Not too long ago, we had a chance to stay at Hyatt Regency Clearwater Resort and Spa over 4th of July weekend. This hotel costs 20,000 Hyatt points per night, which you can transfer from Ultimate Rewards on 1:1 basis if you have Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Plus.
Alternatively, you can use certificates from Chase Hyatt Signature Visa. We did the latter. Regular rooms bookable on points (or via certificates) come with two queen beds and fit up to four. I was told you aren’t allowed to bring a third child. There is a daily resort fee of $25, plus parking charge of $17.
I’ve mentioned before that I have mixed feelings on this property. On the one hand, resort has a lot to offer and location is very convenient if you want to park your car and walk to most attractions. On the other hand, it’s greatest strength (location) is also its main weakness, at least to me.
So, here is my honest (and long) review of the place. First, let me say that I’m overall satisfied with the value we received. My certificates were due to expire at the end of August, and this was a good place to use them. We didn’t have to fly anywhere since Clearwater is located two hours away from our house.
What made the deal even sweeter is the fact that my husband is currently a Hyatt Diamond member, a status he got for free via match with the help of yours truly. So, that meant free breakfast and potential upgrade. I thought maybe we would get a nicer oceanview room since the place was sold out due to it being a holiday weekend, but instead we were surprised to find ourselves in one of their best suites.
Our huge suite
And it was huuuge! There was a big terrace instead of just a regular balcony:
Man, I need to get rid of those sunglasses, they are ugly. Anyway, this would be very nice for hosting a family reunion. Alas, there were only four of us. I didn’t care for the fact that the terrace had no solid roof cover, so it was too hot to enjoy during the day. Nevertheless, my husband was very impressed by the fanciness.
The square footage of space inside was probably similar to what we have in my house. There was a big living room with a sleeper sofa:
A nice kitchen with marble countertops (we have formica at home):
Unfortunately, the A/C in our bedroom wasn’t working for some reason. However, once we called, maintenance person showed up within 10 minutes. He spent probably close to 2 hours working on it, but it got fixed.
We got two alcoholic drink vouchers as an apology. Those saved us $20, so I was pretty happy. It was a bit of a nuisance to have a stranger in our suite for so long, but these things happen in Florida.
Our suite (fits up to 6) had two large bathrooms which had plenty of counter space. The decor was a bit meh for my taste, but most folks love it. I also didn’t care for the fact that the suite had carpet, a big mistake at any beachfront property. But all in all, if you got upgraded like we did, I’m sure you would be very pleased. Even their regular rooms are decent size, an important factor for a family of four.
There were some fancy complimentary toiletries which were promptly scooped up and put in a zip-lock bag. My mom will love them, I’m sure of it!
My reader Erik who has Platinum status (a notch below Diamond) via Hyatt co-branded card got an upgrade to a regular one-bedroom suite, and from reviews on TripAdvisor, this appears to be quite common. The fact that the property is huge is a major advantage in this respect.
We were able to watch the fireworks right from our terrace, which was very convenient. My son, however, started climbing over the balcony in order to get a better view, which scared the heck out of me. As you can see, we were at the very top of the building.
Since we’ve been to Clearwater area a few times already, we decided to just hang out at the resort and visit the beach. A relaxing weekend with family: no plans, no shoes, no problem. This resort has a kids’ club ($55 per child for half a day), but we didn’t get a chance to use it.
This is what most families come here for, right? Well, I’ve got bad news for you. Clearwater public beach is nothing to write home about, at least in my opinion. The water was murky, there was a lot of trash everywhere (cigarettes etc), and the atmosphere just seemed seedy.
It was also packed with people, partially due to it being a holiday weekend. Some folks like this sort of atmosphere, so it’s the case of “to each his own.” But I truly believe that if beach is what you are after, Florida has much nicer ones to choose from.
I recommend driving a bit further to Siesta Key or Lido Key in Sarasota. Way cleaner and less crowded. I’ve met a lady from New Jersey who came down to Clearwater upon someone’s recommendation, mainly for the beach. She was extremely disappointed. If you decide to visit this area, I recommend you look for hotel with its own private beach (more on that later).
