Kiawah Island is a place we had talked about visiting for a while. Living on the west coast however means Hawaii is always an easy choice. This year we finally decided to make the plunge and try the southeast for a change and Kiawah was at the top of our list especially with the PGA Championship having been played on the Ocean Course the year before.
We debated staying at the Sanctuary but decided on a villa as this was a stop on an extended trip and the extra space with washer and dryer was appealing. This was our first time renting a villa or condo instead of staying in a hotel so we learned a lot.
To start, the resort is massive offering almost every summer activity one can imagine. Our favorite, besides the golf (reviewed separately) was the Night Heron Pool in the East Village. The actual pool was not much to speak of, just an Olympic sized lap pool. Next door however, was a great kids pool replete with large water slides and plenty of water park fixtures to suit kids from 0 to tween. Older kids may not find it exciting but plenty of dads and granddads were enjoying the slides.
We rented bikes for our stay from the resort and they were well... worn. It is a good thing the resort is flat. We could have stopped at a thrift store along the way and done better for the money. We saw better rental bikes around so I would do some homework before renting from the resort.
Now for the villa. Keep in mind there is a wide variety to choose from, they are privately owned and vary greatly in terms of amenities, quality and location so do your homework, Our villa was in the Turtle Point section and was a "resort" quality property meaning it had not been renovated recently. It was dated but not run down. It was plenty large enough for a family of four and located close to the things we wanted to do. I wouldn't call it a value for what we spent, Kiawah is pricey but it fit our family fine however....
No review of Kiawah would be complete without mentioning the bugs. Kiawah island is a swamp and swamps are full of all kinds of creepy crawly creatures particularly what they call the Palmetto Bug, aka the American Cockroach. They are huge, they fly, they scurry and can get into your accommodations. We were fortunate in that my wife only had a run in with one in our villa but that was enough to freak her out for the remainder of the trip. She literally slept with one eye open in fear one would crawl over her as she slept. Having the condo sprayed and keeping all the drains covered seemed to keep them out (they crawl up from the sewers) but if someone in your family is squeamish about such things this is not be the place for you.
The other thing that was odd for us was the social stratification. The resort itself is gated and then within the resort there are more gated areas and more gates even within those. Keeping out the rabble is a theme here and no matter how much you are spending to be at Kiawah it seems someone else sees you as a threat and needs to know you are not worthy to enter.
If we lived farther east we may be tempted by Kiawah again (not my wife) but for us Hawaii just suits us better.
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