Why Kiawah Island is Special
Kiawah has the most natural beaches I have ever seen. It has wide beaches and preserved natural areas. The interior is covered with luscious vegetation and the houses of muted colors blend in. You can rent bikes and leave your car parked for the week, if you are content to stay on the island. Protected bike paths run from one end to the other.
The most special part of my week there was the very close encounter with a group of dolphins. We walked down the beach to the park at the end and soon found dolphins surfing the shoreline for fish. At one point, two actually beached themselves on the sand to catch a fish flying out of the water and could see their glistening pink bellies. What a rare view. After they had their fill of fish, a few hovered near us, peaking at us most curiously.
Renting a house gives you the option to cook some meals during your vacation if you wish. If you go that route, I highly recommend stopping at the Rosebank Farms stand on the way in. Warm weather allows for a long season of produce. This is also a great place to buy fresh fish.
I heard that the resorts have great restaurants, but I did not venture to any of those. I doubt the locals eat there. I opted to treasure hunt in the nearby towns and I did find some jewels in Folly Beach and Charleston.
Head over to Taco Boy in Folly Beach. Look for the funky blue door entrance. Try the very simple and fresh fish tacos. It made me wonder why we don't have these places at home. http://www.tacoboy.net/
For breakfast, you must try Joseph's Restaurant in downtown Charleston. Get there when they open or expect an hour wait. It has to be really good to be worth a wait for breakfast for me, and I was glad I waited. The sweet potato pancakes blew me away (yes, I've had them before, but never this good). And, these people know how to cook grits! They only serve breakfast and lunch. They stick with what they do well and business is good! Rachel Ray has eaten here. http://www.josephsofcharleston.com/
I've saved the best scoop for last. I found a place called Alluette's Cafe, a soul food restaurant, during my online research before the trip. But I didn't know anything about it. We punched the address in the GPS and headed off. It's in downtown Charleston, so we expected a regular restaurant in the tourist area we're familiar with. But we didn't recognize the direction the GPS led us and it didn't look like the greatest part of town. We arrive at a tiny pink building and wonder if it's really open. We look in the window and it's very curious. No customers, which is usually a terrible sign. My traveling companion gave me a look that clearly said, "I don't know about this".
Still, we had called to make a reservation, assuming any downtown restaurant would be busy on a Saturday night. So we walked in, and found a very friendly chef (a one man show). He told us that he had just pulled foccacia out of the oven. The place smelled wonderful and he brought us some bread as we sat down. Things were looking up. There's a sandwich menu from lunch and a dinner offering of around 4 specials on the chalkboard. But it's flexible, as the chef offered to see if he had some trout in the frig to offer. Then he sat down with us to make friendly conversation and talk about the specials. The experience was very much like having a personal chef at our service. We ordered the grouper with caramelized onions, cooked in wine with a side of okra fried rice. It was perfection.
The focus of this restaurant is holistic soul food and you will certainly taste the love. Be sure to make a reservation. It's required for dinner. The owner and restaurant have been written up in Southern Living and most recently, O Magazine. Reservations may soon be hard to come by. http://www.alluettes.com/
Things to Do
Visit the Charleston Tea Plantation and purchase the only local tea to be found in the US. It is literally the only one. Sample the tea in the gift shop and buy plenty to take home.
Take your dogs to a leash free park on the beach. There are two. They can run to their heart's content.