A Travel Price Comparison for South Carolina Columbia vs. Hilton Head Island for Families, Food, and Couples

Should you visit Columbia or Hilton Head Island?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Columbia or Hilton Head Island? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Columbia

Columbia is a welcoming, suburban, and friendly city. It's also popular because of the museums, nightlife, and shopping.

Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island is a relaxing, peaceful, and beautiful coastal town. It's a beautiful place to visit, too. And you can't forget about the beaches, shopping, and food.

Columbia and Hilton Head Island: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good for students
Things to Consider
  • Less family-friendly
  • Less popular with couples
Pros
  • Nice resorts
  • Popular beach
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
Things to Consider
  • Less popular for nightlife


Is there more to do in Columbia or Hilton Head Island?

Tourists will generally find more to do in Hilton Head Island. Although Columbia and Hilton Head Island are both popular with visitors, Hilton Head Island has more sights, activities, and attractions for travelers. Hilton Head Island is more popular for its food, resorts, beaches, and impressive beauty, while Columbia is known for its museums and nightlife. Hilton Head Island is more touristy than Columbia and is popular for its long sandy beaches, many golf courses, popular tennis camps, and accessible bike trails. It is also home to The Harbour Town Lighthouse. Columbia is popular for its southern hospitality and friendly people.

How is Columbia different from Hilton Head Island?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Hilton Head Island and Columbia. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Columbia or Hilton Head Island?

Columbia
Hilton Head Island

Columbia is very good for its museums and history. However, Hilton Head Island does not have museums and landmarks.

If you're looking for an educational opportunity, there are a decent number of museums and historical sights around Columbia. As the state capital, there are some decent museums around town like the Columbia Museum of Art, the South Carolina Military Museum, the South Carolina State Museum, and the U.S. Army Basic Combat Training Museum.

Hilton Head Island does not have museums and landmarks.


Is the Food Better in Columbia or Hilton Head Island? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Columbia
Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island is a popular place for its local cuisine and restaurants. However, Columbia is not a good city for its restaurants.

Visitors will find a budding food and restaurant scene in Hilton Head Island. The island has many famous restaurants but reservations during the summer are a must. Restaurants can get very crowded during peak times. For some of the best restaurants head to Shelter Cove or Harbour Town. Popular local dishes include fried seafood and oysters.

Columbia may not make the list for most foodies, but you'll find what you need while you're in town. Barbecue and other southern favorites are among the more local dishes, but the city is also filled with fast food joints and other major chain restaurants.

Is Columbia or Hilton Head Island Better for Nightlife?

Columbia
Hilton Head Island

Columbia is very good for its evening party scene. However, Hilton Head Island is lacking in good options for nightlife.

With a handful of venues, visitors can find a fairly lively vibe in Columbia. You'll find live music venues as well as low key bars and more trendy cocktail lounges.

Things get quiet in the evenings in Hilton Head Island. There are a few sports bars and comedy clubs, but nightlife isn't really a thing in Hilton Head. This is very much a family destination that shuts down with the sunset.

Is Columbia or Hilton Head Island Better for Resorts?

Columbia
Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island is a well-known place for its resorts. However, Columbia is not a resort destination.

Hilton Head Island is known as a popular and fun resort destination. Most of the accommodation in the area is in the form of weekly condo rentals, which usually include a pool and outdoor space. Tennis and golf are also popular on the island so many resorts have facilities for each.

Columbia is not a resort destination.


Is Columbia or Hilton Head Island Better for Beaches?

Columbia
Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island is a well-known place for the beache. However, Columbia is not a beach destination.

Hilton Head Island is considered a top beach destination. The island has nice beaches that are popular with families. They are great for swimming during the spring, summer, and fall seasons. While some beaches may get a bit crowded during peak holidays, they're usually pretty relaxed and less crowded than many nearby beaches.

Columbia is not a beach destination.

Is the Shopping Better in Columbia or Hilton Head Island?

Columbia
Hilton Head Island

Both Columbia and Hilton Head Island are good shopping destinations.

Columbia offers some nice shopping areas. You'll find independent and locally owned shops along Devine Street and in the Five Points area. Also interesting are the Vista, which is a warehouse district, and Trenholm Plaza.

Hilton Head Island has a variety of shopping areas worth visiting. The area has upscale shopping with designer names and local venues. Popular shopping areas include Shelter Cove Town Center and Harbor Town.

