I have fallen in love all over again. This seems to be happening on a very frequent basis these days, as I have been doing quite a bit of traveling. But my new love is surprisingly not a charming European city, a powdery Asian beach, or a secluded tropical island. No, if this love could talk, it would wear a preppy golf shirt, eat shrimp & grits, and have a Southern drawl.
I am talking about Kiawah Island, South Carolina, and I was surprised to learn even more about it than I already knew once I had arrived! My family started a new tradition with friends of ours in New Jersey to explore a new beach destination each year with our young families. With kids similar in age and a need for R&R, we always have a great time. This year, we decided to try Kiawah, and we invited another family, good friends of ours from Dallas. We rented a large house with a private pool, as it is just easier with 5 kids aged 3 and under. Mornings consisted of our short 10-minute walk to the beach, followed by wave-jumping, sandcastle-building, shell-collecting, and sand-eating (my 11-month old son). Once the kids were sufficiently exhausted, we went back to the house for lunch and kids naptime. Several times were were lucky enough to have all 5 kids down at the same time! Can you say party at the pool!!! Then the adults got to enjoy our private pool with a few beverages.. kids got to do a little late-afternoon swimming, and dinner was mostly grilling out though we did eat out one time (again, 5 kids under age 3!!). Go to bed, and repeat it the next day.
Kiawah Island Resort really is breathtaking. It is located about 20-minutes from downtown Charleston and is an entirely private island (save for one public beach- Beachwalker). We went through security gates to get in and had a car pass on our dashboard all week. We even had to pass through another set of gates to drive through the Vanderhorst Plantation neighborhood to the Ryder Cup Bar at the Ocean Course one evening (site of the 2012 PGA Championship!) It really is secure and private, which also meant that the beaches weren’t crowded. On Memorial Day weekend, the beach was gloriously empty! We even used a rental company to set up an umbrella and chairs for us each day, and take them down at the end of the day so we didn’t have to lug all the gear to and from our house ourselves. Genius!
The island is also heavily covered with huge live oak trees and dripping Spanish moss. Miles and miles of bike paths traipse the island, and bikes are very easy to rent. Seeing the island by bicycle one day was easily my favorite method of transportation!!
The crown jewel of Kiawah is the Sanctuary hotel. This property is consistently ranked among the top hotels in the US, and I was happy to get a tour to see for myself why! It is not even 10 years old, but is built to evoke a grand Southern mansion. No attention to detail was excluded, including placing pockets of air under the walnut floors and pennies wedged in between some of the slats so that eventually the floor will creak when you walk on it and have an aged look- just like an old mansion! Beautiful chandeliers hang in the main areas, and grand staircases sweep down to the main floor. The rooms are beautifully appointed, and the bathroom opens to the bedroom through louvered shutters, creating a bright and airy bath area. With 255 rooms, 13 suites, and at least 20 sets of connecting rooms, there are plenty of options to suit couples, families, etc. Also to note, the standard rooms are all the same size.. the difference is view- how close to the sea they are located. There is also a club-lounge option that may be added on to any booking which will offer numerous food and beverage presentations throughout the day, beginning with breakfast and ending with chocolate and cordials at night. You could also do box lunches or takeaway from here to enjoy at the beach.
Umbrellas and chairs are provided for guests to use on the beach, and the pool area with a shallow wading pool for little ones is another option for cooling off on a warm day. There are many other pursuits, such as golf, tennis, and spa.. The Sanctuary and Kiawah excel at all three. The resort boasts 23 tennis courts and is nationally ranked as a resort by TENNIS magazine. The area is also famous for its world-renowned golf courses.
For kids, there is Kamp Kiawah at the Night Heron Pool, and is for the exclusive use of Sanctuary guests or renters of Kiawah Resort properties. The Night Heron Pool contains one of two AWESOME kiddie splash pools on Kiawah, SO much fun for kids and a great alternative (or accompaniment!) to the beach. We went several afternoons, and it was one of our kids’ favorite things to do.
For me, Kiawah was not a one-time summer fling, but a place I want to build a lasting relationship with. We met numerous families who came to Kiawah once, and have made it their annual destination of choice. I hope to be one of those families, and let my kids experience the same traditions as they grow up. I am NOT a person who normally repeats vacation destinations, but I may be making an exception for the incomparable Kiawah Island…
The Sanctuary Virtuoso amenities include: daily buffet breakfast for two, upgrade if available upon arrival, $100 resort credit