Biking -- Hilton Head boasts 25 miles of bicycle paths. There are even bike paths running parallel to U.S. 278. Beaches are firm enough to support wheels, and every year, cyclists delight in dodging the waves or racing fast-swimming dolphins in the nearby water. Most hotels and resorts rent bikes to guests. If yours doesn’t, try Hilton Head Bicycle Company, off Sea Pines Circle at 112 Arrow Rd. (tel. 800/995-4319; www.hiltonheadbicycle.com). The cost starts at $24 per week, or $16 for 3 days. Baskets, child carriers, locks, and headgear are supplied for additional cost. The inventory includes cruisers, BMXs, mountain bikes, tandems, and bikes for kids. Hours are daily 9am to 5pm. The company also offers free delivery and pickup.
Another rental place is Peddling Pelican (tel. 843/785-3546), offering beach cruisers, tandems, child carriers, and bikes for kids. There’s free delivery to any area hotel or resort. Cost is $21 for a full day or $25 for 3 days. Hours are daily 9am to 6pm.
CRUISES & TOURS -- To explore Hilton Head’s waters, contact Captain Mark’s Dolphin Cruises, Shelter Cove Harbour, Harbour Dock C, located behind condominium building Harbourside II (tel. 843/785-4558; www.captmarksdolphincruises.com). Outings include a 1 3/4-hour dolphin-watch cruise, which costs adults $16 to $18 and children $8 to $9.
Another outfitter, Drifter Excursions, 232 S. Sea Pines Dr., South Beach Marina (tel. 843/363-2900; www.hiltonheadboattours.com), takes passengers on dolphin watches, sightseeing cruises, and nature cruises. Call for information on what’s happening at the time of your visit. Fishing trips range from $58 to $68 per person.
FISHING -- Fishing licenses are needed for saltwater and freshwater fishing for anyone 16 years or older. The season for fishing offshore is April through October. Rates for non-residents are $11 for 14 days and $35 for a year.
Off Hilton Head, you can go deep-sea fishing for amberjack, barracuda, shark, and king mackerel. Many rentals are available; I’ve recommended only those with the best track records. Drifter Excursions features a 50-passenger, 60-foot drifter vessel that offers 3- to 5-hour offshore and inshore fishing excursions ranging in price from $58 to $68. The 32-foot Boomerang fishing boat is available for private offshore and inshore custom fishing charters lasting up to 8 hours ($10–$15).
GOLF -- With more than 20 highly challenging golf courses on the island itself, and an additional 16 within a 30-minute drive, Hilton Head is heaven for both professional and novice golfers. Some of golf’s most celebrated architects—including George and Tom Fazio, Robert Trent Jones, Pete Dye, and Jack Nicklaus—have designed championship courses on the island. Wide, scenic fairways and rolling greens have earned Hilton Head the reputation of being the resort with the most courses on any number of the “world's best” lists. For additional information about golf on Hilton Head, go to www.golfisland.com or www.hiltonheadgolf.net.
Most of Hilton Head’s championship courses are open to the public, including those at the Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort (tel. 866/380-1778; www.palmettodunes.com). Its George Fazio Course, an 18-hole, 6,534-yard, par-70 course that Golf Digest ranked among the top-75 U.S. resort courses, has been cited for its combined length and keen accuracy. Greens fees (with cart) are $89 to $129 for 18 holes. Its Robert Trent Jones Oceanfront Course is an 18-hole, 6,122-yard, par-72, with greens fees (with cart) of $105 to $159 for 18 holes. Hours are daily from 7am to 6pm.
On Highway 278, 1 mile west of the bridge leading to Hilton Head, is Old South Golf Links, 50 Buckingham Plantation Dr., Bluffton (tel. 800/257-8997 or 843/785-5353; www.oldsouthgolf.com). This 18-hole, 6,772-yard, par-72 course was recognized as one of the “Top 10 New Public Courses” by Golf Digest, which cited its panoramic views and settings that range from an oak forest to tidal salt marshes. Greens fees are $55 to $95, and it’s open daily from 7:30am to 7pm.
Also on Highway 278 is the Hilton Head National Golf Club, 60 Hilton Head National Dr., Bluffton (tel. 843/842-5900; www.golfhiltonheadnational.com), designed by Gary Player. The 27-hole, 6,779-yard, par-72 course has gorgeous scenery that evokes Scotland. Facilities include a full-service pro shop, driving range, and a grill. Greens fees range from $50 to $100, and it’s open daily from 7am to 6pm.
