While Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island are both in South Carolina, they offer beachgoers very unique vacation experiences. Sure, you'll enjoy the sublime South Carolina shoreline no matter which beach you pick. However, that doesn't mean you can flip a coin to choose Myrtle Beach vs. Hilton Head Island.
To find more info on the distinctions between Hilton Head Island and Myrtle Beach, please be sure to read our piece on this topic.
When comparing these beaches, Myrtle Beach is better suited for visitors who want a "touristy" atmosphere with plenty of nearby rides, shows, and attractions. Hilton Head Island has a more calm & laid-back atmosphere, which may appeal to people who enjoy outdoor activities, nature trails, or want some peaceful R&R on the beach.
If you're considering taking a journey to one of these South Carolina beaches, you need to review the info below. In this post, we'll go over the top distinctions between Hilton Head Island and Myrtle Beach.
Overall, What's Better? — Hilton Head Island vs. Myrtle Beach
Picking the "best" beach in South Carolina depends on what you want out of your vacation experience. Some tourists may consider Myrtle Beach's "strong points" to be weaknesses, and the same could be said for Hilton Head Island.
According to most tourists, Myrtle Beach is a better option if you want a travel destination with a wealth of nearby attractions. There are more things to do in and around Myrtle Beach versus Hilton Head Island, which makes it great for people who love amusement rides, nightlife, and touristy attractions.
Speaking of "touristy," for some visitors, Myrtle Beach may feel a bit "tacky." However, whether you love or loathe the "kitsch" in Myrtle Beach will depend on your taste.
There are plenty of activities on Hilton Head Island, but it's not as overtly "touristy" as Myrtle Beach. Sure, it still gets busy here during the high season, but you won't find giant Ferris wheels or amusement parks nearby.
People most interested in relaxing and recharging on their beach vacation tend to do better at Hilton Head vs. Myrtle Beach. Also, Hilton Head Island is world-renowned for its pristine golf courses, which makes it the superior choice for golf enthusiasts.
It's also worth mentioning that Hilton Head Island offers better access to historic Southern cities like Savannah and Beaufort. This usually makes Hilton Head Island the better choice for couples, families with young kids, and history buffs — but it's probably not ideal for teens and nightlife fans.
Does Myrtle Beach Have More Attractions Than Hilton Head Island?
Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island offer guests numerous amenities and activities. However, Myrtle Beach has more entertainment-focused attractions for all ages.
Aside from the iconic SkyWheel Ferris wheel, Myrtle Beach is home to the Family Kingdom Amusement Park, Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum, and the Hollywood Wax Museum. There are also many live performances that Myrtle Beach visitors could take advantage of on their visit.
The top-rated attractions at Hilton Head Island aren't as "glitzy" by comparison. Indeed, some of the top things people do in Hilton Head include riding along the scenic bike trails, visiting nature preserves, and booking a boat cruise.
Myrtle Beach is better if you're looking for eye-catching attractions on your vacation. However, if you want a relaxing getaway that's primarily known for outdoor recreation, then you'll probably be happier at Hilton Head Island.
To get a better sense of Myrtle Beach's attractions, watch this YouTube video:
Is Hilton Head Island Safer Than Myrtle Beach?
Recent statistics suggest Myrtle Beach has more crime than Hilton Head Island. In fact, the FBI recently claimed Myrtle Beach had one of the worst crime reports for any American city of comparable size.
Some reports suggest there are about 17 violent assaults for every 1,000 people in Myrtle Beach. Regarding property crimes, Myrtle Beach has a rate of about 138 per 1,000 residents.
For comparison, Hilton Head Island has about two violent crimes per 1,000 residents and 21 property crimes per 1,000 people.
If you plan to go to Myrtle Beach, you should be extra vigilant and stick to well-lit touristy areas. Please be extra cautious when walking around at night, and consider carrying your valuables in an anti-theft bag. Pickpocketing isn't unheard of in Myrtle Beach.
