This winter was quite dreary in Chicago. I was looking for an affordable warm-weather escape for me and CP. We wanted a break and more of a relaxing resort vacation but when we dug into the all-inclusive resorts in places like Mexico or the Dominican Republic, it was above our budget. While those resorts and the aggregator websites tout ‘deals’ for pre-packaged trips, in my research many were still quite pricey.
You can fly to Florida from hubs in northeastern and Midwestern cities for a very low cost on Southwest, United, American, and Jet Blue. And it’s just about as warm as the Caribbean.
Florida’s Gulf Coast
The west coast of Florida is a perfect getaway. There are dozens of award-winning white sand beaches and it’s definitely more relaxed and typically less crowded that the east coast of Florida.
We flew to St Petersburg and stayed at the Sirata Beach Resort.
Sirata Beach Resort Review in St. Pete Beach
Sitting directly on a wide swath of sugary white sand on the Gulf of Mexico, the Sirata Beach Resort is an affordable, low-key resort getaway on Florida’s gulf coast.
The Sirata Beach Resort recently underwent a $15 million renovation. The full redesign included a makeover to the 382 rooms and suites, and transformation of the existing pools into more of a resort-style beachfront oasis with a Kid’s Splash Zone, private cabanas, and even a “hanging chair garden.”
At Sirata Beach Resort, there is something for everyone from a kid-friendly pool or more adult pool to cozy cabanas and fun activities such as oversized Jenga and foosball tables.
Probably my favorite parts of the resort were the spacious outdoor lounge areas complete with comfy couches (that we took advantage of), a fire pit area, and Adirondack chairs sprinkled throughout. Each evening there is a happy hour at 6 p.m. with complimentary wine and beer and a fun, lively vibe.
The Beach at Sirata Beach Resort
The resort sits right on a wide, uncrowded beach. When you pay the resort fee it comes with complimentary beach lounge chairs or you can upgrade a bit more for an umbrella or adjustable canopy. It was our first time using a canopy at the beach and it was great! We could get sun if we wanted or pull it over our heads and get some shade making it easier to read and also avoid getting too much sun. It felt very luxurious!
Also included with the resort fee is the use of bicycles which you can take for a ride around the strip. For an extra fee there are other activities available like dolphin cruises, paddle-board, kayaking and parasailing.
Restaurants at Sirata Beach Resort
While we still both went running (there is a decent fitness center) and worked out every morning, we did splurge on beachy/bar-food and drinks like this frozen chocolate banana treat!
There are three on-site restaurants. All indoors, Compass Grille serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is a tiny bit more upscale (but still relaxed) with steak and fish dishes. Rum Runners Bar & Grille is a large outdoor bar with couches, tables, and a large deck area. It was my favorite spot to hang out with a spacious outdoor atmosphere. Plus the menu had some more diversity (read: less ‘meaty’) on it for a ‘beach bar’ with things like falafel, a veggie bowl, and fish tacos.
Harry’s Beach Bar, a legendary local institution that features live music acts, is great for family-vibe. The open-air space also has couches and a huge central bar, plus communal tables right off the pool. The menu has bar favorites like burgers and wings, plus fish and chips, poutine, and grilled mahi-mahi.
There are also lots of other local restaurants within walking distance to the resort when you want to get off property for a little change of scenery. Plus, the Publix supermarket is just a five-minute walk down the road. Since the rooms have little kitchenettes with mini fridges and microwaves, it’s great to stock up on some breakfast or other food items if you want to save some cash.
Our room was large with a separate living/kitchen area and bedroom. The rooms have been redone, but in general are fairly basic with a couple newer modern touches.
We had a lovely balcony view of a courtyard and beyond to the beach and ocean. It was peaceful to just sit there and watch the gooey, orange sun sink behind the horizon.
Downtown St. Petersburg
If you’re staying on St. Petersburg beach, there are plenty of fun beach-bars and restaurants at which to dine. But it’s definitely worth it to also take a 20-minute ride across the bridge to downtown St. Petersburg for some trendy dining and bars.
Downtown St. Pete has a vibrant feel. Lively sidewalk cafes seemed busy all afternoon into evening. We took a stroll through the cobblestoned Historic Old Northeast neighborhood, full of quaint, old bungalow homes in various stages of renovation.
We also checked out the funky Florida vibe along Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg, where old St. Pete mixes with a bohemian and party-set.
In need of a rest and a cold drink, we settled into a couch on the wide sidewalk café, Birch and Vine, at the Birchwood Inn.
For dinner, we liked the lively vibe and all the outdoor eating options all along downtown St. Pete’s Beach Drive. It’s home to unique shops, world-class museums and galleries, as well as great restaurants. Just across the street were beautiful city parks and the fabulous waterfront.
We shared memories of Rome with a starter of bruschetta with housemade ricotta followed by big, comforting bowls of pasta cacio e pepe and paparadelle bolgonese at Bella Brava.
I really enjoyed the vibe downtown and will have to return to explore (and eat!) more.
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I was a guest of the Sirata Beach Resort. As always all opinions are my own.