Vacation Rentals at Wild Dunes Resort Review: Like a box of chocolates

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When visiting Vacation Rentals at Wild Dunes Resort, you never know what you’re gonna get (other than fantastic beaches).  Wild Dunes is a sprawling beach-side property on Isle of Palms, South Carolina, not far from Charleston.  Wild Dunes is made up of the Wild Dunes Resort along with many privately owned condos, villas, and homes which are grouped into named clusters: Beach Club Villas, Shipwatch Condos, Summer House Condos, etc.  Some of these clusters are sets of medium-rise condos and others are groups of villas or houses.  I believe that each cluster has its own shared pool.

Beach Club Villas pool. The pool wasn’t open while we were there in February.  A few resort operated pools were open, but we didn’t try any of them.

Most individual owners rent out their units when they’re not there.  And many, but not all, choose Wild Dunes Property Management to manage their rental.  This mix of independently owned properties then becomes the entity known as Vacation Rentals at Wild Dunes Resort.  In other words “Wild Dunes Resort” and “Vacation Rentals at Wild Dunes Resort” are two different things.  It is the Vacation Rentals version that I’m reviewing here.

Vacation Rentals at Wild Dunes Resort is different from Wild Dunes Resort. They are both on the same sprawling resort property, but the vacation rentals are individually owned and furnished and so you never know what you’re going to get.

Vacation Rentals at Wild Dunes Resort. Bottom Line Review.

Bottom Line: The combination of fantastic beaches, excellent service, and home-like comfort features (washer & dryer, full kitchen, etc.) make this a great choice.  I think that this is an especially awesome choice during the pandemic since it is easy to avoid interpersonal contact while enjoying the beach and views.  Note that if you don’t need access to resort features, you are likely to find much better prices by booking through Airbnb or other similar services.

My wife and I have now had the opportunity to stay twice at Vacation Rentals at Wild Dunes Resort.  Both stays were “workcations” where we spent most of our time each day working, but also frequently took breaks to walk the beach.  For our first stay, in January 2021, we booked 6 nights in a one bedroom oceanfront unit.  We were upgraded to a two bedroom oceanfront unit at Shipwatch Condos.  On our second stay, in February 2021, we booked 6 nights in a two bedroom oceanfront unit (only because 1 bedroom ocean front units weren’t available) and we were upgraded to a 3 bedroom oceanfront villa at Beach Club Villas.  I’m assuming that having top tier Hyatt Globalist status was key to earning both upgrades, but it’s also possible that they were upgrading everyone.  January and February are very much the off-season here and so I’m sure there were many empty units.

Like a box of chocolates

On our first stay, we found that the living room’s TV cabinet housed a pull-out desk, along with various books and games.
On our second stay, the unit didn’t have a desk so we got creative. Here you can see that we used the bedroom TV as a computer monitor, an ironing board as a keyboard tray, and a bar stool from the kitchen as our desk chair.

As I stated above, each unit is different and is separately furnished, presumably by the unit-owner.  As a result, anything I have to say about the comfort of the beds, the quality of the wifi, and so on is pretty much irrelevant to you, the reader, unless you happen to find yourself in exactly the same unit.  On our first stay, the condo had everything we needed, but the wifi wasn’t great.  On the second stay, the wifi was great, but we really could have used a tea kettle and a proper desk.  We found the beds to be comfortable on both stays, and each unit had been cleaned very well.

Hotel Benefits

One welcome surprise was the extent to which Wild Dunes employees treat vacation rental guests the same as Wild Dunes resort guests.  For example, bathrooms were stocked with standard amenities (soap, shampoo, cream), and if we needed anything, they were quick to bring whatever we wanted to our unit (salt & pepper, coffee filters, robes).  Additionally, because of my Hyatt Globalist status, they gave us free breakfast for two every morning.  This came in the form of two $25 breakfast certificates daily.

Ocean Front Tip

Ocean front tip: If an ocean view is important to you, then look for an ocean front unit rather than an ocean view unit.  Ocean front ensures that the windows of your unit face the ocean.  Ocean view could mean (for example) that you can see the ocean when leaning over your balcony and looking to the side. Note: This is a general tip for just about any oceanside hotel or rental — it is not meant to be specific to Wild Dunes.

