#TravelTuesday | Charleston + Kiawah Island, South Carolina

2018 has been a unique year of travel for Johnny and I as several of the trips we've been on/have planned are for wedding celebrations of our friends. Personally, I love attending destination weddings because it's an excuse for a vacation and the guest list tends to be smaller so the event itself is more intimate for the guests and the couple. Last month, we had the pleasure of traveling to South Carolina for some destination nuptials. I had never been, but always wanted to visit SC, so this wedding picked the perfect destination! 

**FYI, The amount of pictures I took on this trip is severely lacking due to my phone SIM card not working. No reception : less phone usage : photography neglect. 

DAY 1 + 2 // CHARLESTON 

Upon landing in Charleston, our initial impression was how much smaller of a city it was than we had assumed. Downtown was quaint antiquity rather than imposing skyscrapers. I welcomed the change, and enjoyed how much history all the buildings seemed to contain. Perhaps none more so than The Old Slave Market, pictured down the amazing cobblestone street in the final image. 

All of Charleston was full of little details: spiral staircases, nooks and crannies serving as courtyards, and fanciful architectural ironwork. I could have spent a long time just walking around taking in all these details. We did in fact take a walking "ghost tour" of Charleston at night, which was interesting to hear and see some of the history and tall tales of the city. 

// CHARLESTON QUICK TIPS // 

EAT // GRILL 225 (ORDER THE CRAB COCKTAIL...OMG!!) 

DRINK // CARAMELLA (BOOZY ICE CREAM/SORBET FLOATS) 

STAY // WE LOVED OUR COZY TREE HOUSE AIR BNB! (PICTURED ^)

TOUR // WALKING GHOST TOUR (NIGHT), HORSE + BUGGY TOUR (DAY)

DAY 3-5 // KIAWAH ISLAND 

Kiawah Island is approximately an hour's drive from Charleston over bridges twisting through marshlands and beautiful forests. The thing that's most noticeable about Kiawah is the seclusion. Many houses, villas, golf courses and The Sanctuary Hotel (the wedding venue) are on the island, but they are not so noticeable nestled within the dense growth of trees and foliage. With no Uber or ride-sharing service, and limited restaurants/bars, the island is decidedly non-touristy--a concept I can readily get behind! With no working phone, and no Uber services, the theme of the trip for me was a bit of a throwback in the sense that we actually had to make plans in advance! 

The wedding was held at The Sanctuary hotel (last two pictures, above). The property was everything you would imagine for Southern glamour, and the wedding was picture perfect on the green, overlooking the ocean. 

Aside from the wedding, and a close runner-up to seeing a wild alligator, my favorite part of the trip was the beach at night. It is mating season for the sea-turtles of Kiawah and I guess they like to preserve their modesty by having it pitch-black at night for their trysts. SO, since Kiawah is far enough from the mainland, and maintains no artificial light at night, you get to see a truly spectacular sight: a perfect black sky full of stars above and below you as the night sky is reflected back onto the tide and gently rolling waves. I could not stop staring. It's worth the trip to Kiawah just for that experience! 

// KIAWAH QUICK TIPS //

EAT//CHILL // MADE-TO-ORDER CUSTOM PICNIC FROM TOWN CENTER MARKET

EAT//FANCY // HEGE'S RESTAURANT (FRESHFIELD VILLAGE) 

DRINK//CHILL // BYOB ROSÈ ON THE BEACH

DRINK//FANCY // HOTEL BAR @ THE SANCTUARY 

TOUR//DAY // BIKE RENT + RIDE AROUND THE ISLAND

TOUR//NIGHT // NIGHT STARGAZING BEACH WALK 

Thanks to Dan + Laura, and their families, for inviting us to the wedding! 

// MY OUTFIT DETAILS FROM THE WEDDING DAY // 

DRESS // ISABELLA GOWN BY ALEXIS 

SHOES // LOEFFLER RANDALL 

BAG // SAINT LAURENT (SIMILAR)

BRACELETS // KENDRA SCOTT 

 

#TravelTuesday | Now Sapphire, Cancun

Welcome to a new section on my blog, #TravelTuesday! Johnny and I travel a lot, and seeing the country and the world has always been a huge part of my life, so I want to share my experiences and tips here on Luna Elise! Since I'm just starting this segment, I figured I would go back and talk about some of the many trips I have been on this year! Please bear with me on the photography as I don't have a professional photographer along with me when I travel. To hear about our experience at the Now Sapphire resort in Cancun, scroll down! 

