A reigning champion for sand and sunshine, Tampa Bay is once again home to what’s been deemed the best beach in the country.
Clearwater Beach was named the best beach in the U.S. for 2018 by the popular travel site TripAdvisor reclaiming the crown two years after it won it for the first time in 2016.
"This is something you literally cannot buy," said David Downing, president and CEO of Visit St Pete/Clearwater, the region’s tourism marketing agency.
"We spend a lot of money on advertising but when you have the visitors of such a popular website provide this kind of designation, well, that means a lot."
Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, a Pinellas County native who has lived in Clearwater since 1976, said his office hasn’t yet decided how it will tout its No. 1 spot.
"This designation promotes not only Clearwater, but it’s really a feather in the cap of Pinellas County," Cretekos said. "We all benefit when one of our beaches is named one of the top destinations in the nation."
Two other area beaches also made TripAdvisor’s "2018 Traveler’s Choice Awards" — Siesta Beach near Sarasota, the 2017 winner, grabbed the No. 2 spot and St. Pete Beach placed seventh.
Clearwater climbed three spots from its position in the traveler’s choice in 2017.
Lofty praise is not new to Clearwater Beach, which in 2013 was named "Best Beach Town in Florida" by USA Today readers.
Downing of Visit St Pete/Clearwater said that’s not by accident.
"At the core of this is the beach and the beach experience. In Clearwater they come together seamlessly," he said. "We have some of the most beautiful coastlines in the United States and an experience that’s different from anything else you’d find."
He also pointed to other aspects of Clearwater that make the area special, like the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the spring training facilities for baseball and soccer, and how close Dunedin and Clearwater nightlife is.
Traveler’s Choice Awards are decided based on the frequency and quality of the reviews posted to the site and ratings for the beaches given to and by TripAdvisor over a 12-month period.
Six Florida beaches landed in various spots across the top 10, and a total of eight Florida beaches were among the top 25.
Cretekos said he would recommend any visitor or native to visit Clearwater Beach around dusk for a moment of reflection.
"I like to watch the sunset in the evening because it puts the whole world in perspective in how fortunate we are to not only be residents of this county and city but to also appreciate all the blessings we receive in the day," Cretekos said.
Tell us what your "must visit" beach spots are around the Tampa Bay.
BIG NEWS! #ClearwaterBeach ranked #1 beach in U.S. by @TripAdvisor! Sugar sand, emerald green water, and 365 days of sunshine are just a few reasons we're home to #AmericasBestBeaches! ??— St. Pete/Clearwater (@VSPC) February 21, 2018
#LiveAmplified #TravelersChoiceBeaches pic.twitter.com/qriVhAdaCQ