Miscellaneous Info

  • Points Price: N/A. You can book paid stays through Hyatt’s website, but not point stays.
  • Cash Price: Varies.  On both visits we took advantage of a “stay 2 nights, 3rd night free” promotion, which was why we stayed 6 nights each time.  The first stay, where we booked a 1-bedroom oceanfront unit (but were upgraded to a 2 bedroom unit), we paid $156 per night before taxes.  For the second stay, no 1-bedroom oceanfront units were available, so we booked a 2 bedroom unit for $179 before taxes.  On that stay, we were upgraded to a 3 bedroom villa.  In retrospect, the advantages of the villa were well worth the extra $23 per night, by a long shot.  I expect that prices will be far higher in the warmer months.
  • On-Site Dining: Very good (but pricey).  We picked up breakfast every day from the Wild Dunes hotel restaurant (Coastal Provisions).  It was very good.  We also ordered take-away for dinner once and that was very good too.  There are other dining options at the resort, but this one had the best selection and was the only one open every day during the winter.
  • Service: Excellent.  Each time before arriving I received a text with our unit location and a code to get inside.  Inside was a packet of information, free breakfast vouchers, and two parking passes.  Whenever we needed anything more, we simply texted back to the same number and someone quickly came with whatever we needed.
  • Housekeeping: According to the documentation found in each unit, if you book a 7 night stay beginning Saturday or Sunday, you will get a single housekeeping visit mid-week.  On shorter or longer stays you’re on your own.  Since we booked two 6-night stays, we didn’t have housekeeping come at all during our stays.  And since we were working from the unit, that was actually preferred.
  • Resort fee: 16% resort fee (waived for Hyatt Globalists) includes parking and intra-resort transportation.  That’s steep!
  • Parking: Parking for two cars is included with resort fee
  • Hyatt Elite benefits: As a top-tier Globalist Elite, on each visit we were upgraded to a bigger unit than we had reserved.  Additionally, we were given free breakfast for two every day.  Also, resort fees were waived after I asked.
  • Hyatt points and elite nights: Stays booked through Hyatt are eligible for earning Hyatt points and elite nights (towards elite status).  Three weeks after my first stay, though, I’m still waiting for credit to appear.  My Hyatt Concierge filled out a missing stay request on my behalf.  I’m sure it will come through eventually, but patience is required!
  • COVID Notes: I loved the completely contact-free check-in process.  I received an email telling me how to access my unit, went inside, and texted them back to say that I was safely checked-in.  That’s it!  Inside public buildings it appeared that mask wearing was strictly enforced, but I didn’t spend much time anywhere but my unit or the beach and so I had limited experience with that.

Photos and captions follow…

Sunrise, as viewed from Shipwatch Building A, Unit 104. Not all units have direct sunrise views like this one. For example, on our second stay at Beach Club Villas, our view was more towards the south and so the sunrise was to our left and blocked from direct view by other buildings.
Breakfast on our balcony at Shipwatch Building A, Unit 104. It might not be obvious from the photo, but the ocean was clearly in view.  I expect that even better views of the ocean would be found on higher floors.
Shipwatch Building A, Unit 104 dining room and living room
Beach Club Villas Unit 12 kitchen and dining room.
Beach Club Villas Unit 12 living room and patio
Beach Club Villas Unit 12 screened-in patio. This was the best! Most days were warm enough to work out here. The roof gave us enough shade to be able to see our computer screens clearly while we still enjoyed a great view of the ocean.  To visit the beach, we walked out the back of this patio, down a set of exterior stairs and then across the lawn to the beach.
Beach Club Villas Unit 12 master bedroom with balcony looking over ocean.
Beach Club Villas Unit 12 balcony from master bedroom. This unit only offered a single chair: a plastic lounger.  While we didn’t spend much time here, one day was sunny but uncomfortably windy and I found that the balcony walls blocked the wind and so I enjoyed a very comfortable nap in the sun.
Beach Club Villas Unit 12 master bath. We were surprised at how small this was for a master bath, but it was fine. The two other bathrooms in this 3-bedroom unit were similar.
Beach Club Villas Unit Upstairs Bedroom #2, also with it’s own bathroom.
Beach Club Villas Unit 12 first floor bedroom (bedroom 3). A full bathroom is located just outside of this bedroom.
Beach Club Villas Unit 12 refrigerator came stocked with a bottle of water for each night of our stay. Our previous stay at Shipwatch did not include water (but the tap-water was fine).
Beach Club Villas each include a garage and carport. Shipwatch condos, meanwhile, offered large shared parking lots (both covered and uncovered).
Indirect sunrise view from stairs off of patio at Beach Club Villas Unit 12
Path to the beach from Beach Club Villas.
View of the Boardwalk Inn. This is the hotel which is the core of the Wild Dunes Resort (as opposed to Vacation Rentals at Wild Dunes). Each morning I called the restaurant in the hotel (Coastal Provisions) to order our free breakfasts and then usually drove to pick up the food. We did walk the roughly 1.5 mile round-trip from Beach Club Villas a couple of times though.
Coastal Provisions Breakfast menu entrees.  Our favorites were the Berry Pecan Smoothie Bowl and the Blueberry Pancakes.
Coastal Provisions Breakfast menu sides.  I sometimes cobbled together a delicious breakfast sandwich with a bagel or biscuit, 2 eggs, and bacon.  We also enjoyed the mixed berries every day.
Path along main road between the Boardwalk Inn hotel and vacation rental properties. It was also an easy walk (but slightly longer) to go via the beach.
Sunset views from the beach were often spectacular
Me, enjoying sunset view while my wife snapped photos
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