*DIS Contributors review meals, resort stays, and entertainment that they have paid for during their own vacations. They only utilize discounts and offers if they are available to the general public, such as annual passholder discounts, Tables in Wonderland, or DVC membership discounts. They receive no additional compensation for dining experiences or events, so that they may give their honest opinions about price and value.
When we first bought into the Disney Vacation Club a few years back, a trip to their Hilton Head Island Resort wasn’t even on my radar. Like many other DVC owners, I became more and more interested in all things DVC; learning about their two mainland beach properties in the process.
Fast forward to summer 2019 and we’ve just completed our first stay in Hilton Head, but I guarantee it won’t be the last. Read on to find out all you need to know about this hidden gem in South Carolina’s low country.
Location, Location, Location.
Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort is NOT actually on the beach, but a little over a mile from the shoreline across a highway, in a gated community. The property is a beautiful example of South Carolina’s landscape with shady trees throughout.
The grounds and buildings look very spread out on the maps, but in truth, there are a lot of paths that make the resort very walkable. Our room was in the main check-in building, the Live Oak Lodge, which was furthest from the pool but still very accessible.
Lots of guests rent bikes (available on property for rates per day or per week) to get around the resort and to the beach. Since the “feel like” temperature was 115 degrees when we were there, we skipped this option, but would love to try it when the weather is milder.
Fun in the Sun.
Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort is billed as one of two of Disney’s beach resorts (I guess Aulani is in its own class), and the beach here is wide and easy to get to. The resort offers a free shuttle all day from 10:00am- 5:00pm or you can drive and park at the Beach House. Sometimes the parking lot will fill up, but there is a sign outside the main check-in building that is constantly updated if the beach parking is unavailable.
Know that you can rent an umbrella and chairs from an outside vendor or bring your own. The benefit of bringing your own is that you’re able to set up much closer to the water than the rented chairs, but you also have to transport them.
The Beach House, which is only accessible with your Key to the World Card, offers a small pool, an outside bar, a quick service restaurant, some games in the shade, restrooms, and an air conditioned lounge. It was a great place to grab a Dole Whip and get a little shade when the beach became too hot. When we visited, the pool was pretty crowded, so for swim time, we opted just to head back to the resort and enjoy the much bigger pool with the slide.
Move over Fort Wilderness.
When you know you’re going to a beach resort, there is a certain image that pops into your mind. Coastal colors and whitewashed wood, perhaps? This is NOT what you will find at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. The overall décor is more like your Granddad’s fishing cabin meets Disney’s Fort Wilderness with a splash of Port Orleans’ southern charm.
Everywhere around the resort you’ll find hammocks and lawn games like shuffleboard, horse shoes, and bocce. There are charcoal grills readily available. We took advantage of the grills one evening and ate our steaks at a picnic table with a view of the marsh. You can even rent fishing gear near the pool to complete the theme.
The missing items.
On our drive home from our stay at this DVC Resort we found ourselves dissecting all of the pros and cons from our trip. To be honest, we didn’t have any negative experiences, but did land on what we think is missing and would make this retreat even better.
- DINING: It’s important to know that dining on property is limited. Ahem… read: very limited. There is one quick service window (an actual window) with only outdoor tables that closes at 5:00pm Sunday- Thursday. The food here was actually very good (albeit we didn’t try any breakfast offerings), but we would love to see a sit-down option. I think they have an amazing opportunity to deliver some southern delicacies. As I mentioned earlier, we did plan ahead and used the charcoal grills for dinner one night and drove to a restaurant off property another.
- SHOPPING: Another “missing” for us was merchandise. There is a very small store upstairs near the pool area with a rack of trading pins, a few DVC offerings, some standard Mickey Mouse items, and a handful of Hilton Head specific selections. I think this is a missed opportunity for Disney and surprising, actually. Adding a second store, either in the main check-in building or at Disney’s Beach House with expanded merchandise would be welcome.
- CHARACTERS: I realize not all DVC members buy in to be close to Mickey Mouse all the time, but at this DVC resort, characters were absent. If Disney were to take my hint from earlier and add on a sit down restaurant, that would be a natural spot for some extra character magic. I don’t know if this is “needed”, however, when we visited, the weather was hot, sunny, and perfect for the pool. I imagine if you’re visiting in less than ideal weather, a character interaction would be welcome.
A Sad Goodbye.
Despite the missing items above, we really did fall in love with this resort. From the relaxed atmosphere to the beach time and beyond, there isn’t enough article space to include all that we did. I would encourage every DVC member who wants some downtime to consider visiting Hilton Head.
Stay tuned for PART TWO of this review of Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort where we’ll discuss the cast members and service.