Is Isle of Palms Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On March 29, 2024
Isle of Palms, United States
Safety Index:
* Based on Research & Crime Data

The coastal town of Isle of Palms, South Carolina, is just off the coastline of Charleston and Mount Pleasant.

It’s a place that offers serenity and an intriguing past.

Originally inhabited by the indigenous Seewee tribe, the Isle of Palms later became a haven for pirates seeking refuge along the Carolina coast.

It served a purpose during the Revolutionary War but then was empty until the late 19th century – a common story among some of these islands.

The visitors who came here were seeking an escape from the suffocating heat and humidity of Charleston, as well as avoiding diseases that ran rampant in humid weather.

That quickly led to a collection of beach homes that are now filled with rental options among resorts and golf courses.

Isle of Palms turned into the “Coney Island of the South” before settling down into its current laid-back appeal.

In fact, zoning wouldn’t even allow the island to become more vibrant.

Today, Isle of Palms boasts miles of unspoiled shoreline, perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and strolling along the water’s edge.

Outdoor enthusiasts will delight in the array of recreational activities available, from kayaking and paddleboarding to fishing and golfing.

Sullivan’s Island is connected by a short bridge and offers an additional exceptional beach experience with more historical attractions than you’ll find on the Isle of Palms.

Also, you’ll frequently see Isle of Palms written as IOP.

It can be referred to as “IOP,” “The Island,” or “Palm Isle” verbally.

Warnings & Dangers in Isle of Palms

Overall Risk


There's a low risk here, provided you know about beach, ocean, and tropical weather safety precautions. This is a dream beach escape.

Transport & Taxis Risk


A shuttle runs from Mount Pleasant to Isle of Palms between Memorial Day and Labor Day. You can also rent a golf cart to drive around the island if you don't have a vehicle. Any option is a low risk, but you can also keep it simple and ride a bike or walk to your destination.

Pickpockets Risk


I was quite surprised to see no pickpockets or purse snatchings were reported in the past five years. However, the "All Other" theft category is one of the most common, which could be items stolen from the beach. If you're using basic safety precautions, the risk is low.

Natural Disasters Risk


Treat this with a medium risk, especially during the summer and fall hurricane season. You want to check the weather for rip tides and thunderstorm potential daily, too. Extreme heat or dehydration is possible if you don't follow standard safety advice.

Mugging Risk


This is another low-risk, with no robberies to speak of in local headlines or crime data for the past few years.

Terrorism Risk


Yet another low risk here, as this small barrier island is filled with homes, beaches, and golf clubs. Nothing especially intriguing to a terrorist would be found here. A shooting in April 2023 led to five people being injured, but we'll talk about that more as we go and how rare it is. Plus, why IOP might be safer than ever because of it.

Scams Risk


Rental scams are the biggest concern you should have here, and that's why it's important to find rental agencies that can help you find legitimate offerings. Searching third-party websites for the lowest deals can spell trouble. Plus, anyone who asks you to wire money ahead of time should not be trusted.

Women Travelers Risk


This is a quiet escape for women of all ages, and the safety risks are low, again, provided you know the beach, weather, and personal safety steps. It's a family-friendly destination.

Tap Water Risk


The latest water quality report shows full compliance and no violations. After flooding or a tropical storm, there could be a boil order on the water for a variety of reasons, but that will be overly communicated if you're impacted. Quite frankly, you shouldn't even be on the island in the aftermath of a hurricane anyway.

Safest Places to Visit in Isle of Palms

You’ll find several tourism websites for the Isle of Palms, but I prefer to use the Charleston Guide since the Convention and Visitors Bureau provides it.

The Discover South Carolina website also has a section for IOP.

Isle of Palms is also near Mount Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island, and we have full guides for each of those cities.

One thing to note if you’re debating between Sullivan’s Island and IOP is that Sullivan’s doesn’t have as many amenities like restrooms and showers at the beach compared to IOP.

By design, Isle of Palms doesn’t have a lot to do.

It’s specifically catering to people who want to escape to relaxing beaches, choosing serenity over beach schtick.

The rentals and resorts are more upscale.

The beach spans more than six miles here, and at least 50 access points line the streets.

All beaches are considered public property, so you don’t need to worry about walking on a private beach for the majority of the island.

You will be able to rent chairs, umbrellas, and kayaks along the expanse of the beach, so don’t worry about lugging all that stuff around with you.

Wild Dunes Harbor Golf Course and Wild Dunes Links Golf Course are the two locations to play golf on the island.

The Windjammer is the liveliest spot on the beach, with beachfront concerts and events throughout the summer.

If you love sand volleyball, this is the place for you!

Since IOP and Sullivan’s Island are connected by roads, you can also ride a bike throughout the two islands, with dedicated lanes for safety.

Places to Avoid in Isle of Palms

You don’t need to worry about dangerous parts of Isle of Palms, at least when it comes to crime.

You do need to stay off private property and don’t go to the beach after hours.

Each location will have the visiting hours posted.

Keep a close eye on the National Hurricane Center from June through November, as that’s hurricane season.

Don’t wait too long to evacuate if a storm is approaching, or you’ll end up in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Even in the days leading up to a storm, businesses will close and board up the windows, resorts might close down, and roads will be blocked off.

After a storm, the water won’t be safe to drink, power will likely be out, and trees will be down.

It’s just not worth sticking around during a hurricane, even if you think it would be a unique experience.

You might notice there’s a ferry to Dewees Island, a 1200-acre island nearby.

However, this island is private.

