Family Fun and Sun at Clearwater Beach, FL

Our family had the opportunity to sneak away to Florida this holiday season and soak up the sun and beautiful scenery of Clearwater Beach. Our trip got off to a rough start, thanks to an early morning ice storm that caused multiple flight cancellations and delays. We finally arrived at the Sandpearl Resort bleary-eyed and exhausted at 5 a.m. The staff could not have been more accommodating and gracious, and it was clear we were in good hands to relax and recuperate from our journey.

The Sandpearl is a beautiful property set right on the beach, and one of a very few to actually own the beachfront land. The lobby was tastefully decorated for the holidays, and our rooms were modern and well appointed. A nice touch was the large, free-standing soaking tub in the bathroom. Most hotels offer a shower/tub combo (if a tub at all), so the soaking tub was a fun touch, and one that I enjoyed relaxing in during our stay.

Once we rested, our first stop was to the spacious pool area to enjoy a bite to eat. The large pool and pool deck offers a relaxing place to swim, eat, read or just unwind. The pool is only around 3-4 feet deep in most areas, so very kid- and family-friendly. Parents can sit poolside and easily supervise little ones, and the many shallow areas make it easy for young kids to navigate.

We had wonderful poolside service, and the food exceeded our expectations. The pulled pork is smoked on-site and truly delicious, and I had food envy after taking a bite of my husband’s Caribbean Jerk grouper sandwich. We ventured out for dinner – there are several local dining options within easy walking distance – but ate breakfast daily at the resort restaurant. The service was prompt and friendly and we had no complaints with the quality of food.

The real pearl of the Sandpearl is of course its beach front. True to its name, the water is a clear blue against the white sand. The resort has chairs and umbrellas available (for a fee) and also offers poolside beverage and food service.

The resort runs a Kids Camp with activities, and also offers daily recreational programming. My daughter and I tried a Yoga/Pilates class on the beach, and it felt good to stretch and tone after all of our eating!

After three nights at the Sandpearl, we took the shuttle about a mile down the beach and checked into its sister property, the Opal Sands Resort. Newly opened in February 2016, the hotel is sleek and modern. It also sits facing the water, but has views of the gulf, and the beach is a short walk off to the side of the property. The food and service both poolside and at the restaurant at Opal Sands were also great, and we enjoyed our time here as well.

Of the two properties, I would recommend The Sandpearl for a family trip, especially with younger children, and the Opal Sands for singles, a couple get-away or a trip with older children. The Sandpearl has the feel of a classic, upscale resort, while the Opal Sands has a younger, hipper vibe.

We also took some time to take in area attractions, like the Clearwater Marine Aquarium which houses Hope and Winter from the popular Dolphin Tale movies. This is not a typical aquarium, but a rescue and education-based facility, so it was nice to know our tickets were supporting their work. 

The Clearwater Beach pier is a local destination for beachgoers and fishermen, and was an easy walk from both properties. The area has playground equipment and bouncy houses for kids, and entertainers and vendors set up in the area every night two hours before and after sunset. And speaking of sunsets, this area offers some of the most stunning you’ll ever see.

While at Opal Sands, we watched a boat cruise go by and could see dolphins jumping alongside the boat. The area dolphins are attracted to the vibrations of the boat’s motor and the large wake, so swim and jump along during the trip. We immediately booked a ride at the nearby marina. It was such a fun experience, and a highlight of the trip for my kids.

All in all, I highly recommend these properties and a trip to the Clearwater area. Whether it be for a break from the D.C. winter weather, a spring break trip or summer vacation, these resorts are sure to offer sand, sun and family fun!

Meet the Reviewer!

Debbie Williams is a northern Virginia wife and mother to two teenagers and managing editor of Washington FAMILY Magazine. 


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