Which are the best Clearwater Beach hotels for your Florida vacation? For many years this has been a moving target, with old dinky motels getting torn down, replaced by fancier (and more expensive) resorts that are dazzling instead of dull. In the space of two decades, the Clearwater beachfront resorts appearing on the top travel sites have gotten bigger and better in this land of perfect white sand beaches.
As this transformation moved forward, the area got more and more accolades as a top beach destination in Florida, aided by recognition for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium as well. There are plenty of great air connections to the Tampa Bay airport, plus direct Allegiant ones to the St. Pete airport. If you leave Orlando by car, you can be on the beach in Clearwater about two hours later, so it’s a nice getaway after the theme park madness.
I’ve lived in the Tampa Bay region off and on for many years, so I’ve watched some of these Clearwater Beach hotels go from announcement to construction zone to grand opening. There will probably be a few more coming still (a JW Marriott has been announced), but most will likely be back a block from the beach: there are no more low-rises to tear down along this beautiful stretch of sand.
Here are picks for the best Clearwater Beach places to stay for your weekend holiday getaway or escape-the-winter beach vacation to the United States from Europe.
Best Traditional Luxury: Sandpearl Resort
Opened in 2007, this has long been the best overall luxury hotel on Clearwater Beach and it holds onto its crown because of its prime location right on the beach. While most resorts in this area are set back from the beach or across the street from it, at the Sandpearl you can kick back in a hotel-owned beach chair and charge a cocktail to your room. (The only other one where this is true is the inferior Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort.)
If you want to splash out, they have private cabanas for rent as well. This upscale property also has the best full-service spa and the fanciest in-house restaurant.
The decor and furnishings are the most traditional in the area, so the clientele tends to be older, wealthier, and more subdued than at more modern properties down the beach. With a well-renowned restaurant, sumptuous rooms, and experienced service, this is a good choice for picky travelers with fat budgets. Rates dip below $240 in the low season but can hit four figures for a suite in peak months.
See more information at the company website or book online here.
Best Modern Luxury: Opal Sands Resort
We stayed at Opal Sands Resort at the far southern end of Clearwater Beach soon after it opened. You would never know from walking around it that it’s owned by the same company as the Sandpearl because the design differences are like night and day. This one is a sleek high-rise with bright colors, bold artistic sculptural elements, and modern rooms that will delight the young and hip.
You get an attractive pool complex with attentive wait staff, multiple dining outlets and bars, a fitness center, and terrific views. You’ll never search far for an electrical outlet or USB port in your room and you’ll have a private balcony for kicking back with a view. If your tastes gravitate to artistic furniture and modern design, this is probably the best place to stay in Clearwater Beach, Florida.
The one drawback here is that you’re on a rocky point instead of facing the sand, but it’s just a few steps down from the pool and a very short walk before you’re strolling on the beach at sunset.
Best Family Resort: Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach
We posted a full review of Hyatt Clearwater Beach a while back. We stayed there for the second time, after first rooming there when it had the unfortunate luck of opening during the global financial crisis at the end of 2009. They recently completed a major round of renovations in the guest rooms, updating furnishings and adding more electrical outlets.
The rooms here have always been the big draw though: the majority of them have full kitchens (there’s even a small grocery store at street level) and are much larger than others in the area. The Shor American Seafood Grill is excellent and the outdoor seating area gives you views like this:
Some spacious rooms have that view from private balconies as well. The pool area here is terrific when occupancy is low, but is woefully inadequate when more than half the 287 rooms are filled. The basic rectangle quickly fills up with kids in vacation season and chairs can become scarce. On the plus side if you’re a parent, this Hyatt has a full kids club with a dedicated food menu, a kiddie pool, and supervised activities.
Best All-Around Resort: Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach
This is the newest of the Clearwater Beach oceanfront hotels. The year after Opal Sands opened, a new Wyndham Grand celebrated its grand opening in a prime spot right next to the Hyatt. This is a flashy resort with modern sensibilities, including some of the most tricked-out and attractive rooms in the Tampa Bay area. There are some nice subtle touches in them like a shelf by the door (for what you need heading out) and a foot stand in the shower (for shaving legs).
Although it seems a bit odd to have an Asian-themed restaurant as the main dining outlet, it’s a very good one and there’s plenty of seafood. Another more casual outlet is one level down on a public sidewalk. The bars have a few local craft beers on tap, including the one right by the pool.
