On the drive to the gem that is Kiawah Island Resort just outside Charleston, South Carolina, I fell in love with the South all over again. The sun twinkled through the towering trees and hanging spanish moss to create a fantastical charm that simply cannot be found anywhere else. The resort is built on an island 10 miles wide, lined with wide scenic beaches and is one of the world’s premier destinations for golf (the Ocean Course is a past host of the PGA Tournament), thus making it my husband’s favorite place on earth. Accommodations can be custom tailored to visitors’ needs, from the award-winning Sanctuary Hotel to gorgeous houses ranging from traditional to contemporary that can be rented by the night (perfect for our next visit with our daughter!). The Sanctuary is an elegant mansion overflowing with graceful decor from sumptuous fabrics to soaring windows, inviting the panoramic ocean view in. The resort has won several Conde Nast Travel awards, including #1 Resort on the U.S. Mainland and #1 Island in North America. The top-notch service of the resort is a testament to their recognition, with someone always eager to be of help, whether in the pools or restaurants.
Our spacious king room on the Sanctuary’s fifth floor with an ocean view was elegantly furnished and decorated with an eye for luxury and a heart for comfort. A sitting balcony overlooking the courtyard and ocean beyond was a perfect spot at gloaming on a late summer day, made complete with a glass of crisp chardonnay. After a gleeful discovery of the Elemis toiletries, I made a beeline for the huge soaking tub, from which the view through plantation shutters to the rest of the room out to the ocean was relaxing in itself. Soft fluffy towels welcomed me back to reality, and crisp linens in bed were perfect for snuggling in to read the paper. I couldn’t help but notice and appreciate the recycling bins tucked neatly in the closet, part of Kiawah’s Go Green initiative to preserve natural beauty on the island and beyond. Alas, there was so much to explore around the resort, I peeled myself up and started wandering the well-manicured grounds.
The multiple swimming pools at Kiawah Resort are meticulously designed and cared for, and include a large family pool with a huge fountain in the middle, a separate wading pool, and a smaller adult pool with an elevated ocean view, where I decided to relax for the afternoon. Because the resort uses a streamlined cashless system, all I needed to get whatever my heart desired was the room key, which works for all the restaurants and pool areas. As if that wasn’t enough to create a cloud of amnesia around work and stress, my next stop took me to the stunning regal staircase, the most dramatic entrance to a spa I’ve ever seen! The spa’s solarium was the epitome of tranquility (location of many future daydreams). A sun-drenched lofty room held cushioned loungers to sink into, and well-curated teas and small bites were provided for enjoyment. Little did I know, I was about to experience one of the best deep tissue massages of my life. Upon entering the quiet area of treatment rooms, my masseuse Amy evaluated my needs and expertly kneaded away any remnant of tightness in my back. As I struggled to stay awake to enjoy every last iota of the massage, I took deep breaths to take full advantage of the fragrant little eucalyptus and lavender satchel placed near my nose to round out the soothing experience. At the end of the hour, my areas of stress had been dissolved, and I felt more at peace than I have in months!
The Ocean Room, the Kiawah’s signature steakhouse is a popular destination in itself, even in Charleston, a foodie town. The lounge is a perfect place to start the evening with oysters or sushi, paired with a bourbon cocktail before moving onto the restaurant. I was already swooning after trying the Lobster Bisque, a creamy and flavorful soup with huge chunks of fresh lobster. I’ve heard of the legendary grits, but I was still taken aback by the creaminess and perfection of this quintessential southern dish. The star of the show was the Ribeye, a juicy prime cut of meat, perfectly prepared and simply served. After a hard day of spa and golf, it hit the spot and reminded us of how succulent a tender, marbled steak can be. Following dinner, our talented waiter introduced us to Underberg, a German post-prandial shot of bittters made from 43 aromatic herbs to help with digestion, intended to lift the heavy feeling in your stomach that a large meal creates. I was dubious, but when we got back to our room, I was able to relax comfortably in bed despite having just put away almost a pound of meat!
I’ve saved the best for last, the pride of Kiawah Island is the golf experience. Since I’m not a golfer, I’ve enlisted my hubby for a guest post!
For my wife, it’s Paris. For me, it’s Kiawah Island…heaven on earth. A short drive from Charleston, SC, Kiawah is a lush barrier island overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. And carved right out of the sandy beach is the famed Ocean Course, the site of the 2012 PGA Championship where Rory McIlroy made history. One of the greatest things about golf is that it’s the only sport where amateurs can play on the same hallowed grounds as their favorite professional stars. Even hackers like me can walk the same fairways and greens as Tiger and Phil, while measuring their skills against the challenging layout and infamous winds. From the moment you walk into the clubhouse and take in the breathtaking view of the Atlantic through the panoramic windows, you know it’s a special place. Warming up on the driving range, you are immediately aware how much the ocean breezes will toy with your drives. Keeping your eye on the huge Rolex clock by the practice green, you can feel the excitement building as you prepare to tee off. The links-style course is designed to go up and down the beach, into and out of the wind, which can make club selection very tricky. The dramatically raised tee boxes are perched above swamp, beach, and water depending on which hole you are playing. The immaculate fairways are also raised above the beach, so that any mis-hit ball will end up in the sand. The good news is that the Ocean Course has no bunkers, so you are allowed to treat all sand shots as if you were on grass. Teeming with wildlife, the natural beauty of the course is unparalleled. Ancient cypress trees covered with Spanish moss tower over the fairways. Egrets and herons fly overhead, turtles and fish swim through the swamps, and watch out for gators in the water hazards! The icing on the cake is playing with a caddy. At first it seemed intimidating for a weekend golfer like me, but it turned out to be so fun to have an expert to guide your way through the treacherous winds and undulating greens. Playing the Ocean Course is the most amazing experience…I can’t wait to go back!
Do you ever come to a place which makes you so comfortable because you know you’re being taken care of, but feels so much like home that you can relax? For me, that place is Kiawah Island Resort, which perfectly captures the gentile south with its flavors, southern hospitality, and luxury. It has a special place in our hearts, and we look forward to many happy returns down south.