Just off the coast of Florida, Clearwater Beach is part of the wider Clearwater city in the Tampa area of Florida! This gorgeous beach has been named one of the most beautiful in the world, and thousands of tourists flock to the white sands and crystal clear water every year. Make no mistake, you come to Clearwater Beach to let go and unwind.
As quite a small area, figuring out where to stay in Clearwater Beach might seem simple – however, there are two distinct areas offering completely different attractions to tourists. It is also one of the most expensive resorts in Florida, so many budget travellers – including backpackers – are intimidated away from the resort town.
That’s why we’ve created this guide! Clearwater Beach can be accessible to everyone – whether you want to be right in the heart of the action, in a quieter bit of the neighborhood or in an area where you can save money with cheaper accommodation.
So let’s dive right into the crystal clear waters of Clearwater Beach!
- Where to Stay in Clearwater Beach
- Clearwater Beach Neighborhood Guide
- Clearwater Beach 3 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in
- #1 South – Where to Stay in Clearwater Beach for your First Time
- #2 Downtown Clearwater – Where to Stay in Clearwater Beach on a Budget
- #3 North – Best Neighborhood in Clearwater Beach for Families
First time visiting the Tampa area? You’re in for a real treat! Make sure to book the perfect accommodation that fits your travel needs. To make it a bit easier for you, we’ve listed our highest recommendations for places to stay in Clearwater Beach.
Best Airbnb in Clearwater Beach: Avalon Ground Floor Condo
A good way to save money without having to compromise on standards is to opt for an Airbnb in Downtown Clearwater. This one bedroom condo is a great option, and comes with incredibly affordable nightly rates. It is stylishly decorated, and the large kitchen is well equipped – even for longer stays! This is also one of the best Airbnbs in Tampa – so you can be sure to have an amazing time.
Best Hotel for Backpackers in Clearwater Beach: Hotel Cabana
There aren’t any hostels in Clearwater Beach – or even on the mainland part of Clearwater – however, this motel is a great way to stay on the island whilst sticking to a budget! Located in North Clearwater Beach, it has a peaceful location and all the facilities you need for a short stay.
Best Hotel in Clearwater Beach: Opal Sands
This magnificent four-star hotel is one of the best rated in Clearwater Beach and it’s easy to see why! It has an excellent range of facilities, as well as a prime location right on the beach itself. The huge pool area has plenty of sunloungers, and the Tiki Bar is a firm favourite with guests.
South Clearwater Beach is the main tourism hub on the island – and therefore where you will find most of the major attractions!
There’s no escaping how expensive Clearwater Beach is – but for those on an extreme budget, Downtown Clearwater has some more affordable accommodation options and is only a short journey away from the island!
North Clearwater Beach still benefits from the gorgeous white beaches and crystal clear waters of the South, but has far fewer tourism numbers!
Clearwater Beach is most famous for its white sandy beaches and pristine swimming water – and this will easily be the attraction you visit most whilst in the area – but it also provides an interesting insight into American culture! There are some easy going nightlife venues along the strip, as well as a good selection of restaurants and retail offerings.
Most visitors to Clearwater Beach will stay in the southern half of the island. This is easily the busiest part, and where you will find most of the tourist attractions! It is also quite mixed in terms of clientele – with upmarket hotels and budget motels within walking distance of each other. If this is your first time in the area, sticking to South Clearwater Beach is your best chance of getting to experience everything the area has to offer.
If you want some peace and quiet we suggest heading to the North! This area doesn’t have as many hotels, but the ones that are on offer are calmer and in many cases also more affordable. The beaches in North Clearwater Beach have nowhere near the same tourist numbers as the South, giving you a more laid-back experience. There are also some great nature-based activities in this area, with a wide array of tour companies willing to show you around the region.
Finally, whilst budget travellers might struggle on Clearwater Beach itself, Clearwater city centre is an excellent option for saving some cash – especially the Downtown area! There are plenty of connections to Clearwater Beach from Downtown, including a cycle path for the more active visitors. The area also has some great attractions in its own right, including independent coffee shops, bars and restaurants.
