Nestled on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico is the world-renowned Clearwater Beach, known for its crystal clear waters and sugary-soft sand. With accolades as “The Best Beach in America,” it's easy to understand why thousands of couples flock to the area every year to host their wedding.
While there are multiple wedding venues along the coastline, only a handful stand out to be considered a Marry Me Tampa Bay preferred wedding venue. To experience what it's like to be a guest at the newly renovated Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa, I had the “tough” assignment of going on a staycation to experience the hotel's rooms, dining, and amenities.
Located just over 30 minutes from downtown Tampa and the Tampa airport and minutes from downtown Clearwater (depending on traffic), the Hilton is in the heart of Clearwater Beach. Just outside the hotel's doors is Mandalay Ave, the city's main strip, where you'll find the beach's most luxurious resorts. Pedestrians fill the sidewalks headed to the local restaurants, beach hangouts, and shops that line the bustling street. Clearwater Beach is walkable and has beach trolleys, so transportation is not needed.
Next door to the hotel is the focal point of Clearwater Beach, Pier 60, which extends nearly 1,000 feet over the Gulf of Mexico, and is a hotspot for watching epic Florida sunsets. For vacationers, fun is everything, and the pier provides an expansive range for groups of all ages, including a large playground, live evening entertainment, and nighttime fishing.
The Pier is home to fireworks shows on the Fourth of July and Easter, the annual Sugar Sand Festival, which features world-class sandcastle sculpture, and the Sunset Cinema’s Summer Series, where you can cozy up to catch an outdoor movie for free on the jumbo screen.
Tip: Give yourself ample time to get across the bridge to Clearwater Beach. During peak seasons, it's filled with beachgoers.
The Hilton Clearwater Beach has undergone two multi-million dollar renovations in the past few years, including all-new guest rooms, a new restaurant, a new spa, a new fitness center, a zero-entry pool and infinity pool, and a Starbucks.
A unique feature of the hotel is its new bi-level open lobby. While walking up the lobby stairs, you'll instantly notice the modern open-air design that feels refreshing in comparison to traditional Florida beachfront resorts. The soothing atmosphere is embellished with the floor-to-ceiling windows that bring in the sunlight and soothing seafront.
An impressive sandcastle sits at the ground entrance of the Hilton, making it a must for Instagram photos. As you walk upstairs to the main lobby, chic LED lighting showcases the stunning greenery garden wall, a favorite backdrop for wedding photos.
The two goals for any destination stay are rest and relaxation, and that's exactly the ambiance the modern beachfront hotel rooms provide. The 418 guest rooms and suites were fully renovated from top to bottom. We recommend upgrading to a Gulf room with a balcony because those are views you traveled to Florida to see!
We were upgraded to the Junior Suite, which feels like a private oasis with its large living space. The kitchenette offers all the room a mimosa bar and brunch spread would require, while the large dining table leaves a seat for everyone. The seating area provides a large TV that's perfect for anyone looking to sit back and relax before the festivities. Perhaps the most wow-worthy feature is the natural light that floods the room with its oceanview balcony. The ample lighting and spacious layout make getting ready all the easier while multiple vendors and wedding party members work in the space.
Across the hall, Harborview rooms showcase the city's Intercoastal waterway, where you can watch boats glide up and down the water and see the city lights in the evening.
The best part of waking up is an ocean view and coffee in our cups, which makes the street-level Starbucks attached to the hotel a fan favorite. Nothing gives you vacation vibes more than having your favorite daily drinks within walking distance of your room.
Dining out in Clearwater Beach is as simple as walking to the hotel's first floor, where The Spotted Donkey Cantina sits with both indoor and outdoor seating. The accent wall made of bottles of their signature Herradura Double Barrel Reposado tequila transforms the rustic ambiance of the authentic Mexican eatery into a modern dining experience perfect for date nights or family dinners.
The resort offers multiple styles of dining, which provides the perfect blend of options for a wedding weekend. A feeling of paradise sets in while stepping onto the sandy beach that hosts Tommy's Tiki Bar, outdoor lounge, and stage performances. Unique to the Hilton because of its privately-owned beach, the beachside tiki bar is the only location on Clearwater Beach where guests can take their drinks to the water's edge. It is the perfect welcome party location and starts off any destination vacation with a layer of relaxation. Sipping a Piña colada while listening to a local musician's rendition of Cheeseburger in Paradise almost felt too good to be true. The brightly colored beach furniture adds to the tropical experience, while Hilton staff members are only a moment away to help with anything guests need.
More formal meals can be enjoyed at the Carambola restaurant overlooking the resort's beachfront view. An elevated menu provides guests with the dining experience of their choice, whether they're seeking a quick bite before starting their day or a curated rehearsal dinner.
While your guests may travel to Florida for the wedding, they're staying for the party, and that energy flows throughout the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort.
There are endless activities to entertain guests of all ages between the two expansive pools, a poolside bar, and seasonal “dive-in” movies. A family favorite is the life-sized chess board that sits on the sand, while air hockey, table tennis, and oversized Connect Four are behind the outdoor ice cream and souvenir shop.
For travelers who are focused on relaxation, the Hibiscus Spa's coastal blue and white color palette creates a calming escape for a relaxing couples massage or bridal party manicures and pedicures. Their expansive selection of spa services creates endless opportunities to treat yourself.
The resort gym offers a variety of machines and equipment. The leg day, strength training, or cardio routine will not go neglected here. Look out for yoga sessions on the beach or an early morning meditation session on the sand.
Perhaps the best amenity is the poolside bar service. Why get up and search for food and drink when it can be brought to you!?
The pièce de résistance of any destination wedding experience is the main event itself. If you want to be near the beach, but not necessarily in the sand, the hotel offers 10,000 square feet of outdoor, covered terraces steps from the beach, giving your guests unobstructed, oceanfront feels in a more comfortable setting.
Unlike most beachfront venues, which use a nearby public beach, the Hilton's private beach means you don't have to obtain a permit from the city to get married, and they can provide extra privacy.
The Hilton Clearwater Beach is a full-service wedding venue including a day-of coordinator, officiant, rehearsal, ceremony
music, getting ready room, and a complimentary one-night stay on your wedding night as part of its ceremony fee.
The beachfront property offers room for up to 200 guests on the Sandpiper Deck and seating for up to 500 in the Grand Ballroom.
Stephanie Woo is a lifelong Floridian and former Marry Me Tampa Bay reader. Her downtown St. Pete wedding was featured on the website, and in 2019 she joined the Marry Me Tampa Bay team as a social media coordinator.
She is now an Associate Editor and loves being able to explore locally owned and operated businesses in Tampa Bay.
Photo: Amanda Zabrocki Photography