Expert Tips


Top 10 Budget Hotel Choices in St Petersburg and Clearwater

The St Petersburg/Clearwater area is popular any time of year but as you might expect, it’s especially appealing during the cold winter months when “snow birds,” want to escape the frigid grip of Father Winter.

It’s not surprising that hotel and resort prices fluctuate with the seasons with winter, holidays and “spring break” vacations commanding the highest prices. There are some deals, however to be found in tried and true establishments such as the Thunderbird Beach Resort, Bilmar Resort and Beachcomber Resort.

If being on the beach isn't important, then the downtown Cordova Inn, blending both history with modern-day touches, is close to some of the area’s finest museums, shopping and tourist sites.

For longer stays, Alden Suites and the Hotel Cabana Clearwater are excellent options for the budget-conscious visitor. If you’re traveling with children, check ahead before you book anything because many resorts offer free stays and/or free breakfast for children under a certain age.

No matter when you go, just keep in mind that there is never a bad time to visit this beautiful area!


Howard Johnson Resort Hotel St Pete Beach
Photo courtesy of Howard Johnson St Pete Beach Resort

A popular hotel for budget-conscious travelers is the Howard Johnson Resort Hotel. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, it features 136 fairly large rooms and suites (some with kitchens) and balconies (some with ocean views). Guest rooms offer free Wi-Fi, mini-fridge and coffee maker. Children 17 and under stay free with an adult and parking is complimentary. A large heated pool with Tiki Bar offer recreational breaks as well as live entertainment daily. Adjacent to the hotel, the Toasted Monkey Sports Bar & Grill serves American cuisine with indoor-outdoor dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cabanas and water sports equipment are available for rental and area tours can be arranged through the adjacent Sun Coast tours. Nearby shops and popular restaurants are just steps away and a beach shuttle provides rides up and down the island.

Recommended for Budget Hotels because: This resort is a great option for budget-conscious travelers who want to be on the beach.

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Long Key Beach Resort
Photo courtesy of Long Key Beach Resort

Perfectly poised on the tranquil beach on the Gulf of Mexico, this low-key gem features studios, standard rooms and apartments with free Wi-Fi and cable TV with a host of channels. The 16 suites and apartments feature kitchenettes and living areas are perfect for long-term stays. A heated pool with waterfall and multi-level sundeck are perfect for chilling out if you don't want to go into the tranquil ocean. There is no on-site restaurant, however there are many dining options within walking distance and along the beach trolley line, which runs in front of the resort. There is also a barbecue area if you prefer to grill your own food. Parking is complimentary.

Recommended for Budget Hotels because: This small gem is perfectly positioned - and priced - for a very relaxing vacation and is a favorite with repeat guests.

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Cordova Inn
Photo courtesy of The Cordova Inn

Built in 1921 and fully restored, this historic inn is walking distance to the many activities of the Sundial shopping and entertainment center, area museums and St Petersburg's downtown waterfront. The 32 tastefully appointed guest rooms offer modern-day amenities including free Wi-Fi. Deluxe rooms feature refrigerators, cable TV, microwaves and Keurig coffee machines. Some of the guestrooms also have claw-foot soaking tubs - a nod to a long-gone era. If you want to be close to downtown activities at a reasonable price, this is a good option. The hotel doesn't have a restaurant, but they offer a Continental breakfast daily and many restaurants, cafes and bistros are located within walking distance. The inn is a stop on the city's Ghost Tours because, according to local lore, the spirit of the majordomo brought by the Cordova family from their Michigan estate to manage the hotel is still around to supervise things.

Recommended for Budget Hotels because: A fully refurbished "old-timer," this resort blends history with modern-day amenities and is close to some of the area's most popular attractions.

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Bon-Aire Resort
Photo courtesy of Bon-Aire Resort

Located just 10 miles from downtown St Petersburg, this small resort on the Gulf of Mexico has been wooing vacationers since it first opened in 1953. This family-run 81- unit boutique resort offers the charm of a kinder, gentler time, while offering modern-day amenities, including fully outfitted kitchens. Nicely appointed accommodations feature studios, efficiencies and one-bedroom apartments with separate living areas. Rooms are equipped with Wi-Fi, TVs and in-room safes. A laundromat and two barbecue grills are available for guest use. Two heated pools, shuffleboard and volley ball add recreational fun. Sandbar Bills, a favorite with locals, is the place for casual food and beautiful sunsets. They're known for their cheeseburgers and rum runners, but you'll also find a host of other frosty drinks along with deli sandwiches and fresh salads. On-site parking is complimentary.

Recommended for Budget Hotels because: A nice assortment of guest rooms and amenities make this the perfect home-away-from-home for both short and long-term stays.

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Alden Suites - A Beachfront Resort
Photo courtesy of Alden Suites

Set on five lush acres lining the Gulf of Mexico, this no-frills resort is conveniently located near popular attractions such as John's Pass and Boardwalk. The 140 comfortably appointed suites feature balconies, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, safes and fully stocked kitchenettes or full kitchens and living rooms with sofa beds. The beachside Cabana Beach Bar serves frosty drinks and offers the perfect spot from which to watch the sun dip into the Gulf. When night falls, fire pits provide a very cozy ambiance. Snapper's Oasis on the beach is the place for light snacks such as burgers, chicken tenders, seafood baskets and more. If you decide to grill your own, there's a cooking deck with gas grills. Two heated outdoor pools and a hot tub (open year-round), along with tennis, beach volleyball, basketball and water sport rentals are added attractions. Parking is free.

