• Wed. Dec 8th, 2021

Sarasota Travel Guide: Where to Stay, What to Eat and More

ByKeith M. Jones

Oct 24, 2021

Located on the southwestern Gulf Coast of Florida, Sarasota is a beautiful city of enchanting beaches and nearby island getaways – snow-white, pure quartz sand, and turquoise waters provide a beautiful backdrop to a day of adventure, including water activities like boating, kayaking and parasailing. Sarasota, however, is more than the sum total of its pretty beaches and palm-fringed Keys. Vast botanical gardens, encyclopedic art museums, and one of the best aquariums in the world are reasons enough to stray from the shore.

Despite its small size (about 58,000 inhabitants), Sarasota has an impressive food and drink scene and a spectacular variety of cultural attractions (such as an independent cinema, various theater companies, and even an opera house). No wonder it was recently named one of America’s 10 Best Beach Towns by Travel + Leisure magazine.

Plus, you can experience all of these things with the more lax vaccination rules and interstate travel restrictions, so you can finally enjoy the wonders of what the great outdoors has to offer.

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Where to stay

Sarasota has a plethora of options both in the downtown area and along the waterfront. The easy-to-access barrier islands offer a wide range of attractions, from the bustling beach action to Siesta Key to an idyllic retreat on Anna Maria Island. Despite Sarasota’s compact size, you’ll need a car to stay in the area, as some of the best beaches are within a few miles of the city.

Best luxury stay: Ritz-Carlton Sarasota

Swimming pool at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota at dusk.

Overlooking the elegant Sarasota Marina, the Ritz-Carlton lives up to the upscale brand with an impressive array of amenities and beautifully appointed rooms, each with a private balcony. Book a Bayview Suite for more space (625 square feet) and stunning views of Sarasota Bay. There’s no reason to leave the resort, with its award-winning restaurants (including the exceptional Jack Dusty seafood haunt) and stylish bars, not to mention the full-service spa and inviting pool. Guests also have access to the exclusive Lido Key Beach Club, just three miles from the hotel (free transportation provided). Canine companions (under 40 pounds) are also welcome. The best part? The hotel’s exceptional hospitality, with friendly staff who remember your name and your favorite drink order.

  • Nearest airport: Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ)
  • Time: 10 min by car
  • Distance: 4 miles

Best Architectural Design: The Sarasota Modern

Inside the Sarasota Modern room.

Evoking effortless style, the 89-room Sarasota Modern is a well-equipped boutique hotel located just steps (0.3 km) from the waterfront. It has sunny rooms boasting an appealing Modernist aesthetic, and the pool area, well. that small, is a welcome respite from a day of exploring. Guests can take advantage of the free bikes, which are convenient for pedaling to restaurants and cafes along Main Street.

  • Nearest airport: Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ)
  • Time: 9 minutes by car
  • Distance: 3.5 miles

Best Airbnb: North Longboat Key Beach Retreat

The view of North Longboat Key Beach Retreat from the outside.

Longboat Key has a dazzling 12 mile beach, located a short drive northwest of Sarasota. For a fabulous island vacation, this Airbnb can’t be beat. The three bedroom home has all the essentials for a memorable getaway with some good friends. You won’t have to go far once your suitcases have been put down: access to the private beach starts right outside your door. There is also a heated saltwater pool, hot tub, outdoor shower, gas fireplace, high quality furnishings, and a backyard filled with tropical greenery. The only downside is you just won’t want to leave.

  • Nearest airport: Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ)
  • Time: 30 minutes by car
  • Distance: 16 miles

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Where to eat

Like elsewhere in Florida, restaurants in Sarasota have reopened to full capacity, though there are plenty of opportunities to dine out or order quality take out if you want to avoid the crowds. Sarasota has plenty of dining choices, from sustainably sourced seafood restaurants perched on the waterfront to small batch bakeries that make some of Florida’s best breakfast pastries. Aptly named Main Street is the best place to browse the food scene. Price ranges are indicated by a “$” sign. For your reference:

  • “$” = Economical or inexpensive
  • “$$” = average
  • “$$$” = expensive

Best Seafood: Indigenous

Native indoor table setting.

Award-winning chef Steve Phelps remains one of Sarasota’s most distinguished chefs. At Indigenous, he presents seasonal American cuisine, with a strong emphasis on sustainable seafood. The changing menu features delicacies like Cobia with kimchi and ginger sauce or caramelized Thai pork, as well as a good vegetarian option (the wild mushroom and lentil bolognese was a recent hit). You can order the take out menu, with curbside pickup available.

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Best place for sunset: Marina Jacks

View inside Marina Jacks.

Marina Jack’s is a party spot by the water with expansive outdoor seating that hits all the right marks when it comes to food, drink, and atmosphere. As the sun sets, enjoy tropical cocktails on the airy wrap-around deck to the background of live music. Next, head to the dining room overlooking the bay to sample oysters on a half-shell, sherry crab bisque, or grilled Chilean sea bass; the steaks are also top notch. There are also more casual alfresco dining on the patio. Curbside pickup is available.

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What to do

Some of the best attractions in the Sarasota area do not require an entrance ticket. Beaches steal the show here, and there is something for everyone: always bustling Siesta Key, upscale Longboat Key, and slow-paced Anna Maria Island.

Ritz Carlton Golf Club

View of the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club.

Designed by the great Tom Fazio, the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club offers a dazzling setting for a game. The 18-hole championship course boasts lush fairways and velvety greens amid 12 sparkling lakes, and is often ranked among the best in Florida. Those up for a challenge will enjoy “the lion’s den,” the name given to the final three holes, which are among the most difficult consecutive holes in Florida. Stop for lunch and drinks at the beautifully designed eco-friendly Golf Club Grille course located 15 miles northeast of Sarasota at Lakewood Ranch. Free transportation is provided to Ritz-Carlton hotel guests, just be sure to tip.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

View of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

Home to the largest collection of orchids and bromeliads in the world, these botanical gardens are among the most impressive in the entire state. The downtown campus spans approximately 15 acres along Sarasota Bay and features mangrove walkways, rainforest gardens, desert landscapes, and native Florida species. If time permits, visit the larger Historic Spanish Point campus about 10 miles south. Here you can explore fabulous nature trails and scenic walks, and learn about some of the early 19th century settlers in the area.

How to save money on your trip to Sarasota

Experiences

Of course, Sarasota wouldn’t be ranked among America’s 10 best beach towns by Travel + Leisure magazine if it weren’t for its attractive beaches and warm tropical climate. However, did you know that Sarasota was also honored in 2020 by the US News and World Report as the best place for retirees to settle in the United States? It’s all thanks to the friendly locals, great restaurants and beautiful attractions. It’s a good thing that Kayak has so many amazing deals to discover without having to break a bank.

Hotels

After an exhausting day at the local Sarasota beach, of course, you would want to spend the rest of your day relaxing. Luckily, Sarasota has a wide array of hotels where you can just lay down without thinking of a single thing. gives you the flexibility to choose from the most luxurious to the cheapest hotels in the city.

Vehicles rental

If you are on vacation in Sarasota, renting a car is highly recommended if you want to get around the city and experience local life. Don’t worry, leasing a vehicle doesn’t have to be expensive. also offers attractive offers for vehicle rental, so that you can fully enjoy your vacation.

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