Kiawah Island vs Folly Beach - Honest Comparison

South Carolina has many beautiful beaches with unique attractions and charm. Kiawah Island and Folly Beach are two of the most popular beaches in the state - and for a good reason!

While both are located in Charleston County and offer picturesque coastlines, they differ. If you're considering a trip to the area, this guide will help you compare Kiawah Island and Folly Beach and determine the right choice.

Golfing Kiawah Island South Carolina

Kiawah Island is located about 25 miles southwest of Charleston and is accessible by car via a scenic drive across the Kiawah Island Parkway.

On the other hand, Folly Beach is located just 11 miles south of Charleston and accessible via the Folly Beach Connector. Both locations offer easy access to the historic city of Charleston, a popular tourist destination.

Each of these South Carolina hot spots are located close to Charleston International Airport (CHS), which is about 30 miles away from Kiawah Island and 20 miles from Folly Beach.

Kiawah Island and Folly Beach are easily accessible by car with easy-to-navigate, paved roads. However, Kiawah Island has stricter parking regulations. Therefore, unless you are visiting the Kiawah Beachwalker Park, which is open to the public, you must bypass a guard who only allows people to enter with good reason.

Folly Beach is free and clear to visit, with no guards, gates, or guard dogs stopping you. There are numerous public parking options, including several paid lots and street parking.

Kiawah Island is known for its luxurious resorts, golf courses, and pristine beaches, making it a popular destination for those seeking a more upscale vacation experience. On the other hand, Folly Beach is known for its laid-back atmosphere, vibrant nightlife, and quirky local shops and restaurants, making it a favorite among younger travelers and surfers.

Cost to visit
While both locations offer a range of accommodations, Kiawah Island tends to be more expensive, with many high-end resorts and private vacation rentals.

Folly Beach has a mix of budget-friendly options, such as campgrounds and motels, as well as mid-range hotels and vacation rentals.

Things to do
Kiawah Island is known for its world-class golf courses, including the Ocean Course, which has hosted several major championships. The island is also home to over 30 miles of bike trails, nature preserves, and various outdoor activities, such as kayaking, fishing, and beachcombing.

Conversely, Folly Beach is known for its surf scene and offers opportunities for surfing lessons, paddle boarding, and fishing charters. The beach also has a lively pier with restaurants and bars.

Kiawah Island and Folly Beach offer various dining options, from seafood shacks to upscale restaurants. Kiawah Island has several award-winning restaurants, such as the Ocean Room at the Sanctuary Hotel, which offers fine dining and stunning ocean views. Folly Beach has a more casual dining scene, with local favorites such as Taco Boy and Lost Dog Cafe.

Best time of year to visit
The best time to visit Kiawah Island is in the spring or fall when the weather is mild and the crowds are smaller. Folly Beach is more prevalent in the summer when the weather is warmer and the beach is bustling with activity. However, both locations are enjoyable year-round and offer unique experiences depending on the season.

Annual events
Kiawah Island hosts several events, including the Kiawah Island Marathon, Wine, Food Festival, and the Kiawah Island Golf Resort Triathlon.

Folly Beach is known for its music scene. In addition, the area hosts festivals and concerts annually, such as the Folly Beach Sea and Sand Festival and the Follypalooza Cancer Benefit.


Whether looking for a luxurious getaway or a laid-back beach vacation, Kiawah Island and Folly Beach have something to offer. Kiawah Island offers a more upscale experience with world-class golf courses and luxurious accommodations. In contrast, Folly Beach offers a more casual atmosphere with vibrant nightlife and quirky local shops and restaurants. However, both locations have a unique charm, and the choice ultimately comes down to personal preference and travel style.

If you want to relax and soak up the sun, both locations offer beautiful beaches with crystal-clear waters. However, if you're looking for outdoor activities, Kiawah Island may be the better choice, with its numerous nature preserves, bike trails, and opportunities for kayaking and fishing. On the other hand, Folly Beach is the perfect destination for surfers and those looking for a lively atmosphere that tends to host a younger crowd.

Both locations have various options for dining to suit all tastes and budgets. Kiawah Island has several upscale restaurants, while Folly Beach has a more casual dining scene with various seafood shacks and local favorites.

No matter your location, Kiawah Island and Folly Beach offer plenty of opportunities to make lasting memories. So pack your bags, grab the sunscreen, and prepare for an unforgettable beach vacation in South Carolina!

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