The Westin on Hilton Head Island
Author: Kitty Bartell
You can renew your passport, renew a library book, or renew a magazine subscription. However, it is Merriam-Webster who best describes renewal as “an expenditure that betters existing assets.” The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa has executed a $30 million renovation of its already renowned assets, while most certainly bettering, and breathing renewal into this Hilton Head Island gem.
The Westin’s goal for its guests is that they leave feeling better than when they arrived, and the resort’s new general manager Tim Freisen knows a thing or two about renovating to renewal. It isn’t only guests who get the Westin treatment under his leadership.
Freisen came to his Hilton Head Island post having recently led the historic Westin Book Cadillac in Detroit through a $200 million renewal. Originally built in 1924, difficult times caused the hotel to close in the 1970s for 25 years, reopening in 2008. Freisen certainly has the touch, leaving the property significantly better than he found it, with the hotel earning a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. According to US News and World Report, the hotel “is back to its distinguished glory.”
Whether visiting The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa for a week of vacation or for an evening of delicious food and oceanfront fun, The Westin’s own “Elements of Well Being” are six areas of focus that guests are encouraged to explore. According to Freisen, when the renovations are complete, the Hilton Head Island resort will be the only Starwood property in the Southeast at this time to have incorporated all of the elements. Each element has been given attention in the resort’s renewal: feel well, eat well, sleep well, move well, work well, and play well.
A sense of tranquility has been achieved in the busiest part of the hotel. The lobby and reception areas have been designed for a more private experience, with the Westin Haven concept creating intimate seating zones throughout the space. Literally breathing fresh air into the lobby, a two-story vertical garden is the first eye-pleasing thing you are going to see, according to Freisen. “It’s a living wall—a botanical conservatory,” he said. “The new reception area has a feature wall with check-in pods, allowing more personal guest interaction by our associates.” The feature wall will be lit from behind and cast a peaceful feeling throughout the space.
The renewal continues from the lobby to the main ballroom and throughout the meeting and conference spaces. The main ballroom has an elegant coastal feel with new carpeting, wall coverings, furnishings, and unique chandeliers and wall sconces that simulate ocean waves. Meeting spaces are equipped with the latest technology and designed for clutter-free events with digital signage and directional boards.
According to Freisen, the new décor “gives meeting planners a lot more height in the room to work with, which is important when big pharmaceutical groups or big association road shows come in and need all the bells and whistles.”
The Westin’s Heavenly Beds® are a most luxurious beginning and ending to a day on the island, and are an oasis of comfort, anchoring each of the resort’s newly renovated 412 guest rooms and suites. Each patented pillow-top bed has a beautifully crafted headboard, incorporating LED lighting and nightstands, including an iPod docking station. Like heaven on Hilton Head, the renewed baths include a Heavenly Rain Forest Showerhead®, new flooring, dual vanities, and some very special tile that has the look of driftwood. “They really add a beachy element upon arrival into the guestroom,” Freisen said.
Playing well is a no-brainer with the beautifully renovated pool area where luxurious ocean-view cabanas have been added to the already stunning pool and deck areas.
The cabanas are situated on individual rugs and include televisions, refrigerators, and ceiling fans. Both luxurious and intimate, the cabanas add a playful option for guests to add to their itinerary. Additional deck seating and fire pits round out the new pool experience. The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa has also partnered with Outside Hilton Head to give guests even more options for play, including dolphin cruises, bike rentals, and kayak tours.
Executive Chef Ed Connors is no stranger to renewal himself. Prior to taking the helm of The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa’s kitchens, he spent 18 months helping with the renovation of the PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Connors ran the 2,000-member, high-profile, private members club and brings a vision and level of taste that will assure his Hilton Head guests have eaten well.
With seven dining venues, Connors says he was “given the directive of creating a whole new fresh perspective on all the food.” His first directive was, “We’re in South Carolina; we’re going to do South Carolina cuisine.” He subsequently blew up what existed and has created dining options hinting of the light, fresh scent of the sea, and having an unmistakable South Carolina drawl.
The resort’s restaurant renovations have been extensive and provide exceptional settings for Connors’ new menus. Carolina Café begins the day with traditional breakfast options with a local twist, such as Pecan French Toast. However, it is the dinner menu that pops with creativity and inspiration. His appetizers alone peak culinary curiosity: Grilled Shrimp on a Sugar Cane with frisee, avocado, and South Carolina-inspired buttermilk herb dip; Roasted Beet Salad with watermelon radish, ricotta salata, pecan granola, and apple cider vinaigrette.
“I was very lucky to have a grandfather who was a great chef,” said Connors, who brings 25-plus years of culinary experience and an Italian heritage to his hand-cut pasta dishes like Pappardelle Pasta with plum tomato basil marina, married with butter beans and South Carolina oyster mushrooms.
Spilling out to the new ocean-view bar, View 32, Connors’ menu continues food nirvana at this small-plate venue with an unparalleled ocean view and inventive bar food. Freisen said, “I don’t think people are going to want to leave.” The noshing choices to accompany a cocktail, glass of wine, or a beer are amusing and delicious: Palmetto Ale Fondue with freshly baked pretzels, local sausage, and spicy mustard; Mary and Elizabeth’s Pimento Cheese with crispy pork belly and grilled sourdough crostini (Mary and Elizabeth are 20-plus-year veterans of the resort’s kitchen and, according to Connors, make the best pimento cheese he has ever tasted.) Desserts are the same at both Carolina Café and View 32 and include a self-professed favorite of Connors’: Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Mousse in a Chocolate Cookie Crust.
Continuing the culinary renewal, the new Oceans Local Seafood and Bar is where casual meets fine dining, and where the spectacular ocean view can only be improved when the windows are opened to the breezes. The menu compliments the setting beautifully with seafood taking center stage. A sampling of Connors’ offerings includes a cold seafood platter with lobster, shrimp, and East Coast oysters, clams casino flatbread pizza, steamed snow crab legs, and Atlantic salmon with French lentils and savoy cabbage.
The resort’s restaurant renovations come full circle back to the lobby where “ingredients” is located. A grab-and-go style café, ingredients offers a full Starbuck’s Café along with freshly-made selections to be enjoyed nearby, at the beach, on the golf course, on a bike ride, or wherever your Lowcountry adventures take you.
Connors has developed extensive choices, from a salad bar where your selections are tossed and boxed to go to freshly squeezed juice concoctions, smoothies, paninis, wraps, cold sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches, pastries and more.
Taking renewal seriously, The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa is ready to help guests achieve their own state of nirvana during their time at this elegant, intimate resort by the sea. Believing that each visitor will leave feeling better than when they arrived, Freisen said, “We truly think we’re going to accomplish that with our guests.”
The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa is located at 2 Grasslawn Avenue, Hilton Head Island. For more information, call (843) 681-4000 or visit westinhiltonheadisland.com