BY SKYE SHERMAN
Clearwater Beach attracts droves of tourists with its expanse of velvety sand and placid waters, a scene interrupted only by the occasional wild dolphin. The area’s casual vibe fosters laid-back getaways without frills. Big-name surf shops line the thoroughfare parallel to the beach, and visitors are invited to stay barefoot and sandy for as long as they please.
This nonchalance makes the newly constructed Opal Sands Resort all the more unexpected. Vacationers seeking a pampered stay on Clearwater Beach now have a haven of contemporary comfort, where they can lounge by the zero-entry pool until the next round of handcrafted tropical beverages arrives.
Open since February, Opal Sands Resort stands perched on the point between Clearwater Pass and the Gulf of Mexico. The resort’s curved design allows for waterfront views in all 230 rooms, which boast floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open onto balconies conducive to Champagne sipping and dolphin watching.
And there are plenty of dolphins to spot. These marine mammals outnumber even the tourists. Visitors are bound to encounter at least one, whether it’s dancing in the wake of passing boats or a celebrity at nearby Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to the saltwater stars of the film Dolphin Tale.
As with most endeavors on Clearwater Beach, dining at Opal Sands is seaside, and each of the three restaurants offers views of the Gulf. Sea-Guini serves ocean-centered cuisine with an Italian flair, utilizing fresh ingredients from the restaurant’s own green wall and the nearby waters. A favorite is the local bay grouper crusted with a simple blend of fresh herbs and breadcrumbs, drizzled with a smoked yellow tomato and pepper coulis, and served atop a creamy bed of lemon-basil risotto. Handmade pastas provide a delicious base for various cheeses, vegetables, and meats—from Pinot Grigio–steamed clams to a rosemary-stewed short rib ragout.
A stylish celebration of sea and luxury, Opal Sands Resort is also Clearwater’s “it” destination for one of nature’s most breathtaking events: the simple pleasure of the setting sun, marking the close of another day in paradise.