15 Pros and Cons of Living in Hilton Head, SC

Most people are familiar with Hilton Head, South Carolina, as a great vacation spot. Even if you’ve never personally been there, you probably know someone who has, or you’ve heard stories of great beach trips.

So is Hilton Head a good place to live? If you’re considering a move, and Hilton Head is on your list of possible places to put down new roots, you’ll want to make an informed decision, so you get a great fit.

Here are 15 pros and cons of living in Hilton Head, South Carolina, that should help you make your choice.

7 Pros of Living in Hilton Head, SC

A picture of the Hilton Head lighthouse, painted in bright red and white. In front of the lighthouse is water docks, and several boats.

Here are some of the most notable pros of living in Hilton Head, South Carolina. 

1. Lots of Communities to Fit Different Styles

If you decide that it’s worth it to purchase a home on the island, plenty of communities are tailored to different demographics and needs, and you will find one that works for you. 

There are thirteen major residential communities on the island, each offering its own unique appeal. Some feel more like sprawling suburbs with lots of space, some with a more lively environment and a downtown atmosphere, and some with condos and private beach access.

Whether you’ve got a young family, you’re a retiree, or a young single focusing on their career, there is an area of Hilton Head that’s perfect for you to put down roots in.

2. Lots of Opportunities for Culture and Entertainment

There’s plenty to do on this island all year-round, though. Hilton Head is a hotspot for arts and culture and offers a little bit of something for everyone.

When it comes to outdoor activities, the area is teeming with opportunities, including:

  • Parks and hiking trails 
  • Nature reserves 
  • Beaches
  • Nature museums  
  • History museums 
  • Art museums 

The area also offers lots of shopping at all levels and has theaters, orchestras, and much more. There’s plenty of history and culture to be appreciated all over the island and plenty of opportunities for high-quality entertainment for all ages. 

3. Plenty of Choices for Cuisine

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t bring up Hilton Head’s restaurant scene. When it comes to food and drink, you can’t go wrong in Hilton Head. It’s an absolute haven for the dedicated foodie. 

The area has its fair share of breweries, distilleries, wineries, and bars. Still, it also boasts lots of family-friendly dining in all sorts of culinary styles: 

  • French
  • Italian 
  • Japanese 
  • Traditional American
  • Plenty of seafood

The variety is what makes the cuisine in the area so unique. You’ll find high-end places with a formal atmosphere and great-quality dives, and fast-casual spots, too.

4. Mild and Warm Weather Year Round

Even though it’s a great summer vacation spot, Hilton Head, South Carolina, provides a great weather forecast for the entire year. 

While it can get as low as 39 degrees Fahrenheit in January, it can get as warm as 90 degrees in July. For those used to warmer temperatures and balmy climates, summer on the island is one long beach vacation dream.

While it can have some humid months, it’s great for people who enjoy coastal weather but don’t want to commit to year-round heat. August is the most humid month, with an average of 70% humidity. 

5. Secret Local Beach Spots

An aerial photo of the Hilton Head area. The Atlantic Ocean is on the right. Green trees and inland waterways can be seen on the left.

While overcrowding during summer tourism can be an issue, there are plenty of secret spots that locals keep all to themselves. While you won’t find as many attractions or events near these areas, they’ll be far less crowded and have more of a secluded feel, even during the summer.

Some local-favorite spots include Burkes Beach and Tree Beach, which are only accessible by boat. There are also plenty of other areas to get off the beaten path, enjoy the island’s beautiful coastline, and maybe even spot a dolphin or two.

6. Growing Economy With Job Opportunities

As a huge tourist attraction, Hilton Head has a growing economy with more and more job opportunities for those looking.

While hospitality, dining, and other tourism-related jobs are typical on the island, management and law are also some of the most popular industries that also pay very well. 

The financial sector is also one of the highest paying industries in the area, and people in it will make more on average in this city than most other places in the U.S. 

Education, transportation, and maintenance and repair are also quickly growing Hilton Head industries that pay more than the national average.

7. Plenty of Great Schools

For raising a family, Hilton Head is a great place overall. Contrary to what you might think, the area offers a wonderful, tight-knit community and features plenty of great schools at the top of the rankings in country-wide quality.

It’s always a good idea to check on area schools in tandem with your home buying search so you can pick a great area that’s close to your school of choice. 

There are also plenty of top-rated private schools on the island, including a private boarding preparatory school and several faith-affiliated schools for all age ranges. 

8 Cons of Living in Hilton Head, SC

Here are some of the cons of living in Hilton Head, SC, for you to consider before moving. 

8. It Might Be Harder to Buy Property

Although the island’s real estate business is booming, it could be more difficult to purchase your own property in Hilton Head. Because it’s such a desirable area, it’s more expensive to buy a home, which can be a downside for those on a budget. 

It’s also difficult because a great deal of property is vacation-related, whether rental or otherwise. Because of this, would-be homebuyers generally need to have a perfect credit score to be able to purchase a property.

Beyond that, you should also be prepared for bidding wars, with less residential real estate available on the island than ever before. Whether you’re moving with a family or seeking to retire in Hilton Head, it’s a good idea to take a long look at your budget and all your needs for a home before you commit to buying one in the area.

