Looming over the 10-mile stretch of Kiawah beach, The Sanctuary resembles a centuries-old, elegant seaside mansion, the hotel of Kiawah Island Golf Resort. It was only 10 years ago that architects crafted this luxurious oceanfront resort and spa with Charleston brick, stone, stucco, wood, slate copper and iron work, creating an immense manor that houses 225 guest rooms and suites.
As we arrived at the horseshoe driveway, an entrance decorated with manicured island vegetation, eager valets quickly swept away our luggage and ushered us into the stately entrance. The spacious Sanctuary lobby contains high ceilings, hand-planned walnut flooring, and traditional Southern décor showcasing tasteful antique pieces. Captivating artwork surrounds plush furniture, and vast window panes reveal a groomed lawn stretching toward sand dunes and the Atlantic Ocean.
Our hotel room, perched over freshly mowed grass with an ocean view balcony, contained a polished bathroom with a large marble walk-in shower, dual vanities, a private water closet and a deep soaking tub underneath the bathroom window featuring plantation shutters.
Each aspect of The Sanctuary encompasses the epitome of Southern elegance and luxury, a reputation established throughout the east coast. Yet another hidden jewel in The Sanctuary is the hotel’s accommodations for health and fitness. During my stay, I experienced fitness rejuvenation through The Sanctuary’s nutritious cuisine, exercise opportunities and spa alleviation.
The Atlantic Room
The Atlantic Room, a short distance from The Sanctuary’s niche, is located in The Ocean Course clubhouse, an elegant lodge overlooking a rolling golf course and the sparkling ocean. The premier seafood restaurant for Kiawah Island Golf Resort, The Atlantic room features modern American twists on seasonal seafood selections.
Upon being seated, I settled on an appetizer of P.E.I. Mussels, cooked to perfection with celeriac, shallots, parsley and white wine. These eclectic components created a moist, savory flavor, which whetted my appetite for the mahi-mahi entrée. The entrée paired a smoky filet of mahi-mahi with a spicy chilled chipotle crab and butterbean salad, topped with taro root purée. The dry fish complimented the flavor-packed salad, subduing the salad’s spicy kick.
Loggerhead Bar & Grill
Loggerhead Bar & Grill, a hip restaurant surrounding a corner of The Sanctuary’s outdoor pool complex, provides outdoor seating and offers lunch delivery to beach lounge chairs. The restaurant serves classic American fare and frozen drinks.
During our stay at The Sanctuary, my mom and I roused our lethargic bodies from the beach chairs only once to walk to Loggerhead Bar & Grill. The rest of our trip, we opted out from the short stroll and lazily reclined on the plush beach chair cushions while jovial waiters fetched our food.
I immediately devoured the Vegetable Crudité and Black Eye Pea hummus. A light midday meal, this finger-food lunch consisted of carrots, broccoli, cherry tomatoes and hummus — perfectly suited for South Carolina’s summer heat. The Butter Lettuce and Crab salad became another popular beach lunch. With thick slices of avocado, generous portions of blue lump crabmeat, lettuce and chipotle dressing, this salad quickly climbed up the favorites list.
Located in the west wing of The Sanctuary, Jasmine Porch creates Deep South aesthetics with authentic Charleston brick walls, oak-plank floors and an Atlantic Ocean view. Jasmine Porch delves into the culinary depths of Lowcountry style cuisine, implementing local produce and Charleston seafood.
I ordered the appetizer special — jumbo shrimp cocktail with a squeeze of lemon juice. I selected the Jasmine Caprese Salad with an addition of salmon as the entre. My palate was soon enjoying heirloom tomatoes, marinated tomini, pickled chilies, sunflower pesto, smoked Charleston sea salt and a grilled salmon filet. The chargrilled salmon burst with flavor that complimented the light taste of tomatoes and cheese.
The Ocean Room
True to its name, The Ocean Room flows onto a large porch overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The refined restaurant features a dome ceiling, large flower arrangements, and elegant place settings over white table linens. The menu offers tantalizing choices, specializing in locally sourced beef, seafood, poultry and produce.
Rob, our server, presented an overflowing breadbasket containing lightly salted Bourbon rolls and whole-wheat loaf slices. Shortly after, he served us a small palate cleanser with a base of flour and raison topping. After a pleasant interval, Rob placed Burrata on my setting. Resembling an art piece, the Burrata comprised of petite heirloom tomatoes, black pepper brioche crisp and basil coulis. I cheerfully scraped my plate clean, leaving behind no morsel of the light and refreshing appetizer. I chose the Plancha Seared Tuna as my entrée. The tuna contained a touch of wasabi-arugula coulis, soy gel, shaved Johns Island radish and vegetable vinaigrette. An ideal portion, the tuna satisfied my appetite yet left me craving more of its perfection.
