Finding Sanctuary in South Carolina


By Ali Webb

The dictionary defines the word “sanctuary” as a place of refuge, an oasis, retreat, or hideaway. The dictionary should add The Sanctuary Hotel at Kiawah Island as the example to prove the meaning. On Kiawah Island, South Carolina, just 21 miles from downtown Charleston, you’ll find miles of white sand beach, acres of emerald golf fairways, stretches of navigable waterways, and one of the country’s top five-star resorts, The Sanctuary.

Sanctuary Hotel South Carolina

The Sanctuary’s exquisite grand lobby

As we drove up to the columned entrance of the Sanctuary Hotel South Carolina, reminiscent of a grand southern mansion, our first encounter with the parking valet was the start of a high level of service we would find consistent to the resort. Walking into the lobby, we were greeted by floor to ceiling windows that look out at the Atlantic Ocean and a room dominated by sweeping two story staircases on either end.

The standard guest rooms include:

  • A balcony with a table and chairs and an ocean view
  • A huge tub
  • A marble walk-in shower
  • Luxurious bedding with lots of pillows
  • High quality soaps and shampoos.

The only difference in the guestrooms is how much of the ocean you can see from the balcony.

Many of the rooms have a view of the multiple swimming pools, including an infinity pool nearest the ocean. Again, the personal service separates this hotel from so many others, with immediate attention such as arranging towels and raising an umbrella, and promptly taking poolside food and beverage orders. The same kind of service is available on the beach, where guests can wiggle their toes in the white sand.

Exploring the Kiawah River

If too much luxury and relaxation becomes tiring, try exploring the Kiawah River via kayak from the Heron Park Nature Center. The daytime paddle trip includes a stop to scoop up the prized Pluff mud used for expensive facials. (Just ignore the millions of fiddler crabs living in the mud, eating bits of organic matter.) Or guests can choose an evening paddle, starting in the twilight and continuing as the sun dips into the horizon, for a very quiet and peaceful end to the day.

Sanctuary Hotel South Carolina meeting space

The Sanctuary Hotel is made for relaxation

Motorboat tours bring guests to see the pods of dolphins at the mouth of the river. The dolphins put on a show while they eat dinner; this process is called “strand feeding” where, as a group, the dolphins herd a school of fish or shrimp up onto a sandbar, beach, or mudflat. Then, the dolphins literally leap out the water to feed.

Dinner for guests of the Sanctuary Hotel South Carolina, however, can be at the award-winning Ocean Room, a fine dining, white tablecloth service steakhouse. To start, a cold Johns Island corn soup with blue crab brought all of the local South Carolina flavors to the table. A special 32-ounce bone-in, local, grass-fed steak was tender and well marbled. Two kinds of potatoes, pureed and truffle oil French fries, complemented the meat. The dessert menu included a heavenly flourless chocolate cake with butter pecan ice cream. The culinary team utilizes locally sourced beef, seafood, poultry, and produce to use in their seasonal menus. Their wine cellar has earned the Ocean Room a Wine Spectator “Best Of” Award.

While some may want to play 18 of the available 90 holes of golf or contest a set of tennis on one of 24 clay and hard courts, other guests will enjoy the serene spa, with a peaceful South Carolinian low country vibe. The signature massage includes heated grain-and-herb-filled wraps placed on those tense muscles to create a wonderful relaxed state.

In addition to the Sanctuary Resort, visitors can also book stays at resort villas or private homes on the island, all comprising what is known as the Kiawah Island Golf Resort. Whatever your choice, after spending a few days on Kiawah Island, you can indulge a desire for full-on activity or full-time beach bumming… or a wonderful mix of both.

Visit the Sanctuary Hotel South Carolina’s website to learn more.


Contributor Ali Webb took her first airplane trip when she was six weeks old and has been traveling ever since. Born and raised in California, she now lives in the middle of the US and is frequently published as The Indulgent Traveler. Check out her travels at her website,






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