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Action Heating & Air Conditioning in Kiawah Island, SC

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(843) 890-0532

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South Carolina is one of the most beautiful places in the United States to call home. However, our local weather can be extreme – high temps and thick humidity in the summer and chilly winter weather during cold months. As a local HVAC company in Kiawah Island, SC, we know how crucial it is to have a quality HVAC system in your home and experienced technicians to keep it working correctly.

With more than 35 years of serving the Lowcountry, we are proud to be an active part of our local community. As your neighbors, we are here for all of your HVAC needs, whether you need a new AC unit installed this summer or a heat pump replacement this winter. With a reliable team of NATE-certified technicians and decades of experience in our industry, no HVAC project is too big or small for us to handle.

We offer highly competitive pricing and convenient financing options for all of our clients. At the end of the day, our goal is to make it easy and affordable to live comfortably in your home all year long. We are committed to hard work, honesty, and integrity with every service we offer. If you aren’t 100% satisfied with our work, we’ll do our part to make it right.

Service Areas

Here are just a few of the reasons why homeowners and business owners in South Carolina trust Action Heating & Air Conditioning:

  • We have been serving clients in South Carolina since 1983 – before many of our clients were even born!
  • We provide a wide range of HVAC services for both heating and air conditioning.
  • We are committed to giving our clients the highest quality products and services at affordable prices.
  • As a Carrier® Factory Authorized Dealer, we have the best HVAC units available.
  • We are members of the South Carolina Association of Heating and Air Conditioning Contractors.
  • We are members of our local Chamber of Commerce and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America.

If you need a trusted AC repair company in Kiawah Island, know that our team is geared up and ready to help you today. While you browse our website, have a look at just a few of our specialties here at Action Heating & Air Conditioning:

Air Conditioning Repair in Kiawah Island, SC

Summers in the Lowcountry are hot, humid, and sticky. After a long day at the beach or downtown with your friends, nothing feels better than kicking back on the sofa while your air conditioning cools you off. On the other hand, nothing feels worse than walking into your home and feeling warm, stale air hit your face. Those who know, know – having your AC go out during a South Carolina summer is no joke. With time, a relatively minor inconvenience can turn into a real health problem.

In situations like these, something has probably gone wrong with your HVAC system. If your AC has stopped working in the middle of summer, it’s time to call Action Heating & Air Conditioning right away. Our team of certified HVAC professionals has years of experience repairing and servicing AC equipment. It doesn’t matter how old your unit is or what brand you bought – we have the skills to get your home comfort system up and running in no time.

Here are just a few of the AC issues that our talented team can help solve for you:
Air Conditioning Drainage Block

Air Conditioning Drainage Block

Over time, condensation builds up in your AC equipment because of its cooling process. This accumulated byproduct must be drained regularly, or the increased amounts of moisture can damage your air conditioner’s components.

Air Conditioning Drainage Block

Air Conditioning Refrigerant Leak

Refrigerant is the substance responsible for keeping your home nice and cool in the summer. When refrigerant levels drop due to a leak, it will affect your AC equipment’s ability to cool your home. If your HVAC unit isn’t blowing cold air, this could be a reason why.

Air Conditioning Drainage Block

Heater Keeps Running

This is a common AC issue in South Carolina and the U.S. in general. Sometimes this problem is fixed by switching your thermostat to “auto.” If that doesn’t work, you may have a broken thermostat or a wiring issue that needs to be addressed quickly.

Air Conditioning Drainage Block

Burning Odors

It’s normal for your heater to produce a slight burning smell if it hasn’t been used in a while. However, if you are experiencing a persistent burning smell during the summer months when your air conditioning is on, it could be a serious problem. Turn off your HVAC system immediately and call our office as soon as possible so that we may send out a technician to diagnose your problem.

Air Conditioning Drainage Block

Broken Air Conditioning Compressor Fan

This fan plays an important role in your AC unit’s heat transfer process. When your air conditioning fan breaks, your AC equipment won’t be able to cool your home off in the summer when it’s needed the most.

Our Special Offers

One of our goals as a company is to provide HVAC repair services at fair and competitive prices. In addition, we want you to feel confident about investing in high-quality heating and cooling systems without having to worry a lot about the costs. We make sure to provide honest and accurate quotes and we offer a variety of financing options. We want you to get the best bang for your buck, so here are some special offers.

See Our Offer

If you are experiencing any of the problems above, be sure to hire a professional contractor to fix your issues. For your safety, don’t ever try to make HVAC repairs on your own unless you are trained. When the time come to have your air conditioning system repaired, our team of licensed AC technicians will handle all of the hard work on your behalf. That way, you can stay safe and have peace of mind knowing you’re in good hands.

Air Conditioning Install in Kiawah Island, SC

Your HVAC system works hard all year long. If you have gone years without much maintenance or AC repair, you probably bought a great HVAC unit. However, with constant use and even normal wear and tear, even the highest-quality HVAC systems are prone to malfunctions. Eventually, it will need to be replaced.

If you need an energy-efficient, reliable cooling system for your home or business, you have come to the right place. We have decades of experience installing new AC systems for our clients and can handle any installation project you have. As a Carrier® Factory Authorized Dealer, we have the most top-rated AC systems available in South Carolina.

At Action Heating & Air Conditioning, we know that buying a new air conditioner and installing it can be a huge source of stress. But when you work with us, it doesn’t have to be that way. We have made it our mission to make the AC installation process easy and efficient for our customers. That way, they can focus more on living life and enjoying their home while we work hard on their AC install in Kiawah Island.

