holiday destination for families, especially family reunions.
The community also comes together and hosts holiday events. Here’s just a sampling of them:
In addition, you can see light displays, meet Santa Claus and his companions, attend parades, and shop at special markets. There’s a ton to do in Hilton Head during the Christmas season.
Least Busy Time to Visit Hilton Head
The least busy time to visit Hilton Head is in the winter. However, if you want to enjoy all the island offers without peak crowds, visit during the spring or fall.
As discussed above, Hilton Head isn’t as much fun in the winter because of the weather. It’s simply too cold to enjoy the ocean. Other activities become uncomfortable, like sailing and even bicycling.
Still, the crowds in the summer can make it hard to enjoy restaurants, shops, and indoor activities. And remember, the ocean views are breathtaking all year round.
Special Events During the Off Season
Hilton Head has an active chamber of commerce and business associations that work together to draw visitors during the off-season.
These events also draw locals and “snowbirds” from the north, who live in Hilton Head during the winter, to escape colder weather elsewhere. That’s why there are so many festivals from November through March.
Here are a few of the ones that happen annually:
- November: Hilton Head Oyster Festival
- January: Restaurant Week
- February: Gullah Celebration, a month-long celebration with multiple events
- February: Hilton Head Marathon and Hilton Head Island Seafood Festival
- March: Hilton Head Irish Festival and Hilton Head Island Wine and Food Festival
Worst Time to Visit Hilton Head
The worst time to visit Hilton Head is in the winter if you want to enjoy outdoor activities. Some people dislike summer because of the crowds and prices, but at least you can access the ocean and parks without being cold.
Things to Do in Winter in Hilton Head
Even though we just said winter is the worst time to visit, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do. In addition to the events listed above, there are also restaurants and shopping.
Many independent retailers have opened boutiques and shops across the island. You can buy clothing, souvenirs, books, and other items. There’s also the Hilton Head Farmer’s Market, which brings together local vendors, makers, and growers.
The South Carolina Lowcountry region loves locally-sourced foods, and restaurants feature them year-round.
There’s also the Sandbox Children’s Museum, the Coastal Discovery Museum, Port Royal Sound Foundation Aquarium, a bowling alley, an arcade, movie theaters, and even a kazoo factory! You won’t be bored in Hilton Head, even in the wintertime.
Things to Consider
There are several factors to consider when planning a vacation anywhere, including Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Here are a few of them:
- What do you want to do? As you can see, a lot of activities in Hilton Head are seasonal.
- Can you tolerate the heat? If not, then summer may not be the right time for you.
- How much do you want to spend? Prices rise during peak season.
- Are you willing to fight crowds?
- Do you want to attend any festivals or events? We’ve already listed many of them, but you can read about how Hilton Head celebrates some other holidays below.
Major Holidays and Annual Events
In addition to all the festivals and events we’ve already listed, Hilton Head goes all out for many other major holidays. Hilton Head is a patriotic island, and Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day are big celebrations.
It also helps that those are major summer celebrations, too. You’ll find specials at shops, restaurants, and other local businesses. The town also does parades, fireworks, markets, and more.
A lot of families like to gather in Hilton Head for religious holidays like Easter and Passover in the spring. They celebrate together and catch some early beach days. Local organizations sponsor events for Easter especially, like egg hunts and meet-and-greets with the Easter Bunny.
Finally, Halloween is a lot of fun, too. By then, you have some classic signs of autumn, even on the island. Everyone decorates, and there are many opportunities for kids to trick-or-treat.
Atlantic Hurricane Season
Even though South Carolina’s more northerly location offers it some protection from tropical storms, it’s not immune to hurricanes. In 2022, Hurricane Ian caused damage and many closures in the coastal Carolinas.
Atlantic hurricane season occurs from June-November. There’s always a risk of significant storms during this time.
Moreover, hurricanes and tropical storms hundreds of miles away at sea can impact swells and surf in South Carolina. That can make even wading in the waves dangerous. Consider whether you want to travel during this season.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s tackle some common questions about vacationing in Hilton Head:
Is Hilton Head an island?
Yes! Nicknamed America’s Favorite Island, Hilton Head boasts 12 miles of sandy beach. It’s surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterways on the west.
It’s one of the Sea Islands, a chain of more than 100 land masses off the coast of the southeastern United States. Some other famous Sea Islands include Edisto, Jekyll, and St. Simon’s. Hilton Head is the largest.
Is Hilton Head good for kids?
Yes, Hilton Head is fantastic for kids! There’s the beach, hands-on museums, outdoor fun, and much more.
What’s the best way to get to Hilton Head?
Hilton Head has an airport, but it’s small. If you live within eight or so hours and it’s feasible for you, it’s easiest to drive. If you have to fly, look for the Savannah/Hilton Head airport, code SAV. You’ll probably have to change planes unless you’re flying from a larger hub on the east coast.
What’s the most famous site on Hilton Head?
The Hilton Head Lighthouse is probably the island’s most iconic landmark. Shelter Cove Harbour and Marina has a giant statue of Neptune that most visitors like to take a picture with.
If you want more historical sites, take a day trip to Bluffton, Savannah, or even Charleston. Savannah and Charleston especially have hundreds of famous and historic sites.
Do you need to rent a car in Hilton Head?
If you’re staying at one of the island’s many resorts, you probably don’t need a car. Your hotel probably has most of what you need, and your concierge can arrange transportation for you anywhere else.
On the other hand, if you’ve booked a rental house, you’ll probably want one. That way, you can get groceries and other essentials and transport your crew.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Hilton Head?
Hilton Head is one of the most fabulous islands in the United States. We hope that’s clear from all the amazing sites and activities we’ve described.
While there’s no wrong time to visit, you’ll get the most from a spring or fall vacation. Use our guide to plan your perfect trip to Hilton Head!