A chic Gulf Coast retreat

235 Rooms / 31 Suites

Located in the cultural district overlooking Sarasota Bay, The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota is one of the hottest spots in the city. People come to the newly renovated hotel for a chic, coastal respite with beautiful views. They make a beeline for Jack Dusty to indulge in creative cocktails like the Siren (Ketel One vodka or Hendrick’s Gin, St-Germain Elderflower liqueur, fresh lemon juice and prosecco with grapefruit, cranberry and flower ice cubes that add more flavor as the night wears on) and fresh-from-the-Gulf seafood. They visit the spa to unwind with a massage. They join the pros at the 18-hole Tom Fazio-designed Golf Club. And they hide away at the private Beach Club to soak in that Sarasota sun. 

The Rooms

The Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel debuted a brand-new look in December 2015. Rooms draw inspiration from the seashore, but the décor goes beyond the obvious. A hardwood-floored entrance mimics driftwood. Muted blues and purples come from the striking sunsets, sea green pulls from the ocean and gray textured walls bring it all together. A nautilus shell pattern curves on the carpet, capiz shells cover the top of a side table, lamps have a golden shell base and local artists and Ringling School of the Arts students create framed pieces like a canoe on a washed-out beach.

Once you sink into the supremely comfortable bed, you’ll have a hard time leaving. But we also enjoy lounging on the padded chaise, which has a throw pillow with a photo of nearby Cà d’Zan, a 1925 Venetian Gothic mansion that served as the winter home for the Ringling family, a nod to the city’s rich circus history.

The rooms are outfitted with high-definition LCD televisions and access to streaming apps so that you can watch Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora and YouTube on the TV.

Bathrooms look sleek with gray walls and white marble on the floors, double vanity and bathtub. They are stocked with Ritz-Carlton’s perfumed Asprey toiletries.

The Amenities

One of the best perks of the Sarasota hotel is that you get access to the private Beach Club in Lido Key (the complimentary shuttle will make the three-mile trip). You won’t have to fight for a chair in the sand at this quiet, exclusive beach.

Borrow the club’s snorkel gear to explore the clear azure water. Or laze out in a cabana on a hammock near the pool to watch the Gulf’s waves while sipping a mai tai from the Lido Beach Tiki Bar.

Don’t leave too early — the Beach Club offers the perfect vantage point to witness the blast of colors when the sun sinks into the horizon. A drummer sets the soundtrack at the nightly sunset ritual. Keep your eyes peeled for the “green flash,” a phenomenon that occurs at sunset.

If you don’t feel like trekking to the Beach Club, lay out at the hotel’s bayside pool. Or head to the marina to try some stand-up paddleboarding or kayaking.

Beyond the water, kids will find plenty to do here. The Ritz Kids program will keep them busy with a full calendar of organized activities, including arts and crafts parties and kite making. Look for the balloons near the concierge desk for the kiddie check-in — they can pick up crayons, word games and the schedule there. Children also can go to the pool level to play arcade games, foosball, table tennis, life-sized Connect Four and more.

The Food

Jack Dusty is among the first signature restaurants in the Ritz-Carlton portfolio to eschew formalities but still serve fine-dining food. Since the name “Jack Dusty” was 18th-century slang for the sailor who oversaw the ship's pantry and rum locker, it’s no surprise that the décor takes a maritime theme. Oak wood walls get lightened up with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the water. A ceiling installation resembles fisherman netting.

The food slants Southern with seafood as a specialty. Try the seafood platter, teeming with shrimp, oysters, clams, sesame tuna poke, drunken octopus salad and ceviche. Then move onto shrimp and grits, fried snapper, or cioppino with shrimp and fish plucked from the Gulf.

Desserts are a must. Executive pastry chef Lyndsy McDonald whips up comforting creations like sweet corn fritters with sweet corn ice cream and honey drizzle, and a rich peanut butter banana bread pudding with hot fudge and a meringue crown.

While Jack Dusty steals the spotlight, don’t overlook Beach Club Grill. The citrus-burrata salad, scallops with bacon risotto and key lime sundae make it a worthy destination for dinner.