The Cloister at Sea Island: Classic Family Vacation Destination

The Cloister at Sea Island has a beautiful hotel, as well as cottagesFor many Atlanta area families, The Cloister at Sea Island has been a muti-generational destination for decades. For those of us that didn’t grow up in Georgia, it’s a beach resort along the Georgia coast our native neighbors seem to revere. For those of you who may have felt a little less welcome the past few years, I have good news, The Cloister is returning to its roots. For those who’ve never been, now’s a great time to finally experience the luxury of Sea Island.

The Cloister at Sea Island: Classic Family Vacation Destination

There are two different pools at the Cloister at Sea Island, as well as a splash area for little onesFor those not familiar with The Cloister at Sea Island, in 2006, The hotel underwent a $350 million renovation, replacing almost entirely the resort built in 1928 as a temporary structure.  A century of generational family vacations builds an affinity for buildings and traditions. During the renovation, owners were keenly aware of the bonds guests felt with the resorts structures and traditions. They meticulously re-created several details from the original buildings such as the Spanish Lounge, incorporating the original stained glass windows and recreating details such as intake grates to create a new version of the familiar favorite. The result is a beautiful new hotel with a rich history even a new guest can appreciate.

We found so many sand dollars along the beach at the Cloister at Sea IslandRooms at the Cloister at Sea Island

Accommodations at this Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond Resort range from guest rooms, to suites and private cottages. The rooms are larger than normal. A typical Forbes Five-Star hotel room averages between 400 and 450 square feet. The Garden Wing at the Cloister has the smallest rooms, at 560 square feet. Rooms in other parts of the resort start at 700 square feet. In addition to ample elbow room, hotel rooms at The Cloister are exquisitely decorated with spectacular views. The large bathrooms have luxurious touches such as talcum powder in a crystal and silver shaker and bath crystals for your deep soaking tub. My children especially liked soaking in the tub while watching the bathroom TV.

If the hotel experience is all about the bed, The Cloister is at the top of the class. Even my children, who bring their own pillows with them, were tempted to trade out. Between the heavy curtains and the lavish bed, I had to wake even the youngest at 10 am rather than him waking us at his normal 7:30 am.

Kids will love the wall of candy at the Cloister at Sea Island candy shop
The Candy Store at The Cloister

The Beach Club at Sea Island

The best part of a stay at the Cloister is the Beach Club. You enter through a hallway with gift shop, candy store and 1950’s era soda fountain, past Southern Tide restaurant, to a grand area with three pools including an adult only lap pool, two family pools – one with zero entry, splash fountain, baby pool (with palm tree cover for the little ones and sun areas for mom) and hot tub. A water slide was added a few years ago and as you can imagine is quite popular with kids of all ages.

A row of hedges separate the pools from a grassy area for sun bathing, shuffleboard, beach volleyball and an incredible sand floor kids playground with unique climbing structures. A few steps beyond is the Atlantic Ocean and beach where you can pull up a complimentary chair and umbrella or just play in the sand. Since the Cloister is the only hotel on the otherwise residential Sea Island, the beach is only as crowded as the 265 hotel rooms and suites.

The Cloister at Sea Island has lots of activities to keep everyone in the family amused, including kayaking and crabbing
Pulling Crab Trabs while Kayaking

What to do at the Cloister at Sea Island

The Cloister at Sea Island has a dizzying array of activities ranging from golf and tennis, to horseback riding, fishing, boating, and even a shooting school.  Some activities are adult oriented others specially designed for kids. My boys loved the air rifles at the shooting school and each child received a souvenir baseball cap. The resort has three 18-hole championship golf courses, and is the home of the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic, a FedX Cup event hosted by Sea Island touring professional Davis Love III. Several other golf pros including: Matt Kucher and Zack Johnson play out of the Sea Island Golf Club as well. Total Sea Island has about a dozen golf pros that live, play or train at Sea Island. A Spa and Fitness Center offers a variety of treatments, as well as relaxing facilities that beg you to linger.

Each morning coffee and pastries are available at the Cloister at Sea Island
Morning Coffee and Pastries at The Cloister

Each morning complimentary coffee, tea and pastries are offered in The Cloister’s main building. The plain biscuits are worth getting up early. In the afternoon, tea, lemonade and cookies are available.  Each day, kids and adults can enjoy a second run film in the Movie Theatre adjacent to the Beach Club. The movie on the big screen is free, with a fee for concessions. Take a visit back in time to the Soda Fountain at Wonderland, the ice cream and candy store, where you can pick your tunes on the complimentary juke box and enjoy a divine two-scoop Gold Brick Sundae. Work off your treat by enjoying  the gorgeous manicured gardens with a walk around the resort; be sure to stop and see the live oaks planted by past U.S. presidents and heads of state from around the world.

The Junior Staffer Program at The Cloister at Sea Island

For parents that want to enjoy some time away from the kids, the Cloister is known for fantastic children’s programs run by a team of Junior Staffers. Programs range from hour long sessions to daytime camps and an evening Kids’ Night Out.

The playground at the Cloister at Sea Island Beach Club is located between the pool and the ocean.
The Playground Between the Pool and Beach

Junior Staffers are well vetted and it’s a difficult and coveted summer job. To be considered, Junior Staff candidates must be attending college at a freshman level or higher at the time of applying. After a candidate applies and passes an initial Skype interview, they are hired for the summer or deferred. If hired, the candidate must participate in one of many work experiences from November to April and are typically 5-7 days in length. Junior Staff work Memorial Day to August/Labor Day.

What: The Cloister at Sea Island
Where: Sea Island, Georgia
Photos: Additional photos can be found on Field Trips with Sue on Facebook

Although we were provided a complimentary room and admissions for the purpose of reviewing (as is common in the travel industry), we only recommend places we would stay and products we would use

9 Comments on The Cloister at Sea Island: Classic Family Vacation Destination

  1. Looks beautiful! We’re looking for a beach vacation for June, but I think we might head back to Fripp Island, SC. Loved the relaxed feel of that place.

  2. Our first trip to Sea Island was in 1976 and we lived in the midwest then. It was worth every mile we traveled. Luckily I live in Georgia now and go at least once a year. I have stayed at the old Cloister and also rented houses. There is entertainment for all ages. Make certain you go to Bingo on Tuesday or Thursday evenings…it is a retro scene you will truly enjoy. Christmas at Sea Island has been one of our favorite times.

    • Nancy, thank you so much for the comment. We loved Sea Island as well. There is a special quality there that is hard to pinpoint and difficult to match. It is not an inexpensive resort, but the value for what you pay is incredible. I’m going to have to see it at Christmas. I haven’t been there at that time of year.

  3. Dear Sue, The more you go, the easier to pinpoint the quality. It is the staff 🙂 They are so helpful, friendly and try their best to know your name. It is expensive, but there is no air of being snobby. I have taken friends/family from ages 3 yrs old to 90 yrs. old and everyone felt comfortable and happy.

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