The Sanctuary: A World-Class Beachfront Retreat On South Carolina's Most Exclusive Island

Nestled in the heart of South Carolina's tony and exclusive Kiawah Island, about an hour's drive from Charleston, The Sanctuary is a plush and luxurious resort hotel sprawled out on the beach amid multimillion-dollar homes and world-class golf courses. We recently had the opportunity to spend an evening at the hotel at their invitation, and we found it to be a warm and welcoming escape from reality.

The hotel opened in 2004, but looks like it's been there for much longer; elegant but not overly formal, the décor is traditionally Southern and the building has the air of a grand mansion. The large and opulent lobby is full of public space and high ceilings, including a luxurious bar and plenty of seating areas; large doors directly across from the main entrance open up to the ocean beyond. The floor is also notable; it's made of hand-cut walnut in large planks that are placed on "sleepers" so it creaks slightly as you walk on it.

The hotel offers 255 rooms and suites; our standard king room was absolutely enormous, clocking in at over 500 square feet, with a large marble bathroom (with a soaking tub and double vanity), two separate sitting areas, heavy drapery, and a terrace that looked out to the ocean. All the little luxuries that you look for in a high-end hotel are there: ice buckets on-demand, complimentary overnight shoe shine, morning newspaper delivery, plush robes in the closet, pillow-top bed. Guests can also arrange stays at private villas and houses through the hotel, but for a couple, these rooms are ideal. It's no surprise that it's been awarded five stars by Forbes.

As you might have expected, there's plenty more to do here than sit in your room. There's an upscale 12-room spa that offers many different treatments as well as a mineral whirlpool, solarium, steam room, and sauna, and you can easily spend a full day there. There are several restaurants on the premises as well, and we had the opportunity to dine at two of them: Jasmine Porch, a casual Lowcountry spot with a stellar Sunday brunch; and The Ocean Room, an upscale steakhouse.

Jasmine Porch has oak plank floors, comfortable rattan chairs, well-spaced tables, tan curtains, and plenty of windows to let in natural light. We visited for its acclaimed Sunday brunch, and enjoyed both creative spins on traditional brunch favorites as well as spot-on versions of classic Southern specialties; the fried chicken and prime rib were especially notable, and there was plenty of bubbly to wash it all down. You can find the full Jasmine Porch writeup here.

And as for the Ocean Room, perched atop a grand staircase on the hotel's second floor, it's expansive, with plenty of windows overlooking the ocean, ample space between each of the roomy tables, elegant carpeting, and plenty of high-end fixtures and furnishings. The steak offerings include dry-aged bone-in strips, ribeyes, and T-bones for two, and ours were perfectly cooked; we were also very impressed with the non-steak offerings, including braised octopus with scallop mousse agnolotti, butternut squash purée, squid ink sauce, aged feta, and frill mustard. Check out the full Ocean Room writeup here.

The Sanctuary is a part of the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, and it has five championship golf courses: The Ocean Course (which will be hosting the 2021 PGA Championship), Turtle Point, Osprey Point, Oak Point, and Cougar Point. Each is unique in its own way and presents different challenges. As I'm not much of a golfer, I skipped the links and headed for the Ocean Course's clubhouse instead; it's home to the elegant Atlantic Room, the island's top seafood restaurant; as well as the Ryder Cup Bar, a circular, low-key bar with windows that look out to the beach and a relaxed patio. It's a great place for a post-golf cocktail (they make a mean mint julep), and it's a destination in its own right.

Kiawah is one of the most exclusive and luxurious communities in America, with world-class golf and some of the nicest beaches on the East Coast. And a visit to The Sanctuary, with its upscale rooms, world-class dining, excellent golf courses, top-notch spa, and general air of grandeur, is a great way to experience it.