Whether you plan to replace a faulty air conditioning system or need a Carrier unit for your new construction home, we have got you covered. We will work with you directly to find the best fit for your home and budget. We are also happy to answer all of your AC installation questions prior to and during your initial service appointment.

Common Signs That You Need a New AC Install in Kiawah Island, SC

Trying to figure out whether your air conditioner needs to be repaired or replaced can be a tricky decision to make. Most people have a hard time letting things go, and that includes AC units. It can be hard to know when to let go of the old and welcome in the new. To help save you time and make your decision a little easier, keep the following signs in mind. If you find yourself saying, “that sounds like my AC unit,” it might be time for a new air conditioning installation.

Strange Noises

Almost all air conditioners make a bit of low-level noise as they warm up and turn off. However, if you hear loud, unusual noises, it might be a sign that your air conditioner’s time is coming to an end. Buzzing and rattling noises are often indicators of a loose part. Grinding and whistling noises may mean something more serious is happening. Because these issues won’t dissipate over time, it’s crucial to have your air conditioner examined if you hear loud, strange noises.

Frequent Repairs

Kiawah Island AC repair is essential for keeping your air conditioner working efficiently. Sometimes, however, it makes more sense from a cost perspective to install a replacement system. This is especially true if your repairs are racking up. Some AC experts suggest using the “$5,000 rule” if you’re considering a new AC install. Simply multiply the age of your air conditioner by the costs you have been paying to repair your unit. If that amount is over $5,000, it may make more financial sense to install a new air conditioner rather than pay for expensive repairs throughout the year.

Higher Energy Bills

If you notice that your energy bill has significantly increased in price, it could be a sign that your HVAC unit is struggling to cool your home effectively. Try to be mindful of your air conditioner’s cooling cycles. If you notice frequent cycles, even in the summer, it could be the reason for your increased energy bill. In these cases, it’s best to have an expert test your system to see if a repair or replacement option is best for your family.

Age of Air Conditioning Unit

This sign is a no-brainer and one of the easiest ways to tell if you need to install a new AC system. On average, your HVAC unit will have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years. If your unit is more than ten years old and doesn’t have the “pizzaz” that it once had, it might be time to think about installing a new air conditioning unit.

R-22 Refrigerant

Old air conditioners usually require a type of refrigerant called R-22. This substance is very harmful to the environment and has been all but outlawed on newer HVAC systems. If your AC unit is old enough to require R-22, you should give serious thought to replacing your system with a newer, environmentally friendly solution.

Call Action Heating & Air Conditioning Today!

Over our 35+ year history, we have built our reputation on honesty, skilled workmanship, and reasonable pricing. If you are on the hunt for the highest quality air conditioning repair in Kiawah Island, SC, give our office a call today.

Call us at (843) 890-0532

Protecting Your Investment

Your air conditioning system works very hard every day, all year long to keep your home comfy and cool. Machines that work hard year-round are going to require maintenance and ongoing services to stay operational.

As a family-owned and operated HVAC company in Kiawah Island, SC, we know better than anyone how expensive it can be to maintain an AC unit. We know that money doesn’t grow on trees. We also understand that finding last-minute resources to fix an air conditioning system can be challenging. That is why we offer extended warranties for your new or existing AC equipment. With an extended warranty from Action Heating & Air Conditioning, you benefit from repairs, replacement, and additional services covered under warranty. That way, you can enjoy your HVAC products as long as possible.

If you’re having second thoughts about purchasing an extended warranty, consider these points:
  • Generally speaking, HVAC equipment lasts anywhere from 10 to 15 years. However, warranties provided by the factory will often expire before the service life of your cooling unit is over. With an extended warranty, your indoor comfort system is covered even if the factory warranty expires.
  • Having an extended warranty on your AC system gives you the chance to project and plan for any HVAC costs. This helps you balance your budget and anticipate expenses so you aren’t caught off guard. Having a warranty will also help protect your budget against increases in labor and parts costs due to inflation.
  • If you’re thinking of selling your home, having an extended warranty may help raise your home’s value. You may also be able to transfer your extended warranty to your new home if you choose to do so.

Latest News in Kiawah Island

Monarch Air Group Names Top 10 Golf Destinations by Private Jet

Fort Lauderdale based private jet provider shares insights of flight requests to the most popular courses via executive charter.Golf and private aviationPrivate aviation and golf go hand in hand. In fact, it is well known that professional golfers have been using executive flights for decades to accommodate to their rigorous schedules across the world. That trend equates to all golf lovers around the globe, with various country clubs located in remote places, usually far from main cities and international airpo...

Fort Lauderdale based private jet provider shares insights of flight requests to the most popular courses via executive charter.

Golf and private aviation

Private aviation and golf go hand in hand. In fact, it is well known that professional golfers have been using executive flights for decades to accommodate to their rigorous schedules across the world. That trend equates to all golf lovers around the globe, with various country clubs located in remote places, usually far from main cities and international airports, and closer to smaller regional terminals suited for private aircraft.

Autumn is a fantastic time of the year to enjoy top golf courses, with beautiful colors and breathtaking landscapes. And with domestic private jet travel reaching record highs due to the pandemic, Monarch Air Group has elaborated a list with the top 10 golf destinations in the U.S. according to the number of bookings, with Oregon, North Carolina and Alabama leading the way. Although each of the states mentioned below have various quality golf courses, only the top three are ranked as reported by Golf Digest Magazine.

Have you traveled with golf equipment on a commercial flight before? Yes, not ideal. When flying on a private jet with your clubs you will not need to check them in, pay extra costs due to weight restrictions or worry about damage. Did you know some airlines do not even compensate for it? In essence, flying with your clubs in the private jet’s cabin will reduce stress and uncertainty to the minimum, thus allowing you and your golf crew to enjoy the experience from start to finish.