What's More Family-Friendly? — Hilton Head Island vs. Myrtle Beach
Most tourists argue Hilton Head is better for families with young kids, while Myrtle Beach is a better choice for teens. However, there's no rhyme or reason to choosing the "better" family-friendly South Carolina beach.
Again, you'll have to define what kind of trip you want when choosing between Myrtle Beach vs. Hilton Head Island. Myrtle Beach may be a better fit if your family enjoys amusement parks, dynamic shows, and exciting rides. However, if you're interested in a chill & relaxing beach vacation with the family, Hilton Head Island may be more attractive.
If you're having difficulty choosing a suitable beach for you, it may be helpful to watch this review of Hilton Head Island:
What's Better For Day Trips? — Hilton Head Island vs. Myrtle Beach
While it's not impossible to take a day trip from Myrtle Beach, it's not as convenient as Hilton Head Island. Indeed, it's more common for people to day trip from Hilton Head Island compared with Myrtle Beach.
You're only about a 50-minute drive from Hilton Head Island to two lovely cities: Savannah and Beaufort. By contrast, you'd have to drive for about 3 hours from Myrtle Beach to either of these destinations.
Many people also drive from Hilton Head Island to Charleston, but this is a bit of a longer trek. It usually takes about 2 hours to travel between Hilton Head and Charleston. Depending on traffic, that's about the same amount of time it takes to travel between Myrtle Beach and Charleston.
If you're considering driving to Charleston, you must check out our "21 Romantic Winter Vacations for Couples in the USA."
Is Hilton Head Island Quieter Than Myrtle Beach?
During the height of summer tourism, both Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island will be pretty busy. However, Hilton Head Island isn't as crazy as Myrtle Beach.
Hilton Head's "vibe" is more subdued than Myrtle Beach's, and it generally attracts fewer tourists per year. On average, about 2.5 million people visit Hilton Head Island each year. By contrast, Myrtle Beach welcomes nearly 19 million people annually.
Also, please remember that Myrtle Beach attracts more nightlife fans, while Hilton Head is more associated with romantic couples and families with small children. There's a reason Disney chose to build its exclusive resort in Hilton Head rather than Myrtle Beach!
You can learn more about Hilton Head's quieter "vibe" by watching this review of Disney's Hilton Head Resort:
What Has Better Outdoor Recreation? — Myrtle Beach vs. Hilton Head Island
Although most tourists focus on Myrtle Beach's cultural attractions, there are a lot of outdoor recreation opportunities around this beach. For instance, you could sneak away to Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge and take advantage of kayaking or fishing.
However, Hilton Head Island tends to be more associated with outdoor recreational activities. Visitors will find it's easier to get in touch with nature on biking trails and cruises at Hilton Head Island.
Plus, let's not forget Hilton Head's high reputation for pro golf. Although Myrtle Beach has golf opportunities nearby, Hilton Head is world-renowned for its championship courses, including the Robert Trent Jones Course and Harbour Town Golf Links.
Can People Visit Both Myrtle Beach And Hilton Head Island?
If you're torn between Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island, you can include both destinations on your trip to the South. For those with enough days to spare, you could drive between Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island in about four hours.
If you don't mind tacking on extra driving time to your vacation, it's possible to schedule a stop at both these beaches during your SC sojourn.
Those thinking about going on a road trip anywhere in the USA must read our article, "37 Tips That Will Make Your Road Trip A Success."
So, Which Slice Of South Carolina Sand Suits Your Style?
There are many reasons Hilton Head Island and Myrtle Beach have become such popular East Coast beaches. No matter which SC beach you choose, you'll find plenty of activities, shops, and restaurants that cater to visitors.
However, it's more likely people who are into attractions and nightlife will prefer the "touristy" vibe of Myrtle Beach. Hilton Head Island tends to attract tourists who are more concerned with serenity, relaxation, and the beauty of nature.