If you’re headed to the area primarily for a beach vacation and intend to spend it in the smaller beach communities north of downtown Sarasota, renting a house on Anna Maria Island is the best way to go.
Island Vacation Properties (800/778-9599, www.islandvacationproperties.com) and Anna Maria Island Beach Rentals (941/345-1285, www.amipalmrentals.com) both have extensive selections of house and apartment rentals available throughout the area.
The bland outside of the Hotel Ranola (118 Indian Pl., 941/951-0111, from $179 d) doesn’t seem all that promising, but inside, this downtown boutique hotel is a real gem. Its nine guest rooms are all decorated in a hip, playful, and urbane style, with hardwood floors, checkerboard tiles, and bold color schemes, and they feel less like hotel accommodations and more like tiny apartments. All of the guest rooms are equipped with flat-screen plasma TVs, free Wi-Fi, decadently soft bedding, and full (if small) kitchens; the basic guest rooms are around 400 square feet, but there are a couple of deluxe suites that top out at 600 square feet.
Operated by the InterContinental Hotels conglomerate, the Hotel Indigo (1223 Blvd. of the Arts, 941/487-3800, from $224 d) gamely attempts to pull off a boutique-hotel vibe, but with 95 guest rooms it offers an experience that’s nowhere near as cozy and intimate as the one offered at the Ranola. Nonetheless, the small guest rooms are new and very brightly painted, and the corporate staff is well-trained to provide fastidious service. There’s a small pool and fitness center on-site.
The four European-style guest rooms at La Palme Royale (624 S. Palm Ave., 941/870-3973, from $230 d) combine for an elegant and historical bed-and-breakfast experience. The furnishings are deeply luxurious, with canopy beds, antique armoires, and Turkish rugs laid atop vintage hardwood floors. Located in the downtown Bayfront area, La Palme Royale is quite close to the art galleries and boutiques of South Palm Avenue, and these comfortable accommodations often require booking in advance.
Sarasota’s Ritz-Carlton (1111 Ritz-Carlton Dr., 941/309-2000, from $269 d) overlooks Sarasota Bay and is just a few blocks away from the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Accommodations are typically Ritz luxe, with feather beds, Egyptian-cotton linens, turndown service, and even complimentary shoeshine service. The property opens into a marble-floored foyer, and there are three tennis courts, a pool, a spa, and two fitness centers on-site. Guests also have access to the Members Beach Club on Lido Key. The hotel is also pet-friendly and allows cats and dogs under 20 pounds to stay in specially designated guest rooms.
Siesta Key Hotels
Despite being more than 50 miles from Captiva Beach, the Captiva Beach Resort (6772 SaraSea Circle, 941/349-4131, from $175 d) is one of the better places to stay on Siesta Key. The affordable units are available in one- and two-bedroom configurations, and there are efficiencies equipped with full kitchens. The resort is within walking distance of several nearby restaurants but is set off the main road in a private circle that gives it a comfortable secluded feel. Though it doesn’t offer many of the typical upscale amenities folks may associate with resort stays, the semiprivate beach, heated pool, and foliage-draped grounds combine with the clean if somewhat dated guest rooms and friendly family-oriented staff to make a stay quite pleasant.
Considerably less intimate is the Palm Bay Club (5960 Midnight Pass Rd., 941/349-1911, from $185 d), but the wide variety of guest rooms on offer provide considerable choice, with studios and 1–3-bedroom suites in the bland Grande Tower building, as well as more townhouse-like accommodations in the two “club” complexes (one overlooks the bay, the other the gulf). All the guest rooms are clean and relatively contemporary, although they’re all individually owned, so decor varies from rattan-and-pastels to unintentionally retro.
The Siesta Beach Resort & Suites (5311 Ocean Blvd., 941/349-3211, from $179 d) used to be a Best Western, and its economy-motel roots show through in the layout and basic guest rooms. Accommodations are clean and comfortable, and some have been expanded into one- and two-bedroom suites that have kitchen facilities. Located across the street from the beach, it’s a good budget option.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition