The Sanctuary's grand lawn.
The Sanctuary's indoor pool.
The Sanctuary's lobby.
The Presidential suite bedroom complete with four poster bed.
The spa whirlpool bath area.
The Sanctuary's main staircase.
The floor plan of the Presidential suite.
The Governors hall, one of the large conference/entertainment spaces.
The Loggerhead Grill.
The Morning room.
The Sanctuary has 255 rooms.

In August 2004 a new 255-bed oceanfront hotel and spa opened on Kiawah Island, South Carolina – about 21 miles from downtown Charleston. At an estimated cost of US$125m, The Sanctuary is set to become the most expensive hotel ever built in South Carolina, where tourism has become the leading industry.

The 360,000ft² complex is owned and operated by Kiawah Resort Associates, who also own and manage hotels in Richmond, Virginia (Jefferson Hotel) and Nashville, Tennessee (Hermitage Hotel). The resort, promoted as ‘super luxurious’, entered into an advisory agreement with West Paces Hotel Group, a company formed by Horst Schulze, the former president and COO of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.


The Sanctuary has 255 rooms including 11 executive suites, one Governor’s Suite and a 3,100ft² Presidential Suite. The Presidential Suite features a vaulted beam ceiling, living room, fireplace, 189ft² oceanfront balcony, marble tiled foyer, powder room, four poster bed, formal study, 12-seat dining room, complimentary use of a Lexus car and private concierge service.

“The Sanctuary is set to become the most expensive hotel ever built in South Carolina.”

According to Kiawah Resort Associates, the guest rooms are among the largest in the US, with the smallest starting at 520ft². All rooms include a handcrafted desk and armoire, custom sofa, chair and bed. Each bed is dressed in high thread count Italian linens. Each of the rooms feature a five-fixture bath, large marble shower, dual vanity units, private water closets and shuttered bathroom windows.

Over 80% of the rooms have ocean view balconies. In addition, each of the rooms has a DVD-CD player and complimentary high-speed internet access.

The hotel offers 18,000ft² of meeting and conference space. The executive meeting and hospitality rooms are equipped with state-of-the-art conferencing technology, such as the 1,728ft² Calhoun Boardroom. There is also a 6,880ft² Grand Oaks Ballroom with a grand pre-function area and courtyard garden and the 2,880ft² Terrace Ballroom with outdoor patio, function area and views of the Atlantic Ocean.

A variety of dining options are offered at the hotel. These include:

  • Ocean Room at The Sanctuary: The Sanctuary’s signature restaurant, offering refined cuisine with an emphasis on seafood. The restaurant has ocean views, two private dining rooms for 18 guests and a lounge furnished in mahogany and leather. A wine cellar is stocked with 11,000 bottles, with 1,000 options on the wine list.
  • The Bar at the Ocean Room: Located adjacent to the Ocean Room restaurant, this mahogany panelled bar has a fireplace and panoramic sea views.
  • The Jasmine Porch: An informal restaurant offering fresh, local ingredients and traditional low-country favourites. Authentic Charleston brick windows overlook the sea. There is also a terrace dining area.
  • Loggerhead Grill: Located close to the beach, this restaurant serves classic American food along with fresh fruits and juices.
  • The Sanctuary Gourmet: A fresh baked goods and gourmet coffee café.
  • Beaches and Cream: The Sanctuary’s ice cream shop.

There is also the Lobby Bar, with live evening entertainment and the Morning Room for afternoon tea and pastries.


The Sanctuary includes a nature-based spa, adopting a southern porch-themed design incorporating Charleston brick, trickling water, native plants, garden-style light fittings and loungers in the relaxation area.

The spa features 12 spacious massage, facial, body treatment and steam rooms all styled with domed ceilings, hardwood floors, original artwork and therapeutic colour schemes. On the second level of the spa is a full-service hair, manicure and pedicure salon. There is also a 65ft-long indoor pool, a studio for yoga, pilates, tai chi and other relaxation exercises, as well as a fitness centre.


Work on the site began in February 2003, but not before 160 live oaks (some in excess of 100 years old and 50ft high) and 240 smaller palmetto trees were relocated to a new area, at a cost of US$1m. Landscape design firm DesignWorks used the world’s largest mechanical spade to relocate the trees.

“The hotel site was also raised 20ft to allow unobstructed views of the ocean.”

It took two years of planning of to complete this stage of the project. The trees were incorporated into the landscape design of the hotel, creating the sense that the hotel had been there for many years.

Moving the trees and incorporating them into the new design was more cost effective than purchasing new semi-mature trees.

The four-storey hotel was constructed using the finest materials, including slate, Charleston brick, copper, iron, stone, stucco and wood. The hotel site was also raised 20ft to allow unobstructed views of the ocean from the first floor. Flooring in the grand lobby area consists of reclaimed antique walnut, shaped into irregular length planks. They have been placed on sleepers so that the floor will ‘give’ and creak in an authentic manner.

Although many traditional features have been incorporated into the Sanctuary’s design, construction still needed to be swift in order to meet completion deadlines. This was done by dividing the project into five phases – contractors began work on the subsequent phase once the previous one was 50 percent complete. A topping out ceremony was held in June 2003 to celebrate the completion of the structure. At its peak of activity, over 600 workers were on the site.


A US$82m contract was awarded to Skanska USA Building to lead the construction management project. The architects were Cooper Carry from Atlanta, and Smith+McClane Architects of Richmond, Virginia.

Hirsch Bedner Associates of Atlanta were the interior designers. Mortensen Woodwork of Union City, Georgia, were contracted to install the interior wood, which was subsequently distressed and aged to appear antique, as was the exterior, handled by Jollay/Atlanta Masonry of Avondale Estates, Georgia. Thompson and Associates, Georgia, were the drywall contractors, Southern Pan Services, Atlanta, were the concrete contractors and Design Works from Charleston was the landscape architect.


Kiawah Island is a barrier island on the coast of South Carolina. Its ten-mile, uninterrupted dune-backed white sandy beach has been rated one of the best in the US.

The beach is a nesting site for loggerhead turtles, where the survival success rate of hatchlings is about 90%.

In addition, the island is also home to the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, with five championship golf courses (the Ocean Course held the 2001 Ryder Cup, 2003 WGC-World Cup and was home to the 2007 Senior PGA Championship). The Golf Resort offers a selection of private oceanfront villas for rental.