Still not sure? No worries – we have some more extensive guides below to help you make up your mind!
Clearwater Beach 3 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in
Clearwater Beach can be seen as one of the main attractions in Tampa, so you need to make sure you know where you want to stay in the area. Let’s take a look, in more detail, at the three best neighbourhoods in Clearwater Beach. Each caters to different interests, so be sure to pick the neighbourhood that’s right for you.
South Clearwater Beach is the main tourism hub on the island – and therefore where you will find most of the major attractions! The beach in this area has all of the facilities you could possibly need – including restaurants with delectable menus, an eclectic bar scene and even some laid back cafés for unwinding in the morning.
Sweeping from Clearwater Point up to Coral Resort – and for the purpose of this guide including Sea Island – South Clearwater Beach is the area with direct access to the mainland – ideal if you need to take a few trips further afield! There are also some great attractions dotted around the area for those that like to keep active whilst travelling.
Things to See and Do in South:
– Clearwater Marine Aquarium, located on Sea Island, is an excellent attraction that lets you get up close and personal with the surrounding marine life
– Pelican Walk Plaza is the main shopping street in the area where you can indulge in local restaurants, pick up some souvenirs and even hit some clothing stores
– Clearwater Beach itself is, of course, the main attraction in the area – with plenty of water sports on offer including windsurfing
– The Beach Walk stretches almost the entire length of the island – it takes a couple of hours, but provides some stunning views
– Dolphin Encounter run regular tours departing from South Clearwater Beach where you can try to spot the marine mammals in the wild
– There are countless excellent restaurants in this area – but we recommend heading to Jimmy’s Fish House for unbeatable seafood
Best Airbnb in South: Beach Getaway
Despite being within walking distance of the main tourist area, this Airbnb is surprisingly peaceful and has a secluded atmosphere! Sleeping up to four guests across two bedrooms, it is ideal for small groups and families staying on the island. The host also has superhost status – ensuring only the best standards of service.
Best Hotel for Backpackers South: Sta N Pla Marina Resort
This three-star motel is a great option for backpackers that are happy to splash out a little on staying on the island itself whilst still not breaking the bank! It also has a large communal area where you can mingle with other guests and enjoy the gorgeous gardens. Parking and WiFi are included.
Best Hotel in South: Opal Sands
This sprawling hotel truly has everything you could possibly need for a stay in Clearwater Beach! It comes with a spacious pool area, sun loungers and even fire pits for guests to use. The on-site Italian restaurant is popular with guests, and there is a large fitness centre and spa.
There’s no escaping how expensive Clearwater Beach is – but for those on an extreme budget, Downtown Clearwater has some more affordable accommodation options and is only a short journey away from the island! This is perfect for backpackers that want to spend a few days relaxing in the region.
Though not considered a tourist destination, there are still some interesting attractions in the area! Infamous as the home of Scientology, it is also home to some unique cultural highlights and independent coffee shops. It is also well connected to other towns in the Tampa Bay area, making it a good option for those that only want to visit for a night or two.
Things to See and Do in Downtown Clearwater:
– Hire a bike and take a trip along the Clearwater Memorial Causeway that connects Clearwater Beach with Downtown Clearwater
– If you want something a bit more leisurely, the Clearwater Ferry departs from the pier next to the bridge on a regular basis
– Coachman Park is a huge green space on the coast with plenty of great facilities as well as gorgeous views of Clearwater Beach itself
– The Clearwater Centre for the Arts is located in the heart of the town and has rotating exhibits as well as regular theatre and music performances
– Cleveland Street Saturday Market is a real mish-mash of food, art and bric-a-brac that often throws up some antique gems
– Speaking of Cleveland Street, this street is home to a diverse range of cuisines – including some delicious middle eastern cuisine at Mana Mana
Best Airbnb in Downtown Clearwater: Avalon Ground Floor Condo
This stylish ground floor condo is perfect for solo travellers and couples that want to save money by staying on the mainland! Despite the budget-friendly price, it comes with some luxury finishing touches including quartz countertops in the kitchen and a flat-screen TV. There’s also an extra bed in the living room for larger parties.