Further west on Highway 278 is Island West Golf Club, 40 Island West Dr., Bluffton (tel. 843/689-6660; www.islandwestgolf.net). With its backdrop of oaks, elevated tees, and rolling fairways, it’s a challenging but playable 18-hole, 6,803-yard, par-72 course. Green fees are $35 to $49, and it’s open daily from 7am to 6pm.
HORSEBACK RIDING -- Riding through beautiful maritime forests and nature preserves is reason enough to visit Hilton Head. I like Lawton Stables, 190 Greenwood Dr., Sea Pines Resort (tel. 843/671-2586; www.lawtonstables.com), which offers trail rides for adults and children through the Sea Pines Forest Preserve (daily 9am, 11am, 2pm, and 4pm). It costs $55 to $65 per person for a ride that lasts a bit over an hour. Riders must weigh under 250 pounds; kids 7 and under ride ponies instead of horses. The stables are open Monday to Saturday from 7:30am to 5:30pm. Reservations are necessary.
KAYAK TOURS -- Kayaking is one of the few ways to get an up-close view of the flora and fauna of the salt marshes. Outside Hilton Head (tel. 800/686-6996 or 843/686-6996; www.outsidehiltonhead.com) offers well-orchestrated kayak tours of various Lowcountry waterways and salt marshes from at least two locations on the island. Its busiest location is at 32 Shelter Cove Lane, near the Shelter Cove Marina. The 2-hour guided nature tour costs $40 for adults, and $20 for children 12 and under. After getting instructions on how to control your boat, you’ll travel through the salt-marsh creeks of the Calibogue Sound or Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge.
A worthy competitor is Marshgrass Adventures (tel. 843/684-3296; www.marshgrassadventures.com), featuring sailing and kayaking tours from a base at Broad Creek Marina. Every day between April and October, an experienced guide takes participants out on 2-hour kayak tours ($60) to see egrets, herons, fish, crabs, and various crawling critters. There’s even the occasional dolphin. Three-hour tours are $75; kayak rentals are $20/hour.
SAILING & WATERSPORTS -- Hilton Head Island Sailing, Palmetto Bay Marina (tel. 843/686-2582; www.hiltonheadislandsailing.com), is a two-catamaran charter operator piloted by Captain John and his mate Jeanne. You can pack a picnic lunch and bring your cooler aboard for a 2 1/2-hour trip—which departs at 10am, 2pm, and at sunset throughout the year. The cost for an excursion aboard the 53-foot-long Pau Hana is $40 for adults and $20 for children 11 and under. Flying Circus, measuring 30 feet in length, offers private 2-hour trips for up to six people priced at $300.
H2O Sports, Harbour Town Marina, 149 Lighthouse Rd. (tel. 877/290-4386; www.h2osports.com), offers powerboat rentals ($250/2 hr.), jet-skiing ($109/hr.), kayak tours ($40), parasailing ($69), paddleboarding (rentals $30/hr.), and water-skiing ($325/2 hr.).
TENNIS -- With more than 300 courts—ideal for beginner, intermediate, and advanced players—Hilton Head boasts an extremely high concentration of tennis facilities. Of its 19 tennis clubs, 7 are open to the public. A wide variety of tennis clinics and daily lessons are also available.
Sea Pines Racquet Club, Sea Pines Resort, 5 Lighthouse Lane (tel. 843/363-4495; www.seapinestennisresort.com), has been the site of more nationally televised tennis events than any other location. It has 21 clay courts, 4 lit for night play. Hotel guests get 2 hours of complimentary tennis time; after that, it costs $27 per hour. After hours (daily 8am–5pm), courts are free. Note that proper clay court tennis shoes are required.
The closest competitor to Sea Pines is Van Der Meer Tennis, 116 Shipyard Dr. (tel. 800/845-6138 or 843/785-8388; www.vandermeertennis.com). It has about the same number of courts, equivalent prices, and well-respected teachers.
Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center, Palmetto Dunes Resort (tel. 843/785-1152; www.palmettodunes.com), is another reliable option with 23 clay courts and 2 hard courts (6 lit for night play). Hotel guests get 2 hours free per day; otherwise, the charge is $30 per hour, or $20 (walk-on only) between noon and 4pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.