We are planning a vacation trip to the Tampa Bay area at the end of December. We will be in the area for a week. Wondering if anyone has suggestions for a nice hotel property either on or relatively close to a beach?
Prefer a full-service hotel that has a resort-type feel. Would be great if golf were available. The Ritz in Sarasota looks nice but is pricey. I found a Marriott Suites on Clearwater Beach and another Marriott in Tampa West. Any other properties that we should consider. Thanks.
swm511, if you like sunny skies, 75 degree weather, and beautiful beaches (and who doesn't?), Tampa in December should be wonderful. Enjoy your time there. Marriott doesn't have many full-service beachfront properties on the Gulf, unfortunately. To get a true resort that sits right on the beach, you have to go to RC Naples (not the golf resort but the beach resort) or Marco Island Marriott which are down the coast about 2.5 -3 hours (and I highly recommend both of those properties). Here is my 2 cents' worth:
St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater - I have stayed at this property many, many times. It is a solid Marriott hotel and representative of the brand. It is very close to the PIE airport in case you might be flying on Allegiant (which is the only commercial carrier operating at PIE, I believe). I stay here when I fly Allegiant because of the location. It is in good condition but not new or newly renovated, but it's not old and run down by any means. I have always found service here to be excellent and much better than most Marriott branded properties so I think it is a well-run hotel. The pool is mid-sized with a waterfall, and nice. It's in a walled off courtyard and has direct access to the bar and restaurant and actually has poolside bar and food service which is rare in a smaller non-resort type property. So I wouldn't say this is a resort but it's more resort-like than the typical Marriott that's not on a beach. This hotel is a bit on the smaller side for a full service Marriott but definitely full service as it has a restaurant, bar, pool, fitness center, and conference space, plus a very nice CL. Staff in the CL is great, and they have a good breakfast and substantive evening offerings. CL also has a concierge who can help with tours, transportation, etc. Plus, CL can give you extra toiletries if needed and has a nice assortment of newspapers and magazines. Parking is free. The restaurant and bar are good, although food prices are a bit high compared to nearby chain restaurants although food and atmosphere is better. Happy hour prices on drinks are very, very reasonable though. Well drinks are only $3.50 or $4 during happy hour. I have stayed here by myself and with the family. It's about 12 miles to the beach and not a difficult drive. If it's less costly than other options and you don't mind having to drive to the beach, I'd recommend this hotel. Last time I stayed (in July) I think we paid $159.
Marriott Suites on Clearwater Beach - We stayed here as a family. It is a full-service resort. If you can get a reasonable rate here (I think we paid somewhere in the $199 - $239 range which I considered a bargain as the big pink Hyatt down the strip was $399) it's a good bargain. We had fantastic service here. It was actually one of those hotels where the service was so good, I wrote Marriott an email about it (Mikel at the front desk was amazing!). There is a parrot named Lisa that lives on the property, and my kids loved her. Lisa's handler takes her out a few times a day so she can interact with the kids. There is a full-service kids club so if you are traveling with kids you can use that club to give the kids (and yourself) a break. My kids were given welcome packets containing coloring books, colors, and a stuffed fish toy at no cost. They loved their welcome gift! Pool is large and very resort-like with rocks, trees, etc. - kind of a grotto/Hawaiian vibe. This hotel is not directly on the beach, although it is waterfront. It sits on the intercoastal waterway, and the rooms have water views and balconies over the waterway. Rooms are divided into a living room and bedroom with a door separating the areas. There is a fridge and sink and maybe a microwave - I can't recall for sure. Rooms are not newly renovated but not old and run down. Probably due for a renovation pretty soon, though. We thought they were just fine. The other side of the rooms (which are all suites) face the Gulf, but there is a road between the hotel and the Gulf. To get to the beach you need to walk across the street and down the street a little bit to Sand Key State Park. It is not a long walk. I cut through the Sheraton property which is right across the street and sits on the beach, unlike the Marriott. Marriott also has a free shuttle that goes back and forth all day. The shuttle driver has beach toys, towels, sunscreen, etc., that you can use. And he will give the kids coupons for free ice cream if they can spot wildlife or answer a trivia question correctly. the beach is nice and since it's a state park, it is natural and not lined with skyscrapers like the strip down by the Hyatt. Lots of wildlife (esp. birds) at the park, too, plus walking trails. Watercolours steak house at the hotel is great. Super kids menu, and they also give the kids a beach bucket and scoop along with the kids meal. Adult offerings are great too, and service was impeccable. Highly recommend eating there even if you don't stay at the hotel. Columbia restaurant next door is fabulous, too, and decorated beautifully. Try that one as well. A few shops and convenience stores right next to the hotel, but not as populated as the strip (because you are on Sand Key which is across the strip by a bridge). Clearwater trolley runs up and down the strip all day, and you can take it to the aquarium, Pier 60, etc. $4 I think. Parking at hotel is $12 or $14 a night or so. So, I would recommend this property if you want a resort and want to be close to the beach. If you want the beach right outside your hotel room, and you want a full-service resort property, and you want to stick with a Marriott brand, then you need to drive down to Naples/Marco and check out the RC or Marriott Marco Island.
I don't know if you have made your decision yet, but I have stayed at The Vinoy Renaissance in St. Petersburg. There is not a close beach to walk to. You are next to the bay. You do have is a nice walk to the Bay where we saw dolphins. You also are walking distance to several places to eat. There is a trolley stop just outside the hotel that is free. It stops at several places throughout downtown (but no beach stop) The hotel itself is nice. The view makes all the difference. I have had tennis court view and a view of the yachts on the bay. There are two pools. There is a great porch for reading in front of hotel. The valet and car hops were very friendly. There is self park but you have to pay. I only ate breakfast at the hotel. It was complimentary being a Marriott member. The one room with a king size bed was normal size but the room with two beds was much larger. I don't know if that was coincidence. It does have a resort feel and I love my stays there. When I am there, I don't consider it a beach trip. I go the museums and walk through the park which is across the street.
I'll offer the very same thought and head south to Marco Island/Naples. Even just a 160 miles south the weather will be a little bit warmer. If you haven't booked flights yet you can fly into Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) in S. Ft. Myers and the drive south on I-75 will take you 45 minutes to reach Marco Island.
As a kid who sort of grew up in Ft. Myers (finished high school) you have beautiful beaches along the southwest coast of Florida and well worth the extra drive from the Tampa Bay area.