Only guests of Dewees Island homeowners can visit the island.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Isle of Palms

  1. Isle of Palms has a local police department. You can follow them on Facebook @IsleofPalmsPD. Feel free to email or call (843) 886-6522 with specific safety questions.
  2. Preparing for tropical or severe weather is paramount here, and Charleston County has a great app to help you every step of the way. Search for CC EMD or CCEMD in the app store to download the free app.
  3. If you have any doubts about how bad a hurricane can be in this region, look up Hurricane Hugo from 1989. The Category 4 storm made landfall in IOP. A storm surge of 16 feet was reported.
  4. In that spirit, it’s important to know that when it comes to tropical storms or hurricanes, the biggest threat is not the winds or the rain – it’s the storm surge. When you’re evacuating, you’re getting away from the wall of water coming, not just avoiding strong winds that you can avoid by being inside.
  5. You’ll want to download the Transit app to track the shuttle on the island during the summer. Even though a schedule is set, long lines and delays can throw off the timing. Read the rules of what you can/can’t bring on the shuttle to avoid being one of the people causing a delay.
  6. Charleston Waterkeeper is the name of a website that monitors water quality at area beaches, including IOP. You will see which sites are safe from swimming and which ones have high levels of bacteria.
  7. In the aftermath of a mass shooting in 2023, Isle of Palms has enacted many safety steps, including permits for large groups, the use of drones, and surveillance cameras. Police will have little patience for people trying to break the rules after this unexpected and uncommon incident.
  8. You’ll need a saltwater fishing license from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to cast a line here. That holds true even if you’re going on a fishing charter. Be sure you review the rules and seasons for different types of fish. That fishing license also covers clamming.
  9. Isle of Palms is one of many beach communities that ban the use of plastic or styrofoam. That includes plastic bags for snacks or sandwiches you would buy at the grocery store. Please only bring reusable bags and containers to the beach.
  10. You might see alligators on the beach or washed up from the current. These gators normally just get lost or carried away by the current and are trying to get back to the sound. Unless an alligator is posing a threat, don’t call for help. At the same time, don’t go near them. You can do a YouTube search for “Isle of Palms Alligator,” and you’ll see some recent social media photos of this type of incident.

So... How Safe Is Isle of Palms Really?

Isle of Palms hadn’t seen more than ten violent crimes in a year going back to 2012 – that is, until 2021.

The numbers only went up by 2-3, but it is still a safe community compared to the population and the thousands of people who visit annually.

Even just factoring in the population vs raw crime data, only eight people who didn’t know their assailants were victims over the past five years.

The challenge with statistics comes with a lack of context and comparisons to real incidents.

For example, everything about the Isle of Palms appears safe on paper.

That is, until a shooting on the beach in the summer of 2023.

During a “Senior Skip Day” for local high schools, a shooting happened that injured five teenagers.

Things like this normally don’t happen here, and the local police are committed to making it a safe place to visit in the future.

“I can tell you that we will work with our partners like we’ve been doing, and we will do our best to keep this as safe as possible,” Chief Kevin Cornett said.

“We will look at what took place and see what we can do in the future to prevent it from that, maybe we didn’t do this time, but we could do it in the future.”

You’d think a tourist destination would have a higher theft rate, but Isle of Palms managed to lower theft rates by 64% over the past decade and still come in lower than the national average in 2022.

About half of the thefts over the past five years were “other,” likely things stolen from the beach, a yard, or a campsite.

Another 26% were thefts from vehicles, largely due to vehicles being left unlocked or with valuables in plain sight.

Even with the high-profile shooting, steps were put into place to prevent large crowds from gathering and shouldn’t impact your impression of this beach.

Sadly, shootings like this can happen anywhere in America.

Isle of Palms remains one of the premier beach destinations in South Carolina with a long history of safety to back that up.

How Does Isle of Palms Compare?

CitySafety Index
Isle of Palms81
New York City67
San Diego67
Cordoba (Argentina)61
Toronto (Canada)81
Melbourne (Australia)80
Montreal (Canada)81
Sydney (Australia)80
Santiago de Chile (Chile)71

Useful Information



A visa or visa waiver is required for everyone visiting from outside the United States. Your passport should be at least six months from expiring, or you won't be able to get through Border Patrol. The U.S. State Department's website could help with that planning.



The U.S. Dollar is the only currency you can use here. You might want to carry a little bit of cash for tipping and such, but credit cards are widely accepted. Just be sure to exchange your currency before you get to the island. Your home bank will offer the lowest rates, or you can use a local bank branch if you're a member.



Dress for casual beach weather, but don't forget it can get colder here in the winter than - for example - the Florida beaches. Summers will be hot and humid, even with the sea breeze. Bring water shoes to protect your feet from shells and marine life (jellyfish - looking at you), and don't forget sunscreen and bug spray. Please use eco-friendly versions of each.



Charleston International Airport is just 22 miles from Isle of Palms. It's a short ride, but traffic can slow it down. Aim for early morning flights so that you beat the beach crowd.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Comprehensive travel insurance is the best investment to cover as many potential issues as possible. One thing to note when visiting IOP - what coverage do you get in the event a hurricane is approaching?

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Isle of Palms Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 10° C
Feb 11° C
Mar 15° C
Apr 19° C
May 23° C
Jun 27° C
Jul 28° C
Aug 28° C
Sep 26° C
Oct 20° C
Nov 16° C
Dec 12° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec

South Carolina - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Folly Beach68
Fort Mill78
Hilton Head Island79
Isle of Palms81
Mount Pleasant78
Myrtle Beach65
North Augusta70
Pawleys Island82
Rock Hill63
St. Helena Island78
Sullivan’s Island80
Travelers Rest77
West Columbia65

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