Updated: May 21, 2015
Don CeSar Hotel in FloridaWhen it comes to lodging on the west coast of Florida, one of the most famous hotels is the elegant Don CeSar in St. Pete Beach. It's hard to miss this hotel - it stands out like a giant pink layered birthday cake (some people call it the Pink Palace, the Pink Lady, or the Pink Castle), set right along the lovely gulf water beach. The Don CeSar was popular when it first opened in the late 1920s, though for nearly half its life it wasn't even used as a hotel. Oddly enough, this building was converted by the US Army during WWII and served as a hospital and a Veterans Administration office, among other things. But for the last 35 years, it's been back in the hotel business, with visitors from around the world enjoying its tropical location and unique design and style. You can take a peak at what Florida looks like today from the balcony of the Don Cesar here, via their webcam. With friends in Brandenton, just a few minutes away from St. Pete Beach, we've had the pleasure of visiting the area and the hotel a number of times, and have also heard a lot of feedback from other visitors who have stayed there. We hope this guide will give you some idea of what to expect on your Florida vacation and visit to the Don Cesar Hotel.
Don Cesar Hotel Rooms - Room Rates and ReservationsIf you are arriving at the Tampa Airport, it's about a 30 minute cab ride across the bay and out to St. Pete Beach where the Don Cesar awaits your arrival. There are 277 rooms at the Don Cesar, 40 of them are suites, 2 are glorious penthouses. You will be charged a $22 per day "resort fee", which so many beachside properties tag on these days. It supposedly covers internet access, fitness center, self parking, etc. but so many other hotels offer the same amenities without the surcharge. How much are rooms at the Don Cesar? They offer special rates for Florida residents, starting at $190-$240 per night. In the fall, non-residents will pay $240-$400 for a room, depending on view. The Full Gulfview rooms face the ocean and are small at just 250sf. The rooms on the other side of the hotel looking east are called Bay View rooms, and they are the cheapest. We found December rates even a little cheaper, $214-$390 depending on day of week and view. The Spring rates are higher - March showed $344-$510. The most common complaint we hear is about the small rooms. Many people even say they are "the smallest rooms they have ever seen" -- maybe they haven't been to New York! Granted the rooms are pretty small, but they are generally well appointed and clean. And chances are you will be spending most of your time outside and away from your room -- this is Florida after all. But if you are bringing kids, be prepared for the squeeze. We've also seen and heard lots of good things about the attentive staff. They are quick to solve problems and help guests, whether in the lobby, at the spa, or poolside. So plan in advance -- good service, great location, fairly expensive, small rooms -- then you won't be disappointed. Consider paying more for a junior suite (which is about twice the size) if you want to pay for more space that the standard rooms offer.
Highlights of a Don Cesar Vacation Stay - Don CeSar Restaurants and SpaThe official Don Cesar website is DonCesar.com -- you can pop-in and read more about some of our recommendations below if you like. Make sure you get reservations for a dinner at the Maritana Grille -- considered to be one of the best restaurants in Florida by many. The Maritana Grille is a Four Diamond award winner, serving what they call "Floribbean" food, meaning a mixture of Floridian and Caribbean flavors and styles. Seafood is the highlight of the menu, but there is normally some beef or lamb choices as well to savor. The Orange Habanero BBQ Grouper was quite a taste treat on a recent visit, as was the prosciutto wrapped prawns appetizer. Most entrees are $30-$40, appetizers in the $10-$15 range. Apart from the menu, the decor here is definitely all about the fish -- salt water aquariums surround you, filled with local fish. Reservations are recommended -- 727-360-1882. The other 2 spots to dine on the property are the Sea Porch Cafe (set right next to the beach, with indoor and outdoor seating) and Beachcomber Grill (though you can't technically get a meal at Uncle Andy's Ice-Cream Parlor, it's also a favorite with locals and regular visitors!) At the Sea Porch, try the Gulf Fish Sandwich or Tuscan Trio for lunch - delicious (about $14 each). The Beachcomber Grill is located right out by the pool, the quintessential casual spot for tropical resort snacks and drinks (though drinks can set you back almost $10 a pop!). If you want some peace and quiet in the evening, try ducking out onto the balcony outside the lobby bar for a nice evening breeze and view of the pool area. You may also want to check out the UnderTow Bar, just down the beach to the right - good food and drinks.
Apart from the food, a lot of people visit the new Spa Oceana that recently opened. Their 90 minute "body rituals" are popular, ranging from sea salt exfoliation to green tea and lemon body masques Moroccan clay detoxifying. There are also 30-60 minute services, and even a 4 hour "Royal Bride" treatment! And for those of you who must know, you can even get a Brazilian waxing to put you in a Caribbean mood! The Spa opens at 8AM each day. Keep in mind that some of these massages and spa treatments can approach $300 -- they are not inexpensive.