Retiring on Hilton Head

Hilton Head Island has been chosen by many retirees as a beautiful place with a mild climate. Since there is a large retired population, the infrastructure is in place to accommodate retired people. Golfers will find a plethora of first class golf courses, tennis players will be in tennis heaven, nature lovers will have plenty to keep them busy, and, of course, there is the beach, abundant restaurants, fishing, shopping and it last snowed in 1990.

 For those who are able to live unassisted there are many opportunities to purchase a home or condominium. Some communities do not permit weekly rentals so are little affected by tourism, for example, Hilton Head Plantation and Leamington.  Others are tourist oriented and generally have more commercial amenities close by. They also tend to be more crowded in the Summer.

Of course, there are many other communities where retirees can live, each with a different ambiance.  Shipyard plantation is generally quiet and heavily wooded; Sea Pines plantation has several restaurants and many shops and is tourist oriented; Wexford plantation is for those who have plenty of money; and many neighborhoods exist outside of the gated plantations.  The best bet is to visit the island frequently and do some exploring.  You might need a local contact or real estate agent to get you into the gated communities.

SHARE, now called the Hilton Head Island Senior Center, is a senior citizens organization that offers social activities, education and other activities. The 850 member club has bridge and poker games, three bicycle clubs, softball, computer classes and other activities. It is run by the Island Recreation Center.

OSHER Life Long Learning Center is an organization to stimulate the minds of people over 50 years of age. Affiliated with the University of South Carolina, it offers classes, lectures and educational travel encompassing a wide variety of subjects, and it is very popular among our senior residents.

Sun City Hilton Head

Although this web site is ordinarily restricted to Hilton Head Island it would be impossible to discuss retirement without mentioning Del Webb's Sun City Hilton Head, which is actually on the mainland 13 miles from the bridge.  This is a relatively new development that restricts permanent residents to people over 50 years of age.  At build out (perhaps 2016) they expect 13,000 residents in 7,000 homes on their 4,600 acres.  There are two golf courses on site and several nearby.  They boast a huge recreation center, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts and other recreational facilities.  There is a strong sense of community and constant activities and trips are available. Del Webb also has a new community in Bluffton called The Haven.

Cost of Living

There is a great deal of conflicting information regarding the cost of living on Hilton Head Island. I personally tend to believe the statistics offered by Sperling's at They show a COL of 143 (vs. US average = 100). Even this is somewhat misleading without closer analysis because of the high cost of housing. If you come to Hilton Head and buy a home for cash (many retirees do) you can live here for very close to the national average.

Retirement Communities

There are several "independent living" communities on the island. These are communities in which an independent residence (condominium, cottage, etc.) can be purchased and the company that operates the community provides amenities such as optional club style dining, periodic housekeeping, shopping trips and other excursions, fitness centers, etc.

In addition to Independent Living communities, Assisted Living, Skilled Care Living, and Memory Care Living is available. The parents of some of our retirees reside in these facilities. Something to consider is if a facility can migrate a resident from independent to assisted to skilled nursing. Someone in assisted living is likely to need to move to skilled nursing, and the state laws governing skilled nursing are stringent, so some facilities are not qualified to provide it. The last thing a senior wants is to be moved into a new venue with new people, leaving behind their friends and favorite care givers. If you or a loved one will be entering assisted living or skilled nursing, it's imperative you see a lawyer that specializes in Medicade compliant trusts, and if you are a veteran or un-remarried spouse of a veteran who was on active duty in time of conflict, you need to look into veteran's benefits for assisted living - the benefits are quite generous. A VA compliant trust may also be something to look into.

For those requiring assisted living there is every conceivable level of assisted living available on Hilton Head, including facilities where one can start with minimal assistance and, over time, move up to more assistance.  You can rent or own a cottage, apartment, suite or whatever suits you.  There are facilities that specialize in Alzheimer's patient care.  Some can provide 24 hour care.  Residents usually can  prepare and eat their own meals, eat in a common dining room with other residents, or be served meals in their residence.  It may be important to know if they provide medication administration - a mistake in taking medication could be very serious. Many provide van transportation to shops and events. The variations are almost endless and there are many facilities, as listed below. There have been many horror stories published about problems with "nursing homes" and assisted living facilities, but most are very legitimate and financially stable. Here are some sources of information to help you choose a facility:    Many books are available on the subject.