Alas, the pool here suffers the same problem as most other Clearwater Beach Florida hotels, but worse. There are around 450 room units between two towers here, but the pool in the middle of them is sized for a hotel 1/4 that size, with 200 lounge chairs. You’ll need to pony up more cash to rent a lounge chair from an independent vendor on the beach instead. Try to avoid weekends in high season if you plan to spend the day poolside.
Best Clearwater Hotels Value Choice: Springhill Suites by Marriott
Value is a relative term among hotels in Clearwater Beach, where the average rate many weekends is well above $300 in peak months, but the Springhill Suites from Marriott is a reliable choice among the affordable hotels. It went up on the same lot as a Marriott Residence Inn, opening around the same time.
These were actually the newest rooms in town until the AC Clearwater Beach opened nearby, the latest “demolished old motel to build new high-rise” conversion. The hotel is two streets back from the beach, with the Hyatt blocking most of the views, so don’t book here expecting a panoramic Gulf of Mexico vista. You’re just a block away from the beach though and an easy walk to the pier, restaurants, the marina, and bars along the strip.
You’ll get rather simple rooms without a lot of flair, but all the predictability that comes from a Marriott brand hotel. Nothing that will wow you, but all the bases will be covered and breakfast is included—a rarity in this resort town. Check rates here for Springhill Suites or adjoining Residence Inn.
The Newest Clearwater Beach Hotel
In the summer of 2022, Clearwater Beach got a new resort to talk about: AC Clearwater Beach Hotel. Like the other Marriott properties above, this one is not facing the Gulf of Mexico, but is close to the intercoastal waterway on the other side of the barrier island. Rates are a bit lower as a result, mostly running between $200 and $300.
Nothing is very far from sand in Clearwater Beach and very few hotels have their own lounge chairs facing the water anyway. You usually have to pay a private company for them unless you’re at Sandpearl. So you could save a few bucks staying here for a beach vacation where you do have an outdoor pool to lounge beside. You know your room will be sparkling new. See more info and rates for the AC Hotel Clearwater Beach.
If you search for “Marriott Clearwater Beach” you’ll now find three choices, with a JW Marriott on the drawing board, so in keeping with trends in the rest of Tampa Bay, you’ll do well earning or cashing in those Bonvoy points here.
Resort Fee Rip-offs in Clearwater Beach
As you may have noticed, the cheap hotels are long gone from this resort area and the properties add insult to injury on top of that. If you’re coming to this beach area, be advised that most of the hotels have colluded to overcharge you well beyond the listed rate on booking sites. The dreaded “resort fee” is a staple among Clearwater Beach hotels, with the Wyndham Grand, Opal Sands, Hyatt, and Sandpearl all charging $30 or more per night after taxes for such “extra” items as WiFi, a pool towel, and gym access.
So if a price pops up to $309 for an off-season weekday night at Opal Sands, you’ll really end up owing $379 per night when you go to check out because of taxes and this fee for things that should be included in the rates.
If this picking of your pocket multiple times makes you angry, click through the rates before booking to see what’s included. If you do that with Springhill Suites, you’ll notice there’s free WiFi and no resort fee. Same with nearby Pier House 60. Bring the family + your gadgets and enjoy!
Then there’s beach area parking though, which will often run as much as the resort fee on this thin barrier island. Even at the Springhill Suites, for example, your nightly rate may only be $150, but you’ll owe $27 per night for parking if you brought a car. At the Hyatt it’s $28 per night, at the Sandpearl $25 plus tax. The smartest way to get around this is to park in Clearwater City for free and take a short ferry over to the marina if you drove in. Maybe drop off the bags first with the bellman if you have a lot of luggage.
Or if you don’t mind just popping over to the beach for the day and then relaxing elsewhere with a view of the water, you might consider the Fenway Hotel near Dunedin. They’ve got a pool, a roof deck, and are walking distance to eight microbreweries and good restaurants.
Clearwater beach hotels round-up and photos by Hotel Scoop editor and lodging expert Tim Leffel, who has lived in Tampa Bay on and off for several years at a time. He was hosted at several of the listed resorts over the course of a decade but as always, all opinions are his own. This post was last updated in August of 2022.