New KDHamptons Travel Diary: Nothing Could Be Finer...Explore South Carolina's Kiawah Island

Breathtaking views from the great lawn at The Sanctuary hotel, Kiawah’s luxurious oceanfront resort and spa with three salt water pools, a handsome indoor bar, three restaurants, sprawling lawns and Lowcountry gardens. Photo: Kim Hopkins

It’s easy to be seduced by the charm of the Lowcountry.  Spanish moss drips from live oak trees. Breezes waft through double-stacked piazzas (porches), and gas lamps flicker as the warm day comes to an end.  Located on the coast of South Carolina, the geographical and cultural region is one of America’s historic and architectural treasures. KDHamptons contributing editor Kim Hopkins shares her Kiawah Island travel diary below.

“I first came to Kiawah Island 10 years ago,” says Kim, who returned to the United States last year after a decade living in Abu Dhabi.  “Being from up north, I was enamored by the Palmetto trees, the architecture, and the pristine golf courses.  It was love at first sight.”

Once known for its sprawling plantations and prosperous agriculture in rice, cotton and indigo, the Lowcountry today is famous for its well-preserved historic cities (Charleston and Savannah being the more famous), cultural heritage, beautiful beaches, world-class golf courses, and of course, southern charm.

Kiawah Island Golf Resort is located just 21 miles south of Charleston on the Atlantic Ocean, with easy non-stop flights from New York, Boston, Atlanta, D.C., and many other major cities.  Living in Charleston, our drive was a quick 45 minutes. After a warm welcome at The Sanctuary Hotel, (and a gift bucket filled with beach toys for my eight-year-old son Brady), we hit the waves.

The water is warm and the waves are easy on the Atlantic coastline of South Carolina. The Sanctuary seems to have thought of everything: Towels, kids’ toys and body boards (which Brady loved, pictured above), are readily available on the beach.  Photo:  Kim Hopkins
The Sanctuary was designed to resemble a grand seaside mansion. The interiors feature high ceilings, southern décor and artwork, and elegant but comfortable spaces.  Photo:  Kim Hopkins
More than 90% of the rooms at The Sanctuary have ocean views, and all have dual vanities, marble walk-in showers, and deep soaking tubs.  Photo: Kiawah Island Golf Resort

There are many dining options on Kiawah, from fancy to casual, romantic to family-friendly.  The Ocean Room is The Sanctuary’s signature steakhouse specializing in beef and chops with a breathtaking ocean view.  (There’s also an adjacent sushi lounge.)  There are more than a dozen other restaurants around the island serving everything from Italian fare to seafood.

We opted for dinner at the Ryder Cup Bar on Kiawah’s famous Ocean Course. The perfect spot to enjoy a cocktail at sunset or take in the views after a round of golf.  Photo:  Kim Hopkins

After a restful night lulled to sleep by the ocean’s waves, we had a delicious breakfast at Jasmine Porch, one of the hotel’s restaurants.  We sampled the sweet and the savory, healthy and decadent, but the French toast and bacon were our favorite.  Then we were off to hit the links.

Kiawah Island is a golfer’s paradise, with five championship courses designed by the world’s leading golf course architects:  The Ocean Course is the crown jewel, designed by Pete Dye and home of the 1991 Ryder Cup, two World Cups, and the 2012 PGA Championship, among others.  The PGA Championship of 2021 will be played on the Ocean Course as well.  The other courses include:  Osprey Point by Tom Fazio, renovated two years ago; Turtle Point by Jack Nicklaus; Cougar Point by Gary Player, and Oak Point by Clyde Johnston.

Kiawah’s world-famous Ocean Course will forever be remembered for the dramatic “War by the Shore,” the 1991 Ryder Cup battle that went down to the last putt, on the last hole of the last match, on the last day. When Bernie Langer’s six-footer for par slid just by the lip, the match came to a gut-wrenching and emotional end, with the United States winning by one point.  Photo:  Kiawah Island Golf Resort
We played Turtle Point Golf Course, which just reopened a year ago after a nine-month renovation under the direction of Jack Nicklaus.  We saw several young alligators sun-bathing by the lakes along the course!

If golf isn’t your sport, there are plenty of other activities on Kiawah, from touring the island by bike, kayaking, paddleboarding, fitness classes, archery lessons and art classes.  The resort was named #1 Tennis Resort in the World by Tennis Resorts Online.  Under the direction of Roy Barth since 1976, the tennis program is one of the finest in the country.

Kiawah Island is a nature-lover’s heaven, and was named “America’s Best Wildlife Getaway Beach,” by the Travel Channel.  There’s a plethora of wildlife including egrets, loggerhead turtles, alligators and tri-colored heron (pictured here). Learn about the environment and coastal ecology while kayaking, biking, or walking with one of the island’s in-house naturalists.  They also have a 14-passenger eco tour boat for dolphin-watching, sunset tours or nature photography.  Photo: Kiawah Island Golf Resort
Kayak or paddle board along the shores of Kiawah Island, awarded one of America’s “Top 10 Beaches” by the Travel Channel.  While only 10 miles long, the uninterrupted white sandy beach is lined with white flowering morning glory and vibrant colored sweet grasses along the dunes. Kiawah is also known for its exquisite seashells and sand dollars.  Photo:  Kiawah Island Golf Resort
After a long day of golf, we relaxed at the spa and the indoor salt water pool at The Sanctuary.  The Forbes Five-Star spa has a steam, sauna and whirlpool, and features treatments based upon the ocean, forest and botanical gardens.  Photo:  Kim Hopkins

The last day of the weekend we toured the island on bicycles, swam in the warm ocean and ate some delicious gelato from “Beaches & Cream,” the hotel’s sweet shop.  On our way back to Charleston, we browsed the shops at Freshfields Village, located just before the entrance to the island at the traffic circle.

We can’t wait to return!

The hotel’s high-speed Wifi extends to the beach for easy upload of the stunning sunsets.

.** For more information please visit:; 843-768-2121 and follow more of Kim and Brady Hopkins’ travels on Instagram: @kimhopkins @bradysworld