1. Travel

Clearwater Beach named No. 1 in U.S. by TripAdvisor

Clearwater Beach was named the best beach in the U.S. by popular travel site TripAdvisor. [ Times files]
Published Feb. 21, 2018

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! ?? #LiveAmplified #TravelersChoiceBeaches


  1. A scene from a balcony cabin on a 2017 Alaskan cruise. BOYZELL HOSEY  |  Tampa Bay Times
    You can have the trip of a lifetime without paying for it for the rest of your life.
  2. Visitors ride the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster at Tampa theme park Busch Gardens, which has put its 2020 Fun Card on sale early. AP/Busch Gardens
    Buy your 2020 Busch Gardens or SeaWorld Fun Card and get a few months free, plus more sales for Florida residents.
  3. Tampa theme park Busch Gardens has announced a new hybrid wooden and steel coaster coming in 2020: Iron Gwazi. At more than 200 feet tall, the under-construction ride will become North America's tallest hybrid coaster, and the fastest and steepest hybrid coaster in the world. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    The parks revealed a slate of new attractions aimed to steady the company’s future.
  4. "Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle," the new light projection show at Universal Orlando, will open this weekend, running on select nights through Nov. 15. Universal Orlando
    Death Eaters, Voldemort and other creepy creatures from the world of Harry Potter star in the nighttime display.
  5. Actors emerge from a simulated farmhouse at the center of the Infected haunted house at Scream-A-Geddon in Dade City in 2015. LUIS SANTANA  |  Tampa Bay Times
    You can also catch a talk from Dick Vitale at St. Petersburg theater the Palladium.
  6. Chewbacca stands in front of the Millennium Falcon at the Black Spire Outpost at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019 at Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios in Orlando. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    Social media was awash this week with Disney and Star Wars fans breezing through Galaxy’s Edge as Hurricane Dorian pushed many from theme parks.
  7. Sand sharks swim around the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. As a Hurricane Dorian stress reliever, the Channel District aquarium will provide $15 admission through Friday. JULIETTE LYNCH  |  Tampa Bay Times (2011)
    The $15 ticket deal aims to be a stress reliever after a week of hurricane preparation.
  8. A ghost orchid can be seen, near the center of the frame, on a tree in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Monday, Aug. 12, 2019 in Naples. The ghost orchid spends most of the year looking like a nondescript green lump on the side of a tree. CHRIS URSO   |   Times CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    To see this “super ghost orchid” you don’t even need to get your feet wet.
  9. Lauren and Steven Keys at the entrance sign to Haleakala National Park in Maui. Keys Photography
    Lauren and Steven Keys finished before the 103rd anniversary of the National Park Service last week.
  10. Key West Rapids, a waterside at Tampa water park Adventure Island since 1995, will close after Oct. 1. ANTHONY ALLRED  |  Tampa Bay Times (2011)
    The water park next to Busch Gardens plans to replace the inner-tube attraction in 2020. Its last day of operation is Oct. 1.