By Evelyn Theiss / September 14, 2011

The Gulf’s waters from the balconies of the Sandpearl Resort are as azure as ever and the sand is the sugary pearl-white shade common to Florida’s western coast. And this three-year-old resort was designed to be “green.” It’s the first resort or hotel in Florida to be awarded the LEED Silver certification, based on design and construction features. Those include a chilled water-air-conditioning system (no Freon used); energy-saving and UV-protecting glazing on windows and sliding glass doors; and water conservation systems in each room and throughout the hotel.

The pool is free of harsh chemicals, since an ozone sanitizing system is used, and it’s heated with an energy-saving geothermal system. Then there are practices followed by employees, such as saving up the remains of shampoo and bath products and sending them to impoverished countries in Africa. This is all good to know—green design and practices are what many of us now seek in our vacation destinations—but it’s the natural beauty of the Florida coast that seduces you at Sandpearl.

You experience it in early morning walks on the beach, followed by an 8 a.m. yoga class on the wooden walking deck that overlooks the ocean. The fresh organic vegetables served at the Caretta on the Gulf restaurant, as well as in the more casual beachside grill, continue a theme of embracing nature’s bounty. Chef Steve Jordan tweaks his menu based on what’s available at the market each day–whether fruit, vegetables, or fish. He offers guests organic cooking classes each week so they can incorporate his practices at home.

Post-dinner, on several evenings each month, an astronomer sets up a powerful telescope on the beach boardwalk, where he gives fascinating lessons on stars, planets, and solar system that would fill anyone with awe. It’s one thing to see sparkling stars from the beach and another to see the actual rings around planets through the telescope.

Then there’s Clearwater itself, a walkable, almost old-fashioned beach town, that hasn’t been overly built. The Sandpearl Resort is the first new beachfront resort in Clearwater Beach in more than 25 years, and it embraces a 700-foot expanse of pristine beach. The resort has 253 luxurious rooms and suites, yet never feels overwhelmingly large.

The full-service spa at Sandpearl includes a 24-hour fitness center, as well as a separate sanctuary for spa treatments. You enter it past a wall fountain that hints at featured water therapies. These include hydro-stretch therapy, a thalasso bath, and a salt scrub-and-Vichy-shower energizing treatment, as well as a stone-and-rain therapy and an ocean mud wrap. I indulged in the Sandpearl signature treatment, which included dry brushing, a body-scrub infused with a crushed iridescent-pearl mixture, followed by a superbly deep massage.

Eco-conscious visitors will find two trips of note. One is a brief drive or bike ride away, at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium that’s actually a rehabilitation center for sea animals, such as dolphins, stingrays, otters, and turtles. The star here is Winter, a dolphin who lost his dorsal fin when it got caught in a fishing net. A prosthetic fin was fashioned for him, and he lives out his days as a natural entertainer. Other rescued sea creatures treated here—you might even see surgery on a turtle through the viewing windows—are released back into the wild. For a full or half-day excursion, visitors shouldn’t miss the Caladesi Island State Park nature preserve.

Photo credit: Sandpearl Resort

Evelyn Theiss

Evelyn Theiss

Evelyn Theiss is a print and online reporter who has covered everything from national politics to fashion in her journalism career. Now, she's a health reporter whose beat is nutrition and wellness. But this Midwesterner has found the greatest inspiration for her own journey to well-being at spas--whether those spas are in the U.S., Europe or Asia.
Evelyn Theiss

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