Furthermore, this piece displays just how flexible private aviation can be, with an airport almost exclusively serving each course thus enabling passengers to arrive just a few miles away and avoid extra hours and costs on ground transportation.

1) Oregon

The Pacific Northwest leads the rankings as the top golf related private jet destination in the U.S. Oregon has various quality executive airports, although the closest airport that serves the top three courses in the state is Southwest Oregon Regional Airport (OTH), with an average 25 miles from each country club. This is very convenient and justifies why Oregon is the top destination, as passengers, in just one trip to the state, can visit all top courses in a few days.

Top courses

2) North Carolina

With great weather this time of the year and country clubs, it is no surprise that North Carolina comes in second place. Jackson County Airport is 25 miles away from the Wade Hampton Golf Course, while Pinehurst Resort is just 6 miles from Moore County Airport (SOP). Diamond Creek Golf Course is located 20 miles from Boone Airport (NC14), although this airstrip only can serve private turboprops due to the length of its runway.

Top courses

This state’s top three courses have very conveniently located regional airports. The Country Club of Birmingham is just eight miles from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) while Shoal Creek is only 21 miles separated from the same terminal. The Ledges Country Club located in the northern tip of Alabama, has Huntsville Executive Airport (KMDQ) just 20 miles away.

Top courses

Although California has great golf courses, it also has plenty of packed airports. Good thing that the top three courses in the state have great locations. For number 1 and 2, Monterey Regional Airport (MRY) is just 9 miles away, as both country clubs are very close. The Los Angeles Country Club is 12 miles removed from LA International Airport (LAX), and although it has heavy traffic year-round, it also offers one of the top private jet infrastructures in the world.

Top courses

With perfect weather all year, Florida’s golf courses never get old. The top three options have a specific terminal for landing a private jet. The Seminole Golf Course is 17 miles away from the Palm Beach International Airport (PBI), the TPC Sawgrass is 18 miles from the Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport (JAXEX) and Calusa Pines G.C. is 15 miles from Naples International Airport (NAP).

Top courses

You should enjoy the courses in Wisconsin while you can, because we all know that winters are brutal. Again, three conveniently located airports connect in few miles with the top country clubs in the state. For Whistling Straits, Sheboygan County Memorial Airport (SBM) is just 12 miles away, while Erwin Hills only 9 miles from Hartford Municipal Airport (HXF). Timmerman Airport (MWC) is the closest to the Milwaukee Country Club at only 8 miles.

Top courses

Home of the Masters Tournament, the Augusta National Golf Club is one of the most famous golf courses in the world and it sits just 13 miles from the Augusta Regional Airport (AGS). At number two comes the Ohoopee Match Club, located 17 miles from Vidalia Regional Airport (VDI). Finally, Peachtree G.C. is the country club that is closest to a terminal on this list, just 2 miles from DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (PDK).

Top courses

Located in the west ridge of Lake Michigan, both number one and three of Golf Digest’s top courses in Michigan are an average 15 miles away from Frankfort Dow Memorial Airport (FKS). Oakland Hills Country Club is 25 miles removed from the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW).

Top courses

Three courses in three different islands. A perfect setting for private aviation. Nanea Golf Course is located in the west coast of Hawaii's Big Island, 10 miles from Kona International Airport (KOA). Manele is 8 miles from Lanai Airport (LNY), the only airport serving the island of Lanai. Finally, Kapalua is in Maui, and 30 miles separated from Kahului Airport (OGG).

Top courses

A breathtaking golf course closes the list. The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in eastern South Carolina is a thing of beauty. Grass, sand, and ocean. It is located 20 miles from Charleston Executive Airport (JZI), the same terminal that serves Congaree G.C., although located 70 miles away, the most remote field on this list. While Yeamans Hall Club is only 8 miles from Charleston International Airport (CHS).

Top courses

How South Carolina’s Kiawah Island strikes a balance between tourism and conservation

From inside of Voysey’s, the private restaurant that overlooks Kiawah Island’s Cassique course, a diner might be tricked into believing that this country club island is just like any other luxury destination. The windows that frame the course betray swaying grasses, moody greens and nearly imperceptible stick-figure golfers enjoying the splendor of one of the country’s most celebrated golf courses.But the barrier island of Kiawah, some 25 miles south of Charleston, S.C., is more than a golf destination with premier b...

From inside of Voysey’s, the private restaurant that overlooks Kiawah Island’s Cassique course, a diner might be tricked into believing that this country club island is just like any other luxury destination. The windows that frame the course betray swaying grasses, moody greens and nearly imperceptible stick-figure golfers enjoying the splendor of one of the country’s most celebrated golf courses.

But the barrier island of Kiawah, some 25 miles south of Charleston, S.C., is more than a golf destination with premier beachfront homes. Kiawah Island has solidified itself as one of the most eco-friendly residential areas and tourist destinations in the United States, with conservation efforts dating back nearly half a century. Visitors are the beneficiaries of these extensive efforts, and the island is a rare example of how tourism and ecological concern can coexist.

In 1973, Kiawah Island established the Kiawah Turtle Patrol, an organization that tracks and protects the island’s native population of nesting loggerhead turtles. Soon after, Kiawah Investment, a Kuwaiti-owned company, purchased the island from heirs to a lumber company operator and, in 1975, conducted an environmental inventory of the island over the course of 16 months, studying natural habitats, wildlife and archaeological history, said Donna Windham, executive director of the Kiawah Conservancy.