Is Columbia or Hilton Head Island Better for Families?

Columbia
Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island is renowned for its family-friendly activities. Also, Columbia is not as famous, but is still a good city to visit for its kid-friendly activities.

As it has a large number of activities for kids, Hilton Head Island is a very family-friendly destination. This area is a popular family-friendly beach destination with a number of summer events for the whole family, peaceful beaches, and family-friendly restaurants throughout. Older kids will enjoy cycling around the island's many bike trails or attending a popular tennis camp.

Columbia is a family-friendly city. Around town you'll find parks, playgrounds, and kid-friendly restaurants. There's a zoo in the area as well as a nice state park - Sesquicentennial State Park. There's also EdVenture Children's Museum, which is filled with hands-on exhibits.


Is Columbia or Hilton Head Island Better for Couples?

Columbia
Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island is a popular place for its romantic activities. However, Columbia is not a good city for couples.

Hilton Head Island makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. While the area is most popular with families, it is a fun place to explore as a couple because of the many high end restaurants and the beautiful setting. Couples can rent bikes to explore or play a friendly game of tennis.

Columbia is not always the best place to visit for a couple. You'll find parks to explore and some nice restaurants that make for a good date night.

Is Columbia or Hilton Head Island Better for Students?

Columbia
Hilton Head Island

Columbia is very good for its student-friendly activities. However, Hilton Head Island is not popular with students.

Plenty of students visit Columbia. The University of South Carolina, and other nearby colleges all bring in a decent student population.

Hilton Head Island is not popular with students.

Is Columbia or Hilton Head Island Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Columbia
Hilton Head Island

Columbia is a decent place to visit for times when you don't have a car. However, Hilton Head Island is lacking in good options for its public transit.

Public transit is mostly limited in Columbia. The COMET is the bus system through town, but you really must have your own car to enjoy the city.

Public transit is limited or non-existant in Hilton Head Island. You must have a car to get most places on the island, unless you bike. Rush hour during summer months can have intense traffic.


Is Columbia or Hilton Head Island a more walkable city?

Columbia
Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island is a moderate coastal town for its high level of walkability. However, Columbia is not a good city for its ease of walking around.

Hilton Head Island is generally not very walkable. You really need a car to get around, but for those who are motivated, there is a great network of bike trails. It's mostly used for recreational purposes though.

Columbia is not a very walkable city. It's filled with suburban-style development and is generally very car dependent.

For even more information, also check out Is Columbia Worth Visiting? and Is Hilton Head Island Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Hilton Head Island or Columbia?

How long in Columbia or Hilton Head Island?

Both Columbia and Hilton Head Island have a number of activities to choose from. With generally more activities and things to do, visitors tend to spend more time in Hilton Head Island than in Columbia. Usually, 1-2 days is a good amount of time for Columbia, and 5-7 days is enough time in Hilton Head Island.

Families should spend more time in Hilton Head Island than Columbia. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Hilton Head Island, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Hilton Head Island than Columbia. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Hilton Head Island that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Columbia than Hilton Head Island if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Columbia.


  • How many days in Columbia or Hilton Head Island? Ideal Length of Stay
    Columbia 1-2 
    Hilton Head Island 5-7

One day in Columbia or Hilton Head Island?

Visitors enjoy the shopping and museums when visiting the welcoming destination of Columbia. This city offers something for everyone. This would be the perfect place to spend one day, as it has just the right amount of activities.

The coastal town of Hilton Head Island offers shopping and food. Most people come for the beaches. With so much to do, one day is probably not enough time to see everything. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.

A weekend in Columbia or Hilton Head Island?

Columbia is a popular place to visit. Visitors enjoy the museums and nightlife when visiting the suburban city of Columbia. A weekend is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that Columbia has to offer.

Hilton Head Island is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. People enjoy relaxing at one of the resorts. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than a weekend exploring. Take your pick from the many activities offered here.


Five days in Columbia or Hilton Head Island?

Many people enjoy the nightlife and shopping when visiting Columbia. Anyone can find something fun to do here. Five days is usually plenty of time to spend here with extra days to spare. With this much time, visitors often visit nearby destinations or take day trips.

Hilton Head Island is a popular choice for travelers. Five days here is typical. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Hilton Head Island, five days is sufficent for most. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

A week in Columbia or Hilton Head Island?

