Laid-back days of riding bikes, playing golf, kayaking the backwaters and simply soaking up some sun can make your time spent on Kiawah Island unforgettable.
Largely undeveloped until 1976, Kiawah remains a fairly well-kept secret today. Fringed by Spanish moss-covered trees, driving down the two-lane road to this island oasis sets the stage of how remote this island destination is from the bustling streets of Charleston. The private Kiawah Island Golf Resort owns most of the island’s land, but it’s “open to the public for all to enjoy,” said Bryan Hunter, the resort’s director of public relations.
With the limited access onto the island due to a gated entrance, the amount of traffic is significantly reduced, making Kiawah a tailor-made destination to get away from it all.
“In the true spirit of Southern hospitality, we warmly welcome non-residents to the resort to eat in our restaurants, play golf, or enjoy our nature programs. The gate does restrict visitors from just coming to have a look around or to park to go to the beach,” Hunter said.
The award-winning Kiawah Island Golf Resort offers a variety of accommodations — a luxurious oceanfront hotel, deluxe villas and premier homes. The elegant Sanctuary Hotel stands on the pristine 10-mile beach, where every hotel guest has a beautifully designed, oversized room with a balcony. Lounge poolside, rejuvenate at the garden-inspired spa and sink your toes into the sand.
Vacationers can stay in a villa or home that is privately owned but rentable through the resort. If you choose a villa or house around East Beach, you will be within easy reach to Town Center Market for light fare and groceries, Night Heron Park and Kamp Kiawah. Accommodations on West Beach tend to be a little less convenient but sit on a quieter side of the island. A stay on Vanderhorst Plantation is centrally located and offers the benefits of a quiet neighborhood.
Eat and drink
Kiawah Island has become a culinary destination. An array of flavorful meals can be devoured while vacationing here.
If you’re in the mood for beef, The Ocean Room at the Sanctuary is the island’s high-end steakhouse. You can get your aged filet mignon or ribeye served with a peppercorn crust, topped with bearnaise sauce or paired with jumbo lump crab oscar if you’re feeling particularly decadent. Craving sushi? Right next door to The Ocean Room is a Sushi Lounge featuring small plates and maki rolls. Creative cocktails on the restaurants’ shared drink menu include a Sweet Tea Mojito, Cucumber Jalapeno Margarita and a Kiawah Mule.
Jasmine Porch, also at the Sanctuary, serves traditional lowcountry favorites dishes. Their signature shrimp and grits, drenched in tomato gravy with sweet pepper, onions and tasso ham, are available at every meal.
At The Ocean Course, the Atlantic Room celebrates seafood in the most sophisticated way. It offers seating only at dinner and provides an extensive wine list. Elegant starters include octopus, mussels or lobster and caviar deviled eggs. For your main dish, try the seafood stew with a variety of fresh seafood in an island-style curry.
The Osprey Point’s Cherrywood BBQ & Ale House specializes in all things related to Southern BBQ. Share a combination platter served family style and wash it down with something off their formidable beer list, which includes a variety of fruit beers like Bold Rock Carolina Apple.
1. One of Kiawah’s biggest draws is the preserved natural beauty of the island. Plenty of outdoor activities can help you experience the coastal surroundings. Jump on a bike to explore the island via 30-miles of paved bike paths or on the hard-packed sand beaches.
2. Go on an outdoor excursion. Dolphin encounters, fishing charters and sunset cruises are just a few of the possibilities for adventures. You could also engage with a naturalist on a gator walk, go marsh kayaking or take a birding tour.
3. Take a swim at Night Heron Park, which has the island’s largest children’s pool. It features two exhilarating flume slides, spray canons and a dumping bucket. For the little ones, there is a zero-entry area and a splash zone. The separate family pool offers a morning lap swim, aqua lounge and basketball hoop. West Beach has another children’s zero-entry children’s pool with slides, water sprays and a tube slide.
4. Take a swing on one of five championship golf courses, all with sweeping views of the island’s coastal setting. Top professional golfers have played on The Ocean Course for the 2012 PGA Championship and will again for the 2021 PGA Championship.
5. Reserve court time at The Roy Barth Tennis Center, which often ranks as the No. 1 tennis resort in the world by Tennis Resorts Online. Book one of their 19 clay courts or 3 hard courts for a calorie-burning workout.
6. If your golf or tennis game is a bit rusty, private lessons and clinics are available for both sports.
7. At Kamp Kiawah, kids ages 3 to 11 can participate in nature- oriented activities, crafts and outdoor fun led by trained counselors. Kiawah Adventure Camp is a traditional summer camp experience for 8- to 14-year-olds. Teens ages 13-18 can also hang out and meet other peers at Teen Programs.
8. Registered guests of Kiawah Resort have incredible benefits, including access to the fitness center and all pools except the Sanctuary’s pool, which is for hotel guests only. Resort guests receive discounted pricing and preference for tennis court and golf tee times.
9. Relax at the beach. You can bring your own chairs and games, or rent some from the resort’s recreation staff.