The widespread inventory led to a master plan, which has since been enacted by the town of Kiawah, that combines environmental activism with tourism and leisure. “It was a whole new environment for them,” Windham said of the Kuwaiti effort. “They took it very seriously that this island was special.” Today, Windham said, the Kiawah Conservancy operates as a nonprofit land trust for the island, encouraging the protection of the environment by working in conjunction with landowners.

The conservancy, established in 1997, can hold land and issue easements. It has, to date, preserved “2,273 acres of Kiawah’s 10,000 acres,” according to the island’s website. In January 2000, Windham said, 152 acres of land known as Little Bear Island — a nesting destination for coastal birds such as the piping plover, peregrine falcon and osprey — were preserved by the Wetlands America Trust, part of the Ducks Unlimited nonprofit conservation group. The easement was updated in 2007 to include protection from the trust and the Kiawah Island Natural Habitat Conservancy.

As a traveler, you may see no concrete indication of the infrastructure that governs the island’s conservation. Yet the influence is everywhere, evident in the clamoring hermit crabs at the shoreline, the robust oyster beds that climb upward on the riverbanks, and the petite raccoons that scale trees at dusk in search of their next meal.

Close to the island’s Ocean Course, where a strip of cerulean is just visible beyond the marsh, a passerby might be privy to any number of natural encounters: alligators with snouts just visible in the pond water; hook-necked blue herons staring out into the palmettos; white-tailed deer bedding down beneath the drapery of Spanish moss. These moments, despite their frequency, arrive as a surprise in a place where golf clubs and impeccable architecture are the local currency.

But you’re more likely than not to encounter a wild animal during your visit, and that’s because Kiawah Island includes 3,000 acres of tidal salt marsh and 10 miles of shoreline, providing shelter for a variety of wildlife. According to town of Kiawah Wildlife Biologist Jim Jordan — his position was created in 2000 and, eight years later, Assistant Wildlife Biologist Aaron Given arrived — there are 315 species of birds, more than 30 species of mammals, more than 40 species of reptiles, more than 20 species of amphibians, and thousands of invertebrates that call the island home.

“It’s pretty unique,” Jordan said. It is, he said, “a functioning, intact ecosystem that’s working the way it would have worked if there were no houses there.”

One of the island’s most fascinating predators is the bobcat; the current bobcat population, Jordan said, is between 15 and 20. Four to six bobcats are collared by the biology team each year, so their movements can be tracked via GPS. “Visitors and residents can look at the tracking maps online and see where they’ve been,” he said.

Take a boat out onto the serene Kiawah River — you can book tours through the island’s sole resort, the Kiawah Island Golf Resort — and you’re bound to see a dolphin or two, gray fin slipping in and out of the water. These are the island’s bottlenose species, and they’re friendly, tracking vessels and providing the occasional show, flippers aflight. They also engage in a unique behavior known as “strand-feeding.”

“In a coordinated effort, they will basically force a school of fish or a school of shrimp up toward the bank,” Jordan said. “They beach themselves.” The western end of the island makes for good viewing of this behavior, although he warned that disrupting dolphins during their strand-feeds can be harmful. “It’s a learned behavior,” passed down from generation to generation, Jordan said. Should a strand-feed get interrupted, dolphins could abandon the behavior entirely, thus keeping future generations from learning how to eat in this location-specific manner.

The serenity experienced on this island oasis is thanks to more than just the work of the conservancy. At the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, for instance, an AAA five-diamond resort that was built in 2004, live, mature oak trees were transplanted to help promote the maintenance of the natural environment. “This really wasn’t required. It was just something that we did voluntarily, because we thought it was the right thing to do,” said Bryan Hunter, director of public relations for the Kiawah Island Golf Resort.

The resort, he said, places a premium on conservation efforts, encouraging guests to immerse themselves in the local environment through organized boat trips to other barrier islands, alligator safaris and dolphin-viewing excursions. Visitors can also tag along with the Turtle Patrol in the morning in search of hatching and migration patterns (although that program has been greatly restricted because of the coronavirus pandemic). Some may even get to assist hatchling turtles, Hunter said. Those who join the Turtle Patrol outings look for nests, take notes and record observations about the year’s hatch.

One conservation effort enforced by island residents — including hoteliers — is the Lights Out for Sea Turtles initiative, which requires that beach-illuminating lights be turned off in the evenings during loggerhead nesting season. As Jordan pointed out, artificial light confuses hatchling turtles, often accidentally guiding them away from the ocean.

Low light pollution, Hunter said, is “vital.” “The resort, along with the rest of the island, through town ordinance, makes sure that we really carefully monitor light pollution along the beach, so that it doesn’t disorient nesting sea turtles or hatching sea turtles,” he said.

As the sun descends at dusk, there is a vibration in the air. Is it the cicadas, on their 17-year cycle? Or maybe just a faraway flock of birds? Whatever the origin of the ambient noise, it calls to mind a soothing bedtime melody, the kind you might slip into as you wind down into sleep.

Potential travelers should take local and national public health directives regarding the pandemic into consideration before planning any trips. Travel health notice information can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and the CDC's travel health notice webpage.

This AAA five-diamond property has 255 guest rooms and suites, as well as multiple dining venues and direct beach access. Rooms from about $240.

Run by the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, this 1.5-hour boat excursion takes guests through creeks and marshes in search of the island’s native bottlenose dolphin population. $450 for up to six passengers.

Situated on the west end of the island, this ocean beach offers the only public access on Kiawah. Amenities include lifeguards, chair and umbrella rentals, restrooms, outdoor showers, a snack bar and a picnic area with grills. Parking $5 to $15 per vehicle.

