A stay on Kiawah Island combines South Carolina’s charm with an oasis of natural beauty along with five championship courses designed by the world’s leading golf course architects. The island is home to a per capita income of $168,369, the highest in South Carolina, as well as 10 miles of beaches with perfectly preserved maritime forests, sand dunes and marshes. Just 21 miles from Charleston, the island is home to an abundance of wildlife including whitetail deer, seabirds, dolphins, sea turtles, alligators and bobcats which inhabit the 13.4 square-mile island. It is home to 500 charming villas and private luxury homes as well as The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, a 255-room, oceanfront hotel and spa.
The elegant 412,000-sf hotel opened in 2004 and combines the highest finishes of Charleston brick, stucco, wood, slate, copper and ironwork. Designed to evoke an aura of its historic setting, the interiors are grand in nature with high ceilings and classic antique furniture in the lobby. Presenting a luxury setting in an approachable yet detail-oriented manner, the resort is warm and inviting, true hallmarks of Lowcountry hospitality. From their high level of service and amenities (12,694-sf spa and salon, well-curated retail corridor, indoor and outdoor pools, two indoor restaurants and bars, one oceanfront poolside restaurant and bar and more) to their location next to the Kiawah River, they present a plethora of options for all travelers.
“The Sanctuary was designed to evoke the feeling of a century-old grand seaside mansion,” said General Manager Bill Lacey. “Even the smallest details were considered, including installing special spacers beneath the lobby floorboards so that the hardwoods give and creak slightly, just as they would in an old house that has settled over the years. Yet, befitting its oceanfront setting, while the hotel is elegant, it is not at all stuffy, rather it is comfortably inviting. We describe it as relaxed elegance – no part of the lobby, for example, feels ‘off limits’ or too precious for guests to relax in and enjoy. I’d say that’s really an extension of the spirit of the entire resort.”
With 90 percent of the guestrooms and suites having ocean views, their most opulent accommodation in the hotel is the Presidential Suite. Measuring 3,100 square feet, guests are welcomed into the expansive living area with an inviting fireplace before stepping foot to the spacious balcony through double sets of French doors. Inclusive of an intimate library, separate dining room for 12 and bedroom with adjacent dressing room, the suite also offers a private outdoor area with views down the length of the Grand Lawn to the ocean’s horizon.
In addition to the rooms and suite at the hotel itself, spread across the island the resort manages close to 500 properties. These units range from one-bedroom semi-detached units all the way up to grand ocean-front houses that can accommodate up to 20 people (ideal for multigenerational family vacations). New to the offerings are the Ocean Course Cottages which provides a one-of-a-kind golf experience with a dedicated concierge to attend to every detail before and throughout your stay. From a daily round of golf and daily breakfast, additional enhancements may be arranged including a private catered dinner and recreational activities such as chartered inshore or nearshore fishing excursions.
“We want to extend to our guests the genuine hospitality for which the South Carolina Lowcountry has historically been renowned,” said Bryan Hunter, Director of Public Relations. “But we also want them to explore the unique and enchanting landscape that is an indispensable part of life on a Lowcountry barrier island. We want them to observe and encounter the astonishing abundance of flora and fauna the closely interrelated ecosystems here support – that in addition to the world-class golf experiences provided by the resort’s five championship courses.”
The Sanctuary offers every element to inspire their guests with the platform to explore and appreciate the nature that surrounds the resort. With 30-plus miles of paved trails for biking, walking and jogging and access to the Kiawah River for naturalist-led kayaking, SUPing and boating excursions, there are numerous nature activities to be enjoyed. One unique activity that is best enjoyed during low tide is the dolphin strand feeding on Captain Sam’s Inlet where dolphins herd fish onto the sand and then launch themselves out of the water to catch the fish. Unique to this part of the Lowcountry and a few, select other areas in the world, this is something definitely not to be missed.
The resort also provides guests with packages to the five championship golf courses (Pete Dye’s The Ocean Course, Tom Fazio’s Osprey Point, Jack Nicklaus’ Turtle Point, Gary Player’s Cougar Point and Clyde Johnston’s Oak Point) on the island. The fully and recently renovated courses first appeared on the national zeitgeistin 1991 with the Ryder Cup contested at the newly opened Ocean Course. Since then, the island has hosted multiple World Cup tournaments, two PGA Championships (the most recent in 2021), one Senior PGA Championship and many other world-class events.
The Ocean Course boasts the most seaside holes, 10, in the Northern Hemisphere and is on every golfer’s must-play list for a true test of skill. For those looking to eventually build up to taking on one of the championship courses, the Tommy Cuthbert Golf Learning Center invites guests of all skill levels to refine their game in state-of-the-art facilities with personalized coaching from PGA-certified pros. With 22 courts, including ten new Har-Tru clay courts, the Roy Barth Tennis Center has earned top accolades and offers a number of packages for players to hone their game and learn from the pros.
Back at the hotel, their pool complex features an outdoor family pool and an infinity-edge adult saltwater pool with a boardwalk to the beach (where full beach service provides guests with chairs, umbrellas, towels and beach toys). Adjacent to their state-of-the-art fitness center on the west wing of the lobby, is the indoor saltwater pool measures approximately 50 feet by 24 feet and is lined for laps.
When relaxation is the name of the game, The Spa at The Sanctuary provides services in 12 treatment rooms with treatments inspired by Kiawah Island’s natural ingredients derived from the ocean, marsh and maritime forest. The spa combines Southern hospitality with natural design elements seen in their relaxation solariums and salon, presenting a haven for restoration and rejuvenation. Choose from their signature 60-minute Southern Classic Massage or a Holistic Facial to a selection of Natura Bissé treatments used in a variety of therapies that beautify skin of any age.
On property, the Kiawah dining collection presents more than a dozen options ranging from modern pub fare to authentic Lowcountry cuisine. The Ocean Room, the hotel’s signature restaurant focuses on USDA Prime Beef, locally sourced seafood and distinctive seasonal side dishes, which can be paired with their 1,000-label list of exemplary cellar-aged wines. Just within the hotel itself, Jasmine Porch is their refined family-friendly establishment specializing in the Lowcountry’s distinctive cuisine like their she-crab soup and shrimp-and-grits while Loggerhead Grill is an outdoor, seasonal poolside restaurant and bar for a more casual vibe. Stop by Beaches & Cream for lite fare breakfast, locally sourced organic ice creams and sandwiches for carry-out, or by one of three bars for specialty cocktails, wines, beer, spirits and light fare.
Farther afield throughout the resort, four of the five clubhouses offer distinctive dining options ranging from casual to refined, headlined by The Atlantic Room located in The Ocean Course clubhouse, which focuses on fresh seasonal catch sourced from local fishermen, oystermen and shrimpers complimented by fresh seasonal produce sourced from neighboring farms. Perhaps best of all, the restaurants’ bank of floor-to-ceiling windows ushers in panoramic views of the golf course and the Atlantic.
Surrounded by distinctively tranquil natural surroundings, for a travel experience you wish would never end, a trip to Kiawah Island provides a retreat into adventure and luxury. One where Southern hospitality and natural beauty present a breath of fresh air.
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