9. Potential Flooding

Since it is an island off the coast of South Carolina, Hilton Head can be prone to flooding. Any home located closer to tidal waters is at risk of flooding, especially during certain times of the year. 

With the appeal of the ocean comes the chance that, at a lower elevation, your home could see water damage. While flooding insurance is widely available and real estate properties are marked into flooding zones, it can be a hassle and a risk you may not want to take.

10. Can Be Crowded

Hilton Head is a popular vacation spot for a reason. All the appeal and the natural beauty of the area attract tons of visitors both in the summer season and in the off-season. Some communities even blend year-round residential homes with vacation rentals and winter properties.

Of course, not every island area is packed with tourists, but you should consider the inevitability of more significant traffic during certain times of the year.

11. Higher Cost of Living

An aerial photo of a circular dock. Inside the circle are several boats. There is a large body of water in the distance.

Despite the average household income being higher than the national average, the cost of living in Hilton Head makes up for it. 

Just about everything is more expensive on the island, from purchasing a home to buying groceries. You should prepare yourself to shell out more in comparison to the South Carolina average as well as the national average.

Whereas the median home cost for the country as a whole is $291,700, buying a home on Hilton Head will set you back $525,900 on average. 

Even more minor things that fall under miscellaneous costs, like entertainment and dining, are more expensive on the island than most other places in the country.

12. Average Crime Rate

For Hilton Head as a whole, the crime rates aren’t anything special. While they’re not awful, they don’t necessarily make you feel like you’d be incredibly safe, either. 

Overall, around 87% of U.S. cities are safer, while only 13% are more dangerous than Hilton Head. The crime rate is about 55.51 out of every 1,000 residents, but the north part of the city is considered safer than the south part.

Property crimes are some of the most common, and homes are around 300 times more likely to be robbed if it lacks a security system, which also factors into the budget when contemplating real estate on the island. 

13. Inclement Weather

To be fair, hurricanes don’t hit Hilton Head as often as they batter other regions along the U.S. East Coast. However, the area still gets its fair share of rain and other forms of precipitation.

In fact, there is some sort of precipitation 103 days out of the year, and rain is pretty typical weather in Hilton Head. 

Although hurricanes rarely hit Hilton Head directly, the area can suffer from inclement weather due to the proximity of passing hurricanes or tropical storms. Hurricane season begins with June and runs through November each year and brings the chance of:

  • Powerful winds 
  • Flooding
  • Damaging rainfall

In 2016, Hurricane Matthew, a category two storm, hit Hilton Head, and though it caused damage, the area was resilient and bounced back quickly. Many locals are prepared and know what to do to ride out a storm safely, but it can still be a frightening and dangerous event.

14. Lack of Diversity

While there are plenty of family-friendly activities and community offerings to take advantage of, families who are seeking a very diverse community to become immersed in may be disappointed.

Hilton Head’s population is predominantly white, while 12% is Hispanic, and another 6% is Black. The demographics are also somewhat skewed towards older ages, with a prevalence of 37% for residents aged 65 years or older.

The nearby town of Bluffton, one of the closest cities to Hilton Head, is only slightly more diverse. It’s common to find a lack of diversity in smaller towns in this area and especially in tourist towns during the off-season.

15. Far Away From Larger Cities

A photo of a Sea Pine forest covered with ivy and moss . These trees are overhanging a winding road.

Furthermore, more prominent cities that might offer more diverse contrasts aren’t in very close proximity to Hilton Head. The nearest major city is Savannah, which is 45 minutes away. Likewise, Charleston is a whopping 90 minutes.

This distance can put a damper not only on travel for more exposure to diversity and culture, but it can also be a drag when it comes to commuting. In high-tourism areas, some locals prefer to commute to larger cities where more job opportunities aren’t seasonal.

However, a 45 or 90-minute one-way commute without factoring in busy-season traffic may be enough to dissuade some people from working outside Hilton Head or even moving there, to begin with.

Final Thoughts

Hilton Head, South Carolina, is a beautiful barrier island off the East Coast known for its rich wildlife, lovely beaches, and luxurious vacation atmosphere. Living there year-round can seem like a dream come true to some people. However, remember a few things before you make your decision.

Overall, Hilton Head offers many communities catering to different wants and needs, has plenty of excellent schools, and has a rich culture and many cuisine opportunities. The weather is beautiful, the locals have plenty of secret secluded beaches, and the economy grows with lots of job opportunities.

Don’t forget that the cost of living is high, real estate may be difficult to come by, adverse weather can cause damage year-round, tourism can overcrowd the island during the busy season, the crime rate is somewhat high, and it’s an area slightly secluded from larger cities and lacking in diversity.

At the end of the day, only you can sift through your preferences and needs and choose whether or not Hilton Head is the perfect fit for you. We hope this list of pros and cons can help you make an informed choice for the next exciting chapter of your life.

See anything we missed? Let us know in the comments below what you think are the pros and cons of this area. 

Related: 25 Pros and Cons of Living in South Carolina