An eight-mile-long barrier reef just off the coast of Sarasota in the Gulf of Mexico, Siesta Key first garnered international attention in the 1987 Great International White Sand Challenge. The Travel Channel called the island’s namesake Siesta Beach the best sand beach in America in 2004, and Dr. Beach rated it the number-two best American beach in 2009 and 2010. The ever-cool sand, composed almost entirely of crushed quartz, feels like powdered sugar between your toes. Most of the island’s lodging units include multiple bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms – perhaps an unspoken invitation to stay a while.
The largest and most visited, the island’s namesake beach stretches half a mile from the northern tip of Siesta Key. Hotels overlooking the entirely public Siesta Beach sit on the inland side of Beach Road, though you can enjoy unobstructed views to the Gulf. Most properties include resort-style amenities such as swimming pools, spas, fitness clubs and tennis courts. The Crescent Royale rents one- to four-bedroom condos directly across the road from the beach. Some have floor-to-ceiling sunset views across the Gulf of Mexico. Formerly a Best Western, the two-story, Mediterranean-style Siesta Beach Resort & Suites, located 40 steps from the sand, includes some conventional hotel rooms among its multi-room suites. At Siesta Sands on the Beach, you can rent a one-bedroom condo for a day, a week or a month.
Located to the south of Siesta Beach, quieter Crescent Beach -- with the same award-winning sand -- offers a more laid-back, peaceful atmosphere. Fewer rental properties in the area keep the crowds down, and a few maintain private beach access. If you’re looking for easy access to snorkeling or diving, Crescent Beach ends at Point of Rocks, coral formations harboring colorful marine life. A one- or two-bedroom condo at the beachfront Sarasota Surf and Racquet Club puts you at the center of the relaxation on Crescent Beach. A little farther south, the pet-friendly villas at Banana Bay Club provide easy access for snorkeling or diving excursions to Point of Rocks.
Beachcombers will prefer Turtle Beach, the southernmost stretch of sand on the island. Steeper and narrower, Turtle Beach has the greatest concentration of shells, sand dollars and shark’s teeth. Turtle Beach Resort bills itself as the most romantic on the island. The private patios of some units stretch right to the water’s edge, and all include a private hot tub.
Situated within easy walking distance of Siesta Beach and a quick drive to the bridge connecting the island to mainland Sarasota, Siesta Village contains many rental properties with Gulf views, even if they aren't located directly on the sand. Staying in a condo, resort or private village home puts you close to the greatest concentration of shops, restaurants and nightclubs on the island. The Tropical Breeze Resort, for example, includes standard hotel-style rooms, suites and individual homes. "We are one of the few Siesta Key Beach hotels offering daily rentals," notes the resort's website.