by Mary Welch
Look at it from certain angles and you may as well be at a Mediterranean resort. Walk the beach and your mind goes to the Caribbean, but look at the numerous happy children engaged in group activities and you know that you’re at a Hyatt Regency; in this case, the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa.
The Hyatt Regency was one of the first major hotel chains to embrace children with Camp Hyatt, and the staff members goes out of their way to ensure children have a fun — and safe — vacation experience.
The 250-room hotel is the only waterfront Hyatt on Florida’s west coast, and the calm, turquoise Gulf of Mexico waters, coupled with a soft, pristine, white sandy beach, make it a perfect family vacation or even a brief qetaway. In fact, we met several families who live in nearby Tampa and often come for a few days of R&R because they not only love the family-oriented hotel amenities, but also the spacious suites with gourmet kitchens.
“We come here maybe once every two months just to get away but still be close,” a poolside Tampa mother told us. “It has all the great kid’s activities of a hotel, but the homey feel of a condo. It’s the best of both [worlds]. As soon as I walk into the lobby, I relax. And, I don’t have to clean up like I would in a condo. We can cook, which saves money, and the refrigerator is big enough to put large wine bottles in, along with milk.”
Clearwater Beach is a 3-mile-long, 3-block barrier island that offers a world-class beach, a wide variety of hotel and condo options, as well as the mandatory tourist t-shirt shops, dolphin-sighting cruises and restaurants that compete for the honor of having the best grouper sandwich. Thanks to a$30-million renovation in 2008, there is a delightful Beach Walk, a large palm tree lined walkway, which provides a safe and easy way to walk to activities and just enjoy being outdoors and people watching.
Unlike many other Florida resort areas, Clearwater Beach still has more of a small-town feel to it. High-rise condos do not overwhelm the beach and there are still family-owned hotels nestled next to the Hyatt. It’s an eclectic atmosphere where groups of young adults walk into McDonald’s only wearing their bathing suits, snowbirds have a cocktail on a restaurant patio and families juggle beach equipment.
Our Editor Loves
- Beautiful stretch of beach, monitored by lifeguards
- Spacious suites with full kitchens and Gulf-view balconies
- Close proximity to restaurants and local attractions
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More like a condo than a standard hotel room, the Hyatt Clearwater's units definitely feel like home. Rooms range from a 600-square-foot studio suite to a 2,000-square-foot deluxe two-bedroom, three bathroom suite.
The open-space floor plan combines a small dinette area next to a large kitchen, complete with granite countertops, a microwave and coffee maker. It opens up to a large living area with a 42-inch flat-screen TV. A sofa bed accommodates more sleepers. Amenities include a king pillow-top Hyatt Grand Bed fitted with soft linens, plush pillows and thick down blanket; Wi-Fi Internet, a generous work area with an ergonomic chair; full-sized Portico toiletries and an iHome stereo with an iPod docking station.
We stayed in a 1,2000-square foot, two-bedroom suite, where the master bedroom also opened up to the balcony and had a bathroom worthy of a lifestyle magazine feature. A deep bathtub was perfect for a relaxing bubble bath, while a separate shower was roomy with plenty of hot, high-pressure water. The second bedroom was large, comfortable and had a non-attached full bath next to it.
Was hoping for a more Romantic room and experience, but overall very satisfied,
My husband and I really enjoyed our stay at the Hyatt. We will definitely stay at the Hyatt again and hopefully find a more Romantic room.
Great hotel. We had a gulf view 1 bedroom suite. It was spacious and had everything we needed to accommodate our newborn and 2 year old. (When we ordered cribs they even came with a set of Johnson and Johnson baby products! I’ve only seen that before at the Ritz.)
I recommend that the check in staff get better trained on welcoming people and sharing amenities. I had a hard time finding what was going on, how to get to the beach access (2nd floor), how to find laundry (it’s in the south tower, and the towers are not connected on all floors). This would be easily solved with a hand out at check in. And the pool side crafts were not available when we went.
Also, I think the housekeeping is understaffed. We had to call to get our room cleaned. The first day they came late and they hardly had time to clean the room— so quick they even missed the tip and note we left on the counter.
Excellent gym, with a Peloton!! And free headphones.
Room service selection is poor.
You have a pool, a kiddie pool, a beautiful beach and Camp Hyatt. Enough said. From the moment you check in, it's obvious that this hotel understands families of all sizes and ages. At check-in, parents are offered a glass a champagne and children are given juice boxes. A few feet away from the registration desk is a play area that entertains kids while parents get oriented with the hotel.
While registering, be sure to make your selections from the ToyBox Program. The ToyBox Program features 24 age-appropriate toys, including LEGOs, Tonka trucks and board games, all approved by the Toy Tips Research Institute. Whether your children are toddlers, pre-school aged, school aged or tweens, there is something that will keep them occupied. After use and return, each toy is thoroughly inspected and cleaned with Toy Tips Toy Cleaner, a non-chemical, eco-friendly cleaner.