Guests can ask resident wildlife biologists about the local ecology and visit with some of the native and nonnative species, such as diamondback terrapins and a 10-foot-long Burmese python. The center’s gift shop sells handcrafted items made by local artists. Free.

Walk or bike this one-mile scenic trail that extends over the marsh to a lookout tower. Part of the larger Kiawah Island bike trails system, which covers about 30 miles, this trail is suitable for all ages.

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6 Festive Holiday Destinations Within an Easy Drive of DC

Bethlehem, PennsylvaniaIt isn’t called Christmas City for nothing. Founded by Moravian missionaries in 1741—and named on Christmas Eve—Bethlehem puts on a show every holiday season, with its “star of Bethlehem” lights all over town, a nativity pageant, horse-drawn carriage rides, and even a “live” Advent calendar where treats are handed out. A big attraction is its Germ...

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

It isn’t called Christmas City for nothing. Founded by Moravian missionaries in 1741—and named on Christmas Eve—Bethlehem puts on a show every holiday season, with its “star of Bethlehem” lights all over town, a nativity pageant, horse-drawn carriage rides, and even a “live” Advent calendar where treats are handed out. A big attraction is its German-style outdoor holiday market, Christkindlmarkt, where some 60 vendors sell handmade nutcrackers, Moravian glass, and other wares. The historic and delightful downtown is home to dozens of restaurants and retailers, including the Moravian Book Shop, which opened in 1745 and claims to be the oldest continuously operated bookstore in the world. Also downtown—and not only dressed up but also scented for the season—is Historic Hotel Bethlehem, voted the top historic hotel in the country this year by readers of USA Today. Distance from DC: 195 miles.

Middleburg, Virginia

Santa may have reindeer, but this Hunt Country town has horses. Starting at 11 am on December 4, about 150 of them, along with riders in hunting attire and dozens of hounds, hit the streets for a “hunt review.” The day’s Christmas in Middleburg festivities also include a craft fair, hayrides, a “Santa’s workshop” for families, and an afternoon parade with floats, antique fire trucks, llamas, alpacas, and, yes, more horses. Parking is limited and must be purchased in advance ($30 to $50). All season long, the town’s “Dickens Christmas” theme means carriage rides and tastefully decorated shop windows. Distance from DC: 42 miles.

St. Michaels, Maryland

The Eastern Shore town pulls out the sleighs for its annual celebration, Christmas in St. Michaels—this year December 10 through 12. Don’t miss the Saturday parade through the center of town, with marching bands, vintage cars, and festive llamas. Evening is when local captains deck out their decks in elaborate holiday lights for a boat procession around the harbor. Revelers can fuel up at two churches, which host ticketed holiday breakfasts or luncheons with Chesapeake specialties such as fried oysters. Shoppers can pick up oyster-shell wreaths and crab ornaments at the pop-up marketplace or Christmas Shop. Our favorite: ticketed home tours ($25 a person), where you get a peek inside the 19th-century town’s historic residences and nearby waterfront estates, hung with gorgeous decorations. Distance from DC: 83 miles.

Williamsburg, Virginia

’Tis the season at Colonial Williamsburg to find Father Christmas strolling Merchants Square and carolers’ voices in the air. The historic district’s most celebrated annual holiday event, Grand Illumination, was canceled last year due to Covid but is back with a bang: The usual one-night event now stretches to six (the first three Friday and Saturday nights of December). Depending on the evening, activities include a yule-log procession; 18th-century music and entertainment; and fireworks. Nearby, Busch Gardens theme park turns into a blazing “Christmas Town” thanks to more then 10 million lights, and Jamestown gets into the festivities with a lighted boat parade (December 4) and an outdoor Christmas market with nearly 100 vendors (December 4 and 5). Distance from DC: 152 miles.

Cape May, New Jersey

This Victorian beach town doesn’t rest in the off-season—it’s a hive of activity come December. The three-block, pedestrian-only Washington Street Mall, lined with shops and restaurants, is festooned with decorations. So are many of the grand Victorian houses in town—you can see some on a candlelight house tour (December 4, 11, and 18) or by hopping aboard a “holiday lights” trolley ride. (If ghost stories are more your thing, opt for the Ghosts of Christmas Past trolley tour.) Also storied: the 1879 Emlen Physick Estate, which goes all out in Victorian finery—complete with a model train circling a miniature Dickens-inspired village. It’s open for day and evening tours. Distance from DC: 189 miles, or 143 miles via the Cape May–Lewes ferry.

New Hope, Pennsylvania

Old St. Nick greets passengers on the antique cars of New Hope Railroad’s “Santa’s Steam Train Ride.” Just outside town, 1 million lights adorn the 65 shops of Colonial-style Peddler’s Village. While this Bucks County destination is full of charm this season, perhaps the best reason to visit is a different sort of holiday tradition: On December 21 and 25 at nearby Washington Crossing Historic Park, you can watch several hundred people clad in Continental Army uniforms reenact General George Washington’s 1776 Christmas-night crossing of the Delaware River. Distance from DC: 180 miles.

Getting Warmer

It’s not too late to plan a winter or spring break—if you know where to go

If what you really want for the holidays this year is to spend them someplace warmer than here, may we suggest Ireland? Sure, it’s often dank and soggy, and only slightly warmer than DC, but it doesn’t usually snow, and it might be the best you can do.

That’s because, warns Alisa Cohen, founder of DC’s Luxe Traveler Club, you’ll be hard-pressed to book a room at sought-after beach resorts in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Florida. Anything you could find would be unusually expensive, she explains: “The Caribbean and Mexico are cost-prohibitive right now. Five-star hotels are $2,000 a night, minimum, and there’s no availability. It would be better to look for an alternative winter break.”

