A relaxed city hotel on the bay with a nearby beach club
- Easy access from the US Eastern Seaboard and convenient to the Midwest
- Ideal for weddings and weekend getaways
- Hotel and Beach Club are on separate properties
Who Will Enjoy It
Because of its proximity to Tampa and laid-back atmosphere, the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota is well positioned to accommodate wedding parties and business travelers. Wedding parties will benefit from the warm weather, the lovely facilities and beautiful backdrops provided by a tropical setting on the Gulf of Mexico. Business travelers will find ready access to downtown Sarasota and south Tampa accessible in under an hour. Winter travelers east of the Rockies who are looking to get some sun and be warm will find the location convenient for a weekend getaway.
When To Go
Ritz-Carlton Sarasota is located on Florida’s west coast, so weather there is pretty stable and predictable. Summer weather features occasional afternoon thunderstorms as is typical for Florida. They are usually intense, but brief. Wedding parties should be cautious about planning during hurricane season (June – November), but winters tend to be mild. The Gulf Coast of Florida is generally calmer than the Atlantic side, leaving beach-goers with glassy smooth and bathwater-warm waters to enjoy. The hotel is located in the business district of downtown Sarasota, so the area is pretty quiet on the weekend.
What Makes It Great
Sarasota and Lido Key are delightfully laid back and exemplify the easy-living aesthetic of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Great opportunities for fresh seafood abound in the onsite and local restaurants, many of which are within walking distance of the hotel.
The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota’s greatest strengths are in its location and relaxed refinement. A 12-minute drive from the Sarasota airport or an hour from Tampa International Airport makes this property readily accessible from the US eastern seaboard and convenient to guests located in the Midwest. In many cases, you can leave home on an early flight and be dining on fresh fish tacos at Jack Dusty’s restaurant onsite by lunchtime. This convenience alone makes the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota worth regular consideration.
Needs Improvement & Buyer Beware
Through no fault of their own, the beach is currently pretty thin as a result of storms that have taken the sand and deposited it further down the beach. They do their best to accommodate guests on the beach, but the lack of depth between the dunes and the water makes for cramped quarters. You may be more comfortable on the beachfront pool deck.
The service level is really what is holding this property back. It’s good, but not great, and certainly not at the level we’ve observed at other Ritz-Carlton properties. Specific areas that need polish are: the knowledge of front desk staff, spa cleanliness, and overall property tidiness. Note that these challenges can be overcome with better staffing and training. In our experience, these negatives were balanced by very good service at the beach club and restaurants.
The spa is in need of a renovation. The facilities, while functional, are dated and in need of a refresh. Tidiness wasn’t up to par, but this could result from oversight by the staff working that week.
Limited deck space at the hotel pool requires some advance planning in order to secure a spot that is optimal for you. Early risers would do well to secure their ideal chairs before breakfast. If you are going to play the chair game, please be a good sport and don’t reserve chairs that you’re not going to use.
As we’ve mentioned in other posts, these properties cater to large groups first. Find out if one is going to be on property during your visit and learn as much as you can about their itinerary so that you can avoid them. Big groups aren’t necessarily bad, but they do tax a resort’s infrastructure and service capabilities. We’ve felt this phenomenon at this and other properties.
Sunset on Ridley’s Porch at the Beach Club. The restaurant is situated perfectly so that you can enjoy a cocktail or dinner on the deck while watching the sun sink slowly into the ocean. If you’re lucky, you might witness the Green Flash that can occur just as the sun’s last rays disappear.
If you’re a walker or a jogger, you can enjoy safe sidewalks and pedestrian paths along the marina and over the bridge to Lido Key. Delicious breakfasts can be had at any number of small cafes surrounding the St. Armand’s Circle. Mornings are quiet and special in this area.
The Jack Dusty Restaurant located just off the lobby in the hotel offers a substantial and sophisticated cocktail menu. We recommend trying Jack’s Fig Crush, a complex mix of fig-infused vodka and cardamom syrup with layers of vanilla and lemon, all topped off with sparkling rosé for a refreshing finish. For a tasty, but not too filling lunch, try the fish tacos or the hamburger from the Beach Club. They are both delicious and consistently prepared.
Linda at the beach club is a veteran of the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota. Her many years of experience show in her calm efficiency and attention to detail. We observed her to be unflappable while taking care of numerous guests and attending to their various needs. Linda exemplifies the casual competence that the Ritz-Carlton brand instills in their ladies and gentlemen. Seek her out when you visit the beach club; you won’t be disappointed.
What you should know that no one else will tell you…
Be advised that the Ritz-Carlton’s Beach Club is located on Lido Key, a 10 minute drive from the hotel itself. There is a hotel shuttle that runs frequently between the two properties, but you should plan your days accordingly as it’s not as easy to pop up to your room for more sunscreen as it would be in a beachfront hotel.
If you are not a wedding guest, we would advise that you check with the front desk to determine which floors wedding guests will be occupying. Nothing will ruin a night’s sleep more than listening to guests returning from the reception in the wee hours of the morning. A little separation will ensure a restful stay for you and your travel companions.
The property touts having non-motorized water sports, but be advised that this translates to a couple of kayaks and stand-up paddle boards to be used in the inlet next to the hotel.
Useful Resources/Offsite Notables
Owen’s Fish Camp – Wildly popular local seafood and Southern food offerings. Make reservations well in advance. Charming outdoor seating and live music.
Duvall’s Fresh Local Seafood – Well-executed seafood and cocktails. Respectable wine list.
O’Leary’s Tiki Bar & Grill – Casual pub grub with your toes in the sand. Live music regularly.
Bon voyage and safe travels!