Clearwater Beach in Florida has some of the nicest powdery sand in Florida and is a popular getaway spot not far from the Tampa airport. It’s an easy two-hour or less getaway from land-locked Orlando. This is not a long beach packed with hotels though, so it was a welcome addition when upscale Opal Sands Resort opened earlier this year. This high-rise with water views from all 230 rooms and suites anchors the southern end of this barrier island, with a great pool complex and a fresh sense of contemporary style.
The curvy building is striking, set at an angle to look down the beach at one end and offer panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico from the rest of the balconies. It’s easy to navigate, with the lobby, gym, spa, restaurant, bar, and pool all on the same level.
The pool is certainly long enough for laps and has varying depths for different ages. Through a gate at the far end is a large whirlpool with a view as well. There’s plenty of deck space, including an overflow area with artificial grass that has expensive cabanas with TVs you can rent by the day. Poolside service here is more on the ball than at most resorts I’ve visited, with cheerful staffers regularly doing the rounds to see if anyone needs a drink or something to eat. Pool attendants also take care of towel set-ups and there’s a dispenser with fruit-enhanced ice water to keep the sun bathers hydrated.
One level down is a real beach bar where you can sit down for lunch or belly up to the bar to get a rum runner or a Florida craft brew. There’s entertainment here in busy times and a corn hole set-up for tossing a bean bag. The resort itself is situated over a rocky shore next to an inlet, but stairs lead down to the white sand beach. The beach leads to the pier and beyond, while a parallel walkway leads to lots of alternate choices for dining and drinking. There’s also a free trolley going up and down the strip.
Plenty of thought went into the design of Opal Sands Resort and this is a far cry from the cookie cutter beach resorts we’ve all seen over and over again. The sea is used as a creative springboard, but the elements are incorporated in ways that go beyond simple seashells and palm trees. Custom light fixtures that are real works of art enhance curvy staircases, bubble inlays, and sea colors carpets that seem to ebb and flow like the waves in the changing natural light.
The artistic sensibilities thankfully don’t stop at the rooms, where contemporary furniture and bold art accents depicting sea elements combine with the views through a wall of glass at the end facing the water. All but the lowest category (deluxe king) have a sofa area with a table and all rooms have a furnished balcony. In-room amenities are extensive, including refrigerators, coffee makers, safes, ample hangers of different types, robes, and a plethora of electrical outlets including USB. You’ll never crawl around looking for a place to recharge your gadgets here, even if there are three or four of you sharing a room.
Baths have a good array of toiletries and shower with two nozzles that’s easily big enough for sharing. You’ll need to upgrade to a suite to get a bathtub though. If you do you’ll also get a kitchen, a lot more space, an additional half bath or more, and in some cases a wraparound balcony looking down the beach. The furniture is all stylish, but comfortable and the pillowtop mattresses are all high quality. Wi-Fi is complimentary.
If you really want to live the “rock star goes to the beach” life, the presidential suite here is 1,300 square feet with 2 bedrooms and 2.5 baths, Jacuzzi tub, and another 1,000 square feet of balcony space.
There’s a well-equipped gym on the main floor that looks out at the water. The spa offers an extensive array of treatments, from detox to scrubs to pampering massages and they can do nail care, skin care, and waxing treatments as well. There’s a full menu posted at the website.
The restaurant is divided into several indoor and outdoor areas and transitions from breakfast to lunch to fine dining and the sun moves across the sky and then sets in front of the hotel. For Sea Guini at dinner, the main focus is on seafood, but there’s plenty else to choose from on the menu, including pasta made in house and items from the pizza oven. In the morning there’s a juice bar with lots of veggies and fruit to choose from.
The semi-circular bar and lounge area are inviting once the outdoor options shut down for the day. (Or if it’s summer and you’re trying to escape from the heat.) There’s an extensive wine list, with the bottles on display in a free-standing climate-controlled glass case that goes floor to ceiling.
Review and photos by editor Tim Leffel, who was hosted at Opal Sands Resort in order to review the property in depth. See more Tampa Bay hotel reviews here.