by Terry Ward
Although not located on airport property, this waterfront hotel, with 442 rooms in the main tower and an additional 45 casitas spread across lush grounds and fronting the northern part of Tampa Bay, could be considered an airport hotel. You’re just a five-minute complimentary shuttle ride away from Tampa International Airport (via an access road), but the setting, on a 35-acre nature preserve, makes for a unique escape into nature that’s remarkably close to the airport and city.
While it’s particularly popular with business travelers, the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay makes for a top Tampa family hotel, too, thanks to a central location that’s not only convenient to the airport, but close to downtown and great shopping and dining. The property is also within easy access of the highways that bring you to the bay area’s most popular beaches in St. Pete and Clearwater. Most families stay just a few nights here to perhaps visit Busch Gardens and explore downtown Tampa before decamping to a beach area hotel, but the nice thing is that even though there are jets landing and taking off overhead (noise pollution is minimal inside) and highways surrounding the property, the hotel fronts a nature preserve and a lush area of mangroves that stretch to the water, just inviting you to explore the wildlife-rich area along the property’s winding boardwalk. Hotel guests have access to both the main pool and hot tub in front of the main tower, as well as a separate pool and relaxation area located near the casitas. And while there’s a small manmade beach with lounge chairs to relax atop in the sand, the water — shallow and nutrient rich — most likely won’t beckon you for a swim. Two of the area’s top shopping malls, a movie theater and restaurants are right nearby and can be reached in five minutes via the free hotel shuttle.
For a short stay in Tampa Bay, this Grand Hyatt is a comfortable, contemporary and centrally located choice for families and business travelers alike.
See our page on Hyatt Hotels and Resorts for more information about this chain.
Our Editor Loves
- Two pool areas, one with a manmade beach
- Nature walk along a boardwalk through the mangroves
- Free shuttle service to nearby attractions
- Horse Back Riding
- Theme Park
- Water Sports
- Connecting Rooms
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The more than 400 rooms and suites here are divided between two areas -- the Hyatt's main hotel tower, with 442 rooms spread between 12 floors (including the 12th floor Grand Club level for Hyatt's most frequent guests), and a separate casita area with 45 low buildings fronting the mangroves. The bay-facing hotel rooms in the main tower are the nicest, with windows that overlook the pool and mangrove area, and let in the sweeping water views. Other rooms have "city views" that overlook the surrounding highways and office parks.
Your choice for hotel rooms here is pretty straightforward, and includes rooms with one king bed or two double beds (kings have a stand-alone shower only, while the rooms with double beds have shower-in-tub configurations). Connecting rooms (kings connecting to the rooms with two doubles, as well as suites connecting to standard rooms) can be arranged. Be aware that rollaway beds can only be put in the rooms with king beds.
The hotel's largest rooms are the two presidential suites (on the 12th and 14th floors), which are quite spacious, at 1,300 square feet, and have a king bed in a separate room, two full bathrooms, a living room with a couch (that doesn't pull out), a kitchenette area with a microwave and mini-fridge, and a living room and dining room table for meals in. The VIP suite is slightly smaller, at 1,100 square feet, and comes with a king bed, two full bathrooms, a dining room table and a kitchenette, again with a microwave and mini-fridge.
Despite the size variations in the rooms, four guests is the maximum (and only in the double rooms). The casitas are divided into two categories: casita suites, which have a king bed in a loft-style upper story, with a kitchenette downstairs (microwave and mini-fridge), and a dining room table and couch, and standard casitas, where the bed is not in a separate loft area. The nice thing about the casitas is that you feel you're in an apartment of sorts, with koi ponds strung between the buildings, rooms and suites accessible from ground level, and nice outdoor seating areas, some of which front a lawn leading to the mangroves.