Of course, my kids still enjoyed it.
The hotel is actually located across the street from a public beach, and there is a good bit of walking involved. Keep that in mind if you have very small children.
The best part of our stay was breakfast, hands down. It was magnificent, and I’m not exaggerating. The buffet included all kinds of dishes: eggs, bacon, oatmeal, exotic fruit, uniquely-cooked french toast and much more. Everything was fresh and tasty. My husband said he is not sure he can go back to Holiday Inn Express breakfast after something like that.
My photo doesn’t do it justice, but should give you a general idea.
I had to remind him that this breakfast was only complimentary due to his status, which we got through a set of unusual and quite fortunate events. Normally, it runs at $22 per adult and includes a made-to-order omelet and drink. Kids pay according to their age. If a child is five, it costs $5, an eight year-old will pay $8. The total would have cost us $70 each morning, including tip.
I know it’s very expensive, but if you can afford it, I recommend you splurge at least once if you don’t have Diamond status. The breakfast really is quite good, and you can dine outside with a view of the ocean.
Private cabana, pool and Donald Trump
This totally goes against my cheap nature, but I just couldn’t resist one major splurge. I saw a review of this property’s poolside cabana on PointCentric blog. It looked like something my husband would enjoy. But the price! It was $99 for the whole day. Normally, I wouldn’t even consider doing something like this, but I happened to have a $500 Hyatt gift card that my sister-in-law gave me a year ago.
Since reselling it would incur a 25% loss, I had to look at the big picture. The cabana by that logic would cost me $75, a price I would receive on $100. Well, it turned out to be a very smart splurge because we all loved having our own fancy schmancy cabana. I actually called and was able to reserve it a few days in advance. Apparently, these cabanas are very popular, especially during holiday weekends.
Basically, it’s a tiny air-conditioned room with a couch, chair and TV. There is even a bathroom, though no shower. My husband wanted to be close to kids when they played in the pool, so cabana gave him a comfortable oasis where he could just chill and do his own thing. There is a covered patio that provides shade from the sun, a wonderful thing, considering how hot it gets in July.
Our cabana came with an attendant who was assigned to take care of our needs. The lady was absolutely wonderful. I can’t remember her name (I think it was Katia), but she was very friendly and attentive. We were able to order food and drinks without leaving the cabana, and dined on our own secluded, shaded patio.
The price of food was about what you would expect at a resort: $12 for a sandwich, more for a meal. Everything was delicious. The cabana was such a nice treat and totally worth the expense. I recommend it if you plan to be at the pool area all day.
On to pool itself. I believe it’s way too small for such a large resort. Originally, this property was meant to be a condominium, and it shows. It was fine, don’t get me wrong. But it looked like something you would find at any mid-scale hotel, not a properly that calls itself a resort. I also didn’t care for the fact that hot tub is located on a different floor. When I stay in a hotel, I like to go in the pool to cool off, then warm up in a hot tub afterwards. Not possible here.
The place was packed, and I do mean packed. The above picture was taken early in the morning. As the day progressed, more and more families showed up. We all looked like sardines in that pool. At one point I accidentally grabbed some guy’s… you know, that part that shall not be named in a family blog! 🙂 We both laughed it off, but avoided eye contact from then on.
Another funny thing happened. We saw a plane going back and forth with a banner that said “Trump pees in pools. Don’t vote for Trump.” I’m not making a political comment, just relating our experience. Wow, it has been an interesting year so far!
The pool is located on the 8th floor, and you need a room key to access the area.
A few minor problems
There were a few issues that I feel compelled to mention. I consider them somewhat minor, but IMO show lack of attention to detail. Considering what they normally charge for a suite (cash or points), I would be super annoyed if I paid the asking rate.
I was actually thinking to myself that if this stay was sponsored by Hyatt, I would probably feel inclined to ignore all these things. But since I’m personally footing the bill, I don’t have to! First, there was sand in few drawers. I get that it’s a beachfront resort and all, but housekeeping should pay more attention.
