Less than a half day’s drive from Atlanta is the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island—a Five Star /Five Diamond rated luxury resort situated on a pristine barrier island just outside of Charleston, South Carolina. Easily, I’d say it is one of the many hidden gems of the south.
According to the NAACP, however, South Carolina warrants off limit status to African American as a result of the state’s blatant willingness to celebrate its stance on the abolition of slavery—a statewide message it clearly condones via the presence of the Confederate Flag that flies high from the State Capital building, despite the presence of Governor Nikki Haley–the state’s first minority chief executive, in office.
The hanging of the Confederate flag and the ill attitudes and feelings it represents have undoubtedly kept much of the country–people of color inparticular, from experiencing much of the beauty and hidden gems of the south. And as reasonably understandable as it seems it is to understand the offense, officials still refuse to budge, despite the economic impact. Perhaps a resistence to change will always be the trademark attitude of the south. If you can get past the principle, there’s definitely a bit of sanctity awaiting at The Sanctuary.
From the moment you set foot on the island, one of the first thing you’ll notice is the surrounding wealth of the community. Laden with beautiful trees covering the road from one side to the other, it’s easy to see that a home valued below $1 million in the surrounding communities is either nonexistent—or well hidden.
The Santuary’s 255-room resort bares a look of elegant, old world, plantation style grandeur. Though built from scratch to open in 2004, the idea was to create the look and feel of the old south including a sweeping staircases from which you might expect Scarlet from “Gone With the Wind,” to come down at any minute. A plethora of upholstered seating spaces in a main living room and numerous other seating areas throughout, and new hardwood floors that creek as if centuries old make for a very elegant look, in a resort casual atmosphere. While the staff is quite integrated, you can’t help but notice how homogenized the guests appear. Nevertheless, southern hospitality is congenial and consistent throughout. I definitely got the impression that all are welcome. In fact, I’ve now been a guest on three separate occasions since the property opened.
Rack rates range from $270 to $825 for room—90% of which have ocean views, and all with balconies. Done in elegant shades of yellow ranging from a pale buttercup nearly a light caramel, the rooms are amongst the most spacious in the country, with bathrooms to include deep soaking tubs separate from the walk in shower, a water closet and amenities (soap, lotions, shampoos) by Elemis. And if you’re really in a celebratory mood, step up to the 3,100 square foot presidential suite at $4,700 a night.
Island-wide Activities and Attractions
Covering 10,000 acres, the once Kuwaitee owned island boasts 10-miles of beautiful beach with compact sand that’s firm enough to ride one of the hotel bikes along for an early morning or late evening work out or leisurely stroll. It’s also a haven for wild life including birds, turtles and alligators, none of which can be threatening when you use common sense. To experience the many waterways that surround the island via a guided kayak excursion is simply blissful. And kids will love the nature center where they can see young animals, take walking tours and workshops to understand the plethora of wildlife on Kiawah Island.
The island’s five championship golf courses were designed by some of the best in the business to include Pete Dye, Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Clyde Johnston. I guess that explains the PGA chose Pete Dye’s Ocean Club course for its 2007 Senior and it’s 2012 Championship tournaments. But don’t let that intimidate you for even me—a novice by anyone’s standards, had a great experience thanks to a lesson from lead golf instructor, Blake Cathey, PGA. His common sense logic and approach gave me a few lasting reminders that fall right in place whenever I pick up a club. Now I can my playing habits nearly match my Ralph Lauren golf ensembles, thanks to Blake.
The Spa Experience
No resort experience is complete without a spa experience. In particular, The Sanctuary’s Five Star rated spa is indeed a sanctuary for life’s day to day respite, offering plenty of repose. Product lines by popular and highly effective brand including Naturopathica and Epicurean make any treatment—body, or facial—a beneficial treat. During my last visit, I opted for the 90-minute, Head-to-Toe Sanctuary treatment. At $255, it began with a warm oil scalp massage, followed by a full body massage, ending with a hot oil foot wrap. Using citrus as the predominant ingredient throughout the total treatment, I departed calm, unwound and rebalanced.
Low Country Cuisine
South Carolina is known for it’s rich and decadent dining. And The Sanctuary ushers it in on various levels, all of which left me looking forward to the next meal.
From the top, the Ocean Room is the resort’s signature steakhouse where beef and chops reign in a crisp and cozy atmosphere highlighted by rich woods, tranquil blues and plenty of natural light. Jasmine Porch—my favorite all around restaurant on the property, is situated at the exact opposite end of the property. It’s where breakfast is served daily, shrimp and grits ($17) and fried green tomatoes ($6) are on the lunch and dinner menu, and the friendliest service you can imagine. And let me not leave out such amazing desserts as pecan pie ($10), pecan praline bread pudding ($10) and so much more.
A short drive from the main building at the resort is the Ocean Course clubhouse, inside of which is The Atlantic Room. Again, in a resort casual environment, their modern twists on seasonal seafood is simply damn good! A $65 tasting menu (if you were heading there now) would include crispy fried shrimp for the first course, followed by sweet pea risotto, blackened local redfish, capped off by a dish of bread pudding with Tia Maria sauce and chantilly cream.
If you opt for one of the nearby villas for rent, it’s good to keep in mind the Straw Market, where a simple lunch and dinner is served at far less expensive prices. There’s also the West Beach Market for wine, beer, snacks, a fully stocked deli with groceries, logo apparel, newspapers and gifts.
Of course there’s a pool bar and grill (Night Heron Poolside Grill & Bar) for cocktails and food when you’re having too much fun in the sun to come inside (even though many of the resort restaurants offer al fresco dining.
Although anytime is the right time, November 10-12, 2011, are the dates for the 2nd annual Weekend of Jazz at Kiawah Island. This year’s line up includes host Earl Klugh, Chaka Khan, Brian Culbertson, Mindi Abair, Etic Darius and Spencer Day. Three night packages with hotel accommodations at The Sanctuary in addition to priority seating at each night’s concert, admission to the after-hours show and the Lowcountry Feast and a VIP party and more, begin at $249.
To be a star on Kiawah Island, visit www.kiawahresort.com.