The overall feel here is more residential than in the main tower, and you're just a short stroll to the pool. The hotel underwent a $16-million renovation in 2012 that updated the common areas, as well as the rooms, suites and casitas, all of which sport contemporary wood-look porcelain tile floors, pretty glass lamps, dark wood furnishings and other nice touches, like single-brew coffee makers and robes throughout. Plush white linens on the beds, which are also exceedingly comfortable, are standard.
A very nice hotel. The beds were a little firm for our tastes. But everything else was great. Recommend a club room. Benefits far exceed the extra cost. We will definitely be staying there on our next trip to Tampa
by Richard H
The only suggestion I could say is to have carts at the cottages. The bellhop we had could not lift anything nor place it on the cart. Most was transported, hand carried to the room before he could assist in anyway.
If you've come to relax on property, most of your family time at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay will be spent in and around the hotel's swimming pools. The pool outside the main tower is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, has a stepped entrance and is six feet deep. There's no lifeguard onsite, but pool noodles are available and there's an unmanned towel station, too. There's a hot tub connected to the pool and the deck is lined with plenty of lounge chairs.
From the main pool, walk along the boardwalk "nature walk" through the mangroves to access the casita area near Oystercatchers restaurant, where you'll find another slightly smaller pool, set closer to the water, just beyond a mangrove thicket. This pool area has some nice hammocks under a covered deck where the kids will enjoy swinging, as well as a small manmade beach with a few lounge chairs on it (the sign says swim at your own risk, but the shallow bay water is far from inviting). There are ping-pong tables in the sand and a nearby dock stretching into the bay is a fun place to stroll at sunset and scout for horseshoe crabs and wading birds in the shallows. A little bit farther on, you'll find tennis courts and basketball courts for guest use. It's easy enough to walk around the property, but you can also take the complimentary shuttle between the casita area and the main tower. Alternatively, there are beach cruisers available for rent if you prefer to pedal along the quiet roads around the hotel.
There are three onsite restaurants at the hotel, all of which have kids' menus. Most guests start their day with breakfast in a casual, but classy restaurant right off the lobby called 1823 Kitchen & Bar. There's a breakfast buffet offered every day here and kids under 6 eat for free with a paying adult ($19.95 per person). The buffet is quite gourmet, with things like smoked salmon and French pastries, but has all the standard fare that kids like, too, including chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, eggs, cereals and muffins. Another option is to order breakfast a la carte for the kids, with options like cereal, scrambled eggs and chicken sausage, pancakes, and fruit and yogurt, all priced around $5 to $6. The a la carte breakfast meal for adults has things like orange French toast, Novella waffles and Cuban breakfast sandwiches.
Breakfast is served from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on weekdays, and 6:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. on weekends. Lunch here is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and dinner onward until 10 p.m. Both meals have the same menu and include a la carte kids items such as build-your-own sub sandwiches for $5.95, spaghetti and meatballs for $6.95 and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with fresh strawberries for $4.95. Other healthy options include salmon teriyaki with rice noodles and veggies, and grilled steak or chicken with roasted potatoes and veggies, both for $8.95. The Hyatt kid's menu also includes an organic menu that the hotel developed with renowned chef Alice Waters. If your children have sophisticated palates, they might like the grilled chicken with pesto sauce and cherry tomatoes for $8.95, or the salad of Romaine lettuce hearts with lemon vinaigrette for $4.95.
A second dining option at the hotel, open for dinner only (6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and closed Sunday), is Armani's, a fine dining Italian restaurant on the14th floor. The atmosphere is quite upscale here, with a pianist tinkling the keys in the lounge on weekend nights and white and black linen-topped tables twinkling with candlelight, overlooking dazzling views of the Bay. Kids are more than welcome at Armani's (though you won't see a ton of them), and the kid's menu ranges from $10 to $15 per plate, and has things like meatballs with angel hair and marinara, fresh fish with buttered green beans, beef filet with mashed potatoes and veggies, chicken alfredo and other similarly Italian-inspired meals.