Tatty patio furniture with holes in the cushions:
This is something that would be easy to overlook in a condo that goes for $200 per night, not in a suite that has an asking rate of $800 (plus tax and resort fee).
Also, while overall service was very good, I feel like some front desk employees were not on the ball. When I asked if they would waive resort fees, here is what I was told by one worker: “We don’t do this. Besides, we are already giving you free breakfast due to Diamond status.”
I told him that someone I know (reader Erik) got it waived for being a Platinum member, which is 100% true. I also read similar reports on TripAdvisor. He told me he would check with his supervisor. I never heard from him. We got Diamond status for free, so I brushed off his statement as well as lack of follow-up. However, if I were a road warrior, I would be very annoyed that the perk I’ve rightly earned after many stays in the chain was presented as some sort of favor. Status is a two-way street.
When we were checking out, they wanted to charge me $140 for breakfast because somehow my husband’s name disappeared from the reservation (it was on it earlier). I told the lady that he is a Diamond member and was staying with us. She checked and said it shows that he is Platinum.
Fortunately, I had his Hyatt card with me that clearly said “Diamond.” The breakfast was comped. While we were at it, I once again asked to get the resort fees waived and she did. I didn’t feel bad because: a) I feel resort fees are a rip-off, b) the only “resort” thing about this place was the pool, and you can find one of these in Econolodge or Super8.
When I got the bill, I’ve noticed that there was no parking charge. I’ve mentioned it to the lady, and she thanked me profusely for being honest and adjusted the bill. The whole thing was a bit of nuisance, but we got it resolved in the end. No resort fees or breakfast charges, a savings of $190. And yet, we still spent $270 over the weekend on cabana and dining. Definitely not free, but we got a good deal, all things considered.
I don’t know what to make of this resort. There are many good things, no doubt. If you want a short beach getaway after vacation in Orlando, AND you have certificates from Hyatt Visa, AND you happen to have Diamond status, I recommend it 100%.
Potential suite upgrade, free breakfast, convenient location, all of these things make a compelling case to stay at Hyatt Clearwater resort. You can just walk to Captain Memo’s cruise and not have to spend 20 minutes looking for a parking spot, like we did. Have Hyatt Platinum status and certs? It could still make sense to stay here.
However, if you plan on transferring Ultimate Rewards points, the juice IMO is just not worth the squeeze. Let’s do the math. You can use 20,000 UR points to book a hotel that goes for $250 per night (all-in). Factor in resort fee of $25, plus parking fee of $17, and we have an opportunity cost of $292.
I really don’t think this Hyatt is worth it, unless you plan on staying during holidays like we did. Speaking of, Erik has shared a special offer code CLWBB that he received after his stay few months ago, and a rate of $161 popped up for the standard King room in September. Not sure if the code is still valid, but it won’t hurt to check.
Not too long ago, I wrote about DreamView resort in Clearwater that used to be part of Wyndham chain. It has a nice, clean, private beach that is sure to be a huge hit with your kids. If you take advantage of “4th night free benefit” via Citi Prestige or come across a special discount, you can easily get it for much less than Hyatt.
I realize it’s similar to comparing apples to oranges, but I would pick that place over Hyatt every day of the week and twice on Sunday. It’s smaller, more low-key, and to me a much better fit for family, especially for those who have small kids. Alternatively, you can look at rentals on AirBnB (my referral link, we both get $30 when you join) or VRBO, among others.
Once again, I’m assuming that you are using points and don’t have any top-tier status with Hyatt. I assure you, I’m not trying to be a Hyatt basher, but simply being honest. It’s hard for a normal family to accumulate large quantities of Ultimate Rewards with recent tightening of Chase rules, so many have to think twice before redeeming them. You can see TripAdvisor reviews for a more complete picture.
Readers, if you stayed at Hyatt Clearwater resort, please, comment. I hope Erik can chime in because his family loved it. So, I honestly think it’s a matter of preference.
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