Best Hotel for Backpackers Downtown Clearwater: Tropical Inn & Suites
This motel is fairly basic, but nevertheless provides a comfortable stay at a budget-friendly rate – perfect for backpackers visiting the area on a shoestring! Every room has a private patio area, and free WiFi is available throughout the motel. There is also a small outdoor pool for guest use.
Best Hotel in Downtown Clearwater: Residence Inn by Marriot
This three-star hotel might seem quite basic from the outside, but it comes with some great facilities that will make your stay that little bit more comfortable! There is a spacious outdoor pool area as well as a gym, and a complimentary American style breakfast buffet is provided every morning.
One of the best investments you can make is a worldwide travel adapter that will work anywhere! The one featured here is tough, reliable and a solid buy – Don’t leave home without one.
Buy your travel adapter on Amazon now.
North Clearwater Beach still benefits from the gorgeous white beaches and crystal clear waters of the South, but has far fewer tourism numbers! Whilst this is mostly because of the lack of hotels in the area, there are still a few good options for those that are quick enough to snap them up. This peaceful neighborhood is perfect for families – especially those visiting during the peak season.
As one of the more residential neighborhoods in Clearwater Beach, the North beach also gives you a rare insight into how locals in the area live! Many of the restaurants and bars are locally owned, offering some of the most underrated food on the entire island.
Things to See and Do in North:
– Finn’s Jet Ski Tours offer the perfect excursions for adrenaline junkies – and even offer a few kid-friendly experiences
– If you’re more interested in going it alone, Wet Rentals and Tours offer some of the cheapest equipment hire on the island
– Want to maximise the relaxation? Clearwater Beach Spa offer a variety of holistic therapies and come highly recommended by previous guests
– Visiting with your furry friends? The northern end of Clearwater Beach has a dog-friendly stretch of sand where you can let them off the leash
– Caladesi Island State Park is a vast area of natural beauty to the north of the island – there are even some kayak tours that head up there
– Beach Fire Beach Bar and Grille are child friendly throughout most of the day and offer a great selection of seafood and barbecued meats
Best Airbnb in North: Heated Pool
This villa is only a short walk away from the beach and – as the name suggests – comes with its own private pool! With four bedrooms, and spare beds in the living area, it can sleep up to 12 people – making it a great choice for large families and groups. There are also some sun loungers surrounding the pool.
Best Hotel for Backpackers North: Hotel Cabana
This three-star motel is surprisingly well equipped – and even offers family rooms that can sleep up to four guests! Rooms are stylish and fitted with modern conveniences such as flat-screen TVs and air conditioning. As it is a motel, plenty of parking spaces are available for guests to use.
Best Hotel in North: Sandpearl Resort
This gorgeous four-star resort is far north enough to be in a peaceful location – but is still well within walking distance of the major attractions in the south! Rooms are kitted out with luxury amenities – including towelling bathrobes and upmarket toiletries. There is a large pool outside, as well as a jacuzzi.
Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Clearwater Beach
With miles and miles of pristine beaches, it’s no wonder Clearwater Beach has long been regarded as one of the best beach destinations in the world! This Tampa Bay area gem has a well-established tourism industry, making it the perfect destination to sit back and relax under the Florida sun!
In terms of the best area, we are going to go with the North! The South can get very busy during the peak seasons, whilst the North is far more manageable year-round giving you ample opportunity to unwind.
Nevertheless, both South Clearwater Beach and Downtown Clearwater have the benefits that make them worthy destinations! We hope this guide has helped you narrow down your options.
And if you want to explore a bit more of the state, why not head to your car and start an epic Florida road trip? The awesome attractions don’t stop in Clearwater Beach!
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!
Whilst the USA can be very safe, it’s super important to make sure you get travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
Do you own an awesome hostel, hotel or apartment? Want to be featured in our list? Email [email protected] to find out how.
Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through the site, The Broke Backpacker will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps me keep the site going.