By the end of 2019, the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) will feature 15 different resorts. Out of these properties, 80 percent of them are close to Disney theme parks. The other three may seem like anomalies, but they are perfectly in keeping with the concept of the timeshare. The Walt Disney Company merely modified the perception of the timeshare to fit better with their needs.
Today, let’s discuss one of the three DVC resorts located far away from a Disney theme park. Specifically, let’s talk about the one that tends to fly under the radar a bit, the property that I would describe as the hidden gem of the DVC lineup. Here are five reasons why you should visit Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort.
1. The City
The city of Hilton Head, South Carolina, is ostensibly a tourist trap. I say that because it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the south. It holds that claim almost grudgingly, though.
For those who have never visited Hilton Head, it’s difficult to understand why this city is so different from most popular vacation destinations. The explanation involves the city government. You see, Hilton Head is an island whose officials are environmentally conscious. They want their home to look as beautiful as it did decades ago when they were kids.
This goal sounds impossible, but Hilton Head has proven that it’s not. Thanks to some forward-thinking laws, they’ve protected the pristine beaches. Just as importantly, their strict ordinances for urban development rule out gaudy signs and banners.
You won’t see bright neon lights trying to lure you to cheap tourist attractions. To the contrary, laws state that signs have a height limit. Also, they’re generally made of wood or wood by-products. The grandeur of Hilton Head is more important than any single business, and the town rules enforce this notion.
You can read the full list of restrictions on the city’s official website. After looking at it, you’ll understand why people refer to Hilton Head as the anti-Las Vegas. This town isn’t just laid back; city officials have codified that attitude.
2. The Hobbyist Activities
When you visit Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, prepare to have lots of outdoors fun. Hilton Head is a mecca for golf and tennis, and you’ll find courses and courts throughout the city. Disney doesn’t offer either one onsite, but they’ve set up several agreements with local businesses.
The official hotel page displays a highlighted list of some of the 300 tennis courts in Hilton Head. As a pro tip, Van Der Meer Shipyard Racquet Club is highly recommended. The Disney site also shows many of the best golf courses on the island. For those who aren’t diehard duffers, lessons are also available.
I lead with golf and tennis, because the perception that southerners have of Hilton Head is that it’s a hotbed for patrician sports. Sailing and yachting are also popular here. While you’re in the city, you can charter any sort of boat or rent aquatic equipment.
Disney even has some exercise activities at the resort. You can rent bikes to ride around the island. It’s a popular way to pass a couple of hours. Hilton Head is a bike-friendly city, so cyclists have things better than drivers in some ways.
3. The Resort
Shut your eyes and imagine a resort that backs up to river. Envision the grass peeking up from the water, and the walkways that lead to the best views of this idyllic setting. Imagine a hotel that isn’t on the beach but somehow shares most of the same traits as an oceanfront resort. Now, think about all of that as perfected by Disney’s Parks & Resorts division, the global leaders in dream vacations. That’s the gist of Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. It’s a small slice of southern heaven, only with Disney amenities as the cherry on top.
The rooms at this resort don’t all have great views, but even when you can’t look out at the water, you’re still looking at something magnificent. Disney’s done an impeccable job of constructing a resort with plenty of panoramic vistas. By wandering around the resort campus, you can see restaurants and shopping centers, a giant shipyard, and serene seas.
Don’t let the surroundings fool you, though. You’re staying at a Disney resort here, and the amenities more than live up to the brand. An area right beside the lobby is home to storytelling sessions, many of which involve local pirate legends and cultural tidbits from the region.
The pool here is child-friendly, with a dynamic slide that satisfactorily splashes down in the end. You can really drench a stranger when you aim right on this slide. And the sitting areas provide competitive sports like billiards, cornhole, shuffleboard, and the like. Rather than shoot pool, however, my family just sits in the chairs in this area and basks in the ambience of the fireplace area of the Live Oak Lodge.
The only huge knock on this resort is the food. The restaurants here are both counter service ones, and they also close at 5 p.m. Disney presumes that you’ll visit one of the hundreds of restaurants in the city rather than staying onsite for dinner. Out of all DVC properties, Hilton Head is the worst bet for meals. The parking here is also a bit confusing, but that’s a minor gripe.
Overall, this resort is the perfect place to stay when you want a different kind of DVC vacation. The hotel is more of a conventional timeshare experience, albeit one with a strong Disney vibe. When you stay in one of the spacious rooms here, you’ll know that you’re at Disney, but you’ll also feel like you’re on a beach vacation, too. It’s a dream combination.
4. The Beach
When I used to work in the hotel industry, one of the ways I was certain to lose a sale was when someone asked, “Is the resort right on the beach?” To a lot of people, anything that’s not oceanfront is out. I’ve always believed that this philosophy is short-sighted, and Hilton Head is the ultimate proof of it.
Disney’s resort is a bit more than a mile away from the beach. That may seem like a good distance, but it’s not. We’ve comfortably walked it and would have no qualms about doing so again. On a lovely day, it’s actually preferable to driving. I don’t want to come across as negative about Hilton Head’s roads and traffic, as they’re quite good by tourist destination standards. I just feel that when I’m on an island, it’s more fun to get in touch with nature by walking and biking to places.
Once you reach the beach, you’ll love everything about it. Disney owns a private section, and they’ve done it up right. They have a clubhouse area that includes a pool and restaurant. So, you can hole up at the beach all day, maintaining confidence that Disney professionals can take care of your every need, including hunger.
Since this area is exclusive to Disney hotel guests, it’s one of the emptiest spots on Hilton Head Island. You won’t feel like you’re getting crowded out of your spot on the beach. To the contrary, you’ll almost believe that you have the beach to yourself. And it’s an amazing beach. The soft sand and gentle waves will sweep away all of your problems. You’ll luxuriate in a sunny slice of heaven. Once you’re done, you simply walk, bike, or drive back to the resort to engage in other Disney-based activities.
5. The People
Look, every Disney cast member demonstrates the utmost in professionalism most of the time. The company’s training is the gold standard to the point that other companies use Disney practices as teaching methods in their training. Anyone in an employee uniform is someone you can trust to get the job done. This statement applies to any Disney theme park or resort in the world.
Having acknowledged that fact, Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort claims the finest roster of workers that I’ve ever met at Disney…or possibly anywhere. They take a special kind of collective ownership of the resort, the island, and your vacation enjoyment.
The moment that you check in, a staff member will hand you more maps than you’ve held in years. This person will take the time to explain what’s important about each one and how it will benefit you during your trip. They’ll also inform you of special activities held onsite that day and week. The cast members at Hilton Head marry the concepts of exemplary Disney customer service and genteel southern charm in a tidy package.
You don’t have to take my word for this, either. I understand that everyone has a different experience each time. To emphasize the point, I’ve visited the TripAdvisor page for Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. Here are some applicable quotes just from the first few pages of reviews:
“As soon as you drive up you are greeted by a member of the Disney Staff, all are friendly, courteous, and fun to be around, which adds to your enjoyment during your stay. They were also very knowledgeable about the local area and were able to help with recommendations.”
“The staff is incredibly friendly and went out of their way to welcome us.”
“Samantha, Savanna, Michelle and Becky all went above and beyond. The way we were treated made us feel like royalty.”
“…the staff really makes you feel special!”
“By the end of our visit, we were in awe of the professionalism and dedication to customer service demonstrated by all the employees on staff.”
Okay, that last one is mine. Each one proves the point, though. DVC members love to hear the words, “Welcome home!” The cast members at Hilton Head go out of their way to make that phrase resonate in a rare and profound way. Once you visit here, your only regret is that you have to leave.