The same goes for Presidents’ Day week in February and Easter week in April, she says, which already have limited availability and inflated prices.

For those who still want a beach vacation but can live with temps in the 60s versus the 80s, Cohen recommends Southern California: “An LA–San Diego coast drive is a pretty week.”

Don’t need the beach? She suggests Arizona, where warmer-than-DC weather means you’d be able to hike.

Rather drive than fly? Cohen likes resorts down south such as Sea Island, Georgia; the Sanctuary on South Carolina’s Kiawah Island; and Palmetto Bluff, also in South Carolina: “It’s milder than here, and there are lots of outdoor activities.”

As Europe has opened up, it has also opened up the possibilities.

“We honestly are doing more and more winter breaks to Europe,” Cohen says. “Paris for New Year’s, or London.” And, she adds, the aforementioned Emerald Isle: “Ireland is a more affordable destination than almost anything in Europe. It’s also cozy. It’s all fireplaces and country-house manors. They do a lot for the holidays—it feels very festive.”

This article appears in the December 2021 issue of Washingtonian.

Don’t miss another great party.

More: antique carsBethlehemCape MaycarolingChristmasColonial WilliamsburgGrand Illuminationholiday marketsMiddleburgParadesSantasSpring BreakSt. Michaelswinter break

Exploring Kiawah Island, South Carolina’s private getaway, where day visitors are welcome (by most, anyway)

KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina – The young man behind the counter at the West Beach pool helped me pick out a bike, handed me a map and told me to have fun.What a contrast to the security attendant I encountered a few moments before, who made me feel like an interloper at the gated entrance to Kiawah Island.I brushed aside her grouchiness and headed out on two wheels, pedaling first through the island’s leafy interior before heading to the beach, where the sand at low tide cuts an incredible coastal path along the At...

KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina – The young man behind the counter at the West Beach pool helped me pick out a bike, handed me a map and told me to have fun.

What a contrast to the security attendant I encountered a few moments before, who made me feel like an interloper at the gated entrance to Kiawah Island.

I brushed aside her grouchiness and headed out on two wheels, pedaling first through the island’s leafy interior before heading to the beach, where the sand at low tide cuts an incredible coastal path along the Atlantic.

Kiawah, the mostly private barrier island about 25 miles south of Charleston, is often included on lists of the world’s most beautiful beaches. For that reason alone, I put the island on the top of my to-do list as I planned a short trip to South Carolina to try out the new Breeze Airways flights out of Akron-Canton Airport.

It’s not the simplest place to visit, however, especially if you’re not spending the night.

Staying overnight

There’s one hotel on the island, the tony Sanctuary, a gorgeous, ocean-front AAA five-diamond property with 255 rooms. Rates here run $500 and up during the summer, which was too steep for me.

Instead, I overnighted at a hotel on U.S. 17, a 30-minute drive away, and planned a day trip to the island. Shortly after arrival, however, I wasn’t entirely sure that my plan was a good one.

I had called earlier to make a reservation for the Jasmine Porch, inside the Sanctuary, one of the island’s numerous restaurants. It’s one of several ways that non-guests are encouraged to visit the island, owned primarily by the Kiawah Island Golf Resort and other real estate development companies.

I made it to Kiawah by 10 a.m. on a recent Sunday, told the woman at the gate that I had a restaurant reservation and asked for a map of the island. She told me I wasn’t to linger on the island and wouldn’t give me a map.

“But I’m planning on renting bikes,” I told her. “You’re not allowed to rent bikes,” she told me.

That came as news to the young man at the nearby West Beach pool, who told me I was welcome to rent a bicycle and to pedal anywhere I liked. “Security being security,” he said, and shrugged.

Indeed, non-guests are also welcome to sign up for recreational activities and nature programs, including dolphin encounters, kayak tours, art classes and more.

They’re even allowed to golf – and this island is well known for its spectacular and prestigious courses, including the waterfront Ocean Course, which hosted the 2021 PGA Championship in May. Five courses are open to the public, whether you’re staying on the island or not, including the Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course, Cougar Point, Turtle Point, Osprey Point and Oak Point.

I’m not a golfer, which kept my to-do list simple for my short visit: Explore the island by bike, enjoy a nice meal, check out the beach, maybe witness some wildlife.

I popped into the Nature Center, too, for some air conditioned-relief, where I saw numerous snakes, turtles, a stuffed bobcat and two infant alligators in tanks (the only gators I saw during my visit, despite omnipresent signage warning visitors to stay away from ponds and waterways).

I enjoyed almost all of it – the biking was terrific, with 30 miles of shady, flat, paved paths that rarely intersected with the roadways; and the Southern cuisine at Jasmine Porch was excellent, featuring she-crab soup and crab cakes plus bottomless peach iced tea. The beach, as expected, was absolutely stunning, massive at low tide, flat and perfect for walking, cycling, lounging, even bocce playing.

The attitude of the folks manning the security gates, however, was decidedly unwelcoming. Perhaps purposely so?

Cocktails at the Ocean Course

After we returned our bikes, my husband and I decided to have a drink at the Ryder Cup Bar, at the far east end of the island, overlooking the spectacular 18th hole of the Ocean Course. Our waitress at lunch assured us that the bar was open to the public.

There is a second security gate about midway down the island, which controls access to the eastern half of Kiawah. I told the woman at the gate that we were headed to the Ryder Cup Bar.

She saw the pass from earlier in the day on our car’s dashboard and asked us if we had been to the beach. “Um, yes,” I answered. She then told us that we should not have been on the beach. “If we let everyone on the beach, there wouldn’t be enough room for the people who pay a premium for access,” she said.