Some of the facilities listed below are Independent Living Facilities, some provide Assisted Living, including memory care, and some can provide both. Click on any colored name for the appropriate web site.

Cypress of Hilton Head 843-689-7000
Bloom at Hilton Head 843-548-4981
Life Care Center (Rehab facility) 843-681-6006
Brookdale Hawthorn - 15 Main Street 877-323-4258
Brookdale 80 Main Street 843-432-3035
Brookdale  Emeritus at Palm Court (Alzheimer's only) 48 main Street 843-432-3032
Indigo Pines 843-655-9909
Seabrook of Hilton Head 843-842-3747
Tidepointe by Hyatt 888-481-0871
Bayshore Hilton Head 843-940-8395

Cypress is an equity facility, which means you buy a home or condo, and pay a fee based on the amount of assistance you need . They initially accept only people who are capable of independent living, although once a member, you can move to assisted living and even skilled nursing or Alzheimer's care. Cypress is unique in that it encompasses a number of detached homes as well as apartments.

Bloom at Hilton Head offer rental apartments. They can provide assisted living, memory care and respite care. Like many other facilities, they offer a beauty salon, general store and movie theater. Pets are allowed within weight limits.

Brookdale Hawthorn is a rental situation. They provide Independent living and assisted living only.

Brookdale at 80 Main Street has rental apartments and provides independent and assisted living and has a memory care facility. Residents can choose from a menu of services. They are pet friendly.

Indigo Pines offers apartments or "cottages", unfurnished and can provide independent living with weekly housekeeping, assisted living and also has an Alzheimer's and memory care facility.

Seabrook has three residential options, ranging from equity purchase to rentals. They can provide independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing without having to move to a different facility.

Tide Pointe is equity purchase only. It's on the high end of the cost scale. They provide a luxury retirement experience.

The latest addition to our retirement communities may set the bar for future such facilities. Bayshore is a high rise building providing one or two bedroom rentals on a month to month basis, with independent and assisted living while still in the same apartment (but not skilled nursing). They provide the usual amenities plus weekly housekeeping and have many extras. They call themselves a cruise ship on land. My impression is it's more Regency Hyatt than old folks home, yet competitively priced.

Questions to ponder:
Is the facility pet friendly? You might not want to part with your furry friend or you might not want to listen to barking dogs.
How many meals are provided?
Can a resident step up to more advanced care without moving to a new residence? Some have different floors or buildings for the various care options.
Is transportation provided to doctor's appointment, grocery stores, drug store, etc.?
Do you provide your care giver, or are they employed by the facility?
Are varying degrees of assistance available, and who decide what assistance you will need (you or the facility)?
Are residences furnished?
What is included in the fee - cable TV, telephone, utilities, insurance, housekeeping?
Does the residence have a kitchen?
How do they provide medications? Refill prescriptions?

Hospitals, medical care and transportation

Hilton Head hospital is our local hospital.  Its formal name is Hilton Head Regional Medical Center and Clinics. There is an emergency room available.

They are able to treat most conditions including open heart surgery .  There is at least one board certified cardiovascular practice and a number of doctors that deal with problems common to older people.  More advanced hospital care can be found in Savannah and Charleston.  When an accident victims suffer life-threatening injuries they are usually flown to Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah. Hilton Head Hospital was recently chosen as one of the top 100 hospitals in the country for outcomes of treatment and management of stroke by HICA-SACHS.

The Volunteers in Medicine clinic provides medical, dental and mental health care to those without access to such care. Hours are Mon., Wed., and Fri 8:30AM to 10:30 AM; Tues.8:30- 10:30 AM, 1:30PM to 3:30PM and Thurs. 8:30 - 10:30, Noon-4:00 PM. 843-681-6612

If you are unable to drive, transportation would be a problem.  Those living in assisted care facilities would generally have van transportation, sometimes on demand.  Local transportation by bus is not an option, leaving taxis as the alternative.  Taxi fares range from $7 to about $11 (depending on distance), but you must call for a taxi and be prepared to wait a significant time. And there is Uber as well.

 This page  Updated 08/07/2019


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