Kiawah island golf resort, an exclusive vacation and residential enclave located on a 10-mile island off the coast of South Carolina, is known for its serene setting, stunning beaches, and incredible golf courses—the 2007 Senior PGA Championship, the 2005 PGA Professional National Championship, the 2003 and 1997 World Cups, and the 1991 Ryder Cup are among the prestigious tournaments that have been played on the island's lush greens. Since 2004, however, the illustrious golf resort has garnered acclaim for an entirely different brand of recreation with The Spa at the Sanctuary. Situated on the second floor of The Sanctuary, the resort's five-diamond seaside hotel mansion, the spa transports guests from the golf course and nearby beaches to a haven of Southern-style relaxation reminiscent of an expansive antebellum veranda, where lazy summer days are spent sipping mint juleps and reclining on comfy chairs. "We have the feel of a grand southern back porch," says spa director Missy Bennett. "The hotel is meant to feel like a manor that has been added onto throughout the years, and the spa is designed to feel like its back porch, where you go to relax, kick off your shoes, have a cold drink, and forget about the rest of the world."
The Sanctuary, Kiawah Island's oceanfront luxury hotel, is home to the 20,000-square-foot The Spa at the Sanctuary.
The layout of the 20,000-square-foot, 12-treatment-room spa promotes this plantation porch feel with such elements as shuttered windows that let in natural light, Charleston brick accents, bountiful native plants, and plush chaise lounges in the separate men's and women's solarium relaxation areas where guests can imbibe in refreshing drinks and snacks. Other examples of regional influence include a host of locally inspired treatments, such as the Mint Julep Facial ($140, 60 minutes), a refreshing skincare treat that features a cooling combination of peppermint and spearmint, and the Lowcountry Verbena Body Polish ($230, 90 minutes), an exfoliating and hydrating body session that incorporates fresh local lemon verbena. "People come to our restaurants to experience local flavor and enjoy native dishes like fried green tomatoes," says Bennett. "They want a local taste when they visit the spa, as well."
A soak in the Riverbath whirlpool tub is an ideal conclusion to treatments performed in the spa's private suite.
Spa-goers also get to savor the influence of the ocean and surrounding maritime forest and marsh. Seagrass baskets woven by local artisans adorn the walls alongside ocean-inspired artwork, while plants, sea glass, shells, and starfish culled from the nearby beaches also serve as design accents. Plus, marine ingredients like algae and seaweed are used in many of the treatments. Relaxation-seeking golfers, many of whom are the men who make up 20 percent of the spa's clientele, are also accommodated with the Gentlemen's Rewards menu. Sessions like the invigorating Post-Round Massage ($135, 60 minutes) help links-loving male spa-goers iron out the kinks after a long day on the course.
Cozy chairs nestled beneath shuttered windows give the women's solarium relaxation lounge the feeling of a welcoming southern back porch.
To perform these treatments and most of the others on the menu, Anakiri and Naturopathica were selected as the brands of choice. "We opened with the intention of offering very high-quality products, and they're both organic lines that offer the best quality for your health and your senses," says Bennett. "The touch, feel, and smell of the products are wonderful, but we use them for their results, as well."
The Couples Retreat ($370, 105 minutes) begins with a private soak for two in the Riverbath whirlpool tub, followed by candlelit Aroma Massages in the Spa Suite.
According to Bennett, the spa's most popular service is massage, followed by locally inspired treatments, which isn't surprising, considering that 90 percent of spa-goers are hotel guests looking to have a true Southern experience while on holiday. To promote the spa to hotel guests, a brochure can be found in each of the 255 rooms and suites, and a featured treatment is highlighted weekly on a giveaway bookmark that is ideal for those looking to relax beach-or poolside with a good read. The resort's scheduling department also contacts every hotel guest prior to arrival to pre-book spa, tennis, golf, and restaurant reservations. "We make sure our guests schedule their treatments in advance so they can relax when they get here and not have to worry about anything," says Bennett.
The Spa at the Sanctuary
Because of this pre-booking policy, the spa is generally busy all week, particularly during the summer months when many guests come for weekly vacations and plan to partake in multiple spa visits. Still, Saturdays are generally the most active and the time when the spa's daily capacity of 130 treatments is often met. While summer is the busiest season, Bennett says the spa generally stays busy year-round. Still, she and her team work to boost business in slower months by catering to local clients, including Charleston natives and year-round Kiawah residents. The spa also offers packages and wellness retreats during wintertime to entice vacationers. Recent highlights include a women's wellness weekend filled with spa treatments, fitness activities, and lectures, as well as an art and antiques weekend, where spa treatments were enjoyed following shopping trips to Charleston's well-known art districts.
To accommodate the spa's busy schedule, a team of 73, 20 of whom are full-time, make up the staff. Everyone, from therapists to the front desk employees, take part in ongoing training sessions from the spa's product partners—Anakiri, Naturopathica, and Red Flower reps make annual visits to the spa to keep the team up-to-date on new products and treatment protocols. The front desk staff also experiences all of the treatments on the menu so that they can talk about them intelligently with guests. Bennett says it is those training and sample sessions, as well as healthy incentives for retail sales and a website where clients can purchase products online to continue the beauty regimens they begin at the spa, that keeps the spa's retail sales thriving and the treatment slots full.
In fact, it is the spa's perpetually at-capacity status and repeat business due to the skills of the spa staff that presents its biggest obstacle. "One of our biggest challenges is simply the demand for the spa," says Bennett. "We very much encourage advanced scheduling because oftentimes, we are almost fully reserved. That's one of the biggest issues we face, being able to accommodate all the guests interested in enjoying us."