 View from our room (Ocean Front Suite)

View from our room (Ocean Front Suite)

Let me preface this review with a disclaimer: If you're in Cancun, nothing is going to be terrible! However, the Now Sapphire definitely had its ups and downs. We were there for a friend's wedding, so this venue was picked for us--giving us a good opportunity to see a different property on Cancun (we always stay at The Excellence Playa Mujeres). Below, I break the property down by my key criteria when going on vacation.

Resort Style/Type

First of all, the Now Sapphire is kid-friendly, which may be a pro or con depending on your preference. This is great for wedding parties and guests or for family trips. The Now Sapphire did a good job balancing kids and adult activities by having "day-camp" for kids and a separate pool + bar for adults. The on-site nightclub was a good addition to give younger adults without children a late night option. Normally, Johnny and I choose adults-only resorts so we were a little wary about Now Sapphire, but I didn't feel--for lack of better words--bombarded by kids like I feared. 

 Iguana right outside our building.

Iguana right outside our building.

Resort Grounds

Architecture and interior design always have a special place in my heart, so I am a sucker for a resort/hotel with great design. Commonly, I will spend more to stay in a place that fits my tastes; so design is one of my factors. The Now Sapphire had small but lovely grounds. Hidden pathways twisted through the bamboo connecting the different villas, and boardwalks crossed over shallow rock pools in the lobby. Plenty of animals could be seen right on the grounds from iguanas to some raccoon/cat creature that I still don't know the name of. The beach was cleared of seaweed each morning. The rooms were pretty standard Cancun resort type lodgings--think marble floors, dark wood furniture, white bedding. No complaints there, but also not blown away. Our favorite part was the balcony. Nothing beats an ocean front balcony, and this one had a jacuzzi tub on it as well. Definite plus for us! Overall for design and style on this resort, the lobby and grounds are more impressive than the rooms. 

 Views upon arrival. Boardwalks are precarious after tequila shots! 

Views upon arrival. Boardwalks are precarious after tequila shots! 

Location

The Now Sapphire was not very conveniently located to some of the main attractions of Cancun. It is quite far from the Hotel Zone and over an hour drive (through road construction) to reach the docks to go to Isla Mujeres. While we don't go out in the Hotel Zone usually, taking a catamaran to Isla Mujeres is one of our favorite things to do. The long bus ride to and from the docks to do our Isla Mujeres excursion was a real bummer for us. Especially during a short trip, three hours on a bus really eats into vacation time! 

 Sunsets on our ocean front balcony--we always spend lots of time on balconies!

Sunsets on our ocean front balcony--we always spend lots of time on balconies!

Food 

On any given day, I love to eat; when I'm on vacation, experiencing new and delicious foods is one of the main ways I explore and have fun. The Now Sapphire gets poor marks in this regard, unfortunately. If you're traveling for the food, this might not be the right resort for you. We did, however, have some truly delicious fresh lobster on Isla Mujeres!

 Our best food was off resort, on Isla Mujeres. 

Our best food was off resort, on Isla Mujeres. 

Amenities

The Now Sapphire offered many of the usual resort amenities (pools, spa, tennis, wind surfing, etc). We loved the spa. It was beautifully decorated and offered unique treatments complimentary when you purchase an upgraded room. One of these treatments was hydrotherapy--basically a hangover cure (convenient)! Speaking of hangovers, our wedding group was not super impressed with the pool bars closing down at 5pm or the lack of mini bar selection. This was probably the kid-friendly element coming into play. The wedding planning service (the reason we were there) seemed to have done a really good job. The wedding went smoothly and the reception area by the pool was really gorgeous. 

 Isla Mueres 

Isla Mueres 

Summary

The Now Sapphire would be a good choice if you have kids, are traveling on a budget or are planning a bigger destination wedding (40 guests at this one) and want to keep costs down but still have a gorgeous experience. For couples looking for a romantic or luxury experience, this might not fit the bill. However, as I prefaced, it's hard to have a bad time in Cancun--hopefully the review above helps you know if the Now Sapphire is for you!