The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa: Find your way to relaxation

By Lisa Allen, Contributor

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Getting to The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa is a little confusing but worth the perseverance.

Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa - lobby
The lobby at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa is impressive, bright and welcoming.
Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa - lobbyWestin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa - poolWestin Hilton Head Island Resort & SpaWestin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa - swimmingHilton Head Island Heavenly SpaPort Royal Golf Club - Barony CourseWestin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa - pools

One turns into Port Royal Plantation but doesn't go through the gates. There's a subtle left turn before that. A little larger sign might help, but Hilton Head is all about understated. That includes signs.

When headed in the right direction, one wanders past a golf course, one of three at Port Royal Plantation and a short golf-cart ride from the Westin.

To get to the resort, one turns right and passes through a small tunnel. It's a nice indication that you've arrived.

Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa: The grand entrance

As soon as you pull up, you will be warmly greeted by a valet who will gladly park your car or keep an eye on it while you check in.

Inside the doors is a grand lobby with a massive chandelier and many sitting areas. You'll hear music and later find that it follows you, in one form or another through much of the resort.

For check-in, the desk staff will have you in an out in moments but in a friendly way. They aren't giving you the heave-ho, they're just efficient. A concierge is right there, too, to offer tips of what to see, where to explore.

Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa: The tropical ambiance

Once you step outside of the resort on the ocean side, you'll see what sets the Westin apart.

The 25-year-old resort has perfected the space between the hotel and the ocean. Acres of decks on various levels sit beneath a thick canopy of trees, giving the area a lush, tropical feel. There is nothing stark about this space. It's a big, old breath of relaxing.

There is every type of seating imaginable, for every occasion. Chaise lounges, tables and chairs for eating or board games, tall tables next to bar stools. They are grouped for small groups, families or couples. Despite the size of the place, you can carve out a little spot of your own.

You'll be drawn to that area, opting to navigate the resort via the many doors leading to the decks, rather than trudging along an indoor corridor, the fact of life in traditional hotels or resorts with less imagination. The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa added a few extras to the area, too: outdoor table tennis, a practice putting area (used often for contests among conference attendees) and cornhole, a game in which one tries to toss a small bean bag into a hole.

A poolside snack bar can keep you fed and watered. Or if you'd rather, it's a short walk over the boardwalk to the ocean, where miles of beach awaits.

Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa: Nibbling, sipping

The resort has two restaurants: Oceans, featuring a large bar, cozy tables and some of the best ocean views on Hilton Head, and the Carolina Cafe, which offers three meals a day, beginning with a breakfast buffet and ending with a seafood buffet. The menu also features "super foods," as deemed by Stephen Pratt, author of "The SuperFoodsRx Diet."

Dan and Andee Wuhas spend three weeks each year in Hilton Head Island. "We love the breakfast buffet," Dan said. "We come here every year."

Aromas is a coffee shop featuring Starbucks coffee that opens way early (5 a.m.) for that needed java.

Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa: Activities for the kids

The kids discovery room is staffed all day, for half or full day sessions for children ages 4 to 12.

There also are kids nights out Wednesday through Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m. so parents can have some alone time. The room, also off a pool-side deck, bursts with games, books and learning tools.

A day there could include a walk along the beach, games, art activities or a reading session.

Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa: The rooms

Each of the 400-plus rooms is clean and comfortable, and none has a bad view, looking out over either the pools, the ocean or golf courses.

Give Westin points for getting the basics right: It has soft, fluffy bath towels and comfy, down-laden bed covers. You'll sleep well in snuggly beds and awaken to coffee service in each room and wireless access.

Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa: Well being

If you're looking for something a little less passive than hanging out at the pool or on the beach, the resort's fitness center offers treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical machines and a variety of weight equipment. Also, Westin has partnered with New Balance to provide athletic shoes and apparel during your stay, for a fee.

Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa: Pampering, big-time

Patterned after the Westin Heavenly Spa in Hawaii, the Hilton Head Island Heavenly Spa was the first Westin spa in the continental United States when it opened in 2007.

Sprawling over 8,000 square feet, it has everything, from head (hair salon services) to toe (pedicures and foot massages) and everything in between for individuals and couples.

The spa offers a host of massages, nine at last count, as well as meditation rooms, saunas and whirlpools. It also offers a unique golf ball massage using warmed golf balls -- Titleist Pro V1s, no less.

There are wraps, facials and other skin-care services. "We want every experience to be a journey," Spa Director Brandi Byrd-Lavertu said.

Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa: The verdict

The resort is impressive in several aspects, from size to service to the breadth and depth of its wellness resources.

From fitness to rejuvenation at the spa to the healthy superfoods on the menus, your needs will be met, whether you were aware you had them or not.

Oh yeah, and there is that ocean right over the dunes. This resort doesn't miss a thing.

Lisa AllenLisa Allen, Contributor

Lisa Allen is a golf, travel and business writer based in Beaufort, S.C. She has edited newspapers, magazines and books in Michigan, Indiana and South Carolina. Follow her on Twitter @LAllenSC.

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