Spot gators, ride kayaks, have some fun on Kiawah Island

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Looking for something a little different out of your next beach vacation? If you’re looking for a little less mini golf and go karts and a little more relaxation and family time, take a closer look at Kiawah Island.

Kiawah is just outside of Charleston between Savannah and Myrtle Beach.

Readers of Golf World magazine voted the Kiawah Island Golf Resort as the No. 1 resort in the United States. The Ocean Course hosted the 2007 Senior PGA Championship and the 2012 PGA Championship. Some publications have called it America’s toughest resort golf course.

The island boasts 10 miles of uninterrupted beaches and any vacation to the area starts with some time by the ocean.

Visitors to Kiawah can spend all day, everyday at the beach, but in doing so, would miss what really makes Kiawah Island a unique destination.

"This is hands down the nicest beach that I've been to," visitor Terry Talley told "I lived in Myrtle Beach for six years and it seems to be more like a party-type atmosphere. This is a lot more family-oriented, a lot more laid back."

Visitors won't find strip malls on every block, a mini golf course on each corner or even a go-cart track. What they will find are plenty of opportunities to spend time with family while interacting with the great outdoors.

"This is about being together," Mike Touhill from Kiawah Partners said. "It's about spending time more than it is about buying experiences and shopping and that sort of thing. We feel that offering avenues and venues for people to come and enjoy each other's company at no cost is an important part of being on vacation."

Most vacationers spend time walking the trails or riding bikes around the island. It's not uncommon to encounter wildlife on a walk or ride. spotted several alligators strolling through the creeks around the island. Night Heron Park and Freshfields Village host free nighttime activities including music, dancing, movies, a farmers market and wildlife showcases.

"It's just the whole atmosphere, just the excitement and activities they have planned," Christie Tucker said. "It's a little something for everybody."

Other outdoor recreational opportunities include kayaking and tennis.

Kiawah was ranked as the No. 1 tennis resort in the world by Tennis magazine picked it was the No. 3-ranked tennis resort in the United States.

Kiawah is unique in that there isn't a high rise hotel on every block either. The island is home to only one hotel. The Sanctuary is an ocean-front resort with an amazing array of amenities. Visitors who opt not to stay at the Sanctuary can choose from a number of villas and private homes.

Looking for a family getaway? If some time riding bikes, on the beach and family fun is on the checklist, Kiawah Island might just be the place.