Camp Hyatt has almost achieved iconic stature in the hospitality business. It's offered daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday evenings from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Pricing for a full day is $80 (including lunch), $40-45 for a half day (with or without lunch) and $50 for evening sessions (including dinner). Camp Hyatt is available exclusively for guests ages 3 to 12 who are completely toilet trained and out of diapers and pull-ups.
There are two pools. The main pool is five feet deep and open from 7 a.m. to one hour after sunset. The kid's pool is one foot deep at its deepest, and is located in a gated unit that also has a small play area.
A family-friendly pool amenity is the private poolside cabanas. Families can enjoy pool time together near an indoor, climate-controlled room with a private restroom and living area, complete with TV, wireless Internet and call button service for ordering refreshments. Parents can also enjoy a massage in either the cabana or suite while still keeping an eye on the children. Cabanas can be rented for a fee per day or half-day.
The real activity is the beach, a long stretch of soft sand and gentle waves, which is just across the street from the hotel. At the Sand Box Provision, a beach store inside the Hyatt Gazebo, you can rent a beach cabana for a reasonable fee. In addition, beachside chaise lounges, towels, ice cream bars, suntan lotion, hats and other beach amenities are available. Our son loved the $5 strawberry slushie, which was finished before his foot even hit the water.
A block away from the hotel are rentals for everything to complete a vacation -- sailing, deep-sea fishing, boating, wave runners, parasailing, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, catamaran rides, bikes, dolphin watch eco-tours, miniature golf and sunset dinner cruises. Nearby is golf and tennis, which can be arranged through the hotel.
The hotel offers a variety of dining options. SHOR is the signature restaurant, offering a variety of American and seafood dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Skimmers offers coffee and pastries in the morning and light fare and cocktails in the afternoon and evening. Swim offers poolside drinks and light snacks.
In 2012, Hyatt launched its "For Kids By Kids"(FKBK) menu, which provides nutritious and fresh offerings for children. The menu includes items such as Top Your Own Taco breakfast, which is a whole-wheat tortilla filled with scrambled eggs, cheese and toppings, or waffle dipping sticks with peanut butter, maple syrup and fruit sauces. Lunch might include a shaken chopped salad with roasted chicken, vegetables, brown rice and yogurt basil dressing. Dinner might offer natural beef, grilled and served with potatoes, roasted vegetables and a garden salad. The FKBK menu is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner at SHOR, as well as for in-room dining.
A supplement to the FKBK menu is a special three-course organic menu, developed by food pioneer and chef Alice Waters. It's available for lunch and dinner at SHOR. Children under 12 can also order off the menu for half-price (portions are smaller).
During peak season, there is a kids' buffet, which is based on the same overall food and beverage philosophy: "Food. Thoughtfully Sourced. Carefully Served." The buffet was available when we visited and there was a large variety of options, including a mini salad bar, fruit salad and whole grain pasta.
SHOR is a terrific dining experience. It rides the fine balance between being a casual seaside restaurant and a more adult experience. We witnessed waiters fawning over children and catering to their every need.
We had a large table where great appetizers (snow crab claws, oysters, fried calamari, and crab cake) were plentiful enough for sharing and savoring. For dinner, our health-conscious teenager opted for the wild caught salmon, while the less-health-conscious teen chose the rib eye.
Planning & Tips
Clearwater has a laid-back vacation vibe, and if you leave your car in the hotel parking lot (self-parking and valet are available) and take either the Jolley Trolley or walk, you will save yourself a headache and frustration. Be aware that traffic, especially in the afternoons and on the weekends, can put you back into the bumper-to-bumper city mentality from which you're trying to escape.
The hotel really aims to make the stay as effortless as possible. There is a list of 32 items, such as baby shampoo, slippers, nail polish removers, hairbrushes and deodorant, that will be delivered to your door free of charge. Items to borrow or buy include curling and flat irons, a humidifier, steamer and tea kettle. Complimentary cribs or Pack 'n Plays are available upon request at the time of reservations. Two bottles of complimentary water are placed in the refrigerator daily.
The Sandava Spa features a variety of services including facials, waxing and massages. We spent a delightful morning at the spa, first indulging in the fruit and pastries before topping it off with the spa's signature blueberry facial. There are no children's services available, but pre-teens and teens can enjoy services as long as a parent accompanies them.
The hotel offers a 24-hour Stay Fit exercise room, as well as laundry facilities on each floor.
The hotel is a 45-minute drive from Tampa International Airport and 30 minutes from St. Petersburg International Airport. Both airports offer shuttle and taxi services.
For Mom & Dad
Nothing is more romantic than a beautiful sunset, and the hotel's SHOR patio is a great place to see the colors spread across the horizon.
The Lobster Pot Bistro offers a romantic setting, dancing and an entertaining piano player. It occasionally has music specials, such as a jazz series.
A bit of romance can be found when you take the Clearwater Dinner and Dance Cruise, where you can choose from 10 entrees, watch the sunset and dance. The boat leaves every Tuesday through Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m.
Off the Radar
While there is plenty to keep families occupied at the hotel, a visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is in order. You'll meet Winter, the dolphin who lost her tail and was given a prosthetic one. She's the inspiration for the movie, "Dolphin Tale!"