That did not seem to be remotely a possibility, given the size of the beach here. But I smiled and nodded.

In a more friendly tone, she said she would make an exception for us, and handed us a pass to proceed to the bar. I thanked her while controlling the urge to roll my eyes.

My husband was put off by her attitude that seemed to suggest we weren’t welcome. I was amused, but also confused.

Other than the security staff, everyone we encountered on the island – vacationers, homeowners, wait staff, shopkeepers – were all wonderful and welcoming. They seemed to want us around.

The drive out to the Ocean Course was stunning, past spectacular, multimillion-dollar-plus properties, along live-oak lined roadways that were draped with Spanish moss.

At the end of the drive: the Ryder Cup Bar, where I very much enjoyed a cocktail called a sweet tea mojito. I sipped my beverage and enjoyed the view.

Thirst (and curiosity) quenched, we made our way back west, toward the only public destination on the island, Kiawah Beachwalker Park, part of the Charleston County Parks system (note: parking here is $15).

While technically all beaches in South Carolina are public, private landowners can (and do) restrict access to those beaches.

Beachwalker park provides public access to Kiawah’s entire 10-mile stretch of sand. Theoretically, a visitor could access the beach here and traverse (by foot or bicycle) the entire stretch of the Kiawah coast.

I wasn’t that ambitious, walking perhaps a mile to the island’s western end, where the Kiawah River joins the ocean. I was hoping to see some dolphins strand feeding, a fascinating practice where the dolphins herd fish onto the sand then launch themselves out of the water to eat. Kiawah, nearby Hilton Head and other low-lying coastal regions are among the handful of places throughout the world where this occurs, typically just before or after low tide.

Alas, I didn’t see any dolphins, but the beach was engaging enough – wide and flat and glorious.

I could have walked longer, but my feet were tired, the sun was setting and my hotel was a half hour drive away.

If you go: Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Getting there: Kiawah is about 25 miles southwest of Charleston, an easy drive from the airport or downtown.

Staying overnight: The Sanctuary offers 255 oceanfront rooms, starting at about $500 per night during the summer. Other options include the Andell Inn, part of the Freshfields Village development, just off Kiawah on St. Johns Island.

The island also has hundreds of villas and private homes available to rent via the Kiawah Island Golf Resort or individual owners.

More information: kiawahresort.com, kiawahisland.com, charlestoncvb.com

10 Reasons To Fall In Love With Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Kiawah Island is stunning. It is an unspoiled barrier island with an incredible ecosystem that includes 10 miles of pristine beach along the Atlantic coast, a maritime forest, and a labyrinth of saltwater marshes. The ocean, forests, and brackish waterways are home to 300 species of birds, 18 species of mammals, and 30 species of reptiles. There are so many incredible features, it’s hard to accurately describe this unique place located around 25 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina.It was named for the Kiawah Native America...

Kiawah Island is stunning. It is an unspoiled barrier island with an incredible ecosystem that includes 10 miles of pristine beach along the Atlantic coast, a maritime forest, and a labyrinth of saltwater marshes. The ocean, forests, and brackish waterways are home to 300 species of birds, 18 species of mammals, and 30 species of reptiles. There are so many incredible features, it’s hard to accurately describe this unique place located around 25 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina.

It was named for the Kiawah Native Americans. They lived off the land and fished from the ocean long before the colonists arrived in the Carolinas. The history continued with tales of pirates, plantation owners, enslaved people, lumbermen, and investors. Each inhabitant made Kiawah what it is today: a beautifully preserved nature sanctuary that is also a vacation paradise. Fortunately (since 1997), the land is overseen by the Kiawah Conservancy, a group whose mission steers them to balance nature with development so that visitors and residents can enjoy what is truly unique about the setting. Kiawah Island is a 45-minute drive from Charleston airport, has an average temperature that varies from 43 to 88 degrees from winter to summer, and has been my resort of choice for the past 18 years.

Here are 10 reasons to fall in love with Kiawah Island in no particular order. Once you visit, you will return, like I do, again and again.

1. Relax On 10 Miles Of Top-Rated Beach

Kiawah’s shoreline is pristine and consistently ranks amongst the best in the world. Voted one of the top 9 beaches in Charleston by Condé Nast in 2018, it was also voted the second-best island in the world by Condé Nast Traveler in 2019. Its east-west orientation offers a prime spot for viewing sunrises and sunsets. The packed sand allows for recreation, including beach games of all kinds, building sandcastles, and biking along the water’s edge. Since the beach is private, a vacation there requires renting a villa or home through Kiawah Island Golf Resort or booking a stay in The Sanctuary hotel. The Sanctuary is the island’s Forbes 5-star oceanfront accommodation that resembles a seaside mansion. Once you have secured your rental or reservation, you can arrange a setup of beach chairs and toys for maximum enjoyment.

2. Golf At Five Exceptional Public Courses

Kiawah has a global reputation for incredible golf. The site of two previous PGA Championships, Kiawah Island Resort is poised to host the tournament again in 2021 on the Ocean Course. The Ocean Course is regarded as one of the finest golf courses in the world and provides the Atlantic’s views from every hole. When you stay at the resort, you can choose to play five different courses designed by Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Gary Player, and Clyde Johnston. The island’s setting and the architect’s challenging designs incorporating the rolling dunes, marshes, and forests make for exciting play. Private instruction and group lessons are available if you want to up your game.

