WHERE IS IT? Just a short drive from downtown Charleston on Kiawah Island, this hotel is a great road trip or weekend getaway as well as year-round destination resort for corporate groups and families. The resort is spread out across the 10,000-acre island giving guests plenty of wide-open spaces to enjoy the great outdoors and ample roster of amenities.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? The island features a variety of accommodation options including multi-bedroom villas, but The Sanctuary is the main hotel where many facilities are located. Its grand entrance features enormous curving stairways, beautiful wall murals designed for the hotel, black walnut floors (crafted to intentionally creak a bit when you walk for dramatic effect), and elegant living room areas decorated with antique pieces and chandeliers.
The entire resort exudes a relaxed vibe of sophistication. It strikes just the right balance to make everyone feel comfortable whether they are dressed for dinner in one of the fine restaurants or for a day at the beach. That should come as no surprise for a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts; I Prefer members can earn points for their room charges here.
As expected, there were several changes implemented due to COVID-19 including requiring masks inside, social distancing signage, and changes to housekeeping and dining services. Plexiglas shields at reception and ample hand-sanitizing stations are also the norm.
ROOM FACILITIES By the end of the year, all the rooms will have gotten a complete makeover with new soft goods. All feature marble entry foyers that lead to spacious accommodations with “beachy” colors of blue, green and beige in the fabrics. Decadently soft mattresses and some of the best pillows I have ever slept on are de rigueur. Bedside power and USB outlets supplement those on the desk. I really loved that the desk can double as a dining table with a chair on either side. Nespresso coffeemakers and complimentary bottled water are standard in addition to a separate minibar and refrigerator should travelers have their own snacks to keep cool.
During my visit, turndown service was temporarily suspended, but I was reminded that I could call housekeeping at any time for extra coffee, bottled water, towels and toiletries should I need something. My room had a beachfront balcony (90 percent of the rooms here have oceanfront views) and a sofa bed. In addition to several suite categories, there are also connecting rooms making them great for families. Of course, those who want full kitchen facilities and more living space can book one of the private homes spread around the island, too.
Marble bathrooms have dual vanities, glass shower stalls, enormous terrycloth towels and Penhaligon’s toiletries. Bathrooms have shutters that open to the room for natural light, and deep soaking tubs are positioned to enjoy the window views. On the fifth floor, the hotel operates a club lounge with multiple food and beverage presentations for those looking to book premium rooms. The lounge has a fireplace and computer access. It operates seasonally between spring and fall.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS Foodies have a lot of options here starting with Jasmine Porch open for three meals a day (Sunday brunch is a highlight). Many of the restaurants are operating with takeout options and socially distanced interior seating given COVID-19 restrictions. This also means that some of the menu choices have been reduced, but there is still plenty of variety. There’s an ice cream shop with grab-and-go snacks as well as a lobby bar and lounge serving drinks and light fare.
Most famous is The Ocean Room, which is the resort’s elegant steakhouse with a wine room, oceanview terrace and bar. By the family pool, Loggerhead Grill offers tasty burgers, sandwiches and salads from its Latin and Caribbean-focused menu. Additional dining options are available at some of the golf course clubhouses, too. For example, The Atlantic Room at The Ocean Course focuses on fresh seafood while Tomasso at Turtle Point Clubhouse serves Italian fare. There’s also a seasonal Mexican cantina by one of the pools and a Southern barbecue and ale house option at Osprey Point Clubhouse.
LEISURE FACILITIES There are three saltwater pools including an infinity-edge adult pool by the ocean and a family pool with splashing water fountain. Staff set up towels and chairs for guests and deliver chilled bottles of water to keep everyone refreshed. An indoor swimming pool is also an option in addition to numerous other resort pools around the island (some with waterslides and kids’ play areas).
The spa and beauty salon are ideal for those looking to decompress. In addition to an impressive fitness center, there are relaxation areas with saunas, steam rooms and whirlpools although these were not open during my visit. The tennis facilities here are ranked as some of the best in the country, thanks to the Roy Barth Tennis Center and the excellent pros on staff. Throughout the year, there are numerous clinics and camps that guests can participate in during their visit.
Golfers have five championship courses to choose from including The Ocean Course designed by Pete Dye, Turtle Point designed by Jack Nicklaus, and Osprey Point designed by Tom Fazio among others. Each of the courses is unique, giving golfers different challenges and experiences. Next year, The Ocean Course will host The PGA Championship.
There’s a wide range of organized tours and activities including options for canoeing, biking, kayaking, and a nature center where visitors can meet local snakes, alligators and other wildlife. Kids can also enjoy organized activities in seasonal camp sessions. The resort’s many eco-friendly programs are notable, too, including water bottle refill stations, oyster shell recycling, composting and the use of saline instead of chlorine systems in the pool.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES The resort attracts year-round business groups thanks to so many options for gathering space. Most recently, the new West Beach Conference Center expands upon the meeting venues, which include elegantly appointed ballrooms, breakout rooms and conference room setups, plus a full business center. Free shuttles take guests around the property upon request making it easy to get from place to place.
The staff is doing a great job adjusting to new social distancing guidelines in the meeting venues. Most events on the schedule for 2020 have postponed for a year, which is a sign of confidence from clients in the hotel’s safety standards and amenity roster. Currently, the resort is hosting occasional group functions and weddings, which can use one of the many lawns and gardens, different golf course clubhouses, and barbecue areas. There’s also a recently opened chapel. When it comes to giving people plenty of space, the mix of indoor and outdoor venues here fit the bill for demanding meeting planners.
VERDICT A family favorite, this resort ticks all the right boxes for conference groups as well as vacationers. Wide-open spaces, including by one of the many pools and on the beach – where umbrellas and chairs are free for guests – make this the perfect road trip or holiday destination.
HOW MANY ROOMS? 255 rooms and suites
PROPERTY HIGHLIGHTS Unobstructed beachfront views, multiple pool, golf course and dining options, and a sparkling new conference center
PRICE Internet rates for a traditional room start at $270
CONTACT One Sanctuary Beach Drive, Kiawah Island, SC 29455, Phone 800-654-2924. kiawahresort.com