Columbia is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. It offers something for everyone. One week is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days.

Hilton Head Island is a great place to explore. It is common to spend one week here. It's also a great beach destination, too. One week is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that Hilton Head Island has to offer. This coastal town offers something for everyone.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best 2-Week Tours in United States of America, The Best 3-Week Tours in United States of America, The Best Bicycle Tours in United States of America, and Tours for Outdoor and Nature Lovers in United States of America.


Which place is cheaper, Hilton Head Island or Columbia?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Columbia is $0.00, while the average daily cost in Hilton Head Island is $243. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Columbia and Hilton Head Island in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Columbia -
    Hilton Head Island $129
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Columbia $0.00
    Hilton Head Island $258
Compare Hotels in Columbia and Hilton Head Island

Looking for a hotel in Columbia or Hilton Head Island? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Columbia


Hotels in Hilton Head Island


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Columbia Hotel Prices and Hilton Head Island Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Columbia -
    Hilton Head Island $34

Is it cheaper to fly into Columbia or Hilton Head Island?

Prices for flights to both Hilton Head Island and Columbia change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Columbia $5.03
    Hilton Head Island $60

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Hilton Head Island

For Hilton Head Island, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Dolphin Watching 3-Course Dinner Cruise: $70
  • Sunset Dinner Cruise: $106
  • Hilton Head Sunset Dinner Cruise: $106
  • Sunset Hibachi Dinner Cruise : $115

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Columbia -
    Hilton Head Island $23

Tours and Activities in Columbia

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Columbia are as follows:

  • Soda City: A Self-Guided Audio Tour in Columbia: $12

Tours and Activities in Hilton Head Island

For Hilton Head Island, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • Kazoo Factory Tour & Museum : $15
  • Beaufort Ghost Walking Tours : $22
  • Dolphin Experience Tour : $28
  • Tybee Island Ghost Tour: $30
  • Historic Walking Tour of Tybee Island: $30
  • Historic Tour of Tybee Island: $30
  • Complete History and Movie Walking Tour of Beaufort: $30
  • Walking Tour in Beaufort: $30
  • History and Movie Tour of Beaufort by Golf Cart: $32
  • Beaufort City Minibus Tour: $35
  • Guided Stand Up Paddleboard Tour: $35
  • Beaufort’s #1 Horse & Carriage History Tour: $35

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Columbia $88
    Hilton Head Island $26


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Columbia and Hilton Head Island, we can see that Hilton Head Island is more expensive. And not only is Columbia much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Columbia would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Columbia and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Hilton Head Island would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Hilton Head Island than you might in Columbia.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Columbia Expensive? and Is Hilton Head Island Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Columbia or Hilton Head Island?

Columbia has a larger population, and is about 3 times larger than the population of Hilton Head Island. When comparing the sizes of Columbia and Hilton Head Island, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.


When is the best time to visit Columbia or Hilton Head Island?

Both places have a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. As both cities are in the northern hemisphere, summer is in July and winter is in January.

Should I visit Columbia or Hilton Head Island in the Summer?

Both Hilton Head Island and Columbia during the summer are popular places to visit. The family-friendly experiences are the main draw to Columbia this time of year. Also, many travelers come to Hilton Head Island for the beaches and the family-friendly experiences.

In the summer, Columbia is around the same temperature as Hilton Head Island. Typically, the summer temperatures in Columbia in July average around 82°F (28°C), and Hilton Head Island averages at about 82°F (28°C).

In Hilton Head Island, it's very sunny this time of the year. It's quite sunny in Columbia. In the summer, Columbia often gets more sunshine than Hilton Head Island. Columbia gets 293 hours of sunny skies this time of year, while Hilton Head Island receives 267 hours of full sun.

Hilton Head Island gets a good bit of rain this time of year. It rains a lot this time of the year in Columbia. Columbia usually gets less rain in July than Hilton Head Island. Columbia gets 4.6 inches (116 mm) of rain, while Hilton Head Island receives 7.9 inches (200 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Summer Average Temperatures July
    Columbia 82°F (28°C) 
    Hilton Head Island 82°F (28°C)

Should I visit Columbia or Hilton Head Island in the Autumn?

The autumn attracts plenty of travelers to both Columbia and Hilton Head Island. Many travelers come to Columbia for the shopping scene. Also, many visitors come to Hilton Head Island in the autumn for the shopping scene and the natural beauty of the area.