Recommended for Budget Hotels because: The price is right, the suites are comfortable and the location on the Gulf makes it the perfect home-away-from home if you're on a budget.

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Hotel Cabana Clearwater Beach
Photo courtesy of Hotel Cabana Clearwater

This low-key boutique hotel overlooks the Mandalay Channel and is within walking distance to Caladesi State Park and Clearwater Beach. Built in 1947 it underwent a major renovation and re-opened in June 2017. There are 27 guest-rooms and suites ranging from modest "petit rooms," to cabana and one-bedroom suites with kitchenettes. A heated pool, a private dock for fishing, free Wi-Fi throughout the resort, ceiling fans and cable TV with more than 70 channels are just a few of the amenities. The staff is friendly and service is excellent and while there is no on-site restaurant, plenty of eateries are located within walking distance or a short drive away. Complimentary coffee is served poolside every morning.

Recommended for Budget Hotels because: Just steps from one of the best beaches in the area, this boutique resort is a reasonably priced gem.

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Bilmar Beach Resort
Photo courtesy of Bilmar Beach Resort

Located just two miles from the tourist-friendly John's Pass Village and Boardwalk, the Bilmar, on the Gulf of Mexico is another longtime favorite with visitors to the area. The casual hotel houses guestrooms, suites and efficiencies with tropical décor, Wi-Fi (included in the $20-a-day amenity fee), premium TV channels, private balconies and in-room safes. The amenity fee includes such things as: parking, daily kayak and paddle board usage, beach chairs and umbrellas, use of bicycles and more. Children 12 and under eat breakfast free of charge. Two heated pools and a fitness center provide a place to work off those extra vacation calories. The casual, beachside Sloppy Joe's beckons with a two-tier dining deck and casual fare for lunch and dinner. The Bilmar Beach Café, open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. offers all day breakfast as well as a host of tempting dining options in an outdoor-indoor venue.

Recommended for Budget Hotels because: This longtime favorite is ideally located on a beautiful beach, just steps away from a variety of shops and restaurants.

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Thunderbird Beach Resort
Photo courtesy of Thunderbird Beach Resort

The giant, retro Thunderbird sign marks the spot of this casual, family-owned beachfront hotel on Treasure Island, which has been drawing visitors to the area since it first opened its doors in 1957. Guestrooms vary from standard courtyard rooms to ocean-view suites and efficiencies with fully-equipped kitchenettes. Rooms feature free Wi-Fi, coffeemakers, luxury bedding, microwaves, mini-fridges, safes and other amenities. A heated pool, hot tub and very popular Ikki Woo Woo's Tiki Hut offer outdoor respite. Live music adds to the fun daily. Feola's Ristorante features a tasty variety of breakfast options as well as lunch and dinner selections, including pizza and freshly-made Italian specialties. A full-service bar, beer and wine are also available. Be sure to leave room for the homemade cannoli!

Recommended for Budget Hotels because: This longtime beach favorite is the perfect spot for a family vacation or extended stay.

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Dolphin Beach Resort
Photo courtesy of Dolphin Beach Resort

Recent refurbishments and affordable lodging make this a favorite beach resort on the Gulf of Mexico. Colorful rooms, many with Gulf views and balconies, include coffeemakers, satellite TV, microwaves, complimentary Wi-Fi, laptop compatible safes and onsite laundry facilities. A heated outdoor pool (cabana rentals are available), beach volley ball and shuffle board promise outdoor activities. Flipper's Beach Bar is a favorite with locals and visitors alike. Stunning sunsets along with handcrafted cocktails and live entertainment on the weekends and Karaoke on Saturday nights are an added draw. Boca Sands Grille dishes up local favorites for breakfast, lunch and dinner either indoors or out. The resort's location across the street from a shopping center provides easy access to a grocery store, shops and a variety of restaurants. The parking fee is $10.70 per car, per night.

Recommended for Budget Hotels because: This recently refurbished resort is a great choice for vacationers looking for a comfortable hotel on the beach.

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Beachcomber Beach Resort
Photo courtesy of Beachcomber Beach Resort

Sitting on a beach overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, the casual Beachcomber is a longtime favorite with travelers looking for good value and comfortable amenities. Garden, fountain or oceanfront rooms feature free Wi-Fi, TVs, DVD players, coffeemakers, hairdryers and mini-fridges. Up-graded rooms and suites have full kitchens and/or balconies with ocean views. Sports fans will appreciate Players Sports Bar which offers a host of cold drinks and snacks accompanied by 30 TVs for their viewing pleasure. Jimmy B's Beach Bar - a favorite with locals too - features a full bar, food and live entertainment. Also on site are laundry facilities, a business center and free parking. Two heated pools and a fully equipped exercise room will get you in shape. Then, of course….that beautiful, tranquil beach is just a few steps away.

Recommended for Budget Hotels because: This resort is perfectly situated on a beautiful beach and offers plenty of amenities for the right price.

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