3. Swing A Racquet At A Top U.S. Tennis Resort

Since the late ’70s, the tennis program at Kiawah was built to be one of the best. First under Roy Barth, and now under his son Jonathan, Kiawah Island’s tennis program has remained one of the 50 best U.S. tennis resorts according to Tennis Magazine for thirty years running. The program offers 22 tennis courts, including 10 new Har-Tru clay courts. There are various vacation packages for tennis enthusiasts. But if you are on vacation and just want to play a few times, you can reserve a court, rent or buy equipment, take individual or group lessons, and experience why Kiawah is considered the top tennis resorts in the world.

4. Bike Amongst The Flora And Fauna

It’s easy to rent a bicycle on Kiawah. If you stay at the Sanctuary, the bike pavilion is open for walk-up rentals daily for half-day and full-day options. If you stay at a villa or home, you can reserve bicycles for two days or longer by making reservations with the resort. The bikes are dropped off and picked up directly from your accommodations. You can take Kiawah bikes on the beach to ride on the hard-packed sand, which is a ton of fun. You can also steer them along 30 miles of paved bicycle trails. If there is no trail, you may have to ride on a road (helmets are available with rentals free of charge by request). Along the way, there towers that allow you to look over the marshes and view birds and wildlife in their natural habitat.

5. Nature Programs Connect You To The Natural World

One thing that sets Kiawah apart from other resorts is its nature programs. There is something for everyone, from youngest to oldest and in-between. If you are active, there are kayaking, paddling, and fishing excursions. Some seasons even offer 5Ks, polar plunges, or triathlons. If you are artistic, there are painting, photography, and other creative classes. Yoga on the beach? Surf camp? Shelling? Yes, all that and more. And there is a daily newsletter you can read to discover what to see (nature-wise) while staying at the resort.

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6. Get Pampered At Sanctuary Spa

The Spa at The Sanctuary offers even more relaxation, if that is possible. There are single or full-day services available at their luxurious facility. There are combination sessions where you start the day with a personal training meeting and then get a relaxing massage or other treatments. There are couples therapies and salon experiences, including manicures and pedicures available at the spa. When you book a service, you are welcome to relax in the whirlpool, sauna, and steam room on the day of your treatment for as long as you want to linger.

7. Enjoy Casual And World-Class Dining

Dining on Kiawah offers vacationers a variety of choices. If you rent your own villa or home, you might want to make some meals, especially if you enjoy cooking. The resort program will have groceries delivered to your resort accommodation before your arrival, if you prefer. The Town Center Market at East Beach serves casual meals and has provisions for sale. If you need eggs, milk, bread, snacks, or sandwich fixings, you can find them here. For prepared meals, dine-in, pick-up, or delivery for breakfast, lunch, or dinner selections is available. There are also bottles of wine or beer and Kiawah Island logo merchandise for sale. Other dining options include a dozen eateries, including elegant and casual restaurants as well as poolside and outdoor cafes. Resort guests enjoy charging privileges and door-to-door ride service to any of the restaurants on the resort. The fare ranges from Lowcountry cuisine, Italian, steaks, and BBQ to the freshest seafood imaginable. The dining choices at Freshfields Village, just outside Kiawah Island Resort’s gates, offer additional restaurants to choose from and a full supermarket.

8. Shopping Steps Away From Your Room

The lobby-level promenade in The Sanctuary hotel offers exciting shopping in a relaxed setting, but there are various shops throughout the resort. The Sanctuary shops include The Golf Shop and different boutique stores that sell signature clothing for every family member. If you don’t have time to relax at the spa, the shop has lovely items to bring the relaxation home with you. The Wells Gallery represents a variety of artists from around the area and the globe in various mediums. The gallery specializes in works of art that celebrate Kiawah Island. The Heron Park Nature Center Island Outpost offers apparel by Patagonia, field guides, children’s toys, locally made or environmentally responsible gift items, and more. Just outside the gates of Kiawah Island Resort, Freshfields Village has terrific shopping from sporting goods to home decor and clothing.

9. Special Events Make For A Memorable Vacation

During the summer, there are daily special events with themes and entertainment. On the Fourth of July, the all-day celebration of food, games, and fun concludes with a breathtaking fireworks show. One favorite summer event that occurs every Monday evening from Memorial Day to Labor Day is the Mingo Point Oyster Roast and BBQ. Fresh roasted oysters, a full Lowcountry boil, and southern BBQ, plus a sunset over the Kiawah River and dancing under the moonlight to live music is a popular event. There is nothing better. Holidays are also special celebrations at the resort. Check the website for more information about how to book and what to look forward to for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.

10. Charming Charleston Is A Short Drive Away

Charleston, South Carolina, has been voted the number one city in the United States by Travel + Leisure for the past seven years. It is one of the oldest, most inviting, and romantic places to visit. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride or stroll down the cobblestone streets to explore the antebellum architecture south of Broad Street and the pastel homes along Rainbow Row. The history, the food, the harbor, and the vibe all make Charleston a great stop while visiting Kiawah Island. You can book tours right from the concierge. Or make a plan to visit before or after your stay on the island. One thing is sure you must make a visit to the Holy City when you stay on Kiawah.

Pro Tips

The best time to visit Kiawah and Charleston is the fall. Tourists love to flock to these areas from April to October because of the weather and the beaches. I always stayed on Kiawah in July or August due to school schedules, but it’s sweltering and can be buggy. The spring is also a beautiful time, and the blooms are glorious. The Charleston Tea Garden makes for a fun day trip. You can spend a few hours learning how tea is processed and produced at this location. Another popular attraction is the Angel Oak, a local treasure that must not be missed.

Editor’s Note: Considering Hilton Head instead? Here’s our comparison between Hilton Head and Kiawah Island.


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