Finally, there's Oystercatchers, the hotel's most renowned restaurant, which received a renovation in 2013, and has a romantic and sophisticated atmosphere, with candlelit tables and a big showcase kitchen. The restaurant is open from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. every night, except Sundays, when it closes at 9 p.m. Oystercatchers is particularly known for the fabulous Sunday brunch (from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.) that's considered the best in Tampa -- an all-out spread that stretches across multiple rooms and includes a bloody Mary bar, raw bar, sushi, made-to-order pasta, patisserie treats and a lavish dessert smorgasbord that takes up an entire room. Adults pay $49 for Sunday brunch (including unlimited champagne and bloody marys), and it's $24.50 for kids age 4 to 11 and free for those under 4.
Oystercatchers has indoor seating, but on a nice afternoon or evening, it's a real treat to sit outside on the deck, which overlooks the mangroves and bay, or perhaps snag an Adirondack chair in the sand by the gas fire pit. The restaurant specializes in Florida and Gulf of Mexico seafood, in particular. And the kid's dinner menu includes things like popcorn shrimp ($9), grouper nuggets ($8), grilled cheese ($6), hot dogs ($6) and chicken fingers ($7), all of which come with a choice of potato chips or fries.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Airport shuttles leave to and from the hotel every half hour, from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m., and are free. The hotel also offers a regular shuttle several times a day to nearby WestShore Plaza (home to a cinema and restaurants like PF Changs), as well as International Mall.
There are no public laundry facilities at the hotel, but in-house dry cleaning services are available.
A small convenience store off the lobby has essentials you may have forgotten at home, such as medicines and sunscreen, as well as grab-and-go snacks (trail mix, fruit cups and the like) and the usual range of gift items.
Wireless Internet is free in the lobby and available for a rate of $9.99 per day in the hotel rooms.
Self-parking is free for guests in a covered garage, and you'll pay $12 for valet parking.
Babysitting services with trusted local sitters can be arranged through the hotel's concierge.
The hotel's gym, a bright space on the second floor that's free for guests to use, has all the usual cardio machines (treadmills, bikes, etc.) as well as weight machines, free weights and flat-screen TVs to keep you entertained while you sweat it out. It's accessible 24 hours a day with your room key.
The Art of Smart Timing
Large business meetings and weddings are commonly held here, but there's no particular season when the hotel is busy. Business is steady throughout the year, and unless a big group has reserved a block of rooms for a conference or convention, it's usually fairly easy to get a room here -- even during the winter months and holiday season.
Here on the gulf coast of Florida, temperatures are warm year-round, although the odd winter night will see you needing a light jacket. Summers are hot and sticky, and if you're exploring the boardwalk area through the mangroves at this time, or hanging out by the pool, you'll definitely want to spray on the mosquito repellent.
The Tampa International Airport, just five minutes from the hotel, has security lines that flow quickly and is a breeze to navigate. It's far less busy at this airport than Orlando's airport, about 1.5 hours away, although that's also an option for flying in. Additionally, there's the St. Pete/Clearwater airport, located about 20 minutes from the hotel and serviced by budget carriers such as Allegiant. If you're just planning to stick around the hotel during your stay (though few people are), you won't need a car. But if you plan to get out to see the bay area's powderfine beaches, and visit Busch Gardens and the like, all of the major car rental companies have desks at Tampa's airport or nearby.
For Mom and Dad
Tampa is a vibrant city with some excellent restaurants, shopping and nightlife. If you can wrangle an evening away from the kids, it's worth catching a cab to South Tampa, about 15 minutes away, where some great restaurants can be found in a pedestrian-friendly area called Hyde Park and along Howard Ave.
Bern's Steakhouse, a local fixture since 1956, is as renowned for the quality of its fine meats and seafood as for the romantic dessert room upstairs, where you indulge in decadent endings inside cozy booths with your selection of music piped in. Alternatively, stick closer to the hotel and hop the free shuttle for a dinner and movie kind of night at WestShore Plaza, with popular chain restaurants like PF Chang's, Maggiano's Little Italy and Palm Restaurant.