Look around and all you see is the pure white sand and crystal blue waters of the 2.5 mile stretch of Clearwater Beach. Welcome to the sheer splendor of the AAA Four-Diamond Sandpearl Resort, part of the Opal Collection of luxury destinations. This four-star hotel blends the radiant beauty of the coast with luxury amenities and warm, personalized service to create the perfect Florida getaway. From the moment you enter the lobby, the inviting ambience serves as a warm embrace. The yellow and white beach chairs beckon. Now you’ve arrived at a place you never want to leave. One of the things I liked best about the resort was its location right on the beach as well as on the bustling Mandalay Avenue. Everything like restaurants, bars and and shopping are just a few steps away. Yet the resort felt like an oasis on the gulf.
Choose from 253 inviting guest rooms and suites with views of the Gulf Coast, Clearwater and Mandalay Bay. A perfect blend of comfort and style, the rooms feature premium amenities include flat-screen televisions, in-room coffee, mini-refrigerator, plush bathrobes and more. My oversized suite featured a balcony so big I could have hosted my own party on it.
Fun in the Sun Activities
Enjoy a relaxing afternoon as you sip tropical cocktails by their zero-entry pool. Kayak through Florida’s spectacular estuaries or just take a walk on their gorgeous beach. Sandpearl Resort also offers a variety of enrichment programs that include dolphin encounters, organic food and wine tastings, and tours of the resort’s impressive art collection.
Have breakfast and lunch poolside at Tate Island Grill with its refreshing salads, sandwiches and wraps. Enjoy their scrumptious breakfast buffet where kids eat free. For dinner, head to the award-winning Caretta on the Gulf, named after the loggerhead sea turtles that are unique to the island. The restaurant serves a full menu of fresh seafood, steaks and sushi. My recommendations include the beet salad or butternut squash bisque. For entrees, I recommend the cauliflower cannelloni or gulf grouper. Don’t miss their signature dessert, A Chocolate Story in Nine Chapters for all its delicious imagination.
In this tranquil oasis, I opted for the Swedish massage with hot stones and felt the stress just melt away. The spa offers a full range of ocean-inspired treatments like their signature facial, pedicures and massages. After your treatment, get full access to the hot tub to extend the bliss. Try a mineral-rich mud cleanse and discover why the spa has earned the distinction as “One of the Top Spas in North America” by the readers of “Condé Nast Traveler.”
So Blue and Yet So Green
Sandpearl Resort is also a leader in environmental conservation, the first Silver LEED-certified resort in the state to improve energy efficiency, indoor air quality, water conservation and natural resource conservation. They’ve also partnered with Clean the World to recycle leftover soap/shampoo, reducing waste and providing essential items to impoverished communities.
The Belleview Inn – Be a part of history
Historic Belleview Inn. Photo courtesy of Belleview Inn
Originally built in 1897 by railroad magnate Henry Plant, the majestic Belleview Inn has been recently re-opened in Belleair and restored to its elegant grandeur. Also a part of the Opal Collection, this contemporary retreat is designed to impress, incorporating classic architectural details from the Gilded Age along with upscale amenities. After all, this iconic hotel once hosted presidents, nobility and stars of the day, like Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. Admire the lovely, specially commissioned paintings by local artist Christopher Still in the lobby and throughout the property. Take a complimentary one-hour history tour that takes place every day at 2 pm. Learn more about the history of the hotel as well as the colorful characters who’ve visited. Every morning, breakfast is brought to your door in a picnic basket, filled with fresh muffins and juice.
Make your reservation at a Belleview Wine Dinner in the exquisite Tiffany Room for an evening of fine food and wine. The Sandpearl Resort culinary team (their sister Opal Collection property), creates an elegant multi-course menu, perfectly paired with an accompanying glass of bubbles, reds or whites — with a wine expert to tell the story of each pairing. It is truly an extraordinary experience.
One of the 10 restaurants in the Bay Star group, Seaweed is a casual steak and seafood and bistro that is really a cut above. Seafood is prepared in the main kitchen/the sushi bar/the raw bar, depending on whether or not you want to watch. The smoked salmon appetizer was the perfect start to the meal. The grouper sandwich with Asian slaw was delectable and we shared the shrimp and grits. Their key lime pie was out of this world.
Visit the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg
The work of a true genius, the Salvador Dali Museum exhibits the works of the Spanish master painter and sculptures in a building that is itself a work of art. Be sure to check out the gardens and snap a selfie with Dali’s signature moustache. New to the museum is an APP that lets you examine his paintings in greater detail from your cell phone. Also new is the Virtual Reality Headsets you can put on and view his famous works in a whole new way.
At the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, you can see how injured dolphins and sea turtles are rehabilitated. Meet Winter the Dolphin, star of the “Dolphin Tale” movies who swims with a prosthetic tail. Come spring, watch the Phillies play spring training baseball games. More information.