Rob whisked out a second palate cleanser with a sweet gel and dried fruit. He began describing a Chocolate Brownie Dome, and I was hooked … every girl needs a splurge! The Ocean Room chef begins with a large chocolate egg, slices it in half, and fills the dome with a chocolate brownie, chocolate sorbet, branded cherries and pecans. He finished his creation by sealing the egg shut.
Upon serving the chocolate dome, Rob drizzled hot butterscotch on the egg. As the steaming butterscotch hit the chocolate, the top of the egg melted, concaving the dome. The result was a gooey, delectable chocolate dessert with an added crunch from the pecans. Each bite of this tempting chocolate concoction was rich with flavor — no regrets with this binge!
The Sanctuary provides a wide array of exercise accommodations through its coastal location and indoor features. Each morning I breathed in the warm salt air while running either through island trails, isolated and shaded from the summer heat, or on the beach’s water line, exposed to the morning sun and coastal breeze. During my beach runs, I jogged past morning yoga classes offered on The Sanctuary beach.
The Sanctuary fitness center also promotes enjoyable body strengthening. A weight lifting gym, indoor lap pool and work out studio equip Sanctuary guests with the necessary tools for exercise. After I completed lift exercises, the beckoning call of Sanctuary beach chairs sounded even more delightful.
Beach and island bike rides became a favorite for my mom and I. Recreation Services provided bike rentals, and away we pedaled! Trails weaving through the island dead end on the beach, creating a fun loop featuring island scenery and beach adventures.
The tennis facilities also provide exhilarating exercise. A guest can experience the game on aesthetically pleasing courts through clinics, camps, tournaments and private lessons.
Relaxation and Rejuvenation
Whether your body craves lounging on the Atlantic beach or relaxing in an immaculate spa, The Sanctuary accommodates your every whim. Cushioned lounge chairs, shaded by umbrellas, line the Kiawah beach. Chipper beach boys bustle around the umbrellas, serving the reclining guests chilled water. Each day, I unwound on the chairs, lulled to sleep by the beach heat. Intermittent dips in ocean waves provided a pleasant respite from the sun’s rays; however, once I reached my limit for sun exposure, I retired to the garden-themed spa.
Tucked in the west wing, the spa exudes natural lighting streaming from large windowpanes. Two relaxation rooms create a serene environment with plush lounge chairs, magazines, cucumber water, freshly baked granola bars, fruit and a variety of herbal tea. This area replicates an old Southern tradition — spending an afternoon on an elegant southern porch sipping tea and relaxing.
While waiting for scheduled treatments, guests may also soak in a whirlpool or recline in the steam room or sauna. Scented, chilled towels are arranged in each spa room and peaceful background melodies float through the hallways. Spa attendants drift throughout the area, mastering the tact of eager service while leaving guests alone in relaxed solitude.
The Sanctuary spa combines Charleston charm with treatments that incorporate Kiawah’s coastal ecosystems, featuring treatments based on the ocean, forest and botanical gardens. Spacious treatment rooms include natural wood flooring, high ceilings, plantation shutters, rattan seating and locally crafted artwork. During my stay, I received the Signature Massage and Custom Facial.
The Signature Massage, unique to The Sanctuary services, offers a choice of three oils, “relax,” “revitalize” or “recover.” I selected “revitalize,” an oil focused on relieving muscles from built up toxicity. Maggie, my masseuse, placed heated, grain-and herb-filled wraps on my key tension areas and major muscle groups, increasing the therapeutic benefits of her strokes. The massage coaxed my body into a state of deep relaxation, slipping in and out of cognitive thoughts.
The Custom Facial, focusing on each guest’s specific skin care concerns, soothed and relived my tired, sunbaked skin. Kendra, an esthetician, selected a pleasant sequence of natural and botanical remedies that treated and restored my skin. Throughout the facial, Kendra periodically sprayed scented, cold mist while alleviating tension in my neck, nurturing my facial skin, and messaging my limp arms and hands. Her assuaging strokes hypnotized me into a sleepy state of half-consciousness, and revitalized my skin into a luminous glow.
Reluctantly driving the packed-up car toward home, we reflected on the luxurious vacation experienced at The Sanctuary. Our bodies felt revitalized after the continuous exercise and rejuvenated after the nurturing spa. The Sanctuary entailed a retreat ensuring each guest’s maximum comfort and contentment.