In October, Columbia is generally cooler than Hilton Head Island. Daily temperatures in Columbia average around 64°F (18°C), and Hilton Head Island fluctuates around 68°F (20°C).

People are often attracted to the plentiful sunshine in Hilton Head Island this time of the year. In Columbia, it's very sunny this time of the year. Columbia usually receives around the same amount of sunshine as Hilton Head Island during autumn. Columbia gets 230 hours of sunny skies, while Hilton Head Island receives 223 hours of full sun in the autumn.

In October, Columbia usually receives around the same amount of rain as Hilton Head Island. Columbia gets 3 inches (75 mm) of rain, while Hilton Head Island receives 2.8 inches (71 mm) of rain each month for the autumn.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Columbia 64°F (18°C) 
    Hilton Head Island 68°F (20°C)

Should I visit Columbia or Hilton Head Island in the Winter?

The winter brings many poeple to Columbia as well as Hilton Head Island. Many visitors come to Columbia in the winter for the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine. Also, most visitors come to Hilton Head Island for the shopping scene and the cuisine during these months.

Columbia is cooler than Hilton Head Island in the winter. The daily temperature in Columbia averages around 45°F (7°C) in January, and Hilton Head Island fluctuates around 48°F (9°C).

In the winter, Columbia often gets around the same amount of sunshine as Hilton Head Island. Columbia gets 171 hours of sunny skies this time of year, while Hilton Head Island receives 176 hours of full sun.

Columbia usually gets more rain in January than Hilton Head Island. Columbia gets 3.7 inches (93 mm) of rain, while Hilton Head Island receives 2.9 inches (74 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Columbia 45°F (7°C) 
    Hilton Head Island 48°F (9°C)

Should I visit Columbia or Hilton Head Island in the Spring?

Both Hilton Head Island and Columbia are popular destinations to visit in the spring with plenty of activities. Also, the spring months attract visitors to Hilton Head Island because of the beaches and the natural beauty.

In the spring, Columbia is around the same temperature as Hilton Head Island. Typically, the spring temperatures in Columbia in April average around 64°F (18°C), and Hilton Head Island averages at about 67°F (19°C).

It's quite sunny in Hilton Head Island. The sun comes out a lot this time of the year in Columbia. Columbia usually receives around the same amount of sunshine as Hilton Head Island during spring. Columbia gets 273 hours of sunny skies, while Hilton Head Island receives 275 hours of full sun in the spring.

In April, Columbia usually receives around the same amount of rain as Hilton Head Island. Columbia gets 2.8 inches (72 mm) of rain, while Hilton Head Island receives 2.9 inches (74 mm) of rain each month for the spring.


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Columbia 64°F (18°C) 
    Hilton Head Island 67°F (19°C)

Typical Weather for Hilton Head Island and Columbia

Columbia Hilton Head Island
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 45°F (7°C) 3.7 inches (93 mm) 48°F (9°C) 2.9 inches (74 mm)
Feb 48°F (9°C) 3.5 inches (88 mm) 52°F (11°C) 2.9 inches (73 mm)
Mar 56°F (13°C) 3.7 inches (95 mm) 58°F (15°C) 4.4 inches (112 mm)
Apr 64°F (18°C) 2.8 inches (72 mm) 67°F (19°C) 2.9 inches (74 mm)
May 72°F (22°C) 3 inches (77 mm) 73°F (23°C) 4.2 inches (107 mm)
Jun 78°F (26°C) 3.5 inches (89 mm) 80°F (26°C) 5.9 inches (150 mm)
Jul 82°F (28°C) 4.6 inches (116 mm) 82°F (28°C) 7.9 inches (200 mm)
Aug 81°F (27°C) 5.8 inches (147 mm) 81°F (27°C) 6.5 inches (164 mm)
Sep 75°F (24°C) 3.3 inches (84 mm) 77°F (25°C) 5.6 inches (141 mm)
Oct 64°F (18°C) 3 inches (75 mm) 68°F (20°C) 2.8 inches (71 mm)
Nov 56°F (13°C) 2.1 inches (54 mm) 59°F (15°C) 1.9 inches (49 mm)
Dec 48°F (9°C) 2.6 inches (67 mm) 52°F (11°C) 3.3 inches (83 mm)